Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Suggestions for Solving the Problem
of the Unemployed (S512: 1895)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: An ambitiously utopian train of thought that began as this address to the Land Nationalisation Society's annual meeting in April 1895, later printed as Land Nationalisation Society Tract No. 64. A highly modified version of the talk was then included in the collection Forecasts of the Coming Century in 1897 under the title 'Re-Occupation of the Land'; a still further revised version was made part of the collection Studies Scientific and Social (S727) in 1900. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S512A.htm


[[p. 3]] President's Address.

     During the year that has elapsed since our last Annual Meeting, many things have occurred calculated to attract attention to the land question, and to bring home to all thinking people the evils, the injustice, and the cruelty of landlordism. Enormous mining royalties; extravagant prices for bare sea-sands required for public purposes; the claim enforced to the seaweed on the shores and the limpets on the rocks; mean and cruel evictions on religious or political grounds, or as a means of extorting a bit of land from a poor man--as in the case of Humphrey's orchard, brought to light by the Daily Chronicle--have all served to illustrate and enforce the fact that there can be no real freedom under landlord-rule. Even before the Parish Councils were elected we were told, by responsible politicians, that owners of cottages would certainly raise their rents as a means of protecting themselves against a possible increase of rates--an increase which will be mainly necessitated by the continuous neglect of landlords to provide the commonest necessaries of pure air and water for their tenants; and, since the elections, we have had many cases recorded of evictions or other attempts at punishing those who ventured to oppose the priest or the landlord. And this brings me to the first matter of importance to which I wish to call the attention of the Society and of the public.

Security of the Home.

     It is an old boast that an Englishman's house is his castle, but never was a boast less justified by facts. In a large number of cases a working man's house might be better described as an instrument of torture, by means of which he can be forced to comply with his landlord's demands, and both in religion and politics submit himself entirely to the landlord's will. So long [[p. 4]] as the agricultural laborer, the village mechanic, and the village shopkeeper are the tenants of the landowner, the parson, or the farmer, religious freedom or political independence is impossible. And when those employed in factories or workshops are obliged to live, as they so often are, in houses which are the property of their employers, that employer can force his will upon them by the double threat of loss of employment and loss of a home. Under such conditions a man possesses neither freedom, nor safety, nor the possibility of happiness, except so far as his landlord and employer thinks proper. A secure HOME is the very first essential alike of political freedom, of personal security, and of social well-being.

     Now all this has been said many times before, and we may go on saying it, and yet be no nearer to a remedy for the evil. But now that every worker, even to the hitherto despised and down-trodden agricultural laborer, has been given the right of local self-government, it is time that, so far as affects the inviolability of the home, the landlords' power should be at once taken away from him. This is the logical sequence of the creation of Parish Councils. For, to declare that it is for the public benefit that every inhabitant of a parish shall be free to vote and to be chosen as a representative by his fellow parishioners, and at the same time to leave him at the mercy of the individual who owns his house to punish him in a most cruel manner for using the privileges thus granted him, is surely the height of unreason and injustice. It is giving a stone in place of bread; the shadow rather than the substance of political enfranchisement.

     Now it seems to me that there is one very simple and very effectual way of rendering tenants secure, and that is, by a short Act of Parliament declaring all evictions, other than for non-payment of rent, to be illegal. And to prevent the landlord from driving away a tenant by raising his rent to an impossible amount, all alterations of rent must be approved of as reasonable by a committee of the Parish or District Council, and be determined on the application of either the tenant or the landlord. Of course, at the first letting of a house the landlord could ask [[p. 5]] what rent he pleased, and if it was exorbitant he would get no tenant. But having once let it, the tenant should be secure as long as he wished to occupy it, and the rent should not be raised except as allowed by some competent tribunal. No doubt a claim will be made on behalf of the landlords for a compulsory, not voluntary, tenancy on the part of the tenant; that is, that if the tenant has security of occupation, the landlord should have equal security of having a tenant. But the two cases are totally different. Eviction from his home may be, and often is, ruinous loss and misery to the tenant, who is therefore, to avoid such loss, often compelled to submit to the landlord's will. But who ever heard of a tenant, by the threat of giving notice to quit, compelling his landlord to vote against his conscience, or to go to chapel instead of to church! The tenant needs protection, the landlord does not.

     The same result might perhaps be gained by giving the Parish and District Councils power to take over all houses whose tenants are threatened with eviction, or with an unfair increase of rent; but this would involve so many complications and would so burthen these Councils with new and responsible work that there is no chance of its being enacted for many years. But the plan of giving a legal permanent tenure to every tenant is so simple, so obviously reasonable, and so free from all interference with the fair money-value of the landlord's property, that, with a little energy and persistent agitation, it might possibly be carried in two or three years. Such an Act might be more or less in the following form:--

     "Whereas the security and inviolability of the HOME is an essential condition of political freedom and social well-being, it is hereby enacted, that no tenant shall hereafter be evicted from his house or homestead for any other cause than non-payment of rent, and every heir or successor of such tenant shall be equally secure so long as the rent is paid."

     A second clause would provide for a permanently fair rent.

     Now, will not some of our supporters in parliament bring in such a bill annually till it is carried? It is, I think, one that [[p. 6]] would receive the support of a large number of persons who are not land-nationalisers; because it is absolutely essential to the free and fair operation of the Parish Councils Act, while it is equally necessary for the well-being of the farmer and the tradesman, as well as for the laborer. It is a measure which every radical and every social reformer would feel bound to support. The annual discussion of the subject in Parliament would be of inestimable value, since it would be the means of bringing prominently before the voters the numerous cases of gross tyranny and cruel injustice which are yearly occurring but which now receive little consideration. I commend the subject to the attention of our Executive, and of the more advanced representatives of the people.

The Unemployed.

     The second and most important subject of the past year, which has at last become one of the burning questions of the day, is, the great problem of the unemployed. There can, I think, be no doubt that this crowning disgrace to the civilisation of the nineteenth century has been continuously becoming more serious during the last fifty years, and has now, everywhere--in Europe, in America, and even in our scantily peopled Australian Colonies, reached such an acute stage as to alarm even the most optimistic politicians, and has actually induced our Government to grant a committee of enquiry, which is now sitting. I will, therefore, ask your attention to a brief discussion of the causes of this great evil, with a suggested remedy, which is the only one that seems to me to be calculated to afford immediate and yet permanent relief--to be in fact a cure rather than a palliative. As both Land Nationalisers and Socialists, are represented on the Committee there is some probability that the facts will be fully elicited, and that the various suggestions of advanced thinkers will receive due consideration.

     The problem of general unemployment is well stated by Mr. J. Hobson in the Contemporary Review of last month. He says: "Why is it that, with a wheat growing area so huge and so productive that in good years whole crops are left to rot in the [[p. 7]] ground, thousands of English laborers, millions of Russian peasants, cannot get enough bread to eat? Why is it that with so many cotton mills in Lancashire that they cannot all be kept working for any length of time together, thousands of people in Manchester cannot get a decent shirt to their backs? Why is it that, with a growing glut of mines and miners, myriads of people are shivering for lack of coals?" Now, not one of our authorised teachers of political economy, not one of our most experienced legislators can give any clear answer to these questions, except by vague reference to the immutable laws of supply and demand, and by the altogether false statement that things are not so bad as they were, and that in course of time they will improve of themselves. Mr. H. V. Mills had his attention directed to this subject by an individual instance of the same phenomenon. He found in Liverpool, next door to each other, a baker, a shoemaker, and a tailor, all out of work, all wanting the bread, clothes and shoes which they could produce, all willing and anxious to work, and yet all compelled to remain idle and half starving. His book has been before the world several years; it contains a practical and efficient remedy for this state of things; yet no attempt whatever has been made to give his plan a fair trial. Let us therefore see if we can throw a little more light on the problem, and thus help to force it upon the attention of those who have the power, but who believe that nothing can be done.

     The answer to the question so well put by Mr. Hobbs [[Hobson?? --Ed.]], and which Mr. Stead, in the Review of Reviews, considers to be the modern problem of the Sphinx which it needs a modern Œdipus to solve, is nevertheless perfectly easy. To put it in its simplest form it is as follows:--Unemployment exists, and must increase, because, under the conditions of modern society, production of every kind is carried on, not at all for the purpose of supplying the wants of the producers, but solely with the object of creating wealth for the capitalist employer.

     Now, I believe, that this statement contains the absolute root of the whole matter, and indicates the true and only lines of the complete remedy. But to many it will be hard saying; to others [[p. 8]] it will be unintelligible; to others again it may seem untrue; let us therefore examine it a little in detail.

     The capitalist cotton spinner, cloth or boot manufacturer, colliery owner, or iron-master, care not the least who buys their goods or who uses them, so long as they can get a good price for them. The cotton, the boots, the coals, or the iron, may be exported to India, or Australia, to America, or to Timbuctoo, while millions are insufficiently clad or warmed in the very places where all these things are made. Even the very people who make them may thus suffer, through insufficient wages or irregular employment; yet the upholders of the present system will not admit that anything is fundamentally wrong. The lowness of wages and irregularity of employment, are, they tell us, due to general causes over which they have no control--such as foreign competition, insufficient markets, &c., which injure the capitalists as well as the workers. The unemployed exist they say, on account of the improvements in machinery and in mechanical processes in all civilised countries, which economise labor and thus render production cheaper. The surplus labor, therefore, is not wanted; and that portion of it which cannot be absorbed in administering to the luxury of the rich must be supported by charity, or starve. That is the last word of the capitalists and of the majority of the politicians. But though capitalists and politicians are satisfied to let things go on as they are, with ever increasing wealth and luxury on the one hand, ever increasing misery and discontent on the other, thinking men and women all over the world are not satisfied, and will not be satisfied, without a complete solution of the problem; which, though they are not yet able to see clearly, they firmly believe can be found.

     Governments in modern times, have gone on the principle that they have nothing whatever to do with the employment or want of employment of the people,--with high wages or low wages, with luxury or starvation, except inasmuch as the latter calamity may be prevented by the poor-law guardians. A great change has, however, occurred in the last few years. Both the local and [[p. 9]] imperial Governments have admitted the principle of a reasonable subsistence wage, and are acting upon it, in flagrant opposition to the principles of the old political economy. Now too, I observe, the buying of Government stores abroad because they can be obtained a fraction per cent. cheaper than at home, is being given up, though only three or four years ago the practice was defended as being in accordance with true economical principles and also because it was the duty of the Government to buy as cheaply as possible in the interest of the taxpayer. I only mention these facts to show that new ideas are permeating modern society and are compelling Governments, however reluctantly, to act upon them. We may, therefore, hope to compel our rulers to acknowledge, that it is their duty also to provide the conditions necessary to enable those who are idle and destitute--from no fault of their own, but solely through the failure of our competitive and monopolist system--to support themselves by their own labor. Hitherto they have told us that it cannot be done, that it would disorganise society, that it would injure other workers. We must, therefore, show them how it can be done, and insist that at all events the experiment shall be tried. I will now give my ideas of how this great result can be brought about, and the reasons which I believe demonstrate that the method will be successful.

     Hitherto there has been no organisation of communities or of society at large for purposes of production, except so far as it has arisen incidentally in the interest of the capitalist employer and the monopolist land-owner. The result is the terrible social quagmire in which we now find ourselves. But it is certain that organisation in the interest of the producers, who constitute the bulk of the community, is possible; and as, under existing conditions, the millions who are wholly destitute of land or capital cannot organise themselves, it becomes the duty of the State, by means of the local authorities, to undertake this organisation; and if it is undertaken on the principle that all production is to be, in the first place, for consumption by the producers themselves, and only when the necessary wants of all are satisfied, for [[p. 10]] exchange in order to procure luxuries, such organisation cannot fail to be a success.

     My confidence in its success is founded on three considerations, which I will briefly enumerate. The first is, the enormous productive power of labor when aided by modern labor-saving machinery. Mr. Edward Atkinson, admitted to be the greatest American authority on the statistics of production and commerce, has calculated that two men's labor for a year in the wheat-growing States of America will produce, ready for consumption, 1,000 barrels of flour, barrels included; and this quantity will produce bread for 1,000 persons for a year. Now as we can grow more bushels of wheat an acre than are grown in America, we could also produce the bread for 1,000 persons by the labor of say four or five men including the baking. Again, he tells us that, with the best machinery, one workman can produce cotton cloth for 250 people, woollen goods for 300, or boots and shoes for 1,000. And as other necessaries will require an equally moderate amount of labor, we see how easily a community of workers could produce, at all events all the necessaries of life, by the expenditure of but a small portion of their total labor power.

     The next consideration is, that in the Labor Colonies of Holland, the unemployed are so organised as to produce all that they consume, or its value, without the use of any labor-saving machinery. The reason they have none, the director told Mr. Mills, is that it would lead to a difficulty in finding work for the people of the colony, and it would then be less easy to manage them. The difficulty in this case seems to be to provide against the possibility of a too great success!

The third consideration which points to the certainty of success, is, the demonstrable enormous waste of the present capitalistic and competitive system; and the corresponding enormous economies of a community in which all production would be carried on primarily for consumption by the producers themselves. This economy will be illustrated as we consider the organisation of such a community.

     A careful consideration of the whole problem by experts will [[p. 11]] determine the minimum size of a colony calculated to ensure the most economical production of all the chief necessaries of life. Let us take it at about 5,000 persons including men, women and children, which is Mr. Mills' estimate. Enough land will be required to grow all the kinds of produce needed, both vegetable and animal--say two to three thousand acres--and a skilled manager will be engaged to superintend each separate department of industry. Not only will bread, vegetables, fruit and meat of all kinds be grown on the land, but the whole of the needful manufacture will be carried on, aided by steam, water, or wind power, as may be found most convenient and economical. To provide clothes, tools, furniture, utensils, and conveniences of all kinds for 5,000 people, workshops and factories of suitable dimensions will be provided, and skilled workers in each department will be selected from among the unemployed or partially employed. A village with separate cottages or lodgings for families and individuals, with central cooking and eating-rooms for all who desire to use them, would form an essential part of the colony. The village would be built on a high yet central position, so that all the sewage could be applied by gravitation to the lower and more distant portions of the land, while all the solid refuse and manurial matter would be applied to the higher portions. Here would be the first great economy, both in wealth and health. Every particle of sewage and refuse would be immediately returned to the land, where, under the beneficent action of the chemistry of nature, it would be again converted into wholesome food and other products.

     Another economy, of vast amount but difficult to estimate, would arise from the whole effective population being available to secure the crops when at their maximum productiveness. Who has not seen, during wet seasons, hay lying in the fields week after week till greatly deteriorated or completely spoilt; shocks of wheat sprouting and ruined; fruit rotting on the ground; growing crops choked with weeds,--all involving loss to the amount of many millions annually, and all due to the capitalistic system which has led to the overcrowding of the towns and the [[p. 12]] depopulation of the rural districts. But this is only a portion of the loss from deficiency of labor at the critical moment. Agricultural chemists know that, even in good seasons, a considerable portion of the nutritious qualities of hay is lost by the cutting of the grass being delayed a few weeks, owing to uncertain weather, the pressure of other work, or a deficiency of labor. The critical moment is when the grass is in flower. Every day later it deteriorates; and in our self-supporting colonies the whole population would be available to supply whatever assistance the head farmer required to get the hay made in the best possible state. A single fine day, utilised, with the aid of machinery and ample labor, would often save hundreds of pounds value to the colony. The same would be the case with wheat and other corn crops, as well as with fruit and vegetables.

     In such a colony education could be carried on in a rational manner not possible under the present conditions of society, where the means of industrial training have to be specially provided. Ordinary school work would be at the most three or four hours daily; the remainder of the working day being devoted to various forms of industrial work. Every child would be taught to help in the simpler agricultural processes, as weeding, fruit gathering, etc.; and besides this each person would learn at least two trades or occupations, more or less contrasted; one being light and sedentary, the other more active and laborious and involving more or less out-door work. By this means not only would a pleasant and healthful variety of occupation be rendered possible for each worker, but the community would derive the benefit of being able to concentrate a large amount of skilled labor on any pressing work, such as buildings or machinery.

     But perhaps the greatest economy of all would arise from such a community being almost wholly free from costs of transit, profits of the middleman, and need for advertising. The total amount of this kind of waste, on the present system, is something appalling, and can be best realised by considering the difference between the cost of manufacture and the retail price of a few typical articles. Wheat is now about 22s. to 24s. a quarter, which [[p. 13]] quantity yields nearly six hundred pounds of bread. In our proposed community the labor of making the flour would be repaid by the value of the pollard and bran, while the bread-making would employ two or three men and women. The actual cost of their four-pound loaf, reckoning the laborers to receive present wages, would be about 2d., while it now costs 3˝d. or 4d.--a saving of at least 40 or 50 per cent. Again, the best Cork butter sells wholesale at 8d. a pound, the actual maker probably getting no more than 7d., while the retail consumer has to pay double--here would be a saving of at least 50 per cent. Milk is sold wholesale by the farmers at about 7d. a gallon, while it is retailed at 16d. a gallon--a saving of more than 60 per cent. In meat there would be, probably, about the same saving as in bread; in vegetables and fruit very much more; in coals bought wholesale from the pit, as compared with the rate at which it is sold by the hundredweight or the penny-worth to the poor in great cities, an equally large saving. And in addition to all this, there would be the economy in the cooking for a large community; in the freshness and good quality of all food and manufactured products; and, further, in the saving of labor by all those improvements in gas and water supply, in disposing of refuse, in warming and ventilation, which can be easily provided for a large community living in a compact and well arranged set of buildings.

     Taking all their various economies into consideration, it is probably far below the mark to say that our present system of production on a huge scale for the benefit of capitalists and landlords only, on the average doubles the cost of everything to the consumer; that is to say, the cost of distribution is equal to, and often much greater than, the cost of production. And this is said to be an economical system! A system too perfect, and almost too sacred to be touched by the sacrilegious hands of the reformer! We are to go on for ever spending a pound to get every pound's worth of goods from the producer to the consumer; just as under our Poor-law system it costs a shilling to give a starving man a shilling's worth of food and lodging.

     [[p. 14]] But there is yet another economy, which I have not hitherto mentioned, and which may perhaps be said to be the greater in real value and importance than all the rest--and that is the economy to the actual producer of time, of labor, of health, and the large increase in his means of recreation and happiness. Agricultural laborers now often have to walk two or three miles to their work; mill-hands, including women and children, walk long distances in all weathers to be at the mill-gates by six in the morning; workers by the million undergo a process of slow but certain destruction in unsanitary workshops, or in dangerous or unhealthy occupations, many of which (as making the enamelled iron advertising plates, for example) are quite unnecessary for the needs of a properly organised community; while in all cases it is only a question of expense to save the workers from any injury to health. In our self-supporting communities all these sources of waste and misery would be avoided. All work would be near at hand. No work permanently injurious to health would be permitted; while the alternations of out-door and indoor work, together with the fact that every worker would be working for himself, for his family, and for a community of which he formed an integral part on an equality with all his fellow-workers, would give a new interest to labor similar to that which every gardener feels in growing vegetables for his own table, and every mechanic in fitting up some useful article in his own house. Then again, while living in and surrounded by the country and enjoying all the advantages and pleasures of country life, a community of five thousand persons would possess in themselves the means of supplying most of the relaxations and enjoyments of the town, such as music, theatricals, clubs, reading rooms, and every form of healthy social intercourse.

     This is not the place to go into the minute details of the establishment of such communities, but a few words as to ways and means may be considered necessary.

     Mr. Mills has estimated that the capital required to buy the land and start such a colony, would not exceed two years' poor-rates of a Union where there are an equal number of paupers. [[p. 15]] But there is really no necessity for buying the land. It might be taken where required at a fair valuation and paid for by means of a terminable rental, similar to that by which Irish tenants have been enabled to purchase their farms; but in this case the county would be the purchaser, not an individual, and after the first year, or perhaps two years, this rent-charge would be easily payable by the colony. The capital needed for buildings, machinery, and one year's partial subsistence, should be furnished, half by the County or Union, and half by the Government, free of interest, but to be repaid by instalments to commence after, say, five or ten years. It would really be to the advantage of the community at large to give this capital, since it would inevitably lead to the abolition of unemployment and of able-bodied pauperism which would more than repay the initial outlay.

     In each Colony there would be grown a considerable amount of surplus produce, which would be sold in order to purchase food which cannot be produced at home--as tea, coffee, spices, etc., and also such raw materials as iron and coal. The kind of produce thus grown for sale would vary according to the facilities for its production and local demand. In some colonies it would be wheat or barley, in others butter and cheese, in others again, flax, vegetables, fruit, or poultry. And as all the products of our soil except milk are largely imported, there is ample range for producing articles for sale which would not in any way affect prices or interfere with outside labor.

     At first, of course, such colonies must be organised and all the work done under general regulations, and the same discipline as is maintained in any farm or factory but with no unnecessary interference with liberty out of working hours. Accounts would be strictly kept and audited, and all profits would go to increasing the comfort of the colonists in various ways, and in paying surplus wages to be spent, or saved, as the individual pleased. Under reasonable restrictions as to notice every one would be at liberty to quit the colony; but with such favourable conditions of life as would prevail there it is probable that only a small proportion would do so.

     [[p. 16]] But as time went on, and a generation of workers grew up in the colony itself, a system of self-government might be established; and for this purpose I think Mr. Bellamy's method the only one likely to be a permanent success. It rests on the principle that, in an industrial community, those only are fit to be rulers who have for many years formed integral parts of it, who have passed through its various grades as workers or overseers, and who have thus acquired an intimate practical acquaintance with its needs, its capacities, and its possibilities of improvement. Persons who had themselves enjoyed the advantages of the system, and who had suffered from whatever injudicious restrictions or want of organisation had prevailed, and who had nearly reached the age of retirement from the more laborious work, would be free from petty jealousies of their fellow workers, and would have no objects to aim at except the continued success of the colony and the happiness of all its inmates. On this principle those who had worked in the colony for at least fifteen or twenty years, and who had reached some grade above that of simple workmen, should form the governing body, appointing the superintendents of the various departments, and making such general regulations as were needed to ensure the prosperity of the community and the happiness of all its members.

     Now, I would ask, what valid reason can be given against trying this great experiment in every county in Great Britain and Ireland, so as at once to absorb the larger part of the unemployed as well as all paupers who are not past work? The only real objection, from the capitalist's point of view, that I can imagine, is, that colonies in which the whole of the produce went to the workers themselves, including of course their own sick and aged, would be so attractive that they would draw to them large numbers of workers of all kinds and thus interfere with the capitalists' labor supply. This, I believe, would, after a few years, inevitably occur; but, from my point of view, and from that probably of most workers, that circumstance would afford the greatest argument in favor of the scheme. For it would show that, with a proper organisation of labor, capitalist [[p. 17]] production was unnecessary; it would afford practical proof that laborers can successfully produce without the intervention of capitalist employers.

     In this connection I will read a passage from the writings of that remarkable observer and thinker the late Richard Jeffrey. He says:--

     "I verily believe that the earth in one year can produce enough food to last for thirty. Why then have we not enough? Why do people die of starvation, or lead a miserable existence on the verge of it? Why have millions upon millions to toil from morning till evening just to gain a mere crust of bread? Because of the absolute lack of organisation by which such labor should produce its effects, the absolute lack of distribution, the absolute lack even of the very idea that such things are possible. Nay, even to mention such things, to say that they are possible, is criminal with many. Madness could hardly go further."1

     This was written a good many years ago. Now, we who hold such opinions are considered to be, not criminals but merely cranks; and it is even allowed that we have good ideas sometimes, if only we were more practical. I am glad to see that some of these ideas have been laid before the Committee on the unemployed by one of its members, Mr. William Mather, of Manchester, in a "Draft Scheme to provide Work for the Unemployed Working Classes," a copy of which he has been so good as to send me. There is much that is valuable in this proposal, and it is probably as advanced as anything that will have any chance of being adopted; but it is in every respect far inferior as a wide reaching and permanent remedy to that proposed by Mr. Herbert V. Mills seven years ago. Mr. Mather suggests two separate agencies to meet the case. First, the formation of Farm Training Colonies in which the temporarily unemployed are to work, partly at reclaiming or improving waste land or that which has gone out of cultivation, and partly in various simple industries either to supply the wants of the colony or for sale for [[p. 18]] the workers' own benefit, his labor on the land being supposed to pay for his keep. But all this work is to be temporary. The workers are to leave whenever other work can be found, or when the land has been all brought into a good state of cultivation. It is then to be transformed into the second remedial agency--Small Farm Settlements, where all who wish to live permanently by agriculture may have small holdings, with the advantages of a certain amount of co-operation, and the advice and assistance of a skilled superintendent of the settlement. This last is a very excellent proposal, quite in accordance with our principles, and with methods we have always advocated. If it had been adopted twenty years ago it might have prevented the unemployed difficulty attaining it present formidable dimensions; but now, it is, as Mr. Mather himself recognises, an insufficient solution of the problem.

     The weakness of Mr. Mather's scheme lies (in my opinion) in the temporary nature, limited size, and restricted industries of his "Farm Training Colonies." When, after several years labor, a community has succeeded in bringing a quantity of land into good cultivation and established a certain amount of home industries, it seems to me both unnecessary, unreasonable, and injudicious to break up the colony and turn it into something quite different, which, though good in itself, may be just as well done on other land. The proper thing would be to treat every such colony from the very beginning as a permanent one; to let the colonists know that they were working for their own future and creating homes for themselves; and that all, who, after a year's work, determined to remain permanently, might be joined by their families and become established colonists. Then, step by step, as required, more land could be obtained, and fresh industries started, until the colony became almost wholly self-supporting and self-sufficing, and thus realised all those advantages of production for consumption by the producers themselves which I have briefly set before you. Mr. Mather's position, as a member of the committee and a large manufacturer, will probably lead to the adoption of his scheme; and it will [[p. 19]] then be possible to urge its modification in the sense of the permanence and extension of the Farm Training Colonies till they become self-sufficing organised communities, on the plan of those advocated by Mr. H. V. Mills. By this means alone will a permanent remedy be found for the great evil of unemployment, while at the same time a grand social experiment would receive, for the first time, a fair trial.2

     Some of our members may think that I have gone beyond our special reform and have been advocating Socialism. But if that is so, I would remark that there is no antagonism between Land Nationalisation and Socialism. None of us are more thorough Land Nationalisers than are our friends the Socialists, and there is nothing whatever in our principles that points to individual as opposed to collective occupation of land. To get free access to the land is what we advocate as the first thing needful; and along with this free access we must have, as soon as possible, complete public ownership. The use of the land must be free to all, and may be collective or individualistic, as may be found most convenient. But as an immediate and yet permanent remedy for the terrible, almost fatal, disease under which the social organism is now suffering, of millions of honest and industrious men and women starving for want of work, some more drastic remedy than merely throwing open the land to individual use is required. That remedy is, I believe, to be found only in the organisation of communities upon the land, so as to produce from the land the greatest possible variety of food and materials essential to a healthy life, and to manufacture those materials into various articles of clothing and domestic utility--but all, primarily, for consumption by the producers themselves.

     I have endeavored to show you the enormous economies of such a mode of production for consumption by the producers--an economy so great that four hours' daily work would certainly give them more of the necessaries and comforts of life than they [[p. 20]] can now obtain with eight or ten hours' work. But I have not had time to dwell upon the vast moral and intellectual benefits that would arise from such associated labor. I believe that these beneficial influences on character, aided by a rational system of industrial education and by the varied interests of such a life, will be not less important than the material benefits. To quote the words of one of our most brilliant writers on these questions (Mr. G. O. Warren):--"In the day when man enjoys free access to land and the right to trade freely with his neighbors; in the day when man will labor and enjoy the full fruit of his labor, his brain will grow, his heart will grow, his character will grow, his life will be prolonged, he will be other and better than he is."


Notes Appearing in the Original Work

1"The Story of My Heart," p. 194. [[on p. 17]]

2When this address was delivered I had only seen the newspaper reports of Mr. Mather's scheme and to some extent misrepresented it. This account of it has therefore been re-written. [[on p. 19]]


*                 *                 *                 *                 *

Return to Home