The speaker first briefly outlined General Booth's book and then criticised the Salvation Army plan for abolishing poverty.
General Booth's scheme may be styled a Wesley movement with economics added; that is, it combines a sound practical view of economics with religious fervor.
General Booth does not make the mistake so generally made that the work in hand can be accomplished by changing the external conditions of the individual. He fully recognizes the importance of the truth that the individual himself must be changed, that his character must be strengthened and ennobled, else the work will be in vain. True, this done, then by just so much will the individual be helped if the external conditions are improved.
One of the worst features in the problem that confronts us is the extreme difficulty of separating those who wish to work and earn an honest living from those who are nothing but "dead beats" and intend to remain such. For this very reason it is hard to interest people in the poor. It rarely happens that a poor person who is known to deserve help fails to get it.
Now, Gen. Booths hopes by a series of tests of willingness and capacity to drain off the lowest tenth of the poor of London, and in this way to relieve the strain on those who are just able to gain a livelihood. He has at his command two important factors; 1st, his intense dramatic religion, 2d, his military organization. Allowing for the incalculable power of the first, supplemented by the effectiveness of the second, his work remains of gigantic proportions. He would remove from the city this wretched class, Christian, Pagan, Jew, young, old, without discrimination; he would put them on farms and subject them to the severest discipline, and would pay them remuneratively for their work, that is, a great deal more than the same work is bringing today.
Gen. Booth's plan is to form a city colony where the men are to be tested for their fitness to be sent to the farm colony or to the yet undetermined over-the-sea-colony.
The grand army has at present nearly 12,000 officers at work in 2,800 centres. Fifteen magazines have a circulation of some 2,000,000 copies, and the daily papers fifteen times that number. The work thus far has been variously criticised; in Australia much good has undoubtedly been accomplished.
Gen. Booth's attitude toward the state is simply this: If he can absolutely prove that his method for abolishing poverty is a good one, then let the state step in it and carry it on.
The speaker said in conclusion that the scheme was worthy of sympathy and intelligent consideration, that it was based on sound economics, and that at its head was an earnest and intelligent man who was devoting himself heart and soul to the solution of this vital question.