Humanitarian League Disbands

We regret that this league has decided, by the advice of its executive committee ratified by the majority of the members’ votes, that the organization should end with December, 1919.

The Humanitarian League is not a very old organisation, having run a course of twenty-nine years. “The view of starting a humane society with a wider scope than that of any previously existing body (says the Humanitarian) was suggested by that scholarly thinker, to whom our movement is in many ways indebted, Mr. Howard Williams.” The small group which formed the first meeting at the house of Mrs. Drakoules in Park Square consisted of that lady, Mr. Edward Maitland, Mr. Howard Williams, Mr. Kenneth Romanes, and Mr Henry S. Salt. All of these are vegetarians, as were many more who, later, took an active part in the promotion of the work, so close has been the link between the League and the Vegetarian Society. The term “humanitarian” was felt to be the only one which would sufficiently express the object in view. Prof. Francis W. Newman wrote expressing his opinion that the time (1891) was hardly ripe for such a venture. But a beginning was made. Mrs. Lewis (now Mrs. Drakoules) was appointed Hon. Treasurer, and Mr. H. S. Salt, Hon Secretary. Mr. Salt’s rooms, in Gloucester Road, were for four years the only “office” the League boasted. Pamphlets were issued from time to time and occasional meetings were held, and even in those early days good foundational work was done. Other workers in kindred causes joined the committee as time went on, among whom was Mr. Ernest Bell, who for twenty years acted as Chairman and Hon. Treasurer.

In 1895 the League took an office at 79, Great Queen Street, and a monthly journal was begun. During the same year the committee ventured on the holding of a National Humanitarian Conference, at St. Martin’s Hall, which attracted a good deal of attention. After this the scope of the work was a good deal extended and specialised in departments. We name: Sports, Criminal Law and Prison Reform, Humane Diet and Dress, Education and Children, etc., and the Recognition of the Rights of Animals. Appeals in the general press now became common in this department. Mr. Joseph Collinson rendered great service. In 1897 the League removed its headquarters to Chancery Lane. It is impossible to name all the humanitarian causes which the League has championed; the committee were always ready to help those who were unable to help themselves.

The list of pamphlets gives a very good oversight over the scope of the work done, but it cannot measure its influence, which has undoubtedly been great. Such writers as Frederick Harrison, Edward Carpenter, G. B. Shaw, Robert Buchanan, Elisée Reclus, W. H. Hudson, R. B. Cunninghame Graham, Edmund Selous, J. Howard Moore, and many others too numerous to name, were champions who could command the public ear. Some ten years ago local branches were formed.

It is regrettable that such work should cease, or even suffer a great interruption.

Published: The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, January 1920 V. 17 No. 1 p. 7