"This Submerged Tenth"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: William Booth, founder of one of the world's great charitable organizations, spent his working life in an effort to aid those unfortunates who were buried in poverty and crime. Born and educated in Nottingham, England, he was a minister of the Methodist New Connection from 1852 to 1861. He was a zealous evangelist, but his methods were unconventional and shocked the old-fashioned. Nonetheless, he was successful in reaching a class of people who were without church connections, and was presently able to work with the assistance of a group of reformed criminals he had converted. He subsequently devoted himself to missionary work among the lower classes in London's East End; and at the same time he began to organize his work and his assistants along military lines. Since 1877 the product of his industry and enthusiasm has been known as the Salvation Army–a name synonymous with mercy and assistance both at home and abroad. The Army's primary objective was the evangelization and social uplift of the unfortunate. King Edward VII supported and encouraged it. In his book, In Darkest England: and the Way Out, "General" Booth undertakes a description of the people he and his soldiers are working with and estimates that they amount to a tenth of the population. He gives sample case histories; some are people for whom the Army was successful in finding employment, more are those who seem unemployable. Booth's proposal is to set up farm colonies away from the squalor of the city slums for these people, so that their environment will no longer be unendurable. Beginning with a description of slum conditions and the destitute population existing therein, Booth compares statistics and finds that of the thirty-one million persons in Great Britain (exclusive of Ireland) in 1889, some three million are destitute. He then proceeds with moving eloquence to state the extent of that task which must be undertaken:

Darkest England, then, may be said to have a population about equal to that of Scotland. Three million men, women, and children, a vast despairing multitude in a condition nominally free, but really enslaved–these it is whom we have to save.
It is a large order. England emancipated her negroes sixty years ago, at a cost of £40,000,000, and has never ceased boasting about it since. But at our own doors, from "Plymouth to Peterhead," stretches this waste Continent of humanity–three million human beings who are enslaved–some of them to taskmasters as merciless as any West Indian overseer, all of them to destitution and despair.
Is anything to be done with them? Can anything be done for them? Or is this million-headed mass to be regarded as offering a problem as insoluble as that of the London sewage, which, feculent and festering, swings heavily up and down the basin of the Thames with the ebb and flow of the tide?
This Submerged Tenth–is it, then, beyond the reach of the nine-tenths in the midst of whom they live, and around whose homes they rot and die? No doubt, in every large mass of human beings there will be some incurably diseased in morals and in body, some for whom nothing can be done, some of whom even the optimist must despair, and for whom he can prescribe nothing but the beneficently stern restraints of an asylum or a jail.
But is not one in ten a proportion scandalously high? . . .