One might have supposed that a man who thus raised a force of working people to do good to others, would in a Christian country have been honoured and encouraged by all the better elements, and defended with vigour by the press, the pulpit, and the police against any of the lower sort who might oppose him or his followers.
To the shame of his fellow-countrymen, alas! it must be told that, so far from this being the case, The General was generally treated for the first few years of The Army’s work as being unworthy to be received in any decent society, and his followers, as “blasphemers of religion” and “disturbers of the peace,” who ought by all possible means to be suppressed.
Those who fattened on the vices of the poor and the opponents of religion generally were undoubtedly the leaders of opposition to his work. There were only too many ignorant ruffians ready to delight in any excuse for disturbance, and very many truly religious people who put down every disturbance so created to The Army’s account, and who, without taking the trouble to make any inquiry, denounced it mercilessly.
Condemned almost whenever mentioned, either by press or pulpit, The General and The Army were naturally treated by many authorities and largely by respectable citizens, not only as unworthy of any defence, but as deserving of punishment and imprisonment. In one year alone, 1882, no fewer than 699 of our Officers and Soldiers, 251 of them women and 23 children under fifteen, were brutally assaulted generally whilst marching through the streets singing hymns, though often when attending Meetings in our own hired buildings, and 86, of whom 15 were women, were imprisoned. True, these persecutions almost always gained for us sympathy and friends, as many as 30,000 people coming out in one case to the railway station to welcome an Officer upon his release from prison. Yet, year after year, such attacks were repeated, and, even during the last year, imprisonment was suffered by several Officers for leading Meetings where they had regularly been tolerated for some thirty years; but where some newly-appointed dignitary would rather not see them.
When we ask in wonder how so bitter an opposition to such a leader, or his work, could arise, we always find the sort of explanation which that famous man John Bright once wrote to Mrs. Booth:—
“The people who mob you would doubtless have mobbed the Apostles. Your faith and patience will prevail. The ‘craftsmen’ who find ‘their craft in danger,’ ’the high priests and elders of the people,’ whose old-fashioned counsels are disregarded by newly-arrived stirrers-up of men, always complain, and then the governors and magistrates, who may ‘care for none of these things,’ but who always act ‘in the interests of the public peace,’ think it best to ‘straightly charge these