[Index] [Poor Law Before 1832] [Poor Law After 1832] [COS]
Charity Organisation Society: Chronology [Industrial Condition]
Edited by Tamihiro Shigemori (sigemori@sps.ritsumei.ac.jp)

Sub-committee reported on the Food CHarities of Metropolis.
1871General Prosperity:
Report upon the Soup-kitchens or Dinner-tables: "We are moving a vicious circle. Increased destitution requires more abundant relief, and more abundant relief encourages those habits which lead to a further aggravation of the destitution, and so on. ... their tickets accumulate in the hands of fortunate individuals who make a traffic of them ... they are frequently exchanged for spirits at public house..." [338].
Committee appointed: to take into consideration the conditions under which the Society can co-operate with the Guardians of the Poor in effectually utilising the labour of able-bodied destitute persons.
Relief Work:
Hawskley proposed parochial workshop to be set up with public funds to give work for the unemployed [M 52]. Spechal Committee established, reporting against Hawksley's proposal. Trevelyan insisted that improvement work and relief scheme must be rigidly distinguished. Able-bodied destitute persons should be relieved only by the Poor Law, and subject to a labour test in a labour yard or otherwise. Improvemnet scheme should be carried by men employed on adequate wages; relief work should be confined to the infirm and helpless, and paid for on the lowest scale necessary for subsistence.
1872By leaps and bounds
1873Never more prosperous
1874Highest point of prosperous
1875Declining prosperity
E.Simcox, Organisation of unremunerative industry [Fraser's Magazine]: her proposals formed the basis of a discussion at Council. "Whether charitably organised labour should not be employed in works of public utility which are not sufficiently remunerative to attract private enterprise" [307]. Her question: "When the system of free competitive industry had had full play, was it the work of Charity, or still of industrial self-interest, to deal with the failures of the industrial world?" "... there should be no invasion into self-supporting industries, but, ... though, ordinarily, real wants were supplied by private enterprise, still there were wants for which no provision was made, because no one could earn a living by making it". Such work would be remunerated partly by those who progfited from it, partly by those who organised it. She enumerated two kinds of work, i.e., the cleaning of pavements, and the management of day bording schools.
Council issued a letter on: "Co-operation of Charity with the Poor Law in relieving the exceptional distress in the Provinces". "Although every destitute person is entitled to relief under the Poor Law it is in accordance with the best instincts of charity to undertake, as far as possible, deserving cases, and to prevent their applying to the Poor Law. ... Charity is in a better position the worthiness and unworthiness of the applicants. Therefore, having regard to the special nature of the present emergency, the qualification for charitable relief may be considered to be temporary and unavoidable distress ...with evidence of thrift and good character..." [SW 309].
1879Culmination of Distress:
Circular to DCs: "The Society from data up to this time obtainable cannot dscern any immediate exceptional distress, similar to that in the Provinces; but they cannot blind themselves to the fact that the wave of commercial disaster now passing over the country, can scarcely fail to produce effects more or less calamitous on the poor of London: under these circumstances they desire to be forewarned, and ina position to organise some unostentatious, noiseless scheme of relief which, while substantial, will be free from the appalong mischief incident on the formation of a widely proclaimed fund" [311-312].
Council issued a paper to DCs. After the circular above, a distinct increase in distress was reported [27 January]. Suggested [1] they should increase their staff and enquire into a rumour of exceptional distress; [2] Sub-committees should be formed if necesary; [3] a clear division should be maintained between Poor Law cases and those suitable for charitable assistance; [4] DCs should not initiate any system of charitable employment; and [5] they were to be assisted financially.
"... the Society has never believed that it was possible to meet the ordinary chronic unemployment of large towns by means of relief; on the contrary, it has believed that the panacea of relief only tended to aggravate the evil by checking the forces which would naturally tend to diminish it" [315].
1880Slight improvement
1882The golden year of shipbuilding
[May] Discussion on emigration at Council:"Owing to eh congested state of the labour market, and to the departure of trade from the East End, societies are springing up, and the clergy becoming more active in the matter, and crowds of applications are beginning to comein [321].
But a letter from Montreal protested: "...unsuitable immigrants at improper seasons of the year ... The litle means they have on arriving here are soon gone, and they are left destitute and become burdens upon our National Societies"[June].
Relief work: See [322].
Mansion House Committee to enquire into the causes of distress [Cardinal Manning, Bishop of Bedford, Sir Baldwyn Leighton, Rev.Brook Lambert, P.M.Martineau and Aenord White].
COS on the Committee: "The irony of fate was surely never more cruelly displayed than in the fact that within two or three weeks of the presentation of this Report to the Lord Mayyor, in which 'indisctiminate charity sapping independence' is described as one of the causes of permanent distress, the Rt.Hon.gentleman himself, assisted by a large number of the gentlemen who signed the Report, was engaiged in setting on foot a gigantic organisation for the spasmodic and indiscriminate distribution of relief" [323, Review 1886].
1886Culmination of Distress:
The Mansion House Fund opened. [May] Emigration Sub-committee of the Council: to assist DCs in dealing with out-of-work and other cases, by information and advice as to openings in the Colonies. The Committee continued its work until 1889 when emigration was falling off.
A letter from Barnett to the Time : See [323].
Special Committee on the best means of dealing with exceptional distress [COS]:
See [M 133-134]
The question of relief work debated also in the House of Commons: Bradlaugh had protested against the dangerous doctrine that it is the duty of Government, in seasons of distress, to provide for its relief by special action of public work. Chamberlain had issued a circular from the LGB encouraging the municipal authorities to employ skilled workmen on relief work. Unemployment recognised as a problem: "...be given public help but not to the impairment of his citizenship". See also [M 134-135]
"Twenty years almost continuous application of this panacea has increased and stereotyped the problem, until 'relief works' have fairly earned their title as 'school for casual labour'"[HB on relief work 331].
Memorandum on Out-of-Work cases: See [327-328]
Mansion House Conference [on the question of vagrancy, November]: Public attention aroused by meeings in Trafalgar Square; discussed on the possibility to open one or more new charitable night refugees. And by this conference a scheme was elaborated for employing 1,300 men under the Metropolitan Gardens Association. COS objected to this scheme: "to relieve them insufficiently and to furnish them with a very plausible excuse for idleness" [329]. Special Committee to deal with each case in a permanent manner. The cost estimated 20,000 pound, but only 5,000 pound contributed. To 456 men given tickets for work; 62 didn't present themselves; 134 dismissed for misconduct and incapacity; 134 remained in their present position; 17 left for better employment; 23 emigrated; and 53 assisted in other ways. "... works started for the relief of the unemployed, even though they be in some degree useful and beneficial, are in the long run an injury instead of a benefit to the community, by discouraging the real spirit of work and thereby diminishing self-reliance and enterprise ..."[Report of the Committee of MH, SW 330].
Its sub-committee proposed the formation of agricultural colonies for the unemployed. A proposal by Bernett that a colony should be organised as a new development of the Poor Law. The Committee reported in favour of an experimental colony worked by private charity in co-operation with the Poor Law, with the object of affording training rather than of giving employment.
1888Marked Revival
Clearing House Committee established: its function consisted in communicating the name of the willing giver to [the agencies]; then the scheme was captured by the unemployed themselves, who formed committees and appointed some of their numbers as paid agents for the distribution of the fund. The scheme does not semm to have survived for a second winter.
Mansion House Conference: A Committee was formed, to which LCC handed over a piece of land on their Abbey Mills estate at Straford. Men were to be employed upon it and assisted out of charitable funds to regain a footing of permanent independence. 253 men were set to work: Of them 13 were emigrated; 2 were migrated; 8 were "set up business"; 7 were placed on the B list at the dockes; and the rest remained uncultivatable.
Royal Commission on Labour: [1892-94]. Loch's evidence: he deprecated the procision of artificial employment by public bodies, and suggested that unemployment would be a less serious matter if families would excercise foresight to have money in had to tide them over bad times [M 137].
1893Depression, culminating unemployment:
COS was said to give no assistence in cases of unemployment, but "it was always directed towards establishing the resipients in such a position that they would not rely upon receiving relief in the future"[353].
Mansion House Conference [October]: to investigate the existence of distress in London. COS well represented. Two months later the report issued: relief work deprecated as perpetuating and aggravating the evil; needed assistance should be given by the Poor Law on the one hand and volunatary agencies in the other hand. The report was ill received by the public because of its countering to the fashon and its impolitic character. Barnett said it might have been fitting ten years ago, but was inexcusable when better education had enlarged the hopes of the poor [See also 1895 of main Chronology]. As a result the work at Abbey Mill resumed: "For ten years longer London was given up to the policy of casual relief-work, and tainted an ever-increasing horde to rely upon anything rather than their own foresight and energy" [358].
1894Settled depression (Baring's cash):
[Severe frost winter 1894-95]: The Society let it be known that they would relieve by temporary allowance and otherwise men of good character whose distress was due to the exceptional circumstances of the season, and apealed for funds for the purpose. About 5,650 pound received [354].
The reason why the Society preferred dealing with case by case and distrusted the policy of relief work or wholesale charity, see [355].
"During this period large districts in London were completely demoralised. ... Exploited and harassed by socialist agitation, [the unemployed] would accept work only on theri own conditions amd practised an attitude of terrorism towards the authorities and towards the more respectable of their own number that made it impossible to carry on relief-works with even a semblance of discipline and industry" [349].
1896Slow revival:
Report of the Special Committee of the House of Commons on Distress from Want of Employment: "... an unemployment man should not be disfranchised for receiving relief provided it was for less than one month in a year..."[M 137].
1899Great Prosperity
1900Culmination of prosperity
1901Slow ebb
1902Slow ebb:
From this time on it began to be realised more fully how large a part was played by the "unemployable", and preventive measures began to be discussed.
Problem of the unemployable: See Annual Report for 1902-1903 [359-360].
Proposal of labour colonies by Mansion House: Since 1887 several colonies had been started: Hadleigh, Shenstone, and Osea Island; they are utilised in the winter 1903-1904. The condition was that heads of families should be employed in the country without returning home for a fortnight, and that while they were away relief should be given to their families.
"The Relief of Distress due to want of Employment" issued by a Special Committee of the Society: proposed the formation of joint committees, which refer better class men to a central body undertaking to provide employment relief, and lower class men should be referred to the Guardians. "...there should be an official enquiry into the growth of pauperism...". This reccomendation "had been given effect to by the appointment of the Royal Commission".
Special Committee: "to inquire and report whether by modification of existing methods of engagemnent, contract, and remuneration, especially in the case of unskilled labour, industry may not be organised on some more stable and beneficial conditions than now prevail". On its recommendations, see [SW 367].
Change in Poor Law: "The Poor Law is converted practically into an enormously rich rate-endowed public charity onpen to all-commers. ... as the theory gains ground that want of work must be met through public authorities by the direct provision of employment, the Borough Council takes the place of the Poor Law as the centre for organising employment-relief'[M 156-157].
The Unemployd Workmen Act: nine Distress Committees and a Central Body established: the Dostress Committees were to take application, make enquiries, and find work if they could; but the provision of work was to be by the Central Body. "the Act was an attempt to bring order into chaos". See [Note (Japanese)].