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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Two Williams and the Cab Horse Charter


In 1890 William Booth (founder and first General of The Salvation Army) along with British newspaper editor and Christian Socialist, Frank Smith, wrote In Darkest England and the Way Out – a controversial blueprint for the welfare system in England. In it he laid out what became known as the Cab Horse Charter:

"I sorrowfully admit that it would be utopian in our present social arrangements to dream of attaining for every honest Englishman a jail standard of all the necessaries of life. Some time perhaps, we may venture to hope that every honest worker on English soil will always be as warmly clad, as healthily housed, and as regularly fed as our criminal convicts -but that is not yet.



"What, then, is the standard toward which we may venture to aim with some prospect of realization in our time? It is a very humble one, but if realized it would solve the worst problems of modern society. It is the standard of the London cab horse.

"When in the streets of London a cab horse, weary or careless or stupid, trips and falls and has stretched out in the midst of the traffic, there is no question of debating how he came to stumble before we try to get him on his legs again. The cab horse is a very real illustration of poor, broken down humanity - he usually falls down because of over work and under feeding. If you put him on his feet without altering his conditions, it would only be to give him another dose of agony; but first of all you'll have to pick him up again. It may have been through overwork or underfeeding, or it may have been all his own fault that he has broken his knees and smashed the shafts, but that does not matter. If not for his own sake, then merely in order to prevent an obstruction of the traffic, all attention is concentrated upon the question of how we are to get him on his legs again. The load is taken off, the harness is unbuckled or, if need be, cut, and everything is done to help him up.Then he is put in the shafts again and once more restored to his regular round of work.That is the first point.  The second is that every cab horse in London has three things: a shelter for the night, food for its stomach, and work allotted to it by which it can earn its corn.

"These are the two points of the Cab Horse Charter. When he is down he is helped up, and while he lives he has food, shelter and work. That, although a humble standard, is at present absolutely unattainable by millions - literally by millions - of our fellow men and women in this country. "

But William Booth was not the first to use this particular metaphor. 267 years earlier, in his play As You Like It, (1623) the bard himself, William Shakespeare used the same idea. At the beginning of the play, Orlando de Boys complains of the way his brother treats him saying:

As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion
bequeathed me by will but poor a thousand crowns,
and, as thou sayest, charged my brother, on his
blessing, to breed me well: and there begins my
sadness. My brother Jaques he keeps at school, and
report speaks goldenly of his profit: for my part,
he keeps me rustically at home, or, to speak more
properly, stays me here at home unkept; for call you
that keeping for a gentleman of my birth, that
differs not from the stalling of an ox? His horses
are bred better; for, besides that they are fair
with their feeding, they are taught their manage,
and to that end riders dearly hired: but I, his
brother, gain nothing under him but growth; for the
which his animals on his dunghills are as much
bound to him as I. 


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