Manchester Schiller Institute Circular (2)

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 28 June 1867

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 20, p. 417;
First published: as a leaflet.
Keywords : Germany, Emigration, England

The Schiller Institute, founded in Manchester in November 1859 in connection with the centenary of Friedrich Schiller’s birth, strove to be the centre of cultural and social life of the German émigrés Engels was critical of the Institute noted for its tendency to formalism and pedantry, and initially kept aloof from it. Bill when certain changes were introduced into its Rules, he became a member of its Directorate in 1864. Later, as the President of the Institute, Engels devoted much time to it and exercised a considerable influence on its activities. In September 1868, while Engels was away from Manchester, the Institute invited Karl Vogt who was slandering the proletarian revolutionaries, to deliver a lecture. Engels felt that his political reputation would be compromised if he remained President and so he left the Directorate. In April 1870 he was again elected a member of the Directorate of the Schiller Institute, but did not take an active part in it.

To the Underwriters of the Fund for the Building of a new Schiller Institute[edit source]

Since the subscription, which was started last year by the Board of Directors for the above purpose, was closed owing to the war a and the business crisis after £2,875 had been subscribed, the conditions pertaining to the Institute’s existence were fundamentally changed with respect to the new building. The Board of Directors accordingly considers it its duty to give the underwriters of the fund the necessary explanation.

Since the sum of money stipulated in the circular of March 19, 1866, was insufficient to cover the cost of the building proposed (a total of £5,000 to £5,500 was needed), and in the circumstances obtaining at the time there were also no prospects for collecting the remaining amount in time, the Board of Directors had no choice but to look around for temporary premises for the present.

It turned out that such premises were not available in the centre of the city where the Institute was to be located according to the Basic Rules. Consequently, the Board of Directors was forced to maintain the present premises until June 1868 which could only be achieved by paying double rent, a rise from £225 to £450.

In these circumstances, the question could no longer be ignored whether it was absolutely essential for the Institute to be in the centre, i.e. in the city’s business quarter; whether the advantages thereby gained would not be paid for too dearly, owing to the enormous increases in the prices of land and in rents; and whether a, strictly speaking, less central site, for example, near All Saints’ Church, which would cost far less, might not in fact be more convenient and central for the overwhelming majority of the Institute’s members.

According to the plan drawn up last year, even if £5,000 were collected through donations, the Institute would still have to carry a mortgage of £5-6,000, and would therefore have to pay interest amounting to between £250 and £300 annually. As the value of land in the centre of the city has significantly increased since last March alone, the purchasing price fixed at the time and the mortgage necessary to cover it, and therefore the Institute’s annual debt, can likewise be assumed to be greater. The Institute’s balance-sheet over the last two years has only shown £200 left for rent. Although we could count on more members in better premises, and certain additional revenue would have to be taken into account, it is still obvious that the above mentioned interest could only just be afforded. Every pound paid in rent is taken from the Institute’s education fun d. Last year we were only able to allocate £80 for journals and £20 for the library, although the Institute’s total income was £500.

It would be quite different if the premises were moved to the All Saints’ district. Here, among other things, there is a suitable plot of land in an extremely favourable position going for £1,700, with an additional £26 chief rent. By way of example, this building site forms the basis of our calculations:

Purchasing price of the plot of land £1,70000

Building costs £3,50000

New furniture £ 50000

Total £5,70000

for which a mortgage of £2,000 could certainly be obtained. In this, case, subscriptions to the building fund would only need to total approximately £3,500 to £4,000, that is £1,000 to £1,500 less than if the new building were in the centre of the city. After the success of last year’s subscriptions and with the change in circumstances, we have every reason to hope that the requisite amount will be collected in a short time.

The financial position of the Institute would improve substantially, in spite of the total subscriptions necessarily being smaller. Besides the Chief rent of £26, there would be £ 100 interest to pay on the mortgage, so that the total sum needed for the rent would be only £126 instead of £225, which was paid last year, and £450 that we are paying now, or the £250 to £300, which was envisaged in last year’s building plan. Even with the income of the last financial year, instead of £100, £174 could be spent annually on the Institute’s library and reading room, which would be almost double the sum available for that purpose. Now, however, it is certain that, with this new building for the Institute, new financial sources would become accessible owing to the increased number of subtenants and the greater membership, and the proceeds from these sources would be used almost exclusively to support the Institute’s intellectual pursuits.

If the Institute remains in the centre of the city as it has done up till now, even with donations of £5,000 to £5,500, it will at best only be in a position to eke out an existence with great difficulty and will have to appeal to the German circles in Manchester at every unfavourable change in circumstances.

If, however, it is moved to a district where building sites are cheaper, then donations of £3,500 to £4,000 would not only once and for all establish a permanent existence for itself, but also guarantee an annual surplus in income which would finally allow it to fulfil its purpose in the best way possible.

In these circumstances, the Board of Directors could be in no doubt as to what action it should take. It decided to move to the All Saints’ district and set about changing the Basic Rules connected with this. The Board called a general meeting on June 6th which was well attended and where all but one of the participants voted for the following:

“The general meeting declares it desirable that, in the future, Article 1 of the Basic Rules should read in the following manner:

“It is declared expedient to establish a literature and arts institute, to be known as the Schiller Institute here in the city, on the best possible central site

“and authorises the Board of Directors through Article 7 of the Basic Rules and Clause 20 of the Regulations to take a conditional vote on it.”

As a result the Board of Directors has taken the necessary steps for definitive voting, which is to take place at the end of August.

The question was raised why, once the decision Was made to move the Institute, nobody looked round for a house which could have been taken for a number of years at a relatively cheap rent. The Board of Directors replied that it had been looking for just such a house, but had not found one; that a house of this type would only be found in a location much farther away from the centre of the city than the All Saints’ district; that such a location was only to be chosen in an emergency and finally that even in that case at least £1,500 to £2,000 in donations would be needed for the necessary extensions and the furnishing of premises which would only after all be temporary. For these reasons, such premises were rejected for the present.

When the Board of Directors gains the necessary majority, of which there can be no doubt, to change the Basic Rules, it intends to do the following:

Should the funds prove sufficient to purchase a suitable plot of land near All Saints’, to erect a building on it according to the plans made last year, namely with the basement equipped for the gymnastics club and with a large hall on the first floor accommodated, among other things, for the choir, so that the original aim would be achieved of bringing all of Manchester German Associations together under one roof.

If, on the other hand, the contributions should not reach the sum necessary, to correspondingly scale down the new building, but in any case only to put up a building which would conform to the Institute’s needs better than the present premises.

The Board of Directors requests you to acquaint yourselves with the above mentioned changes in the building plan and at the same time would like to inform you that a deputation from its midst will have the honour to seek your approval for this.

By order of the Board of Directors

F. Engels, chairman

J. G. Wehner, treasurer

A. Davisson, secretary

Manchester, June 28, 1867