In this parish of Ditchingham, where I live, there is a man with a few acres of land, an orchard, a greenhouse, etc. That man works his little tenancy, deals in the surplus produce of large gardens, which he peddles out in the neighbouring town, and, on an average, takes piecework on my farm (at the moment of writing he and his son are hoeing mangolds) for two or three days a week; at any rate, for a great part of the year. He is a type of what I may call the natural small holder, and I believe does fairly well. The question is, can the artificially created small holder, who must pay a rent of L4 the acre, attain to a like result?
Again, I say I hope so most sincerely, for if not in England ’back to the land’ will prove but an empty catchword. At any rate, the country should be most grateful to the late Mr. Herring, who provided the funds for this intensely interesting experiment, and to the Salvation Army which is carrying it out in the interests of the landless poor.
It has occurred to the writer that a few words descriptive of William Booth, the creator and first General of the Salvation Army, set down by a contemporary who has enjoyed a good many opportunities of observing him during the past ten years, may possibly have a future if not a present value.
Of the greatness of this man, to my mind, there can be no doubt. When the point of time whereon we stand and play our separate parts has receded, and those who follow us look back into the grey mist which veils the past; when that mist has hidden the glitter of the decorations and deadened the echoes of the high-sounding titles of to-day; when our political tumults, our town-bred excitements, and many of the very names that are household words to us, are forgotten, or discoverable only in the pages of history; when, perhaps, the Salvation Army itself has fulfilled its mission and gone its road, I am certain that the figure of William Booth will abide clearly visible in those shadows, and that the influences of his work will remain, if not still felt, at least remembered and honoured. He will be one of the few, of the very few enduring figures of our day; and even if our civilization should be destined to undergo eclipse for a period, as seems possible, when the light returns, by it he will still be seen.
For truly this work of his is fine, and one that appeals to the imagination, although we are so near to it that few of us appreciate its real proportions. Also, in fact, it is the work that should be admired rather than the man, who, after all, is nothing but the instrument appointed to shape it from the clay of circumstance. The clay lay ready to be shaped, then appeared the moulder animated with will and purpose, and working for the work’s sake to an end which he could not foresee.