The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29
(Reply To A, B, and C.)
(Reply To A, B, and C.)
May 30, 1877.Jas. L. Ridgely, Esq., Grand Cor. and Rec. Secretary, I.O.O.F., G.L.U.S., Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.
Dear Sir and Brother,—
I have to acknowledge the receipt of yours of the 23rd January and 3rd April, enquiring what status our G. Lodge holds respecting its charter; also, I beg to apprise you of the arrival here yesterday of the U.S. G. Lodge reports, for which receive my best thanks. I have not had time to look through them; but their appearance reflects the greatest credit upon the G.L.U.S., and especially upon yourself, who no doubt compiles them in such a systematic manner. Lost night I brought the above letters before our Standing Committee (the elective officers), and they entrusted me with the duty of communicating their opinions generally upon the subject matter contained therein, which opinions were unanimously arrived at. Before we affiliated with your Order we were under the G.L. of Victoria, A.I O.O.F., and contributed thereto quarterly dues to the General Management and Funeral Fund of the Order. When Bro. Meachem, S.D.G. Sire, from America, came, an alteration took place, the G.L. of Victoria, A.I.O.O.F., releasing us entirely from all subordination of whatsoever kind, including monetary dues to the above funds, and further allowed us by charter to be erected into an independent G. Lodge, having powers and representation co-equal to themselves. This act was effected by the G. L. of Victoria, A.I.O.O.F., and not by the R.W.G.L. of Australia, I.O.O.F.
To confirm this, I forward you by post a copy of our old laws (pink cover), in which you will find a preamble containing a facsimile of the powers granted in our charter; also, the date on which the event took place. It was some time after this charter was granted that the G.L. of Victoria, A.I.O.O.F., changed their name to the R.W.G.L., I.O.O.F, of Australia, and for the sake of uniformity we in our turn altered our name from the G.L. of New Zealand, A.I.O.O.F., to the R.W.G.L. of N.Z., I.O.O.F. Since the period that the G.L. of Victoria, A.I.O.O.F., released us by charter into an independent body, we have never sent dues of any description to our former parent, nor have they ever asked us for any. This fact proves that our relative position to each other was mutually understood, page 39 and Bro. Meacham must have been cognisant of these facts. You say that G. Sire Sanders instructed Bro. Meacham to erect into distinct sovereignty the various Lodges in Australia under title of the R.W.G.L. of Australia, I.O.O.F., with power in all matters relating to Oddfellowship within said province. Now, as there were Lodges existing here, and therefore outside of said province, when the instructions were given, and as the Lodges in Australia are only designated for operation open; also, seeing that New Zealand is separated from Australia by about 1,200 to 1,600 miles of sea, and further, that New Zealand is an entirely separate island and colony, we therefore think that Bro. Meacham could hardly have acted otherwise than he did, especially with the additional fact that the G.L. of Victoria, A.I.O.O.F., had granted us a thorough and complete release from their jurisdiction, leaving us subordinate only to the G.L.U.S., being equivalent to the status held by your State Grand Lodges, which position we thought the G.L. of Australia held also. There are only two G. Lodges in Australia and New Zealand, viz., the R.W.G. Lodges of Australia and New Zealand. For the sake of perpetuating uniformity in all matters relating to the general welfare, we believe that there should only be one supreme body, consisting of grand representatives from all state, territorial, and colonial Grand Lodges, on the same principle that the "Annual Moveable Committee" is the supreme body of the Manchester Unity all over the world, and the High Court of the Foresters ever the Foresters. We could multiply illustrations of the same character to bear out our meaning. We think that the creation of more than one supreme body in our Order will in the future lead to a confliction over some of the multifarious matters that will yet crop up. We take note of the rights that this G.L.U.S. have reserved, but there are many other subjects of great importance, affecting the Order generally, that will demand the legislation, and therefore final decision, of only one supreme body, so as to carry out thorough uniformity wherever the Order exists. We have not time at present to advance instances of matters of general moment that may turn up from time to time, requiring the legislation of only one supreme body, and which does not appear in the G.L.U.S. reservations. No doubt they will present themselves to you. There is, however, one subject which has just occurred to us, viz., that of withdrawal cards (or clearance). It is essential that this card should be uniform, because, suppose that the G.L. of Australasia (a body not in existence yet) were to agree upon a card different in construction to your own, your Lodges would no doubt not recognise our colonial members. This would raise a confliction of authority between each supreme body, viz., Grand Lodges of Australasia and United States. And may not the same confliction arise in other matters ? Some of our members, having a different card to yours, with the greatest difficulty effected an entrance when visiting your Lodges in America, and in some instances were refused admittance. This has caused considerable dissatisfaction, and we would respectfully suggest that in the meantime our cards be recognised, if the brothers presenting them are, after careful examination, proved to be members of the Order, as, after all, the knowledge of the secret work, &c., is one of the best tests of membership when visiting.
It is, perhaps, to be regretted that we have no direct representation in the G.L.U.S. at its annual sessions, caused through the distance, loss of time, and expense that would be entailed; but exactly the same results would be experienced if we sent a representative to a supreme G.L. of Australasia, on account of the distance by sea. We fail to perceive that any material advantage is to be gained by constituting a supreme G.L. for the continent of Australia and New Zealand, to have such powers as stated in your letters now under discussion. We believe that if a representative from our G. Lodge is to go out of N.Z. it should be to the fountain head, viz., G.L.U.S.; and if, through the cause already stated, this object cannot be attained, then we are placed in no worse position than our contemporary societies. Say there was a supreme G.L. of Australasia, similarly constituted in its representation and functions to the G.L.U.S., it would naturally hold its meetings in Victoria (which is only a small fractional part of Australasia), because nearly all the Lodges exist therein, excepting the number in New-Zealand. We could not, therefore, be represented in that body from the very same causes that prevents our G. Lodge being represented in G.L.U.S.; besides, page 40 there are only two colonial G. Lodges, and where is the material to come from to make a supreme G.L. of Australasia ? It would be simply impracticable, unworkable, and undesirable to carry this idea into effect. If it was accomplished, the cost would considerably outweigh any corresponding benefits that might be derived. Taking all the surrounding circumstances into consideration, we are strongly of opinion that it will be against the interests of our Order as a whole to create more than one supreme G. Lodge; also, that that supreme body having control over the Order everywhere, should consist of representatives from the different state, territorial, and colonial G. Lodges throughout the world, or where representatives cannot attend, some equitable system of representation by proxy should be established; and further, that all G. Lodges throughout the world outside of the one supreme body as aforesaid, should be entrusted with powers and functions similar only to your State G. Lodges, as at present. This is the position we thought the G. Lodges of Australia and New Zealand held respectively towards the G.L.U.S. since our affiliation with your Order, and this is the status we desire to see maintained, so as to effectually consolidate the unity of our Order in the future. Various other considerations lead us to adopt this course, one principal feature being that it is now the policy of this G. Lodge to study well its financial operations, with a view of doing the most practical good at the least possible expanse. We believe the judicious and proper direction and management of finance is the paramount question in all Friendly Societies, and by which their success or failure will be tested in the future. We are pleased to observe that the question of Dues and Benefits is enjoying the serious attention of the G.L.U.S., and we hope the outcome will be to promulgate a system that will confer equitable rights upon Lodges and members individually. The two next important matters are the Sick Fund and the Funeral Fund, which should be contributed to separately on the graduated system, according to age, (certified to by an actuary on actual experience of sickness and mortality) for specified benefits. These funds should be kept entirely distinct, and neither of them appropriated for the use of the other, or for any other purpose except payments on account of legitimate sick and death claims. All other expenses should bo contributed to independently, and met by a fund called the Management Fund. The dues to this fund necessarily vary in every lodge. The contributions and expenditure to the Sick Fund and the Funeral Fund can be raised and applied as follows for the same specified benefits all round, viz., Lodges in a district or city could send the Sick and Funeral Fund dues received from members to a centrally constituted authority, to be held in trust, out of which sick and funeral benefits could be paid to members in the Lodges directly contributing thereto. This is mutual co-operation on a larger scale than exists at present with single Lodges only, and it would prevent many Lodges from dissolving, and assure the payment of benefits promised to members when they joined the Order. To formulate a correct table of contributions to the Sick and Funeral Funds universally applicable, the rates of sickness and deaths must be deduced from the aggregate and not from isolated districts. Charitable relief funds are very necessary, and could bo contributed to separately, out of which all cases of pure charity could be met; but such funds are subsidiary to the ones already mentioned. As the members increase in age, our liabilities proportionately increase. Let us therefore be just before we are generous, and reserve by every possible means sufficient funds to meet all our sick and funeral engagements in the future, and so hand our Order down to posterity in such a shape that its success will be for ever perpetuated. Let us know what material difference there is between the new Charge Book and the old; because, from opinions expressed by our brothers who have visited America, they say we have the secret work perfect. What expense is connected with the change? We have no reports of 1868 to refer to re charter, but only 1872 and upwards. We have also sent you by post our new laws lately enacted, from which we have omitted the word A (Ancient) in every respect; also copies of our last proceedings. We expect that our G. Secretary has also sent a parcel of reports;—he is away from town just now. In all matters written herewith we are only actuated with a desire to promote the best interests of our noble Order, and a wish to approach the G.L.U.S. with feelings of loyalty and devotion. The sentiments expressed page 41 in connection with sick, funeral, and other funds are to be attributed as personal ideas, but all other subjects are the opinions in substance of our Standing Committee. I fear that the perusal of such a long document as this will weary you, for which I must apologise. A copy of this will be sent to the Grand Secretary, Melbourne, with a letter drawing the attention of the Australian Grand Lodge to the main items.
Joseph Braithwaite, G.M.