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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33



As the members of temperance societies became numerous, thirty or thirty-five years ago, they naturally looked with dissatisfaction at the way in which the ordinary Benefit and Friendly Societies were conducted. Not only were unsteady men freely admitted, but by meeting mostly at Public-Houses temptations were held out which made men unsteady. Drink must be had for "the good of the house," which meant the injury of the members, and this often led (as it still leads) to a system of drinking fatal to the true ends of the institution. The result was, that the Teetotalers here and there began to found Benefit Clubs amongst themselves, and the results became more remarkable, year by year. Finally, two large societies were formed—The Independent Order of Rechabites and the Temperance Provident Institution.

John Tidd Pratt, Esq., the late Registrar-General of Friendly Societies, said, some years ago, "The number of members of such societies is 2,500,000. A great foe to economy is, that the meetings are held at public-houses. In most of the old societies the members spend on an average, five or six shillings per annum. If these meet fortnightly and 300,000 are abstainers, and the rest spend 2d. page 7 each club night, the total amount in twelve months would be half a million of pounds!" What a grand capital for self-help is thus wasted. In his report for 1860, Mr. Tidd Pratt says, "In the course of last year I found that in Herefordshire, since 1793 the number of societies enrolled and certified was 136. Of this number 123 were held at public-houses, and 13 in schools or private rooms. Of those held at public-houses no less than 43 had broken up, but of those held in schools or private rooms only one had been dissolved."

Let me state a physiological fact here, which will explain the figures that are to follow. Every ounce of alcohol (and a pint of beer contains two) produces 4,300 extra heart beats in a day. It is exactly like spur and whip—it takes steam out of a man; it cannot (like food) put strength into him. Hence the 'weariness' that follows drinking. It is a voluntary going to the tread-wheel—for the love of it!

Before I state the facts elicited by thirty years' experience in these great societies founded upon temperance principles, it will be well to give a number of illustrations which crop out from various local and even compound experiences, for contrasts are themselves instructive.

One preliminary remark is needed—namely, that the natural law of health is, that when the Constitution of Man is in its greatest vigour, the least deviation from health is found. Health, in fact, means strength, and weakness disease and death. Thus youth is the healthiest period, middle age next, and old age least healthy, though an absurd idea to the contrary once prevailed, founded doubtless upon a partial induction of exceptional cases of weak young men outgrowing their ailments! The figures of Mr. Neison, the actuary, show that the average amount of sickness between the ages 20 and 60, a period of 40 years, is 60 weeks 3½ days, while between the ages 60 and 70, a period of only 10 years, it is 77 weeks and 2 days; or, in other words, there is nearly 5 times greater liability to sickness. Hence the supreme folly of young men paying the same amount as old men.

One of the earliest and most striking examples is taken from a Government Sanitary Report in 1841, concerning eight Sick Clubs in Preston.
  • 1000 Non-abstainers have 23.3 sick per annum.
  • 1000 Teetotalers have only 13.9 sick per annum.

7 weeks 4 days is the average period of sickness with the Drinker.

3 weeks 2 days is that amongst the Teetotalers.

£2. 16s. 1d. is the average sum paid to, or for, each Non-abstainer.

£1. 9s. 2d. that to the Teetotaler.

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I have here a paper which shows the same remarkable exemption from sickness and death in a country club—namely, the Northwich Abstinence Benefit Sick Society's Report for 1860. "During 24 years the average number of Members has been 80, the deceased members only 9—which number is surprisingly small, and cannot fail to impress the unprejudiced mind in favour of entire abstinence."

Nor is this unparalleled: for I find that the Teetotal Security Tent of Preston, with an average of 45 members, were 14 years without a death; and they had no death last year, with 129 members.

In the following year, my friend, Mr. James Hawkins, of Colet Place, London East, informed me that he had attended three Benefit Clubs of Abstainers for three years, and had only had one death, and that of a consumptive patient admitted without medical certificate. Now it must be always borne in mind, that all Temperance Clubs necessarily include a number of persons who have been reformed from intemperate habits, which will be more than a set-off against the cases of excess that may, by carelessness of medical men, or by growth of appetite, affect the class of moderate drinkers in the statistics of a high class Assurance Society, which will be pretty careful in the examination of candidates for admission.

Dr. Henry Munroe, F.L.S., of Hull, has had two Friendly Societies under his care for years, of which he gives this account:—

Drinkers, including several Abstainers. Average sickness of each sick member per year, 11 days, 21 hours. Deaths, 3 in 200.

Abstainers (of whom several had been drunkards): Average sickness, If days. Deaths—at the rate of 1 in 500.

But I will take the case of a Forester's Lodge, formed at Streatham, near London, to evince the extraordinary difference in the health of the two contrasted classes.

98 Drinkers received sick money amounting to £96 15 0
22 Teetotal members sick money amounting to 1 5 0

Had these last been as sick as the former, their proportion of the sum would have been £17. 15s. 8d., in which case the whole of the membership would have had to pay £16. 10s. 8d. extra.

111 Drinkers received in sick money £90 6 0
25 Teetotalers received in sick money 0 14 0
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The proportion of these last would have been £16. 14s. 6d., and £16. 0s. 6d. extra would have had to be paid by the membership.

105 Drinkers (some had been converted) received. £68 0 0
45 Teetotalers received 0 0 0

The proportion of these last would have been £20. 8s. 0d., which thus is saved by all and for all; but the effect seems to have been potent in producing conviction : since nearly half the Lodge had become abstainers, and thus reduced the sickness and consequent cost.

After such experiences, one can no longer wonder at a testimony like the following, given at St. George's Hall, Bradford, in March, 1873, by Dr. Robert Martin:—"I was surgeon to a Lodge held at a public-house, and gave it up after two years' trial, because they had so much sickness that they were never off the door-step. I was surgeon also to a Rechabite Tent at the same time, and I made up my mind to give them up also—but for a totally different reason—the Rechabites never came for medicine at all, so I said to them, Gentlemen, I can no longer, for shame, take your money, for you never require my services."

Some years after its formation, the Temperance Provident became the Temperance and General Provident Institution, by accepting carefully selected lives of Moderate Drinkers (Department IX.), but of course keeping the Books and Accounts distinct. This was an admirable thought, and two or three quinquennial divisions of profits afterwards began to show the differences of value in the respective lives. The following appeared in the Report of 1861:—

"In Department I., which belongs to the Temperance Section, the Reversionary Bonus will range, according to the age of the Assured, from 35 to 86 per cent, on the amount of Premiums paid since 1855, showing an average of above 60 per cent.

"In Department IX., which belongs to the General Section, the Reversionary Bonus will range from 24 to 59 per cent., showing an average of above 41 per cent.

"In Department XI., comprising Policies on Joint Lives, the Reversionary Bonus will range from 25 to 48 per cent., showing an average of above 36 per cent.

"The difference in favour of Department I., as compared with Department IX., is equal to £19 upon £60. 10s.; in other words, if the Reversionary Bonus upon a Policy in Department IX., should page 10 be £41. 10s., in Department I., upon a Policy which has paid the same Premiums, and has the same time to run, it will be £60. 10s."

The latest divisions fully bear out this promise, as the following tables will demonstrate :—

Mortality Returns of the Temperance and General Provident Institution, for eight years, from January 1, 1866, to December 31, 1873.

Department I.—Temperance Section.
Years. Expected Deaths. Actual Deaths.
1866 to 1870. 549 411
1871 127 72
1872 137 90
1873 144 118
Total eight years. 957 691
Department IX.—general. Section.
Years. Expected Deaths. Actual Deaths.
1866 to 1870. 1008 944
1871 234 217
1872 244 282
1873 253 246
Total eight years. 1739 1689

Thus, while in Department I., the claims were nearly 28 per cent below the expectation founded upon the Life tables, Department IX. was less than 3 per cent below.

The superior value of the Temperance Lives is no less distinctly shown in the difference of monetary result. Being a Mutual Society, a certain proportion of the profits are divided every five years. At the last division of profits where an assurer in the General Department for £1,000 would receive £72, an Insurer in the Temperance Department for the same sum would receive £114. A neighbour of mine was insured for £2,000, and at his death £250 was paid in addition to his widow, as his share of the profit: being £100 more than a Moderate Drinker would have got, insuring for the same sum.

I now come to the Independent Order of Rechabites, the oldest and most influential of the Temperance Benefit Societies. It is also the richest, for it was given in evidence (October, 1871), before the Commissioners on Friendly Societies, that while the funds of other Friendly Societies, with the same ratio of subscriptions, averaged only from £2 to £4 per member, the Rechabite Order averaged £6. 18s.

It is somewhat unfortunate that sufficient care has not been devoted by the Council of the Order to the collation of its statistics; but still very important facts have turned up. Here is a statement recently made by one of the late Chief Rulers, my friend, Mr. Joshua Pollard, of Bradford:—

page 11

During the year 1872, the Bradford District of Rechabites had only amongst their 700 members an average sickness of 3 days and 4 hours per member, at a cost of only 4s. 7¼d. per member, being two-thirds less both in time and money paid for sickness, than the best mixed Friendly Society. The death rate is equally remarkable, for during the year 1872, out of 703 persons insured in the Funeral Fund there were only three deaths, which is one death in 234 persons, an average of little over four deaths per 1,000. At Denholme, near Bradford, there is a Tent of Rechabites of over 30 members, which has been established five years, and up to this time they have had no sickness, nor a single death. Where is the mixed society of moderate drinkers, drunkards, and teetotalers, which can show such a death rate?

Let us now compare the Bradford District of Rechabites (3,000 members) with the Oddfellows of the same district (16,741 members), for the years 1868 to 1872.

First, as regards Sickness.

  • Oddfellows had an average sickness of 13 days, 3 hours.
  • Rechabites had an average sickness of 3 days, 12 hours
  • Cost per head to the former, 12s. 9d. To the latter, 5s. 3d.

Second, as regards Death.

  • Oddfellows proportion to Members is 1 in 51
  • Rechabites proportion to Members is 1 in 155

Only one deduction can be made from these startling contrasts : viz., that the average age of the Rechabites is over 30 years, while that of the Oddfellows is 40 years per member, showing that there is a rush of the younger generation into the newer and safer order. Still this difference will not materially affect the result, which, calls for immediate reflection and corresponding action from the best and most thoughtful of the Working Classes of our beloved England.