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APPENDIX - William Stanley Jevons, Methods of Social Reform and Other Papers 
Methods of Social Reform and Other Papers (London: Macmillan, 1883).
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It is a curious fact that the eighth book of Aristotle's “Politics” contains a careful and express inquiry into the subject of popular recreation, leading to the result upheld in the preceding article, that music is the best means for providing such recreation. The argument is, as usual with Aristotle, rather tedious and confused, and there is a good deal of repetition between the seven chapters of the book; but it is impossible not to be struck with the profundity of the treatment and with its lasting truth, as applied to a state of society two thousand years after the book was written. I give a very brief abstract of some parts of the book, as translated by Mr. Edward Walford, in Bohn's edition of the “Politics and Economics,” 1853, pp. 270 to 286.
There are as nearly as possible four things which it is usual to teach children—reading, gymnastic exercises, and music, to which (in the fourth place) some add painting. As to music some persons may entertain a doubt, since most persons now use it for the sake of pleasure. But though both labour and rest are necessary, yet the latter is preferable, and by all means we ought to learn what to do when at rest. Play is more necessary for those who labour than for those who are idle; for he who labours requires relaxation, and this play will supply. For this reason the ancients made music a part of education. They thought it a proper employment for freemen, and to them they allotted it; as Homer sings: “How right to call Thalia to the feast!” and, addressing some others, he says: “The band was called, to ravish every ear;” and, in another place, he makes Ulysses say, that the happiest part of man's life is
It is no easy matter distinctly to point out what power it has, nor on what accounts one should apply it, whether as an amusement and refreshment, like sleep or wine. Or shall we rather suppose that music has a tendency to produce virtue, having a power, as the gymnastic exercises have, to form the body in a certain way, and to influence the manners, so as to accustom its professors to rejoice rightly? And we all agree that music is one of the most pleasing things, whether alone or accompanied with a voice, as Musæus says:
for which reason it is justly admitted into every company and every happy life. From this anyone may suppose that it is fitting to instruct young persons in it. For all those pleasures which are harmless are not only conducive to the final end of life, but serve also as relaxations.
the RATIONALE OF FREE PUBLIC LIBRARIES.∗
Among the methods of social reform which are comparatively easy of accomplishment and sure in action, may be placed the establishment of Free Public Libraries. Already, indeed, this work has been carried into effect in a considerable number of towns, and has passed quite beyond the experimental stage. In Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and some other great towns, where such libraries have already existed for many years, there is but one opinion about them. Perhaps it might better be said that they are ceasing to be matter of opinion at all, and are classed with town-halls, police-courts, prisons, and poor-houses as necessary adjuncts of our stage of civilisation. Several great towns, including the greatest of all towns, great London itself, are yet nearly, if not quite, devoid of rate-supported libraries. As to towns of medium and minor magnitude, it is the exception to find them provided with such an obvious requisite. Under these circumstances it will not be superfluous to review the results which have already been achieved under William Ewart's Free Libraries Act, and to form some estimate of the reasons which may be urged in favour of or against the system of providing literature at the public cost.
The main raison d'être of Free Public Libraries, as indeed of public museums, art-galleries, parks, halls, public clocks, and many other kinds of public works, is the enormous increase of utility which is thereby acquired for the community at a trifling cost. If a beautiful picture be hung in the dining-room of a private house, it may perhaps be gazed at by a few guests a score or two of times in the year. Its real utility is too often that of ministering to the selfish pride of its owner. If it be hung in the National Gallery, it will be enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of persons, whose glances, it need hardly be said, do not tend to wear out the canvas. The same principle applies to books in common ownership. If a man possesses a library of a few thousand volumes, by far the greater part of them must lie for years untouched upon the shelves; he cannot possibly use more than a fraction of the whole in any one year. But a library of five or ten thousand volumes opened free to the population of a town may be used a thousand times as much. It is a striking case of what I propose to call the principle of the multiplication of utility, a principle which lies at the base of some of the most important processes of political economy, including the division of labour.
The extent to which this multiplication of utility is carried in the case of free lending libraries is quite remarkable. During the first year that the Birmingham Free Library was in operation every book in the library was issued on an average seventeen times, and the periodical literature was actually turned over about fifty times.∗ In the “Transactions of the First Annual Meeting of the Library Association” (p. 77), Mr. Yates, of the Leeds Public Library, has given an account of the stock and issues of his libraries. In the Central Library the average turn-over—that is to say, the average number of times that each book was used—was about eighteen times in 1873, gradually falling to about twelve times. In the branch libraries it was eight in 1873, falling to four-and-a-half. This fall in the turn-over is, however, entirely due to the increase in the stock of books, the total number of issues having largely increased. The general account of all the free libraries, as given in a Parliamentary Paper—namely, a “Further Return concerning the Free Libraries Acts” (No. 277, 1877)—shows that each volume in the lending libraries of corporate towns is used on an average 6·55 in the year, and in the reference libraries 2·65 times; in other than corporate places the numbers are 5·92 and 3·81. In Scotland there is a curious inversion; the books of the lending libraries being used on an average 5·58 times, and those of the reference libraries as much as 9·22 times. The numbers of volumes issued to each borrower in the year are from sixteen to eighteen in England and Wales, and more than forty-four in Scotland.
Of course, books suffer more or less damage from incessant reading, and no small numbers of books in Free Libraries are sooner or later actually worn out by steady utilisation. Such books, however, can almost invariably be replaced with ease; in any case, how infinitely better it is that they should perish in the full accomplishment of their mission, instead of falling a prey to the butter-man, the waste-dealer, the entomological book-worm, the chamber-maid, or the other enemies of books which Mr. Blades has so well described and anathematised.
One natural result of the extensive circulation of public books is the very low cost at which the people is thus supplied with literature. Dividing the total expenditure of some of the principal Free Libraries by their total issues, we find that the average cost of each issue is: at Birmingham, 1·8d. per volume; at Rochdale, 1·92d.; at Manchester, 2·7d.; at Wolverhampton, the same. At Liverpool the cost was still lower, being only 1·55d.; and at Tynemouth it was no more than 1·33d. In the smaller libraries, indeed, the average cost is, as we might reasonably expect, somewhat larger; but, taking the total returns of issues and expenditure as given in Mr. Charles W. Sutton's most valuable “Statistical Report on the Free Libraries of the United Kingdom,”∗ we find the average cost per volume issued to be 2·31d. This is by no means a fair mode of estimating what the public get for their money. We must remember that, in addition to the borrowing and consulting of books, the readers have in most cases a cheerful, well-warmed, and well-lighted sitting-room, supplied with newspapers and magazine tables. To many a moneyless weary man the Free Library is a literary club; an unexceptionable refuge from the strife and dangers of life. It is not usual to keep any record of the numbers of persons who visit Free Libraries for other purposes than to apply for books; but at the Manchester libraries in 1868–69 an attempt was made to count the numbers of persons making use of the institutions in one way or other.∗ It was found that there had been altogether 2,172,046 readers, of whom 398,840 were borrowers of books for home reading; 74,367, including 228 ladies, were readers in the reference library; 91,201 were readers to whom books were issued on their signature in the branch reading-rooms; and 1,607,638 made use of the current periodicals, books, pamphlets, and other publications, in the news-room, in regard to which no formality is required. Taking the population of Manchester at 338,722, we might say that every man, woman, and child visited the libraries on an average six-and-a-half times in the year; or, putting it in a more sensible manuer, we might say, perhaps, that every person of adequate age visited the libraries on an average about thirteen times in the year.
The figures already given seem to show that there is probably no mode of expending public money which gives a more extraordinary and immediate return in utility and innocent enjoyment. It would, nevertheless, be a mistake to rest the claims of the Free Library simply on the ground of economy. Even if they were very costly, Free Libraries would be less expensive establishments than prisons, courts of justice, poor-houses, and other institutions maintained by public money; or the gin-palaces, music-halls, and theatres maintained by private expenditure. Nobody can doubt that there is plenty of money in this kingdom to spend for worse or for better. The whole annual cost of Free Libraries does not amount to more than about one hundred thousand pounds per annum; say, one-fifth part of the cost of a single first-class iron-clad. Now, this small cost is not only repaid many times over by the multiplication of utility of the books, newspapers, and magazines on which it is expended, but it is likely, after the lapse of years, to come back fully in the reduction of poor-rates and Government expenditure on crime. We are fully warranted in looking upon Free Libraries as an engine for operating upon the poorer portions of the population. In many other cases we do likewise. Mr. Fawcett's new measure for attracting small deposits to the Post Office Savings Banks by postage stamps cannot possibly be approved from a direct financial point of view. Each shilling deposit occasions a very considerable loss to the department in expenses, and it is only the hope and fact that those who begin with shillings will end with pounds, or even tens and hundreds of pounds, which can possibly justify the measure. The Post Office Savings Banks are clearly an engine for teaching thrift—in reality an expensive one; so Free Libraries are engines for creating the habit and power of enjoying high-class literature, and thus carrying forward the work of civilisation which is commenced in the primary school.
Some persons who are evidently quite unable to deny the efficient working of the Free Library system, oppose arguments somewhat in the nature of the “previous question.” They would say, for instance, that if there is so wonderful a demand for popular books, why do not the publishers issue cheap editions which anybody can purchase and read at home? Some astonishing things have no doubt been done in this way, as in the issue of the “Waverley Novels” at sixpence each. Even this price, it will be observed, is three, four, or more times the average cost of the issue of all kinds of literature from the larger Free Libraries. Any one, moreover, in the least acquainted with the publishing business must know that such cheap publication is quite impracticable except in the case of the most popular kinds of works. Quite recently, indeed, a “Pictorial New Testament” has been issued for a penny per copy, and Bunyan's “Pilgrim's Progress” in like manner. But the copies of these issues which I have met with are devoid of anything to call binding, and I presume it is understood that such publications could not have been undertaken from pecuniary motives. In the same way, the Bible Society, of course, can issue Bibles at whatever price they like, so long as their subscription list is sufficient.
Every now and then, when the papers are in want of padding, there springs up a crowd of correspondents who advocate cheap literature. A new novel, instead of costing 31s. 6d., ought not to cost more than 5s., or even 1s. Cheapness, we are assured, is the secret of profit, and, as the Post Office raises a vast revenue by penny stamps, so we have only to issue books at very low prices in order to secure a vast circulation and great profits. The superficiality of such kinds of argument ought to be apparent without elaborate exposure. It ought to be evident that the possibility of cheap publication depends entirely on the character of the publication. There are some books which sell by the hundred thousand, or even the million; there are others of which five hundred copies, or even one hundred, are ample to supply the market. Now, the class of publications which can be profitably multiplied, almost to the limits of power of the printing press, are those always vapid and not unfrequently vicious novelettes, gazettes, and penny dreadfuls of various name, whose evil influence it is the work of the Free Library to counteract.
Practically, the result of establishing Free Libraries is to bring the very best books within the reach of the poorest, while leaving the richer classes to pay the expenses of publication of such books. Any boy or beggar who can raise sixpence may enjoy from that “coign of vantage,” the gallery, some excellent play or opera, which is really paid for by the stalls and boxes at 10s. 6d. or a guinea a head. A little observation will convince anyone that there are many social devices which carry the benefits of wealth to those who have no wealth. Public ownership is a most potent means of such vulgarisation of pleasures. A public park is open to everyone. Now, if the burgesses of a British borough are wise enough to open a Free Library, it is a free literary park, where the poorest may enjoy as a right what it is well, both for them and everybody else, that they should enjoy. Judging from the ample statements of the occupations of book borrowers given in the annual reports of various libraries, or the summary of such reports printed as a Blue Book,∗ it is quite plain that the borrowers are, for the most part, persons of no wealth, few probably having an income of more than £100 a year. Too many science lectures, cheap entertainments, and free openings of exhibitions, intended for the genuine working men, are taken advantage of chiefly by people who could well afford to pay; but in the Free Library the working man and the members of his family put in an unquestionable appearance. Thus, we find that at the Birmingham Library, out of 7,688 readers in the reference library, 56 are accountants, 17 actors, 115 agents, 27 apprentices, 80 architects, 153 artists, 31 bakers, 7 bedstead-makers, 25 bookbinders, 48 booksellers, 44 bootmakers, 141 brassworkers, 3 bricklayers, 17 brokers, 15 brushmakers, 26 builders, 18 burnishers, 7 butchers, 14 buttonmakers, 43 cabinetmakers, 90 carpenters, 14 carvers, 18 chainmakers, 85 chemists, 167 clergymen, 1,562 clerks, 19 coachmakers, 8 coal-dealers, 140 commercial travellers, 30 curriers, and so on to the end of the alphabet. Similar statistics are shown by all the libraries which record the occupations either of borrowers or reference library readers.
It must not be forgotten, too, that the cost of a book is not the only inconvenience which attaches to it. If a book is to be read only once, like a newspaper or penny dreadful, and then destroyed, the cost must be several, if not many, times as great as if furnished by a circulating library. If books are to be kept in the home, so that different members of the family may use them successively when of suitable age, there is the cost of the bookcase and the space taken up in a small house where it can ill be spared. No doubt a great deal of cheap literature is passed from hand to hand through the second-hand bookseller and thus multiplied in utility; but there is much inconvenience in this method, and the second-hand dealer likes to have a good percentage.
Mr. Sutton's valuable table of statistics enables us to form a clear idea of the extent to which the Free Library movement is capable of further development. The number of rate-supported libraries, not counting branches, is now at least 86. Of these only 5 are found in boroughs having in 1871 a population less than 10,000; in 39 cases the population lay between 10,000 and 50,000; in 16 cases between 50,000 and 100,000; and in 15 cases the population exceeded 100,000. In the few remaining cases the population could not be stated. In almost all the towns in question, too, the new census will doubtless show greatly increased numbers of inhabitants. Opinions may differ as to the number of people which we may in the present day assign as adequate to the efficient support of a library; but, looking to the number of towns of about 20,000 inhabitants which already succeed with their libraries, we cannot doubt that every town of more than 20,000 inhabitants should possess its rate-supported library. In that case we can draw up from the census tables the following formidable list of English and Welsh towns which are clearly in default:
These cases of flagrant default vary much in blackness. Some of the towns, such as Gorton and Oldham, are near libraries supported by other larger towns, so that, somewhat meanly, they prefer to borrow books at other people's expense. Two or three towns, such as Southampton and Hastings, are perhaps, already provided with institutions partly serving in the place of Free Libraries. The remaining cases admit of little extenuation so far as my knowledge goes. Some cases are very bad. Bath appears to be the worst one of all. With a population numbering 52,557 in 1871, and which ought at least to make pretensions to intelligence and civilisation, the Bath ratepayers have four times rejected the Library Act. On the 8th of November, 1869, a public meeting was held in that town to consider the desirableness of adopting the Act, but a resolution in favour of the project was lost. The like result happened at a second meeting, on the 5th of November, 1872. In May, 1877, a common law poll of the burgesses was taken, with a negative result. Finally, as recently as October, 1880, a poll of the ratepayers was taken by means of voting-papers, but an ignorant majority again, for a fourth time, overruled an intelligent and public-spirited minority. On the last two occasions the trustees and owners of a considerable library, with the building in which it was deposited, offered the whole as a gift to the public if the Corporation were empowered to maintain it at the public expense, the library being, I believe, altogether suitable for the purpose. It is with regret that we must learn that the ratepayers have now lost their chance, the building having been sold and the books dispersed. With the exception of the metropolis, Hull appears to be the largest town in England which is still devoid of a rate-supported library, the population having been 121,892 in 1871, since probably increased in as high a ratio as in any other town in the kingdom. There is hardly any place which would derive more benefit from a Free Library, or which could more readily afford it. With some surprise, too, we find Burton-on-Trent in the list of defaulters; where there are many great breweries one might expect to meet one moderately-sized library.
It is quite an open question whether all towns of 10,000 inhabitants ought not to have libraries. The number of such towns, even in 1871, was 221, since greatly increased. This view of the matter would make a list of 135 defaulters, to be increased to at least 150 when the results of the new census are published. The question must soon arise, too, whether literature is to be confined to towns—whether rural parts may not share in the advantages of a library seated in the nearest market-town. Owing to the simple intervention of distance country people never can have the facilities of town dwellers; but on market-days almost every farmer's family could exchange books.
Thirteen or fourteen years ago, Mr. George Harris proposed the establishment of Parochial Libraries for working men, in small towns and rural districts.∗ The ground upon which he advocated his plan is very good as applying to Free Libraries generally—namely, that the country already spends a great deal of money in promoting education, and yet omits that small extra expenditure on a universal system of libraries which would enable young men and women to keep up the three R's and continue their education. We spend the £97, as Mr. Harris put it, and stingily decline the £3 per cent. really needed to make the rest of the £100 effective. But as applied to rural districts his scheme is weak in the fact that numbers and concentration are needed to make an efficient, attractive, and economical library. A small collection of a few hundred books is soon exhausted by an active reader, and fails ever afterwards to present the novelty which is the great incentive to reading. The fact is that there exists no legal impediment to the establishment of parochial libraries, because the Sixth Section of the Public Libraries Amendment Act, 1866 (29 & 30 Vic. cap. 114), provides that the Public Libraries Act of 1855, and the corresponding Scotch Act, “shall be applicable to any borough, district, or parish, or burgh, of whatever population.” Moreover, the Fourth Section of the same Act enables any parish of whatever population to unite with the Town Council of a neighbouring borough, or a Local Board, or other competent authority, and provide a Free Library at the joint expense. So far as I am aware these powers have hardly been put into operation at all.
According to Mr. Sutton's tables, there is only one Free Library district, that of Birkenhead, which has succeeded in incorporating the “out-townships.” At Leamington, Newport, Northampton, Southport, Thurso, and Wigan, attempts have been made to get neighbouring districts to join, but without success. In several important boroughs, such as Liverpool, Salford, Manchester, even the lending libraries are open to residents of the country around, and in other places the librarians interpret their rules with great liberality. It goes without saying that the reference departments are freely open to all comers, any questions which are asked having a purely statistical purpose. The Manchester librarians printed in 1865 a table showing the residences of readers. While 62,597 belonged to Manchester and Salford, 5,666 came from other parts of Lancashire, 3 from Bedford, 849 from Cheshire, 124 from Derbyshire, 2 from Devonshire, 2 from Durham, 3 from Leicestershire, 83 from London, 139 from Yorkshire, 5 from Ireland, 8 from Scotland, 4 from Wales, and 6 from America. Although this liberality is wise and commendable in the case of such wealthy cities as Manchester and Liverpool, it is obviously unfair that small towns should provide books for half a county; and though the difficulty is surmounted in a few places, such as Dundalk and Rochdale, by allowing non-residents to pay a small subscription, the really satisfactory method would be for the parishes to adopt the Free Libraries Acts, and pay a small contribution to the funds of the nearest Free Library district.
If this were frequently done, there is little doubt that some arrangement could be devised for circulating the books of the lending department through the surrounding parishes, as proposed by Mr. J. D. Mullins. It would be rather too Utopian to suggest the adoption in this country of the method of book-lending which has long been in successful operation in the colony of Victoria. Thus, under the enlightened management of Sir Redmond Barry, whose recent death must be a serious loss to the colony, the duplicates of the Melbourne Public Library are placed in cases of oak, bound with brass clips, lined with green baize, and divided by shelves. Each case contains about fifty volumes, and is transmitted free of cost by railway or steamer to any Public Library, Mechanics' Institution, Athenaeum, or corporate body which applies for a loan. When a series of lectures on any subject are about to be given in some remote part of the colony, a box of suitable books bearing on the subject will be made up at Melbourne upon application. The volumes may be retained for three months or more. The number of volumes thus circulated in 1876–7 was 8,000, and by the multiplication of utility, they were rendered equivalent to 32,000 volumes, in seventy-two towns of an aggregate population of 440,000. A full description of this method of circulation was given by Sir Redmond Barry at the London Conference of Librarians in 1877, in the Report of which important meeting it will be found (pp. 134–5, 194–9) duly printed. An account of an enterprising village library club in the New York county will be found in the American “Library Journal,” vol. iii. No. 2, p. 67.
This method of circulating libraries is not, however, so novel as it might seem to the average Englishman. Not to speak of the extensive systems of country circulation main tained by Mudie, Smith, the London Library, and some other institutions, there has long existed in East Lothian a system of Itinerating Libraries, originally founded by Mr. Samuel Brown of Haddington. The operation of these libraries is fully described in a very able and interesting pamphlet upon “The Free Libraries of Scotland,” written by an Assistant Librarian, and published by Messrs. John Smith and Son, of 129, West George Street, Glasgow. Samuel Brown's plan was to make up a collection of fifty books, to be stationed in a village for two years, and lent out gratuitously to all persons above the age of twelve years who would take proper care of them. At the end of the two years the books were called in and removed to another town or village, a fresh collection of fifty different works taking their place. The imperative need of novelty was thus fully provided for, and the utility of the books was multiplied in a very effective way. The scheme was for many years very successful, though hardly so much so as the more recent Free Libraries. The books appear to have been issued on an average about seven or eight times a year. At one period there were as many as fifty of these local libraries, all confined within the limits of East Lothian. The system is said to have been started about the year 1816, and it reached its climax about 1832. In that year a charge of one penny per volume was imposed during the first year of issue, Samuel Brown being of opinion that he had so far educated the population that they could bear this small impost. In this he was mistaken, and the number of readers began to fall off. The death of the originator in 1839 accelerated the decline of his admirable scheme, and at present but slight vestiges of his remarkable network of libraries remain.
It is interesting to find that this system of itinerating libraries attracted the special attention of Lord Brougham, and is described in his “Practical Observations upon the Education of the People” (London, 1825), a tract which marks an era in social reform, and contains the germs of much that has since been realised. Lord Brougham says of Samuel Brown's plan:
“It began with only a few volumes; but he now has nineteen Itinerating Libraries of fifty volumes each, which are sent round the different stations, remaining a certain time at each. For these there are nineteen divisions, and fifteen stations, four divisions being always in use at the chief town, and two at another town of some note. An individual at each station acts as librarian. There are 700 or 800 readers, and the expenses, under £60 a year, are defrayed by the produce of a sermon, the sale of some tracts, and subscriptions, in small sums averaging 5s. This plan is now adopted in Berwickshire, by Mr. Buchan, of Kelloe, with this very great improvement, that the current expenses are defrayed by the readers, who pay twopence a month, and, I hope, choose the books.”
I cannot help thinking that this plan of itinerating libraries, or a cross between it and what we may call the Redmond Barry plan, as carried out at Melbourne, is just the thing needed to extend the benefits of the Free Library to the rural parts of England and Wales. Every three months, for instance, the central library in the market-town might despatch to each principal village in the neighbourhood a parcel of fifty books in a box like that used at Melbourne; after remaining twelve months in use there, the parcel should be returned to the principal library for examination and repair, and then reissued to some other village. A farthing or at the most a halfpenny rate would amply afford a sufficient contribution from the country parish to the market-town. The books might be housed and issued in the Board school-room, the parish school-room, the workman's club, or other public building, at little or no cost. Even the vestry of the parish church would not be desecrated by such a light-and-life-giving box of books. Should this plan of circulation be eventually carried into effect, we might expect that every town of 5,000 inhabitants would become the centre of a district. Estimating roughly, we ought to have some 500 Free Central Libraries and News-rooms, with a great many more, perhaps 3,000, village circulating libraries.
It ought to be added that even should the Free Library system assume in time the dimensions here contemplated there is no fear of injury to the interests of any respectable publishers, owners of circulating libraries, newspaper proprietors, or others. It is the unanimous opinion of those who observe the action of Free Libraries that they create rather than quench the thirst for literature. As Mr. Mullins says: “Booksellers, who feared that they would injure their trade, find that they create a taste for reading, and multiply their customers. Subscription Libraries find that the Free Libraries, so far from injuring them, serve as pioneers for them.” At the same time, this plan would add considerably to the funds of the town libraries, and the country people when going to town would fairly acquire the right of using the news-rooms and reference library. No doubt it seems rather a grotesque idea to speak of a country bumpkin frequenting a reference library, but it is what we are gradually coming to. At any rate, it may most confidently be said that we must come to it, unless we are content to be left far behind in the race of intellectual, material, and moral progress. What we are too stupid and antiquated to do, the Colonies and the United States are doing. The eyes of the British landowner and the British farmer have been opened a little in the last few years, and the most conservative people will perhaps appreciate more than they would formerly have done the value of the warning —“Beware of the competition of your own educated offspring.”
It is difficult, however, to find fault with minor towns, while the vast metropolis of London, in the wider sense of the name, remains practically devoid of rate-supported libraries. The fact itself is its own condemnation; no extenuation is possible; it is a case of mere ignorant impatience of taxation. It would not be correct to say there are no Free Libraries in London. There is in Westminster a real rate-supported library belonging to the united parishes of St. Margaret and St. John, started as long ago as 1857, with only three dissentient votes. It is a lending library possessing 11,700 volumes, with an annual issue of nearly 85,000 volumes, and it is supported by a half-penny rate. To show the extent of the deficiency in London, it is enough to mention that the 86 provincial towns possessing Free Libraries have an aggregate population (in 1871) of not quite 6,000,000 persons; while London, with its one small rate-supported library, has a population of 3,620,000 persons.
Though there is only one library under the Public Libraries Act as yet, there are several Free Libraries of various importance and character. There is the admirable Guildhall Library, so well managed by Mr. Overall, and supported by the Corporation of the City. There is a small Free Library at Notting Hill, maintained entirely by the munificence of Mr. James Heywood, F.R.S. Several institutions, too, have of late thrown open small libraries to the public, as in the case of the Free Library of 1,000 volumes, with abundant periodicals, maintained entirely on voluntary contributions by the South London Working Men's College at 143, Upper Kennington Lane. Bethnal Green practically possesses a fair library of 5,000 volumes, opened to the public by the trustees of “The Hall” in London Street. In St. Pancras an anonymous lady benefactress opened a small Free Library at 29, Camden Street, and after three years of successful operation it was placed in the hands of a committee of subscribers and residents of the parish, who are gradually increasing its usefulness.
There are, it is true, several other important libraries which are practically free to the public. The Lambeth Palace Library is open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and Tuesday mornings; but the collection of books, though highly valuable to the scholar, is totally unsuited to popular use. The excellent library of the London Institution in Finsbury Circus is practically opened to the use of any suitable readers by the liberality of the managers of that institution and the public spirit of its principal librarian, Mr. E. B. Nicholson. The remarkable scientific library collected by Sir Francis Ronalds and bequeathed to the Society of Telegraph Engineers, is also available to the public. But such special libraries do not in the least fill the place occupied in Manchester, Birmingham, and other towns by the public libraries, with their numerous branches, news-rooms, &c.
It has been seriously argued that London does not want rate-supported libraries, because there is in the British Museum a vast library maintained at the cost of the State. To anyone in the least acquainted with the British Museum it is not necessary to give an answer to such an absurd argument. It would be in the highest degree wasteful and extravagant to open such a library to popular use. Panizzi's great reading-room is the national literary laboratory, whence no small part of the literature of the country directly or indirectly draws its material and inspiration. The cost may be considerable, but the work done there is essential. Already the privileges of the reading-room are to some extent abused by loungers, students reading the commonest text-books, or others who like the soft seats and rather warm atmosphere; but it is impossible to draw the line with perfect accuracy. If any change is to be made, more restriction rather than more freedom of entry to the Museum Library is desirable. In any case, the National Library is probably the most admirable and the most admirably managed institution belonging to the British nation; but it has nothing to do with the Free Library movement.
Not far from the Museum is another library which might well be converted into a Free Public Library. It is known as Dr. Williams's Library, and is placed in a very suitable building in Grafton Street, close to University College. It was founded by a Nonconformist minister, and contains a rather strong infusion of theological literature. In later years, however, the trustees have added the best books of general literature and science, and they admit any properly introduced person to read or even borrow the books. It can hardly be maintained, however, that the library renders the public services which it might readily do. In the close vicinity of University College and the Museum, it is not needed as a scholar's library, and therefore I think it should be converted into a people's library.
In spite of the existence of the above-mentioned and possibly several other practically Free Libraries, the fact is that there is no institution well adapted to give London ratepayers an idea of the advantages which are really within their reach under the Libraries Act, if they would once overcome the interested owners of cottage property and others, who from selfish motives oppose everything appearing to tend towards the slightest increase of the rates. If the populace of London could become personally acquainted with a well-constructed Free Library, with its open doors, its cheerful lights and bright fires, its inviting newspaper stands, its broad tables littered over with the best and most attractive periodical literature, with here and there a small table for chess and other quiet occupations, I feel sure they would demand a like institution in every division of that house-covered province called London. For some years past the Metropolitan Free Libraries Association, an offshoot of the Librarians' Conference, has been striving, under the able management of Mr. Edward B. Nicholson, to procure the adoption of the Acts in the metropolis, and it is to be hoped that we shall soon hear of some success.
In addition to their principal work of popularising the best literature of the country, public libraries have other functions to perform of no slight importance. The reference departments will naturally become, in the progress of time, the depositories of collections of local literature and records which would otherwise not improbably perish. The public librarian will consider it part of his duty to collect the ephemeral publications of the local press. Local pamphlets, municipal reports, companies' reports, fly-sheets of various kinds, local newspapers, minor magazines, election squibs; in fact, all the documents which register the life of the town and country, should be sedulously brought together, filed, and bound after due arrangement. It is sometimes supposed that the British Museum collects everything which issues from the press, but this applies at the best only to publications having copyright. Mr. W. E. A. Axon has urged that the Museum should not only collect all literature, but issue periodical indexes of all that is printed. I hardly see how it is possible for the Museum to cope with the ever-increasing mass of printed documents. Already the newspaper collections are increasing so much in bulk that it is difficult to find space for them. I know, as a positive fact, that there are immense numbers of statistical reports, police reports, country finance reports, and documents of all kinds, public, private, or semi-private, which seldom do and hardly can find their way to the Museum, or to any great metropolitan library; but where the Museum necessarily fails, the local library can easily succeed, so as to become in time the depository of invaluable materials for local history and statistical inquiry.
A good deal is already being done in this direction, as explained by Mr. W. H. K. Wright, of the Plymouth Free Library, in the Report of the first annual meeting of the Library Association (pp. 44–50). At Liverpool Mr. Cowell is collecting, arranging, and cataloguing a large number of books, plans, maps, and drawings of local interest. At Rochdale and Bristol like efforts are being made. In the Leicester Library there is a distinct “Leicestershire Department.” Birmingham has unfortunately lost its Shakespeare and Cervantes Libraries, and what is almost worse, its irreplaceable Staunton collection of Warwickshire literature has fallen a victim to the flames. But Mr. Mullins is doing all that can be done to recreate a valuable local library. At Plymouth Mr. Wright is himself forming the nucleus of a future Devon and Cornwall library.
Free Libraries will also become eventually the depositories of many special collections of books formed in the first place by enthusiastic collectors. At the London Conference of Librarians Mr. Cornelius Walford showed (Report, pp. 45–49) what important services may be done in this way; and in the Second Annual Report of the Library Association (pp. 54–60, Appendix, pp. 139–148) there is a really wonderful account by Mr. John H. Nodal of the special collections of books existing in the neighbourhood of Manchester. The best possible example of what may be done by a Free Library is furnished by the Wigan Free Public Library. The librarian at Wigan, Mr. Henry Tennyson Folkard, has formed a remarkable collection of works relating to mining, metallurgy, and manufactures, and has lately issued a first index catalogue. This forms a complete guide, or at least a first attempt at a complete guide, to the literature of the subject. It is to be hoped that in time other librarians will take up other special branches of literature, and prepare like bibliographical guides.
It is not well to ignore the fact that there may be a dark, or at least sombre and doubtful, side to the somewhat couleur de rose view which we have taken of Free Libraries. There are a few persons who assert that reading is capable of being carried to a vicious and enervating excess. At the Manchester meeting of the Library Association, Mr. J. Taylor Kay, the librarian of Owen's College, read a paper, much criticised at the time, on “The Provision of Novels in Rate-supported Libraries.” In previous years Mr. Kay was one of the staff at the Manchester Free Library, and the following is the result of his observation of readers: “For many years a remarkable fact has been before my notice, and continually confirmed by a long experience in the Manchester Free Libraries, that schoolboys or students who took to novel reading to any great extent never made much progress in after-life. They neglected real practical life for a sensually imaginative one, and suffered accordingly from the enervating influence.” This matter is far too debatable to be argued out in this place; and I would only answer to Mr. Kay that it is quite too late in the political day to think of restraining the reading of sensational literature. In this respect our boats were long since burnt behind us. Time was when the paper duty and various cunningly devised stamp duties were supposed to save the common people from the demoralising effects of literature. But the moralist has now only to notice some of the dingy shops crowded with cheap penny and halfpenny papers, in order to feel that restraint of literature is a thing of the past, as much as the parish stocks or the ducking-stool. There is a perfect deluge of low class and worthless periodical literature spreading over the country, and it can only be counteracted by offering gratuitous supplies of literature, which, whether it be fiction or not, may at any rate be pure and harmless, and often of great moral and intellectual excellence. What between the multiplying powers of the steam-press and the cheapness of straw and wood paper, fiction of the “penny dreadful” class can be issued ad infinitum. The only question is, whether the mass of the people are to read the most worthless and often immoral trash, or whether they are to have the best class of fiction—that of Dickens, of George Eliot, of Trollope, and the rest—placed within their reach.
Many attempts have been made and are being made by societies or by enlightened publishers to place constant supplies of pure and yet attractive literature within the reach of the mass of the people. But I venture to think that a wide extension of the Free Library system is a necessary complement to such efforts. It seems to me impossible to publish the best light literature at a price to compete with the inane penny or half-penny novelettes, whereas the Free Library offers the best works of fiction or general literature free of charge to the borrowers, and at a cost to the public not exceeding a penny or twopence for a whole volume.
One point which it is worth while to notice about Free Libraries is, that they are likely to be most permanent and progressive institutions. I have pointed out in a former article (“Contemporary Review,” Feb. 1880, vol. xxxvii., p. 181), how evanescent many kinds of social movements have proved to be. But an important collection of books, once formed and housed, is a solid nucleus, which attracts gifts and legacies, and often grows altogether beyond the conception of the first founders. It would be possible to mention many public libraries which had small beginnings, and are already great. With the increase of education and general intelligence, libraries will be far more esteemed institutions half a century hence than they are now. It is difficult to imagine, then, a wiser and better way in which a rich man or a rich woman may spend available wealth than in founding a Free Library in some town which has hitherto feared the first cost of the undertaking. Several Free Libraries have already been established more or less at the cost of individuals. The Liverpool Library was built at the expense of the late Sir William Brown, on a site given by the Corporation. The Paisley Library building was presented by Sir P. Coats. Mr. David Chadwick gave a building and books, all complete, to Macclesfield. Mr. Bass built the Derby Library. The Wigan Library building was erected by Mr. Thomas Taylor, while Mr. Winnard presented £12,000 for the purchase of books. The site of the Stoke-upon-Trent Library, together with a handsome sum of money, was given by Mr. C. M. Campbell, a local society presenting a library of books and a museum. At Reading the adoption of the Act was defeated seven years ago; but Mr. William Palmer, of the great biscuit firm, proceeded to open a library at his own expense, under the management of a lady-librarian. The library soon became so popular that when the ratepayers again voted there was only a single dissentient. Hereford, Coventry, and several other places, owe their libraries partly to benefactors, while in many cases valuable collections of books have been handed over to the public by individuals or societies. It is to be hoped that the list of benefactions will be largely increased in future years.
The economical working of Free Libraries has been much advanced by the invention of Indicators, which, like finger-posts at cross-roads, afford a great deal of information at the least possible cost. The one now most in use was invented by Mr. John Elliot, librarian to the Wolverhampton Public Library. It was preceded, indeed, by a rude kind of indicator-board with the numbers of the books painted upon it, and pegs which could be stuck into holes so as to show to the library attendants whether the book so numbered was in or out. Mr. Diall, of Liverpool, improved upon this board by using numbered blocks, so moving upon a slide that they would exhibit to the public the numbers of all books available for borrowing.
Mr. Elliot's indicator is a much more valuable instrument, for it not only shows at a glance whether any book is in or out, but it also affords a means of recording mechanically the names of borrowers, so as almost entirely to replace the use of book-ledgers or other written records. It is well described by Mr. W. J. Haggerston, of the South Shields Library, at a conference of the Northern Union of Mechanics' Institutions. Some account of it will also be found in the “Transactions” of the First Meeting of the Library Association, in the paper of Mr. James Yates (pp. 76–78) already referred to. The Indicator consists of upright square frames, each containing a thousand small shelves, in ten vertical divisions of one hundred shelves each. The two faces of the frame are identical, with the exception that the one exposed towards the public is covered with plate-glass so as to prevent meddling, while the librarians have access to the inner face. Each shelf is numbered on both faces with the number of the one book which it represents. When a borrower takes a book out he hands his library ticket to the librarian, who writes upon it the number of the book taken and the date of borrowing, and then places it on the shelf corresponding to the book, where it remains until the book is returned. If any other person comes intending to borrow the same book, he looks at the Indicator, and seeing the ticket of the borrower lying on the corresponding shelf, knows at once that the book is out. It is also possible to indicate, by appropriate marks placed on the shelves, that books are at the binder's, withdrawn from circulation, or missing. An immense deal of trouble in searching and inquiring is saved by this simple means. The Indicator, as thus constructed, has been in use at the Public Libraries of Paisley, Exeter, Coventry, Hereford, Bilston, Stockton-on-Tees, Leeds, South Shields, Wolverhampton, Cardiff, Leicester, Derby, Sheffield, Darlaston, and Southport, besides some private subscription libraries.
Efficient as Elliot's Indicator may seem, Mr. Cotgreave, formerly Librarian at Wednesbury, but now in charge of the beautiful little Library approaching completion at Richmond (Surrey), has succeeded in making improvements upon it. In this new Indicator the frames and shelves are much the same as in Elliot's, but each shelf bears a very small book or ledger, about three inches long and one inch wide. This is attached to a tin slide bearing the number of the library book on each end, but in different colours. When a borrower applies for any book, say 117D, the librarian, while delivering the book, takes out of the Indicator the corresponding slide and small ledger, records in spaces therein the number of the borrower's card and the date of issue, and then replaces the slide with the reverse end foremost—i.e., towards the public. Any subsequent applicant will then see by the altered colour of the book number that the book is out. Mr. Cotgreave has also devised a simple system of date marks, which will show in which week, and, if required, on what day in each week, a book was borrowed. The chief advantage of this Indicator is the fact that it preserves in the small ledger a permanent record of the use of each book. There are various incidental advantages not easily to be appreciated, except by those frequently using these devices. It is almost impossible, for instance, to make mistakes with Cotgreave's Indicator by misplacing cards, because all the shelves are full except that which is being dealt with. The numbers of the books, again, can be rearranged, if required, without taking the framework of the Indicator to pieces.
The economy effected in the working of a large public library by the use of these Indicators is very remarkable. Thus it is stated that in the Leeds Public Library books can be easily issued by the use of Elliot's Indicator at the rate of 76 per hour, at a cost of £1 3s. 3d. per 1,000 volumes. In the Leeds Mechanics' Institution books were issued without an Indicator at the rate of 11 per hour, at a cost of £5 6s. per 1,000. At South Shields as many as 169 volumes have been issued in one hour, being at the rate of nearly one volume per minute for each member of the staff! At Wolverhampton one librarian, assisted by two boys, effected a total issue in one year of 97,800 books. Technical details of this sort may seem trifling, but they are really of great importance in showing what ingenuity and systematisation can do in bringing the best classes of literature within the reach of the people.
Looking back over ten, fifteen, or twenty years, it is surprising to notice what an advance has been accomplished in our notions of library economy and etxension. This is greatly due, I believe, to the reflex effect of American activity. A glance through the Special Report on the Public Libraries in the United States of America, their history, condition, and management, issued at Washington in 1876, shows how wide are the American ideas of Library management. The Library Journal, edited by Mr. Melvil Dewey, and forming the official organ of the American and English Library Associations, supplies equally striking evidence of Library enterprise. The Library Association of the United Kingdom may have been inspired by the American spirit of associated labour, but it has soon become a thoroughly British body. I doubt whether any association could be named, which, in two short years, or, including the preliminary conference of librarians, in three years, has done more real and useful work. The two Annual Reports, together with the Conference Report, owe much to the editing which they have received from Mr. Henry R. Tedder and Mr. Ernest Thomas. The indexes prepared by Mr. Tedder are models of the indexing art, and must almost satisfy the requirements of the Index Society. These Reports, too, will probably be sought after by bibliophiles on account of their beautiful typographical execution, due to Messrs. Whittingham & Co., of the Chiswick Press. A French critic, recently writing in Le Livre, the French Bibliographical Journal, has commented on the luxurious paper and printing of these remarkable Reports. But it is more pertinent to our immediate purpose to observe that the Reports are full of all kinds of information bearing upon the advantages, purposes, and management of Public Libraries. The Library Association has also recently commenced the issue, through Messrs. Trübner, of a monthly journal of proceedings which contains much additional information. Those who are unable to consult these more voluminous publications, but desire to know how a Free Public Library is started, should procure Mr. W. E. A. Axon's well-known little brochure, “Hints on the Formation of Small Libraries intended for Public Use.” This tract was prepared for the Co-operative Congress of 1869, has been printed several times in a separate form at home and abroad, and is to be found reprinted in Mr. Axon's “Handbook of the Public Libraries of Manchester and Salford” (pp. 183–9). More detailed information, including the text of the Free Libraries Acts, is to be found in Mr. J. D. Mullins' tract on “Free Libraries and News-rooms; their Formation and Management,” the third edition of which was lately on sale by Messrs. Henry Sotheran & Co., at 36, Piccadilly. The standard work upon the subject is, of course, Mr. Edward Edwards' “Memoirs of Libraries,” published in two volumes in 1859, a work which has been of great service in promoting the cause of the Libraries Acts.
THE USE AND ABUSE OF MUSEUMS.∗
It is a remarkable fact that, although public Museums have existed in this country for more than a century and a quarter, and there are now a very great number of Museums of one sort or another, hardly anything has been written about their general principles of management and economy. In the English language, at least, there is apparently not a single treatise analysing the purposes and kinds of Museums, or describing systematically the modes of arrangement. In the course of this article I shall have occasion to refer to a certain number of lectures, addresses, or papers which have touched more or less expressly upon this subject; but these are all of a slight and brief character. The only work at all pretending to a systematic form with which I am acquainted is that upon “The Administrative Economy of the Fine Arts in England,” by Mr. Edward Edwards, of the British Museum. But this book was printed as long ago as 1840, and has long been forgotten, if indeed it could ever have been said to be known. Moreover it is mostly concerned with the principles of management of art galleries, schools of art, and the like. Many of the ideas put forward by Edwards have since been successfully fathered by better-known men, and some of his suggestions, such as that of multiplying facsimiles of the best works of art, are only now approaching realisation.
It is true, indeed, that a great deal of inquiry has taken place from time to time about the British Museum, which forms the Alpha, if not the Omega, of this subject. Whatever has been written about Museums centres upon the great national institution in Bloomsbury. The Blue Book literature is abundant, but naturally unknown to the public. The evidence taken before the recent Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction and the advancement of Science, contains a great deal of information bearing upon Museum economy, including the opinions of the chief officers of the British Museum; but little or nothing bearing on the subject was embodied in the reports of the Commission.
I do not propose in this article to boil down the voluminous contents of Blue Books, but, depending chiefly upon my own memory of many museums and exhibitions which I have visited from time to time, to endeavour to arrive at some conception of the purposes, or rather the many purposes, which should be set before us in creating public collections of the kind, and the means by which those purposes may be most readily attained. Although the subject has hardly received any attention as yet, I believe it is possible to show on psychological or other scientific grounds that much which has been done in the formation of Museums is fundamentally mistaken. In other cases it is more by good luck than good management that a favourable result has been attained. In any case a comparison of the purposes and achievements of Museums must be instructive.
According to its etymology the name Museum means a temple or haunt of the Muses, and any place appropriated to the cultivation of learning, music, pictorial art, or science might be appropriately called a Museum. On the Continent they still use Musée in a rather wider sense than we in England use Museum; but it is remarkable that, although the art of delighting by sound has long been called emphatically Music, we never apply the name Museum to a Concert Hall. In this country we have specialised the word so much that we usually distinguish Museums from libraries, picture galleries and music halls, reserving the name for collections and displays of scientific specimens, or concrete artistic objects and curiosities of various kinds. As a library contains books which speak from the printed page, or the ancient inscribed parchment, so the Museum contains the books of Nature, and the sermons which are in stones. About the use and abuse of printed books there cannot arise much question. It may be assumed as a general rule that when a person reads a book, he understands it and draws some good from it. The labour of reading is a kind of labour test, and gives statistics to the effect that certain classes of books are used so many times in the year on the average; there is little need to go behind these facts. But it is somewhat otherwise with public Museums, because the advantage which an individual gets from the visit may vary from nil up to something extremely great. The degree of instruction derived is quite incapable of statistical determination. Not only is there great difference in degree, but there is vast difference also in the kind of benefit derived. Many go to a public Museum just as they take a walk, without thought or care as to what they are going to see; others have a vague idea that they will be instructed and civilised by seeing a multitude of novel and beautiful objects; a very small fraction of the total public go because they really understand the things displayed, and have got ideas about them to be verified, corrected, or extended. Unfortunately it is difficult to keep the relative values of these uses of a Museum distinct. There seems to be a prevalent idea that if the populace can only be got to walk about a great building filled with tall glass-cases, full of beautiful objects, especially when illuminated by the electric light, they will become civilised. At the South Kensington Art Museum they make a great point of setting up turnstiles to record the precise numbers of visitors, and they can tell you to a unit the exact amount of civilising effect produced in any day, week, month, or year. But these turnstiles hardly take account of the fact that the neighbouring wealthy residents are in the habit, on a wet day, of packing their children off in a cab to the so-called Brompton Boilers, in order that they may have a good run through the galleries. To the far greater part of the people a large brilliantly lighted Museum is little or nothing more than a promenade, a bright kind of lounge, not nearly so instructive as the shops of Regent Street or Holborn. The well-known fact that the attendance at Museums is greatest on wet days is very instructive.
Not only is a very large collection of various objects ill-suited for educational purposes, but it is apt to create altogether erroneous ideas about the true method of education. The least consideration, indeed, ought to convince any sensible person that to comprehend the purpose, construction, mode of use, and history of a single novel object or machine, would usually require from (say) half-an-hour up to several hours or days of careful study. A good lecturer can always make a lecture of an hour's duration out of anything falling within his range of subject. How then is it possible that persons glancing over some thousands of unfamiliar specimens in the British Museum or the South Kensington Courts, can acquire, in the moment devoted to each, the slightest comprehension of what they witness? To children especially the glancing at a great multitude of diverse things is not only useless but actually pernicious, because it tends to destroy that habit of concentration of attention, which is the first condition of mental acquisition. It is no uncommon thing to see troops of little schoolboys filing through the long galleries of a Museum. No more senseless employment could be imagined. They would be far better employed in flattening their noses for an hour or two against the grocer's shop window where there is a steam mill grinding coffee, or watching the very active bootmaker who professes to sole your boots while you wait.
A great deal has been said and written about the unities of the drama, and “canons” are said to have been laid down on the subject. It does not seem, however, to have occurred to the creators and managers of Museums, that so far as education is aimed at, a certain unity of effect is essential. There may be many specimens exhibited, but they ought to have that degree of relation that they may conduce to the same general mental impression. It is in this way, I believe, that the Thorwaldsen Museum at Copenhagen exercises a peculiarly impressive effect upon the multitudes of all classes of Danes and Swedes who visit it. This Museum contains in a single building almost the whole works of this great sculptor, together with all the engravings and pictures having reference to the same. Very numerous though the statues and bas-reliefs are, there is naturally a unity of style in them, and the visitor as he progresses is gradually educated to an appreciation of the works. The only objects in the building tending towards incongruity of ideas are Thorwaldsen's own collection of antiquities and objects of art; but even these are placed apart, and if visited, they tend to elucidate the tastes and genius of the artist.
In somewhat the same way we may explain the ineffaceable effect which certain other foreign galleries produce upon the traveller, especially those of the Vatican. This is not due simply to the excellence of any particular works of art, for in the Louvre or the British Museum we may see antique sculpture of equal excellence. But in the principal Vatican galleries we are not distracted by objects belonging to every place and time. The genius of the classical age spreads around us, and we leave one manifestation of it but to drink in a deeper impression from the next.
I hardly know anything in this kingdom producing a like unity and depth of effect. No doubt the gallery in the British Museum appropriated to the Elgin and other Greek sculptures presents a striking unity of genius well calculated to impress the visitor, provided he can keep clear of the Assyrian bulls which are so close at hand, and the great variety of Egyptian and other antiquities which beset his path. It is in the Crystal Palace, however, that we find the most successful attempt to carry the spectator back to a former stage of art. The Pompeian House is the best possible Museum of Roman life and character. For a few minutes at least the visitor steps from the present; he shuts out the age of iron, and steam, and refreshment contractors, and the like, and learns to realise the past. As to the Alhambra Court, it is a matchless lesson in art and architecture.
Everybody must have felt again how pleasing and impressive is the Hampton Court Palace, with its gardens and appropriate collections of historical pictures. In the same way I would explain the peculiar charm attaching to the Museum of the Hôtel de Cluny, where the ancient buildings and traditions of the place harmonise entirely with its present contents and purposes.
In Museums, as a general rule, we see things torn from their natural surroundings and associated with incongruous objects. In a great cathedral church we find indeed architectural fragments of many ages, and monuments of the most diverse styles. But they are in their places nevertheless, and mark and register the course of time. In a modern art Museum, on the contrary, the collection of the articles is accidental, and to realise the true meaning and beauty of an object the spectator must possess a previous knowledge of its historical bearings and a rare power of imagination, enabling him to restore it ideally to its place. Who, for instance, that sees some of the reproductions of the mosaics of Ravenna hanging high up on the walls of the Museum at South Kensington, can acquire therefrom the faintest idea of the mysterious power of those long lines of figures in the Church of St. Apollinaris? Although it is, no doubt, better to have such reproductions available, it is not well to cherish delusion. The persistent system of self-glorification long maintained by the managers of the South Kensington Museum seems actually to have been successful in persuading people that the mere possession and casual inspection of the contents of the South Kensington courts and galleries has created æsthetic and artistic tastes in a previously unæsthetic people. Such a fallacy does not stand a moment's serious examination. It is dispersed, for instance, by the single fact that the fine arts are in a decidedly low state in Italy, although the Italians have had access to the choicest works of art since the time of the Medicis. It might also be easily pointed out that the revival of true æsthetic taste in England, especially in the direction of architecture, began long before South Kensington was heard of. It is to men of genius, such as Pugin, and Barry, and Gilbert Scott, and to no Government officials, that we owe the restoration of true taste in England, only prevented for a short time, as I hope, by the present craze about the bastard Queen Anne style.
The worst possible conception of the mode of arranging Museums is exemplified at South Kensington, especially in those interminable exhibition galleries which the late Captain Fowke erected around the Horticultural Society's unfortunate gardens. When I went, for instance, to see the admirable collection of early printed books, at the Caxton Loan Exhibition, I had to enter at the south-eastern entrance, and after successfully passing the turnstiles found myself in the midst of a perplexing multitude of blackboards, diagrams, abacuses, chairs and tables, models of all sorts of things, forming, I believe, the educational collections of the Science and Art Department. Having overcome tendencies to diverge into a dozen different lines of thought, I passed on only to find myself among certain ancient machines and complicated models which it was impossible not to pause at. Having torn myself away, however, I fell among an extensive series of naval models, with all kinds of diagrams and things relating to them. Here forgetfulness of the Caxton Exhibition seemed to fall upon all the visitors; a good quarter of an hour, and the best, because the freshest, quarter of an hour, was spent, if not wasted. But when at length it occurred to people that it was time to see that which they came to see, the only result was to fall from Scylla into Charybdis in the form of the late Mr. Frank Buckland's admirable Fishery Collection. Now at the Norwich Fisheries Exhibition, and under various other circumstances, nothing can be better and more appropriate and interesting than the collection of fish-culture apparatus, the models of big salmon and the like. But anything less congruous to old Caxton editions cannot be imagined. As a matter of fact, I observed that nearly all the visitors succumbed to these fish, and for a time at least forgot altogether what they were come about. When at length the Loan Exhibition was reached, the already distracted spectator was ill fitted to cope with the very extensive series of objects which he wished seriously to inspect. In returning, moreover, he had again to run the gauntlet of the big fish, the complicated naval machines, and the educational apparatus. An afternoon thus spent leaves no good mental effect. To those who come merely to pass the time, it carries out this purpose; but the mental impression is that of a nightmare of incomprehensible machines, interminable stairs, suspicious policemen, turnstiles, and staring fish.
But I must go a step further and question altogether the wisdom of forming vast collections for popular educational purposes. No doubt the very vastness of the Paris and other International Exhibitions was in itself impressive and instructive, but speaking from full experience of the Paris as well as the London exhibitions, I question whether it was possible for any mind to carry away useful impressions of a multitude of objects so practically infinite. A few of the larger or more unique objects may be distinctly remembered, or a few specimens connected with the previous studies and pursuits of the spectator may have been inspected in a way to produce real information; but I feel sure the general mental state produced by such vast displays is one of perplexity and vagueness, together with some impression of sore feet and aching heads.
As regards children, at any rate, there can be no doubt that a few striking objects are far better than any number of more monotonous ones. At the Zoological Gardens, for instance, the lions, the elephants, the polar bears and especially the sea lions, are worth all the rest of the splendid collection put together. After the ordinary visitor, whether young or old, has become well interested in these, it has an obviously depressing and confusing effect to proceed through the long series of antelopes.
In this, as in so many other cases, the half is better than the whole. Much inferior as the Hamburg Zoological Gardens may be in the variety of the collection to that in the Regent's Park, I am inclined to prefer it as regards the striking manner in which the principal animals are displayed.
The evil effect of multiplicity of objects used to be most strikingly displayed in that immensely long gallery at the British Museum which held the main part of the zoological collections. The ordinary visitor, thoroughly well distracted by the room previously passed through, here almost always collapsed, and sauntered listlessly along the closely-packed ranks of birds, monkeys, and animals of every possible shape and clime. If the attention could be stimulated anew, this was done by a few cases containing beautiful birds grouped about nests in the manner of life. These are, I presume, the experimental cases referred to by Dr. J. E. Gray in his remarks on Museums;∗ and I can positively assert that these few cases were, for popular purposes, actually superior to the whole of the other vast collections in the room. The fact of course is that the contents of the British Museum have been brought together for the highest scientific ends, and it is a merely incidental purpose which they serve in affording a show for young or old people who have nothing else to do but wander through the store-rooms. The delectation of loungers and youngsters is no more the purpose of a great national Museum than the raison d'être of the Royal Mint is to instruct visitors in mechanical processes, or the final end of the House of Commons is to interest the occupants of the galleries. I ought to add that, although the preceding remarks on the evil educational effect of vast collections are founded entirely on my own observation and experience, they are entirely borne out by the opinions of Dr. Gray, of Dr. Gunther, and of several witnesses who gave evidence before the Commission on Scientific Instruction.
I venture to submit that on psychological and educational grounds the arrangement of diverse collections in a long series of continuous galleries, worst exemplified at South Kensington, but also unfortunately to be found in the older galleries of the British Museum, is a complete mistake. Every collection ought to form a definite congruous whole, which can be visited, studied, and remembered with a certain unity of impression. If a great Museum like the British Museum contains many departments, there ought to be as many distinct buildings, each adapted to its special purpose, so as to exhibit a distinct and appropriate coup d'œil. Were a skilful modern artist, for instance, to construct a special building for the Greek sculptures of the Museum, how vastly would it assist in displaying their beauties.
On the whole I am inclined to think that the Museum of Economic Geology in Jermyn Street is one of the best models, combining strictly scientific purposes and arrangement with good popular effect. The larger objects and more interesting groups and cases are brought forward in a conspicuous manner, and can be reached without passing through an interminable series of distracting specimens of less interest. The general disposal of the geological collections is such as to give some idea of their natural order and succession. At the same time the coup d'œil of the Museum is distinctly good, the light in the more essential parts is excellent, and the size and general approach to homogeneity of the collections is such as fully to occupy without exhausting the attention of the visitors.
After all, the best Museum is that which a person forms for himself. As with the books of a public library, so in the case of public Museums, the utility of each specimen is greatly multiplied with regard to the multitude of persons who may inspect it. But the utility of each inspection is vastly less than that which arises from the private possession of a suitable specimen which can be kept near at hand to be studied at any moment, handled, experimented and reflected upon. A few such specimens probed thoroughly, teach more than thousands glanced at through a glass-case. The whole British Museum accordingly will not teach a youth as much as he will learn by collecting a few fossils or a few minerals, in situ if possible, and taking them home to examine and read and think about. Where there is any aptitude for science, the beginning of such a collection is the beginning of a scientific education. The passion for collection runs into many extravagances and absurdities; but it is difficult to collect without gaining knowledge of more or less value, and with the young especially it is almost better to collect any kind of specimens than nothing. Even the postage-stamp collecting mania is not to be despised or wholly condemned. At any rate a stamp collector who arranges his specimens well and looks out their places of issue in an atlas, will learn more geography than all the dry text-books could teach him. But in the case of the natural sciences the habit of collecting is almost essential, and the private Museum is the key to the great public Museum. The youth who has a drawer full of a few score minerals at home which he has diligently conned, will be entranced with delight and interest when he can first visit the superb collection of the British Museum. He will naturally seek out the kinds of minerals previously known to him, and will be amazed at the variety, beauty, and size of the specimens displayed. His knowledge already having some little depth will be multiplied by the extent of the public collection. The same considerations will of course apply to palæontology, zoology, petrology, and all other branches of the classificatory sciences.
In all probability, indeed, botany is the best of all the natural sciences in the educational point of view, because the best Public Botanical Museum is in the fields and woods and mountains. In this case the specimens are available in every summer walk, and can be had without the slaughter attaching to zoology and entomology. Though the average Englishman of the present generation too often makes it the amusement and joy of his life to slaughter any living thing he comes across, surely our young ones should be brought up differently. Now botany affords in an easy and wholly unobjectionable way an unlimited variety of beautiful natural objects, the diagnosis and classification of which give a mental exercise of the most valuable possible kind. There can be no doubt whatever that the late Professor Henslow was perfectly right in advocating the general teaching of botany to children even in primary schools, and his efforts were the first step towards that general extension of real as opposed to verbal teaching, which we may hope to see ultimately prevail. Botany, however, is less related to the subject of public Museums than other natural sciences, because it is quite clear that every botanical student should form his own herbarium, and the great public herbaria of Kew and Bloomsbury can be of little use, except to facilitate the researches of scientific botanists. The glasshouses of Kew, of the Botanical Gardens at Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, and elsewhere, must naturally delight a botanical student more than other people; but the great cost of maintaining an elaborate botanical garden renders it undesirable to attempt the work in many places. It is very desirable, however, that every local Museum should have an herbarium of the local plants, which, though kept under lock and key, should be rendered accessible to any person wishing to consult it for really botanical purposes. Such a public herbarium greatly encourages the private collector by the facility for verifying names and ascertaining deficiencies.
But whatever may be said against particular Museums and collections, there can be no doubt whatever that the increase in the number of Museums of some sort or other must be almost co-extensive with the progress of real popular education. The Museum represents that real instruction, that knowledge of things as they are which is obtained by the glance of the eye, and the touch of the fingers. The time ought to have arrived when the senseless verbal teaching formerly, and perhaps even yet, predominant in schools should be abandoned. A child should hardly be allowed to read about anything unless a specimen or model, or, at any rate, a picture of the thing can be placed before it. Words come thus to be, as they should be, the handles to ideas, instead of being empty sounds. The Kindergarten system is a reform entirely in the right direction, though it seems to run into some extravagances and absurdities, owing to the natural excess of zeal and ingenuity in reformers. But I hope the time is not far distant when it will be considered essential for every school to contain a small Museum, or, more simply speaking, a large cupboard to contain a few models of geometrical forms, mechanical powers, together with cheap specimens of the commoner kinds of rocks, minerals, and almost any kinds of objects interesting to children. Mr. Tito Pagliardini has recently advocated the attaching of a rural scholastic Museum to every village Board-school,∗ but he quite overshoots the mark in recommending that every school should have a separate wing of the building filled with all the birds shot in the neighbourhood, or any miscellaneous objects which any people of the neighbourhood may present. Again, when he insists that “the walls of every school-room should be literally papered with maps, and the beautiful synoptic diagrams and tables of geology, natural history, botany, etc. . . . and copies of choice works of art to be found in that educational paradise, the South Kensington Museum,” he just illustrates what ought not to be done. The papering of the walls of a school-room with all sorts of diverse and incongruous things is calculated only to confuse youthful minds and render them careless about the said diagrams, etc., when they become the subjects of a lesson. The walls of a school-room may well be rendered lively by a few good pictures or other pleasing objects, but it would be much better to stow away the diagrams and other things derived from “the Educational Paradise,” until they are needed. A diagram thus brought out freshly and singly would be far more likely to attract the children's interest than if it had long been familiar and unheeded among a crowd of other incomprehensible diagrams. On the same ground I would rather have the small Museum enclosed in an opaque cupboard than constantly exposed to view.
Doubts may be entertained whether sufficient discrimination has always been observed as regards the classes of things exhibited in recently formed or recently proposed Museums. The so-called National Food Collection, originally formed at South Kensington in 1859, is a case in point. It arose out of an attempt to represent the chemical compositions of different kinds of food, by means of small heaps of the constituent substances. It was an experiment, and a very proper experiment, in “visual teaching,” the idea being that the poorer classes who know nothing of chemistry might learn by direct observation what kinds of food yield most nutriment. But, as a general rule, novel experiments may be expected to fail. I fancy that the result of this experiment is to show that such “visual teaching” is a mistake. On a little consideration it will be understood that in such collections the specimens have a totally different function to perform from that of true specimens. They are indicators of quantity and proportion, relations which may be better learned from diagrams, printed books, or oral instruction; whereas the purpose of a true Museum is to enable the student to see the things and realise sensually the qualities described in lessons or lectures; in short, to learn what cannot be learnt by words. As to the actual food itself, and its constituents, they are either so familiar as not to need any exhibition, or at any rate they need not be repeated over and over again as they are in this teaching collection. There is not space to argue the matter out at full length here; but it seems to me that in these food collections, now relegated to the Bethnal Green Museum, the line is wrongly drawn between oral or printed and visual teaching. It is a further serious objection to such collections, if collections they can be called, that if developed to any great extent they would render Museums insufferably tedious. A well designed popular Museum should always attract and recreate and excite interest; the moral should be hidden, and the visitor should come and go with the least possible consciousness that he is being educated.
Another mistake which is made, or is likely to be made, is in forming vast collections of technical objects, the value and interest of which must rapidly pass away. We hear it frequently urged, for instance, that a great industrial country like England ought to have its great industrial Museum, where every phase of commercial and manufacturing processes should be visibly represented. There ought to be specimens of the new materials in all their qualities and kinds; the several stages of manufacture should be shown by corresponding samples; the machines being too large to be got into the Museum should be shown in the form of models or diagrams; the finished products, lastly, should be exhibited and their uses indicated. It is easy enough to sketch out vast collections of this sort, but it is a mere phantasm which, it is to be hoped, it will never be attempted to realise. Something of this kind was sketched out by Mr. C. J. Woodward, of the Midland Institute, in his paper on “A Sketch of a Museum suited to the wants of a manufacturing district, with a special reference to Birmingham and the neighbourhood.”∗
It is forgotten that if such a technical exhibition were to be so complete and minute as to afford every information to those engaged in each particular trade, it would be far vaster in aggregate extent than any Great International Exhibition yet held. If it were to be a permanent Museum, ten years would hardly elapse before its contents would become obsolete, owing to the progress of invention. Either, then, the Museum would have to be constantly expanded so as to contain the new alongside of the old, or else the new would have to push out the old. In the latter case the Museum would approximate to a shop, or at best to the periodic exhibitions of which we have so many, and which are of a different character and purpose from the permanent typical collections which we call Museums. The fact is, however, that the real technical exhibitions of the country are to be found in the shop windows and the factories; and when the newest phases of productive ingenuity may be readily examined in the reality of life, it is a waste of good money to establish great buildings and great staffs of officers to carry on what is, comparatively speaking, child's play. If anybody wants to see the newest notions of the day in the way of machinery, domestic utensils, tools, toys, and the infinite objects of ordinary use, he has only to saunter down Holborn from Bloomsbury to the Holborn Viaduct. He will there find an almost unbroken succession of remarkable shop-window exhibitions, with which no exhibition, even under the most distinguished patronage, can possibly compete.
From this point of view I think it is a happy thing that the Loan Exhibition of Scientific Instruments was dispersed and not converted into a permanent Museum, as some scientific men wished. The collection was indeed an admirable one, and every ten or fifteen years we might wish to see a like one. But the greater part of the contents could not have that finality and permanent interest demanding their perpetual exhibition, Each chemical or physical research needs its own peculiar apparatus, which ought to be sufficiently described, if successful, in the scientific record of the experiments. Were all the apparatus used to be treasured up at South Kensington, it could only produce additional bewilderment in those whose brains have been already scattered by the educational and other numerous collections of that locality. As to the principal instruments, such as microscopes, telescopes, dividing engines, cathetometers, thermometers, hygrometers, anemometers, and the like, they undergo such frequent modification and improvement, that the best forms would never be sought in a Museum, but in the shops of the principal manufacturers. No doubt, however, there are a few standard instruments employed in researches of especial importance which it would be well to preserve for ever.
The same considerations hardly apply to the Parkes Museum of Hygiene now open to the inspection of the public during certain hours at University College, London. This may be regarded as the collection of samples of a most important kind of sanitary Institute. To allow such a Museum to grow to any great bulk, and to preserve all the obsolete forms of syphon traps, sinks and what not, would surely defeat its own purposes.
It is an interesting sign of the times that the holding of industrial exhibitions has of late years become itself a profitable branch of industry. Some years since the proprietors of the Pomona Gardens, a place of popular entertainment at Manchester, built a large exhibition hall and opened an exhibition of machinery, which quite eclipsed that shortly before brought together by a more public body. In the last few years the Agricultural Hall at Islington has been a scene of industrial exhibitions of a very interesting character, which, it is to be hoped, will dispel for ever the disgusting walking feats formerly carried on there. Each exhibition indeed is somewhat limited in extent, but it is quite as large and as various as a visitor can inspect during an afternoon, and the latest novelties of invention, but a few weeks old, may often be seen there.
Then, again, if anybody wants to learn how things are made, it can only be done by visiting the factories themselves and seeing the real work in progress. A busy factory is one of the very best kinds of educational Museums, and it is impossible to urge too strongly upon the proprietors of large works conveniently situated in or near large towns, the advantage which they confer upon the public by allowing inspection. I know several important works in Manchester and elsewhere where wise and liberal ideas have long prevailed in this way. The visitor, furnished with the least proper introduction, is handed over at once to an intelligent guide, and shown round the regular course of the manufacture. On leaving, the visitors deposit about sixpence per head in a box to be devoted to the workmen's benefit society. The expense and interruption to work produced by systematic visiting in this way must be very slight, and must usually be more than repaid (though this, I am sure, is not the motive) by the advertisement of the goods. Proprietors of factories generally close their works to the public under the plea that they have all sorts of secret processes and arrangements which they cannot allow strangers and foreigners to learn; but in most cases this is absurd. If there is any real secret to be learned, there are hundreds of workmen in a busy factory through whom it can be learned. Of course, what applies to private factories, may be said still more strongly of Government works of all kinds. Entrance is already obtained pretty easily to the Royal Mint, the Dockyards, Woolwich Arsenal, etc. So great is the educational and recreational value of admission to such establishments, that the Government ought to insist upon the utmost possible freedom of admission for visitors consistent with the work being carried on. The manner in which the public were until lately admitted, or rather not admitted, to the Tower Museum, for instance, was highly absurd and objectionable. The Tower is just one of those natural historical Museums which, from the unity and appropriateness of its contents and surroundings, is calculated most strongly to impress the visitor. It is an almost unique and priceless historical possession. But it is impossible to imagine why entrance should be barred on most days of the week by a charge of 6d., while the costly Museums in other parts of the town are free. Not even students have to be considered; and nothing but free opening on every day of the week can be considered a satisfactory settlement.
A good deal has been said about the cellars of the British Museum, where there are supposed to be great quantities of duplicates or other valuable objects stowed away uselessly. I cannot profess to say, from my own knowledge, what there may or may not be in those cellars; but I have no hesitation in asserting that a great national Museum of research like that at Bloomsbury ought to have great cellars or other store-rooms filled with articles which, though unfitted for public exhibition, may be invaluable evidence in putting together the history of the world, both social and physical. If the views advocated above are correct, it distinctly injures the effect, for popular educational purposes, of fine specimens of art and science to crowd them up with an infinite number of inferior or less interesting objects; accordingly a great number of imperfect remains, fragments of statues and monuments, inferior copies, or approximate duplicates, should be stowed away. This both saves expense, prevents weariness and confusion of ideas to the public, and facilitates the studies of the scholar. In the same way as Dr. Gunther shows, by far the largest part of the biological collections should be packed in drawers, and only the more distinct and typical specimens exposed to view. But then come a number of zealous, well-meaning men who urge that these drawers and cellars full of expensive articles ought to be offered to the provinces, so that fifty Museums might be filled out of what is unseen in one. Such suggestions, however, proceed upon an entire misapprehension of the purposes of a great collection, and of the way in which the mysteries of the past, the only key to the mysteries of the present, are being unfolded by the patient putting together of link and link.
Of course when two things are real duplicates, like two coins from the same dies, there will not usually be any motive for retaining both in a Museum; a curator will then, as a matter of course, arrange for an exchange of the duplicate with some other duplicate from another Museum. But there may be many things which might seem at first sight to be duplicates, but are not. In many cases the slighter the differences the more instructive these are. The great national herbarium, for instance, ought to contain the floras of all parts of the world, and a certain number of plants will appear to be identical, though coming from opposite sides of the globe. These coincident specimens are, however, the very clues to the former relations of floras, or to the currents, cataclysms, or other causes which can be supposed to explain otherwise inexplicable resemblances. The same is obviously true, cœteris paribus, of all the other biological collections.
It is also true, in a somewhat different manner, of historical objects. If, as the whole course of recent philosophy tends to prove, things grow in the social as in the physical world, then the causes of things can only be safely traced out by obtaining specimens of so many stages in the growth that there can be no doubt as to the relation of continuity. Some of the ancient British coins, for instance, bear designs which to all appearance are entirely inexplicable and meaningless. Careful study, however, consisting in the minute and skilful comparison of many series of specimens of coins, showed that these inexplicable designs were degraded copies of Byzantine or other earlier coinages. The point of the matter, however, is that no one would recognise the resemblance between the first original and the last degraded copy. We must have a series of intermediate copies, as necessary links in the induction. Now it is apparent that if these indispensable links being merely duplicates of each other, are dispersed to the provincial Museums of Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle and the rest, the study of their real import must be indefinitely retarded. Concentration and approximate reduplication of specimens is in fact the great method of biological and historical inquiry. This instance of the coins, too, is only a fair specimen of what holds of all the sciences referred to. The forms of architecture, the derivation of customs, the progress of inventions, the formation of languages, the establishment of institutions, all such branches of anthropological science can only be established by the comparison of chains of instances. A century ago etymology was a reproach to learning, being founded on mere guess-work as to the resemblance of words; now the etymology of a word is established by adducing the series of approximate duplicates which show, beyond the reach of doubt, how the world has come to be what it is. We can swear to its identity because we have followed it, so to say.
To distribute the supposed duplicates of the British Museum or of other great scientific collections would be simply to undo the work of a century's research, and to scatter to the points of the compass the groundwork of learning and history. Did we proceed in this country on autocratic principles, the opposite course would be that most beneficial to human progress, namely, to empower the Librarians and Curators of the British Museum to seize whatever books, specimens, or other things they could find in any of the provinces suitable for the completion of the National Collections.
It is quite possible that a good deal might be done in the way of concentration and completion of scientific collections, but of course it must be done either by the legitimate process of sale and purchase, or by some systematic arrangement between curators. It is a matter exclusively of scientific detail, in which the men specially acquainted with each collection can alone form any opinion.
It is naturally a point of the highest importance to ascertain if possible the best constitution for the control of a Museum, and the best mode of organisation of the staff. Without undertaking to argue the matter here as fully as it would deserve, I venture to express the opinion that a Museum ought to be regarded as a place of learning and science, and not as a mere office or shop for the display of so many samples. It ought therefore to be controlled in the manner of a college, by a neutral and mixed board of men of science and of business. Such a council or board will retain in their own hands most questions relating to finance, the structure of the Museum, and what does not touch the professional and scientific work of the curators. They will appoint a chief curator or librarian, and in a case of a large Museum, the chiefs of the separate branches; but will probably leave to the chief curator the minor appointments. If a happy and successful choice is made as regards the curators, especially the chief, it will probably be found that the whole direction of the institution will centre in the latter, who will form the medium of communication between his colleagues the branch curators, and the board. All important matters involving the scientific organisation of the Museum will be discussed among the curators and reported to the board before the latter pass any final decision upon them. The advantages of such a constitution for the purposes in view are manifold.
In the first place the fear of political influence and jobbery in the appointments is reduced to a minimum, the board consisting of men of such diverse character and interests that they are not as a body accessible to private influence. To secure this end, however, it is quite essential that the board should not be elected by themselves, or by any single power having both the means and the motive for one-sided appointments. The system of representative elections regularly adopted of late in the schemes of the Endowed Schools or Charities Commissions sufficiently secures this end. A second advantage is that the board, having no common opinions on scientific matters, practically leave the curators in the perfect freedom of thought and action which is requisite for the prosecution of learning and science. The officialism of a government office is absolutely incompatible with the labour of discovery. The tendency of an official is always to elevate himself at the expense of his subordinates. He serves the state or some branch of the state and they serve him; but any distinction which those subordinates attain, except through serving their chief, is sure to detract so far from the conspicuous merits of the latter.
Under the kind of board of control described, the action of affairs is very different. The different curators of branches being appointed directly by the board, their services, whether to the institute or to science in general, stand out separate from that of the chief curator, who being only primus inter pares, becomes rather elevated than depressed by their distinction. As he cannot appropriate their reputation and abilities for his own purposes, he can only magnify himself by magnifying them, and by cordially assisting in everything which seems likely to conduce to the success of the institution. The subject of the control of public institutions is one well worthy of careful treatment, and which would readily fill a volume, but it cannot be pursued here. I will add, however, that what is said above is no mere fiction of the imagination, but founded upon long continued and intimate acquaintance with the working of the constitution of Owens College, probably the best governed and most successful scientific institution of recent times.
The British Museum has from its first institution, in 1753, been under the government of a board of trustees including certain family trustees representing the benefactors of the Museum. The inestimable services to many branches of history, learning, and science, which the Museum has rendered throughout its career of little more than a century form a sufficient general justification of its mode of governance. But it may well be allowed at the same time that the repeated complaints as to the conservatism and inactivity of the trustees are not without ground. The fact that some of these trustees, to the number of nine, are irresponsible and irremovable family trustees, and that the remainder consist, for the most part, of the great officers and dignitaries of the State, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker, the Secretaries of State, while only one is nominated by the Queen, and fifteen others are co-optated by the rest, sufficiently shows that it must be an inert body. The only infusion of science among so very much dignity consists in the presidents of the Royal Society, the Royal College of Physicians, the Society of Antiquaries, and the Royal Academy. It would surely be an obvious reform, while retaining the family trustees in accordance with the national compact, to replace many of the present official trustees, who cannot possibly have time to attend to vertebrates and invertebrates, by the presidents or representatives of the great learned societies, such as the Linnæan, Geological, Zoological, Society of Antiquaries, etc. The co-optated trustees, too, instead of being the great dignitaries and aristocrats over again, might be chosen to a great extent from among the more distinguished historians, artists, or men of learning, as was once done in the case of Hallam. It would be a mistake, however, to make such a body preponderatingly scientific, and there should be an infusion of men of action, such as distinguished engineers and leading bankers.
It would be a difficult matter to classify the various kinds of Museums in a manner at all complete and natural. There are very many kinds of Museums, and the species shade into each other or overlap each other in the way most perplexing to the systematic classifier. Dr. Gunther divided Museums into three classes,∗ but I am inclined to add three others, and we then obtain the six following principal classes:
The Standard National Museum of Great Britain is, of course, the British Museum; and even in a very rich kingdom there can hardly be more than one really national collection. There may, indeed, be outlying portions of the national collection, such as the Museums and Herbarium at Kew, the Patent Office Museum, the India Museum, and other collections at South Kensington. The principal purpose of all such central collections must be the advancement of knowledge, and the preservation of specimens or works of art which hand down the history of the nation and the world. It can only be in a merely secondary way that such invaluable and costly Museums are opened for the amusement of casual sightseers and strollers. Properly speaking, there ought to be a series of Museums both in London and the larger towns, which I have specified in the second place as Popular Museums. These are best represented in London by the Bethnal Green Museum, and in the provinces by that admirable establishment, the Peel Park Museum at Salford. Practically, indeed, it is impossible to separate the popular from the Provincial Museums; the latter is not wholly designed for popular use, and may have important scientific and historical collections, ill-suited for recreative and educational purposes. For reasons of economy, however, the popular and the scientific Museums are generally merged together, as at Peel Park and many other places. Of Provincial Museums I will, however, speak more fully below.
Special Museums form a very numerous but varied group, and include any narrow collection formed by an institution for particular purposes. The Monetary Museum at the Paris Mint is a good instance, and it is pleasant to notice that the nucleus of a similar Museum already exists at our Mint on Tower Hill, and is being arranged and improved. The superb Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons is a special one, if, indeed, it does not more properly belong to the class of Standard National collections. Among other special collections may be mentioned the Architectural Museum in Tufton Street, Westminster, the Museums of the several learned societies, of the Royal United Service Institution, and the Parkes Museum of Hygiene.
Under the fifth class of Educational Museums we place those maintained by colleges and schools, for the illustration of lectures or the direct use of students. Every teaching institution ought to have some kind of Museum, and many already have extensive collections. University College has a large Museum of anatomical and pathological specimens in addition to other collections. Owens College has fortunately received the considerable Museum formerly maintained in Peter Street by the Natural History Society, but is in need of funds to erect a suitable building, so as to allow of the popular use of the Museum in accordance with the terms of the gift. The universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews possess great natural history collections, which probably surpass the bounds of simply educational Museums, and assume an almost national importance. The same may be said of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford and the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. Under the fifth class must also be placed the minor teaching Museum already formed at Harrow, Clifton, and some other public schools, and the indefinitely numerous small collections, which will, I hope, be eventually found, as already explained, in all schools.
Of the sixth class of private Museums it is not necessary to say much. They are usually formed for special scientific purposes, and often become by bequest or purchase the foundation of the corresponding branches of the national collection.
So far as I am aware no complete and systematic information is anywhere to be found as to the number, kind, purposes, and regulations of the local Museums of the United Kingdom. Those which were formed under the Museum Act (8th and 9th Vict. cap. 43) or under the Free Libraries Acts, may be found enumerated in the statistical tables mentioned in my previous article on Free Libraries. But there are undoubtedly great numbers of Museums owned by local learned societies, by royal institutions, or even by private persons which are more or less open to the public.
But when the Free Library and Museum Acts come fully into operation it is to be hoped that every county town, and every town of, say, 20,000 inhabitants and upwards, will have its public Museum in addition to, but in no case in place of, its public library. There ought to be a great many more libraries than Museums, and for pretty obvious reasons it would be better to concentrate the Museums than divide them up into a great number, which cannot maintain proper curators. Probably about one hundred efficiently maintained public Museums would suffice for the whole of England, and other local collections might often be usefully absorbed into the public Museums when established. It is very desirable, however, that in forming such county Museums, definite ideas should be entertained as to the purposes of the local collection and of the proper means to carry out such purposes.
Everybody knows what a heterogeneous and absurd jumble a local Museum too often is in the present day. Any awkward article which a person of the neighbourhood wanted to get rid of is handed over to the Museum and duly stuck up, labelled with the name of its donor. A Roman altar dug up in a neighbouring farm supports a helmet of one of Cromwell's soldiers; above hangs a glass-case full of butterflies, surmounted by poisoned arrows and javelins from the hill tribes of India. A large cork model of a Chinese temple blocks up one corner of the room, while other parts are obstructed by a brass gun of unknown history and no interest, a model of an old three-decker, an Egyptian mummy, and possibly the embalmed remains of some person who declined to be laid under the turf.∗ Elsewhere in the valuable collection will probably be found the cups which a great cricketer of the county won, a figure of a distinguished racehorse, the stuffed favourite pug-dog of a lady benefactor, and so forth. There is really no exaggeration in this fancy sketch of a county Museum, and it is far better to have such a Museum than none at all. Indeed, for children such a collection is not unsuitable, and is better than a large collection. But it is to be hoped that when local Museums are multiplied and improved, their contents may be so exchanged and selected and arranged, as to produce an orderly and sensible, if not a very scientific, result.
I venture to suggest that as a general rule a local Museum should consist of four principal departments; there may be one or two more, but there should not be many more nor many less. In the first place every local Museum should have its archæological department devoted to the preservation of any antique articles connected with the neighbourhood. Not only are valuable relics thus preserved, but they are preserved at the place where they have special significance, and may lead to special researches. Such relics will be of all ages, from the flint knives of the palæolithic age to the tinder-box which the town clerk's father used. We cannot help the mixture of times, which, after all, is not without its lessons. But then we must not mix up with such local relics those of other places and nations. These should be exchanged with some other collection to which they will be appropriate.
A second branch of the Museum should contain some representation of the local natural history, the rarer birds and insects, especially those which are likely to become extinct, the rocks and fossils of any formation for which the locality is celebrated, the local herbarium already referred to. It will not, however, be usually possible to attempt all the branches of the natural history, and the curator may properly develop disproportionately that branch in which he feels most interest and has most facilities, or which is less represented in neighbouring towns.
A third branch of the Museum may profitably contain almost any kind of collection which forms the special hobby or study of the curator, or of any local enthusiast who likes to make the public museum the depository of his treasures. Whether it be old china, or Japanese idols, or Australian boomerangs, or crystals of calcite, or old bank-notes, or church-door keys, or the fangs of serpents; it hardly matters what product of nature or industry be thus specially represented, provided that it be systematically, and, as far as possible, completely studied. Almost any such thorough collection will lead to new knowledge, and if the curator be an intelligent and scientific man he will be able to arrange and explain it so as to excite interest in his visitors. He will do this far more effectually if he be allowed liberty of choice in some portion of his collection, in respect to which he, so to speak, enjoys a certain endowment of research. In fact, unless the curator of a museum becomes an original student and collector in one or more branches, he is more a cabinet maker and head door-keeper to his institution than the man of science who should be a light to half the county.
The remaining fourth branch of the local Museum should be simply a blank space, available for the reception of occasional loan collections, either from the authorities of South Kensington, or from other local museums, from private collectors, or from the united loans of private owners. The idea of loan collections was perhaps not originated at South Kensington, but it has certainly been developed there in a degree previously unknown. It is doubtless capable of rendering the greatest possible services to Museum economy. The loan collection of Japanese art lately exhibited at Nottingham Castle, for instance, was beyond praise.
But surely this loan system can be worked without the intervention of Government officials. As soon as the curators of Museums become an organised body, en rapport with each other, it would be easy to arrange for exchanges of loan collections, and any very good and complete collection formed in one town as the special hobby of its curator, might be gradually circulated round the entire country, and thus vastly multiplied in utility. Thus the local Museum would practically operate as one vast divided Museum, although each curator with his superintending committee would maintain their perfect autonomy.
It is essential, however, to good Museum economy that wholly irrelevant and trifling articles, such as the local cricketers' cups, the stuffed pug-dogs, the models of three-deckers, etc., should be got rid of by exchange or donation. In a well-arranged Museum they serve only to produce distraction and ridicule.
There already exist some good models of what county or other local Museums may become. The Ipswich Museum, in which the late Professor Henslow had a leading part, is, I believe, a very good one, but I have not seen it. The Nottingham Castle Museum, due to a suggestion of Sir Henry Cole, is as yet rather dependent on South Kensington, but in any case it is a charming addition to the resources of the town, and must have very perceptibly brightened the lives of the Nottingham people. There are a good many old castles which might surely be utilised in the same way.
I venture to suggest, in conclusion, that the best possible step which could now be taken to improve the Museums of the United Kingdom would be the constitution of a Museum Association on the lines of the well-known Librarians' Association. If the curators of all the public Museums would follow the example of other professional bodies, and put their heads together in a conference, they might evolve out of the existing chaos some unity of ideas and action. At any rate they would take the first important step of asserting their own existence. There have been enough of blue-books and royal commissions, and we have heard too much of what “my Lords” of the Council have got to say. Let the curators themselves now speak and act, and let them especially adopt as their motto—“Union, not centralisation.”
Ahuman institution has, like man, its seven ages. In its infancy, unknown and unnoticed, it excites in youth some interest and surprise. Advancing towards manhood, everyone is forward in praising its usefulness. As it grows up and becomes established, the popular tone begins to change. Some people are unavoidably offended or actually injured by a new institution, and as it grows older and more powerful, these people become more numerous. In proportion to the success of an undertaking, will be the difficulties and jealousies which are encountered. It becomes the interest of certain persons to find out the weak points of the system, and turn them to their private advantage. Thus the institution reaches its critical age, which, safely surmounted, it progresses through a prosperous middle life to a venerable old age of infirmities and abuses, dying out in the form of a mere survival.
There is no difficulty in seeing what period of life the examination system has now reached. It is that critical age at which its progress is so marked as to raise wide-spread irritation. To abuse examinations is one of the most popular commonplaces of public speeches and after-dinner conversation. Everybody has something to say in dispraise, and the reason is pretty obvious. Many persons have been inconvenienced by examinations; some regret the loss of patronage; others the loss of patrons and appointments; schoolmasters do not like having their work rudely tested: they feel the competition of more far-sighted teachers who have adapted themselves betimes to a new state of things. In these and other ways it arises that a formidable minority actually have good grounds for hating examinations. They make their feelings widely known, and the general public, ever ready to grumble at a novelty of which they hear too much, and do not precisely appreciate the advantages, take up the burden of the complaint.
Fortunately, too, for the opponents of examination, an admirable “cry” has been found. Examination, they say, leads to “Cram,” and “Cram” is the destruction of true study. People who know nothing else about examination know well enough that it is “Cram.” The word has all the attributes of a perfect question-begging epithet. It is short, emphatic, and happily derived from a disagreeable physical metaphor. Accordingly, there is not a respectable gentleman distributing prizes to a body of scholars at the end of the session, and at a loss for something to say, who does not think of this word “Cram,” and proceed to expatiate on the evils of the examination system.
I intend in this article to take up the less popular view of the subject, and say what I can in favour of examinations. I wish to analyse the meaning of the word “Cram,” and decide if possible, whether it is the baneful thing that so many people say. There is no difficulty in seeing at once that “Cram” means two different things, which I will call “good Cram” and “bad Cram.” A candidate, preparing for an important competitive examination, may put himself under a tutor well skilled in preparing for that examination. This tutor looks for success by carefully directing the candidate's studies into the most “paying” lines, and restricting them rigorously to those lines. The training given may be of an arduous thorough character, so that the faculties of the pupil are stretched and exercised to their utmost in those lines. This would be called “Cram,” because it involves exclusive devotion to the answering of certain examination-papers. I call it “good Cram.”
“Bad Cram,” on the other hand, consists in temporarily impressing upon the candidate's mind a collection of facts, dates, or formulæ, held in a wholly undigested state and ready to be disgorged in the examination-room by an act of mere memory. A candidate, unable to apprehend the bearing of Euclid's reasoning in the first book of his “Elements,” may learn the propositions off by heart, diagrams, letters, and all, like a Sunday scholar learning the collects and gospels. Dates, rules of grammar, and the like, may be “crammed” by mnemonic lines, or by one of those wretched systems of artificial memory, teachers of which are always going about. In such ways it is, I believe, possible to give answers which simulate knowledge, and no more prove true knowledge than the chattering of a parrot proves intellect.
I am far from denying the existence of “bad Cram” of this character, but I hold that it can never be advantageously resorted to by those who are capable of “good Cram.” To learn a proposition of Euclid by heart is far more laborious than for a student of moderate capacity to master the nature of the reasoning. It is obvious that all advantages, even in an examinational point of view, are on the side of real knowledge. The slightest lapse of memory in the bad “crammer,” for instance, the putting of wrong letters in the diagram, will disclose the simulated character of his work, and the least change in the conditions of the proposition set will frustrate his mnemonic devices altogether. If papers be set which really can be answered by mere memory, the badness is in the examiners.
Thorough blockheads may be driven to the worst kind of “Cram,” simply because they can do nothing better. Nor do the blockheads suffer harm; to exercise the memory is better than to leave the brain wholly at rest. Some qualities of endurance and resolution must be called into existence, before a youth can go through the dreary work of learning off by heart things of which he has no comprehension. Nor with examiners of the least intelligence is there any reason to fear that the best directed “bad Cram” will enable a really stupid candidate to carry off honours and appointments due to others. No examination-papers even for junior candidates should consist entirely of “book-work,” such as to be answered by the simple reproduction of the words in a text-book. In every properly conducted examination, questions are, as a matter of course, set to test the candidate's power of applying his knowledge to cases more or less different from those described in the books. Moreover, good examiners always judge answers by their general style as well as by their contents. It is really impossible that a stupid, slovenly candidate can by any art of “cramming” be enabled to produce the neat, brief, pertinent essay, a page or two long, which wins marks from the admiring examiners.
If we may judge from experience, too, “bad Cram” does not pay from the tutor's point of view. That this is so we may learn from the fact that slow ignorant pupils are ruthlessly rejected by the great “coaches.” Those who have their reputation and their living to make by the success of their candidates cannot afford to waste their labour upon bad material. Thus it is not the stupid who go to the “cramming” tutors to be forced over the heads of the clever, but it is the clever ones who go to secure the highest places. Long before the critical days of the official examination, the experienced “coach” selected his men almost as carefully as if he were making up the University boat. There is hardly a University or a College in the kingdom which imposes any selective process of the sort. An entrance or matriculation examination, if it exists at all, is little better than a sham. All comers are gladly received to give more fees and the appearance of prosperity. Thus it too often happens that the bulk of a college class consists of untutored youths through whose ears the learned instructions of the professor pass, harmlessly it may be, but uselessly. Parents and the public have little idea how close a resemblance there is between teaching and writing on the sands of the sea, unless either there is a distinct capacity for learning on the part of the pupil, or some system of examination and reward to force the pupil to apply.
For these and other reasons which might be urged, I do not consider it worth while to consider “bad Cram” any further. I pass on to inquire whether “good Cram” is an objectionable form of education. The good “cramming” tutor or lecturer is one whose object is to enable his pupils to take a high place in the list. With this object he carefully ascertains the scope of the examination, scrutinises past papers, and estimates in every possible way the probable character of future papers. He then trains his pupils in each branch of study with an intensity proportioned to the probability that questions will be asked in that branch. It is too much to assume that this training will be superficial. On the contrary, though narrow it will probably be intense and deep. It will usually consist to a considerable extent in preliminary examinations intended both to test and train the pupil in the art of writing answers. The great “coaches” at Cambridge in former days might be said to proceed by a constant system of examination, oral instruction or simple reading being subordinate to the solving of innumerable problems. The main question which I have to discuss, then, resolves itself into this: whether intense training directed to the passing of certain defined examinations constitutes real education. The popular opponents of “Cram” imply that it does not; I maintain that it does.
It happened that, just as I was about to write this article, the Home Secretary presided at the annual prize-distribution in the Liverpool College, on the 22nd December, 1876, and took occasion to make the usual remarks about “Cram.” He expressed with admirable clearness the prevailing complaints against examinations, and I shall therefore take the liberty of making his speech in some degree my text. “Examination is not education,” he said. “You require a great deal more than that. As well as being examined, you must be taught. . . . In the great scramble for life there is a notion at the present moment of getting hold of as much general superficial knowledge as you can. That to my mind is a fatal mistake. On the other hand, there is a great notion that if you can get through your examination and ‘cram up’ a subject very well, you are being educated. That, too, is a most fatal mistake. There is nothing which would delight me so much, if I were an examiner, as to baffle all the ‘cramming’ teachers whose pupils came before me.” (Laughter.)
Let us consider what Mr. Cross really means. “Examination,” he says, “is not education; we require a great deal more; we must be taught as well as be examined.” With equal meaning I might say: “Beef is not dinner; we want a great deal more; we must have potatoes, bread, pudding, and the like.” Nevertheless, beef is a principal part of dinner. Nobody, I should think, ever asserted or imagined that examination alone was education, but I nevertheless hold that it is one of the chief elements of an effective education. As Mr. Cross himself said, in an earlier part of his speech, “The examination is a touchstone and test which shows the broad distinction between good and bad. . . . You may manage to scramble through your lessons in the ‘half,’ but I will defy you to get through your examinations if you do not know the subjects.”
Another remark of Mr. Cross leads me to the main point of the subject. He said: “It is quite necessary in the matter of teaching that whatever is taught must be taught well, and nothing that is taught well can be taught in a hurry. It must be taught, not simply for the examination, but it must sink into your minds, and stay there for life.”
Both in this and his other remarks Mr. Cross commits himself to the popular but wholly erroneous notion that what boys learn at school and college should be useful knowledge indelibly impressed upon the mind, so as to stay there all their lives, and be ready at their fingers' ends. The real point of the objections to examination commonly is, that the candidate learns things for the examination only, which, when it is safely passed, he forgets again as speedily as possible. Mr. Cross would teach so deliberately and thoroughly that the very facts taught could not be forgotten, but must ever after crop up in the mind whatever we are doing.
I hold that remarks such as these proceed from a wholly false view of the nature and purposes of education. It is implied that the mind in early life is to be stored with the identical facts and bits of knowledge which are to be used in after-life. It is, in fact, Mr. Cross and those who think with him who advocate a kind of “Cram,” enduring, it is true, but still “bad Cram.” The true view of education, on the contrary, is to regard it as a course of training. The youth in a gymuasium practises upon the horizontal bar, in order to develop his muscular powers generally; he does not intend to go on posturing upon horizontal bars all through life. School is a place where the mental fibres are to be exercised, trained, expanded, developed, and strengthened, not “crammed” or loaded with “useful knowledge.”
The whole of a youth's subsequent career is one long course of technical “cramming,” in which any quantity of useful facts are supplied to him nolens volens. The merchant gets his technical knowledge at the clerk's desk, the barrister in the conveyancer's offices or the law courts, the engineer in the workshop and the field. It is the very purpose of a liberal education, as it is correctly called, to develop and train the plastic fibres of the youthful brain, so as to prevent them taking too early a definite “set,” which will afterwards narrow and restrict the range of acquisition and judgment. I will even go so far as to say that it is hardly desirable for the actual things taught at school to stay in the mind for life. The source of error is the failure to distinguish between the form and the matter of knowledge, between the facts themselves and the manner in which the mental powers deal with facts.
It is wonderful that Mr. Cross and those who moralise in his strain do not perceive that the actual facts which a man deals with in life are infinite in number, and cannot be remembered in a finite brain. The psychologists, too, seem to me to be at fault in this matter, for they have not sufficiently drawn attention to the varying degrees of duration required in a well-organised memory. We commonly use the word memory so as to cover the faculties of Retention, Reproduction, and Representation, as described by Hamilton, and very little consideration will show that in different cases we need the powers of retention, of suggestion, and of imagination in very different degrees. In some cases we require to remember a thing only a few moments, or a few minutes; in other cases a few hours or days; in yet other cases a few weeks or months: it is an infinitesimally small part of all our mental impressions which can be profitably remembered for years. Memory may be too retentive, and facility of forgetting and of driving out one train of ideas by a new train is almost as essential to a well-trained intellect as facility of retention.
Take the case of a barrister in full practice, who deals with several cases in a day. His business is to acquire as rapidly as possible the facts of the case immediately before him. With the powers of representation of a well-trained mind, he holds these facts steadily before him, comparing them with each other, discovering their relations, applying to them the principles and rules of law more deeply graven on his memory, or bringing them into connection with a few of the more prominent facts of previous cases which he happens to remember. For the details of laws and precedents he trusts to his text-writers, the statute-book, and his law library. Even before the case is finished, his mind has probably sifted out the facts and rejected the unimportant ones by the law of obliviscence. One case done with, he takes up a wholly new series of facts, and so from day to day, and from month to month, the matter before him is constantly changing. The same remarks are even more true of a busy and able administrator like Mr. Cross. The points which come before him are infinite in variety. The facts of each case are rapidly brought to his notice by subordinates, by correspondence, by debates in the House, by deputations and interviews, or by newspaper reports. Applying well-trained powers of judgment to the matter in hand, he makes a rapid decision and passes to the next piece of business. It would be fatal to Mr. Cross if he were to allow things to sink deep into his mind and stay there. There would be no difficulty in showing that in like manner, but in varying degrees, the engineer, the physician, the merchant, even the tradesman or the intelligent artisan, deal every day with various combinations of facts which cannot all be stored up in the cerebral framework, and certainly need not be so.
The bearing of these considerations upon the subject of examinations ought to be very evident. For what is “cram” but the rapid acquisition of a series of facts, the vigorous getting up of a case, in order to exhibit well-trained powers of comprehension, of judgment, and of retention before an examiner? The practised barrister “crams” up his “brief” (so-called because, as some suppose, made brief for the purpose) and stands an examination in it before a judge and jury. The candidate is not so hurried; he spends months, or it may be two or three years, in getting up his differential calculus or his inorganic chemistry. It is quite likely that when the ordeal is passed, and the favourable verdict delivered, he will dismiss the equations and the salts and compounds from his mind as rapidly as possible; but it does not follow that the useful effect of his training vanishes at the same time. If so, it follows that almost all the most able and successful men of the present day threw away their pains at school and college. I suppose that no one ever heard of a differential equation solving a nice point of law, nor is it common to hear Sophocles and Tacitus quoted by a leading counsel. Yet it can hardly be denied that our greatest barristers and judges were trained in the mathematical sciences, or if not, that their teachers thought the classics a better training ground. If things taught at school and college are to stay in the mind to serve us in the business of life, then almost all the higher education yet given in this kingdom has missed its mark.
I come to the conclusion, then, that well-ordered education is a severe system of well-sustained “Cram.” Mr. Herbert Spencer holds that the child's play stimulates the actions and exercises of the man. So I would hold that the agony of the examination-room is an anticipation of the struggles of life. All life is a long series of competitive examinations. The barrister before the jury; the preacher in his pulpit; the merchant on the Exchange flags; the member in the House—all are going in for their “little-goes,” and their “great-goes,” and their “triposes.” And I unhesitatingly assert that as far as experience can guide us, or any kind of reasoning enable us to infer, well-conducted competitive examinations before able examiners, are the best means of training, and the best method of selection for those who are to be foremost in the battle of life.
I will go a step further, and assert that examination in one form or another is not only an indispensable test of results, but it is a main element in training. It represents the active use of faculties as contrasted with that passive use which too often resolves itself into letting things come in at one ear and go out at the other. Those who discuss examinations in the public papers, seem to think that they are held occasionally and for the sole purpose of awarding prizes and appointments; but in every well-ordered course of instruction there ought to be, and there usually are, frequent less formal examinations of which outsiders hear nothing. The purposes of these examinations are manifold; they test the progress of the class, and enable the teacher to judge whether he is pursuing a right course at a right speed; they excite emulation in the active and able; they touch the pride even of those who do not love knowledge much, but still do not like to write themselves down absolute blockheads; and they are in themselves an exercise in English composition, in the control of the thoughts, and the useful employment of knowledge. In direct educational effect a written examination may be worth half-a-dozen lectures. Mr. Cross says that examination is not education; I say that it is. Of course you cannot examine upon nothing, just as you cannot grind flour in a mill unless you put the grain in. Nevertheless, examination in some form or other represents the really active grinding process in the pupil's mind.
It is not merely that which goes into the eyes and ears of a student which educates him; it is that which comes out. A student may sit on the lecture-room beuches and hear every word the teacher utters; but he may carry away as much useful effect as the drowsy auditor of a curate's sermon. To instruct a youth in gymnastics, you do not merely explain orally that he is to climb up one pole, and come down another, and leap over a third. You make him do these motions over and over again, and the education is in the exertion. So intellectual education is measured, not by words heard or read, but by thoughts excited. In some subjects mental exertion in the pupil is called forth by the working of problems and exercises. These form a kind of continuous examination, which should accompany every lecture. Arithmetic is only to be learnt by sums upon the schoolboy's slate, and it is the infinite variety of mathematical tasks from common addition upwards which makes mathematical science the most powerful training-ground of the intellect. The late Professor De Morgan was probably the greatest teacher of mathematics who ever lived. He considered it requisite that students should attend his expository lectures for an hour and a quarter every day; but he always gave an abundance of exercises as well, which, if fully worked out, would take at least as long, and often twice as long a time. Exercises are the sheet-anchor of the teacher, and in this way only can we explain the extraordinary propensity of classical teachers towards Latin verses. As I have heard such teachers explain, verses, though useless in every other way, afford a definite measurable amount of exercise—a manageable classical treadmill. For many years past it was my duty to teach several subjects—Logic, Mental and Moral Philosophy, and Political Economy. Experience made me acutely aware of the very different educational values of these diverse subjects. Logic is by far the best, because when properly taught it admits of the same active training by exercises and problems that we find in mathematics. It is no doubt necessary that some instruction should also be given to senior students in philosophy and political economy; but it is difficult in these subjects to make the student think for himself. Examination, then, represents the active as opposed to the passive part of education, and in answer to Mr. Cross's statement that examination is not education, I venture to repeat that, in some form or other, examination is the most powerful and essential means of training the intellect.
I now pass on to the wholly different question whether open competitive examinations are the best means of selecting men for important appointments. In this view of examinations the educational results are merely incidental, and the main object is to find an impartial mode of putting the right man into the right place, and thus avoiding the nepotism and corruption which are almost inseparable from other methods of appointment. At first sight it might seem absurd to put a man in a position requiring judgment and tact and knowledge of the world because he answers rightly a few questions about mathematics and Greek. The head-master of a great school succeeds, not by the teaching of the higher forms, but by the general vigour and discretion of his management. He is an administrator, not a pedagogue; then why choose a high wrangler, because of his command over differential equations? Why make a young man a magistrate in Bengal, because of his creditable translations from the classics, or his knowledge of English history? Would it not be far better to select men directly for any success which they have shown in the management of business exactly analogous to that they will have to perform?
Experience must decide in such matters, and it seems to decide conclusively in favour of examinations. Public opinion and practice at any rate are in favour of this conclusion. For a long time back the honours' degrees of Oxford and Cambridge have been employed as a means of selection. It does not of course follow that a high wrangler, or a double first, will suit every important position; but it is almost always expected nowadays that a man applying for a high post shall have some high degree. Even those who are unfettered in their powers of appointment will seldom now appoint a young man to a conspicuous post unless his degree will justify the appointment in the eyes of the public. The President of the Council, for instance, is unrestricted in the choice of School Inspectors, but he practically makes a high degree a sine quâ non. Not only does he thus lessen his responsibility very greatly, and almost entirely avoid suspicion of undue influence, but the general success and ability of those appointed in this manner fully bear out the wisdom of the practice.
The fact seems to be that the powers which enable a man to take a conspicuous place in a fierce competitive examination are closely correlated, if they be not identical, with those leading to success in the battle of life. It might be expected that a high wrangler or a double first would generally be a weakly bookworm, prematurely exhausted by intense study, unable to expand his mind beyond his books, and deficient in all the tact and worldly knowledge to be acquired by mixing in the business of life. But experience seems to negative such ideas. The weakly men are weeded out before they get to the final struggle, or break down in the course of it. The true bookworm shows himself to be a bookworm, and does not fight his way to a high place. Success in a severe examination requires, as a general rule, a combination of robust physical health, good nerve, great general energy, and powers of endurance and perseverance, added to pure intellectual ability. There are of course exceptions in all matters of this sort, but, so far as we can lay down rules in human affairs, it is the mens sana in corpore sano which carries a candidate to the higher part of the list.
A man must not always be set down as a blockhead because he cannot stand the examination-room. Some men of extensive knowledge and much intelligence lose their presence of mind altogether when they see the dreadful paper. They cannot command their thoughts during the few hours when their success in life is at stake. The man who trembles at the sight of the paper is probably defective in the nerve and moral courage so often needed in the business of life. It by no means follows, again, that the man of real genius will take a conspicuous place in the list. His peculiar abilities will often lie in a narrow line and be correlated with weakness in other directions. His powers can only be rendered patent in the course of time. It is well known that some of the most original mathematicians were not senior wranglers. Public examinations must be looked upon as tests of general rather than special abilities; talent, strength, and soundness of constitution win the high place, powers which can be developed in any direction in after-life.
If evidence were needed to support this view of the matter it is amply afforded by the recent Parliamentary Report on the education and training of candidates for the Indian Civil Service. Whatever may be thought as to the details of the methods of training, which have been recently modified, there can be no doubt that this Report is conclusive as to the success of examinational selection. The ability of the statements furnished to this Report by officers appointed by open competition goes far to prove the success of the system. It is impossible to imagine a severer test than that system has passed through in the case of the Indian Civil Service. Young men selected for the amount of Latin, Greek, Mathematics, French, German, Logic, Political Economy, and so forth, which they could “cram up,” have been sent out at twenty-one or twenty-three years of age, and thrown at once into a new world, where it is difficult to imagine that their “crammed” knowledge could be of the least direct use. There they have been brought into contact with a large body of older officers, appointed under a different system, and little prejudiced in favour of these “Competition Wallahs.” Yet the evidence is overwhelming to the effect that these victims of “Cram” have been successful in governing India. A large number of the best appointments have already been secured by them, although the system has only been in existence for twenty-two years, and seniority is naturally of much account. The number who are failures is very small, certainly smaller than it would be under the patronage system. It is impossible that I should, within the limits of this article, present the evidence accumulated on this subject. I must refer the reader to the Blue Book itself, which is full of interest for all concerned in education.∗ I must also refer the reader to the remarkably able essays on the subject published by Mr. Alfred Cotterell Tupp, B.A., of the Bengal Civil Service,† to which essays I am indebted for some of my ideas on this subject. Mr. Tupp gives a powerful answer to the celebrated attack on the competitive system contained in the Edinburgh Review of April, 1874. He gives statistical tables and details concerning the careers of the men selected by competition, and a general account of the examinations and of the organisation in which the Civil servant takes his place. The evidence against selection by competition seems to come to this, that, after a most complete inquiry, the worst that can be made out against the “Competition Wallahs” is that some of them do not ride well, and that there is a doubt in some cases about the polish of their manners, or the sweetness of their culture.
Doubt, indeed, was thrown by some writers upon the physical suitability of selected candidates; but on this point a most remarkable fact was brought to light. All the candidates for the Indian Civil Service have to undergo two strict medical examinations before Sir William Gull, so that this eminent physician is able to speak with rare authority as to the physical health of the candidates. This is what he says (Report, p. 36): “I still continue to be impressed with the fact that a sound physical constitution is a necessary element of success in these competitive examinations. The men who have been rejected have not failed from mere weakness of constitution, but (with only a solitary exception or two) from a mechanical defect in the valves of the heart in otherwise strong men, and for the most part traceable to over-muscular exercises. . . . There is a somewhat prevalent opinion, that the courses of study now required for the public service are calculated to weaken the physical strength of candidates. Experience does not only not confirm this, but abundantly proves that the course of life which conduces to sound intellectual training, is equally favourable to the physical health of the student.”
Unless then we are prepared to reject the opinion of the physician who has had the best possible means of forming a sound conclusion, a competitive examination is actually a good mode of selecting men of good physical health, so closely are the mental and bodily powers correlated as a general rule.
It is impossible that I should in a single article treat of more than two or three of the principal arguments which may be urged in defence of the examination system. Did space admit I might go on to point out the great improvement which has taken place in education since effective examinations were established. The condition of Oxford and Cambridge as regards study in the present day may not be satisfactory, but it is certainly far better than at the close of the last century. The middle-class schools are yet far from what they ought to be, but the examination system set on foot by the old universities is doing immense good, giving vigorous and definite purpose where before a schoolmaster had hardly any other object than to get easily through the “half.” Primary schools would for the most part be as bad as the old dameschools, did not the visits of Her Majesty's Inspectors stir them up to something better. In one and all of the grades of English education, to the best of my belief, examination is the sheet-anchor to which we must look.
I will not conclude without adverting briefly to a few of the objections urged against the examination system. Some of these are quite illusory; others are real, though possibly exaggerated. No institution can be an unmixed good, and we must always strike a balance of advantage and disadvantage. One illusory objection, for instance, is urged by those who take the high moral ground and assert that knowledge should be pursued for its own sake, and not for the ulterior rewards connected with a high place in the examination list. The remarks of these people bring before the mind's eye the pleasing picture of a youth burning the midnight oil, after a successful search for his favourite authors. We have all of us heard how some young man became a great author, or a great philosopher, because, in the impressible time of boyhood, he was allowed to ransack the shelves of his ancestral library. I do not like to be cynical, but I cannot help asserting that these youths, full of the sacred love of knowledge, do not practically exist. Some no doubt there are, but so small is the number with which the school or college teacher will meet in the course of his labours, that it is impossible to take them into account in the general system. Every teacher knows that the bulk of a junior class usually consists of intellects so blunt or so inactive that every kind of spur is useful to incite them to exertion.
Nor do I believe that the few who are by nature ardent students need suffer harm from a well-devised system of university examinations. It is very pleasant to think of a young man pursuing a free and open range of reading in his ancestral library, following his native bent, and so forth; but such study directed to no definite objects would generally be desultory and unproductive. He might obtain a good deal of elegant culture, but it is very doubtful whether he would acquire those powers of application and concentration of thought which are the basis of success in life. If a man really loves study and has genius in him, he will find opportunities in after-life for indulging his peculiar tastes, and will not regret the three or four years when his reading was severely restricted to the lines of examination. Of course it is not desirable to force all minds through exactly the same grooves, and the immense predominance formerly given to mathematics at Cambridge could not be defended. But the schemes of examination at all the principal universities now offer many different branches in which distinction may be gained.
The main difficulty which I see in the examination system is that it makes the examiner the director of education in place of the teacher, whose liberty of instruction is certainly very much curtailed. The teacher must teach with a constant eye to the questions likely to be asked, if he is to give his pupils a fair chance of success, compared with others who are being specially “crammed” for the purpose. It is true that the teacher may himself be the examiner, but this destroys the value of the examination as a test or means of public selection. Much discussion might be spent, were space available, upon the question whether the teacher or the examiner is the proper person to define the lines of study. No doubt a teacher will generally teach best, and with most satisfaction to himself, when he can teach what he likes, and, in the case of University professors or other teachers of great eminence, any restriction upon their freedom may be undesirable. But as a general rule examiners will be more able men than teachers, and the lines of examination are laid down either by the joint judgment of a board of eminent examiners, or by authorities who only decide after much consultation. The question therefore assumes this shape—Whether a single teacher, guided only by his own discretion, or whether a board of competent judges, is most to be trusted in selecting profitable courses of study?
Few have had better opportunity than I have enjoyed both as teacher and examiner in philosophical and economical subjects, of feeling the difficulties connected with a system of examination in these subjects. Some of these difficulties have been clearly expounded in the series of articles upon the state of philosophical study at the different Universities published in Mind. It is hardly needful to refer to the excellent discussion of the philosophical examination in the London University by the Editor in No. IV. I should not venture to defend University examinations against all the objections which may be brought against them. My purpose is accomplished in attempting to show that examination is the most effective way of enforcing a severe and definite training upon the intellect, and of selecting those for high position who show themselves best able to bear this severe test. It is the popular cry against “Cram” that I have answered, and I will conclude by expressing my belief that any mode of education which enables a candidate to take a leading place in a severe and well-conducted open examination, must be a good system of education. Name it what you like, but it is impossible to deny that it calls forth intellectual, moral, and even physical powers, which are proved by unquestionable experience to fit men for the business of life.
This is what I hold to be Education. We cannot consider it the work of teachers to make philosophers and scholars and geniuses of various sorts: these, like poets, are born not made. Nor, as I have shown, is it the business of the educator to impress indelibly upon the mind the useful knowledge which is to guide the pupil through life. This would be “Cram” indeed. It is the purpose of education so to exercise the faculties of mind that the infinitely various experience of afterlife may be observed and reasoned upon to the best effect. What is popularly condemned as “Cram” is often the best-devised and best-conducted system of training towards this all-important end.
TRADES SOCIETIES THEIR OBJECTS AND POLICY∗
When I received an invitation from the Trades Unionists' Political Association to address you on the present occasion, I felt it to be an honour and a pleasure to have an opportunity of putting before you my ideas upon a question which now occupies so much public attention, and is of such great importance to the prosperity of the country. I must, first of all, acknowledge warmly the liberal and candid spirit in which the association have offered to one whom they probably suppose to be an opponent, an opportunity of bringing forward his unwelcome views. It happens that rather more than a year ago, in a public lecture which it was my duty to give at Owens College, I touched upon the subject of Trades Unions, and my words were strongly criticised by Mr. Macdonald, the president of this association, and by some others who seemed to think that my opinions were most unbecoming in the so-called “Cobden Lecturer.” I have no doubt therefore that the association and the unionists of this city suppose me to be totally against their views, and I am glad to be able to-night to explain exactly how far it may be the case. At any rate I hope to convince you that I am not in any degree involved in the prejudices of the other party, the capitalists.
I can add most sincerely that my only reluctance in addressing you arose from my consciousness of the imperfect manner in which I may put my notions before you. Others who address you have every advantage of oratorical power and popularity in their favour. I labour under the double misfortune of feeling impelled to put forward some opinions which may not please you, and of putting them forward imperfectly.
It is impossible in my opinion wholly to praise or wholly to condemn a great and wide-spread institution like that of Trades Societies. The men who compose and who manage these societies differ so much in different places and in different trades, and the objects and actions which societies put before themselves are so diverse, that we must carefully discriminate in the award of praise or blame.
Public opinion seldom sufficiently discriminates, and is too apt to ascribe to the whole what it knows only of the part. But it seems to me that as we should certainly not condemn the whole aristocracy because a few of its members are convicted of crime, or misconduct, or folly, so we should still less assail the character of such a vast number of men as the united operatives of England, because some of their number have been concerned in deeds which we cannot approve.
So far am I from wishing that the workmen of England should cease to associate and unite together, that I believe some kind of association to be indispensable to the progress and amelioration of the largest and in some respects the most important class of our population. I believe that the capacity which British workmen exhibit in so high a degree for forming legitimate and orderly associations is one of the finest characteristics of our race, and one of the best proofs of the innate capacity for self-government which I believe we all possess. No one who looks upon the growing numbers and improving organisation of the Trades Societies can doubt that they will play a considerable part in the history of this kingdom. But the greater their extent and influence become, the more essential it is that they should be well advised and really liberal in their aims and actions. It is in their power to do almost incalculable good or harm to themselves and the country of which they form so considerable a part. It is therefore especially necessary that those who direct the policy of these societies should reflect and inquire thoroughly into the results of their rules and actions. They would then perceive that the objects which they set forth as their purpose cannot in some cases be properly achieved by the means they use, and that though the immediate results of their policy may seem to be beneficial, the ultimate results involve injury of a hidden but most extensive kind, which they would not easily have anticipated. There are certain ancient fallacies which have misled men since trades began to be carried on, and it is only within the last hundred years that economists have at all seen their way out of these fallacies, and discovered the true beneficence of the freedom of trade and the freedom of industry. It is the grand principle of freedom of industry, explained by Adam Smith and gradually brought into practice in the policy and laws of the kingdom, which has in great part secured to us our present prosperity. And it would be an inconceivable misfortune for this country and the world if the productive classes, whose numbers and powers increase with that prosperity, should thoughtlessly reverse the policy which gave them birth.
I cannot help quoting here what is said on this point by one of the most conscientious, liberal, and learned statesmen this country ever had—I mean Sir George Cornewall Lewis. He says:
“Some theories, indeed, are so alluring and attractive, especially on a superficial consideration, that nothing short of an actual experimental proof of their evil operation is sufficient to convince the world of their unsoundness. . . . Such is the theory of commercial protection, and such too is the theory of protection of labour, which is now advancing into popular favour, and under which mankind seem destined to suffer before they have discovered its true tendencies.”—See his Treatise on the Methods of Observation and Reasoning in Politics.
I wish to speak in the first place of the legal position of Trades' Societies. A recent trial at the Manchester Law Courts has shown that these societies are in no way illegal, except that they have not the special facilities granted to Friendly Societies by the statute concerning them.
The members of a union are subject to no penalty or disability because they belong to a union, and can as individuals protect their property as before. They suffer under no grievance therefore, and are in no worse position than clubs, committees, or private societies, of which thousands exist or are created every year in other classes of society, but which are not incorporated or registered under the Friendly Societies Act.
But if unionists think that there is still something vexations and hurtful in their exclusion from the advantages of the Friendly Societies Act, I for my part should be glad to see them brought under it.
I think that the change would probably tend to raise their character in the eyes of themselves and of the public—would make them open associations rather than close and secret clubs. I hope that the time is not far distant when all Trades Societies will stand upon an open and recognised basis—will have their accounts properly audited and published to all whom they may concern. It is with great pleasure that I occasionally notice the accounts and report of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, published in the daily papers, and I look forward to the time when all Trades Societies may be thus open and above-board.
Again, I think it is very necessary that the reformed House of Commons should endeavour to define the law of conspiracy as relating to Trades Societies—should distinguish as far as possible between legal persuasion and illegal intimidation, so that, while every unionist may aid his fellow-men in truly voluntary association, he will know accurately when he is infringing the liberty which is the most sacred possession of every one of us.
Coming to the chief subject of my lecture, what I wish most strongly to point out is the fact that Trades Societies have usually three distinct kinds of object in view.
Neither the societies themselves, nor the public, sufficiently distingnish these very diverse objects. It is sufficiently apparent indeed that Unions usually combine the character of Benefit and Friendly Societies with those of strict Trades Societies; but I have not seen it sufficiently pointed out that, even in strikes and trade disputes there is often a twofold object in view, the one relating simply to the rate of wages, the other to the hours of labour, the health, safety, comfort, and moral condition of the operative. Now I must insist that the rate of wages is a question to be kept distinct from all others, and I proceed to consider the three separate objects which Unions fulfil.
The first and most obvious way in which Trades Societies strive to confer benefit upon their members is in acting as Benefit or Friendly Societies. So far as they relieve the necessitous and unfortunate at the expense of the prosperous they confer an unmitigated benefit, and act as insurance societies of most efficient character. Friendly Societies, such as the Odd Fellows, the Foresters, the Hearts of Oak, the Royal Liver Society, etc., are very excellent things in their way, but men of a trade have peculiar facilities for giving each other legitimate and judicious aid from the intimate knowledge which they naturally possess or can easily gain of each other's circumstances. Lord Elcho well observed in his speech at Dalkeith (Times, January 29th, 1867), that Trades Societies are thus a great benefit to the country. “They are the means,” he says, “by their sick funds, by their accident funds, by their death funds, by their funds for supporting men when out of employment, of keeping men off the poor rates.” The advantages thus conferred are, however, so evident, they have been so well summed up by Messrs. Ludlow and Jones in their excellent little work on the “Progress of the Working-classes” (pp. 211–214), and they are so generally recognised, even by Lord Derby himself, that I need hardly dwell further on them.
At the same time, it is impossible to help seeing that men in a trade when acting together are always apt to become narrow and exclusive in their ideas, whether they be merchants, bankers, manufacturers, or operatives. It is in Trades Societies which combine many grades of workmen and several branches of industry, like the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, that we naturally find the most enlightened policy. It is, therefore, I am glad to notice every step which the societies take towards amalgamation or united action. This amalgamation must gradually destroy selfish or exclusive notions, and it will often render apparent to the men of one trade that they are pursuing objects inconsistent with the welfare of their fellow-men in another trade.
A second and more distinctive function or duty of Unions consists in their efforts to shorten the hours of labour, to render factories more wholesome and safe, and generally to improve the condition of the workman. Under this head I do not refer to any attempt to raise the mere rate of wages, which is altogether a different matter, and will be considered a little later. Both workmen and employers seem to me too indiscriminating in this respect. The employer is too apt to resent and refuse every demand of his men as an infringement of his right of judgment and management. The workmen, on the other hand, are too much given to make a rise of wages the hidden if not the apparent result of every reform they demand. I suppose that no Union ever yet proposed a reduction of the hours of labour without wanting the same wages as before; thus really attempting somewhat by a side-wind to raise the rate per hour. But the rate of wages and the length of hours are two totally distinct things. Ten hours' labour are certainly not worth so much to an employer as twelve hours'; though, as the workman is fresher and more careful, they are probably worth as much as eleven hours on the old system. I think then that those who demand a reduction of one-sixth in the hours of labour should be willing to concede a reduction of at least one-twelfth in the wages. Not but that the workman is at liberty, if he like, to ask for an increase in the rate of wages too. What I want to say is, that it is not judicious for him to mix up in one demand two totally different objects; for if he does not discriminate between the objects he has in view, he can hardly expect the employer will. I say again, that I think the rate of wages is a matter which stands upon a totally different footing from any regulations which concern the health and safety of the workman.
Here I should probably find myself at variance with most of the class of employers who are too much accustomed by habit and prejudice to disregard a hundred little matters which are of vital importance to the workman. The man employed is too often regarded by the employer as a mere machine working for the benefit of the employer, who naturally endeavours to get the most out of him, regardless of moral and sanitary results. But in the eye of the economist and the statesman, in regard to the public interests, and before the face of God, the welfare of the working-man and the workingman's class is as much an object of care as that of the wealthiest capitalist; and, indeed, in proportion to the numbers concerned, vastly more so. The fact is, that property and capital are jealously guarded by the legislator, not so much for the benefit of a small exclusive class, but because capital can hardly be accumulated and employed without vivifying industry, and diffusing comfort and subsistence through the whole body of society. I am quite free to allow that the wealthy capitalist is but as the trustee who holds his capital rather for the good of others than himself. The man who employs a hundred thousand pounds in manufactures or trade diffuses almost infinitely more benefit to those he employs than any satisfaction he draws from it himself. No one, again, who in the least understands the mysterious working of society would think of interfering with the capitalist in the disposal of his capital. He must be allowed to put it into a trade or take it out with the most perfect freedom, otherwise property would cease to be property, and would soon cease to exist at all.
But, on the other hand, I must contend that the workman has a right to guard his own health, convenience, comfort, and safety, and this he cannot efficiently do while he remains an isolated individual. The reason is evident; the employers form a small class, between whom communication and concert are much more easy than between their men, and who have usually a strong disinclination to alter, for the benefit of their men, any custom or regulation which seems to be for their own advantage. The single workman, dependent for his living upon his week's wages, is utterly incompetent to enforce any concession from his wealthy employer. Union is the natural remedy. It is true that public opinion, the example of the more liberal employers, or the paternal care of the legislature, may effect and has effected many important improvements. But progress through these means is too slow for the nineteenth century, and for my part I doubly esteem any improvement or progress which a man obtains for himself. It is the noblest attribute of the Anglo-Saxon that, go where he may, he is able to take care of himself. It is the consciousness of that which renders us a self-governed and yet a most orderly people.
I am sure, therefore, that it is desirable for every class of workmen to combine and take care of their own interests; for unless they are very much wanting in sense and intelligence, they can do it better than anyone can do it for them. I like to see journeymen bakers reduce their hours of labour to a length approaching moderation. I only wish that shopmen, clerks, and others could more readily unite in obtaining a shortening of the hours of attendance, the length of which reduces their opportunities of improvement, rest, and relaxation without equivalent benefit to the public. I am perfectly ready to admit that as the power of machinery increases, as the industry of the country improves generally, and wealth becomes not only greater but more diffused, a general shortening of the hours of labour may be one of the best objects in view and one of the best means to further progress. An Eight Hours Bill has been attempted in America, and has been more than whispered here, and it is in no way an illegitimate object to keep in view. But it must be pursued with great moderation and deliberation, for many reasons. By reducing the productive powers of machinery one-fifth, it would place the manufacturers of this country at a great disadvantage compared with those on the Continent, who now possess the best English machinery, or other machinery equal to it, and who can even now occasionally send yarn into the Manchester market.
But what I wish especially to point out to you is that a man's duty to himself after all should give place to his duty to his children and his wife. It is right for a man or for anyone who works to desire to reduce his working hours from ten to eight, but I think he should abstain from doing so until his children are put to school, and kept there till they are well educated and likely to do better than their parents. It will be a happy day for England when the working-classes shall agitate thoroughly, not for an Eight Hours Bill, but for compulsory education and further restrictions in the employment of children. Our children first, ourselves after, is a policy I should like to see Unions adopt; and I am glad to see that the Trades Unionists' Association is not unmindful of the subject of education in their prospectus.
In a great many instances I think that workmen are not half careful enough of their safety and welfare. In the case of the coal-mines especially, I am sorry to see the complaints and agitation of unionists directed rather to raising the wages and regulating the mode of weighing the coal, etc., than to measures for securing the safety and wholesomeness of the mines. It is probable that coal-mines will never be properly looked after until the men take it upon themselves to do so; for they alone can have the most intimate knowledge of the condition of the mine, and they alone can efficiently restrain and detect the carelessness which every year leads to such deplorable disasters. I am well aware that the Coal-miners' Unions have already often demanded improved inspection of mines, and they aided in procuring a law for the compulsory sinking of a second shaft in every coal-mine. But I think that great good would result if they would bestow still more attention on the safety and wholesomeness of mines, and leave the rate of wages to the operation of natural laws. Mines will never be thoroughly safe until the men in each form a sort of vigilance committee, alive to every imperfection or carelessness in the management. Watchfulness on the part of the men will not at all tend to relax the care of the proprietors and viewers, but will rather tend to increase it. And if the managers of a mine will not listen to the complaints of their men, it is quite right that there should be some organised association of miners competent to bring forward any reasonable complaints in an efficient manner.
When I come to the third and usually the chief object which Unions have in view, namely, the regulation of the rate of wages, I feel I shall part company with the sympathies of most of you. The more I learn and think about the subject the more I am convinced that the attempt to regulate wages is injurious to the workmen immediately concerned in the majority of cases, and that in all cases it is thoroughly injurious to the welfare of the community. And if there is one conclusion we can draw from the history of past times, or from the uniform opinion of the best writers, it is that to interfere with the prices and rates at which men find it profitable to exchange with each other is hurtful and mistaken.
You may think it absurd that I should wish to see Union assisting in regulating the hours of labour, and many other circumstances concerning their welfare, and yet should wish them to desist from any interference in the still more important point, their wages. But that is just the point I want to bring out clearly; whether a man shall work eight or ten to twelve hours a day is in his own power to determine; but whether, when he does work, he shall fairly earn four or six or eight shillings a day, it is not within his own power to determine. It depends upon a multitude of circumstances entirely beyond his control. If he attempts to secure more than the free course of trade, and the skill of his own hands give him, he either fails ignominiously, or he only succeeds by depriving others of their fair earnings.
That I may be the more clear and distinct I will put my notions in the form of the following propositions:
Firstly. The supposed struggle with capitalists in which many Unions engage, for the purpose of raising wages, is not really a struggle of labour against capital, but of labour against labour—that is, of certain classes or sections of labourers against other classes or sections.
Secondly. It is a struggle in which only a few peculiarly situated trades can succeed in benefiting themselves.
Thirdly. Unions which succeed in maintaining a high rate of wages only succeed by protection—that is, by levying contributions from other classes of labourers and from the population in general.
Fourthly. Unionism as at present conducted tends therefore to aggravate the differences of wages between the several classes of operatives; it is an effort of some sections to raise themselves at the expense of others.
I feel sure you will not at first believe my statement that the struggle of the Unions is not with capitalists but with their fellow-workmen. Probably you imagine that when certain workmen. Probably you imagine that when certain workmen in a factory combine and get higher wages than before, the increase comes out of the excessive profits of the employer. But this is not the case. His loss, if any, will be very temporary, and he will indemnify himself by raising the price of his goods. It is the purchasers and consumers who will pay, and these comprehend the whole of the population.
Take the case of the building trades, and let us assume that their Unions obtain for them higher wages than they would otherwise gain, which from their peculiar circumstances is probably the case. Do you suppose the increase comes out of the pockets of master-builders and contractors? Certainly not. Before making a tender every contractor ascertains the cost of his materials and the amount of wages he will have to pay, and adds on the profit he thinks proper. Those pay the increase of wages who pay for the building; and, to make a long matter short, everyone who lives in a house pays a contribution in the form of increased rent to the class of operatives engaged in the building trades. The rich pay this tax in the building of their mansions. They can easily bear it; but it is the very poor who suffer, for they are to some extent compelled by it to live in unhealthy and degrading dwellings. You must know how much the condition of a family is influenced by the cleanliness and comfort of their dwelling. “As the home, so the people.” Accordingly a multitude of schemes have been proposed and partly carried out in London, Liverpool, and elsewhere, for rebuilding the unhealthy dwellings of the poorest classes. To this excellent movement the high cost of building is a great, if not at present an insuperable, obstacle. It is found almost impossible to make the new houses comfortable and wholesome, and yet to pay the current rate of interest on house property, without which the undertaking cannot be carried on but from charitable motives. If then the operatives of the building trades gain, it is at the expense mainly of multitudes of their fellow-countrymen who are retained in wretched unhealthy dwellings unworthy of the nineteenth century.
What is true of this example is more or less true of others. If the Printers' and Compositors' Unions, for instance, keep their wages at a higher level, the excess is paid in every newspaper and book, hindering the diffusion of knowledge. We have removed the advertisement and newspaper stamp, and paper duty, because they hindered the diffusion of knowledge, the proceeds of which at any rate went to the general purposes of the country, and yet you continue to pay a small tax to a body not exceeding in all about 30,000 men.
In the case of some trades, such as the iron trade or the coal trade, the effect of increased prices is even more injurious. Not only do consumers pay in the increased cost of coal or of iron goods, but even wages are affected. Coal and iron are materials of such universal importance that they cannot rise in price without diminishing the prosperity of many other trades. It is the cheapness of these materials which has greatly contributed to render Lancashire and Staffordshire the workshops of the world, and so far as colliers raise their own wages by combination, they do it by obstructing the very source and fountain-head of the prosperity of all other classes.
Unionism, then, is simply Protection. Every Union which, by limiting the number of apprentices, by prohibiting labour below a certain rate of wages, or by any similar device, keeps the rate above what it would otherwise be, levies a little protective revenue of its own.
Perhaps you will reply that combination is equally open and lawful for all. Let all trades combine, and then they will all be benefited, and the increased wages must come out of the pockets of the capitalists. Nothing however could be more unfounded.
In the first place all trades have not equal opportunities for combination. Small close trades like those of Sheffield, carried on in one spot only, have the greatest facilities and must have the advantage over those which are scattered about in every part of the country.
Those who require special skill and apprenticeship, like compositors, will be more successful than those whose work is readily learned. The hatters are said to be very successful in their combinations; the tailors are less so, for very obvious reasons; while the shoemakers, who carry on their work in every street and in every part of the country, are hardly organised at all, so far as I am aware.
There is again this important difference between trades: some work for home trade only, like the building trade, and do not meet any foreign competition; others work for foreign consumers, and cannot raise their wages and prices without losing their customers.
It is pretty obvious, then, that all trades cannot enjoy equally the supposed advantages of combination, and that some, therefore, must gain by the loss of others. But even if all were equally able to combine, we should only come to the result that each trade would be trying to improve its position at the expense of every other trade, and none would experience any real benefit, but, instead of benefit, a great deal of loss. Unionists overlook the fact that wages are only worth what they will buy. You cannot live upon the gold or silver you get at the week's end, and you must turn it into food and drink and clothing before it is of any use to you. How much you will get depends upon the price at which you can buy things as much as upon the amount of wages. Thus it is evident that if the prices of things are increased, the wages are so far of less benefit to the workman who receives them. And even supposing wages to be raised ten per cent., this would bring with it no advantage if prices were raised in the same degree.
One of the chief means by which the condition of the English people has been improved of late years has been the cheapening of manufactures and bread and a great variety of imported commodities. By taking off duties, by making trade free, and by increasing the productive powers of machinery, the comforts of life are placed within the reach of persons who could not before afford them. Even if wages in general were not much raised above what they were twenty or thirty years ago, more could be bought for the wages.
Unionists overlook all this. They look upon men as producers only, and imagine the dearer things are, the better people will be off. But we only produce that we may consume, and real prosperity consists in having a great abundance of cheap comforts which everyone can purchase. The cheaper things are the better we are off. You know and feel the advantages of cheap bread, and the hardship of dear bread. But you do not consider that every combination of workmen who can raise their own wages makes something dearer for other workmen, and that even if all could combine with equal ease they would only make all things dear, and hinder the production of the commodities upon which we live.
I apprehend that the notion which lies at the bottom of Unionism is this: That a man is bound to think, not only of himself, but of his fellow-workmen. The principles of Unionism condemn a man who accepts work at a less rate than the current wages, because he may be leading the way to a reduction of wages affecting hundreds or thousands of fellow-workmen. There can be no doubt that in one point of view this principle of looking to the advantage of the many rather than the one, is noble and disinterested; and I do not doubt that if the history of strikes and trade disputes were fully written, it would disclose as many instances of fidelity and heroism and the fearless encounter of hardship and even death as many a war described in history.
But the Unionist overlooks the fact that the cause to which he is so faithful, is only the cause of a small exclusive class; his triumph is the injury of a vastly greater number of his fellow-workmen, and regarded in this point of view, his cause is a narrow and selfish one, rather than a broad and disinterested one. The more I admire the perseverance, the self-forgetfulness, the endurance, abstinence, and a hundred other good qualities which English workmen often display during the conduct of a great trade dispute, the more sincerely do I regret that so many good qualities should be thrown away, or rather misused, in a cause which is too often a hurtful one to their fellow-men.
I wish to say a few words on the question how far Trades Societies have succeeded in raising wages, for it is a very favourite and apparently strong argument with Union leaders to point to the improved condition of their men as a proof of the benefits conferred by the Union. I am far from denying that in some trades, especially the building trades, wages have been raised, because those trades have special opportunities for protecting themselves at the cost of the rest of the country. But I believe there are no grounds for asserting that a general rise of wages has been secured by means of Trades Unions. Assuming such a general rise to have occurred, there are several other causes which would amply account for it. The liberation of industry and trade from many mistaken restrictions, the removal of Government protective duties, and the progress of free trade, in many countries, have thrown manufactures into a state of progress more rapid than was ever known before. Our exports and imports were doubled in the twelve years from 1854 to 1866. This could hardly fail to increase wages in many trades. A candid observer who inquired into the subject would soon, I believe, come to this conclusion, that it is only in progressive trades that strikes and combinations succeed at all in raising wages, and it is the progressive state of the trade that is the secret of their success. It is a little of the breeze of general prosperity which really fills the sails of the unions.
Continued and extensive emigration has further contributed to the rise of wages. It has gone so far that we have heard complaints, both from the United States and New South Wales, that you are swamping the labour market there, and infringing your own union principles.
Another cause that has contributed to the rise in money wages is the depreciation of gold following upon the greatly increased supplies from California and Australia. It seems now to be pretty generally received as true that the prices of materials and such articles as are not cheapened by the removal of duty or the improvement of manufactures, have tended to become seriously higher. It is doubtful whether the money cost of living has not advanced for this reason, in spite of the causes which would render it cheaper. Under these circumstances it was to be expected that wages and all salaries not invariably fixed would advance; otherwise the receivers would be worse off than before, instead of better. I ask you then how you can be sure, supposing you receive 20 or 40 per cent. higher wages now than fifteen years ago, that a good part of the increase is not due to the depreciation of gold, and the rest perhaps to the prosperity of trade.
I am confirmed in these opinions by the fact that, in a great many occupations in which combinations are quite unknown, considerable improvements in wages have been enjoyed, together with a reduction of the hours of labour in many cases. No one has ever heard of an Amalgamated Society of Cooks and Housemaids, and yet cooks and housemaids, as every housekeeper knows and feels, are able to ask higher wages now by 20 or 30 per cent. than they were ten or twenty years ago. Those who used to get £10 to £14 a year would now get between £12 and £18.
In the same way I believe there has been a general rise in the salaries of mercantile clerks; and it was on this ground that the clerks of the Bank of England not long since applied to the Directors for a general advance of salaries, which they readily obtained. In all Government offices there has been a rise of salaries, varying from 17 to 70 per cent., and the Custom House clerks are now urging a further advance of their salaries on the ground that they stand much lower in the scale of increase than the other Government establishments. Similarly it is found necessary by degrees to raise the wages of soldiers, policemen, and postmen. These are all facts which tend to show that increased money wages are not necessarily due to the beneficent action of Trades Unions. To the extent of 20 per cent., or more, the rise may be after all nominal, and due to the depreciation of the money in which the wages are paid. After we deduct this, the surplus is, in most cases, probably due to the natural prosperity of the trade; and it is liberty of trade and industry—not restriction—which favours industrial prosperity.
To go to another point—that of the introduction of machinery—I really will not insult you by supposing that you are, generally speaking, opposed to the introduction of machinery. It must be apparent to you that it is by the use of machinery that the power and usefulness and prosperity of the artizans of this kingdom are created. Opposition to its introduction is purely suicidal. All the more enlightened Trades Societies have, I believe, ceased any such opposition; and if they wish to advance the social and intellectual condition of their fellow-men they will urge upon them to favour machinery. Every step achieved in the use of machinery raises man above a mere labourer, and makes him an intellectual agent, capable of ruling the things about him. In America they view the use of machinery in a very different light, and all classes welcome the introduction of a laboursaving machine because it means the supply of more of the conveniences of life at diminished cost and trouble. There was a remarkable account in The New York Tribune lately of a now machine, which enables a single workman to make 60,000 fish-books in a day. It remarks, “That the fish-hooks are cheaper than any other need hardly be added. Hitherto the Americans have fished with British-made hooks, but that day is over. The European hooks have till now been made by hand—slowly, clumsily, expensively. We read recently an account in The (British) Working-man of the fish-hook manufacture in England, which seems, in the light of what we saw in Newhaven, the description of some antediluvian process invented by Tubal Cain. The aggregate cost must be ten times that of making by the automatic Crosby process.” Perhaps you will say that the English artizan thinks of his fellow-men and objects to seeing the hand-hook makers thrown out of work. If so, perhaps he may be induced to look a little further, and remember the much more extensive class of fishermen who will be benefited by having cheap hooks. He may even look a little further, and observe that the supply of fish is really the object in view, and that any invention which enables us to catch fish more cheaply and plentifully than before is a lasting good to the whole population.
And now before concluding let me say in a few words how I think you may most surely advance the condition of your order. It is not by fighting against capital and against machinery, but by having them on your side. Do not lay aside associations, but direct their exertions to the most useful ends. It is not Unions which seem to me and to many others mistaken; it is the object which Unions aim at, and still more the policy they adopt to reach it.
I wish to see workmen becoming by degrees their own capitalists—sharers in all the profits and all the advantages which capital confers. You cannot do without capital. He must be a dreamer who tells you that you can, and he only plays upon words who tells you that labour is capital.
Labour alone will not suffice for raising a factory, or a house, nor even for cultivating an acre of ground. You must have a sum of money to buy the tools and materials, or at all events to maintain yourself whilst you are working. If not, why do you not dispense with employers altogether, and raise your own factories and works?
But when once you determine to have capital on your side I believe you can do it: the Hall in which we meet is evidence that you can do it. Save money, however little, and invest it in a co-operative society, and let it grow, and when you have a little sum, join with others in co-operative works. I believe that there are a multitude of different kinds of business requiring only a moderate amount of capital, which workmen will readily be able to carry on upon their own account when they set themselves seriously to think of it.
There are many branches of trade, however, in which such great capitals are required that you can hardly be able to undertake them safely without the aid of capitalists. In some trades again, especially the iron trade, there are great ups and downs in profits. For several years losses rather than profits may be the result, and then for several years large profits may be reached. As the wages of the operatives have to be raised or lowered accordingly, I see no way of avoiding interminable disputes but by the workmen themselves being admitted to receive a share of the profits under the Industrial Partnerships Act. The Partnerships scheme has been tried with success in Messrs. Briggs' collieries, and Messrs. Fox, Head & Co.'s Newport Iron Mills. I believe that many employers are well inclined to try it, and it only remains for the men to appreciate the advantages of becoming themselves capitalists in a small way.
If other modes of conciliating the claims of labour and capital fail, it is yet open to you to form Boards of Conciliation, as proposed by Mr. Mundella, and successfully carried out at Nottingham. In these Boards representatives of employers and employed may meet and come to a clear understanding of the points of difference. As the rate of wages is always a matter of bargain, and should be freely determined by the course of the market, I do not think that such Boards of Conciliation should have any legislative power; but they may nevertheless be of the greatest utility in bringing the two parties to the bargain nearer together, so that all unnecessary causes of misunderstanding may be removed.
A word more in conclusion: I cannot but believe that all this agitation about the labour question shows that the larger part of the people are feeling their way to a condition far higher and better than they have hitherto occupied. But they do not hit at once upon the right way. They feel themselves suffering under something, and they call it the tyranny of capital, and they organise themselves in opposition to capital. But this tyranny is really the tyranny of a man's own stomach; you must eat every day, and as long as you have no accumulated wealth, no savings, you must find work every day. You cannot help yourselves, and are at the mercy of the capitalist, who alone can give you work. But all this is changed for the man who has even a moderate amount of savings. Not only does he disarm sickness or misfortune of half its terrors, but he may also, by co-operation, become his own employer; and then he will, I presume, cease to complain of the tyranny of capital. I hope for the working-men of this country more than they generally hope for themselves: that they may become in a great degree their own capitalists, and may be the builders of their own fortunes.
I have the honour of a very remote connection with the name of Mr. Cobden, as I fill the office of the Cobden Lectureship, established at Owens College as a memorial of his services to the people of this country. I have been charged by Mr. Macdonald, of the Trades Unionists' Political Association, with holding doctrines unworthy of the name of Cobden; but I beg to challenge anyone here to give a proof that my opinions are at variance with the opinions of Mr. Cobden as regards the freedom of trade or the freedom of labour. And to show you what were his views of the mode by which the people may raise themselves, I will end by quoting a sentence or two from a speech of his delivered at Birmingham on the 13th of November, 1849, at a time when he was in the full career of usefulness, success, and popularity.
He said: “I wish to see the great mass of the working-classes of this country elevate themselves by increased temperance, frugality, and economy. I tell you, candidly, that no people were ever yet elevated except through their own advancing wealth, morality, and intelligence; and anyone who tells the working-men of this country that they may be raised in the social scale by any other process than that of reformation in themselves, is interested either in flattering or deceiving them.”—Speeches of Richard Cobden, Esq., M.P., on Peace, etc., delivered during 1849, revised by himself, p. 171.
ON INDUSTRIAL PARTNERSHIPS.∗
It was with great pleasure that I undertook to prepare the present lecture, because I have become more and more convinced of the extreme importance of the Industrial Partnership principle to the peace and well-being of the kingdom. The seeming novelty of the proposition, that workmen should become sharers in their master's profits, causes many persons to stigmatise the idea as impracticable, unsound, and opposed to experience. But I believe that the unsoundness is all in the present state of things, and that experience is not against the novelty but in its favour.
For can any one truly say that experience is in favour of the present relations of capital and labour? Does not every one feel that there is an evil at work which needs a remedy? Does not the constant occurrence of strikes, and the rise of vast and powerful organisations of workmen, show that there is some profound unfitness in the present customs of the country to the progress of affairs? Bacon tells us that it is not good to try experiments in states, and that “we should stand upon the ancient ways;” but he adds, “unless the necessity be urgent, or the utility evident,”—and with deep wisdom he points out that “Time is the greatest innovator; and if time alter all things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?”∗ I believe that his words apply to the present state of things, and that time is altering the status of the workmen of this country. As a great middle-class of merchants and manufacturers has arisen and asserted their position in the state, so I conceive that all these combinations and arbitrations, and regulations, and other devices in the various trades, betoken an earnest though often a mistaken impulse in the working-classes towards something better and higher than they yet enjoy. It is true that the innovations of time are slow and scarce to be perceived. It is our misfortune that we cannot measure and estimate what is going on in the present moment, and only when an evil has been long endured can we see how obvious and how necessary was the remedy.
I confess that I cannot myself see the end to the troubles which arise out of the contest of capital and labour, without some decided change. To overcome or destroy unions, and achieve peace in this manner, is the desire of some masters. To me this seems neither desirable nor practicable. Association of some kind or other is alike the sign and means of civilisation. In proportion as we become more civilised, societies and unions will ever multiply. It is only by substituting one more useful and beneficial form of organisation that another can be dissolved, and I think it can be demonstrated that union between each master and his men is the real union which will be a blessing to all.
Some men of great experience think that Boards of Arbitration and Conciliation will solve the difficulty; and there is no doubt that such boards have prevented strikes and dis-agreements. Anyone will admit that conciliation is better than open strife; but it does not follow that what brings peace affords a sound and thorough settlement. I have never been able to persuade myself that arbitration by an elected board or single individual is a theoretically sound measure. It appears to me to countenance the erroneous idea, so generally prevailing, that prices and wages can be and ought to be the subject of regulation. It tends to remove all free competition, to substitute one single arbitrary power for the two rival powers which now strive in every trade. The Act of Parliament under which such councils are established certainly provides that there shall be no power to fix a uniform rate of prices or wages, so that the Legislature has formally, at least, maintained the principles of free labour.
But unless the councils arbitrate in the matter of wages and prices, they do not touch the chief point in dispute; and if they do not fix rates which will practically be respected and enforced by public opinion upon the whole trade, where is the use of their arbitration? The tendency of all such arrangements would surely be to destroy the freedom of individual action; and any such tendency is directly contrary to the undoubted truths of economical science, which we must unflinchingly uphold at the peril of unmeasured evils. I am perfectly willing to allow that there are many details of trade relating to the hours and conditions of labour, the safety, comfort, and welfare of the men, which are rightly the subject of regulation; and in respect to such matters I wish to see the vigilance and energy of the unions and councils increased rather than diminished, provided that they will learn to discriminate between what they can, and what they cannot, properly regulate. But I fear that a long time must pass before the fallacies of protection will be thoroughly eradicated from the minds of men. Many a sad experiment must be made, and many a disastrous failure incurred, before the men of a trade will see that they cannot ultimately find their exclusive benefit in the injury of others, and that the supreme law of the general welfare forbids them to do it if they could. I feel that Sir G. C. Lewis was right when he said that mankind must suffer before they have discovered the true tendencies of the protective theory of labour now enjoying popular favour.
I believe, then, that we may say of the present time and subject, again in the words of Bacon, that, “a froward retention of custom is as turbulent a thing as an innovation.” Nay, more so: the turbulence is in the present state of things, and the innovation, I trust, will be its end. If the masters insist upon retaining their ancient customs; if they will shroud their profits in mystery, and treat their men as if they were another class of beings, whose interests were wholly separate and opposite; I see trouble in the future as in the past. But I trust they will accept the change which time is pressing on them. The sharing of profits is one of those apparently obvious inventions, at the simplicity of which men will wonder in an after-age. There was a time in England, not so long ago, when wages were the last new invention, the most turbulent innovation. It seems natural now that a man should be paid for what he does; but, to our Norman forefathers the matter did not present itself in this light. The Public Record Office could furnish many a proof, I dare say, of the presumption and turbulence of those Saxon serfs who asked for pay. Laborious historians can trace precisely how the Saxon slave became by degrees the free and wage-paid journeyman. We can almost put our finger on the year when the thin end of the wedge was first inserted, and can point to every step in its progress home. Not without bitter strife and suffering was so great a change effected. There is the thin end of some wedge, as I believe, in the present state of things, and it is our duty to endeavour to detect the direction in which it is tending. It is the part of wisdom not to think that things will always be as they have been, still less to think that the relations of society can be shaped according to our own narrow wishes and ideas. It is the work of economical and social science to endeavour to detect those arrangements which must ultimately prosper, because they are founded on the true principles of human nature. And if, as I believe, the artizan will ultimately become the sharer in the profits of the work he does, and the zealous friend of the capitalist, we cannot do a more important work than facilitating and hastening the change.
At present we see the working-men of a trade usually banded together, endeavouring to restrict the number who can share in the work, often resisting more or less openly any considerable improvement that will yield more results in proportion to labour; in short, studying in some degree, but perhaps unconsciously, “how not to do it,” instead of giving their whole thoughts and efforts “how to do most work with least time, trouble, and expense.” We find them again labouring under the impression that their employers are a grasping set of monopolists, who contribute but little to their work, but draw enormous profits from it. Every increase of wages they can secure is too often thought to be twice blessed; it is so much to their own advantage, it is so much from the profits of those who have no right to it. The ardent unionist looks to the raising of prices, the restriction of labour, the limitation of supply, for the improving of his own condition. He does not see that all these measures, though beneficial apparently to himself, are directly contrary to the good of the whole community, and that if others acted on the same principles it would simply amount to a general striving after scarcity and poverty.
The masters contribute to all these erroneous notions by surrounding their profits and their losses with profound secrecy, and, though the ultimate result is different, there is no doubt that their immediate profit does depend upon keeping wages down. Acting, as they usually do, in more or less concert with other employers, they countenance, if they do not originate, the idea that combination should be in a horizontal direction between employer and employer, between workman and workman.
And then, again, what motive is there under present circumstances for a workman to be zealous and skilful? If he be but moderately efficient and active, the union will support him if discharged, and will oppose him if he seeks for better wages than his companions. Unless, as I believe is very generally the case, real honesty and love of doing his work in a workmanlike manner stimulate him, he can really have no motive for doing more than the average amount of work. We know that unions often oppose piece-work, or any such arrangement as secures a reward proportional to energy. When I think of all these things, I am surprised that work is so well done as it is; there must be a strong power of energy and honesty behind.
The advocates of industrial partnerships wish to see honest labour meet with its due reward. They consider that combination should be in a perpendicular, and not in a horizontal, direction. The master is to combine with his men, to be their true leader, and after all the ordinary costs of wages, interest, and superintendence are provided for, the surplus is to be fairly divided among all who have contributed towards it. There is no reason whatever, except long-standing custom, why the capitalist should take all the risk and have all the excess of profits. Workmen generally cannot wait beyond the week's end for their wages, and thus they have been obliged to part with all interest in their products for an immediate payment; but theoretical soundness is in favour of a totally different arrangement. In every work there are a thousand opportunities where the workman can either benefit or injure the establishment; and could he really be made to feel his interests identical with those of his employers, there can be no doubt that the profits of the trade could be greatly increased in many cases.
Here I would point out that the Report of the Trades Union Commissioners is not only erroneous as regards questions of theory relating to industrial partnerships, but is, in point of fact, positively opposed to their evidence. They say:∗
“It must be remembered that, as regards Messrs. Briggs' system, the principle is to limit the profits of the employer, and to give the workman, over and above his wages, a share in the profits of the concern, without subjecting him to any liability for loss. It is, then, not unreasonable to suppose that many capitalists will prefer the chances of disputes with their workmen, and even run the risk of strikes and temporary loss, rather than voluntarily limit their profits to 10 per cent., or any other fixed amount.”
These statements totally misrepresent the system which we are going to consider. The Messrs. Briggs, as we shall see, do not allow of any fixed limit to their profits. Instead of 10 per cent. being their maximum profit, it is rather a minimum, since the interests and energies of the workmen are enlisted in ensuring them this amount, which is a first charge upon all the profits of the establishment. It is true that any excess of profits above 10 per cent. is shared with the men; but considering that the men, by abstaining from all strikes, agitations, or loss of time, and by promoting in every way the success of the firm, have greatly diminished the risks, there is not the slightest reason to suppose that the average profits of the masters will be decreased. The men cannot earn any dividend without an equal amount going into the pockets of their masters. Again, I venture to assert that this arrangement is entirely sound in principle, and that the arbitration and conciliation so much recommended by the Commissioners, although a good makeshift, is entirely unsound in principle.
But fortunately the time is past when this question need be discussed as a matter of theory only; it is now a matter of experience. It has been put to the test in more than one instance, and under circumstances which will meet every objection. The results are of a most conclusive character.
Although the history of Messrs. Briggs' partnership may be known to many, I must briefly recount it, that all may know what experience proves. Until the middle of the year 1865, Messrs. Briggs, Son & Co., had worked the Whitwood and Methley Junction Collieries by an ordinary private partnership. During ten years previous to that date four long strikes had occurred, causing a loss of seventy-eight weeks of work, not to speak of many minor interruptions. It would be under the mark, I believe, to say that there was an average loss of one day's work in the week, both to masters and men. In addition to this was the cost incurred in the struggles with the men, in importing non-unionists, and guarding the men and works from outrage. The anxiety and painful feelings engendered must not be unthought of. There were the usual sad concomitants of such struggles—evictions of the unionists, attacks upon the non-unionists, police guards, threatening letters, and the like; the whole culminating in a serious riot, trials at the York assizes and heavy sentences—there was, in short, a small civil war, just such as has, I hope, been brought to a close at the Thorncliffe Collieries. And when I hear of armed bodies of men attacking quiet cottages, the inmates driven to the higher stories, while fire is applied below, and all the other incidents which we have read, I almost feel as if we were in the Middle Ages, and border raids were still going on. The signal-beacon alone is missing, and the buzzer has taken its place.
The pecuniary result of the civil war at Whitwood was that the proprietors barely secured 5 per cent. profit on the average of ten years, and they were so thoroughly disgusted and pained at their relations with their men that they were on the point of throwing up the business. Fortunately the Companies Act of 1862 allowed of their introducing a new arrangement, and in July, 1865, the decisive experiment was made. This system consisted mainly in an engagement to divide with their men all excess of nett profit over 10 per cent.; at the same time the men were allowed and encouraged to purchase small shares in the undertaking, without, however, acquiring any power to interfere in the management of the business. The result is easily told. The pecuniary result I will postpone to the moral and social results of the change. Peace has reigned where there was strife. Steady, zealons work has become the unbroken rule. Strikes are known only by tradition. Hardly a day's work has been lost; mutual feelings of confidence and esteem between employers and employed have been thoroughly established. These are facts beyond doubt or denial. I have heard them from the lips of one of the employers, and also from one of the men, and as they have been published for some time and have never been contradicted, we may receive them as certainly true. There is also little doubt that the moral condition of the neighbourhood is distinctly improved; there is less drunkenness, less fighting, swearing, and gambling.
The pecuniary result may be briefly summed up. During the four complete years which have passed since the partnership was constituted, the capitalists have received dividends of 12, 13, 13½, and 13½ per cent. The proprietors must have felt that a very pleasant limit had been placed to their profits. An average profit of 13 per cent. earned amid peace and goodwill, compared with 5 per cent. earned out of contention and riot, present advantages which even a Royal Commission might be supposed to recognise. But it passes me to conceive how seven gentlemen of great eminence, with a Lord Chief Justice at their head, could so far overlook the facts brought before them as to say that the Messrs. Briggs voluntarily limited their profits to 10 per cent. At the same time the workmen received dividends equivalent to the excess beyond 10 per cent., namely, 2, 3, 3½, and 3⅓ per cent., so that the total nett profits of the business were 14, 16, 17, and 16 3/3 per cent., or more than three times what they had been in previous years! Many workmen have thus received dividends of £5, the largest sums that they have probably ever received at one time. These dividends were of course increased by any accruing from shares held in the capital account of the business, and one man has thus received altogether £10 in a single payment.
It may perhaps be said that all these gratifying results are due to the exceptional energy, good tact, and business-like qualities of the proprietors. I have no doubt they do possess all these qualities; but if so, we are forced to the conclusion that the most able and conciliatory masters cannot, under the ordinary relations of capital and labour, prevent their works from becoming a constant exhibition of ill-will, conflict, and riot. The Whitwood Collieries seem to me to furnish all the requirements of a perfectly decisive experiment. The re-constitution of the partnership in 1865 is the only cause to which we can attribute the undoubted change which has followed.
But the Commissioners remarked that when they reported the plan had only been tested during a period of comparative prosperity in the coal trade. It might be answered that since they reported, the state of the trade has not been at all prosperous, and yet there is no apparent effect. But I can fortunately refer to a second independent experiment, which entirely negatives their remark.
It happens that Messrs. Fox, Head & Co., of the Newport Iron Works, Middlesbrough, had up to the year 1866 suffered even more from strikes than the Messrs. Briggs. Their works had stood idle about one-fourth of the time since they had been opened, and at the close of the long strike of 1866, they determined to adopt a partnership scheme closely similar to that we have been considering. The differences are not of a material kind, but the importance of their case arises from the fact that the partnership was constituted just at the commencement of a period of intense depression in the trade. The collapse of 1866, and the cessation of railway works, have rendered it difficult-for any ironmaker to make a profit. In their first two annual reports, Messrs. Fox, Head & Co. were obliged to declare to their men that there was no bonus to divide, and it might have been expected that such disappointment and discouragement would have ended the scheme. But the accounts were audited, and the result certified by eminent accountants, and they were apparently received with confidence by the men. In the third year of the scheme, which has just ended, the proprietors were enabled to distribute a bonus of 2 ½ per cent. or 6d. in the pound, on all wages. They find too that there is at the present time much more confidence, and a much better state of feeling at the works than existed there a few years ago. The period fixed for the first scheme having elapsed, they have just reconstituted the partnership, with some slight changes, for a period of five years. In short, the experiment had succeeded at Middlesbrough, in the midst of the most untoward circumstances, just as it had succeeded at Whitwood in a prosperous state of trade. If it would fail at all, surely the first two bad years would have displayed the weakness. The members of both these firms will, I believe, deserve the gratitude of the country for the firmness with which they have cast aside the current prejudices, and have put to a decisive test a plan which had everything but experience in its favour.
I owe to the kindness of Messrs. Fox, Head & Co., a copy of the rules on which their work is conducted, and that we may understand precisely the nature of the scheme, I have prepared a summary of the rules.
(1.) The employers are to have the sole and undisputed control of the works and the business.
(2.) No employés are to belong to Trades Unions.
(3.) Employers similarly are not to belong to any association of employers.
(4.) All questions concerning wages and prices are to be decided at the discretion of the employers.
(5.) Wages will, however, be those generally accepted in the district, but during any trade dispute the old rate is to be retained.
(6.) Working partners are to receive salaries at customary rates, approved by accountants.
(7.) Rate of interest allowed to capitalists is to average 10 per cent. during the continuance of the scheme.
(8.) Amount charged annually for renewals and depreciations of the work and plant is not to exceed on an average 6 per cent. per annum upon the outlaid capital.
(9.) Cost of all necessary repairs are to be charged to the cost of manufacture.
(10.) Costs of manufacture are to include all law, banking, and other incidental charges.
(11.) To meet bad debts a fund is to be created by an annual charge of 1½ per cent. of the gross returns. Should this fund prove insufficient the excess shall be charged to cost of manufacture. Any balance of the fund at termination of partnership to be carried forward should the partnership be reconstituted; otherwise it shall revert to capitalists.
(12.) Surplus profits beyond all the charges and costs of manufacture are to be divided into two equal parts, one half to be distributed to all employés—that is, all who have received wages or salaries during the year—in proportion to the amount so received by them.
(13.) The employers to appoint public accountants to audit accounts and report the result.
(14.) The public accountants to decide all matters in dispute.
(15.) Employés' bonuses unclaimed during one month to be forfeited.
(16.) All employés to share proportionately to the time they have served, however short.
(17.) All dividends not claimed to be carried to the profit and loss account of the following year.
(18.) Any employé joining a Trades Union or legally convicted of injuring the works to forfeit dividend.
(19.) Persons performing work by contract to furnish lists of the wages paid to their assistants, who will receive the dividend direct from the employers; the latter, however, will not be responsible for the correctness of the returns, and will decide all disputes at their discretion.
(20.) Should the year's profits not meet all the charges, including 10 per cent. profit to capital, the deficiency is to be charged to the profit and loss account of the following year.
(21.) Exempts from the scheme a certain patent manufacture belonging to Messrs. Fox, Head & Co.
(22.) No employé to acquire any of the rights or liabilities of a partner, or to be in any way exempted from the laws relating to masters and workmen.
(23.) The scheme is to be considered a continuation of that of November, 1866.
(24.) Employés will be considered as assenting to the scheme by merely accepting or continuing in employment.
This scheme came into operation on the 5th of February last, and is to continue in operation for five years.
It does not seem to be so generally known as it ought to be that, as far as can be ascertained, the real author of the system I am advocating is Mr. Charles Babbage. Nearly forty years ago his admirable work on “The Economy of Manufactures” was published, and it is truly difficult to overrate the genius which it displays. I never look into that work without discovering that it contains the germ of some truth that has since been recognised, or of some truth that is likely to be recognised. No one can read Chapter XXVI. without seeing how entirely he anticipated the advantages which have accrued from this proposal. The chapter is entitled, “On a New System of Manufacturing,” and I shall ask your permission to read considerable extracts from it.
“A most erroneous and unfortunate opinion,” he commences, “prevails among workmen in many manufacturing countries, that their own interests and that of their employers are at variance. The consequences are, that valuable machinery is sometimes neglected and even privately injured—that new improvements, introduced by the masters, do not receive a fair trial—and that the talents and observations of the workmen are not directed to the improvement of the processes in which they are employed. . . .
“Convinced as I am, from my own observation, that the prosperity and success of the master-manufacturer is essential to the welfare of the workman, I am yet compelled to admit that this connection is, in many cases, too remote to be always understood by the latter; and whilst it is perfectly true that workmen, as a class, derive advantage from the prosperity of their employers, I do not think that each individual partakes of that advantage exactly in proportion to the extent to which he contributes towards it; nor do I perceive that the resulting advantage is as immediate as it might become under a different system.
“It would be of great importance if, in every large establishment, the mode of payment could be so arranged, that every person employed should derive advantage from the success of the whole; and that the profits of each individual should advance, as the factory itself produced profit, without the necessity of making any change in the wages.”
Mr. Babbage then points out that the mode of paying for work in the Cornish mines, by which the miners receive a certain part of the value of the ore raised, fulfils to some extent the conditions of a better system. Admirable results have followed wherever this mode of payment was adopted.
“I shall now,” he continues, “present the outline of a system which appears to me to be pregnant with the most important results, both to the class of workmen and to the country at large; and which, if acted upon, would, in my opinion, permanently raise the working-classes and greatly extend the manufacturing system.
“The general principles on which the proposed system is founded, are:
“(1.) That a considerable part of the wages receiced by each person employed should depend on the profits made by the establishment; and,
“(2.) That every person connected with it should derive more advantage from applying any improvement he might discover to the factory in which he is employed, than he could by any other course.”
Thinking that it would be difficult to prevail upon capitalists to try the new system, involving an apparent change in the division of profits, Mr. Babbage suggests that it should be tried by small companies of working-men. He describes a plan not greatly differing from that on which not a few cooperative companies have since been started, the general principle being that every one should be paid proportionately to the services he has rendered towards the success of the company.
He enumerates the following as among the principal results of such an arrangement:
“(1.) That every person engaged in it would have a direct interest in its prosperity; since the effect of any success, or falling off, would almost immediately produce a corresponding change in his own weekly receipts.
“(2.) Every person concerned in the factory would have an immediate interest in preventing any waste or mismanagement in all the departments.
“(3.) The talents of all connected with it would be strongly directed to its improvement in every department.
“(4.) None but workmen of high character and qualifications could obtain admission into such establishments; because, when any additional hands were required, it would be the common interest of all to admit only the most respectable and skilful; and it would be far less easy to impose upon a dozen workmen than upon a single proprietor of a factory.”
The sixth advantage is perhaps the most important, namely, the total removal of all real or imaginary causes for combination.
“The workmen and capitalists,” says Mr. Babbage, “would so shade into each other—would so evidently have a common interest, and their difficulties and distresses would be mutually so well understood, that, instead of combining to oppress one another, the only combination which could exist would be a most powerful union between both parties to overcome their common difficulties.”
To the following remarks I would especially draw the attention of capitalists, since they clearly point out the mistakes into which the Trades Union Commissioners have fallen upon this point.
“One of the difficulties attending such a system is, that capitalists would at first fear to embark in it, imagining that the workmen would receive too large a share of the profits; and it is quite true that the workmen would have a larger share than at present: but, at the same time, it is presumed the effect of the whole system would be, that the total profits of the establishment being much increased, the smaller proportion allowed to capital under this system would yet be greater in actual amount than that which results to it from the larger share in the system now existing.”
It would be impossible more clearly to anticipate the doubts which have been felt, and the solution of those doubts which has been given by actual experience. Mr. Babbage's remarks about the interference of the law of partnership are rendered inapplicable by the alteration of the law, and the difficulty he notices concerning the discharge of incompetent or ill-behaved workmen does not affect the scheme I am advocating, in which the absolute power of management resides in the hands of the proprietors.
It only remains for us now to consider more minutely the source and nature of the advantages which have been found in practice to follow from the adoption of this principle; we must also distinguish as accurately as possible the conditions of its success, and the character of the trades to which it is most suited. The chief obstructions which will stand in the way of its adoption must not be unnoticed so far as time will allow.
It is alike the great advantage and the great difficulty of this scheme that it requires the disclosure of the amount of profit made by the capitalists. So long as the employer surrounds his business with mystery, and carefully conceals the profit he obtains, it is natural that the workman should feel distrust, and probably over-estimate the amount of the share which is taken from the produce of his work. Every demand for wages and every strike is made in the dark, and the point to which the master carries resistance is the only real test of the sincerity of his professions. The master says, “I am making no sufficient profits,” and the “state of trade will not allow me to advance your wages.” The workmen reply: “We are not allowed to know what your profits are, but so far as we can judge we think the state of trade would allow of an advance; and therefore we cannot depend upon your vague assurances; the only way in which we can arrive at the truth is to try how long you will suffer your business to stand still.” There is no doubt that this is at least a plausible argument for combinations and strikes; arbitration may overcome the difficulty in some degree, because the real state of trade and profit can be made known to a single arbitrator, or even a limited board, more freely than to the public in general. But, as I have said, arbitration presupposes that there is combination and concert on both sides, and that all the trade are willing to make the conditions of wages and prices the subject of regulation. All this is directly contrary to the principles of free labour and free trade.
The only other alternative which I can see is for the masters to dissolve the mystery surrounding their profits in some degree. There is not the slightest necessity to make known positive losses, and all that need be published is the amount of excess, if any, beyond a certain fixed minimum, the truth of the report and the accuracy of the accounts to be certified by auditors or accountants of high position. I confess I should have little hope of masters overcoming their strong prejudices against such a proceeding were it not for one circumstance. The extension of limited liability companies will tend to render trade much less secret; for where there are a score or more of shareholders, any mystery about the rate of profit is out of the question. No doubt limited companies are a little out of favour just at present, owing to reaction after their recent rash creation. But there is a great future for joint-stock enterprise in one form or another, and when there are many shareholders among the capitalists, I see no reason whatever why the partnership principle should not at once be adopted as regards the men. The first to bring this principle into operation should be large companies owning coal mines, iron works, or any other large factories employing many labourers. And as a joint-stock company can less depend upon vigilant superintendence of their business when the managers are not the actual capitalists, it is all the more necessary that they should give each man an interest in the result. I perfectly feel how slowly this principle must make its way among private employers, but there are, nevertheless, many large companies existing which might embrace the principle at once without the slightest difficulty. Not to do so will argue, I should think, the greatest blindness to their own interests, and to those of the country generally. It is but a few years since the Legislature upheld the prejudice that it was impossible to allow anyone to share profits without obliging him to share the risks. But in the Act of 1862 this prejudice was given up, and I do trust that any other prejudices which stand in the way of this great reform may shortly be dissolved, now that the law gives a full opportunity for the trial.
It may be said that no firm would long stand if they could be obliged at intervals to reveal the state of their business; any temporary embarrassment would thus become known, and their credit would be gone. But no such revelation is at all necessary. The only fact which need be published is whether the profits exceed the fixed minimum. It would be absurd to suppose that any inference as to the credit and solvency of the firm could be drawn from such a fact. As regards all the particular transactions, debts, contracts, and other affairs of a firm, exactly the same secrecy can be maintained as at present. It is clearly to be understood, too, that the sharing of profits does not entail the right to control, in any degree, the affairs of the firm, or to demand an investigation of their accounts. The employés of an industrial partnership will partially resemble the immense number of persons who now hold small shares of insufficient value to give them any appreciable voice in the management of the companies, or to make it worth their while to spend time, trouble, or money in the matter. No small part of the capital of the country is thus owned by purely passive recipients of the profits procured for them by larger capitalists, or directors and managers of companies intrusted with the money. Workmen sharing profits will be in the same position, except that in their own work or in keeping an eye upon the work of others, they will possess, every hour and every minute, the means of contributing something to the profits they share.
When we come to think about the matter, it is plain that industrial partnerships are founded upon the surest principle of human nature—self-interest. There can, I think, be but four motives which can operate upon a workman.
(1.) Fear of dismissal.
(2.) Hope of getting higher wages or a better employment.
(3.) Goodwill to his employer, and desire to fulfil his bargain honestly.
(4.) Direct self-interest in the work.
The first of these, no doubt, is sufficient to prevent the workman being much below the average of efficiency, but it cannot do more. The second is a powerful incentive where an employment allows of many grades, and promotion is free and depends on merit. In many of the ordinary handicraft employments, however, both these motives are to a great extent relaxed by the regulations of the unions which favour the equal payment of all moderately efficient workmen, and yield a strong support to those who are in their opinion wrongfully dismissed. The third motive is really operative to a greater extent than we should suppose, but is not one that we can expect to trust to. The fourth motive—direct interest in the work done—is entirely excluded by the present mode of payment, which leaves all profit to the master. It is upon this motive that the partnership principle depends. So far, indeed, is the principle from being a new one, that it lies at the basis of all ordinary relations of trade and private enterprise. The very opponent of industrial partnerships argues upon the ground that the employer must have all the profit because it is requisite to compensate him for all the trouble and skill expended in management; in short, that he must have powerful self-interest in the matter. But it may be safely answered that the men have so many opportunities of benefiting the work of a large factory, and they have so many means of injuring it by strikes and contentions, that it is entirely to the interest of the employer to buy their exertions and goodwill with a share of profits.
Though I have spoken of this scheme as an innovation, it is only so as regards the larger branches of trade. All that is proposed is to extend to other trades what has long been found absolutely indispensable in special trades. In the whaling trade, in fishing, and in the Cornish mining system, as Mr. Babbage pointed out;∗ in American trading-ships, and some other instances noticed by Mr. Mill in his remarks upon the subject;† in the form of co-operation adopted in the Welsh slate quarries; in all cases where work is paid for by commission or by piece-work, the principle is really adopted at the present day. It is quite a common custom I believe, and is growing more common, for banks or firms of merchants to give bonuses to their clerks after a prosperous year; and managers, schoolmasters, and others holding responsible positions, usually have a considerable part of their remuneration dependent on the profits of the business they manage. The principle is nothing but that of payment by results, and, more or less directly, it is that which must govern all trade in a sound state of things. It is, no doubt, the total absence of any direct or apparent participation in results on the part of ordinary artizans which gives rise to much of the trouble we encounter at present.
The partnership scheme is, I believe, by far the truest form of co-operation. We have heard a great deal of co-operation lately, until we may well be tired of the name; but I agree with Mr. Briggs∗ in thinking that many of the institutions said to be co-operative really lack the fundamental principle, that those who work shall share. If a co-operative retail store employ shopmen, buyers, and managers, receiving fixed and usually low salaries, superintended by unpaid directors, I can only say that it embodies all the principles of dissolution; it has all the evils of a joint-stock company without many advantages. Such would also be the case with any manufacturing co-operative company which pays fixed wages and salaries. Such a company might probably be described as a loose aggregation of a number of persons of small means, none of whom have an adequate motive for care or energy. I do hope very much from co-operation in many forms, but the name of the thing will not be sufficient; the real interests of all employed must be enlisted, if co-operative societies are to prosper and grow. But industrial partnerships, such as those of the Messrs. Briggs, and Fox, Head & Co., have all the advantages and none of the evils of joint-stock co-operation. They are managed by two or three working partners, whose whole energies and interests are bound up in the success of their management, and who are at the same time unrestricted by any power of interference on the part of those employed or of shareholders. They can thus act with all the freedom, secrecy, and despatch of private enterprise; and yet they carry with them the interest and sympathy of all they govern. They have all the advantages of true leaders of their men. It is well understood that a successful military leader must be perfectly unfettered in judgment and supreme in executive power; and yet he must manage to earn the confidence and devotion of his men. It is to a position resembling this that the Messrs. Briggs seem to me to have raised themselves by the courageous adoption of a true principle, and I do believe that when their example is followed, our works and factories will become so many united and well-organised regiments of labourers. Good leaders will seek good men, and good men in return will seek and attach themselves to good leaders. We shall have an honourable rivalry between one firm and another, as to which shall get the best men and pay the best dividends.
But it is evident that the partnership principle is not equally applicable to all trades. Those kinds of manufacture where the expenditure is to a large extent paid in wages and by time, and where a large number of men are employed in a manner not allowing of any rigid test or superintendence of their work, will derive most advantage from it. Where a large amount of fixed capital is required, so that the expenditure on wages is less considerable, the advantage will not be so marked, unless indeed the fixed capital be in the form of machines or other property which can be readily injured by careless use.
The adoption of the principle, again, is of less importance where the work is paid for by the piece or by contract, as, for instance, in the Welsh slate quarries. In this case, however, a special form of co-operation has already been employed for a length of time, and attention has been called to the good results by Professor Cairnes, in “Macmillan's Magazine,” January, 1865. But even where payment is by quantity, the men might usually save a great deal were their interests enlisted in economy. Thus, in collieries, the hewing of the coal is paid by the weight got, nevertheless the value of the coal greatly depends upon the proportion of the large coal to the broken coal and slack, and also upon the careful picking of the coal from duff or rubbish. Again, the cost of the wooden props, by which the roof is supported in a colliery, is a considerable item in the expenditure, and a careful coal-hewer can extract and save more than a careless one.
The Messrs. Briggs show that the saving by care in their own works might easily be as follows:∗
This is independent of savings derived from superior care of the workings and property of the colliery generally.
It would be obviously undesirable to adopt the partnership arrangement where the risks of the business are very great, and arise chiefly from speculative causes, so that the amount of profit depends almost entirely upon the judgment and energy of the principals. In such cases, doubtless, the men could not compensate their masters by superior care for the dividends they would receive; and as the risks would remain undiminished, the dividends would really be subtracted from the legitimate profits of the capitalist. No one supposes for a moment that the scheme could succeed under such circumstances. But it would be entirely wrong to suppose that the scheme cannot adapt itself to trades with varying risk. As the Messrs. Briggs point out, there is no particular reason for adopting ten more than twelve or fifteen per cent., or any other rate of minimum profit that may seem fitting to the circumstances of the trade. That rate will ultimately be chosen in each trade which yields current interest in addition to compensation for risk, trouble, and all other unfavourable circumstances which are not allowed for in the depreciation fund, the bad debt fund, or the salaries of the working partners. The working classes perfectly acquiesce in the great differences of wages existing between different trades, and it is not to be supposed that any difficulty would be encountered in choosing for each trade that rate of profit which experience shows to be proper. The sharing of the excess of profit with the men will certainly prevent the masters from receiving in highly prosperous years so much as they otherwise might have done, but this will be compensated by the less chance of loss in other years, and by the fact that any deficiency below the minimum profit is to be made good out of the proceeds of subsequent years before any excess is to be distributed. The zeal of the employés to gain a dividend will thus insure the masters receiving their fair and necessary profits in addition to any excess which fortune or good management may bring. To sum up briefly the effect of the principle upon profits, I may say that I believe when the partnership principle is fully tested in various suitable trades, the effects will be as follows:
(1.) To diminish the risk of the business as arising from trade disputes and other circumstances in the control of the men.
(2.) To render the profits more steady from year to year.
(3.) To increase the average profit in some degree.
(4.) To increase the earnings of the men in a similar degree.
But there is an incidental advantage which would flow from such a scheme of which we cannot overestimate the value. As the Messrs. Briggs say, when their dividends were distributed, numbers of men left the pay office “richer men than they had ever been before. Many had a five-pound note in their possession for the first time, and some few had two.” “It is also a very satisfactory feature of the case,” they say, “that the amount so distributed has been almost universally well spent: by some in the purchase of shares in the company; by others in paying an instalment towards the purchase of a plot of freehold land, whereon to build a cottage; while the purchases of articles of furniture for domestic comforts were very numerous.” I believe it would be impossible to meet with facts more promising for the future welfare of the country than these. Here is the first insensible action of the lever by which millions may be ultimately raised above the chance of pauperism.
The one great defect of character which seems often to neutralise all the excellences of the British artizan is want of thrift and providence. His financial calculations are too often restricted to the week, and he esteems himself solvent if the wages of one pay-day will last until the next. No matter how brisk trade be, no matter what remission of taxes be made, or how vast become our exports and our imports, there will be no real improvement in the prospects of our population till this habit be overcome. Workmen too commonly look upon their wages as a life annuity; to save, they often think is mean and selfish; capitalists may do that; there is something freehanded and generous in spending when there is a chance; and it is a singular fact that Trades Unions seldom (and, so far as my knowledge goes, never) encourage saving by the institution of savings banks. So far as such societies provide for the sick and disabled, replace the lost tools, and promise superannuation allowances, there is everything to be said in their favour. But even then they do it on a footing of enforced equality; the levies, subscriptions, and benefits are the same for all, and there is not the least opportunity for any man to make himself better off than the majority. Not the least encouragement is given to accumulation, and it must be added that even the best-conducted societies do not accumulate what will enable them to meet their ultimate liabilities. By a constant accession of young members, and possibly by recourse to extra levies, the large societies now existing can no doubt last for many years to come, but no one who examines their accounts, or considers the evidence given before the Commission, can avoid seeing that they must either break in the end or throw a most unjust charge upon a future generation. They trust too much to the constant incomings of each week. And this is the great error of all the working-classes. Hence arises the distress at every temporary oscillation of trade; the early marriages; the crowds who need employment; the young who cannot go to school because they must add their pence to their parents' shillings; the necessity of medical charities; and, most sad of all, the crowding of the old into the wards of the workhouse. It is no doubt true to say that out of 20s. a week it is not easy to save. I admit it, but say that it must be done if things are to be better than they have been. In improvidence and in ignorance, the majority of the population are involved in a vicious circle. They are ignorant because their fathers were ignorant, and so will their children be ignorant to the end of time, unless the State interferes with a strong hand. They cannot be provident because their fathers were not so for many generations back, and, were there not a prospect of some change, I should look upon improvidence and pauperism as the lasting curse of the English people.
But though the cause may seem a slight one, I should anticipate the best results from workmen receiving part of their earnings in yearly dividends. It would insensibly teach them to look beyond the week; it would give an opportunity for making a fair beginning; and from the evidence we have, such does appear to be the result. There is no doubt that the very poorest classes of labourers are really unable to save any appreciable sum of money, but I believe that this is by no means the case with artizans. Receiving often £75 or £100 a year, they are really much better able to save than many clerks, shopmen, and others who would nevertheless be more provident. We ought by this time to give up the notion that one who wears a black coat is better off than one whose coat is rough and soiled with work. The poorer section of the working-classes, I have allowed, must still for some time be dependent and incapable of placing themselves beyond the reach of distress. But I am confident that the richer section of the working-classes may soon despise all notions of assistance and dependence. By the Post Office Life Assurance system they can provide for their widows and children in case of accident or early death; by deferred annuities they can insure comfort for old age and remove every risk of the workhouse; sick societies will insure them from the pressure of prolonged illness; and he who can further accumulate a sum in the Post Office or other savings banks can meet a period of bad trade, or can emigrate at will. It is only by accumulation and providence in some of these modes that he who depends upon his labour can be raised above the chances and almost inevitable vicissitudes of life. Weekly wages cannot be depended on; and it is only in becoming small capitalists that the working-classes will acquire the real independence from misfortune, which is their true and legitimate object.
Before concluding I may say that it is an unpleasant circumstance concerning discussions upon capital and labour, that the sympathies and antipathies of large numbers of men are involved in the question, and that it is hardly possible to discuss the subject without prejudice, or at least the imputation of prejudice. I am much inclined to fear that some who are the professed teachers of the science, and should view it as a matter of science in the most unbiassed manner, allow their sympathies to lead their judgment. It speaks much indeed for the character of English statesmen that the three greatest popular leaders of our time—Cobden, Bright, and Gladstone—have been the foremost to uphold the doctrines of free trade and free labour, whether they were popular or unpopular. The emphatic condemnation which Mr. Gladstone pronounced at Oldham, upon some of the more common objects and rules of Trades Unions stamped him, it seemed to me, as one of the most upright and fearless of ministers. It is the statesmen of England, rather than the political economists, who have upheld the inestimable principle of freedom in labour.
For my own part I do think that the principle of unionism, so far as relates to the regulation of wages, is fundamentally and entirely wrong, but I see no reason why I should therefore be supposed to have less sympathy with working-men. I believe that they are striving earnestly and honourably to raise their own condition, but that they take the wrong way to do it. From wrong they must ultimately come to right, and I have no doubt that they will achieve more than they look for. But this right road will not be in struggling vainly against capital, but in making capital their ally. If the masters do not take the initiative and adopt the partnership principle, the present evil state of affairs must be much prolonged; but I do not doubt that the hard, sharp line which now exists between capital and labour will ultimately vanish. Partnerships of industry are, no doubt, an innovation, having hitherto existed only in exceptional trades and rare experiments; but I assert confidently that they are an innovation of which the utility is evident and the necessity urgent. They are required, not by the restless desire of change, but as the natural sequel of great revolutions in our social condition. Our great factories and our great army of artizans have sprung up within one hundred years, and it is quite to be expected that so vast an innovation should lead to other innovations. The lives of ourselves and our fathers and our grandfathers have been passed in the midst of peaceful revolutions, such as society has not known before; and it is most legitimate and proper that the artizan should seek to work yet another revolution—in his own moral and material condition. Already the artizan is less below his wealthy employer than he is above the poor dependent labourer of former days; and I do believe that we only need to throw aside some old but groundless prejudices, in order to heal the discords of capital and labour, and to efface in some degree the line which now divides employer and employed.
[∗]The Free Library of Birmingham. By Edward C. Osborne: “Transactions of the Social Science Association. London Meeting, 1862, p. 786.
[∗]“Transactions of the Second Annual Meeting of the Library Association,” Manchester, 1879, Appendix II. See also “Proceedings,” pp. 92, 93.
[∗]“Seventeenth Annual Report to the Council of the City of Manchester on the Working of the Public Free Libraries,” 1869, p. 5.
[∗]Return. Free Libraries Acts, No. 439, 1877.
[∗]“Transactions of the Social Science Association,” Manchester Meeting, 1866, p. 416.
[∗]Written in 1881–82.
[∗]British Association, Bath Meeting, 1864; “Address to the Section of Botany and Zoology,” Trans. of Sections, pp. 75–80.
[∗]“Transactions” of the Social Science Association, Cheltenham, 1878, pp. 721–728.
[∗]Social Science Association, Birmingham, 1868, p. 449.
[∗]British Association, Swansea, 1880; report, p. 592.
[∗]As was formerly the case in the Natural History Museum, Peter Street, Manchester.
[∗]“Mind,” April, 1877; No. VI.
[∗]“The Selection and Training of Candidates for the Indian Civil Service” (C. 1446) 1876. Price 3s. 5d.
[†]“The Indian Civil Service and the Competitive System: a Discussion on the Examinations and the Training in England.” London: R. W. Brydges, 137, Gower Street. 1876.
[∗]Delivered by request of the Trades Unionists' Political Association in the Co-operative Hall, Upper Medlock Street, Hulme, Manchester, March 31st, 1868.
[∗]A lecture delivered under the auspices of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, April 5th, 1870.
[∗]Essay on Innovation.
[∗]“Eleventh and Final Report of the Trades Union Commissioners,” p. xxviii.
[∗]“Economy of Manufactures,” p. 259.
[†]“Principles of Political Economy.” Book IV., chap. vii., sec. 5, 3rd ed., vol. II., p. 335.
[∗]“Lecture upon Strikes and Lockouts,” Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 10th March, 1870.
[∗]“Report on the Formation, Principle, and Operations of the System of Industrial Partnership, adopted by Henry Briggs, Son & Co., Wakefield.”
[∗]“Contemporary Review,” January, 1882.