Home Political science British Humanitarianism and the Congo Reform Movement, 1896-1913
Finances, Auxiliaries, and Meetings
The search for money was a major preoccupation for the CRA. As Table 3.1 shows, individual donors (discussed in Chapter 4) provided over seven-eighths of its funds. This section discusses the next largest sources of funds in the context of historiographical debates regarding CRA finances.
Table 3.1 Sources of CRA Funds, 1904-13 Incorporating the London Auxiliary for 1907-08
Notes: “Collections” includes odd amounts labeled “CRA Suppt.” and “Sundry Subscriptions” but not “CRA Suppt.” in even amounts which are presumed to be anonymous single donations. “Surplus meeting proceeds” does not include London’s 1906-07 collection of ?260 in Rising Tide, 1907, 11, making a total of ?745 collected from all meetings.
Sources: Rising Tide, April 1908, 24-8; and Organ, April 1909, 181-8; June 1909, 283-92; January 1910, 483-8; May 1910, 605-8; October 1910, 657-9; May 1911, 701-4; October 1911, 743-4; August 1912, 856-60; April 1913, 974-6; July 1913, 1044.
Local auxiliaries provided the second largest funding source, 6 percent of total income. Branches were customary for humanitarian and missionary organizations. During its peak years, the Anti-Slavery Society claimed to have about 100 branches. In 1899, the APS had short-lived Liverpool and Manchester branches.
Morel embraced Guinness’s idea for CRA branches in 1904. However, none had appeared by July 1905, when Morel told supporters that new donations would help him found branches. Cadbury and Morel discussed a Birmingham branch that never materialized, partly due to the Birmingham Daily Post editor’s hostility. Morel set up the Liverpool Auxiliary as a prototype in early 1906, run by some of his friends. John Harris organized the London Auxiliary shortly thereafter, superseding Violet Simpson’s ineffectual satellite operation. Morel and Harris went to Newcastle in October 1906 to found an auxiliary to stir things up in Foreign Secretary Grey’s constituency. After this, John and Alice Harris became responsible for auxiliaries, which required extensive groundwork before they brought Morel in for the showcase meeting where an auxiliary took formal shape. Sometimes this required persistence; it took 11 months to start the Bristol Auxiliary. There are references to about two dozen auxiliaries forming in 1906-10; most survived through 1913.
The auxiliaries created demand for atrocity meetings, kept the Congo in the local press, and democratized policy-making through auxiliary representatives attending Executive Committee meetings. Nonconformist ministers were about a quarter of the 210 auxiliaries’ Committee members in 1907, and as much as two-fifths in 1909, demonstrating the strength of the religious element in the movement. However, most committee members were not ministers, and few ministers occupied leadership roles. Of the 37 representatives sent by regional branches to recorded Executive Committee meetings over the years, only 4 were ministers. Local politicians and commercial people were as numerous as ministers in the auxiliaries’ Committees, suggesting that the branches approached Morel’s ideal of an eclectic movement with strong religious, humanitarian, and commercial interests.
Kevin Grant has argued that auxiliaries and meetings were vital to the CRA’s financial health after the 1906-07 fiscal year, because contributions from auxiliaries and collections at meetings made the difference between an income of ?815 in the year ending September 1907 to ?1,720 in the year ending September 1908—a ?905 increase that he says ended CRA deficits and compared favorably with the perpetual deficits of the APS and the Anti-Slavery Society. This argument needs examination in every respect.
The numbers quoted come from the London Auxiliary’s annual reports, not the reports of the central CRA. They show that the Harrises did an excellent job creating a solid financial basis for the London Auxiliary, which covered its burgeoning expenses for meetings, literature, travel, and rent and contributed ?20 to the Bristol Auxiliary and ?500 to the central CRA.
For the central CRA, fiscal year 1907 income was somewhere between ?1,400-1,500. For the 1908 fiscal year the CRA’s financial statements show ?1,579 3s 5d in income. This did not represent a revolution in CRA finances. The ?1,579 included ?136 in funds from the auxiliaries founded in 1907 and ?26 collected at meetings and other special collections. This small financial contribution from the auxiliaries and meetings declined in each succeeding year. Excluding the London Auxiliary, which had a special fundraising mission, auxiliaries contributed ?672 during the CRA’s life, or 5 percent of total income. A few auxiliaries, such as Manchester and Bristol, needed subsidies despite the Finance Committee’s policy that auxiliaries be self-funding. Only 222 of the CRA’s 1,000-plus public meetings contributed more than they cost. Even ?443 in ticket sales and other donations for the massive 19 November 1909 Albert Hall demonstration left that meeting with a ?40 deficit. Collections at meetings went primarily to defray costs, and most meetings had financial shortfalls.
The big story in these numbers is that the finances of the central CRA and the London Auxiliary began to overlap in mid-1907, triggering three events: improved financial reporting as previously discussed, an attack by Morel on Harris examined below, and Morel’s move to London to merge the London Auxiliary into the central organization, covered in the next section. London was justly proud of its success in getting subscribers and in generating a ?500 contribution to the central organization in fiscal year 1908. However, to Morel’s annoyance, Harris was soliciting money from current CRA subscribers; people had sent donations to London thinking they were going to the central CRA. At least 46 of the London group’s 415 donors in fiscal year 1908 had previously been donors to the central organization. These overlap donors gave ?304 to
London. Put a different way, the central group might have collected ?304 of the ?500 that the London auxiliary contributed to the central CRA if London had not existed. Morel chastised Harris for cannibalizing the central organization’s donors, though he directed his explosion of anger inappropriately to a man who had also convinced new donors to give a further ?640, most of which paid the London Auxiliary’s expenses, including meeting shortfalls.
The CRA was not in deficit before the Harrises. When Brabner reported that the CRA had collected ?895 in income through 6 January 1905, he also reported that it had spent ?882 in the same period, indicating a small surplus in the CRA’s first year. From its founding to September 1907, the Association collected ?4,647 10s and spent ?4,557 2d, showing a surplus from 1905-07 as well. The CRA’s constant call for more funds was compatible with its ability to spend within its constrained means, a need Morel was well aware of, writing “We must cut our cost according to our cloth.”
Similarly, far from having perpetual deficits, the APS and Anti-Slavery Society were often in surplus. Their financial statements from 1899-1913 show income greater than expense for the Anti-Slavery Society in ten of 11 years, for the APS in five of 11 years, and for the combined organization in four of five years. Saying that they were always in deficit perpetuates the CRA’s myth of uniqueness. Not-for-profits then and now often find that their ambitions outrun their funds and scale back their work to the money available. The surpluses show that all three groups were able to do this.
The drying up of CRA financing in October 1904 has led to speculation that Morel had difficulty attracting support from his wealthy merchant friends. After all, the organization received only ?6 in October and had only ?23 in the bank, of which it owed ?10 to pay bills. However, Morel would have been hard-pressed to solicit funds from anyone in October; he had left Britain in mid- September for a US tour and did not return until early November, while the CRA paid a substitute editor for the WAM. When Morel found that almost no donations had arrived in his absence, he sent an immediate and successful appeal to keep the organization going. Fundraising in 1904 depended completely on Morel and his absence almost sank the organization. His push for funds upon his return brought the organization back from the brink. From 17 November 1904 to 6 January 1905, the CRA collected ?143, a respectable sum for two months. Far from being unable to reach beyond his tightfisted merchant friends,
Morel landed new and notable donors at the end of 1904, such as F.B. Meyer, the explorer F.C. Selous, the wealthy industrialist widow Mrs Rylands, Liverpool Post proprietor Sir Edward Russell, and Miss Marjory Lees, cotton heiress and daughter of Oldham’s first female mayor.
Some have taken Morel’s gloomy words “things look very black,” written to Alice Stopford Green on 28 December 1904, to mean that the Congo Reform Association was at risk. Morel made this observation at a time of difficulties for both the West African Mail and the CRA. On 20 December, Morel wrote a seven-page letter to tell the shareholders of the West African Mail, which included Green, that the paper was about to fold, with only ?2,122 in revenues to cover expenses of ?2,920 in the ten months to 30 November 1904, a massive ?798 loss. This included ?112 stolen by Stephen Gelder, his most highly paid employee at ?156 annually. He invited them to a shareholders’ meeting in early January to consider if they could save the paper by restructuring or selling it. The letter mentioned that the CRA would be weakened if the WAM went out of business, but Morel does not say here or elsewhere that the CRA was in danger of collapse, simply that a bankruptcy at the WAM would force him to scale back his CRA work. Herbert Samuel immediately replied, “I am very sorry to hear that the WAM is in a bad way.” Although Green’s response to the 20 December letter is not on file, it is reasonable to assume that she wrote back about the WAM and that his two-sentence response on 28 December 1904 conveyed that things looked “very black” for the paper, not the CRA. Fortunately he arranged a recapitalization in early 1905, though its finances remained precarious.
This is not to say that Morel was unconcerned about the CRA’s finances; however, when he called the CRA’s funds “virtually exhausted,” he was asking for donations. Shortly after returning from the US in November, with money at its lowest ebb, Morel sent Congo police chief Antonio Benedetti ?40 for travel expenses as well as ?80 compensation for quitting his job in return for evidence. Holt contributed the ?40, and Morel was confident that he could raise the rest of the money. To make a long story short, Benedetti had expected Morel and the rubber merchants who supposedly backed him to pay him well, and when more money did not materialize, he sold his services to the Congo
Free State. Instead of revealing Congo Free State secrets, he embarrassed the CRA by announcing in the press that the Congo reformers bribed witnesses. The Benedetti affair threatened to discredit the campaign, and Morel made it a policy henceforth to never pay for information. To make matters worse, at the same time, Fox Bourne had to retract allegations about conflicts of interest among members of Leopold’s Commission of Inquiry, leading to further embarrassment. Although Benedetti later revealed the plot when Leopold’s people failed to pay him what he expected, December 1904 was indeed a low point for the CRA. Cookey specifically links Casement’s observation that the reform movement was “practically dead” to the fallout from the Benedetti affair. Financial worries were minor compared to these embarrassments and flagging public interest.
In April and May 1905, after a personal appeal from Morel, the financial picture brightened considerably with two ?100 donations from philanthropic Quakers: one from William Cadbury and another from Katherine Thomasson, the APS’s greatest donor. Then, in July, William Cadbury transformed the CRA’s finances with a donation of ?600.
Fundraising was an ongoing worry; although its income rose, its expenses and plans also grew. Morel wrote pessimistic letters about finances to his closest allies right into 1909. He asked influential members to inspire donors and issued appeal after appeal for funds. One such appeal from February 1906 reminded readers that “the Association stands in urgent need of funds to continue and amplify its work of propaganda.” In keeping with the alliance with religious leaders that Guinness had recommended, the appeal bore the signatures of the Bishops of Southwark, Liverpool, and Durham, Rev. Stephen Gladstone (one of William Gladstone’s sons), Congregationalist leaders Rev. Robert Horton and Rev. Silvester Horne, Rev. F.B. Meyer (Baptist), and Rev. Scott Lidgett (Methodist). The results of the appeal disappointed Meyer, and he worried that “we defeated our own object by its length.” Long or short, every appeal failed to bring in money at the levels hoped for, yet the organization continued to gather funds, carry out its work, and generally run in the black.
Figure 3.3 William Cadbury Source: From LSE Library’s collections.
|< Prev||CONTENTS||Next >|