Memorandum by Mr. Hare

Pages 105-106

City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.

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Memorandum (A) by Mr. Hare.

My suggestion for the reform of the present administration of the Companies is, that their connexion with the arts, crafts, and trades which, according to the terms of their constitution they are designed to comprehend, shall 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, haberdashers, and clothworkers, would embrace vast numbers of the working classes, to whom an intimate association with bodies of the wealth and importance that 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.

It is impossible not to see that the increase of population and the progress of wealth in modern times, followed up by the amazing changes introduced by machinery, and the boundless power of steam, has altered the old conditions and relations which existed between capital and labour, and has vastly widened the separation, and has, in many cases, produced what may be called an estrangement between the employer and the workman. Nothing is more important than to seize and make the utmost of every opportunity of creating a common feeling of interest, that the labouring classes may clearly perceive that their welfare is bound up with that of their neighbours, and of society in general. Efforts are being made by many with this view to give to the agricultural labourer an interest in his cottage and garden and allotment, or to enable him to acquire some proprietary right; and to extend to the working people of the towns the advantages which their association with these companies might confer, would, in like manner, be calculated to win and secure their adherence to the side of law and order.

The admission of the member to the company might be on a certificate of age, of his actual employment or trade, and whether obtained and taught by apprenticeship, or other instruction.

A small admission fee, not exceeding say 5s., may be required, and an annual payment of a shilling or two, for preserving the connexion. The wardens and members composing the courts of the companies would be properly elected by the members at large. There would be no reason why the present members of the court should not be continued for their lives an additional number of newly elected members being added.

The identification of the companies with their trades, and the association of them with the working classes, may be beneficial to the latter in more ways than can, at present, be imagined. The names of the children of a member might be entered in the register of his company, stating the public, elementary, or other schools at which they are educated. They may be admitted on favourable conditions as scholars, and be encouraged to compete in prizes and exhibitions in the technical colleges. To these colleges may be added travelling fellowships whereby other countries may be visited, and their methods and appliances in the various arts and manufactures ascertained and compared with our own, and economical and artistic progress thus promoted. The officers of every company would be supplied with constant statistical information of the greater or less activity and state of trade in the chief manufacturing towns and districts, and where labourers may be needed, or are in excess. In the distribution of the eleemosynary funds, in alms houses, or pensions, or other rewards, they should, as I have elsewhere pointed out be treated as rewards for those members who are shown "to have expended the best years of their lives industriously and providently, and to have brought up their children well."

There is still another, and even a yet higher service which these great companies could render to their affiliated members. The chief of the difficulties of the working man and his family in our populous centres of traffic and labour, is that of obtaining a comfortable dwelling, within his means. He is often compelled to live in filthy lodgings, at the mercy of those from whom he must rent them, and exposed frequently to boisterous and perhaps drunken fellow occupiers of the house, over which he has no control. Such a condition and its surroundings strike at the root of that temperament of mind which would promote habits of order and culture. Nothing appears to me more important than that the town as well as the country labourer should feel that he has a home, into which he may at all times quietly return, and where he may gather and preserve any books, furniture, or other articles for his comfort and enjoyment. The same want, and its accompanying evils, exists abroad. In a book, treating elaborately of the state of the labourers in Paris and other towns in France, I have just read,—"Le loyer pour le travailleur est souvent la cause du désordre dans le ménage, surtout avec l'élévation exorbitantc de ces derniers temps. L'impossibilité de trouver un logement d'un prix possible, la rapacité et les prétentions de certains propriétaires, sont la cause souvent, très-souvent, de découragements incroyables, de haines implacables, et la base de misères effrayantes et d'avilissements honteux."

A portion of the accumulated funds of the companies, and the produce of some of their present real property, as it could be advantageously sold, might be gradually employed in the purchase of house property in London, and in the immediate neighbourhood of the great centres of labour, or on spots readily accessible therefrom. Any necessary alterations and improvements in the property may be made adapting it for the habitation of the members of the company and their families to whose places of employment it affords convenient access. Of these properties the company should hold the fee, and enable their associate members to purchase or take leases for any terms of years which they may agree upon, payments graduated or otherwise, being accepted from the purchasers, prices and rents being fixed at a rate which shall be sufficient fully to reimburse the company. A house may be let as a whole or in rooms or flats, as required by the tenant, and if he desires to extend or to surrender his lease, he may do so at rates regulated by tables calculated to secure the company from loss, but without exacting profit. Or the workman may remove to another situation or another town in which the company, if they have premises there, may enable him to exchange his dwelling on suitable terms. In this disposition of property it will be observed that I contemplate nothing in the way of charity. I am regarding the company as employing a portion of its wealth in securing comfortable homes for its members, avoiding at the same time any loss of capital, but seeking no accumulation of profit from the transaction.

The highly endowed companies, the objects, conditions, and destinations whereof are the subject of this inquiry, may wisely and justly be brought into harmony with their early history, and made the nucleus of a coöperative union, of far greater extent, and wider and more benefical influence, than any which has yet grown up, or been formed during the progress of modern civilisation. They may be the means of binding together the various sections of employers and workmen, and directing their attention to objects in which they have a community of interest, and which minister to the prosperity and well-being of all.

Memorandum (B) by Mr. Hare.

I desire to explain that part of my former evidence which expressed my belief that the obstacles imposed by what is called the Mortmain Act to the devise of real estate for charitable or public purposes are a great misfortune. It seems to me that there cannot be too much of the land of the country devoted to public purposes, the State reserving to itself the power of regulating such purposes, so that they shall not be otherwise than beneficial, and placing the estates under the management of agents appointed for prescribed districts, who, while securing for the institutions for which the trusts are held, the due produce and profit, shall yet have regard to the general utility and benefit. The efforts and interests of occupiers in all the works of cultivation and of improvement might be promoted and carried out in every variety of form. Tenancies not longer than for a life or lives, or a term of years of similar duration, may be created by way of sale or lease, according as it may be deemed best in the joint interest of the public and the purchaser or lessee. By the word sale I mean that the lease may be granted free of rent, in consideration of the sum paid by the lessee at its inception or by subsequent instalments, if the lease be not made at the full rent at the time. Where the management is by a public officer, as that of all lands held in mortmain or on perpetual trusts should be, the personal views, prepossessions, or prejudices of a private owner of agricultural land, often almost inevitably antagonistic to any thorough encouragement or development of the subordinate interests of tenants and occupiers, are entirely eliminated, and inducements for unlimited expenditure of capital and labour in improvements may be held out.

If a private owner was asked by tenant to grant him a lease of a part of his estate for his life or for a term of 50 or 70 years, with unrestricted powers of improvement, the private proprietor, actuated by reasons with which most persons might sympathise, would probably refuse such a concession. It would deprive him of that authority and dominion over that portion of his estate. and the occupiers might have power to deal with it in a manner that would be unpalatable or offensive to him. A long lease, moreover, granted on the payment of a gross sum to the owner of the fee, would be inconsistent with most settlements of real property. These obstacles to the creation of subordinate holdings of an independent character under private ownership, would have no existence in the case of the public estates. The public would have no prejudice against parting with their authority over such of its lands for the term agreed upon, and would be satisfied and secure on the possession of the annual rent or of the equivalent capital sum. Again, the tenant under public ownership might be enabled at any time, under suitable terms, to extend or to surrender his lease or commute his rent. Tables of value and duration might be settled analogous to the terms on which insurances for life or pensions at specified ages are arranged. No special arrangements of this kind are generally possible with regard to interests in lands held under private owners. The commercial facilities of dealing with land would be thus indefinitely multiplied. The interposition of the State to prevent land from being devised to public purposes, which has gone on for nearly 150 years, therefore, appears to me a most absurd and mischievous policy.