Childhood and Poverty
William Booth was born in Nottingham, England, on April 10, 1829, and was left, at thirteen, the only son of a widowed and impoverished mother. His father had been one of those builders of houses who so rapidly rose in those days to wealth, but who, largely employing borrowed capital, often found themselves in any time of general scarcity reduced to poverty.
I glory in the fact that The General’s ancestry has never been traced, so far as I know, beyond his grandfather. I will venture to say, however, that his forefathers fought with desperation against somebody at least a thousand years ago. Fighting is an inveterate habit of ours in England, and another renowned general has just been recommending all young men to learn to shoot. The constant joy and pride with which our General always spoke of his mother is a tribute to her excellence, as well as the best possible record of his own earliest days. Of her he wrote, in 1893:—
“I had a good mother. So good she has ever appeared to me that I have often said that all I knew of her life seemed a striking contradiction of the doctrine of human depravity. In my youth I fully accepted that doctrine, and I do not deny it now; but my patient, self-sacrificing mother always appeared to be an exception to the rule.
“I loved my mother. From infancy to manhood I lived in her. Home was not home to me without her. I do not remember any single act of wilful disobedience to her wishes. When my father died I was so passionately attached to my mother that I can recollect that, deeply though I felt his loss, my grief was all but forbidden by the thought that it was not my mother who had been taken from me. And yet one of the regrets that has followed me to the present hour is that I did not sufficiently value the treasure while I possessed it, and that I did not with sufficient tenderness and assiduity at the time, attempt the impossible task of repaying the immeasurable debt I owed to that mother’s love.
“She was certainly one of the most unselfish beings it has been my lot to come into contact with. ‘Never mind me’ was descriptive of her whole life at every time, in every place, and under every circumstance. To make others happy was the end of all her thoughts and aims with regard not only to her children but to her domestics, and indeed to all who came within her influence. To remove misery was her delight. No beggar went empty-handed from her door. The sorrows of any poor wretch were certain of her commiseration, and of a helping hand in their removal, so far as she had ability. The children of misfortune were sure of her pity, and the children of misconduct she pitied almost the more, because, for one reason, they were the cause of sorrow to those who had reason to mourn on their account.
“For many years before she died,