City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.
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ORAL INQUIRY.—(Session 1882.)
1. (The Chairman.) I think you are the Senior Inspector of Charities under the Charity Commission, and I need not ask you whether you have taken considerable interest in and paid much attention to questions of municipal government and of charity adminis tration?—I have.
4. Will you kindly explain to the Commission what are the functions of the Charity Commission; under what Act of Parliament it obtains its powers, and what is its position as regards the City Livery Companies. Probably you would prefer to give your explanation in your own way?—I suppose that the Commission knows that the Charitable Trusts Act was passed in the year 1853. It was the first jurisdiction then established applicable to charities exclusively, and it was intended to prevent the vast waste of money which was constantly incurred in charities, by the institution of suits by relators whenever they thought they had an opportunity of having them inquired into in the Court of Chancery. The powers, which were general, are set forth at considerable length in the Act of 1853; it gave power of inquiry; it gave power of authorizing leases and for the alienation of estates; it gave also for the first time, an officer who should be the conduit pipe of the real estate, so that the real estate should be vested in one person continually, while the trustees should have the management as before for the purpose of administration. It gave also the power of taking proceedings for setting new schemes where the charities were under 30l. a year, the amount was afterwards increased to 50l. upon the application of one or more inhabitants or persons interested, but no power beyond an income of 50l. a year, except upon the application of the trustees or the persons administering. That is the present restriction. It gave full power of inquiry into all charities, and it also gave the power which was exercised for a few years, of laying before Parliament at the commencement of the session, what Bills they proposed to pass for such amendment of charities as the Courts of Law were not competent to make, and then that being laid before Parliament, at a certain time after its meeting, a Bill was to be brought before the House for effecting the alteration. That went on for some years, but as in many cases the alteration would affect very much the condition of populous towns and boroughs, the Government was sometimes unwilling to take it up, and it was met with frequent opposition. In some cases the Bills were thrown out, and the Commissioners instead of laying those Bills before Parliament thought their function was rather uselessly exercised unless the Bills could be passed, and they abandoned that course of proceeding. I do not know whether there is any other matter connected with the jurisdiction and power of the Commissioners which I have omitted, or which the Commissioners would like to be informed upon; if so I shall be glad to answer any further question. It is a Commission to inquire with very imperfect jurisdiction to amend; the utmost they can do in the most important cases being to send it to a court of law for amendment.
5. You have been brought, as inspector, into contact with the courts of the various companies, I suppose? —No, not with the courts; very rarely were they attended by anybody but their clerks or one or two persons who produced the documents and gave me the papers I asked for; but very rarely by any of the members of the courts.
6. There are in existence, as we understand, reports dealing with all the charities of the city companies?—The Charity Commission which commenced about 1818 by Lord Brougham's instigation, went on under several separate Acts of Parliament and finished its work about 1840 or somewhat later. All their reports are printed, and they occupy about 40 or 50 folio volumes.
7. Have you had to examine those reports, and as a matter of fact, have you done so?—In all cases when I went to the city companies, I took the printed report of the former Commission, and began by inquiring whether that was accurate, and whether there was any addition or amendment to be made to it. I adopted that as the basis of my inquiry, taking up, of course, the subject of any variations in the property, and subsequent gifts, if any.
8. Had the framers of those earlier reports which you consulted, full access to the documents of the companies?—The power given by the Act of Parliament enabled them to inquire into trusts only, and, therefore, if an independent title was asserted they would have had no power to go beyond the trust.
12. Did you base your reports upon those of the earlier Commissioners?—I began with those in my inquiry; I took them as the basis of my inquiry, and then I referred, where the documents were the same, to the former report.
13. Are you aware of any cases in which informations have been filed by the Attorney-General against the Companies for breaches of trust?—I am not aware of many cases of that kind. I might accidentally have heard of them, but I never had an official knowledge of the cases. I may mention one case, by the way, of which I was cognizant, that of the Wax Chandlers' Company, in which I found that there were some houses in the Old Change charged with the payment of about 8l. a year to poor persons with the direction that the remainder of the rent of the houses was to be carried to the chest of the Company and applied to the repair of the houses. I told the Company that it appeared to me that that was not a gift to them, but still continued to be a charity. They applied all the surplus over 8l. a year to their own funds. I found the same to be the case in the Merchant Taylors; they had a very large charity, about 2,000l. a year, and they had taken the opinion of their counsel, the present Vice-Chancellor Hall, and Lord Selborne, who advised them that the surplus was devoted charity. They accordingly founded with it the Convalescent Hospital at Bognor, instead of applying it to their own funds; and I recommended the Wax Chandlers Company to do the same, but they thought it would take away so large a portion of their funds that they declined to do it. An information was filed. It was heard first before Lord Romilly and then before Lord Hatherley, who decided in favour of the Company. It then went before the House of Lords, who decided that I had been right in holding it to be a charity, and the whole surplus was then handed over as a charitable trust. I do not remember at this moment any other case.
14. (Mr. Firth.) The case which related to the hospital at Bognor was that of the Attorney-General v. Donkin, was it not?—That was first established under the voluntary act of the Merchant Taylors' Company after my suggestion, but when the Wax Chandlers' Company had been proceeded against and had succeeded in obtaining judgment in their favour from Lord Romilly, and a second judgment in their favour from Lord Hatherley, the Merchant Taylors' Company thought they had made a mistake, and filed an information for the purpose of getting a more satisfactory construction in their interest; but when the House of Lords decided the other way they dropped their proceedings.
16. But that difference made the difference in the decisions, did it not?—The first decision was that of Lord Romilly; he thought it was not a charity, and Lord Hatherley was not satisfied about it sufficiently, he said, to overrule Lord Romilly. Then the matter went before the House of Lords, and they determined that it was a charity.
17. (The Chairman.) Has there been any inquiry into the charities of the Companies since 1865?—I think there has upon a few occasions where some questions have arisen. I do not think I have had any myself. There has been no inquiry of any considerable importance, I believe.
18. I do not know whether I am right in assuming that your reports are unpublished and have not been printed?—They have not been printed; the reports of the City Parochial Charities have all been printed, but not of the Companies.
20. Have you any idea what would be the bulk of your reports if it were found desirable to publish them?—I fear that it would be found to be a very voluminous document of a great many hundred folio pages.
24. I should like to put it to you generally whether in regard of the administration of those charities you have any general idea of such reform as might be proper to be adopted, whether you have formed in your own mind any general plan of dealing with them?— About three or four years ago there was a poor law conference, at which Lord Hampton was in the chair, which requested me to give my views as to the administration of endowments. I am looking at the printed copy of what I then said, and I find that the best answer to your question which I might give you now is set forth in this printed paper (handing in the same). I recommended that the employment of endowments should be of an elevating tendency. One passage I will read,— Twenty years ago, or more, when a new scheme was first about to be devised for the college of Dulwich, I thought that, with regard to its eleemosynary branch, an experiment might deserve to be tried for encouraging and promoting a systematic habit of providence and foresight among the poorer inhabitants of the populous districts interested in that great endowment. As one mode of doing this I suggested the appropriation of some sites on the vast Dulwich estate, lying between Denmark Hill and the Crystal Palace, for the erection, by the Charity funds, of some cottages, models of convenience and beauty, which might be occupied freely or on especially favourable terms by labourers of the parishes of St. Luke's, St. Botolph's St. Saviour's, or Camberwell, who having been in the ordinary condition of their class, should prove themselves to have spent the best years of their lives industriously and providently, and to have brought up their children well. Such cottages, named, say, the 'Reward of Abstinence,' would be standing monitors of the value of selfdenial, temperance, economy, and foresight."
26. Have you gone at all into the question of how far those companies have been really connected in former times with the trades whose names they bear? —It seems to me that that question is most perfectly answered in the short summary given by Sir Francis Palgrave, in his report to this Commission, which is contained in this printed paper which I have before me. He says, "Considered as distinct or special communities, the companies were probably in their original conformation, not so much trading societies as trade societies instituted for the purpose of protecting the consumer or the employer against the incompetency or fraud of the dealer or the artizan, and equally with the intent of securing a maintenance to workmen trained to the art according to the notions of early times, by preventing his being undersold in the labour market by an unlimited number of competitors. Furthermore the companies acted as domestic tribunals, adjudicating or rather arbitrating between man and man, and settling disputes, thus diminishing hostile litigation and promoting amity and goodwill. They were also in the nature of benefit societies, from which the workman, in return for the contributions he had made when in health and vigour, to the common stock of the guild, might be relieved in sickness or when disabled by infirmities or age. This character speedily attracted donations for other charitable purposes from benevolent persons who could not find any better trustees than the ruling members of these communities, and hence arose the numerous charitable gifts and foundations now entrusted to their care." It could not I think have been better described.
27. But as we understand it from the earliest times, or at any rate for the last two centuries or more, the right of membership in a company has been hereditary? —Mostly so; the separation from the trade mainly resulted from their constitution, the succession was to be kept up by the children of the traders and their apprentices; but naturally in a few years afterwards they frequently ceased to be of the same trade. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth the Queen sent to the Mercers' Company to know why silks were so dear, and the Queen, it is said, marvelled much to learn that only one or two of the Company knew anything about silks at all.
28. (Mr. Walter James.) Do you consider that those companies form part of the municipal corporation of the city of London? (fn. 1)—Undoubtedly at present they form a part of it.
30. Do you think you may say that the Companies are public bodies in the sense that you might speak of them as municipal bodies?—I think they are very much in the nature of municipal bodies, having a partially municipal character, but being also beyond a municipal body,—having another function, and a main function greater than their municipal function.
31. But supposing that in any legislation which might be projected in the course of the next few years the Common Hall were abolished and the connexion between the Corporation and those Companies were severed, the Companies would be then essentially private bodies, would they not?—Not private bodies; the Companies would then be essentially bodies constituted with a public object, and having that public object in view, of which we have a summary from Sir Francis Palgrave's report.
34. Do you think there is anything at the present moment preventing the Companies going into liquidation, winding up their affairs, and dividing their property amongst the existing members of the courts?— I do not think there is anything, unless some authoritative action of the State intervened. We know lately that a body like Serjeant's Inn, having a constitution not framed for the exclusive benefit of any individuals, but framed to have a special object, thought proper to dissolve. There was nothing to stand in the way, there was no individual interest to stand in the way, and no public interest of sufficient importance in the eyes of the State to induce it to interpose, so they were enabled to sell their property and to divide it amongst themselves. The doctors of Doctors Commons did the same, and I do not think it impossible, unless the magnitude and publicity of these Companies should stand in the way, that they might do the same.
35. Do you think this is a matter of such importance that the Legislature should take steps to prevent such a contingency and such a possibility?—I think so, certainly. We know that before the reform of Municipal Corporations took place, Corporations could have alienated their property, or might have applied the entire corpus of it to any purposes which could be held to be corporate purposes. They had full power over it; but under that Act they are prevented, without the consent of the Treasury, from alienating or leasing for more than 31 years any part of the corporate property. There is a clause in the Act of 1835 which interposes the authority of the Treasury to prevent such alienation; and if such a provision was necessary for the Municipal Corporations of the Kingdom I think it is necessary with regard to these Companies.
36. I believe that at the time of the passing of the Act of 1835 there were two classes of property with which that Act dealt; there was the trust property and there was the corporate property?—You remember the history of the Act. It went up from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, enabling the new corporations to have all the powers of the old over both properties, but in the House of Lords, it was suggested that as many of the new corporations would no longer be confined to members of the church of England, and as so many of the charities were founded by Church of England people for church purposes, it was undesirable that they should have the control of those charities; so they introduced the 71st Clause, providing that unless the new body for the management of those charities should be appointed by Parliament before the 1st of August 1836, a measure which I believe Lord Brougham had contemplated, the Court of Chancery should appoint new trustees for the charities.
37. What was done with the corporate property?— The corporate property was transferred by the Act of Parliament to the new corporations, but guarded with the stipulation that it should not be alienated without the consent of the Treasury.
38. Do you think that it would be a great act of violence, assuming that the Legislature thought proper at some future time that the corporate funds of those Companies, which you allege to be part of the Corporation of London, should be given to some general pur- poses for the benefit of the whole metropolis, as was done in the year 1835 when the corporate property which was in the hands of the old corporations was diffused, or the control over it was given to the whole body of the electors?—But the destination of that property was not altered. The new corporations were made generally elective, but the corporate property was employed, as it had been heretofore, for the benefit of the borough to which it belonged.
39. Do you think it would be any alteration of the destination of the corporate property of the Companies, if it were given more largely for purposes analogous to the trades indicated than it is at present?—With regard to the last question, I have ventured to put on paper the suggestion I would make, and it is this: that the connexion of the Companies with the arts, crafts and trades which according to the terms of their constitution they are designed to comprehend, should be restored, including within the latter all the analogous trades and industries which have grown out of, or been developed from, or into which the arts and crafts originally named have since expanded. The avocations included in the business of mercers, drapers, and haberdashers, and clothworkers, would embrace vast numbers of the working classes to whom an intimate association with bodies of the wealth and importance which these guilds have attained, may be made a source of great advantage. The members to be admitted may be of two main classes; those employed in the manufacture and those in the distribution of the several productions. The factories for production are now widely spread throughout the kingdom, and no persons engaged in them wherever situated, should be excluded. The distributive workers, as keepers of shops and those employed therein, might be confined, as the Companies now generally are, to London and the suburbs. (fn. 2)
40. You have had, I know, very great experience in the administration of these charities; do you think that the effect of these charities (I am speaking in a general sense) is mischievous, or do you think they are for the public good?—I think that all doles, and things of that kind, which are distributed as mere matters of favour and without any very rigid inquiry into the worth of the individuals, are generally mischievous, and are more likely to be causes of mischief than otherwise; almshouses, probably, less so than pensions. We find in the Charity Commission that a frequent object with regard to almshouses on the part of those bodies which possess them is to convert them into pensions, because the almshouse is a more severe test of want than a pension would be. I prefer, therefore, in those cases to preserve the test of the almshouse, rather than convert it into a pension, which is much more likely to be abused.
42. Do you think that the system is condemned generally by those in whose hands the giving of doles remains?—So far from objecting to it, they generally prefer to retain such gifts. One of the earliest cases, if I remember rightly, which attracted attention when the Charity Commission was formed, was the immense number of charities in the city of Coventry; numbers of people complained that the whole town of Coventry was demoralized by them, and the Commissioners endeavoured to bring in a scheme to diminish those doles. I think a former member for Coventry, who was consulted, said that any Bill of that kind it would be impossible for him to support; if he did it would be no use for him to go to Coventry any more.
43. Have you found amongst those who administered the charities of the city, and amongst those who felt them to be mischievous, that they have been desirous to come to you for fresh schemes?—I find generally a struggle against improved schemes; of course there are a number of public-spirited people who are anxious to introduce them, but I am afraid they form the minority.
44. Do you find that the city Companies come under that rule? (fn. 3)—They are not likely to come for any scheme: they consider themselves to be the best managers of their own funds.
45. There is a very large charity which, I think, belongs to the Ironmongers' Company, Betton's Charity, that was a charity for the release of captives in Barbary, I think?—That charity was divided into four portions; one-fourth was for schools in London, one-fourth for the members of the Ironmongers' Company, and two-fourths for the release of captives in Barbary. It was created at the beginning of last century. As time went on they found no captives in Barbary, and a large sum had accumulated, and an information was filed after the report of Lord Brougham's Commission for a new scheme. The Ironmongers said there were two purposes, schools and Ironmongers; divide the whole into two, and give the schools one half and the Ironmongers the other half; but the Court of Chancery thought that the Ironmongers' Company did not stand in need of this charity, therefore they gave the whole to the schools. The matter went on ultimately to the House of Lords. I remember seeing a shorthand note of what took place. Lord Campbell was the Lord Chancellor. He inquired what was meant by a ci-près application, and being told it meant the nearest to what the founder intended, he said, "if the schools of London are the nearest to the captives in Barbary they are a good way off." They determined then to give it to the Church schools throughout England to be distributed by the clergy; and it is the case now, that it goes to such. It was asked why give it to the Church of England schools, the captives in Barbary were not necessarily Church of England captives?
46. If there had been more public spirit upon the part of the Ironmongers' Company, do not you think that that large fund might have been given to some more worthy object?—There could be no more worthy object than education, I suppose.
47. But as regards the manner of distribution, do you not suppose that that had the effect of frittering away and wasting the fund?—At the time this took place, there were none but voluntary schools for national education in the kingdom, but now as education is compulsory it is a different matter. It should be employed as prizes and rewards for the children of the poor in the public elementary schools.
48. (Mr. Alderman Cotton.) With regard to the question of doles and pensions, I would ask what you consider to be a dole?—A dole would be a sum of money distributed, say, on Ash Wednesday, or Christmas Day, say half-a-crown to all poor people in the parish, or perhaps for bread to be given away at the church door, as is the case in many of the city parishes.
49. But your explanation does not apply to the City Companies. I wish to know in what way you would apply the word "dole" to the City Guilds, because as far as my knowledge of them goes there is scarcely a dole in existence; there are pensions?— I cannot at this moment tell what doles there are given by the Companies.
50. Perhaps you are aware that the doles of the city parishes have now been examined into by the Charity Commissioners, and that they form a large sum in the aggregate, and that some Bills are now in Parliament for the appropriation of those doles?—I am aware of that.
53. When the Charity Commission looked into the trusts of the various guilds they were found, considering the long time they ran back to, to have been most honestly, straightforwardly, and well administered, was not that so?—I do not know that any verdict of that kind was found one way or another; but I do not know on the other hand that any fault was found with them.
56. Yes, all the charities of the guilds are under the control of the Charity Commissioners?—I did not know that they had the smallest control over them. They have an account of them sent to them, but I do not think they can say, Yes or No to any proposed gift.
58. Not for the guilds generally but for each guild? —But even if the scheme has been settled, it ceases to be under the control of the Charity Commissioners; a scheme is only another way of disposing of the fund. When a fund is given away, say to schools, the Charity Commissioners have no control over it any more than the executive government have.
60. Then it comes to this: that the only funds left in the hands of a guild, if I am correct, are those which are their own property absolutely; that is to say, moneys accumulated from moneys paid by freemen and liverymen, and moneys which past testators who are dead and gone have left us entirely for the benefit of the Company, there is nothing else; is that your opinion?—In the first place I think there are very few cases in which Companies have applied for schemes or have had schemes, and what I say is that the Charity Commissioners have no power to impose a scheme unless the Companies apply for it. I do not know of any Company having applied for it, I will not say there are none, because the matter need not pass under my observation. As regards the last question, it is impossible to say that the only funds they administer are those that have been given to them absolutely, because as far as I know they administer now their own funds completely.
61. The funds they now administer are those which they believe to be their own moneys, and there is no trust in connexion with them in any way whatever; they are as much the property of the body as the property of any nobleman or gentleman in the kingdom is his?—That is a principle I cannot admit. I hold, not that they are given to them personally, but that they are given to them publicly for a purpose, which if it be not an expressed, is an implied trust, and that it would be a dishonest thing if the Companies took that property and divided it amongst themselves; that it would be a breach of duty and a thing which would never be permitted, except, perhaps, in cases where the whole property was so small that the State would not interfere.
62. Do you recollect some evidence which you gave with regard to the Grocers' Company, in which you used these words: "There can be no doubt that in the case of these ancient and liberal bodies the funds are practically secure"?—I trust they are.
66. Do you recollect that before Lord Brougham's Commission the Merchant Taylors' Company said that they not merely carried that out, but that they expended 38l. in those purposes?—That I do not remember, but I have no doubt it was so.
67. That action resulted in the ci-près doctrine being applied to that case?—I do not think there was any suit, because, if I remember that case rightly, the Company without any suit at all took the advice of their own counsel and acted upon it. I think they took the advice of Lord Selborne and Sir Charles Hall.
69. The only further question I wish to ask you upon this case is this: whether you can form any estimate from your knowledge of what the amount of property of the Companies is, in which that mode of procedure has been adopted, that is to say, in which a specific sum has been set apart for specific purposes, and the balance kept by the Companies for their own purposes?—It would require going through volumes of figures before I could answer that question. I think most of the Companies have property under those conditions. There are cases of the Grocers' and the Skinners' Companies. Property given to them 300 years ago to pay, say, 20l. a year for some charitable purpose, without more, the entire property beyond the 20l. goes to the Company. It has been held that when there is no express gift of the residue to the Company, but that all you can show is that the property then disposed of was worth so much as the amount given for the charity, the residue not being mentioned, the Company was bound only to pay the specific sum, and may carry the residue to their own funds.
70. Is not that the decision in the Wax Chandlers' case?—No. The cases which you refer to, in which the principle was settled, were the Attorney-General v. the Skinners' Company, and the Attorney-General v. the Grocers' Company, the latter being reported in the 6th Bevan, page 526. In those cases they were held only charged to pay the specific sums. In the case of the Mayor of Bristol, reported in the 2nd Jacob and Walker, page 294, the same principle was affirmed.
71. Are there, within your knowledge, cases where money has been left to the Companies to invest in land for charitable purposes, and where they have only returned an account of the income without returning an account of the investment?—There have been cases of this kind both with the Companies and with parishes in which sums of money have been given to them at certain times, and we find not only in London but in the case of the merchant venturers in Bristol and other places, that in a short time after receiving the gift they have bought lands with those moneys, which lands are perhaps now ten times their original value, but they do not say that they invest specifically that money in land; they invest their own money in land—they take this gift and place the proceeds in their own chest. The purchase has happened so soon after the bequest of the legacy or the gift, that it is impossible not to suspect that the money employed in the purchase of the land was the money left by the legacy.
72. But still you have no proof?—It is impossible. No evidence could be forthcoming. A legacy is given of 1,000l. in 1750, and in 1751 they buy a property of more or less value, but you cannot prove strictly that the one is bought with the other.
74. Are you aware that in many or nearly all the old charters the Companies were endowed with power to hold land contrary to the Statute of Mortmain for the benefit of the poor?—That is so. (fn. 4)
I believe the law in such cases is powerless. You can not get a specific trust enabling the courts of justice to deal with those things. It is only when the case is of great magnitude, like the Irish Church, that it is felt incumbent upon the State to deal with it, or where a powerful section of the people is interested, as in the case of Dissenters' chapels. Take the case of Lady Hewley's Charity; she left, about the beginning of the last century, an estate for the benefit of ministers of the gospel. About 1750, and up to about the end of that century, the whole of the trustees were Unitarians, and no persons were appointed but Unitarians. Then the suit of the Attorney-General v. Shore was filed. It was found that Lady Hewley's friends were all Trinitarians, and the court therefore came to the opinion that she did not intend the money for the teaching of Unitarian principles, and the Court of Chancery, after several suits, which the solicitors say cost 24,000l., settled a new scheme, appointing Independents, Baptists, and Presbyterians as trustees. It was said that the effect of that would be to change the administration of numerous chapels all over the country that had been in the same condition, and to avert that change they were strong enough then to get an Act of Parliament to settle the question. The Dissenters Chapels Act (7 & 8 Vict. c. 45.) enacted: that where there was no deed of trust regulating the doctrines, opinion, or mode of worship, the usage of the last 25 years should be sufficient authority. It was said that this saved 500 chapels from being taken out of Unitarian hands. The courts of law would have been appealed to, and would have gone on dealing continually in the same way if there had not been a party strong enough to get an Act of Parliament for their protection; and so, no doubt, these Companies, unless there be a body strong enough to prevent it, can get rid of the property in any way they please.
77. Supposing there were a general desire on the part of the trades to get admission to the Companies, would you say that all the rights were now dormant as to public admission?—If any member of a trade applied to a solicitor and asked whether he should take proceedings to be admitted to a Company, I do not think he would be advised to do so.
78. I am asking it as a legal question, whether members of those trades have not a right to join in the benefits and advantages of a Company, whatever they may be, and become members of it?—I doubt it. Take, for instance, the Haberdashers' Company; shall we suppose a tradesman, say, Peter Robinson, applies to be admitted a Haberdasher, then what would be the course to be taken; must he take out a mandamus to compel them to admit him? If he did the Company would plead the custom of three or four centuries of not admitting people with no greater claim than those he could put forward.
79. I will put the case rather more clearly. I will give you the case of a poor tailor having the right of admission to the Merchant Taylors' Company, the Merchant Taylors' Company possessing funds for the benefit of poor tailors?—I do not know what his position would be, or whether a court of law would establish his right. I do not think I should advise him myself to take proceedings against the Merchant Taylors' Company to be admitted; nothing but an Act of Parliament could give him his proper place in the Company.
80. I wish to ask you a question about a clause of the Act of 1835, with reference to the property of corporations; are you aware that in the case of the Corporation of Leeds before the Act, the Corporation divided property amongst themselves which they were afterwards compelled to refund?—I never heard of that case, but I daresay it is very possible. I was lately looking at the case of Colchester, in which Lord Eldon said that he could not interfere in the matter, unless it appeared that the property had been applied to purposes certainly and distinctly not corporate, leaving this inference, that if it had been applied to purposes not corporate he would have interfered.
83. Were not you aware, with respect to the control of the Crown, that the byelaws required the consent of the Crown, and that the rules of the Company received ordinarily the sanction of the Lord High Treasurer, and the Lord Chief Justice in the Common Pleas, down to within 150 years ago?—I was not aware of that.
84. Taking your general opinion of this property, do I understand that you regard the whole of the property of these Companies, having regard to their history, their character and existence, as public property?—As public property. In the year 1869, I wrote an article in the "Fornightly Review," to show the distinction between private property and public property, showing that everything must either be public or private. I treated the matter with all the consideration I could then bring to bear upon it, and in case any reference should be made to it I have brought it here for the use of the Commission. (Fortnightly Review, vol. II., p. 284.)
85. Have you, in your own judgment, matured any scheme or idea as to a proper appropriation of this property?—With regard to the last matter that is indicated in the printed note for their examination, I have ventured to put on paper what I should suggest, and with the permission of the Commission I would beg to read it. (The witness read a paper commencing "My suggestion for the reform," for which see Appendix.)
86. (Mr. Firth.) You spoke of some means of utilizing the Companies in connexion with the trades whose names they bear; now are you aware that there are a large number of Companies bearing the names of non-existent trades, and have you considered their case as well?—It seemed to me that in those cases the articles comprehended in the trades and arts which those Companies were designed originally to prosecute, had some connexion with something which is now done. I presume that the article is now made by some other body or some other person. If a thing has gone altogether into disuse, then I suppose that some other article is manufactured in lieu of it.
87. (Sir Sydney Waterlow.) From your answer to the Chairman's last question, and from the remarks you have just made, I gather that you were of opinion that the corporate property of the Livery Companies should be, in some way or other, appropriated for the benefit of the workmen and others connected with the trade?—That is so.
88. Then I would ask you whether you consider, as far as it goes, that the present effort of the Livery Companies, the Clothworkers and Drapers, for example, to teach the work-people the modes of cloth-making and dyeing, is a form of benefiting persons connected with the trade from the corporate funds of the Company?—I think they are endeavouring to carry that out as well as they can do in the technical colleges which they are establishing and supporting.
90. I am speaking of the corporate property which must be, as you say, either public or private; but have you considered from any investigation of the terms and conditions under which the property was left to the Companies at different times, whether the property left since the trading Companies exercised any control over the trade has not more of a private character than the property which belonged to them at the time when they were essentially trading Companies?—I do not think it has anything more of a private character.
91. In the year 1834 you are aware that a man named Thwaites, living close to the Clothworkers' Hall, left 20,000l. to the Company, with the distinct direction that they were "to make themselves comfortable;" do you think that a property left with such a distinct direction is not private property?—I would beg leave to answer that question by asking another, did that mean that the living persons should be made comfortable, or that they and their successors should be made comfortable?
92. I can only give the words. I do not venture to interpret them.—Then I think connecting the Company historically with the trade to which it belongs, that it meant "to make the traders comfortable."
93. Although it was left by a person who lived when the Company did not exercise any control over the trade and had no connexion with it?—But then they owed their existence and their continuance to the name which they bore; therefore I think they would act under false pretences if by and by they were to say, "We have nothing to do with this trade the name of which we have adopted, and which we have borne."
94. Should you consider that the appropriation of that money by the Company to a public dinner for themselves and their friends was an improper appropriation of the gift?—I think it is quite open to the interpretation that they were to make themselves comfortable in that way upon the funds of the trust. I do not find any moral fault and I do not find any legal fault with them, but I am now speaking of something higher. We are supposing that these institutions should be administered hereafter with a view to public utility, and with that view we are not to be governed by the particular tastes of those individuals, whether they wish to have an entertainment or not; but should consider the public interest as being of more importance than the special interest of those persons who have taken upon themselves this implied trust.
95. Do I understand you that the express directions of a testator who left money during the last half century ought to be varied by Parliament or by some other authority, because in the opinion of the public or the authority, whatever it may be, the bequest was not sufficiently useful?—I give the testator every credit for wishing to do his duty, and benefit those he left behind him.
98. Is it not a fact that within the last few years the Charity Commissioners themselves have so far sanctioned that principle that they have allowed the property to be relieved of a specific payment by the investment of sufficient money in Consols to produce the specific sum, and given the Company thereby a title to the property which would be a saleable title? —The courts of law have decided that if an estate be devised, and the devisee is directed to pay a certain sum of money to A. B., he may pay that sum of money and keep the estate; so the Companies have been allowed to invest the money in Consols to produce the specific sum required.
100. And with regard to the charitable income, they have only a knowledge of that when the Companies have applied for new schemes?—Under the Charitable Trusts Act they are obliged to send out accounts annually.
101. But unless you challenge them, or have a new scheme, practically no inquiry is made into the trust property?—There is no jurisdiction beyond that, and if the Commissioners consider the administration to be improper, they certify that fact to the AttorneyGeneral, and probably the Attorney-General would authorise proceedings if he thought it expedient.
102. With regard to the control of the corporation over the city Companies, you are aware that 200 years ago the corporation had such power, and did levy contributions from the city Companies?—There were many arbitrary acts committed then, and I suppose the investments in Ireland and elsewhere were made owing to some force not constitutional and legal, but by some force which acted upon the Companies; they were not obliged to do it by Act of Parliament.
103. It was done by municipal power?—A municipal power which, if it had been tried in courts of justice, would not have received the sanction of the law, or have been carried into effect by the authority of the State.
104. Was it not the fact that no person could be a member of the corporation who was not a member of one of the Livery Companies, and that, therefore, to some extent they were identified with one another?— No doubt.
105. Are you aware that of recent years the necessity of being connected with the Company was abolished, and that a man may be a member of the corporation though not a member of a Company?— That is so.
106. (Mr. Alderman Cotton.) Are you aware that within the last two years a sum of money has been left by will to the Ironmongers' Company to provide an annual dinner for ever for the members of the Company?—I am not aware of that. (fn. 5)
108. I thought you stated to Sir Sydney Waterlow that you would not use the money for dining purposes though it was so left?—I say, preserving all those purposes, there are still funds enough left to the Companies to be of great public use.
109. You know that the City Guilds are most largely interested in educational questions; there are many exhibitions tenable at the Universities, and then there are classical schools and middle class schools; and that generally a very large amount of good is done in the matter of education by the City Guilds?—I hope to see their utility in that way very largely increased.
110. (The Chairman.) In reference to questions which have just been put to you as to the money given to a Company for the purpose of being spent in an annual dinner, do you think it right that money should be set aside in perpetuity for a purpose which is not one of public utility?—I do not think it is. I think it is lawful, but I think there may be many other lawful things, not desirable, and that that state of things should be put an end to.
113. (Mr. W. James.) Have you found in connexion with the administration of the charities, that large sums of money are spent in connexion with the management of the charities?—I have generally found in most cases that there is a certain per-centage charged in that way. With regard to legal expenses there is a vast deal spent which might be avoided. In the case of Lady Hewley's Charities the costs as I have mentioned were 24,000l.
114. (Sir S. Waterlow.) That was not the case of a Livery Company; but is it not a fact that nearly all the 12 Livery Companies pay the cost of managing their trust property out of their corporate income?— I am not aware of that.
115. (Lord Coleridge.) You would hardly say, would you, that if this money left for dinners were appropriated to anything useful it would be a breach of trust?—Certainly not; I should call it a wiser use.
116. (Lord Sherbrooke.) I understand you that if any reform is needed, it must be sought for by Act of Parliament and not by legal proceedings at all?—I think that legal proceedings in the case of these Companies would be perfectly useless; that the courts could not take them up.
117. (Lord Coleridge.) It is obvious to lawyers, and I have no doubt you will agree with me, that those Companies could not hold a shilling of property without the artificial aid of the law?—Certainly not.
118. (Mr. Firth.) Have you formed a conclusive opinion as to bodies of this kind holding land in mortmain for public advantge?—That is a subject upon which I ventured some time ago to publish a pamphlet. It seems to me that the Mortmain Act under which estates cannot now be devised for charitable purposes, is one which has kept an enormous amount of benefit from the country. During the century and a half that the Act has existed there would have been an enormous amount of property dedicated to public uses, which the State might have taken up and dealt with in a profitable manner. The object of the Act as stated in the preamble was that the heirs to land should not be disinherited. A Bill was brought into the House of Commons a few years ago, by Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Walter Morrison, to place estates in mortmain under State surveyors in districts; that they should have the letting and management of properties having regard to population, to drainage, and to making the most of it. Managed in this manner, we could not have too much property devoted to public uses; but the Mortmain Act has been a great disadvantage in preventing that which might have been done in the way of inducing the greater productiveness of the property, the greater benefit of all who labour upon it, and the interest of the public at arge.
120. That it would be better managed when it is managed on behalf of the State, or some public Company? —That such a scheme as was contemplated by the proposed Bill would do much to lessen the inequalities of fortune,—that you might have all over the country small tenants, persons living in better dwellings, and generally more comfortably circumstanced. I may say, that I think the Mortmain Act has been unfortunate, not in the sense that the land has been saved from the dead hand. I want it rather to be in the live hand, managed as the Greenwich Hospital estates in the north were by their agent, John Grey.
121. I understand you to say that you consider it to be a matter of public advantage that land should continue to be held by corporations of this kind, and its commercial character taken completely away?—I would wish its commercial character to assume the form of tenancies which could be created for the occupiers, for terms of years of a sufficient duration to make them beneficial, so that as much as possible should be produced from it, and that the benefit of it should be diffused as widely as possible. Such leases for years would be more saleable than the fee simple.
122. Assuming the landed property to be managed according to those principles, do not you think that the net return from it would be less to the Company or to the State than if the money were put into the funds ?—I cannot answer that question. A comparison of the relative profit from the two moneys would be purely speculative.
120. (Sir Sydney Waterlow.) Supposing the land held by the large hospitals of London had been dealt with as you propose, would they have had anything like the funds they have for hospital purposes?—I think they would probably have had more.
121. (The President.) In reference to an answer which you gave the other day to a question put by Lord Coleridge as to the tenure on which the City Companies hold their land, is it not the fact that they hold it on a different tenure from that of any other corporation?—I am not aware that the Companies generally do so; I believe they hold it as other Companies do.
122. I understand that you produce specimens of your reports, and also volumes containing the reports upon which your reports are based?—Yes, here are the reports which were made from all the Companies to the Charity Commissioners; they are furnished to this Commission by the Secretary of the Charity Commissioners. I identify them as my reports.
123. I have read the suggestion which you have made to us with regard to the proposed reform of the Companies. If I understand the principle of that suggestion it turns mainly on this: that the whole connexion of the Companies with the trades which they represent ought to be renewed and made effective? —Exactly.
124. Then I presume that, under those circumstances, the hereditary right to become a member of a Company must disappear?—No, by no means; the hereditary right would disappear only in those cases in which a member of the Company were not of the same trade or an analogous trade.
125. You would practically confine membership of Companies to working members and the trades which they represent?—The trades which they represent, and analogous trades which have grown out of them. It would involve a very liberal construction. In one newspaper, the "Daily Chronicle," there were advertisements the other day for persons who were members of certain trades, and there were 200 or 300 persons advertised for as of trades which would have come under one general description; therefore the number admitted under an arrangement of this kind would be vastly enlarged.
126. Do you consider that it would be in the power of Companies to re-organise and to spend their funds in a manner which would be beneficial to the trades in which they are concerned?—It would have to be an organisation suited to the present day, substituted for an organisation of centuries ago, which is unfitted for the present time.
127. Will you explain a little more in detail what kind of organisation you refer to, or what services the Companies could render to an organisation in connexion with the trades?—In the first place they would be members of the Company; they would then be able to obtain from the books of the Company, and from the clerks of the Company, information as to where this trade was being carried on and the situations where work might be best obtained; there would be something like the interchange of workmen which existed not very long ago in Germany, when it was almost the habit of every German workman to go from one town to another, and he was not considered fitted for his work until he had visited different places. We should have an organisation enabling workmen of every trade to know where their industry would be most profitably employed. Accounts could be kept of their children and families, and the schools to which the children could be most beneficially sent; and there would be an organisation by means of which a degree of information would be obtained which cannot be obtained by any single workman; and if he were connected in this way with all the persons who have the most perfect information of the condition of his trade, he would at all times be told where he could obtain work, and where his children could be instructed, and he could be assisted by the capital of the Company in obtaining in all the great centres of trade a residence and other things. I may show that this is not a mere speculative idea of a person who has given no attention to the matter. Sir Thomas Brassey, the honourable member for Hastings—and no man has had more experience of workmen, and knows more of the relations between them and their employers,—in an address which he delivered in Halifax in 1874, points out how this combination could be most beneficially organised, and the effect that it has had in some places where it has been adopted. He points out how great a boon was conferred upon a large number of workmen at the Carron works by the establishment there of a workmen's kitchen by Mr. Colman. He also pointed out what is done at Mulhausen by the Cité Ouvrière, and by M. Godin by the establishment of the "familistère," or general dwelling-house for his operatives and their families at Guise; and he points out these things as being modes by which capitalists and labourers can be brought together to assist each other, and by which the present estrangement and separation existing between workmen and employers may be arrested and put an end to.
128. I understand that you would wish the Companies to be centres of accurate and authentic information on trade subjects, which information might be obtained by any workmen who applied for it?—Certainly.
129. And you think that in our present industrial system there is room for a centre of that kind?— These Guilds, when they began, were the first method of co-operative organisation in trades, which they have ceased to be from a variety of circumstances that have happened during several centuries, and now we have an opportunity of bringing back again that real co-operation suited to the present day. I should specially call attention to Sir Thomas Brassey's work upon this subject.
130. (Mr. Pell.) In manufacturing co-operation, or in distributing co-operation?—In manufacturing cooperation, not necessarily co-operation in production, but co-operation in the condition of the labourers, by which they can have an opportunity of culture in home life, and assistance in the instruction of their children, and advice connected with their occupations; it would be an organisation which would bring them into beneficial association with capital, and with the different institutions of the country.
131. (The President.) Do you also contemplate any educational work to be done by the Companies in connexion with their special trades?—Yes. I have now before me a pamphlet published by the Guilds, who have taken up, in a way the most creditable to themselves, and in the most noble manner, technical instruction, which cannot be too widely developed. They recognise their duty, and they have taken it up in a manner which I consider highly creditable.
132. (Mr. Alderman Cotton.) When you recommend that the craftsmen of the various trades ought to be members of the respective Guilds of the craft to which they belong, would you destroy the interest of the present members of the various Guilds, in order to put these men in their place?—By no means. I should consider that they had acquired, by the position in which they are placed, an interest in the Guild which cannot be destroyed.
133. You merely give it as a suggestion, that we might help the artisans of various trades?—Yes, and unite yourselves with them, with the real social trade organisation, but by no means destroying the present Guilds.
134. Are you aware that some of the Companies have done their best to promote technical education, and have offered prizes, without any reply to it at all?—That has been from the misfortune that there is no such thing as education of the kind in the country.
135. The Saddlers' Company, for three or four years, attempted it, and the Haberdashers' also attempted it, but they had no response. The Duke of Cambridge patronised the scheme of the Haberdashers' Company for two or three years, and they offered prizes and did their best to make the artisan come in and improve his work, and suddenly we had a letter from the duke to say that he thought we had gone as far as we could go, and the offered prizes were withdrawn, and it ended?—We are behind foreign countries in this. This book, which the Guilds have printed, gives an account of what is done at Chemnitz, in Saxony, which seems to be infinitely beyond anything attempted here; but our Companies are endeavouring now to follow that example by the great work which they have lately undertaken.
136. (The President.) You have said that children of members of these Companies should receive some special education from them?—That they should be able to do so; that a man should be able to go to the officers of the Company and say, "Where can I get the best education for my children?" and they could enter the names and keep a record of them, and he would feel that he was part of this great society, and that his children might also become participators in the same benefit.
137. You also contemplate that the Companies should take some steps for providing better lodgings for the members of the trades?—It seems to me that, wherever there are great centres of industry, there is nothing so necessary to the well-being of a tradesman and the well bringing up of his family as something like a home which he may call his own; and these Companies may enable him to become the purchaser of a home for a term of years, reserving the fee entirely to themselves. The largest outlay for a working man is what he pays weekly for his rent, and if he could know that, by some economy of his own, he would be able to purchase a dwelling for 30 or 40 years and have no more rent to pay, it would be the greatest inducement to good behaviour that could possibly be given to that man.
138. But is not that want to a considerable extent provided for by building societies?—I do not think it is provided for. Of course Sir Sydney Waterlow and others have done much, but it is far from being provided for, and they have not in those cases given them such a permanent interest in the building itself as I should like to give them, by which a man might be able to say, "I have provided a house for myself and family for the rest of my life." It would be a security; he would be certain of getting his daily bread as long as he could work, and the certainty of having provided for his rent would be a great thing with a workman.
139. Another part of your scheme, as I understand it, is that some portion of the funds of the Company should be expended in an eleemosynary manner, in the way of supplying almshouses or pensions, or allowances of that kind, to old members of the trade who are in unfortunate circumstances?—That is now a part of our present charitable system. The Companies hold trusts for that purpose, which they may, I suppose, find means of wisely administering, by making a selection amongst those of their members who have been the most deserving, and the most prudent in life, and not making it a bonus for carelessness or indifference.
140. I gather that your scheme mainly includes four separate objects: Firstly, that the Company should be a centre of information for the trade; secondly, that it shall supply education, at least technical education, to the trade; thirdly, that it shall supply, in some manner or another, house accommodation to the members of the trade; and lastly, that it shall make provision for aged and disabled members?—Certainly, to make provision and to encourage providence on the part of those persons.
141. Have you considered at all, if the whole funds of the Companies are to be expended in this manner, what would become of their buildings, their halls?— The halls would be very well preserved as a centre to which all those affiliated members that. I speak of would very probably belong. They would be open to them for occasional lectures and public meetings, and also for entertainments, which, in moderation, I see no objection to.
144. How many Companies have any remnant of that at the present moment?—That is a question which it would be difficult to answer—many of the Companies have now split into so many trades. Take the Drapers', Haberdashers', and Mercers', they now embrace so many industries of modern times that they would at least bring in a considerable portion of the working population of the country.
145. I mean actually connected now, like the Goldsmiths' Company?—Three or four of the Companies have some connexion with other trades. The Apothecaries' are under an Act of Parliament, the 55th of George III. Then there are the Scriveners', under the 41st of George III.; then there are the Founders', under the 41st and 42nd Victoria; then there are the Gunmakers', under the 31st and 32nd Victoria—they have some connexion with the trade; and there are the Goldsmiths', under the 7th and 8th of Victoria.
147. I will not ask you further about that, but I understand it is not part of your scheme to give to any of those concerned the power to connect themselves with other trades or to enlarge the powers of those Companies that have connexion now ?—No; I was not endeavouring to enlarge their powers, but only their useful functions.
148. You do not propose in your scheme that the Company should have anything to do with the matter of wages, I presume?—Not at all. What they would be enabled to do would be to inform their members what the condition of trade in various places is, and what the rate of wages is; it would be only a matter of information.
149. Do you propose that the Companies should extend their operations beyond London?—Beyond London—to all productive places. I take this to be the case, that with regard to London one thing was connected with distribution and the other thing connected with production, and that which was formerly centred with London has extended throughout the country. I have worked this out in a rough shape. I think that the London Companies should invite affiliated companies in Birmingham and Manchester and the other great towns to join them, and thus they would have affiliated companies dealing with them upon the same principle. The very circumstance that the London Company invited the association would act as a great impulse on the other towns to start a company in communication with them.
151. Then any member that came into that company would naturally expect to receive considerable benefit from it?—I do not think they would necessarily receive any direct pecuniary benefit, but they would receive greater means of knowledge.
152. I thought you spoke of having something done in the way of the education of his children, and enabling him to get a house to live in, and persons to assist him, for which he should pay nothing?— Nothing in the way of charity. No accommodation in point of dwellings should be given without the most perfect remuneration to the company, recouping the company what they pay; it should be co-operation, in fact.
154. What is to become of the 20,000l. a year, because if all these people are to pay for everything they receive afterwards—I do not see what is to become of it?—By the time you have established it— by the time you have gone on with your technical education, giving prizes, taking the names of all the children of the members of the company, and the schools which they go to, which would begin with public elementary schools, taking them there, and giving rewards and prizes, and exhibitions at technical colleges, and giving travelling fellowships to workmen going to other countries where their trades are carried on, a good deal would be expended.
155. How do you propose that these members should be elected?—A certificate that a man has been carrying on a certain trade, and the payment of a small admission fee, should be sufficient to entitle him to be elected.
157. But I understand you to say that there must be a sufficient payment, either at starting or year by year, to cover all the pecuniary benefits which he would receive from the company?—All the benefits which he would be entitled to receive from the company covering those, but not covering the advantage which his children would gain by being encouraged to exertion by getting prizes for exertion, and not covering the advantages which he would have by his procuring lodgings and being able to purchase a house in which to live without any profit being exacted from him by a speculator. In work of this nature there are an immense number of details.
158. I only wanted to get the facts of the scheme, because I understand that in a benefit society the members always pay sufficient to cover everything which they can possibly receive afterwards?—That is so, I suppose.
159. (Sir Sidney Waterlow.) Did I rightly understand you to say, in answer to the President's general question, that you would divide the responsibility of the Companies under four heads: first, that they were to be a centre of information for the trade, in order to look after the interests of the workmen; then, that they were to promote technical education; then, that they were to provide houses for the workmen; and then, that they were, fourthly, to make eleemosynary and charitable contributions?— They will do all those things; but I do not limit it to that.
160. With regard to the first, do you not think that the workmen, as a body, would object to the regulations affecting their personal or trade interests being deputed to the masters, when they have organisations for controlling and managing them themselves— places where persons wanting workmen may go, and places where workmen seeking employment may wait. There are, connected with each trade in London, places of that kind; do you not think the workmen would be jealous, and think it an undue interference by the masters, if they undertook that work?—I do not propose any interference. I thought that the officers of the Company might collect the best information they could get, and communicate that information to the members; but I did not presume to propose any interference.
161. Take the case of the Company which has the most connexion with the trade to which its name is attached; namely, the Stationers' Company, which, I think you are aware, is still carrying on the trade of printing, as it did under its original charter; that Company still only admits persons connected with the trade, and that the workmen in that trade have organisations of their own for controlling the matters which you have referred to; do you not think that if the Stationers' Company, consisting of masters, interfered with that, they might feel that they were not the persons who ought to regulate the men's matters?—That Company, and also the Scriveners' Company, and one or two others, might be excepted. I speak of the larger and richer Companies, embracing trades in which thousands of persons throughout the country have employment, and who have now no organisation.
163. Do you think that it would be wise to entrust a person, unconnected wholly with the trade, with the management of hiring and settling the wages of persons wholly unconnected with the trade?—I would immediately introduce into these Companies persons fully connected with the trades and perfectly acquainted with them; in their present condition that could not be done. But my first proposal is to introduce members who shall be perfectly well acquainted with the trades.
165. Would you compel a Company to admit a person connected with the trade, whether they liked it or not?—Certainly a person connected with the trade, I should do so, unless there were objections with regard to character.
166. Then any workmen connected with the Coachmakers' trade you think should be admitted as members of the Coachmakers' Company?—If he is a workman actually employed in that trade, that fact should entitle him to admission.
167. What status would you give him, that of a freeman?—That of a member of the Company, call him what you please, "freeman" is rather an invidious title now, when most persons are free more or less; I should give him the title of member of the trade of Coachmakers.
168. Would you entitle him to become a member of the trade without payment of any entry fees, and would you permit him as such member to take his share of the funds of the Company?—I suggest the payment of an entrance fee.
169. How could a workman pay an entrance fee which would be at all approximate to the benefits which he would be entitled to derive?—I think that his benefits would be much more than his entrance fee, but I think an entrance fee may be properly required. I mean a small entrance fee; an entrance fee of a few shillings only would be enough.
170. Can you tell the Commission how long you think it is since the Companies generally, leaving out the exceptional ones, were connected with the trades to which their names belong?—When did they cease to admit members from servitude or patrimony?
172. I was admitted to my Company by servitude, but my Company constantly admit, every month, persons by servitude without patrimony?—You take the appellation and call yourself a member of that trade. You were admitted as a member of the Stationers' Company by servitude.
173. Would you entitle everyone to be admitted? —I do not know whether there is anything exceptional in the Stationers' Company, knowing no more about the Stationers' Company than the Mercers' Company, or any other. I should say that everybody should be admitted. There may be special advantages in the Stationers' Company which require exceptional rules; I cannot say whether it is so or not.
174. Turn from that, and take the Companies generally; how long is it, so far as you know from your researches, since the Companies generally were connected with the trades to which their names belonged?—I do not know when they were disconnected; if you mean by "connexion" actually prosecuting those trades themselves individually, that is another thing. I want to know when the Companies became disconnected with their trades. It seems to me that as long as you admit a member by patrimony or servitude, according to the original constitution of the Company, he does not cease to be a member of his trade.
175. Have you not stated that in the reign of Queen Elizabeth there was only one mercer in the Mercers' Company?—I was told that Queen Elizabeth sent to inquire why silk was so dear, and her Majesty marvelled much to find that there were only one or two mercers actually members of the Mercers' Company.
176. Did not that arise from the very early practice of admitting by patrimony only?—I daresay it did, but they were admitted as mercers, and the circumstance that the members of the Company ceased to be members of that trade was a mere accident; they might have ceased at one time, but they might have become so again the next year; it is merely an accidental circumstance that at one time, or for a certain period, they had ceased to be members of the trade, but they still went on taking that appellation of mercers, admitting their children by patrimony, and admitting other persons by servitude; and they still therefore, claim to have the title and benefit of the Mercers' Company.
177. From your knowledge of the constitution of the Companies generally, do you think there is more than one per cent. of the members of the Company connected with the trade to which the Companies belong?—They may not be actually carrying on the trade; probably they are not.
178. Has not that been the condition of things for two or three centuries?—That they are not actually carrying on the trade, I daresay, but I think they preserved their connexion with the trade; and they have recognised it now in their attempt to set up technical colleges, and in the other great efforts which they are making—they have always recognised their connexion with the trade, and have preserved it, and it has never ceased.
180. What would you do with the Companies where the trades are extinct?—I should endeavour to find out what the article of necessity or convenience was which the Company was in the habit of making. I should then find what had supplied the place of that article, and I should say that those who now supply the article substituted for the original one should be members of that Company. Take the bowyers; they were makers of small arms, and all makers of small arms would be properly the successors of bowyers.
181. Do I understand you seriously to suggest that a part of the duty of the Livery Companies should be to search for good lodgings for the working men connected with their trade?—What I say is this, that there are now great difficulties in finding lodgings; it is recognised by Sir Thomas Brassey in his book, and recognised in other books, that one of the modern difficulties not known to workmen when these Companies were established has arisen in consequence of the growth of the population covering the different places with houses, and the difficulty of obtaining comfortable lodgings in which they can feel themselves at home; it has grown up in modern times, and that is one of the difficulties which, if the Company had the means of doing it, should be part of their function to get rid of; they are great owners of real property, and that property may be exchanged, but they may be still owners of real property in great cities; they may still have the fee, and the right of dealing with it, so that the subordinate interests of the workmen may be carved out of it.
182. Do you not think that providing houses for the working classes would be better done by an organisation specially established for that purpose than by the Livery Companies?—I should think it would be one of such a great benefit to their members that the Livery Companies, supposing them to be actuated by a high sense of public duty, would be very anxious to assist in maintaining, and also thus in encouraging, the associations that are doing the same thing.
183. If the Coachmakers' Company established and constructed a block of model lodging-houses, would it not be very difficult to confine them to coachmakers, considering the migratory tendencies of all trades?— If a building of this kind existed in many great centres of trade, and a man chose to move from one to another, the Companies might easily arrange for his transportation from one place to another, as a co-operative body.
184. Then the Companies must act in unison, and not separately?—Yes, the Companies must act in unison, if they could; I do not see any difficulty in their doing so. Take one of the model dwellinghouses, for instance, where a man became a purchaser of two, three, or four rooms, and he has purchased them for a term of 30 years; he applies to remove to Birmingham, and he says, "Give me the value of the rest of my term of years. I want to exchange it for some premises where I am going if they can be had;" and the Company as a co-operative body may do so, not receiving any benefit, and not sustaining any loss. It seems to me that a great co-operative body of this kind is what you stand in need of to give the working men some interest in the institutions of the country in which they live.
185. You agree with me that it must be done collectively, and not by each Company specifically?— When a Company is wealthy enough to do so, if they have affiliated companies in Birmingham, Manchester, and other places, there may be communication between them enabling all this to be done. In a book which I published in the year 1862, on the Improvement of the Dwellings of the Poor, I said, "If the homes of the artisans in London were such as they ought to be, it might be possible to adopt a mode of interchange of labour, beneficial both to London and country workmen. With our facilities of transit the town workmen might often exchange his employment and his residence for a month or two with the workmen in the country or at the coast. This would offer again not only health and mental improvement, but some of the advantages to skilled labour afforded by the German system of travel amongst artificers."
187. Have any other schemes presented themselves to your mind except the one which I have got here in print ?—I am not at this moment prepared to say. Many suggestions cross my mind at different times, but I am not now prepared to go into them.
188. The result of a life's consideration is this which you have presented to us. Would you admit this much, that it is extremely difficult to apply any charitable funds without doing mischief?—Certainly.
190. I thought the principle of a charity was embodied in your scheme; you are to find better dwelling-houses or means by which houses could be acquired, and leisure ensured for the workmen, which could only be done by the use of corporate funds ?— By themselves becoming the owners of the fee, and by allowing the members of their body to take an interest to be carved out of it, either a life-interest or for short terms, not making a profit for the Company, but securing the Company from loss.
192. You admit that at present they have the means of helping each other; that there is a constant intercommunication going on between the workmen of the different trades, and that there are newspapers started, Mr. Alsager Hill's for instance, by which people can ascertain where workmen are required ?—Yes, I wish if possible to make the workmen feel that they have an interest in these great Companies, an interest which may make them friends of law and order, rather than feeling that the legislature regard them as persons having no interest in the country at all.
194. (Mr. Walter James.) Have you ever thought what you would do under your scheme with the municipal franchise, or the parliamentary franchise, which is possessed by the Guilds ?—What I have suggested in another place, as to the constitutional municipality of London, is that if you have a municipality for London, as has been suggested, with 240 members of the council, 40 of them should be chosen by the proprietors; and I would give to all these Companies, who are great proprietors, the amount of influence which their property would give them, which would be very considerable.
195. Then you would not altogether favour the connexion between the Companies and the Corporation, of which the Companies at the present time form an integral part ?—No, I should not favour it; I should recommend no greater connexion than that of any other citizen of London.
198. Can you imagine any reason, if there have been two inquiries into bodies like the Universities and colleges, why a public investigation should not be entered into of the affairs of the Companies ?— Certainly not; it seems to me that you are dealing with public property, which is distinct from private property.
199. You recollect all the investigations which have taken place, commencing so far back even as the year 1818, under Lord Brougham; there was great reluctance, was there not, during the progress of all these inquiries into the charities in the country, to give evidence?—I do not know that I have had an opportunity of communicating with any person as to what took place so long ago; there was an inquiry in the latter part of the last century, when returns were published.
201. There was great reluctance, was there not, on the part of all the trustees, to give evidence ?—Probably there might have been; they never would have obtained the information without statutory powers.
203. Why do you think statutory powers in that case were of such value in compelling the Companies to give information, because statutory powers cannot compel persons to speak ?—No, but if the question was not answered with reference to a trust, it would be contempt of the Court of Chancery, for which they might be committed.
204. There has been great opposition, at different times, ever since the year 1853, since the establishment of the Charity Commission, to any extension of the law of charitable trusts; that is so, is it not?—Several attempts have been made, but they have all failed. A bill was brought in by the present Commissioners last year, which did not pass. Great difficulty has always existed in getting any additional powers.
205. Did not the great opposition to any amendment of the law of charitable trusts or any interference with charitable bodies, and funds held by trustees for charitable purposes, arise about the year 1863, at which time, I believe, Mr. Gladstone proposed to impose taxation upon the charities, and other proposals of that kind were made ?—Yes, to get rid of the exemption; there is at present an exemption.
206. I do not want to go into that, but there was great opposition at that time; and I ask, has not the same opposition reappeared every time that any proposal has been made for altering the law with regard to charitable trusts ?—I do not think that many attempts have been made in the legislature to alter the law of charitable trusts.
208. If you had those powers which it was proposed to give you under the Act of last year and by that bill, do you not think there would be means of dealing with charities connected with the Companies, by which you would be prepared to put forward schemes for dealing with them with great public advantage ?—I daresay there would be.
209. Why is it that the Companies themselves do not propose to put forward schemes and put forward proposals ?—I apprehend that no public body likes to diminish its own power; and having now power to act according to their own discretion, they would see no necessity themselves, being satisfied with the way in which they administered their funds, for abrogating the powers and placing themselves under another rule.
210. If it was for the interest of the public, do you think that they would diminish their own powers ?— In many cases no doubt they would do so; in distributing pensions or benefits of that kind, which is a mere matter of favour; if it were done with a full regard to deserts of every kind, I daresay their powers would be diminished.
212. But, looking at it from a public point of view, do you think that the benefit which they would confer upon the public, in their capacity of distributing public favours, would be diminished ?—It is difficult to say. The question is so general that I feel a difficulty in answering it.
213. In the report which was published two years ago by the Commission appointed to inquire into the City parochial charities, there is this passage: it says, "Many parishes receive small payments from divers of the City Companies, the origin of some of which is unknown or very obscure. It would be desirable that this matter should form the subject of inquiry in the event of the appointment of any Commission hereafter to be entrusted with the task of dealing with the City charities." Are you acquainted with that passage ?—I do not know where it is found.
214. It is from the Report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the City Parochial Charities? —I know that there are many small sums which have been left by men who lived in a particular City parish.
216. Why is it that the Charity Commissioners have not attempted, under their present powers, to deal with any of those charities ?—They have not power to initiate any proceedings unless an application be made to them by some of the inhabitants of the parish interested, or by a majority of the trustees administering the fund.
217. You can do so in any case, can you not, if it is under 50l. ?—If it is under 50l. it must be an application from the inhabitants; if it is more than 50l., then it must be an application from a majority of the trustees.
219. I will give an illustration at random. Here is the charity of Lynn John Bradbury, who left a property to the Mercers' Company—this is the parish of St. Stephen's, Coleman Street: the Mercers' Company pay 38s. a year in respect of this charity, and the value of 2s. 6d. in coals to the occupiers of certain almshouses; you have no power to deal with a small charity of that kind ?—None, unless an application from the persons interested be made.
220. These reports are absolutely full of such cases —you find them almost on every page; do you think it desirable there should be an extension of the law of charitable trusts, to give you power to deal with such a case ?—Certainly.
221. (Mr. Burt.) I understand you to make a distinction in your suggestions between the producers and the distributors; you said that you would confine the producers to London ?—I would confine the distributors to London.
222. And the producers you would extend to the provinces; why do you make the distinction ?— Because the work of production, since the establishment of the Companies, has been spread so much more beyond the Capital, to all parts of England; whereas the work of distribution is applicable to London and the suburbs alone. The business of manufacture has spread through all parts of England; and therefore I think it would be desirable to connect the whole of the associated trades together, inviting,— and I think we might well expect our invitation would be accepted,—the other great centres to become affiliated societies, having the same object in view. There is now an opportunity of commencing a great co-operative movement; an opportunity which has never occurred before.
225. Do you know how much of the expenditure of the Companies is for entertainments ?—I see some large sums are stated in the papers which have been lately brought before me, but I have not had an opportunity of verifying the sums; they are probably very large.
226. If we were to assume that it is above 100,000l, a year, would you consider that a proper expenditure? —I should hope that there would be a better mode of expenditure devised; which would be the case in the system which I propose.
227. (Mr. Firth.) I should like to ask you how a scheme like yours would work out in the case of such a Company as the Vintners'?—I am not at the moment especially aware of the condition of the Vintners' Company.
229. I should think probably that that would be so; could it be extended so far as the Vintners'?—It might in some of its forms; as regards instruction, I suppose there must be some special qualification, even for that business, and they ought to know something of the articles in which they deal. There might be part of a scheme of technical education for the children of persons connected with them, and for assisting persons in visiting foreign countries and making themselves thoroughly acquainted with all the subjects which form part of their commerce; there is something even that the Vintners may have to learn.
230. Supposing that it were applicable to the case of the Vintners, would you include in the benefits of your scheme the whole wine trade of this country?— I suppose, with regard to the Vintners it would be especially matter for the distinction which I have taken, of producers and distributors. I suppose no article which the Vintners' body need would be produced in London, and perhaps not much in the other parts of England; therefore I think it might be only necessary to connect the Company of Vintners in London and the suburbs, the original area of the Society.
231. Supposing I give you the Grocers' Company as an instance; would you allow people following that business all through England to have the benefit of this scheme ?—I think that there should be associations throughout England, if it could be extended so that there would be each member contributing at least as much as the cost which his association with the Company would impose upon him, contributing annually a fee of entrance; and that union may be a matter of great value to that very large body coming under the head of grocers.
232. In technical education it might be so, but I am speaking with reference to workmen's dwellings? —That is a special matter; I should think it would not apply to that, because the grocery trade is not anywhere congregated like large manufactories. I speak of those trades where there is a great organisation of workmen in a particular spot.
234. In the case of the salters, all the money would go into Cheshire ?—It might do so. It would be a benefit to the body contemplated; it would be of very little difference to anyone in London if removed from London.
235. Do I understand that you would not preserve in any form the present governing framework, so to speak,—the master, wardens, and so on ?—I think there would be no difficulty in preserving the present framework, by admitting a method of election and enlarging the body. I do not see why the present framework should not be preserved.
236. You are aware that members following certain trades are considered as having the right of entering the Companies bearing the name of those trades in London ?—It is not the case with all of them, I suppose. Who would be considered as having the right of entering the Mercers' Company?
237. As you know, the Companies vary immensely; no single principle applies to all of them ?—No, and therefore it is exceedingly difficult, in suggesting a reform, to suggest anything applicable to all.
238. Would you entertain the system of apprenticeship ?—I think the system of apprenticeship would be superseded by a system of instruction other than apprenticeship; the system of apprenticeship is one that is going out in every case almost.
239. Would you entertain a division similar to that between freemen and liverymen now, which is a division of status?—No; I do not think such a division as that should be retained. I do not see the value of it.
240. I noticed your answers as to the connexion with the trade continuing so long as they admitted people by patrimony and servitude—that was so down to the reign of William the Third to a very large extent, was it not?—Yes.
242. We have not had any discovery of the titledeeds of the Companies; do you consider it a matter in which the Charity Commission ought to have larger powers than it has?—No, I cannot venture to say that, because if you had that, it would give to a special body the power of inquiring into private titles; so long as they claim to be private titles, I do not think we could have power given to us to inquire into them—we can only deal with that which affects the matter of the Charity.
243. Do you not consider, in addition to the objects which you said the money of these Companies was available for, having regard to the fact that they are an integral part of the Corporation of London, that much of their funds is rightly available for general municipal purposes?—I should say not. I think the municipal purposes of London would be provided for in other ways than by a tax upon particular trades. I say a tax upon particular trades, assuming, as I do, that the property belongs to the trades.
244. Would you consider, when a Company was empowered to purchase land contrary to the Statutes of Mortmain, and did so purchase it, being at that time an active trade organisation, that that money ought not to be made available for the trade ?—No, it has been taken by the Company and held by the Company during a long period, by which a title would be gained by prescription.
245. I will put the case rather more definitely. If we take a case of which there are scores of illustrations in these reports; take the case of a charter granted by a sovereign of the House of Lancaster, and the condition precedent to the holding and purchasing of land is that the proceeds shall be used for the benefit of the poor practising a particular trade; as, for example, in the Goldsmiths' Company—those who suffered from the Fire; would you not say in that case, the present condition and income and receipts from that property should be available for the benefit of the poor of that trade, no matter what has happened to that Company ?—Available for the trade, but I do not think that it should be limited to the poor of the trade—it should be to help to keep them from ever being poor. In the case of moneys given for the poor, instead of applying it in that way, one likes to apply it to prevent poverty; one likes to deal with the disease itself rather than the symptoms.
246. Have you an opinion to offer with respect to the question of trusts being dealt with by a court of law, whether they ought not to be dealt with by a State department ?—I think no court of law has power to deal with this matter; they could not be dealt with. I do not think there is any appeal to a court of law which would be of the slightest benefit, or would do more than incur the cost of the proceedings.
247. In such a case as that alluded to by my friend Mr. James, where funds have been left and a certain sum payable to one of the City parishes, where the amount is under 50l., would you not give complete power to some authority to deal with cases of that kind, without initiation by the parties interested ?— Yes.
248. To what authority would you give the power? —A well-constituted body. It might be a fixed number of commissioners, or it might be a body (as has occurred to me) composed of certain qualified persons, say 10, and in every instance professors of political economy in the Universities, or persons of a certain status in society; they should form a board, and at their meetings questions with regard to the extension and distribution of charities should be referred to the board thus formed, and their advice should be followed.
249. In the Endowed Schools Act of 1868 there is section 30, which provides that in case of trusts failing or that have become in such a condition that they cannot be perfectly applied with the consent of the governing body, such trusts or their income may be applied to educational purposes ?—Yes.
250. Do you consider that the words "with the consent of the governing body" might be usefully excised from it?—Yes, I think so; in many cases it might be well done, but the legislature have been unwilling to give that power to anyone.
253. (Mr. Alderman Cotton.) You have been answering some questions as to vestries; this inquiry is only with reference to the Guilds. You are aware, are you not, that the whole of the charitable trusts of the Guilds have been placed in the hands of the Charity Commissioners, under the old scheme, and under the improved scheme?—No; they are not vested in the Charity Commissioners at all. I am not aware of any scheme that has been settled by which the charities of the Guilds were vested in the Charity Commissioners.
254. The Charity Commissioners have taken possession lately of the whole of the charitable trusts of Guilds—I speak with authority upon that matter; and if you will make inquiries, you will find that it is so —the only moneys which the Guilds are now dealing with are those which they consider to be their own property?—What you mean is, that the funds are administered under the direction of the Charity Commissioners?
260. You say that you would bring the artisans of each trade in connexion with the Company which bears its name; do you mean that to apply to the whole of the artisans of the United Kingdom?—So far as production is concerned.
262. Can you give any idea how many thousands of carpenters that would introduce into the Carpenters' Company ?—A great number, I daresay; but it would also afford to them much information they could not now obtain, and the fee which they would pay would meet the expense.
263. Do not you think that your scheme for the United Kingdom is a very ambitious one, and totally out of the power of any one Guild to perform and carry out?—You could only do it tentatively. You could carry it out first to a certain extent, but by making it open to all it would not necessarily follow that all would join; all those who desire to do so should be permitted.
265. But you said you would do away with the livery and Guilds, and let them only be freemen; have you any reason for suggesting that ?—No, the only reason is that I do not see any use in it; I see no objection to it, but I see no use in it.
266. The Guilds, in consequence of the absence of craftsmen belonging to them, have been used for the last two or three centuries in the light of a middleclass club, have they not, for the master, wardens, and liverymen, and freemen who belong to it?—Yes, to which club I wish to associate their workmen.
271. Having the power of observation, do you think as a rule that the Companies, as trustees, have behaved honestly, or behaved dishonestly ?—I am not able to place my hand on any act of dishonesty that I know of. I believe they have acted honestly, to the best of their judgment.
274. You brought an action against them which you won, when you said that they had not applied all the funds to a certain school ?—That was not the Mercers' Company; there were two cases, one the Merchant Taylors' Company and the other the Wax Chandlers'.
276. (Viscount Sherbrooke.) Supposing the plan you propose were carried out, what good do you think it would do ?—In the first place, I think it would give a vast number of workmen throughout the country a feeling that they are cared for; it would give them an amount of information which they at present are unable to obtain; it would afford them advice with reference to the education of their children; and it might afford them in a great centre of population the opportunity of obtaining by their own means a home in which they could live in comfort, without being exposed to the surroundings which are now of a demoralising character; and by all this, and a variety of other consequences that would flow from the same condition of things, make a vast number of persons interested in order being preserved in the country, interested in the security of property, and interested in the vital preservations of our institutions.
277. What do you think would be the relations between such a body as you have described—this subsidised and petted body—and the rest of the community that have no such advantages; have you considered what effects it would have ?—I do not think that the rest of the community having none of those advantages would be the worse for it. I think it would encourage the rest of the country not having those advantages to do much in imitation in endeavouring to secure the same benefits with those who had the advantage; for instance, if a man brought up a family living in his own house, he would be an example to his neighbours, and be much more beneficial to them than a drunken family; and by everything by which you encourage morality, and encourage exertion, and encourage industry and culture, and by every step of that kind, he would be doing good to all those surrounding him.
278. Is not your plan really that you would have a privileged class of these working people, some of whom would have benefits which are denied to the rest of the community ?—There would be no privileged class; it would be a case of no more privilege than persons who subscribe to a club are privileged.
282. And do you command money sufficient to give those advantages to the persons who do subscribe, or is there any probability that you would command it ?—Yes; I think the advantages I give in the first place are the information and guidance with reference to the manner in which a family is brought up; guidance and instruction where their business is prosecuted, where they can do it at the most advantage; and in a great many cases assistance, not in the way of charity, because they pay as much as it costs the Company.
284. Is it not quite evident that the plan you suggest could not universally be carried out throughout the whole of the country ?—I think universally it could not be carried out; but it could be carried out amongst a vast number of the working classes.
285. Would not it really necessarily come to be a sort of petted trades union, established by the Government?—I think it would be so far a benefit that it would be a visible diffusion of benefits, which every other class, by uniting in the same manner, might gain for themselves.
286. I thought you told me you did not think it could extend to all classes?—The privileges of the Companies could not be extended to all classes, but this mode of operation being set on foot by the Companies, the same mode of organisation might be established by other persons not having the advantages of these Companies.
287. Is it your experience that combination among the working classes produces good either to the working classes themselves or to the rest of the community ?—There are a variety of combinations; there are combinations for good and combinations for evil. Combinations which interfere with industry and other things may be evil; but I observed in one of the periodicals of this month a society for taking care of servant girls, finding them homes when they were out of work, and finding them employment; and it is found to be so beneficial that 3,000 or 4,000 girls have joined the society who might have been wandering about the streets, without the means of getting a situation, who are assisted by the society. That is a mode of co-operation which is beneficial, and might be extended to every other person.
288. That is rather a question of chastity and morals than trade and labour, is it not?—No; chastity and morals may be much promoted by it, no doubt, but what is particularly promoted is that these persons can find employment, and good masters and mistresses are found for them, and arrangements are made by which, when they leave one home, they can find another; no doubt chastity and morals in reference to dwellings are promoted by such a scheme as mine, instead of the system of living in lodgings in which a woman may find in the next room a person of bad character.
289. Is it not quite evident that a system of this kind, carried on on a small scale,—for it is evident that it cannot go through the whole country,—would really be only spending a great deal of money to form a trades union ?—So far from that being the case, my opinion is, that it would be copied by other societies; the benefit would be so obvious that, though it could not cover the whole country, yet other associations would be framed, in imitation of this, which would be capable of extending its benefits very largely.
290. Is it your opinion then that the desirable state for the working classes of this country is that they should be all in a state more or less of dependence upon somebody that takes them in hand, instead of being free to act exactly as they please?—On the contrary, I think that nothing is so desirable as that they should be in a free state, and not in a state of dependence; a state of dependence would not be created by co-operation.
291. Is it not a state of dependence when you provide people with lodgings, and all the different things you have spoken of that are to be done for these people who are happy enough to get into privileged bodies ?—Not if they pay the full value of what they receive.
292. There is an ambiguity there; you say they pay what the thing costs, but the people pay a good deal more than it costs who have not got these advantages ?—That is the benefit I want to give to the working classes of the country.
294. The effect of it would be that you would establish a privileged class, which would have great benefits, while other classes would not?—No; I establish a class, some of whom would have a benefit which they are entitled to, and which their own care and prudence will entitle them to, and their good example will in all probability influence a vast number as well.
297. Is it not merely setting up a trades union ?—I think it is not setting up a trades union, except that any association combined together for trade must be technically called a union; but not a union in any of its evil senses.
298. What reason have we to suppose that it would not be in its evil sense; has it not always been found that when the working classes unite together, it almost invariably ends in limiting the hours of work, and in the compiling of different rules that are made for the purpose of making the work easy and light for them ?—I am not aware that it is so.