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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Dropping or Suspending for Non-Payment of Dues

Dropping or Suspending for Non-Payment of Dues.

This has been a source of serious loss of membership for many years, and particularly of late, caused, doubtless in a great degree by the depressed and deranged condition of commerce and the industries of the country. Some effort should be made to check this growing drain upon the Order, by legislation which will mitigate the stringency of our existing laws, yet will not interfere with their necessary and proper enforcement. Few are aware of the actual loss incurred through this channel, and the figures when aggregated are simply appalling.

By reference to the tables found in the Journals of the G. L. of U S from 1866 to 1877 inclusive, pages 3907, 4103, 4280, 4530, 4777, 5083, 5367,' 5670, 6088, 6090, 6440, 6441, 6444, 6445, 6836, 68837, 6840, 6841, 7286, 7287, 7290' 7291, and the present report of the G. Cor. and Rec. Secretary, it will be found that 280,458 brothers have been suspended. The Grand Lodge of Ohio failed to report, in 1866 and 1867, the number suspended, but referring to the Journal of that Grand Body, I find Journal of 1866, page 14, "dropped 816," and Journal of 1867, page 24. "dropped 815," which makes the total number of suspensions from July 1, 1865, to December 31, 1877 (twelve years and six months), 282,089, nearly one-third of the entire number initiated since 1830. The same tables show that 58,076 members were reinstated and others have doubtless renewed their connection with the Order through the medium of "Dismissal Certificates," but as only 18,700 of such certificates have been issued from this office, if all had been used in that way (a very improbable conclusion) the fact remains that 205,313 members suspended within the period of thirteen years have been lost to the Order.

Without making a particular calculation of the ratio of "reinstatements" to "suspensions" it may be stated in general terms that for the years 1865- page 96 1866, they amounted to nearly one-half; for 1867 and 1868 to about one-third; for 1869, '70, and '71, to about one-fourth: for 1872, to about one-fifth; for 1873, '4, and '5, to about one-sixth; for 1876, to about one-seventh; for 1877, to about one-eighth; the suspensions in 1877 being 41,804; the reinstatements, 5,058, or a fraction more than 12 per cent. For the year ending June 30, 1866, the suspensions, including 816 in Ohio, were 6,731, and the reinstatements 3,213, being about 47¾ per cent.

The subject is one of vital character, and demands thorough examination and careful decision. Our attention has been invited to this important matter, especially by our worthy brother Schuyler Colfax, P.G. Representative, whose views, so clearly expressed, are worthy of the earnest attention of this Grand Lodge. From his letter, dated South Bend, Aug. 10, 1878, I quote the following:

"All Odd Fellows have witnessed with regret, that during the past few years our losses of those dropped from membership for non-payment of dues have been so large, and it is evident enough without argument, that the steadily increasing stringency of the times for the past five years has been the most potential cause for the losses. A member finds it difficult to pay his dues promptly and also all his family expenses. He falls in arrears; first loses his right to benefits, then becomes irregular in attendance, and when the year expires is dropped from membership, losing his former interest in the Lodge, and is thus, in a large majority of cases, lost entirely to the Order.

"It has seemed to me that many out of this one or two hundred thousand dropped Odd Fellows might again become contributing and working members in good standing, if a simultaneous and earnest effort in that direction was made throughout the jurisdiction, and this conviction has been strengthened by the well-known fact that the prosperity of the Order in California can be traced back to the facilities the G. L. of U. S. gave for the readmission into the Order there of the thousands of Eastern brethren, who going thither for gold and unable to attend Lodges regularly, had become, without any offence against our laws, Ancient Odd Fellows.

"If this strikes you favorably, your long experience in the administration of our laws would suggest to your mind the proper method of bringing about the auspicious result contemplated in this fraternal letter; but if you were to ask me what I would advise, I would suggest, as one out of several plans, to authoritatively recommend to the Subordinate Lodges, that between New Year's and our Sixtieth Anniversary, they notify every ex-Odd Fellow within their jurisdiction, who has been dropped for no other cause than non-payment of dues (and I would add all who had dropped out from expiration of final card), that the Lodge by a waiver of the law limitating their reinstation within one year from their suspension, would consider an application for restoration, if accompanied by the payment of one year's dues. The Order would thus take the initiative, and open the door through which many would return, who might feel it difficult to take the initiative themselves.

"Lecturing over the country from New England to California, I have conversed with so many ex-Odd Fellows, who have told me they did not apply for restoration because the year had expired, or because the Lodge did not seem to feel any further interest in them, I am quite sure, if some such plan as I have indicated received the favorable sanction of the G. L. of U. S., a large proportion of these brethren could be restored to our rolls as working members, a consummation most devoutly to be wished.

"Excuse these suggestions, prompted only by earnest interest in the prosperity of our Order."