International Workingmen’s Association 1866

Manchester Schiller Institute Circular

Source: MECW, Volume 20, p. 402;
First published: as a leaflet in March 1866.

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.

Carlon Buildings, Cooper Street,
March 19, 1866

The Schiller Institute, whose six-year-long existence offers complete proof that it is an institution which satisfies real needs, must leave its present premises in June next year, since the lease will then have expired, and the owner will have definitely refused to extend it.

The Board of Directors has therefore to tackle the following task in order to provide the Institute with the premises it needs for its purpose.

After all attempts to find a suitable building had failed, and no contractor could be found who was prepared to erect such a building which would then be let to the Institute, there remained no other way out than to see if the necessary funds could be raised for a building to be erected at the Institute’s own expense.

The essential points that one must bear in mind here are the following:

The Institute must be located in a central part of the city.
Visitors to the Institute must be able to enter it on the ground floor.
Its individual rooms must be at least the same size as the present ones.

The fulfilment of these conditions appeared indispensable to us, if the Institute was to continue to thrive. In addition, however, it seemed desirable to provide the various associations existing in Manchester with the opportunity of finding a common home in the projected new building. This purpose can be achieved if the uppermost floor were turned into a hall seating 250 to 300 people. Such a hall would make a negligible difference to the cost of the building, while the Institute’s income could be greatly supplemented by letting it.

We have accordingly put every effort into finding a suitable plot of land and Into ascertaining the cost of such an undertaking.

The following is the result of our calculations:

Cost of a plot of land with a building area of approximately
350 to 400 square yards £6,000 to £7,000
Cost of the building work £3,500 to £4,000
Equipping and furnishing the building £500 to £500
Total £10,000 to £11,500

We firmly believe we can obtain a mortgage of £5,000 to £6,000 on land and property of this type, and draw from the past financial practices of the Institute, taking account of the expected increase in income and expenditure, the firm conviction that the interest on such a loan would be covered.

To go ahead with our plan, we would therefore need capital of our own of from £5,000 to £5,500.

Although the Schiller Institute is open to members from all nations and non-Germans have repeatedly taken part in its activities, the Institute is essentially a German one.

According to the present register, It has a membership of over 300 members and offers them the following facilities:

a library consisting of more than 4,000 volumes at present,
a reading room in which 55 newspapers are available, most of which are German,
lectures on scientific and literary subjects, namely in the special associations, which have been formed for this purpose within the Institute.

Whenever possible the Institute does its best to further German intellectual activities, and also offers opportunities for social gatherings to be held on its premises which are particularly beneficial to new arrivals from the fatherland who have no other meeting place here.

We are firmly convinced that the Institute can pursue these goals in the future to an even greater extent, if we are able to carry out our plans to improve the Institute from the point of view of accommodation, as the latter would also improve our financial situation.

From the above, it becomes obvious that we are mainly appealing to Germans residing in Manchester; we are enquiring whether they are willing to provide the funds necessary for the purposes mentioned.

So as not to burden the Institute from the outset with exorbitant interest payments, the Board of Directors decided to attempt to raise the above-mentioned sum by donations; however, to ensure that the building to be erected could only be used for the purposes of the Institute, it was simultaneously decided that, in case the Schiller Institute should cease to function, the donors should become its creditors to the amount of their donation, and this will be expressly stated in the receipts given for donation.

As soon as it was made known that the Institute intended to have its own building and thereby safeguard its existence, such a lively response was evoked among the members that within a few days nearly £1,200 in donations of £25 and less were placed at the disposal of the Board of Directors.

This highly significant sum is essentially the result of the willing efforts and sacrifice of the more recently arrived Germans who also represent those who benefit directly from the Institute.

Encouraged by this result, which proves that even at the present moment the Institute is needed by a significant number of Germans residing locally, we are now turning to those who take perhaps a less involved interest in an institution which strives for such goals and which, once it is firmly established, will form a focal point of all German efforts in Manchester.

We are appealing to you to enable us to carry out our plans by donating the funds.

The Board of Directors trusts that all the Germans in Manchester will work together for this goal which will benefit us all. Only in this way can it hope to see this project come to life, and therefore believes it is justified in warmly recommending these plans.

By order of the Board of Directors

F. Engels, Chairman
J. G. Wehner, Treasurer
A. Burkhard, Secretary