The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29
April 3, 1877.Joseph Braithwaite, Esq., M.W.G. Master G. Lodge of New Zealand, jurisdiction of Australasia.
Dear Sir and Brother,—
Yours of 27th January, 1877, was duly received, and referred to the M.W. Grand Sire, at whose instance I am directed to make to you a special reply.
It is important at this time that the brethren in Australasia should be set aright upon important subjects connected with the origin and history of American Odd fellowship in Australasia, and that serious departures which have inadvertently been made from its intended original form of government and true relation to the Grand Lodge of the United States should be intelligently communicated. This has involved on my part a detailed inquiry into the records of the Grand Lodge from 1868, including the official correspondence to the present time. For the facts which will be presented to you from that record I refer you page 37 to the text, which will be quoted by the proper page, assuming that you have the Journal, which, I fear, is extremely doubtful.
First let me introduce to your notice, without giving you offence, I hope, as a presumption upon your intelligence and proper education in Oddfellowship, the fact that the Revised (bound) Journal of the Grand Lodge of the United States, in eight octavo volumes, from 1821 to 1876 inclusive, is by far the most valuable publication possessed by that Grand body; that it is a minute and elaborate history of the rise, progress, and dissemination of the Order, and a complete treasure, without which no Oddfellow in any country can ever attain to a satisfactory knowledge of its wonderful career and its grand principles. This valuable book was sent out, I think, to Bro. Vine, the first District D. G. Sire at Melbourne, Victoria. I fear, from the great divergence from the line of action and form of government which Bro. Meacham, the original Commissioner, was instructed by Grand Sire Sanders to follow, and from the papers issued to him to put in force under said instructions, that he commenced the organisation of the Order in error in 1868 at Melbourne, Victoria, and it has continued so ever since; that, in a great measure, this serious mistake has been aggravated by the absence of proper intelligence on your part, owing to the absence of the Bound Revised Journal of the United States from your jurisdiction. Let me, therefore, just hero earnestly entreat you to possess yourselves at once of that valuable work. I will recommend to the Grand Lodge to present a copy to each Grand Lodge in Australasia; but each Oddfellow who desires to instruct himself and his brethren thoroughly in the history of perhaps the grandest Humanity of the age should own the book. I now proceed to make a general statement of the error which has been male, and to refer to the Record for the facts.
"Know ye that the Grand Lodge of the United States, I O.O.F., as the source of all true and legitimate Oddfellowship in the United States of America, and by virtue of its constitutional authority to organize lodges and encampments, grand and subordinate, in foreign countries, doth hereby create and erect into distinct sovereignty the various lodges of Oddfellows heretofore existing in Australia (meaning Australasia) by the name and title of the Grand Lodge, I.O.O.F., of Australia, with power in all matters relating to Oddfellowship within said province (meaning continent), except in the following respects." Here follow the exceptions, viz.:—(1.) Identity of work. (2.) The reservation of the A.T.P.W. And (3.) Qualification of membership.
After this charter was received a letter was received from Bro. Meacham, who had previously chartered the G. Lodge of Victoria at Melbourne and the G.L. of New Zealand under warrants supposed to be from G.L. of U.S., suggested that the grand charter sent out to the G.L. of Australasia was in error in the name, and asking authority to alter it. To this Grand Sire Farnsworth replied, in his annual report, that there was no error (page 4462, Journal), and stated at page 38 length the policy of the G. Lodge in the premises, and quoted at length the reasons of such policy. Thus it will be seen beyond all doubt was inaugurated a great error, which has had the effect of which you complain, to confine all our interest and correspondence to a single colonial G. Lodge, under the supposition on our part that we were corresponding with a supreme Grand Lodge for the continent, by which the colonial Grand Lodges were chartered and governed. I have not time to multiply evidences of this position, which abound in the Journal, but you may assume with absolute certainty the truth of the position. Thus have we and you been kept in ignorance of our relative positions, and to this unfortunate mistake, in my judgment, is attributable the slow progress of the Order in your Grand Jurisdiction, considering the vastness and abundant fertility of the field. No doubt you consider yourselves greatly neglected, and under the circumstances it is only surprising that you have adhered to us. I trust this explanation will acquit us of apathy and negligence on your behalf. On the contrary, we have always taken a special interest in Oddfellowship in Australia, as our G. Lodge Record will show, which you will read with satisfaction when you possess the revised Journal. I trust you will take proper measures to apply to have your status made to conform to the design of the G.L. of U.S., and make such application without delay. This will require the united action of both Grand Lodges, and the sooner taken the better. I submit this letter to the Grand Sire, who will add his views on the important subject to which it relates. I will add that, upon your application, the new work will be transmitted. Send special directions for safe conveyance.
Jas. L. Ridgely, G.S.