Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/465

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April 16, 1864.]
457
ONCE A WEEK.

Impress of your foot receives.
Here the Daphnè may be seen,
With its flowers of tender green,
Drooping, glancing out between
Leafy whorl of darkest sheen.
Hum of chirping fills the air—
Voices of loquacious birds,
Singing, talking everywhere,
In a tongue unchsined by words.
Now and then the pheasant’s call
Rings from out the covert near,
And the cuckoo’s accents fall
Oft-repeated on the ear,
Mingled with the soft, low “coo”
Of the ring-dove‘s distant note—
Ring-dove, with his coat of blue,
And his white-encircled throat.
Not yet has the poet’s love,
Peerless-voicèd nightingale,
Poured his music on the grove,
Waiting for the evening pale.
Like the Roman bard, his lays
Are not for the common herd;
Lone and proud, the gifted bird
Seeks a more discerning praise.
When the evening shades appear
Fling thy casement open wide,
That the full melodious tide
May float in and fill thine ear.
So the lovely April day,
Fitly requiemed, dies away.




GERMAN CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES.

 

 

Very little is known in this country of the remarkable results which have been obtained from the application of the co-operative principle in Germany. Even a writer who, in a late number of the Quarterly Review, undertakes to trace the progress of co-operation at home and abroad, betrays in the paragraph which he devotes to the German associations a very imperfect knowledge of their constitution and working, and gives no statistics of a later date than 1860. They deserve a more careful study. Not only has co-operation achieved more in a shorter time in Germany; it has developed itself in forms which are unknown in England, but which might be naturalised here to very great advantage.

Co-operative stores and co-operative manufacturing companies or workshops are the English expressions of the principle of association. Of the success of the former class of societies, when managed with ordinary prudence, experience has shown that no doubt is to be entertained, and their multiplication is a matter for much congratulation. The productive associations have not yet approved themselves so fully. They require for their success conditions which are rarely found united, and their rapid increase, due to the natural impatience of the operative to become his own master and add profits to wages, is under present circumstances to be regretted. The German associations strike the mean, as it were, between these two forms. They are not so ambitious as the manufacturing companies which have been established in Lancashire and Yorkshire; while they aim at something more than the supply of good provisions at a fair price, and the distribution of a small bonus among the consumers at the year’s end.

The German associations proper—there were in Germany at the end of 1862 some fifty cooperative stores (Consum-Vereine), but, with the exception of one at Hamburgh, founded in 1852, all of recent date and but small importance, and about twenty co-operative workshops (Productiv-Associationen), mostly of tailors and all of little account—are loan and credit unions (Vorschuss- und Credit-Vereine), and unions for the purchase of the raw materials of a particular handicraft, and sometimes of machines for common use (Rohstoff-Vereine or Rohstoff-Genossenschaften.)

To be admitted a member of one of the loan unions, a workman must be of good character, and be so far raised above absolute pauperism that reliance can be placed upon his fulfilment of the small obligations he undertakes. There is no other restriction. The general principle is, that entrance into the society is free to all, no matter how many the applicants, who will fulfil the few conditions imposed. The admission is in the hands of the Committee of Management, from whose decision any rejected applicant can appeal to the next general meeting. Each member has to pay a small monthly subscription, fixed at so low a sum that no workman who is worth anything can be kept out by it—seldom exceeding two pence or three pence—and when the society has been established some time and has accumulated capital, a small entrance fee, which is carried to the credit of the reserve fund. The subscriptions of the members are carried to their credit in the society’s books, and the profits of each year are divided amongst them in proportion to the amount so standing to their credit at the commencement of the year, the dividend not being paid them in cash until this credit reaches a certain sum, varying in each union, and which sum a member may pay up at once if he pleases. After this share is paid up, the dividends are paid to the owner in cash. The capital of which the union disposes is composed first of these subscriptions and dividends, that is to say, of shares partially or wholly paid up, and the undivided reserve—the capital proper, but evidently at the commencement of the society a very inadequate fund; secondly, of small deposits received alike from members and non-members, upon which an interest rather exceeding that given by the ordinary official savings-banks is paid; and