The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29
October 29, 1877.J. H. B. Curtis, Esq., Grand Secretary, G.L. of Australia, I.O.O.F., Melbourne.
Dear Sir and Brother,—
Every true member of the I.O.O.F., must regret that any lodge should dissolve through inability to meet its sick engagements. We are compelled to notice this fact from time to time, whether we will or not, viz.: that our oldest lodges in these colonies (as elsewhere) have to meet heavy sick claims, and with past experience to guide us, these claims will increase every year. The question is, are we to let these lodges die by effluxion of time from the same cause, and so retard our progress, and deprive many worthy brothers of the benefits and privileges of our institution when they most require them; or are we to take "time by the forelock," and promulgate a system that will tend to check these evils, and so enhance substantial progress ? My remarks are the outcome of perusing your 24th annual report, '66 and '67, wherein the attention is at once arrested on this all-important subject. Our Order can never obtain the confidence of the public, or even its own members, so long as lodges are permitted to break up through causes that certainly can be obviated. My desire is to assist our Order in becoming an unprecedented power for real good on our Mother Earth, which it is eminently adapted for. Therefore, after mature thought, I propose to submit the following views for general consideration :—
Our Society possesses immense machinery for circulating living vital principles necessary for the eternal welfare of mankind, but in addition we must combine the several links attendant thereon, in such a manner as will perpetuate our glorious institution in the future. It must be apparent to every brother of the Order that a uniform rate of weekly contributions, and the same sum set aside to the credit of the Sick and Funeral Funds for a member that joins at 40 years of age as for one that joins at 20, is inequitable, because it is indisputable that the sickness and death rates are much larger at the former age. This argues practically that to be financially sound it becomes a necessity to inaugurate a graduated scale of contributions, according to age, to the Sick and Funeral Funds only, and apply it to all lodges. Our colonial Friendly Societies are unable to furnish their own experience of sickness and death rates, not having yet been long enough in existence, nor will we for some time to come; but this does not exonerate us from taking as a guide the only experience on this subject that has yet been published by the late Henry Ratcliffe's tables, and there is everything in favour so far of our experience being somewhat similar. It is therefore safer for us in the meantime to enact a scale of contributions, computed from these tables in lieu of the present "rule of thumb" rates. The Management Fund (or Incidental) for payment of all general expenses, including surgeon and chemist (excepting sickness and deaths, which the Sick and Funeral Funds would pay), could be contributed to pro ratâ, according to these disbursements. Every lodge necessarily varies in the expenses it incurs. Let me put an example to illustrate my meaning generally:—Say A joins No. 1 Lodge at 20 years of age and has to pay 8d. per week to the Sick and Funeral Funds, and B joins at 40 years of age and pays 1s. per week to the same funds—further, that Management Expenses average 6d. per week per member—it follows that they would have to pay, in all, Is. 2d. and 1s. 6d. per week respectively. Again, suppose that the expenses of No. 2 Lodge average 7d. per week per member, then the subscription in this lodge would respectively be Is. 3d. and Is. 7d. per week. The pursuance of this system would preserve the two most important funds,—viz, the Sick and Funeral, intact in every Lodge, and each, including the Management Fund, to be kept separate, so that no one fund shall be used for the benefit of the other. The G L. of N.Z. has adopted these financial principles, excepting that they have made a rule by which members of all Lodges shall contribute 7d. per week to their Management Funds, and if the expenses exceed this rate, the Lodge doing so shall levy pro ratâ to meet the deficiency. Some members say, "Oh ! our initiation fees are graduated, and answer the purpose," Now, page 56 the most superficial examination will soon show that the difference is not an equivalent, and in nine cases out of ten a very few years' membership swallows it up. I have come to the opinion that a General Sick Fund, held by the Grand Lodge on the same principle as the General Funeral Fund, will prevent many of our Lodges breaking up. Unity is strength applies to this question as well as to any other. It is a notable fact that many of our Lodges do not put out their funds at interest at all, most of which belongs to the Sick Fund. Under the plan proposed, the G. Lodge, having better opportunities, would look after this, and besides, would always know the exact amount added and expended on account of the Sick Funds of the whole Order every year, the same as in the case of the Funeral Fund. The G.L. would also know what ages the members were when claiming sick allowance, and how many weeks each were sick, which it is impossible to get at at present, but which is absolutely essential, together with the ages at which members die. This information is necessary to enable any Society to intelligently legislate with a view of compiling correct rates of contribution from their own experience, so as to produce solvency. Whenever any Brother required his sick allowance urgently, the Lodge could advance it out of their Management Fund, (always taking care to have a little in hand for emergencies,) to be reimbursed a little later by the G. L. The only difficulty in the way of a Common or General Sick Fund for the whole of the Lodges under each Subordinate G. Lodge jurisdiction is in the event of a Lodge wanting to erect a hall; but several plans can be suggested to overcome this. If the G.L. perceives that it would be a good investment for the Lodge, the G.L. could hand over for this purpose a sum not more, or as much less as would be deemed advisable, than would be standing to the credit of that Lodge in the General Sick and Funeral Fund, fair interest to be charged against the sum so handed over, and the whole to be repaid as may be arranged. If the Lodge desired to go on with the hall on their own responsibility, then the G.L. could hand over the amount standing to their credit in the S. and F. Fund, the G.L. relieving itself of all claims on account of sickness and deaths respecting such Lodge, the Lodge to undertake these payments until it returned to the G.L. the amount handed over, including amounts since accumulated. Have you ever been struck with the fact that although several of our Lodges are continually making new members, yet they never seem to progress in numbers. This is mainly owing to N.P.D. A good cure is to inaugurate the principle of paying subscriptions in advance. One of our Lodges here ever since it adopted this has gradually increased. The general rule is to let them run on for thirteen weeks; but when it goes a few weeks over members grudge (do not care, or perhaps get indifferent,) to pay £1 or more, and so they drop off, whereas if they paid one month, two months, or three months in advance, the amount would not be so heavy, and invariably it would be paid. Besides, we have no right to expect the Lodge to give us trust for thirteen weeks for benefits and other expenses that the Lodge is liable for during that time. The system is unsound. We have known Lodges pay to members sick claims and other expenses on their account, and they never paid another penny into the Lodge.
Let me congratulate the Order in Australia upon the unprecedented progress it has made during the last year, specially in South Australia and New South Wales. It is certainly pleasing to hear of our great success over the whole of America, also its successful institution and progress in Germany, Switzerland, and England. I perceive that it is about being introduced in Holland and Austria. My earnest desire is, that our beloved Order may make progress everywhere—numerically, morally, socially, and financially.
Josh. Braithwaite, G.M.