A Colony of the Unemployed


IF the world of work has its interest for the social economist, no less has the world out-of-work for every student of social aims and conditions. It may be divided like the earth into two great hemispheres, — the one half that will not work, and the other half that cannot work “ because no man has hired them.” One of these hemispheres I had explored in several countries. I had found its inhabitants in England, Germany, and America thoroughly committed to the theory of living without work, choosing rather mendicancy or depradation. I became irresistibly drawn to the other half, and resolved on as practical a study of the man out of work by no fault of his own as I had made of the tramp who is accustomed to boast that he can live better without work than with it.

Being in Germany, I began on the spot. Thanks to a good philanthropist, and fortunately for my purpose, there was accessible an institution which offered me an immediate opportunity for studying the out-of-work at close range. It is called die Arbeiter-Kolonie, and there are at present twenty-seven colonies scattered throughout the empire. Pastor von Bodelscliwingh, the philanthropist referred to, the superintendent of the large Epileptics’ Hospital near Hanover, started the first one about fourteen years ago in the town of Bielefeld in Westphalia. At that time Germany was literally overrun by tramps. Two hundred thousand were arrested every year, and the poorhouses and shelters were full to overflowing. In 1882, von Bodelscliwingh conceived the idea of establishing labor colonies, or refuges, where unemployed men, able and willing to work, might go, and at least pay their way until more profitable labor was found. His plan was to make it impossible for the beggar to say that there was no place where he could find shelter, and that therefore he must beg.

The colony in Westphalia proved so useful that others soon sprang up in other parts of the country, and, as I said, there are now twenty-seven, culminating in a landed estate near Bremen, where men who have proved themselves particularly deserving in other colonies may acquire a piece of land and eventually set up independent homes of their own. Each applicant for help must promise to stay in a colony at least four weeks, after which he can go or stay longer, as he pleases, provided no work has been found for him outside. The authorities try to keep in touch with all employers seeking labor, and the moment they can recommend a man they do so, in order that some other out-of-work may take his place. The colonies are supported in the main by private charity and the proceeds of the work of the colonists. In some cases the district in which a colony is situated helps it out of the public funds, and in Berlin a society of several thousand members contributes largely to the maintenance of the colony there. Each member pays a specified annual fee, and receives a number of tickets, which entitle him to send men to the colony, where they are taken in if room can be found for them and they prove themselves worthy.

I chose the Berlin colony, or rather its branch at Tegel, outside the city, for my investigations. It is one of the very few found near large towns, and it offers on this account the better opportunity for study, because of the congestion of the labor market in a commercial centre. German farmers often complain that there are not laborers enough to reap their harvests, while in the cities the workingman often has to sell his labor at ruinous prices. I applied to the director of the colony, stating frankly to him my purpose, and asked if I might be received as a regular colonist, to work, eat, and sleep with the men, and see not only the workings of the institution, but the lives of the inmates as well. After testing my honesty in the matter, the director granted my request and sent me to the branch at Tegel, where no one could know anything of me or my errand, not even the overseer.

It was a warm May afternoon when I presented myself in tramp garb at the little brick office and asked for admission. I had with me my American pass, and a letter from the director of the main colony to the effect that I was “ all right” and should be taken in without hesitation. By rights I should also have had an Arbeitsbuch, which every German workingman must carry, — it contains his recommendations and the police stamp of the different towns in which he has worked,—but the director’s letter explained my being without one. Thinking that I did not understand much German, — and I was careful, for reasons easily understood, not to make him think differently, — the Hausvater, or overseer, merely asked me the ordinary questions. I had to tell where I was born, how old I was, what trade I had, where I had worked last, whether I had ever been in prison, where I had come from, and whether I was married, single, divorced, or a widower. This interview over, I was given a contract to sign, to the effect that I would obey all the rules of the colony and remain at least a month, unless I should find work outside. By the rules I was hound to work to the best of my ability and show every respect to the officials, who were the Hausvater, a young theological student acting as pastor, and a foreman who superintended matters when the Hausvater was absent ; these were the only outsiders in any way connected with the institution. I was also cautioned against making any irreverent remarks about the Bible and religion, and was told that the first offense would be punished with immediate dismissal. The contract signed and stamped, I was received into the corporation, and was assigned at once to the “ straw factory section,” where I was expected to learn how to make straw cases for wine bottles. I remained at this work throughout my stay in the colony.

The daily programme was as follows : We rose in the morning at five o’clock, made our beds, washed, had breakfast, attended prayers, and were off to work by six. At nine there was a short pause for lunch, after which we resumed work until noon. From twelve to one was the dinner hour. After dinner we worked on until seven, with a short pause at four for another lunch. After supper we sat around in the woods and garden until half past eight, when we had evening prayers. At nine everybody was supposed to be in bed. On Sunday there was no work, and after church in the morning we were free to lie about in the woods. I received in payment for my labor a mark a day. No one received less than this, and some made as much as a mark and a half. These were colonists who worked in the forest, clearing the ground where a penitentiary is to be built, or those who managed the machines in the straw factory and were paid by the piece. There were several men who had no less than thirty marks to their credit in the colony treasury. Out of every man’s earnings seventy-five pfennigs a day were taken to pay for food and lodging. The food was simple, but abundant. For breakfast we had a bowl of gruel and a slice of black bread ; for lunch (at nine and four), black coffee and bread and butter; for dinner, broth, potatoes, and meat, all in one dish; for supper, tea and bread. I cannot say that the food was as nourishing as I should have liked, and I often heard the men grumble, but for seventy-five pfennigs a day one could not expect more. The beds were furnished with mattresses, pillows, blankets, and sheets, and were fairly comfortable. I slept in a room with six other men ; most of the colouists were in a larger room close by.

On Saturday afternoon a little store was opened in the garden, where the men could buy tobacco, shirts, collars, socks, handkerchiefs, toothbrushes, suspenders, and other useful things. Each of the colonists had a separate account, and whatever he bought was put down in a little book, shown to him every week. On Sunday afternoon all new-comers were called to the pastor’s room, where he talked with them confidentially about their life, supplementing the questions put to them officially in the office. He is a practical religionist, and looks after all the interests of the men and their positions outside. He thought, like the Hausvater, that I was quite helpless in German, so my encounter with him was short. As I was leaving his room, however, he asked again, as if the thought had just come to him, “ Have you ever been in prison ? ” Afterward, when my identity was discovered and I was no longer a colonist, he told me that men often tell him the truth when the question is put to them in this way.

So much for the routine in the colony.

I have hurried over it in order to tell about the colonists rather than dwell on the monotonous programme which it is their daily task to fulfill.


There were in all forty-two men in the colony while I was there; in winter there are over a hundred. Mechanics and common laborers were most numerous, but there were others who had been druggists, school-teachers, clerks, officials in the civil service, cadets and officers in the army, students in the university, lawyers, merchants, and even noblemen. Each one had fallen very low, and fully half had been forced to ask the Hausvater to give them clothes to cover their nakedness. Not all were willing to talk about their careers, and there were some who, the minute work was over, retired into corners and would commune with no one, but I succeeded in gathering more or less definite information about the most of them.

First of all and most noticeable of all were the boys and young men. They numbered fully a third of the colonists, and were by all odds the easiest to get acquainted with. They had done nothing of which they felt particularly ashamed; life was still before them, and they talked freely and without reserve with all who would listen. They were mainly Handwerksburschen, — apprentices who have learned trades and travel about the country from one master to another. They had taken shelter in the colony, partly because there was no other place for them, and partly to get a fresh Arbeitsbueh. For those who tramp the highways in Germany as the Handwerksburschen do it is not allowed to be out of work longer than six weeks, unless they have been ill, and the gendarmes can tell from their books when and where they last had a position. A great many succeed in eluding the officers, and rove for months without even asking for work. It often happens, however, that when they do seek work their books are in such bad order that no one will employ them, and there is then nothing better for them to do than go into an Arbeiter-Kolonie, where they can get a fresh stamp in their books, which allows them, on release, six weeks’ grace before the police can molest them. Not all Handwerksburschen are so unprincipled as this, but there are so many who are that their class has become notorious, and those whom I met in the colony were exclusively of this character. All of them said they could have found work had they wanted to, but preferring to travel about and see the country, they had got into the trouble I have described. They were not tramps in the sense in which the American hobo is a tramp, and most of them intended to look for work on leaving the colony, but they were so possessed of Wanderlust that until they had satisfied it there was not much hope of their settling down. Each one had traveled all over Germany, and several had been in every country of Europe. England and the United States seemed to be their Mecca, and they called their desire to visit these countries die Englische Krankheit.

The larger part of the colonists were men all the way from thirty to fortyfive or fifty years of age. They were principally common laborers, but there were also men who had fallen from higher walks of life. The latter were easily marked by their love of seclusion and by a refinement of manner which, try as they would, they could not entirely conceal. They called themselves Arbeiter, like the rest, but bits of their stories had leaked out, and it was known to everybody that they had seen better days. One of them, a poor fellow whose misfortunes had unbalanced his mind, I learned to know personally. I never found out what he had really been,— some thought a lawyer, — but the story he gave me was this : He belonged, he said, to a very distinguished family, settled in a little province of its own on the river Oder, not far from Stettin. It is a custom in this family for some one of each generation to live his life among the poor, and he had been chosen for this task. While still a little child he was put in a peasant’s hut, and never thereafter allowed to see his father or mother. He managed, however, to get an education, and he told me that he had been a military officer in Turkey, a journalist in France, a barrister in England, and a labor agitator in the United States. While in Turkey he had married, and two children, a boy and a girl, were born to him. He had returned to Germany in order to compel his family to receive these children into the old home. He did not mean to ask anything for himself; he believed, indeed, that Providence had willed that he should live his life in just this way, but he was determined to carry the case of the children to the very highest courts, if necessary. Sometimes, when off duty, I would find him mumbling to himself in the garden, and it was always concerning his case in the courts, and that he “ was going to conduct it himself.” I have seldom met a more pitiful case of distress. He was the raggedest man in the colony; nearly everything he had on had been borrowed from the Hausvater, yet his poor deluded brain made him think that he was the most aristocratic of all. He called himself Count Adrian-Hohenstein.

Another man, who had been a druggist, was also interesting. His great theme was America, and how any one with a will is bound to get on there. His own case illustrated the fact, he said, He had lived nearly fifteen years in the United States, and there was not a day when he was without work, if he wanted it. In Milwaukee he had been a police station janitor, in San Francisco a lawyer’s clerk, in Chicago a news-vender, in New York an independent druggist, and for three years he had been cook on a steamer plying between New York and Brazil. Wherever he had gone he had made money, and wherever he had stopped he had, unfortunately, spent it. He returned to Germany by mistake. Stranded in Rio Janeiro one day, he had to ship in a steamer bound for Copenhagen, in order to get out of the country. Landed in Copenhagen, his earnings soon went for liquor, and the first thing he knew he was in Germany, a wandering beggar. He was working in the colony to get money enough to cross over to England, where he hoped to ship for New York. He was sure that luck would again favor him when once out of verdammt Deutschland.

There were several men of this stamp, and all seemed to have fallen through drink. They wanted work, and did willingly their tasks in the colony, but I fear they could not hold any position long.

The other men of the class I am considering were ordinary day laborers. They were in the colony because they had been unable to find even a breadand-water existence outside. Wherever they had been, and particularly in Berlin, no employer needed their services, and they were trying to earn a few marks to help them on their travels when they left the colony. It was evident from their conversation and faces that liquor had played havoc with them, also, but they were by no means such victims of drink as the men whom I have described. Their greatest mistake had been in seeking work in large towns. They were part and parcel of that large army in Germany continually storming the cities, and once enlisted they had not been able to return to the farm.

They had tramped from city to city, asking for work in each one, but had foolishly passed by the villages, where, at least in summer, farmers often bid high for laborers. They had acquired the passion for town life, and even hunger could not drive them farther away from it than out to Tegel, where they still heard the roar of the neighboring city. Their class is uncommonly large in the Fatherland, and is likely to keep on growing until something definite is done to force them back to the fields. This is where most of them belong, and the wonder is that Germany, with its all - powerful paternal government and strict police regulations, has allowed them to swarm into the cities. I believe that they honestly desire work, but they must be made to seek it where it can be found. Berlin could dispense with thousands of them without in the least disturbing its business, and the pity is that they are permitted to remain.

Last of all in my observations came the old men, of whom there were about ten in the colony. Nearly all had trades, but they were too old to ply them satisfactorily. One said to me: “ When I ask for work, people say, ’Why, father, what can you do ? ’ and then they smile, give me a piece of bread, and tell me that my hair is too white. The world is not what it used to be. In ’48 they preferred old men to young ; to-day it is just the opposite. All that an old man can do now is lie down and die.”

There was something indescribably pathetic about these old men, as they gathered together and talked over the times when the world was larger and more comfortable, but I could not help wondering why they had not saved something to keep them in old age. They were all intelligent, well-read men, and several had had very good positions in their day, yet not one had a home to which he could return. Some had been married and had children, but either the latter would not receive them, or the old men were too proud to seek them out. They fussed about the colony, doing light work in the factory and household, each one anxious to keep up his end, if possible, but their outlook was hopeless. No employer could make use of them, and without the colony they must have given up the struggle.

I could not bring myself to the point of asking any of them outright for the story of their lives, — it seemed cruel to make them hark back in detail over the mistakes and failures which had brought them here; but from remarks dropped now and then in general conversation, I managed to patch together the stories of two or three. One, a Silesian, interested me particularly. He was over sixty, and had come to Tegel from another colony in Schleswig-Holstein where he had spent several months. He worked next to me in the factory, and at lunch-time we occasionally talked together about our travels. I told him about America, and he told me about Poland, Russia, and Hungary. He had been all over these countries, and spoke the different languages besides several dialects. He knew south Russia best, however, and from little things that he said I concluded that he had fled there with his parents after the revolution in Baden in '49, of which he had considerable to say. From his conversation one would have taken him for something more than a simple locksmith, and hee had the manner of a man who had been brought up in polite society, but he assured me that whatever education he had, had been acquired by his own efforts. His great trouble in life, the one indeed by which he explained his forlorn condition, had been his passion for politics, as he put it. The revolutionary spirit was in him, and he had got into trouble in every country he had visited. In Hungary he had served three years in prison, in Poland two, and in Russia there was a sentence of exile to Siberia standing against him. He did not look like a dangerous man, and many of his political notions could have been subscribed to by any American, but I was told by other colonists that he was one of the most violent Socialists in Germany.

Another old man had been unfortunate in his married life, and his wife was consequently much blamed for his sad state. He could not hear the word “ woman ” mentioned without exclaiming, “ Langes Haar und kurze Gedanken !" Through some short-sightedness of his wife — I did not learn what — he had lost his home in Thuringia, and had never been able to found another. For fully a third of his fifty-odd years he had been wandering about Europe, working wherever he could, but always spending his money as fast as he earned it. He lost his ambition to save, he said, when his home was taken away from him. Still another of the old men had made a wreck of his life by trying to patent his inventions. He told me of a numbev of things which he had invented, among them a wrench in use at the colony factory, but he had invariably lost them through the meanness of unscrupulous lawyers. I liked him for the simple-hearted way in which he took his troubles. There was always a pleasant smile on his fatherly face, and I fail to recall a bitter word from his lips. All he would say, was, “ Ich hab’ kein Glück gehabt.”

There was one other who I think might easily prove a specimen for Lombroso. He was not an old man, but I have reserved his case till now because his peculiarity has nothing to do with the conditions in relation to which I have considered the others. He ought long since to have been committed to a psychological laboratory, where he might have figured as a significant study in criminology. Sometime in his career, I do not know exactly when, he had killed a man by holding his head under water in a lake. There was no particular enmity between the two men, and the murderer seems to have acted merely on a natural inclination to be cruel. He suffered but ten years’ imprisonment for the crime, his lawyer having made out that he was not entirely in his right mind. He had drifted into the colony, like the rest, to find shelter. The curious thing about him was, that he killed everything he dared. He saw a bird’snest one day in a tree in the garden ; it was full of little birds. Down they must come, and the cat was called to eat them up. He looked on and grinned. There was a dog in a corner of the garden. He plagued it to distraction ; he would have strangled it, he said, had he not been afraid of the consequences. In the forest he was always looking for ants’ nests, which he rooted out and then stamped on the ants. Flies he liked to pick to pieces. His attitude toward the other men was that of cold indifference. He always tried to get more than his share of the food, and I never saw him do a favor or ask one. At prayers and in church he was the most devout of all: he sang louder than any one else, and followed the readings in the Bible with the closest attention. He was one of the few real moral delinquents it has been my privilege to meet, and I have taken note of him on account of the genuineness of the type.

Such were my companions in the colony. I am convinced that the great majority of them desire work, and look for it, as a rule, rather than beg, but I cannot say that I found in them the outof-work I was seeking — sufferers from a dearth in the labor market, and unemployed through no fault of their own. There was not a man in the institution who did not seem to me more or less responsible for his condition, and I understand that this is the case in all the labor colonies of Germany. In 1895, sixtyfour percent of all the colonists received at Tegel and at the main colony in the city had been confined at least once in a jail, workhouse, or penitentiary. About nine hundred were admitted during this year, and they came from all parts of the country, and represented nearly all branches of industry. They may be taken as a fair sample of unemployed men in Germany, and I feel safe in saying that the forty-two I learned to know were equally typical.


The most alluring thing to me, in my intercourse with these men, was to get at their opinions and philosophy of life.

They were all great travelers, had seen much and heard much, and I tried to find out what they thought about people and things in general. There was not much time to talk with them during the day, but at night, after we had turned in, they often chatted for an hour or more, and I then had a chance to hear their views. I cannot attempt here more than a brief summary of what they said, but I assure the reader that they were most interesting to listen to. Germany and its present condition was the absorbing topic of conversation. Although the men had traveled much in other countries, the "Fatherland ” was, after all, their home, and they enjoyed telling each other of the reforms which, in their opinion, were necessary to make it habitable. No country that they had visited suited them entirely, not even America, but they found so many things out of order in Germany that they could not keep off the subject long.

There were four institutions which they particularly disliked,—the church, the monarchy, the army, and the police. Nearly everything they said in criticism bore directly or indirectly on these institutions, and I fail to recall a conversation, in the least serious, when one of them was not the subject of discussion. The church they considered antiquated, hypocritical, and oppressive. There was no distinction made between Protestant and Catholic, and the entire institution was condemned. It was antiquated, they thought, “ because it teaches things which all the world knows are no longer true ; ” hypocritical, “ because the clergy, as a class, do not live up to what they preach ; ” and oppressive, “ because it taxes people who do not believe in it. They also said that it is much to blame for the ignorance that prevails in the peasant class. “ In no other country,” one declared, “are the peasants so stupid and bigoted as here, and the Pfaffen are the cause of it. They go about and tell the peasants that they must vote and think the way the church wants them to, and they are just fools enough to do it. Down with the Pfaffen, I say ! ”

Very few of these men, however, were out-and-out disbelievers. Nearly all had their own private religious ideas, and were perfectly sincere in stating them. They believed that there is a great Power which regulates the world, but not a personal God, or indeed One to whom prayers may be offered. They considered the devotional exercises in the colony ridiculous, and attended them merely because attendance was compulsory. As to what happens after death, which was one of their favorite themes when discussing the church, a great deal was said, but there seemed to be no unanimity of opinion. One man declared that he did not believe in heaven and hell at all, as popularly depicted. He thought that when a man dies, the good in him, spiritual as well as physical, is used again in this world, and that the bad is destroyed. He talked for nearly two hours on this subject, one night, and seemed to be well informed about all religions. He often asked me about the different sects in America, and was the only colonist who knew positively that Americans are not heathen. The others were most peculiar in this respect, considering their general intelligence. I had told them that I did not belong to the so-called evangelical church of Germany, and the rumor spread about that I was a heathen. I finally received the nickname of “ Heide. “ This was not meant in any unfriendly way, but merely as a name to go by.

A great deal is being done just now in Germany to win such men as these back to the church, and there are those who prophesy sore disaster to the state unless the present estrangement is overcome. The Christian Socialists are particularly fearful of this result. I cannot forbear reporting one of the comments which a colonist made on a certain phase of German methods to convert men of his kind. On entering the colony, every man is told that he must thank Providence alone for the benefits there conferred upon him. “One would think,”the man said apropos of this, “ that human nature was incapable of charity. Why can’t they say, ‘ I do this for you, my good man, because I want to help you ’ ? It would impress me a great deal more than continually talking about Providence.”

The criticisms of the monarchy, army, and police were pretty much what any man of their stamp, who had learned to know more liberal forms of government, would have made. They considered the monarchy the result of the stupidity of the people, —such a thing should never have been allowed, — and the army and police institutions devised to protect it. “ If we had never had a monarchy,” said one of the old men, “ we should never have had the army. It is for something more than merely to fight France. They have it so that they can keep us poor people down, if we should ever try to revolt, — that’s the bottom of the whole business. Kaiser Wilhelm sees that things are getting hotter and hotter for him, and he hangs on to his soldiers, so that he can shoot us down, if necessary. I know these emperors and kings ! What did they do in ’49 ? Crowded us into corners and then jabbed at us with bayonets. Our time will come, though ; just wait. Some day we ’ll do the jabbing.”

Not all were so revolutionary as this, and for the boys and young men the army seemed to have certain attractions, but there was a general tendency to put the blame for the present feeling of unrest among the laboring classes on the institutions in question. The monarchy was too despotic, the army too expensive, and the police too overbearing. But very little was said about economic conditions or the overcrowding of the labor market. Each man appeared to think that these questions would settle themselves, if the others were once solved. “ I would rather have liberty,” one of the mechanics remarked, “than good wages, but you can’t find either in Germany now. All I save from my earnings has to go in taxes, and all I get from the latter is a shove from a policeman and a warning to move on. That’s a nice state of affairs for hochcultiviertes Deutschland, is n’t, it?” And he sneered.

Three remedies were suggested to better the existing condition of things, and I give them in the order of their radical nature. The first was a republican form of government. This was the scheme of the old men. They thought that if Germany could only have a President instead of an Emperor, everything would improve. I said to one that Germany was not yet ready to become a republic, that the people were still too much attached to the monarchy. “ Bosh ! ” he exclaimed. “ All we have to do is to send the Kaiser out of the country, and put a President and the Reichstag in his place. We are as ready for that as we shall ever be. If the army were disbanded, we would soon show what we want. The trouble is that the soldiers stick by the Kaiser, and, as they have the guns, we can ’t do anything.” The subject was so dear to the old man that it was impossible to discuss it with him calmly, and all I could get out of him, or the others who favored it, was the simple declaration that eine Republik würde alles ündern.

Socialism was the next suggestion. It was upheld mainly by the middleaged colonists, who were nearly all members of the Social Democratic party. They had sat at the feet of Bebel and Liebknecht, and, like the other followers of these strenuous agitators, would listen to no reform other than that of a complete reconstruction of society.

“ The whole thing must be changed,” said one, “and until it is the poor man will be kept down.” They made the usual remarks about “ unearned increment ” and “ the exploitation of the proletariat,” and seemed to be well up in the general terminology of their cult.

I tried to get from two or three of them clear statements of exactly what was to happen under the socialistic régime, and how the change was to be brought about, but I could obtain nothing beyond the usual promises of the millennium. They seemed to me to be seeking merely a general overthrow of society that they might enjoy for the moment the riotous living that would follow, and I can only say that if the rank and file of German socialism is equally indefinite in its ideals and the means whereby they are to be achieved, the government is fully justified in keeping it under strict police surveillance. Such men, in my opinion, would make an even greater failure of life under Socialism than they do now.

A “ big war ” was the third remedy. The young men and boys favored this procedure. “ The world is too full of Menschen” they said, “ and the only way to thin it out is to let things go los for a while.” By los they meant an all round battle between the nations. “ After the war with France everything boomed,” one declared, “ and that’s what we need now.” They were just as obstinate and one-sided in their opinions as the others, and protests about the horrible results of war had no effect upon them.

In all these conversations and suggestions, I was struck with a trait of character which is common to men of this class the world over. They all know, or think they know, what ails the world, and exactly what it needs for its regeneration, but it almost never dawns on them that they themselves have any personal responsibility in the reforms suggested. They seem to consider themselves as something aloof from society, lookers-on, as it were, justified in making all manner of criticisms, but not required to look at all deeply into their own failings and sins. Tramps have this same trait. They will talk for hours at the hang-out camp-fire about what ought to be done to make the world better, and at times with a clearness of perception and earnestness of argument that are unexcelled ; but let a little personal introspection or criticism be suggested, and a silence comes over them like that of the graveyard. Other people’s failings they feel perfectly free to discuss ; their own must remain a sealed book.

Another thing that impressed me in the colony — and I have noticed it before in all places where men are shut in — was the irritability of the inmates. Sometimes they could hardly stand a contradiction in conversation without showing anger, and in the workshop the least trouble with a machine would send some of them into a violent rage. Those who had been in the colony longest were the most easily excited. I report this fact for the benefit of those penologists who find in the criminal’s irritability an evidence of his natural lack of stamina and will power. If simple out-of-works in such an institution as the colony, where, after all, they are not very closely confined, show the nervousness and petulancy that I have described, how much more must the man show, and with reason, who is shut up for years, perhaps for life, in a prison cell ? Criminologists would do well to take this matter more into account before pronouncing judgment too definitely upon the criminal’s natural capabilities.


A week of colony life was over, and my work was done as far as these men were concerned. I felt that I knew them as well as it was possible to know them in such a place, and a longer stay seemed unnecessary. A card to a friend in the city soon brought me word that work was waiting for me, and I was released in good faith. I went, as I came, a common day laborer.

A few days later, “ clothed and in my right mind,” I sought out the colony again. I desired to express to the Hausvater thanks for the fair treatment I had received, and to talk over with him and the theological student my experiences. I found them, as before, in the little brick office, and it was hard for them to believe that I was the same man who had presented himself a week previously in such a pitiable plight. They thought that some joke had been perpetrated upon them, and it took all my powers of persuasion to convince them of the earnestness of my purpose. This accomplished, however, I was made most welcome, and immediately invited to drink coffee with the Hausvater’s family. He called his wife and daughters from the house, and I was introduced to them as der Entpuppte,—the chrysalis turned butterfly. We all took seats at the cosy little table in the garden, laid for afternoon refreshments, and it was a pleasure I shall never forget to sit there and enjoy the things which had seemed to me so delicious while I was forced to live upon the simpler fare of the colonists, — a gratification somewhat similar, I fancy, to that which the prisoner experiences when eating his first “ square meal ” after a long bondage.

I was plied with all manner of questions about how I had found the food and the beds, and what treatment the men had given me ; and then the Hausvater and the Herr Candidat told me of their own experiences with the colonists.

I asked them what percentage of all who came to them for assistance they considered worthy of help and capable of betterment.

“ Not half,” they replied. “ The majority are men who, on account of their bad habits, would go under in the struggle in any country. They are not actual tramps, in the sense that they are absolutely averse to work, but the most of them want work that they cannot find. They are dilettanti, and skip from one thing to another without any definite aim or purpose.”

Do you consider them fair representatives of the so-called army of the unemployed ? ”

“ They are good representatives of the men who are continually talking about lack of employment. They find no work because they seek it, as a rule, where it is least likely to be found. Here in Germany, if a man really wants labor, and is not particular about the kind, so long as it keeps him going till something better turns up, he can generally find it.”

“ Of what use, then, do you consider the colony, and is it worth while housing men of such a character ? ”

“ It is useful in helping us to form a more or less correct idea of who the worthy unemployed are. All sorts and conditions of men come into these colonies, and we soon find out who are deserving and who are not. The former we do our best to place in suitable positions, and to the latter we give the benefit of our home, believing that the strict order and discipline required can at least do them no harm, and may possibly help them. In this way we are able to keep pretty well informed about the real situation, which was impossible before the colonies existed. Then, when great distress was reported, one had to take the statement more or less on trust. To-day we can tell to a nicety, as far as single men are concerned, how much real need there is, and that goes a long way toward settling the problem. The colony serves as a test-house where a man can prove, if he wishes, his determination to help himself.”

As such I can recommend it to the careful attention of all who are interested in philanthropic work. I do not believe that the time has yet come when such an institution is absolutely necessary in this country on simple grounds of charity, —there is still work enough in the United States for every man in it who is not afraid to take the first thing that comes, — but I am fully persuaded that it would be of great use in winnowing the honest from the dishonest, and the industrious from the lazy.

Josiah Flynt.