[The "Rise & Progress of the Manchester Unity" by Past Grand Master Robert Moffrey, was published 1904 by the Grand Master & Board of Directors of the Order, Printers John Heywood of Manchester - thanks to Ian Jones for the copy]
By ROBERT W. MOFFREY, P.G.M.
To those who, like the writer, are growing old in the Order - as probably brethren with an experience of forty years are apt to consider themselves - and with greater force to those veterans who were in the thick of the fray at an even earlier period, the attempt to tell them what they already know so well will appear presumptuous. Let it be so, and let those who entertain the feeling consider that this history was not written for their information, though even they may find entertainment in looking through a connected account of events in some of which they have played a part. But new generations are constantly arising - new ideals are set up, which as time rolls on become accomplished facts, until those who take the Manchester Unity of today as they find it, are apt to forget the older dispensation from which it sprang. To such newer generations the following pages are more especially addressed, in the hope that some assistance may be rendered to the earnest seekers after truth by tracing the evolution of the Manchester Unity from its original constitution, founded in imitation of Freemasonry, to its present highly developed financial organisation.
There are already in existence two valuable works which tell the story of Oddfellowship through the last century. An "Historical Sketch of Oddfellowship," by P.P.G.M. Burn, of Glasgow, published by A. Heywood, of Manchester, about the year 1846, carries its readers to the end of the Glasgow A.M.C. in the preceding year. Sprys "History of Oddfellowship" deals, as set forth on its title page, with "Its origin, tradition, and objects, with a general review of the results arising from its adoption by the branch known as the Manchester Unity from the year 1810 to the present time." The book was published by Fred Pitman, of Paternoster Row, London, and by the author at Plymouth in 1867.
It may, however, tend to a clearer conception of the subject if a summary of the events those two authors narrate, as well as other facts which have come to the present writers knowledge, be given as a sort of preface to the later information which it is his desire to circulate. Following Burn, the mythical origin of Oddfellowship in the year of grace 55, during the reign of the detested Roman Emperor Nero, may be dismissed from the region of probability, and with it may go the fiction dear to lovers of antiquity that the name of "Oddfellows" was bestowed on members of the society by Titus Caesar. There is, nevertheless, a possible substratum of truth in these imaginings.
In his work on Roman Sepulchral Inscriptions, Mr. Kenrick adduces the following evidence of the existence of burial societies among the Romans from a monument found at Lanurium, a town anciently famed for the worship of Juno Sospita, about nineteen miles from Rome, on the Via Appia:-
"The inhabitants of this town appear, out of flattery towards the Emperor Hadrian, in whose reign the marble was erected, to have formed themselves into a college for paying divine honours to Diana and Antinomies, with which they strangely combined that of a burial club, not forgetting the festivities which formed so important a part of all acts of religion among the Romans. To prevent disputes, the laws of the association were inscribed on marble, and probably set up in the temples of the two deities. An amphora of good wine was to be presented to the club by a new member, the sum of one hundred sesterces (about fifteen shillings) was to be paid as entrance money, and five asses (little more than two pence) per month as subscription. Their meetings were not to take place oftener than once a month. If anyone omitted his payments for (so many) months (the marble is here mutilated), no claim could be made, even though he had directed it by will. In case of the death of one who had paid his subscriptions regularly, three hundred sesterces (two pounds five shillings) was allotted for his funeral expenses, out of which, however, fifty were to he set apart for distribution at the cremation of the body. The funeral was to be a walking one. If anyone died more than twenty miles from Lanurium, and his death was announced, three students were to go from the college to perform the funeral, for which twenty sesterces were to be allowed each for travelling expenses. Fraud was to be punished by a fourfold fine. If no notification of a death of this kind were sent, the person who had performed the funereal rites was to send a sealed certificate of the same, attested by seven Roman citizens, on the production of which the expenses were to be paid. No funeral of a suicide was to take place, and no claim allowed. There are many other rules which tend to preserve order and promote good-fellowship."
It would thus appear that the practice of combination for the purposes of providing decent burial and of periodically spending a convivial time in each others company was not unknown among the ancient Romans, although the direct descent of Oddfellowship from clubs of which the one at Lanurium is doubtless but a type cannot be traced. From the Roman period to that of the Saxon ascendancy in England is not a long stride, and there is historical evidence that the relief of members in distress by reason of sickness or any other cause was amongst the objects of the numerous guilds which existed throughout the kingdom. The fact is that man is a gregarious animal, and besides the natural proclivity to live in communities for the better protection and greater comfort of the whole, there has ever been a desire among the members of those communities to band themselves together in sections for the pursuit of some object of common interest.
The next link in the chain of evidence of continuity of the principle after the Reformation had disestablished such of the "guilds" as were connected with religious houses (and these were the most numerous) is given by Defoe, who, in 1693, at Bristol, wrote his much quoted Essay on Projects. He there speaks definitely of "friendly societies" as being in existence with objects similar to those of the Manchester Unity at the present day. Then we come to the Gentlemans Magazine for 1745, which speaks of the Oddfellows lodge as a place where a comfortable and recreative evening may be spent. (Very comfortable indeed must have been the blindfolded initiate of those days after his sousing in a tub and his contact with the bramble bush.) Evidently by then Oddfellowship had acquired a status, and if it had not a local habitation, it possessed a name - the name by which it has ever since been known.
As to the origin of the name "Oddfellows" several more or less plausible theories have been advanced. Some would have us believe that the name was bestowed by Titus Caesar because the members were different from other men in the use of signs and passwords which enabled them to recognise each other by night as well as by day. Others have suggested that the name was bestowed on the society because of the strangeness (to the outer world) of the ceremonies practised in the lodges. It has actually been urged that the society was originally a sort of appanage of masonry, and the members were consequently not masons, but "hod" fellows, or the labourers who served the masons. The author of this theory deserves more credit for his ingenuity than for his judgement.
The most probable theory is that set forth in the Oddfellows Magazine for September, 1888:-
"Those who have made it their study to dive into the hazy past incline to the belief that the Oddfellows are revivals of the old trade guilds, which flourished in the 16th century ..... but we will hazard a theory, based on nothing more than a consideration of the various facts which are known, viz., that while the Masonic Order maintained intact the traditions of the Masons craft guild, the Oddfellows comprised a collection from all the others, which were not strong enough in themselves to carry on a distinctive club. Thus they were not mercers, nor dyers, nor smiths, nor girdlers, nor drapers, but an omnium gatherum, and hence Oddfellows. The similarity of ritual and ceremonial (with the Masonic Order) would by this theory be fully accounted for, as we may readily believe that the old guilds upon which such ruthless hands were laid, had many points in common with each other."
In the early years of the last century Oddfellowship was perhaps not a power, but something that contained the germs of potentiality. It existed, and was known to both Bolton and Naylor (the latter became G.M. of the Manchester Unity in 1832). One or other of these men, for accounts differ as to the real founder, took hold of the traditions and laid the foundations of a united society, out of which grew the gigantic institution numbering 900,000 adult males that is seen at the present day. Numerous proofs could be furnished of the existence of lodges at the time of the formation of the Manchester Unity, about the year 1810. On page 356 of the Oddfellows Magazine for 1887 there is a copy of a "Charter or Dispensation" granted by the "Original Grand Lodge" to William Leay to open a lodge at the White Hart, Foster Lane, in the City of London, dated 1804. The next volume of the Magazine takes us still further back. On page 136 are drawings of a medal presented to a secretary of a lodge belonging to the "Grand Independent Order of Oddfellows" in 1796-7. From the same source we learn that there was in the year 1807 a lodge at Dover belonging to the "Free and Independent" Order of Oddfellows whose charter is dated 1800.
In the Monthly Mirror for March, 1806, there is an account of the death at Manchester of a Mr. J. J. Seger, of whom it is told that he was a member of the society of Oddfellows, proving that the Order was then of sufficient consequence to attract men of prominence in the Lancashire city. Again on the title page of a song book, published in London in 1811, the ditties it contains are recommended by the statement that they are sung in the best lodges of Oddfellows. If some of them were sung at a music hall in 1904 it is to be feared that the authorities would give the proprietor a bad quarter of an hour at the next licensing sessions. But there they are, and there is the fact that Oddfellows lodges must have been numerous in London, or the publishers of the song book would not have referred to the use of its contents by Oddfellows as a recommendation.
The earliest authentic record relating to the federation of some of these lodges into the Manchester Unity that can he traced is found in a volume entitled "Minutes and other Documents of the Grand Committees of the Independent Order of Oddfellows connected with the Manchester Unity from the year 1814." The preface says: "The various lodges first began to form general committees of all lodges in the Manchester District for the purpose of affording each other mutual support, protection, and advice." The Lord Abercrombie Lodge claimed the distinction of being the "Grand Lodge," and the claim appears to have been acquiesced in by the others. Thus did the Manchester Unity arise as it were spontaneously, and its borders were enlarged to embrace a great part of the kingdom by journeys undertaken by P.G.M. Armitt during the years 1825 and 1826 in his successful efforts to bring lodges into compliance with the Manchester Committee.
Enough has been written in proof of the antiquity of the principles which the Manchester Unity has adopted and has tried to perfect. There is no need to follow Burn in his rhapsodies about the benefit to mankind which followed in the train of the spread of Oddfellowship. Nor is it necessary to go with Spry over the ground travelled by Mr. Armitt in his tour to bring existing lodges under the Manchester jurisdiction and to keep within the fold those whose allegiance was at all doubtful. The only observation that need be made is that Armitts journey met with much success. The majority of Oddfellows lodges then in existence attached themselves for better or worse to the Manchester Unity, and the others became portions of the London, Nottingham, or Kentish Orders, societies which are still to be found on the books of the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies. The further subdivisions which have since taken place in those societies, such as the British United Order, the South London Unity, and others, are only mentioned to explain the existence of the many Orders of Oddfellows which find a place in current friendly society literature.
Leaving such as desire to follow in detail P.G.M. Armitt in his southern and northern tours during 1825 and 1826 to find a full itinerary in the pages of Spry, we will go back to the year 1821, when the action of the Duke of York Lodge, Preston, in granting a charter to the Washington Lodge at Baltimore was confirmed. How the American Order, which was thus founded, has since grown must be left to the chroniclers of that branch of Oddfellowship. Up to the year 1826 new lodges in America were opened only by the consent of the officers of the Order at Manchester. In that year, on the personal application of the Grand Sire of the American Order, who came to England especially on the business of Oddfellowship, a grand charter was granted which enabled the lodges then established to form the Sovereign Grand Lodge of America, with full powers of jurisdiction on the American continent. Up to the year 1840 the two branches of Oddfellowship worked the same degrees, adopted the same passwords, and were practically federated. The revision of the English lecture books then led to a breach of the reciprocal relations previously existing, and though more than one attempt has since been made to resume a mutual recognition of brethren belonging to either Order, these attempts have not so far met with success. It is only necessary, therefore, to remark that the separation arose over a question of ceremonial. While the English branch was bent on simplifying the initiations and the various degrees, the American brethren felt that the ceremonies should be elaborated. In the American Order, which now numbers as many members as the Manchester Unity, with numerous lodges on the Continent of Europe, the ceremonies have indeed been elaborated until there is little more than the common watchword, "Friendship, Love, and Truth," used by both Orders to denote their common origin. The fraternal feeling is, however, still vivid, to the exhibition of which we may have to refer later on.
The first Annual Grand Committee was held in Manchester in 1822, and was followed by the first Grand Annual Movable Committee in 1823, at Hanley, Staffordshire. These annual meetings have ever since taken place. without intermission, and their progress can be traced in the directory of the Order. In 1825, at Huddersfield, the first Grand Master of the whole Unity, in the person of William Armitt, was elected, the Grand Master of the Manchester district prior to that date taking the position of chief over all others. A further result of the Huddersfield meeting was the deposition of the Abercrombie Lodge from its pride of place as the "Grand Lodge." After another meeting of the A.M.C. at Manchester in 1826, the next took place at Nottingham in 1827. This meeting was chiefly remarkable for its election of the first Board of Directors, which consisted of fifteen members. It is true that their duties were mainly confined to obtaining goods which they supplied to lodges, and to administering the general fund of the Order, which was raised by a levy of one penny per member per quarter. They were chosen from the P.G.s of Manchester and surrounding districts, but their election marked a new departure. The Manchester Unity, at Nottingham, in 1827, laid the foundation of the system which, with considerable modification it must be admitted, obtains at the present day. At Liverpool in 1831 Unity auditors were first elected.
The meetings of the A.M.C. until the one at Derby in 1836 may be passed over without comment. The first Derby A.M.C. left its mark on the Unity by the determination that in future the officers of the Order and the directors should be elected from the whole Unity, instead of from the Manchester district only. The action was fraught with grave consequences, apart from its immediate result. Several Manchester lodges, angered at the power being taken from their hands, acted in an illegal manner with respect to the lectures, and members were in consequence expelled by a special committee of the Manchester district. Two of them sued the lodges from which they had been expelled for the return of contributions paid, and the circumstance is chiefly notable from the fact that the Order was magisterially decided to be an illegal society. The opinion of Sir J. Campbell, the Attorney-General, was then sought, and he, while eulogising the work of the Manchester Unity, said it had no legal status.
London, not then divided into different districts, was the scene of the next A.M.C., and to it was reported that though direct taxation had ceased, the general fund of the society (after paying all expenses of management and charitable gifts) had increased by a considerable amount out of the profits on goods sold by the directors to lodges. To the London A.M.C. belongs the distinction of having adopted the present emblem of the Order, which has thus been in use for over sixty-six years. In passing, it may be mentioned that in 1840, in which year the A.M.C. was held at York, the first dispensation was granted to open a lodge in the Australian colonies. The lodge was opened at Sydney, and was appropriately named the "Strangers Refuge." It possesses nearly 400 members. With what pride must that Strangers Refuge Lodge now look round upon its numerous offspring on the Antipodean Continent! So firm a root has the Manchester Unity taken in Australia that there are now four subsidiary Orders, each with its own Grand Master and directors, all working in harmony with each other and the Order in the Motherland.
At the Isle of Man A.M.C. in 1841 the effect of age on liability was recognised by an increased initiation fee being charged to all over thirty-five years of age. In 1842, at Wigan, a deputation from America attended with a view of bringing about reciprocal action between Oddfellows in the two Countries.
The Manchester Unity was now growing apace, and so were the funds of its lodges. It was yet an institution outside the pale of the law, and instances were frequent of designing men taking advantage of the position to enrich themselves at the societys expense. These facts, and the complete separation of the American from the English Order were the chief subjects for consideration at the Bradford A.M.C. in 1843. In the following year at Newcastle-on-Tyne, the constitution of the A.M.C. was placed on its present basis. Up to that time every lodge could send a representative, but in 1844 the system now in vogue of election by districts of one deputy for each thousand members was adopted. Of even greater importance was the resolution to call for an annual financial statement of their affairs from all lodges in the Unity, though it was not adopted without stormy discussion.
The information compiled from these returns was made known in January, 1845. Lodges had fixed their own rates of contribution and sick pay, generally in the direction of asking too little and giving too much, with the result of having the time of each A.M.C. occupied with questions of relief. The discontent which had smouldered in Manchester ever since it was deprived of its power of appointing the officers and directors of the Order broke out afresh over what the lodges called a further infringement of their liberties. Prior to the next A.M.C. in Glasgow in 1845, lodges containing nearly 16,000 members had been suspended by the directors for refusal to send in financial statements. Unaffected by this ebullition of disloyalty, the sub-committee at Glasgow recommended that those lodges which still declined to send in their returns be further suspended until the A.M.C. of 1846.
But this was not all. The returns which had come to hand revealed such deplorable practices that even with the limited knowledge then possessed it was manifest many lodges must inevitably come to grief. One fund only - raised by a subscription in some cases as low as 3½d. per week - existed, from which was paid in one instance at the rate of 5s. per member per annum for sickness, and 11s. per member for management, and this in a lodge of 160 members. To its lasting credit, the Glasgow meeting determined that this state of things should continue no longer. Every lodge was ordered to establish a separate fund for purposes other than sickness or funerals, and while they were allowed liberty to fix their own rate of contributions and benefits, it must be within the limits of 1s. weekly in sickness and £1 at death for each halfpenny of contributions to the sick and funeral fund.
On this the Manchester lodges threw down the gage of civil war. What they pleased to term the "unconstitutional and tyrannical" action of the authorities of the Order was followed by the wholesale secession of those lodges, which eventually formed themselves into the National Independent Order of Oddfellows, and the seeming anomaly of the absence of Manchester Unity Oddfellows from Manchester is explained. In this year, too, the oft-quoted estimate was made by the elder Neison which set the actuarial deficiency of the Unity at upwards of £9,000,000.
The Glasgow resolution was a little before its time. In 1846, at Bristol, it was modified to avoid the total disruption which seemed likely to follow its full enforcement. Nevertheless the year 1845 is a landmark in the history of the Order to which we of the present day may look back with pride at the determination of our forefathers. The Oxford A.M.C. in 1847 was much occupied with the question of legalisation of the society, to which events soon to follow gave a very practical significance. In 1846 the great Irish famine broke out, and in answer to an appeal from the Cork district in the early part of 1847 several hundred pounds were subscribed throughout the Unity. Some of the money went to Ireland, but some was sent to Manchester, where C.S. William Ratcliffe had it banked with the general funds of the Order, instead of opening an Irish Famine Fund account, as he had led the directors to believe he had done. When he was instructed to remit the balance of the fund, which amounted to £650, to various specified places in Ireland, he drew the money from the general fund of the Unity, remitted £225, and put the other £425 in his own pocket, besides the subscriptions which had been sent direct to him. The fraud was discovered by the Irish brethren being naturally importunate about the remittance which had been repeatedly promised, but never sent, by the C.S., and on investigation it was discovered that William Ratcliffe had, under various fraudulent pretexts, obtained cheques from the trustees for the whole of the cash at the Unity bankers, amounting to over £4,000. On being charged by the G.M. with abstracting the funds of the Unity, Ratcliffe coolly said he had taken them to prevent designing individuals from obtaining possession and using the money for their own purposes. In due time the funds would be forthcoming for the use of the society!
A special meeting was immediately summoned, and 230 deputies assembled at the Corn Exchange, Manchester, on February 29th, 1848. After three days of exciting debate, during which W. Ratcliffe charged the G.M. and directors with the desire to appropriate the funds and destroy the Order, it was resolved that his charges were groundless. William Ratcliffe was suspended, and his brother, Henry Ratcliffe, appointed C.S. until the meeting of the A.M.C. at Southampton. But the suspended C.S. was not the man to surrender without a further struggle. He retained possession of the Board room at 8, Aytoun Street, Manchester, until March 8th, when a party of four made a forcible entrance and removed the effects. The accounts were never recovered, and the Order had to commence operations without any combined capital, and without books. It was at this time that Mr. Samuel Daynes, who, with the new C.S., Henry Ratcliffe, was to exercise so great an influence over the future of the Manchester Unity, came into prominence. He had taken part in the debate on Iegalisation at the A.M.C., and was one of the party who broke into the Board room to regain possession for the Order of its own property. Fresh premises were taken at Town Hall Buildings, Cross Street, and a levy of one halfpenny per member was called up by the directors to furnish funds for carrying on the business of the Order. William Ratcliffe was prosecuted, but acquitted on technical grounds at his trial, which took place at the Liverpool Assizes on April 4th, 1848, his counsel, Serjeant Wilkins, having offered on his behalf to restore the whole of the money misappropriated - a promise which, it is needless to say, was never kept.
As a natural consequence of this disaster, occurring directly on the heels of the great split caused by the disloyalty of lodges to the resolution of the Glasgow A.M.C., confidence in the Order was rudely shaken. But, like many other visitations, it was not an unmixed evil. William Ratcliffe was a man of exceptional ability, and from the time of his appointment, on the recommendation of the Bolton district, in 1837, he had done much by his advocacy to render the first financial returns possible. These he examined, and thus paved the way for the reforms which the Unity commenced in 1845. He was also the means of introducing to office Henry Ratcliffe, without whom it is not too much to say the introduction of the system of friendly society finance as understood today would have been delayed indefinitely. And it is probable that without the stimulus afforded by the scandal created, the legalisation of friendly societies might have been postponed for years. At any rate, in June of the same year a Bill was introduced into the House of Lords by Lord Beaumont for the express purpose of preventing fraud in future, but as it was not considered satisfactory by the directors when it emerged from committee, it was withdrawn.
At the Southampton A.M.C. in 1848 little was done beyond expelling W. Ratcliffe and confirming the appointment of Henry Ratcliffe at a salary of £150 per annum! What a princely remuneration! The effect of the turmoil was made manifest at the Blackburn A.M.C. in 1849, when the membership of the Unity had fallen from 249,261 to 234,490 in one year, but the agitation set on foot to obtain protection for the members money resulted in the appointment of a Select Committee of the House of Commons, before which Unity representatives gave evidence. The next A.M.C. was held at Halifax, and it resolved on petitioning the legislature to afford legal protection to the funds of lodges, but determined to wait until the next year before taking further steps should any Act be passed. The Act received the Royal assent on August 15th, 1850, and for the first time in its history the Manchester Unity, with its lodges, became an institution recognised by the law of the land. In 1850 the membership had further fallen to 224,878, but the guiding spirits were not appalled nor led away from the course they had chosen.
We are now entering on a period which may be termed the dawn of actuarial science in the Manchester Unity. In 1846 further returns, to contain fuller particulars, were ordered to be furnished by lodges, and were continued for the next two years. The compilation of the information thus obtained was first undertaken by P.G.M. Smith, of Birmingham, but owing to a fortunate difference of opinion about remuneration he did not proceed with the work. The unfinished papers were returned to the directors, and Henry Ratcliffe began the task to which the remainder of his life was devoted - that of letting light into the dark and unexplored places of friendly society experience. It is worth while repeating that the compilation of the returns for the three years 1846-7-8 occupied Henry Ratcliffe from fifteen. to seventeen hours per day during the time he was engaged on the work; that the entries on each sheet had to be gone through fifty-eight times; and that the various trades were classified under twenty-six headings. For this he received the munificent reward of £50, in addition to the repayment of £92 7s. which had actually been expended by him in clerical assistance.
At the commencement of the year 1851 the directors were busy in classifying the general rules and in obtaining information from the Registrar of Friendly Societies which might be of use in guiding the Dublin A.M.C. in its determination as to whether they should or should not be registered. Henry Ratcliffe was not idle. He was circulating through the Unity, by means of the quarterly reports, information which would enable districts to establish widow and orphan funds on secure foundations, and hinting not obscurely that the days of high initiation fees and uniform rates of contribution were numbered. At Dublin it was decided to register the general rules under the new Act, and the directors subsequently issued instructions to districts and lodges to assist them in adopting the same course. The year 1852 was not an eventful one, though the work of consolidation proceeded, and entailed a further decrease of 753 members by the getting rid of refractory lodges.
The A.M.C. which met at Preston in 1853 marked the greatest advance that had yet been made by any friendly society towards a condition of complete solvency. It gave the deathblow to the system of uniform contributions by imposing an extra annual contribution graduated according to age at admission from 6d. to 7s. 6d. per member. At the same time the initiation fee was reduced to a minimum of 5s., rising to £1. As everyone knows, the bad old plan took a long while in dying, but there is no question that its fate was finally sealed at Preston in 1853. Clearances, too, were regulated. Instead of lodges having to take any member who pleased to deposit his travelling card, or came furnished with a form of clearance, without fee or question, an entrance fee rising from 1s. 6d. to £1 was imposed, and the limit of age at which lodges were compelled to take clearance members was fixed at forty-five years. A truly marvellous accomplishment for one meeting especially when it is remembered that barely seven years had elapsed from the time when the very existence of the Unity appeared to have been threatened by the comparatively modest results of the Glasgow A.M.C. Wise in their generation, the promoters of the new order of things did not attempt to raise the contributions of existing members, or the doom of their reforming efforts would have been pronounced, and the progress of the Manchester Unity retarded for years.
The action then taken was soon seen to have been justified by the results. The career of the Order on its downward path in the matter of membership was stayed, so that when the A.M.C. met in South London in 1854 it was reported that the society numbered 232,228 members on January 1st, a net gain of 8,787. Public confidence had been restored by the bold and straightforward measures adopted by the Unity representatives, and the predictions of those who at Preston had so violently opposed the change were entirely falsified.
The Friendly Societies Act of 1850 was but a temporary measure continued from year to year until 1855, when the law, amended at the instance of the directors to meet the special requirements of the Unity, was made permanent. One of its provisions imposed on registered societies the duty of sending in quinquennial returns to the Registrar. To facilitate this work in lodges, the South London A.M.C. authorised the circulation by the directors of the sickness register books. In 1854, instead of the usual votes to local charities, £20 was voted for the relief of the widows and orphans of soldiers who fell in the Crimea, and subsequently a sum of £2,582 was collected by subscription through the Unity towards the Patriotic Fund, which was working for the same object. On January 1st, 1855, the number of members had increased to 240,499.
It may not be out of place at this point to retrace our steps to the year 1840, and mention the names of some of those brethren, all of whom are now reaping their eternal reward, who steadfastly persevered in the object they had set themselves, of making the Manchester Unity an institution which would be enabled to pursue its beneficent objects through all time. As already mentioned, the A.M.C. of that year was held at York, with Bro. Carnegie as Grand Master. In 1841 G.M. Davies, D.G.M. Richmond, and C.S. W. Ratcliffe were the officers of the Order, and signed a loyal address to the Queen and Prince Albert on the birth of the Princess Royal. At the momentous Newcastle meeting in 1844 G.M. Mansfield presided, and at the no less important meeting in the following year at Glasgow the chair was occupied by G.M. Whaite. We may now pass on to Oxford in 1847, when G.M. Elliott guided the deliberations on the question of legalisation. This was soon followed by the W. Ratcliffe episode, when, in addition to Mr. Daynes, who had but recently been placed on the Board, Messrs. Smith, Simeon, and Holland, three other directors, broke into 8, Aytoun Street, to get hold of the Unity property. Mr. Roe and Mr. Elliott also appear on the scene at that time in the Assize Court at Liverpool, with reference to their signatures on the cheques. In 1850 Thomas Luff, G.M., John Bradley, D.G.M., in conjunction with Henry Ratcliffe, C.S., signed the petition to Parliament for a law to be passed recognising the existence of the Unity, and in 1853 Robert Glass was Grand Master. The name of James Roe appears in 1855 as of one watching the interests of the Order in the legislation which was being enacted; and that of the treasurer, J. Richardson, may also be introduced as the first instance of the value of the Friendly Societies Act to the Unity which had worked so hard for its passing. Richardson became bankrupt at the end of 1855, but the balance of £356 held by him was recovered in full from the estate.
The A.M.C. of 1855 was held at Durham, where nothing beyond some amendments in details needs to be recorded, the attention of the Unity being fixed on the measure then before Parliament for consolidating the various Friendly Societies Acts, which became law on July 23rd. Within a few months of its passing its usefulness was somewhat dramatically demonstrated by the incident recorded in the preceding paragraph, which led later in the year to the appointment by the directors of Messrs. Cunliffe, Brooks, and Co., bankers, of Manchester, to act as treasurers until the next A.M.C. A member of that firm has ever since been treasurer of the Manchester Unity.
The Lincoln A.M.C. of 1856 was a meeting that has left an enduring record in the history of the Order, from the fact that, owing to the directors having received notice to quit the premises then occupied, they were empowered to purchase land and to erect thereon a suitable building for carrying on the business of the society, the cost of which was not to exceed the amount to be raised in two years by a levy of two pence per member. It was also resolved to re-establish the Oddfellows Magazine, which had fallen into abeyance since 1848, and to fine districts and lodges which failed to establish separate management expense funds. At the commencement of 1856 the Order had increased by upwards of 10,000 members, to a total of 251,000, a fact which amply justified the liberality (?) displayed by the Lincoln A.M.C. in raising the salary of C.S. Henry Ratcliffe to £200 per annum. It was during 1856 that the now historical attack on the Manchester Unity was made by the Earl of Albemarle in a lecture at Diss, Norfolk. Taking as his text the deficiency as estimated by Neison at nine millions of pounds, he denounced the Manchester Unity as one of the great swindles of the age, and advised his hearers not to believe a word that they might hear about the advantages of "unity." But his lordship had reckoned without his host. Another Norfolk man was at hand who did believe in unity. Samuel Daynes, who was then on the Board, was enabled, by his matchless eloquence at various meetings, and his powerful articles in the Norfolk Chronicle, to refute with irresistible logic the misleading statements of the Earl of Albemarle. Following the delivery of the lectures came a series of defamatory articles in The Times, which, but for the timely counter blast sounded by Mr. Daynes, might have seriously retarded the onward march of the Manchester Unity. The actual result was a splendid advertisement of the Order, and an increase during the year of nearly 12,000 members.
Events now crowd thickly the history of the society. In January, 1857, the first number of the revived Oddfellows Magazine was published under the editorship of Mr. William Atkin, who superintended the issue of the first three quarterly numbers. He was succeeded later in the year by Mr. C. F. Pardon, who some time afterwards (in 1862) was followed by Mr. Charles Hardwick, who resigned in 1883. Up to this time the magazine had been sold at 6d. per copy quarterly, but the A.M.C. at Nottingham in 1883 decided that it should in future become a monthly publication, to be sold at one penny per copy. Charles Hardwick, who had for many years done yeoman service with his pen for the Unity, felt that advancing years entitled him to some rest from his labours, and he took the opportunity of the change in system to hand over the pen he had wielded so efficiently. James Curtis, another Past Grand Master, who retired from the Board upon his election, next took up the editorial duties, which he discharged until his death in 1887. The author of the present sketch was appointed by the Board to succeed James Curtis in the same year, and remained at the editorial desk until the end of 1897, when he resigned in order to become a candidate for the directorate, thus reversing the method of his predecessor.
In February of 1857 the first stone of the present Unity Offices was laid by the then Grand Master of the Order, James Charles Cox, of Southampton.
The A.M.C. was held at St. Andrews Hall, Norwich, when it was reported that the growth of the Order had proceeded at an accelerated pace, the membership having increased by 11,800 members to a total of 262,800. This progress was continued during 1857, so that at the Swansea A.M.C. in 1858 the directors could report a further increase of 13,000 members, bringing the total up to 276,000. There is no need to follow in detail the doings of the A.M.C.s which were held successively at Leicester, Shrewsbury, Bolton, and Brighton, except that, owing to attempts to interfere with the Friendly Societies Act, P.G.M. James Roe, of the North London District, was appointed the first Parliamentary agent of the Unity at the Shrewsbury A.M.C. in 1860, and that the question which has since troubled many A.M.C.s, viz, that of "hazardous occupations," was dealt with by the Brighton A.M.C. of 1862 by the determination to charge an additional initiation, fee for miners, mariners, engine drivers, powder makers, etc., or to pay a reduced sum at death of such members. Viewed in the light of later experience, these efforts must appear crude, but they at least proved that the leaders of forty years ago were not insensible to the increased liability brought on the society by the occupations mentioned. It is also worthy of mention that in 1862 subscriptions to the extent of nearly £10,000 were raised throughout the Unity for the relief of the brethren in the cotton manufacturing districts who had been brought to distress by the American Civil War, which entirely stopped the supply of raw material to the thousands of mills throughout Lancashire. Happily this money was dispensed by the directors without any such untoward sequel as marred the efforts of the brethrens liberality nearly twenty years earlier.
We are now brought to the Leamington A.M.C. in 1863 to which was reported the opinion of the Attorney-General of the day on the refusal of Mr. Tidd-Pratt, the Registrar of Friendly Societies, to register rules of a district as a branch of the Manchester Unity, on the ground that no authority existed which entitled the central body to control branches. There is no need to quote the opinion on the various points raised in the answers to the questions submitted. The incident is mainly of interest in recalling, as it does, the separate registration of every lodge and district, which was insisted upon until the Act of 1875 gave the Manchester Unity what may be justly termed its Charter of Incorporation, a statute which, by the voluntary action of its loyal brethren, bound the society into one homogeneous whole, while it allowed complete liberty to every branch to carry on its work in its own way, so long as the method chosen was in accord with the general rules.
The progress of the Order abroad was well exemplified at Leamington by the report of the sub-committee of the A.M.C. - a body, it may be here explained, which performed part of the work now undertaken by the Investigation Committee - that lodges had been opened in South Africa, South America, and Constantinople. South African lodges have obeyed the Scriptural injunction to increase and multiply. They have frequently sent representatives to the A.M.C. in the old country, and have nobly upheld in that vast continent, as yet but sparsely peopled with Europeans, the best traditions of the Order. Those in Constantinople have died out after a fruitless struggle to carry out the principles of high finance which shortly after their opening became part of the constitution of the Unity. It is also of interest to note that in this same year the foundation-stone of the Oddfellows Hall in Melbourne was laid by His Excellency the Governor of the Colony, Sir Henry Barkly, K.C.B.
The following year, 1864, marked the turning-point in the history of the society. In the stock text of most of the orators who declaim on the glories of the Manchester Unity numberless audiences have been informed that the society began without guidance on the all-important work it undertook to carry out, that no reliable tables of contributions or benefits existed, and that the result in many cases justified the strictures of the Earl of Albemarle a few years earlier. Indeed, the general condition of the friendly societies of the kingdom at that period, though then, as now, the Manchester Unity was far ahead of all in everything that related to solvency, was such as to lead to the introduction of the Government Annuities and Insurance Bill to Parliament by the late Right Hon. William Ewart Gladstone, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time. During his speech on the introduction of the Bill, he said that the Bill had grown out of consideration of the condition of friendly societies and the wholesale errors which left members without remedy.
Founded on sentiment, and that of the noblest, the Manchester Unity had endeavoured to live up to ideals of relieving the distressed, maintaining the sick, and assisting the widow and orphan in their hour of need, on no more solid foundation than the insufficient periodical contributions of the brethren afforded. The members saw no troubles ahead for themselves. Their vision was bounded by the sight of a prostrate brother or a despairing widow, and their hearts (and cash while it lasted) went out to relieve the evident necessities of those who but a brief time before had been boon companions, or of the helpless dependents they had left behind them in obeying the last summons. Unfortunately the common purse - the club box - was not so large as the brethrens hearts, and those who had relieved others necessities found when their own turn came that nothing was left to give them. Small wonder that this work of the Unity and its power of rehabilitation was misunderstood by statesmen, who only saw the bitter disappointment of men ruined by their own generosity.
We have seen that for twenty years prior to the date to which we are now brought, far-sighted members of the Unity insisted that if the society were to be established as a power for elevating the masses, and instilling into their minds the feeling of independence which can only arise from the exercise of the virtue of self-help, the brotherhood which had been the sole bond of union must be accompanied by solvency, that it was immoral to hold out to young men hopes which could never be realised under the conditions prevailing, and that the money for the boasted expenditure for the relief of the suffering was only obtained by using up the contributions of the young members as fast as they came in without any regard for the future of those who paid them.
The efforts to alter what would have been a scandal had knowledge of proper principles been available were arduous, but they were persistently applied. Their results were seen first in the compulsory furnishing of returns, next in the separation of the benefit funds from any others, and in the determination that such funds should be used for no other purpose than to pay the benefits promised, and lastly in the imposition of an increased contribution to members who joined later in life - " over-age" contribution, as it was called. At the Birkenhead A.M.C. in 1864 the finishing touch was given to the strenuous efforts so long put forth by the adoption (at least so far as the general rules were concerned) of the first scientifically graduated tables of contributions and benefits. These were the first fruits of Henry Ratcliffes investigations into the sickness and mortality experience of the Order, and they, with the work on which they were founded, will perpetuate his memory as the father of sound friendly society finance.
The tables were adopted at Birkenhead. Few can remember the bitter opposition they aroused, or the self-sacrificing labours of those who strove to get the sound principles they enshrined incorporated in the general rules. To Thomas Adams, of Bristol, who has but recently died, it must have been a source of intense gratification to see the whole Manchester Unity not only acting on the lines he advocated, but its members wondering how their predecessors could have been so long blind to the truth. With Thomas Adams was Henry Buck, of Birmingham, long since called to his rest, but who lived long enough to witness the beneficial result of his labours. I have said the tables were adopted by the whole Manchester Unity. Unfortunately, until a quite recent date, valuation reports of lodges in terrible deficiencies showed that they had persistently and continuously refused to live in the light vouchsafed to them. The codification of the general rules had resulted in making this financial rule the 38th, and for many years subsequent to 1864 the great theme of the sub-committee in the reports to successive A.M.C.s was "non-compliance with the 38th general rule." But more may be said on this point later.
The subject again came prominently before the next A.M.C. at Worcester in 1865, in the numerous propositions to abrogate the rule which had been carried at the cost of so much labour. These, happily for the progress of the society, met with signal defeat, though the directors. were empowered to hold the rule in abeyance for twelve months in order to give districts further time to digest its provisions. Another important step taken at Worcester was to amend the rule relating to clearance, though but in a slight degree.
In this year an effort was made to obtain a Charter of Incorporation for the Order, but it was abandoned, as the whole constitution of the society would have been altered if a charter had been granted. Instead of an affiliation of many branches, each governed by its own rules, and administered by its own officers under the general rules of the society, the charter would have necessitated the whole of the funds of the branches being handed over to one set of trustees, with one set of rules governing the entire Unity.
The victory over ignorance and financial superstition was not finally won until the year 1866, when the A.M.C. was held in the town of Burton-on-Trent, Once more numerous propositions were sent in for the purpose of rescinding the tables in the 38th general rule, and a good deal of "lobbying" took place to see how the opponents could best concentrate their forces. Eventually it was decided to take the sense of the meeting on a proposal to make it optional with districts to use the tables of contributions and benefits as carried at Birkenhead, or to revert to the chaos that previously existed. The debate lasted several hours, and those who cherish the memory of the recently deceased Reuben Watson will rejoice that he was the leader of the victorious majority which determined to walk in the paths of truth and honesty.
The fundamental principle that every man entering the Unity should pay an equivalent value for the benefits he expected to receive was finally established at the Plymouth A.M.C. in 1867. It was then unanimously resolved that the tables over which such fierce battles had been waged for the past two years, with such others as the directors might certify to be equivalent, should be incorporated in the general rules, in order that districts might adopt one or other of them. There was, however, still much to accomplish. The sub-committee, which in those days generally voiced the aspirations of the "forward" section of the society, reported to the Plymouth A.M.C. that difficulties had arisen in connection with the interpretation of the clearance rule, and recommended that no clearance should be accepted after a member had reached forty years of age. They also expressed the opinion that under the new tables members could increase their scale of benefits, provided they produced a medical certificate of good health before their proposals for extra assurance were accepted.
It was in this year that the subscription started some years previously in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution came to a head, and the meeting resolved to pay over the sum of £520 to the institution to be expended in the purchase of a lifeboat to be called "The Manchester Unity." Later in the same year, the directors having reported that the lifeboat, with equipment and boathouse, would cost £620, the required balance was quickly forthcoming from lodges, and the craft was launched on her humane mission at Cleethorpes near Great Grimsby, on the wild Lincolnshire coast, amidst great rejoicings, on August 17th, 1868. The boat was formally handed over to the custody of the Lifeboat Institution by the recently deceased P.G.M. Edwin Smith, of Bootle, and the late P.G.M. Curtis, of Brighton, the ceremony of "christening" being gracefully performed by Miss Walker, daughter of P.G.M. Walker, of Durham.
Before leaving Plymouth it is interesting to note that up to 1867 the A.M.C. had no directors report to vex the souls of the deputies, and to provide material for bricks with which ambitious brethren could pelt the sitting members of the Board. In accordance with an alteration of rule, adopted at Plymouth at the instance of the North London district, the first directors report was presented to the Cheltenham A.M.C. of 1868.
To speak of a Cheltenham A.M.C. seems almost to be rehearsing modern history, so vivid will be the memories of Cheltenham in the minds of all who visited the "Garden Town in 1903. It is, however, with Cheltenham in 1868 that this brief chronicle has now to deal. The first directors report was of an importance befitting the inauguration of a new system. The success of the financial arrangements of some lodges was illustrated by applications for appropriation of surplus capital having been made by twenty-one lodges in the previous year. On the other hand, the breaking up of many lodges was made manifest by the serious position caused by the large number of district members throughout the Unity. The determination of the Board to permit no breach of rule in the disposal of capital was shown by the expulsion of lodges for illegally dividing funds.
The unsatisfactory legal relationship which existed between the branches and the central body had been realised ever since 1862, when Mr. Tidd-Pratt, the then Registrar of Friendly Societies, had refused to register a district rule which said the rules of the district must be in conformity with the general rules of the Manchester Unity. To remedy this the first general rule was amended at Plymouth by the addition of the words, "These rules shall be binding on every branch and every member of the society." As was anticipated, the registration of this amended rule was refused by Mr. Tidd-Pratt. The directors, in accordance with instructions from the Plymouth A.M.C., sought the opinion of counsel (who were the law officers of the Crown) as to whether an application for a mandamus to compel the Registrar to alter his decision was likely to succeed. The opinion expressed was that the application was not likely to be successful. But the day of relief was approaching through the action of Lord Lichfield - an earnest supporter of properly conducted friendly societies. His lordship had introduced a Bill to the House of Lords of which the directors did not approve, but the effect of the attention drawn to the subject by Lord Lichfield, Mr. Bonham Carter, and others was the Royal Commission on Friendly Societies appointed in 1870.
At this A.M.C. it was finally decided, after the contention had been waged for some years, to lower the age of admission to lodges to 16 years, though the members were not allowed to enter the lodge room or receive the signs and passwords until they reached the age of 18 years.
At the Sunderland meeting of 1869 the financial aspect of the Unity was still the dominant note. The Tyneside Lodge, which had been expelled by the directors, was re-admitted on condition that it adopted a graduated scale of contributions for all new members. The ever-recurring question of payment of the surgeon from the sick and funeral fund was then to the front, and was answered, as it has been during the intervening years, by telling the society that a separate benefit such as medical attendance must be met by a contribution beyond the scale in the general rules for sick pay only. Another subject which has since occupied considerable attention in the Unity - that of payment of reduced sick benefits during partial cessation from work through illness or accident - was reported upon by the directors. If their recommendation that lodges should carefully frame their rules so as to prevent payment of sick pay under such circumstances, which was adopted by the Sunderland A.M.C., had been carried into effect, how different would have been the position of many lodges today! It is also interesting to note that efforts were made in 1868 at Cheltenham, and in 1869 at Sunderland, to reduce the number of small districts by enforcing amalgamation, without success. Then, as. now, strong objections were offered by those who thought more of their own position than of the Unity. Some progress has been made in the direction of reduction since that date, but that there is considerable room for further improvement may be seen by a glance at a map and the directory of the Order.
The status of friendly societies under the existing Act had been the cause of much heart-burning within the Unity. In the outside world the flagrant injustice that was being perpetrated by societies which obviously could not hope to keep their promises raised a cloud of suspicion against the whole system, under which good and bad were alike condemned by those who knew no better. Following the Earl of Lichfield in the previous year, Mr. Evan Richards and Mr. Bonham Carter placed the subject eloquently and forcibly before Parliament, taking care in their speeches to discriminate between the bogus and the real friendly society. They obtained a sympathetic hearing from Mr. Bruce, the Home Secretary (afterwards Lord Aberdare), who promised that an inquiry should be instituted.
The opening of the year 1870 was signalised by the death of Mr. J. Tidd-Pratt, the Registrar of Friendly Societies, whose name was a terror to all who wished to read the Act of Parliament in their own way. There is no doubt that Mr. Tidd-Pratt held strong convictions, and that his decisions did not always please the officers of societies who were brought into contact with him. But that his intentions were of the best there is equally no doubt, and that his interpretation of the law was correct was proved, when challenged, by the opinions of the highest legal authorities of the day. One of those who had been brought frequently into conflict with Mr. Tidd-Pratt was P.G.M. Vincent Burgess, of South London. He had held the office of Parliamentary agent since 1862, and was called to his long rest in March of the same year as the late Registrar.
When the A.M.C. met at Chesterfield in 1870 a new Registrar had not been appointed, but there was a Bill (which did not become law) before the House of Commons, introduced by Mr. Lowe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who afterwards became Lord Sherbrooke, for abolishing the office of Registrar of Friendly Societies and transferring the duties of the office to the Board of Trade. On this the directors sent a deputation to wait upon the Earl of Lichfield, with whom were Mr. Richards and Mr. Bonham Carter, and other M.P.s, who promised to do what they could to obtain the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole subject. In the House of Commons Mr. Richards moved an address to the Crown, praying for the appointment of a Royal Commission. The address was unanimously adopted, and before the session of 1870 closed the reply from Her Majesty, stating she had given directions that a Commission should issue, was read to the House.
Side by side with disposal of surplus capital in some lodges the question of the relief of distressed ones was brought prominently before the Chesterfield A.M.C., more particularly in relation to the financial condition of the lodges in the Manchester district. This was attributable to the "long persistence in the payment of inadequate contributions for the benefits promised, and a rate of expenditure for management wholly unnecessary."
In 1871 the A.M.C. met at Bury St. Edmunds. The appointment of the Royal Commission on Friendly Societies, with Sir Stafford Northcote, who was subsequently raised to the peerage as Lord Iddesleigh, as its chairman, loomed large, as might have been expected, in the report of the directors. The Board determined to avail itself of the opportunity of giving evidence on behalf of the Manchester Unity, and to urge more especially the importance of certain principles as the proper foundation for societies which sought the privileges of registration. Amongst the points pressed were the method of settlement of disputes, the necessity of periodical valuation, the provision of deferred annuities (superannuation, or old-age pensions by another name), and the obtaining of annual and quinquennial returns, all of which were laid before the Commission with conspicuous ability by the late Henry Ratcliffe and the other Unity representatives.
They could with a clear conscience advocate the incorporation of these principles in the law of the land relating to friendly societies, for they were already cardinal articles of faith in the Manchester Unity. The Order had shown its belief in the necessity of quinquennial valuation by insisting on the process before permitting distribution of surplus capital. The Bury St. Edmunds A.M.C. erected a landmark in the path of the Order by resolving that every lodge in the Unity should be valued, and the tabulated result be laid before the society by the Board of Directors. Until that report arrived the Manchester and other districts, clamorous for much-needed relief, rendered necessary by their past prodigality, were told to possess their souls in patience. Lodges with a superfluity of wealth were told that no further applications for appropriation of surplus capital could be entertained. At Bury St. Edmunds it was also determined that every lodge should be registered under the Act.
The career of the Manchester Unity from its inception in 1810 has been given in a series of slight sketches. The A.M.C. at Lancaster in 1872 may, however, be taken as marking the jubilee of the institution, for the first recorded A.M.C. was opened at Manchester on May 30th, 1822. Little beyond the bare fact of the date of that meeting has been preserved, not even the number of deputies who attended, but it is notable as being the forerunner of those annual parliaments which have become of such importance as to interest not only the brethren of our own Order, but the whole of the British people. After these fifty years of recorded history we may reasonably pause for a moment to note the proportions to which the modest little seedling - planted obscurely in 1810, and first showed its budding leaves to the world in 1822 - had grown. There were 282 deputies at the Lancaster meeting, who represented 458,159 adult male members (female members and juveniles had not been invented), of whom 30,683 had been initiated in the lodges at home during 1871, while the colonial membership increased during the same period by 4,577. After paying away nearly £400,000 for sickness and funerals in one year, the capital possessed by lodges and districts reached the respectable figure of over £3,000,000. Unfortunately no comparison can be made with 1822, because no returns were made to the central office for upwards of twenty years after that time, and even then they were obtained at the cost of a threatened disruption of the whole society. We may, however, go back to 1852 to find that the membership stood at 224,441, so that in twenty years the Manchester Unity added 233,718 souls to its roll of membership.
In 1872 an opportunity arose of displaying that loyalty to the throne and the Royal Family which has ever distinguished the society. The recovery of the Prince of Wales (now King Edward VII) from a long and dangerous illness was the cause of rejoicing to the whole nation. The Unity, true to its traditions, contributed its quota to the chorus of congratulation which arose all over the kingdom.
Clearances were a subject reported upon by the directors to the A.M.C., among their recommendations being one that a redemption fee should be paid to the lodge accepting the clearance. The consideration of this was, however, postponed until after the general valuation of the Unity, then in progress, was completed. Mr. Curtis, who had been appointed Parliamentary agent on the death of Mr. Roe, soon found occasion to exercise his new functions in the successful opposition to the "Friendly Societies Commission Bill," which had been introduced into the House of Lords towards the end of the session in 1871. Its object was to facilitate the proceedings of the Royal Commission, but its provisions were felt to be too drastic, and it was withdrawn at the instance of the Unity. Assistant commissioners were appointed, who pursued the inquiry in various parts of the country, and brought to light much information on the subject of societies generally. One of the assistant commissioners was Mr. Lyulph Stanley, who attended the sittings of the A.M.C. throughout the week, and who a few years later, at the banquet given during the Oldham A.M.C. week, in his address, proved his complete grasp of the subject into which he had been inquiring. Like many others of those whose names have been given in these pages, the Hon. E. Lyulph Stanley has changed his designation, and is now Lord Stanley of Alderley.
To the Lancaster A.M.C. of 1872 belongs the honour of receiving what is generally known as "Ratcliffes Supplementary Report, 1872," but which would have been better described as the "Text-book for Friendly Society Valuations," as it contained the results of the inquiry into the experience of the Manchester Unity, 1866-70. From that date until the Cheltenham A.M.C. in 1903 no other standard was available, and even that then set up was higher than the one under which the tables in the celebrated 38th general rule had been constructed.
For some six years the adoption of those tables had been made compulsory on all lodges, and yet in 1872 the report, which with wearisome reiteration continued to be made year after year, came from the sub-committee that this important rule was in many cases totally disregarded.
The cry of the distressed lodge was again raised at the Weymouth A.M.C. of 1873 in the form of a proposed alteration of general rules, but another and a stronger voice was heard in Henry Ratcliffes report on the first general valuation of the Manchester Unity. A feeling, at first. of consternation, was exhibited when it was found that the total deficiencies in lodges reached £1,360,677, while the surpluses, which existed in but rare instances, only amounted to £17,230. Then was heard in thousands of lodges, "Deficiency! Nonsense! We know better. We have a capital in our lodge of £800. We have been established twenty years, and have saved money every year. We spent £80 last year for sickness and funerals, and saved £20! And yet we are told we are in a deficiency of £500. Do you believe it, brethren?" The cheers which greeted this burst of eloquence - repeated parrot-like by every speaker in all directions - proved that knowledge of the elementary principles of friendly society finance had not penetrated deeply into the mass, and accounted for the difficulty the directors experienced in getting the 38th general rule adopted.
But the earnest men guiding the affairs of the society were not to be deterred by the magnitude of the task, nor by the ignorant obstinacy of the members for whose good they were working. Henry Ratcliffe in his office, Charles Hardwick in the Magazine, Samuel Daynes and Reuben Watson on public platforms and at Oddfellows meetings, were all fervently preaching, each in his own sphere, the doctrine of salvation for the Unity by conformity with financial requirements, with what splendid results we of the present day can testify.
The Richmond (Surrey) A.M.C. of 1874 chiefly concerned itself with attention to matters of detail. In the previous years the power of submitting proposals for alterations of general rules to the A.M.C. had been bestowed on the Board of Directors. This power was utilised to bring in measures for making general periodical valuations compulsory, for laying a foundation on which sound district funeral funds might be built, and for submitting proposals for relief of distressed lodges. Efforts were also made to check the growth of insolvency by enforcing a proper rate of contributions on those members who had joined before the Birkenhead A.M.C. Wise in their generation, the pioneers of financial reform had not attempted at first to make the increased contributions, found to be necessary, retrospective. But when by a general valuation such a huge deficiency was brought to light they again wisely sought to arrest its progress by obtaining from every member in future the rate of contribution he should have paid from the time of his initiation.
Great as was the interest excited by the result of the first valuation of the whole Unity, and the steps which were found necessary in consequence, it was overshadowed by that which attached to the proceedings of the Royal Commissioners, whose report was issued shortly before the A.M.C. in 1874. Space will not permit an exhaustive review of that important and most valuable document. It is sufficient for the present to mention that in spite of the tremendous actuarial deficiency revealed by the first valuation of the Manchester Unity, the Commission reported that "it stands foremost amongst the Orders through the successive steps which it has taken towards the attainment of financial security." In the next paragraph the Commissioners say, "it is impossible to commend too highly the frankness and courage manifested by the Manchester Unity in thus facing the facts of its position," while the capacity of the Order for overcoming difficulties was fully acknowledged. The report agreed that in the affiliated Orders the lodges were separate societies which were linked together by a strong moral bond of union.
A string of recommendations followed the report, among which were the points urged by the representatives of the Unity in their evidence, and the recognition of the need of a central governing authority for affiliated societies.
The labours of the Royal Commission were not allowed to remain long without bearing fruit. One of the principal measures laid before Parliament in the session of 1875 was "a Bill to consolidate and amend the law relating to friendly and other societies." It is unnecessary to add that the progress of the Bill through Parliament was watched closely by the directors, whose Parliamentary Committee were in constant communication, personal and otherwise, with the members of both Houses until the Bill received the Royal Assent on August 11th. The registration of the Manchester Unity as an affiliated society under its provisions was effected as speedily as possible after its passing.
The A.M.C. of 1875 was held at Newport, Monmouthshire, when an attempt to compel districts to establish a central funeral fund with a capital of not less than 2s. 6d. per member was defeated. This is principally of interest in that it shows that the question of district funeral funds, which subsequently became such a burning one, was present to the minds of the leaders of the society. The other matters dealt with were mainly of detail in connection with administration, though discontent with the ways of financial progress which had already been taken was manifested by many deputies at the meeting.
The next A.M.C. was held at Ryde, Isle of Wight, in 1876. The appointment by the directors of an assistant secretary to the Order, in consequence of the illness during part of the year of Henry Ratcliffe, the corresponding secretary, was reported to and endorsed by the meeting. The clause in the Friendly Societies Act relating to the appointment of public auditors, and the doings of the Actuarial Commission appointed by H.M. Treasury as an outcome of the Act, were both dealt with, and once more the Manchester Unity was complimented. Among the first batch of public auditors appointed were six prominent members of the Unity, viz., Mr. Riley, of Halifax; Mr. Flanagan, of Manchester; Mr. Reuben Watson, of Nottingham; Mr. Smith, of Bootle, Liverpool; Mr. Pownall, of Woolwich; and Mr. Walton, of Southampton. Although but thirty years have elapsed since these appointments, only one of those mentioned survives, viz., Mr. Walton, of Southampton, who throughout the whole intervening period has never ceased to devote his best interests to the welfare of the Manchester Unity. His efforts were recognised by his election as a director of the Order in 1877 and by his re-election annually ever since.
But a still greater compliment was paid to the Manchester Unity by the adoption of tables of contributions and benefits prepared by the Actuarial Commission on the experience of the Manchester Unity 1866-70, as tabulated by the corresponding secretary, Henry Ratcliffe, which were recommended for use by all friendly societies until others deduced from experience to be collected under the new Act could be framed.
From the death of Mr. Tidd-Pratt until after the passing of the Act the duties of Registrar of Friendly Societies had been temporarily performed by Mr. H. K. Stephenson. So soon as the office, which efforts had been made to abolish, was made a permanent one, Mr. J. M. Ludlow was appointed Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies, with Mr. E. W. Brabrook as Assistant Registrar.
For the only time in the history of the Order, the year 1876 marked the death of a reigning Grand Master, John Geves, of Leeds, who, after serving his year as D.G.M., was elected to the highest honour at Newport, but only lived to complete half his term. He presided at the opening of the Board meeting on November 11th, left the offices on account of illness early on the same afternoon, and died on November 18th, 1876, at Newton Heath, Manchester, where he was in the habit of staying during the sittings of the Board.
A greater shock was in store for the Unity. The A.M.C. of 1877, held at Oldham, was opened by D.G.M. Holmes, but the chair of the C.S. was vacant. It was soon known through the meeting that the illness from which Henry Ratcliffe had suffered a year ago had again attacked him, and that it was his intention to resign his office at the next A.M.C. That next A.M.C. he was not fated to witness, for before the Oldham A.M.C. had completed its labours Henry Ratcliffe breathed his last. Of him, in the Manchester Unity, it may at all times be said, as it is of the great architect, Sir Christopher Wren, in his masterpiece, St. Pauls Cathedral, London, "If you seek his monument, look around." Other men had theorised and given to the world from the outside more or less vague speculations. It was reserved for Henry Ratcliffe, with his finger on the pulse of the greatest of all the friendly societies, from the centre of the inner circle, to collect and examine statistics, to lay bare the weak spots, to recommend remedies, and to publish to the world the actual facts revealed by his investigations. These formed the basis on which subsequent action has been taken up to the present moment, and justly entitle Henry Ratcliffe to be remembered as the father of friendly society actuarial science. Lancashire men, whose "Cottonopolis" had the honour of entertaining the A.M.C. of 1904, will ever remember with pride that Henry Ratcliffe was one of themselves, that he was born, bred, lived, worked, and died in their midst.
It was not possible, nor would it have been seemly, to elect a successor at that meeting, but it was essential that the work of the Unity should be carried on. The directors accordingly requested P.G.M. Schofield, of Bradford, one of the trustees of the Order, to act as corresponding secretary until the following A.M.C., which was to be held at Exeter in 1878.
It was a time of storm and stress throughout the Unity. The excitement concerning the enforcement of the financial provisions of the 38th general rule was at its height; disbelief in the necessity of any financial reform was widely expressed. Agitation to neutralise the action which had been already taken to strengthen the Unity was rife, and the thoughts of all were turned to Exeter with wonder at what would happen when the election of a successor to Henry Ratcliffe took place.
A clause had been incorporated in a "Poor Law Amendment Act" which enabled Guardians to claim the sick pay of a lunatic member should he become chargeable to their Union. The Manchester Unity had no objection to paying for the support of the unfortunate members wife and family, but it objected to paying its money to officials from whom it could only reach those most entitled in the form of pauper relief. Much agitation took place in the effort to get the Act altered. As that failed, the Unity settled the matter in its own way by altering the general rule to the form in which it now stands.
"The Friendly Societies Act, 1875," having legalised the existence of Societies with Branches, it became necessary for every district and lodge to re-register under its provisions. After having but a few years previously insisted on the registration of every lodge as a separate society under the old Act, the directors had not an easy task in persuading first of all every district in the Unity to re-register, and then to induce the officers of every district to do all in their power to make every lodge in their district re-register, under the new Act, as branches. This was the work which lay to be done after the Oldham A.M.C. It was, perhaps, fortunate for the acting C.S. that difficulties did arise in districts which prevented the more rapid re-registration. As it was, the number of rules which passed through the Central Office rendered it quite impossible for the C.S. of the Order, who for the first time was made the officer through whose hands rules should be sent to the Registrar, to exercise the supervision he was supposed to give in examining the contents of the rules submitted for counter-signature.
The appointment of P.G.M. Schofield as C.S. pro tem., and the universal expressions of regret from Sir Stafford Northcote, the Registrar of Friendly Societies (through Mr. Brabrook, the Assistant Registrar), and from all quarters at the death of Mr. Ratcliffe, were subjects dealt with in the directors report to the Exeter A.M.C. of 1878. It was an important meeting. The second valuation of the lodges throughout the Unity had just been completed by Henry Ratcliffe, who at the time of his death had been in communication with Mr. Sutton, the actuary to the Friendly Societies Registry, as to the form in which the reports of the valuations should be made to the Registrar. This second valuation proved that the Unity had profited by the lessons of the past. The net deficiency of £1,343,446, as at the end of 1870, had been reduced to one of £372,168 at the end of 1875, though there were still gross deficiencies aggregating £585,298 against surpluses amounting to £213,130.
The work of valuation had in a manner attached itself to the office of C.S. Indeed, but for Henry Ratcliffes genius and unexampled industry the periodical valuation of friendly societies would have been delayed a generation, even if it had ever come to pass. Mr. Ratcliffe, working primarily for the Manchester Unity, had proved the necessity and the practicability of the process, and at the instigation of the representatives of the Order it was made compulsory on all registered societies. The Exeter A.M.C. was confronted by a difficulty. A corresponding secretary was essential to replace the one who had been both secretary and actuary. An actuary was also necessary to continue the valuations as they became due. The sub-committee, in their report to the A.M.C., refer to the words used by Mr. Sutton to the deputation from the Board (Messrs. J. J. Holmes, of South London, and Mr. Reuben Watson, of Nottingham), who waited upon him after Mr. Ratcliffes death. They reported: "Mr. Sutton was of opinion that it would be to the societys advantage to engage the services of a professional actuary. He appeared to be of opinion that such a man was needed to lead the society on to the only safe principle, viz., that of sickness pay ceasing at a certain age and a life annuity commencing." Mr. Sutton also expressed the opinion that they were all wrong on the sickness experience - Mr. Ratcliffe being included.
(These words in italics acquire an added importance at the present day after the publication of the most recent experience.)
The sub-committee accordingly recommended the "election and appointment of some well-known actuary." The acceptance of this recommendation by the A.M.C. made a distinction between the secretarial and the actuarial work of the Order, and resulted in the election of the present C.S., Thomas Collins, of Wolverhampton, who has worthily filled the office ever since.
Happily for the Manchester Unity the "competent actuary" was found within its own ranks. P.G.M. Reuben Watson, who had been an earnest disciple of Henry Ratcliffe, had shown by his publication of a valuable "Treatise on the Valuation of Friendly Societies" that he had not only absorbed the knowledge of his leader, but had advanced even further into the science. For this treatise the thanks of the A.M.C. were accorded to Mr. Watson, and it was resolved that the valuation of lodges should be entrusted to him during the ensuing year.
To the Edinburgh A.M.C. of 1879 the directors reported that 280 districts and 991 lodges had become registered branches of the Manchester Unity, showing by the number of lodges then unregistered, viz., 2,617, the difficulties that were placed in the way by recalcitrant members. A more satisfactory feature in the report was the portion which related to the valuations. In accordance with the resolution of the Exeter A.M.C., the work of supervising the valuations made by Henry Ratcliffe, and preparing the reports for presentation under the Act to the Chief Registrar, was entrusted to Mr. Reuben Watson. Many errors, due to the failing health of Mr. Ratcliffe, which had prevented any checking of the clerical computations, had been discovered, causing the directors to give instructions that all future applications for appropriation of surplus capital should be submitted to the recognised valuer of the Unity. At an interview which a deputation from the directors had with the Government actuary (Mr. Sutton), that gentleman expressed satisfaction with the steps the Order were taking in the matter, and spoke very favourably of the appointment of Mr. Reuben Watson to the important duties entrusted to him.
Those who now see the Grand Master arrayed in all the glory of a gold chain may be interested to know that to the Edinburgh A.M.C. the directors suggested in their report the desirability of procuring suitable insignia to distinguish the principal officer, which, however, received scant mercy from the meeting. It will also interest those who now enter the meeting room in dignified order to find their places at the tables duly marked out for them, to know that up to the Exeter meeting the door of the building in which the A.M.C, was held was besieged by a mob of pushing deputies, resembling nothing so much as the crowd at the gallery door of a popular theatre before the days of the "queue," all anxious to secure a good place in the hall for the week, and not in the least degree particular what injury they inflicted on the persons or dress of other deputies in their effort to obtain it. So scandalous did the proceedings at last become that, acting on instructions from the Exeter A.M.C., the directors adopted the system of a previous ballot for places as an experiment, and so successful was this method that it has been continued ever since. Other matters dealt with at Edinburgh were the ever-recurring 38th general rule, the reduction of the initiation fee to a minimum of 2s. 6d., the Poor Law Amendment Act, the registration of lodges, and the effort to bring about an agreement for mutual inter visitation between lodges of the American and English Orders.
The A.M.C. of 1880 was held at Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The presiding Grand Master, Mr. Outram, of Sheffield, alluded in his opening address to the tour he had made in North America, and to his cordial reception by brethren of the American Order. This and the renewed efforts to open up intercommunication between the American. Order and the Manchester Unity formed one of the principal topics of the week. P.G.M. Watson was confirmed in his appointment as the valuer to the whole of the lodges in the Unity, upon which he resigned his position on the Board of Directors, and it was resolved to issue the necessary forms for the third valuation of the society.
Among the social functions of the week, the visit of the deputies, by invitation, to Sandringham House, the Norfolk home of His Majesty the King, at that time Prince of Wales, stands out prominently. The incident furnished proof of the change which had come over public opinion, and the opinion of those in high places with respect to the position and the operations of the society. The Manchester Unity was no longer an institution to be sneered at, or to be suspected of nefarious designs. Its usefulness was recognised by the highest in the land, while the Unity for its part showed by the enthusiastic outburst of thanks for the welcome extended by His Royal Highness that the loyalty for which it had ever been distinguished was in no wise abated.
The A.M.C. of 1881 met at Southport, Lancashire. The remarks of Mr. Sutton concerning the only safe plan of sickness insurance induced the directors to instruct Mr. R. Watson, who had been appointed a public valuer under the Friendly Societies Act, and an actuary authorised to certify annuity tables, to prepare tables for their report to the A.M.C. This was followed by an instruction from the meeting that the directors should prepare a set of rules and submit them to the next A.M.C. It was about this time that the quinquennial returns, which had been made to the Friendly Societies Registry since the earlier Act became law, were modified in form to such an extent as to cause considerable agitation throughout the Unity. Eventually a form was agreed upon between the Order and the Registry Office, which gave plenty of trouble to those upon whom it was sprung suddenly, though less than in the form as first suggested. The promise that no more quinquennial returns would be called for, if that one were filled up properly, doubtless had much influence in procuring the information sought.
The Act of Parliament of 1875 was intended to consolidate the society. The efforts of the directors were directed to carrying the intention into effect; and this and registration under the provisions of the Act were insisted on as a condition of enjoyment of the privileges of the Manchester Unity. The theory of the Registry Office was that lodges had been separate societies, and that they must show their desire to become part of the Order by registering as branches before the moral bond which had previously existed could be converted into a legal obligation on lodge or Unity. The directors sought to prove the reality of the bond by preventing lodges from distributing their funds contrary to the provisions of the Act and the general rules.
The Brunswick Lodge of the Studley District had passed a resolution to divide £2,000 of the lodge funds amongst the members, without obtaining the sanction of the directors as required by general rule. An injunction was obtained at the instance of the Directors by a member of the lodge, named Avery, from the Chancery Division of the High Court forbidding the trustees to distribute the money. Thinking to evade the injunction, the then trustees were removed, and others were elected, who at once proceeded to obtain the money by loan from a bank on the security of lodge deeds, and paid it out in proportionate shares to the members. Such a palpable subterfuge, if allowed to go on unchecked, would have meant the distribution of funds in all directions. Another lodge in the Studley district had already taken similar action, and others were quite ready to follow the example. To stop the disintegration, the directors were compelled to call on one of the loyal members of the Brunswick Lodge to apply for the commitment to prison of the trustees who had disobeyed the injunction. Mr. Justice Kay, on February 10th, 1882, sent the recalcitrant trustees to prison until the £2,000 should be repaid, and ordered them to pay the costs of the action.
The A.M.C. of 1882 met at Cardiff, when the directors reported that after the trustees of the Brunswick Lodge had lain in prison for ten weeks an offer of £1,500 and costs in settlement of the claim had been made on their behalf. Under the general rules the money had been forfeited to the Unity sick and funeral fund, for which the whole of the £2,000 could have been demanded. But the directors, seeing that the principle had been upheld, wisely tempered justice with mercy, and, on receipt of the money offered as a compromise, consented to the release of the misguided trustees. From the Strangers Refuge Lodge in the same district, which had also illegally distributed nearly £1,000 amongst its members, the amount was recovered for forfeit to the Unity sick and funeral fund.
Among other matters dealt with by the Cardiff A.M.C. was the adoption of the codification of the general rules, which had been undertaken at the request of the directors by P.G.M. Pownall. Amongst the new rules incorporated was one for the establishment of the Unity Superannuation Fund, the tables of contributions for which had been prepared and certified by Mr. Reuben Watson.
The inequalities of the system of equal levy in districts on every member for meeting the cost of funeral claims was brought before the Nottingham A.M.C. in 1883. A lucid and lengthy report from P.G.M. Reuben Watson, pointing out the inequity of the system and its harsh bearing on young lodges in old districts, was submitted by the directors. The meeting referred the whole subject to the Board of Directors, with instructions to submit alterations of rules as "they may deem most expedient to remedy, so far as practicable, the inequalities referred to."
Superannuation was another subject which engaged the Nottingham A.M.C., the sub-committee having urged the "directors and districts generally to press forward the system of superannuation, and thereby provide a remedy for the very great drain continuously made upon the funds of lodges by many claims from old members, who are, it is feared, now drawing permanent sick pay which should have been contributed for in earlier years as superannuation, but which under the present practice they are receiving without having paid any equivalent for it by way of contribution." This recommendation was adopted by the A.M.C.
The Reading A.M.C. of 1884 was called upon to express its opinion on the alteration of rules submitted by the directors to make the establishment of district funeral funds on another basis than that of equal levy compulsory. So keen was the feeling exhibited that after the alteration had been adopted by show of hands a record of the votes was called for, but the previous decision was not disturbed.
The report on this valuation was a document of considerable importance in that it explained how the principles which had been acted upon in making it differed from those adopted in making the first and second valuations. The actuary reported that a universal rate of 3 per cent interest had been used in the 1870 valuation, but that in 1875 nearly one half (46 per cent) had been valued at 4 per cent. The large reduction in deficiency shown at the second valuation was, as the actuary remarked, a cause of considerable exultation. But, as he subsequently observed, "it now becomes quite clear that the reduction of deficiency was not real, for a rate of interest was employed in the computation of the assets and liabilities of many lodges which is proved by subsequent experience to have never been realised."
The deficiency which was reported to exist was £627,820, an increase on the previous valuation of upwards of £300,000. But for the explanation of the actuary that the previous reduction was more apparent than real, and that in the valuation then concluded the actual interest which might fairly be anticipated had been taken into account, that a larger allowance had been made for the liabilities of members engaged in mining and other hazardous occupations, that considerable drafts had been made on the capital of lodges with surplus for appropriation under the general rules, and the elimination of negative values which had been reckoned as tangible assets in 1875, the result would have been disappointing. The Unity, however, realised that the third valuation was the most reliable of all, and remembered that though the deficiency was greater than the reported one of 1875, it was considerably lower than that of the first, and thus proved that the society was still proceeding towards the goal of complete solvency.
In order that the valuations of the whole Unity might be carried out more thoroughly than was practicable when all the returns were due at one date, it was decided at Reading to divide the Unity into three sections, arranged alphabetically according to counties. The first section embraced all counties down to Lancashire, which would be valued up to the end of 1884, while the remainder would take their turn in two divisions at the end of 1885 and 1886 respectively.
The directors reports showed that during 1885 progress was being made with superannuation and with the formation of district funeral funds. A form of application for membership of the Unity Superannuation Fund, and a set of tables showing how contributions for sick pay throughout life could be commuted into payment for sick pay up to 65 years of age, when contributions would cease and a permanent allowance commence, were both circulated early in the year. The A.M.C. which met at Aberystwith had the same subject brought before it, in the shape of an account of an interview with the Chief Registrar concerning the actuarial certificate to superannuation tables which might be incorporated in lodge rules.
The most exciting topic with which the Aberystwith A.M.C. had to deal was that of district funeral funds. An endeavour was again put forth to make their formation optional, which failed, the proposition being rejected by a large majority. Other propositions for amendment of the rule were referred to the Board of Directors, that they might bring up the necessary alterations to embody the decisions of the A.M.C. in the rules of the Order.
To the meeting at Stafford in 1886 the amendments of rules necessary to carry out the decisions of previous A.M.C.s were submitted by the directors, together with tables of contributions for funeral benefits, to give effect to the proposals. There also descended upon the Stafford meeting a veritable avalanche of other proposals, some seeking to undo the good work of previous years, and others to get the pet schemes in use by the districts sending up the proposals adopted as part of the Unity policy. As a result the entire subject was again referred to the Board of Directors, for them to further report to the next A.M.C. upon the whole of the proposals submitted.
At Stafford it was first decided to publish the Unity sheet almanac to sell for one penny per copy. The first issue, which bore the portrait of the then G.M. Stockall, was that of 1887, and the almanac has been published regularly each year since with ever-increasing success, exhibiting to an admiring world the likeness of the reigning G.M. The juvenile emblem was also decided upon at Stafford, and the leek as the badge of the Principality was added to the emblem of the Order.
The ever-recurring 38th general rule, nearly 20 years after its adoption was made compulsory, was still found to be almost openly flouted in many districts, and in others flagrantly evaded. District officers, whose duty should have led them to enforce on all lodges in their jurisdiction the duty of obedience, were themselves in many instances the greatest offenders. It was only casually that the practices came to the notice of the directors, who had been prevented by want of knowledge from taking action against the disobedient lodges. They accordingly instructed the actuary to report every instance of failure to adopt the tables contained in the 38th rule which might be discovered in the course of the valuation then proceeding.
Towards the end of 1885 the troubles with respect to registration of lodges came to a head by the refusal of the Caledonian Lodge, Bolton (Lancashire) District, to take the necessary steps to register under the Act of 1875. The lodge was accordingly suspended from the Unity, and it afterwards passed a resolution to secede from the Order. The lodge applied for separate registration as a distinct society, but this the directors opposed until the Caledonian Lodge had complied with the conditions of secession laid down in the general rules. The trustees of the Order, in conjunction with the trustees of the Bolton District and the loyal members of the Caledonian Lodge, entered an action in the Chancery Court of the County Palatine of Lancaster asking for an injunction to prevent the trustees of the Caledonian Lodge from registering as a separate society while the demands of the Unity under the general rules remained unsatisfied. The case was first heard before Vice-Chancellor Manisty in November, 1885, and has become famous under the name of "Schofield and others versus Vause and others," or more generally in its abbreviated form as "Schofield v. Vause." Mr. Schofield was at the time the senior trustee of the Manchester Unity, and Mr. Vause one of the trustees of the Caledonian Lodge.
In the course of his judgement, the Vice-Chancellor said: "What is the argument adduced on behalf of the lodge? It is this, as it seems to me, that a lodge being a branch lodge of the great Independent Order of Oddfellows, Manchester Unity, Friendly Society may, after it has for fifty years enjoyed the advantages of being a branch affiliated to the large society, disregard the rules which have been its rules, its very cause of existence for half a century, and may say because we now find that owing to our lengthened existence we have become a profiting society and a more rich lodge and society than other lodges, we will by our own motion split off from the parent society, and so carry away with us our money, disregard all the benefits we have received for fifty rears past, and disregard the rules which are the real and essential basis of our youth, middle age, and permanent and present existence. It seems to me that that is an impossible contention." Eventually Vice-Chancellor Manisty granted an injunction restraining the Caledonian Lodge from setting up on its own account as an independent society until it had discharged its duty to the Manchester Unity.
But the case did not end there. Vause and his co-trustees carried the case to the Court of Appeal, when it was heard before Lords Justices Cotton, Bowen, and Fry on April 2nd, 1886, and following days. The arguments of counsel on both sides occupied upwards of three days, and judgement was delivered on the fourth. Lord Justice Cotton was emphatic in his opinion that when a member joined a lodge he became a member of the Unity of which the lodge formed a part, and that the tie between lodge and Unity could not be severed except in conformity with the rules which governed the whole society. Lord Justice Bowen concurred, saying that by the act of initiation persons became members of the Order grouped in a particular lodge, and promised that they would to the best of their ability conform to all rules duly passed by the authorised committees of the lodge, district, or Order. Lord Justice Fry endorsed the opinions of his learned brethren. He quoted from the dispensation granted to the lodge, and from the promises made by themselves at their initiation in support of his view that though the, entry by the Registrar under the Act of 1855 might have been that of a separate society, the lodge in fact never had a separate existence apart from the Manchester Unity. The judgement of the Vice-Chancellor of the County Palatine was thus upheld, the appeal was dismissed with costs against the lodge, and the authority of the general rules was vindicated.
The year 1887 was one of rejoicing throughout the kingdom for the completion of fifty glorious years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. It is also memorable in the history of the Manchester Unity in connection with that event from the fact that two representatives of the Order, P.G.M. Stockall, who presided at the Dover A.M.C. when a loyal and dutiful address was voted to Her Majesty, and G.M. Rust, who succeeded him in the chair, were privileged to attend at Windsor Castle to present the address in person.
Of more lasting effect was the agitation set on foot at the instigation of the Rev. Canon Blackley for establishing a system of National Old-age Pensions for the deserving poor. The persistence with which his views were pressed had led to the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee, which, as usual, resulted in nothing. That subject, and the determination of a county court judge in Staffordshire to proceed with a summons brought by a member against a lodge, to prevent which a writ of prohibition had to be obtained from the High Court, led to the first Friendly Societies Conference being summoned to meet at the Foresters Hall, Clerkenwell Road, London. The conference arose out of a resolution passed by the directors, who appointed G.M. Stockall, P.G.M. Curtis, and P.G.M. Holmes to take the necessary steps to obtain the amendments in the Friendly Societies Act that had been found to be necessary. It was decided to call in consultation the Parliamentary agent of the Ancient Order of Foresters, and that gentleman, with the Parliamentary agent of the Manchester Unity, called together representatives of other societies. The conference had a modest beginning, consisting of twenty-five members all told, but it was essentially a gathering that knew its own business and stuck to it. There were no long-winded harangues from the president to retard the opening of business, no "receptions" by mayors and other local grandees, and no talking around abstract questions.
It passed resolutions dealing with the various amendments of the Friendly Societies Act, and among other things it resolved "That this conference emphatically condemns the scheme propounded by the Rev. Canon Blackley as being detrimental to the interests of our societies, impractical as dealing with the prevention of pauperism, unsound in its financial suggestions, and unjust in the principle of compulsion upon which it is sought to establish it." The A.M.C. at Dover in 1887 endorsed this view by adopting the report in which the resolution was communicated to the meeting.
At Dover also the vexed funeral fund question was settled - for a time - by the adoption of a variety of tables and schemes for incorporation in the general rules. In fact, the alterations in general rules in 1877 were extremely numerous, though there were not many of consequence. Their number was due to the many verbal alterations which became necessary when it was determined to cancel the old rules and reregister as a new code the rules as amended at Dover. One important alteration of principle was carried into effect, viz., that the cost of travelling relief should be spread over the whole Unity, instead of being paid by the district in which it was disbursed. Distressed lodges, and the desirability of drawing into closer relationship with the American Order, were subjects discussed at Dover.
To the Gloucester A.M.C. in 1888 were sent applications for relief on behalf of several lodges in different parts of the country who found themselves rapidly using up the little capital they possessed. The Relief Committee, in their report, expressed regret that the amount required to bring any of them into an even moderately fair position was so great that they could not recommend the A.M.C. to accede to any of the applications. This opinion was endorsed, and subsequently the matter was referred to the Board of Directors for them to report to the next A.M.C. on the position of all lodges which had less than 50 per cent of assets to liabilities at the fourth valuation, and to bring up such alteration of rules as might be required to suit the circumstances.
Again was the disregard of the 38th general rule made a subject of report, the sub-committee having used very strong terms concerning the indignity of the Order continuing the membership of lodges which after 22 years of warning and coaxing were still obdurate. It is not without interest at the present time to note that at Gloucester a proposal to refer the question of female membership to the directors, with a view to their bringing up alterations of rules to the next A.M.C. to permit female branches being attached to the Unity, was rejected. In 1888 the directors commenced publishing in the quarterly reports the text of the various resolutions passed at the previous Board meetings.
Those who are at all acquainted with American Oddfellowship are fully aware of the importance attached to the ceremonial side of the work, and the rigid adherence at lodge meetings to the distinctive regalia. On the occasion of Grand Master Outrams visit to America our cousins in race and brethren in Oddfellowship were astonished to find in the chief officer of the Manchester Unity just a plainly-dressed gentleman in the everyday garb of the 19th century. There was felt to be much force in the argument that the Grand Master of the Order, whose duties called him frequently to sit by the side of local and other magnates, should bear a mark of distinction which should at least be equal to that of the mayor of Little Pedlington, whose subjects were less than one-fiftieth in number of those of the Grand Master. It is true that when the subject was first broached at the Edinburgh A.M.C. an irreverent deputy suggested that a printed card bearing the legend "This is the Grand Master" might be hung about the neck of that dignitary. But the subject was not allowed to drop out of sight. G.M. Stockall, in his address to the Dover A.M.C. in 1887, hinted at the advisability of something being done. It was left, however, to the generosity of the hard-headed business men of Lancashire to bring the idea to its full fruition.
Robert Eastwood, of Blackburn, was elected Grand Master at Gloucester in 1888. The Lancashire districts, feeling that it was an honour conferred on the whole county, combined to celebrate the election in a manner worthy of the occasion. Subscriptions came in with such liberality that the massive and handsome gold chain which now adorns the shoulders of each occupant of the G.M.s chair was made to a special design, and presented to G.M. Eastwood at a banquet held in Blackburn, in November, 1888, for the use of himself and successors in office, should the Unity accept the gift on those terms. To the Hull A.M.C. in 1889 the directors reported the circumstance, and it is needless to add that the meeting accepted the gift on behalf of the Unity, and accorded the best thanks of the A.M.C. to the Lancashire districts for their thoughtful generosity. It will not be out of place to mention here that the links of the chain (88) denote the year of presentation, that the pendant records the name of the first wearer of the chain, Bro. Eastwood, and that the shields between the double links are engraved with the name of each succeeding Grand Master in turn.
The violations of the 38th general rule, which had been brought to light in the valuation then just completed, were in many instances so scandalous that the directors submitted to the A.M.C. an addition to the general rules which authorised the expulsion of any lodge that for a period of three months had persistently refused to comply with a resolution of the A.M.C.
A lengthy report was made by the directors, who had conferred with the actuary on the subject of distressed lodges which had been referred to them at Gloucester. Space forbids giving the entire report, though so full is it of condensed wisdom that even after the lapse of 16 years it might he studied with advantage. In it the directors, after reporting that it would have been useless to confine the inquiry ordered to lodges with 50 per cent of deficiency, say that 50 per cent deficiency means hopeless insolvency. Experience teaches that even 12½ per cent leads to certain decay unless remedies are immediately applied. From the information supplied by the actuary of the Order the directors were enabled to show that lodges and districts that had adhered to the true principles which had raised the Unity to its pre-eminent position were still progressing, while it was as clearly shown that those which had (in the great majority of cases wilfully) resisted the application of true principles were growing worse. So great was the gross deficiency to be dealt with that the directors were unable to overcome the insurmountable difficulties that presented themselves to the framing of a rule which would place the whole Unity in a position of solvency.
In calling attention to the report of the actuary on the fourth valuation of the whole society, which had been made in three sections in accordance with the arrangement made at Reading in 1884, viz., to the end of the years 1884, 1885, and 1886, the directors informed the A.M.C. that it was the most complete which had been effected, only 14 lodges having failed to supply returns. The report itself appeared at first sight to be somewhat disappointing, inasmuch as the net deficiency - i.e., the amount left after deducting gross surplus from gross deficiencies - had grown from £627,820 at the third valuation to £764,821 at the one under review. Much of this apparent falling off was due to the stringency with which interest earnings during the quinquennium were checked, so that 76 per cent of the lodges had to be valued at 3 per cent instead of only 66 per cent as before, the falling off being in those previously valued at 4 per cent, which were only 5 per cent instead of 16 per cent at the third valuation. The gross surplus had also been reduced by the appropriations allowed to lodges under the general rules.
Although the existence of a central fund to which every branch should be bound to contribute was one of the conditions in the Act of 1875 with which every affiliated society had to comply, it was not until the Ipswich A.M.C. of 1890 that explicit regulations concerning the raising of the central fund, and the uses to which it should be put, were laid down.
The cry of the distressed lodges had been raised at the previous A.M.C., when the directors reported that their relief was a question of money. At Ipswich it was decided that a fund should be raised by a levy of one penny per member per annum, but so great was the fear of centralisation of funds that it was also decided not to call up the levy when the amount of the Unity Sick and Funeral Fund exceeded £5,000. Various regulations were laid down as to the method of applying for relief from the fund, and to the conditions under which relief should be granted. These made it incumbent for the district in which the distressed lodges were situate to take the first share of responsibility.
The necessity of the fund was amply proved by the reports which the actuary had made about lodges in various parts of the country, more especially in the Midlands and in the North. In several instances he said "equal contributions at all ages," of others "that the risks were not covered by the contributions," and generally that the condition of the lodges, as might have been anticipated where such practices prevailed, was hopeless unless drastic reforms were enforced.
At last the A.M.C. was able to take action against some of the lodges which had determinedly disregarded the 38th general rule. Six of them which had been reported were given until the following November meeting of the directors to amend their ways or to be expelled the Order. The directors also instructed the actuary to report any case that might come under his notice during the valuation then proceeding in which lodges were similarly disobedient.
The overgrown A.M.C. had been a subject of discussion through the Unity for some time. Opinions were freely expressed that the number of deputies attending was so large that the proper conduct of business was impossible. It was contended that the fact was largely due to the over-representation of small districts. To remedy this a system of "County Councils," in which districts of less than 2,500 members should combine for the election of deputies was proposed, but the difficulties in the way of carrying out such a plan were found to be too great for its adoption. To make the way clear for surplus capital when appropriated to be available for redemption of future contributions, the redemption table was added to the rules at Ipswich.
This subject loomed large at the A.M.C. of 1891 at Salisbury. The country had been stumped by members of Parliament and aspirants for Parliamentary honours, who had vague ideas that something might be done by the Government, on the German model, for the aged poor. They turned longing eyes to the friendly societies to aid them in their efforts, professing that the vast capital possessed, especially by the Manchester Unity, might be utilised to supplement a Government scheme. What these ambitious gentlemen knew was that friendly society men had votes, which might be cast in their favour if they could only persuade the members that they could get an income in old age without payment of its equivalent. Grand Master Campkin, in his opening address, in commenting on the airy nothings which politicians had laboriously uttered, said "any scheme must be a sound one, and framed in accordance with the true principles of actuarial and vital statistics - not a combination of honorary members contributions, collections, eleemosynary aid, occasional grants from benevolent funds, Government subsidy, or by interference in the shape of proportional rebate by employers of labour. . . . We resent State interference in our affairs. We feel that this would necessarily be a result of any State subsidy."
So thoroughly was the meeting in harmony with the views expressed by the Grand Master that a resolution was spontaneously proposed from the body of the meeting and unanimously adopted, deprecating State aid as being detrimental to the best interests of friendly societies.
The Salisbury A.M.C. was an important one in other respects. It determined to do all that might be necessary to check the interference of county court judges with the provisions of the arbitration rules. It granted assistance to a member who was led by the advice of the officers of the Order to defend a slander action for words uttered in a lodge room. It was believed that such occasions were privileged and punishable by the rules of the Order only, which plea the Lord Chief Justice set aside. More lodges were reported for expulsion for disobedience of the 38th general rule, and were given until the following November to comply before the extreme penalty was enforced. Further efforts to open up communications with the American Order of Oddfellows, and the grant of a gold medal to the Unity by the authorities of the Paris Exhibition of 1889, were reported.
But perhaps the most important step taken at the Salisbury A.M.C. was that which confirmed the recommendation of the directors as to the way in which relief to distressed lodges should be dispensed. In several of the instances brought before them the directors recommended that the Unity should make itself responsible for payment of the funeral benefits of members and their wives. This system, with some modifications, has been in operation ever since, with admirable results in relieving lodges and districts of considerable liability.
An important decision with respect to the liability of lodges for payment of sick allowance on behalf of any of their members who, through loss of reason or from other causes, unfortunately had to seek the aid of Poor Law Guardians, was reported to the Derby A.M.C. of 1892. The Heart Of Honesty Lodge, in the Louth District, had disclaimed liability on account of a member who was placed in a lunatic asylum. The case was first heard by the Board on appeal by the Guardians of the Caistor Union, on whose behalf the clerk personally appeared at Manchester. Not content with the adverse decision, the Guardians summoned the lodge trustees. before the Market Rasen magistrates for payment of £15 18s. 6d., alleged to be due for sick pay, and for an order to pay such sums as might from time to time become due. The magistrates declined to make the order, but refused to grant costs. The Guardians thereupon carried the case to the High Court of Justice, where it was argued before Lord Chief Justice Coleridge and Mr. Justice Mathew, who, without calling on Sir Charles Russell to speak for the Unity, dismissed the appeal. The validity of the general rules was thus once more affirmed by the highest judicial authorities.
The forfeiture of the money illegally appropriated by the Brunswick Lodge, Studley District, in consequence of a previous legal decision, was brought before the Derby A.M.C. as a result of a resolution passed at Salisbury that the amount, less law expenses, should be returned. The directors, having doubts as to their individual responsibility if they acted upon the resolution, took legal advice, which was to the effect that as the rules stood they would be personally liable to make good the amount. Needless to say, the money was not then repaid.
As in another assembly, the personal element when introduced generally proves an interesting feature. The resignation of P.G.M. Holmes as Parliamentary agent, and the surrender of the portion of the Unity premises occupied by the C.S. of the Order for extension of the offices and stores, proved no exception to the rule. the insanitary condition of the residential part, which had led to illness of the family of the C.S., added piquancy to the incident, and no doubt helped the A.M.C. to agree to the directors suggestion that the C.S. should be provided with a residence away from the offices. The residential portion thus surrendered has since been added to the offices, and the rooms have been found absolutely essential for carrying on the continuously growing work of the Unity. After a cordial vote of thanks, which had been thoroughly well earned, had been passed to P.G.M. Holmes, P.G.M. Stockall was elected Parliamentary agent in his stead.
The valuations were not allowed to remain a dead-letter. The directors reported to the Derby A.M.C. that the Chief Registrar had made inquiries about the action the Unity was taking with respect to lodges which were found to be in a serious deficiency. The directors were able to reply that they had already instructed the actuary to make special reports on deficiency lodges when the deficiency was caused by a violation of the rules of the society, and, further, that steps had been taken to expel lodges who persistently refused to conform to the financial rules of the Order. Evidence was furnished in the same report that the instructions to the actuary were complied with. Another matter of detail which is worthy of record is that at Derby the "sub-committee to examine the proceedings of the directors for the previous year," which had done good service to the Unity through the many years of its existence, was abolished, and its functions were merged in the "Sub and Relief Committee," with a considerably enlarged membership, but the committee was prohibited from reporting on any matter dealt with in the directors report.
Though the complete incorporation of female lodges as branches of the Unity was not accomplished until some years later, to the Southampton A.M.C. of 1893, at the instance of the Portsmouth District, belongs the credit of introducing a new general rule which gave power to districts to open female branches.
The other work at Southampton was mainly a continuation of that which had occupied the attention of many previous A.M.C.s. The agitation through the country on old-age pension had led to the appointment of a Royal Commission on the Condition of the Aged Poor, of which P.G.M. Stockall was appointed a member, thereby securing, as the directors observe in their report, that the interests of friendly societies would receive full consideration.
Again, in one of the social functions of the Southampton week the change of opinion held in the highest quarters on the objects of the Manchester Unity was manifested. Her Majesty Queen Victoria had graciously granted permission for the deputies and their friends to visit Osborne House, Isle of Wight - the favourite seaside residence of Her Majesty and her lamented Consort. The event in itself furnished a striking contrast to an incident at the previous Southampton A.M.C. in 1848, when some deputies who took a trip to the island were shadowed by detectives, lest they might have nefarious designs against the person or property of Her Majesty.
The symbolical meaning of the Emblems of the Order was given to the Unity in the Directors Report to the Southampton A.M.C., but as that document may not now be universally available the explanations written by P.G.M. Graham at the request of the directors are here given:-
The centre of the design is occupied by a massive base, the central panel of which bears a representation of Britannia, attended by Europe, Asia, and Africa, bestowing the Grand Charter upon the United States of America through its typical representative, the Indian of that country, whilst the ship in the offing waits to bear the precious charge across the Atlantic. The Lion Couchant illustrates the dignity, strength, and honour of the Order; the whole picture, sculptured in granite, being supported by squared white marble blocks, upon which are emblazoned the Arms of the City of Manchester on the left, and on the right the Royal Arms. Upon these pedestals are represented the three cardinal virtues - Faith, Hope, and Charity - Faith and Hope on the right and Charity on the left, bearing their distinctive symbols, the Cross, the Anchor, and the Orphan; whilst between the group, and resting upon the granite block - fit type of the durability of the Order - is displayed the Shield of the Order, enriched by the Cornucopia or the Horn of Plenty and the Dove with the olive branch, as indicative of peace and reconciliation. The Shield is quartered by the Christian Cross in token that the Order is founded upon the principles of the Gospel, while across its base is displayed, in the Latin tongue, our motto - Amicitia amor et veritas. Upon the Shield are depicted the Hour-glass, as typifying fleeting time; the Cross-keys, as emblematical of knowledge and security; the Bee-hive, illustrative of industry, thrift, and frugality; and the Lamb and Flag, as symbolising Christianity and innocence. Upon the centre of the Cross is fixed the Crusaders Shield, bearing the Rose of England, the Thistle of Scotland, the Shamrock of Ireland, and the Leek of Wales, thus indicating the close union that exists in the brotherhood throughout the British Dominions. Above is displayed the Terrestrial Globe, enclosed by the laurel branch surmounted by the open hand with heart, signifying the universal character of our mission, the victory attending its prosecution, and the friendship and love by which its extension is distinguished. Above all, and encircling the whole with Divine effulgence, beams the Omniscient Eye of the Great Creator. whose all-searching glance each brother must prepare to meet, and should rejoice to be able to secure.
The Widow and Orphans Emblem, No.1 was instituted in 1851, and the representation is of a most startling character. Beneath the floating banner of the Unity stands Charity and Love, in the form of a beautiful woman clad in white robes, as emblematic of the purity of her motives. With her right arm she supports the agonised widow, who, with her terrified children, is flying from the clutches of grim Want, and is seeking refuge within the ranks of our society. Want, who is striding across the grave of the deceased brother, is aptly depicted carrying the flag of Death, whilst Love with firm and dignified gesture commands him to stay his course. Upon the front and arch of the granite base are engraved the Arms of the Order, whilst the Arms of Manchester and the Empire flank the shield, and our motto runs on a ribbon across the whole. The Rainbow surmounts the picture in token of the Covenant made on behalf of those left by the member who has passed away.
The Widow and Orphans Emblem, No.2 is designed by Whaite, and issued by the Directors, but the crest of the Order and our motto are omitted altogether. This is, nevertheless, a favourite emblem, and represents widows and orphans kneeling at the tomb of the deceased brother. The Arms of the Order, and much of the insignia and symbolism already described, are likewise presented here. The frontispiece of the Magazine and some books are exhibited, and at the base is depicted the Good Samaritan in the act of raising his wounded neighbour, whilst Priest and Levite are passing by on the other side.
The design of the Past Officers Certificate was not the property of the Unity, and it was found to be used by other societies. Wishing to have a design worthy of the Manchester Unity, the Victoria (Australia) District offered to contribute £20 towards its preparation. To this sum the A.M.C. added £30, and with the £50 thus raised the present handsome and artistic Past Officers Emblem was obtained for the use of the society.
The centre of the design is occupied by a massive marble base, having a representation of the Arms of Manchester, and a tablet on which is written the inscription. Surmounting this is the Emblem of the Order, underneath which is a tastefully waved ribbon, bearing in the centre the title of the Order, while the ends, which float into the upper part of the frame, carry the motto - " Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men," surely appropriate to the noble aims of our fellowship. At the foot of the Emblem will be found the floral emblems of the United Kingdom - the rose, shamrock, thistle, and leek - and the Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty, as well as the lily, symbolical of the purity of our aims. Over the Emblem of the Order, above the all-seeing Eye which dominates it, is the Dove with olive branch - representing love, and mercy. On each side of the base is a bold group of figures, emblematic of the elements of our countrys greatness - Arts, Science, Manufactures, and Commerce, with a background of ships, machinery, railways, telegraphs, etc. Above these, separated by the flowing folds of the ribbon, are groups of Angels, personifying Charity and Mercy. Enclosing the whole is a bold and artistically conceived border; running through the centre is the creeping vine, representing the rapid and far-reaching growth of the Order, supported on each side by conventional oak leaves, to indicate that with the rapid growth of the vine is retained the sturdy and strong life which is characteristic of our national tree. In the centre at foot, and on each side, are inserted medallions, bearing representations of the two Emblems of the Widow and Orphans Fund and that of the Juvenile Branch. The upper corners of the border enclose the national flora, and inside the border, at the top corners, enclosed in flowing scroll work, are the Arms of Australia, New Zealand, Cape Colony, and the United States of America, the homes of many of our foremost members, whose connection with the mother country and with our Order is thus symbolised.
In the Juvenile Emblem, upon a carved pediment ornamented with a border of national flowers and broken in the centre by the crest of the Order, sits (the Manchester Unity symbolised by) a mother with her intelligent and sturdy children, listening to a P.G. clad in full regalia, whilst he expounds from a scroll the aims and advantages of the Juvenile Lodge. Hope, represented by the anchor, most properly occupies a prominent position in this design, whilst the ship riding at anchor in the harbour indicates the readiness of the Unity to spread the knowledge of these lodges throughout the world. In the left basement of the block is represented the Good Samaritan, whilst in the right is seen the return of the prodigal to the loving fathers embrace; the Arms of Manchester and the Empire ornamenting the respective recesses. Below in the centre is the full shield of the Order, backed by a view of the terrestrial globe, signifying that our society in all its divisions is yet one in unity and in work, and prepared to extend its operations within the realm of all civilised society. The Eye of Omniscience, as in the Emblem of the Order, illumines the whole scene.
The directors report to the Northampton A.M.C. of 1894 afforded evidence that lodges could no longer break the financial conditions of the 38th general rule with the impunity born of their reliance on the ignorance of their practices, which had for so long prevailed. The valuations had shown the shortcomings to the actuary, who previously had no power to report to any one but the disobedient lodge itself; with what effect has been already shown. When the actuary was instructed to report such cases to the directors, the whole Unity was able to see the way in which necessary rules had so long been violated. Several lodges were reported to the Northampton A.M.C., which gave the evil-doers some months to amend their ways or suffer expulsion from the Unity.
As a result of the actuarys report on the fifth valuation of the Unity then just brought to a close, he was instructed to further report on any cases of dangerously growing deficiencies in lodges, with special reference as to their causes, whether due to insufficient contributions or the nature of the occupations of the members - two branches of the same subject very closely allied. In the valuation about to be commenced, Mr. Reuben Watson was, at his own request, associated by resolution of the A.M.C. with two members of his family, and the work of the sixth valuation was entrusted to Messrs. R. Watson and Sons.
The "Sub and Relief Committee" had enjoyed but a very brief life when its existence was brought to an end by an alteration of rule passed at Northampton, which constituted the "Investigation Committee" on its present basis, and brought it to the town appointed for the meeting of the A.M.C. some days before the opening of the session. The New Districts Committee, which had hitherto considered applications for opening new districts, etc., went the way of the Sub and Relief Committee. It was abolished, and its duties transferred to the directors. The movement for the opening of female lodges was growing in force, though it was not for some years that the climax was reached in the recognition of female lodges as branches of the Unity. Tables of contributions and benefits for females had been laid before the A.M.C., but they could not be fully utilised. A proposition which would have instructed the Board of Directors to submit such alterations of general rules to the following A.M.C. as would legalise the establishment of female lodges was defeated by one which merely tolerated female societies as adjuncts to the society.
Following the example set by the Derby A.M.C., which originated the Past Provincial Grand Masters Jewel, now so universally used as a recognition of the services of district officers, the Northampton A.M.C. decided to provide a like decoration for Past Grands of lodges.
The agitation by the Studley District for the return of the money forfeited to the Unity for illegal division of funds was finally quelled at Northampton. An alteration of general rule had been carried which gave the power previously lacking. Acting upon this, the directors, believing that the lodge had complied with the rules of the Order, recommended, and the A.M.C. agreed, to refund £1,350 of the £1,500 forfeited, the balance being retained on account of the legal expenses incurred in vindicating the authority of the general rules.
The report on the latest valuation, which carried the actuarial examination of the Unity to the end of 1891, was the most comprehensive and at the same time the most encouraging that had been issued. Besides the usual tabulated valuation balance sheets of every lodge, there appeared for the first time similar information with respect to district funeral funds. The report proper dealt with a number of subjects in an interesting manner, among them being lucid and instructive remarks on surpluses in relation to their appropriation and the superannuation of aged members. In this portion the actuary again called attention to the danger of promising sick pay throughout life, a system which in a large number of instances had led to the downfall of lodges by pensions being given in the guise of sick pay. The enlightened action of lodges in the Chapeltown, Ipswich, and the Pottery and Newcastle Districts in determining to admit no new members except on the principle of sick pay ceasing at sixty-five years of age, when a permanent annuity was to commence, was held up as an example which might with advantage be followed throughout the Unity.
The nature of "Negative Values," a term often used in valuations, but which was little understood by the lay mind, was explained, and the remarks on secessions, which the actuary observed "follow no discernible law," are worthy of study. A long chapter is devoted to "District Funeral Funds." The many systems which had sprung into vogue since the equal levy was made illegal are each dealt with in an impartial manner, and attention was called to the effects of "Heavy Labour and Hazardous Occupations."
The encouraging character of the report lay in the fact that the net deficiency had been reduced from £764,821 to £631,265, the standard of solvency, taking the Unity as a whole, being raised from 95.1 per cent in 1886 to 96.4 per cent in 1891, or to over 19s. in the pound sterling. The number of solvent lodges had increased by 159, and the deficient lodges had decreased by 96, and this in spite of the more stringent application of the principle that only the rate of interest which could be relied on for the future should be the basis of the valuation. It thus came about that many lodges were for the first time valued at two and three quarter per cent. A considerable sum had also been withdrawn from sick and funeral funds in appropriation of previous surpluses in accordance with the rules.
Once more did the A.M.C. visit the Principality in 1895, this time at Swansea. It was a memorable meeting for more than one reason. The general rules had been amended so that districts which defied the reforming efforts of the Order could not be represented at the A.M.C. At the opening of the meeting objection was taken to the presence of deputies from ten districts which had been reported by the directors for non-compliance with the financial provisions of the Order. [By the irony of fate the blow fell in Wales upon seven of the ten which were Welsh districts.] The presiding Grand Master, on being appealed to, ruled that the deputies from these districts should be suspended from sitting until the clause in the directors report which dealt with their cases was reached, when they might be heard in defence. Those who were present at the Swansea A.M.C. will not readily forget the sensation caused by the sixteen deputies who represented the ten districts rising in their places as the names were called, and following each other dejectedly out of the space in the hail reserved for deputies.
Later in the meeting it was resolved that the deputies not allowed to sit by the Grand Masters ruling be allowed to take their seats, subject to the consent of the Grand Master. This was in consequence of the promises solemnly made that the districts, concerned would at once carry out all the requirements of the Order. It was hoped that this sharp but necessary and salutary lesson, coupled with the promises given, would have effectually disposed of the evil which had been so long rampant. Unfortunately, subsequent valuations have proved that whatever may have been the intention of some of the representatives, their districts persisted in setting law at defiance.
The principle of relief to distressed lodges through their districts having been accepted, it was acted upon at each A.M.C. with gradually increasing effect. To the Swansea A.M.C. it was reported that twenty-one districts had taken over 970 older members of lodges, and that the Unity, by relieving the districts of the liability for funeral money, had disbursed £1,822. Several other districts were added during the meeting.
Of equal importance to either of those subjects, though less exciting, was the rearrangement of the general rules into their present shape. The work had been carried out at the request of the directors by P.G.M. Walton, who had divided the rules into the five sections that now appear, viz.: Part I., the Order; Part II., Districts; Part III., Lodges; Part IV., Miscellaneous; and Part V., Tables of Contributions and Benefits. On Mr. Waltons assurance that he had not interfered with any principle, but had merely made a more intelligible arrangement of existing rules, the entire code was adopted, but not before some propositions which attempted to alter the clearance rule had brought about a storm in the electrically-charged atmosphere of the meeting. Clearances had been trotted out year after year as a sort of pet grievance, but Swansea was as obdurate as the other places, and would have none of the suggested panacea.
Even more highly charged with explosive materials than was the atmosphere with electricity was a proposition which ran: "It is the opinion of the deputies to this A.M.C. that fit provision should be made by the State to afford assistance to destitute persons whose destitution is occasioned by incapacity for work resulting from old age, and that it is not only expedient as a State measure, but may be made to act beneficially to our Order." The proposition went on to define the way in which the State should co-operate with the lodges in dispensing its largesse, but as this portion was dropped there is no need to quote it. After a long and acrimonious discussion, the proposition, when put to the vote, was defeated by 162 votes, only 158 votes having been cast in favour of the proposition, while 320 were given against it - a result which proved most decisively that all the blandishments of politicians, with all that the converts within the society could do to persuade their brethren, had not up to that time turned the faith of the deputies from that of their forefathers, viz., that it was the duty of Oddfellows to provide for themselves.
Although there was no formal record of the fact beyond a vote of fifteen guineas to the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the name of Thomas Adams at the A.M.C. of 1896, it was generally accepted that the visit of the A.M.C. to a town in the West of England in the year following a visit to South Wales was to compliment one who throughout a long life had been foremost in advocating the true principles of the Manchester Unity. Thomas Adams had been at the birth of the graduated tables, he had as a member and officer of the sub-committee for many years vigorously fought for financial soundness, but his engagements would not permit his absence from Bristol at every Board meeting. Thomas Adams was too conscientious to accept a seat on the directorate which might have been his for the asking any time during the past twenty-five years, and he remained a simple district officer, while others young enough to be his sons whom he had educated in their duties as Oddfellows, occupied the seats of the mighty. As Bro. Adams could not for lack of time become an officer of the Order, the Bristol brethren determined to bring the officers of the Order together with the representatives of the whole Unity to Bro. Adams.
The year had been a perturbed one. For the first time in the history of the society brethren had divided themselves into two parties - the State-aiders, and the Anti-State-aiders. From the close of the Swansea meeting the State-aiders had been most active in their endeavours to persuade the unthinking that they had only to ask and have, omitting to mention that statesmen who would have to raise the money might have a word to say before pensions were given. Up and down the country the doctrine, "You are the people; you have only to say you want an old-age pension from the State through your society to get it immediately," had been vehemently preached, in the hope of getting a reversal of the pronouncement by the Swansea A.M.C. Propositions in favour of accepting State aid were sent in from nine districts for consideration at the Bristol meeting. A heated discussion, which occupied the best part of two days, took place, and eventually all the propositions were withdrawn in favour of an amendment which ran: "That any well-considered and suitable scheme propounded by the legislature for the relief of the aged and infirm, benefiting our unfortunate brethren, will receive the cordial support of the Manchester Unity, provided that the pension is independent of the Poor Law, and does not create any power of Government interference in the general management of the affairs of the Unity."
This was met by a further amendment stating that it was undesirable to adopt any definite resolution until the report of the promised Government Commission had been published. On being submitted to the meeting, the State-aid proposition was carried by 283 votes to 248. So keen was the excitement that a demand for the record of the votes was readily conceded, which resulted in 290 being cast for the State-aid paragraph and 244 against, 77 deputies being either absent or neutral.
Looking back after a lapse of years at the actual proposition with a judicial calmness perhaps impossible to those taking part in the struggle, it is difficult to understand the precise meaning of the resolution. It is scarcely likely that any body of sensible men would refuse to give attention to any "well-considered and suitable scheme" which did not create any power of Government interference in the general management of the Unity. But in what constitutes a well-considered and suitable scheme lies the whole kernel of the question. No scheme whatever has so far been laid before the Unity by the legislature, and the only effect of the prolonged agitation has been to divert mens minds from the advice given by Mr. Sutton, the Government actuary, twenty years earlier. Instead of trying to realise that the way to safety for the Manchester Unity lay along the path of stopping sick pay at the age of sixty-five, when a permanent annuity should commence, members were looking with a vague aspiration to some nebulous outside authority to provide pensions for them. The worst result of all has been to arrest the march of the Unity towards the goal which every friendly society that would attain perfect solvency must ultimately reach.
Other important matters were dealt with at Bristol, but they were overshadowed by the feeling aroused over State aid. But for this much more attention would have been given to the Consolidated Friendly Societies Act, which had been passed in the previous session of Parliament, and embodied the various amendments that had been made since 1875. Friendly societies were separated from collecting societies, and societies were permitted to make rules allowing the admission of members from one year of age and upwards.
The evil of the lengthened sittings of the A.M.C. on the Friday in Whit-week, in order to get through all the business on the agenda, had long been recognised. The election of officers and directors in the early days of the society took place at the beginning of the A.M.C. week. Afterwards the work was removed to the very end, and hours were frequently occupied before an absolute majority of the meeting could be obtained for the whole of the Board; the sittings of the A.M.C. often ran into the small hours of Saturday morning, and occasionally had to be adjourned until the Saturday at 9 a.m. At Bristol it was resolved to begin the elections at 9 oclock on Friday, and at 5 oclock on the same day to postpone until the next A.M.C. any proposed alterations of rules that had not been reached.
The A.M.C. of 1897 was held at Douglas, Isle of Man. The old-age pension question was still to the fore, though only in the modified form shown by an announcement in the directors report that the Government had appointed a Committee to inquire into the whole subject. The Committee had issued a series of questions, which the meeting referred to the Board of Directors for them to formulate answers, Those who wish to study the evidence given by representatives of the Unity, and the entirely negative report of the Committee, must be referred to the Blue Book itself, as it is impossible within the available limits of space to present more than a mere sketch of events as they passed. The evidence taken and the report show how little the subject was understood by the agitators and others who had persuaded the thoughtless that they had only to ask for an old-age pension and get it.
The most far-reaching decision of the Isle of Man A.M.C. was the instruction given to the directors to consult the actuaries of the Order on the sickness and mortality experience of the Unity. The result of the Government investigation into the experience of all friendly societies, set on foot several years previously, had just been issued in a bulky Blue Book of about a thousand foolscap pages. The actuaries of the Order had made a comparison of the experience of the Manchester Unity, 1866-70, compiled by Henry Ratcliffe, with that of friendly societies generally, 1876-89, compiled by Mr. Sutton, the Government actuary. The comparison revealed somewhat startling divergencies in the direction of a considerable increase in liability in Mr. Suttons figures at all ages, and for nearly every period. It was this comparison which led the A.M.C. to resolve that "the question of a new tabulation of sickness and mortality experience, the number of years the experience should cover, and the probable cost of the same, be referred to the directors and actuaries of the Order for consideration, and that the directors report thereon to the next A.M.C."
At the Bristol A.M.C. the Investigation Committee had reported that a letter sent to the Grand Master of the Order complained of the "pernicious system of supplying beer or other refreshments in exchange for rent paid for use of lodge room, in the hope that steps would be taken to stamp out the practice as soon as its existence became known. At the Isle of Man the committee recommended "that the strongest measures the law will permit be taken by the directors against the trustees of any lodge or district when it can be discovered from the annual returns that the disgraceful and pernicious system of Wet Rent still obtains." This was adopted by the meeting, which also resolved that no relief which had been voted to any district that persisted in the practice should be paid. In addition to that, the A.M.C. instructed the directors to call for a return showing what lodges and districts received drink in exchange for rent.
The return was laid before the Oxford A.M.C. in 1898, and a resolution was passed directing all lodges which appeared in the list to discontinue the practice before the meeting of the directors in February, 1899, or suffer expulsion from the Order.
The distinguishing feature of the Oxford A.M.C. was perhaps the definite adoption of the principle that the fair sex might be attached to the Unity. So-called female branches had been formed in various parts, but they had no status as lodges of the Unity. By the alterations of general rules at Oxford, female lodges could register as branches of their districts, and be subject to the same rules as lodges for male members, under certain conditions, such as confining female membership to female lodges, and prohibiting the meeting of female branches on licensed premises. All the other privileges of the Order were opened to women, and it is now quite usual for female representatives to appear at district meetings as well as at the A.M.C.
Sickness and mortality experience had not been lost sight of. Acting upon the instructions of the Isle of Man A.M.C., the directors consulted the actuaries of the Order, and had an interview with one of them, viz., Mr. Alfred W. Watson, Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries. A lengthy report was submitted, which dealt with the manner of obtaining the information, as well as the light it would shed on the oft-debated question of hazardous occupations should the investigation be undertaken. Ultimately, after considerable discussion, it was resolved to proceed with the tabulation of the sickness and mortality experience of the society for the five years 1893-1897, on the lines suggested in the report. Thus it came about that the three different coloured cards were issued to lodges, on which the experience of everyone who had been a member during the period under review was, in the first instance, to be recorded.
The sixth of these essential landmarks in the history of the Order was exhibited to the Middlesbrough A.M.C. in 1899 in the report of the actuaries, which the directors submitted to the meeting. Fortunately the tale it told was of a character which proved that the Unity was profiting by the lessons of the past, though there were still some blots on the financial escutcheon. This is not surprising when the directors had to report that although upwards of thirty years had elapsed since the adoption of the graduated tables, a few misguided lodges were even then continuing the system of equal contributions. As soon as any of them came to the knowledge of the directors, the obstinate lodges were called upon to amend their ways, and to immediately register rules making provision for graduated contributions according to age.
Fortunately, the number of these lodges was so small as to have an almost imperceptible effect on the progress of the Unity generally. The net deficiency had been reduced from £631,265, the figure at which it stood five years previously, to £462,404; while in the same period the surpluses, without taking into account the amounts that had been appropriated, had increased by £143,139 to a total of £845,217. The gross deficiency (which is really the amount to be looked at) was £1,307,621; after the gross surpluses had been deducted from this sum the net deficiency was £462,404, as previously stated. The ratio of assets to liabilities over the whole Order was raised to 97.7 per cent, or 19s. 6d. in the pound sterling.
Before leaving the subject of valuations it may be well to mention that within certain limits defined in the general rules each lodge has full control over its own surplus, while each lodge in a deficiency is expected to take steps to remove the deficiency. There is consequently no general balancing of assets and liabilities throughout the Unity, as might at first be assumed by the use of the term "net deficiency." (The reason for this is obvious when it is remembered that in most instances deficiencies had been brought about by abuse of the liberty of self-government granted to each lodge.) But, on the other hand, there is a reserve of safety in the large funds possessed, seeing that to assist those deficiency lodges which have shown any desire to help themselves considerable sums have been given by way of relief. Up to April, 1899, no less than £5,876 10s. had been expended in this manner.
Among other matters dealt with by the Middlesbrough A.M.C. was the compulsory membership of shop or works clubs, and the report of the Home Office Committee which had inquired into the subject. At this meeting the Standing Orders for the conduct of business at the A.M.C. were recommended by the directors and adopted by the deputies.
The meeting at Portsmouth in 1900 was mainly occupied with details of administration, among which were the adoption of the present system of admission to the A.M.C. by card, and the abolition of the roll-call.
The exciting episode of the Portsmouth week had only a very indirect connection with the Unity, but it reflected the national feeling of relief which was felt at the news communicated by His Worship the Mayor just before the midday adjournment on Tuesday, June 5th. Coming on to the platform, the Mayor said: "I am very pleased to inform you that the official news has just arrived that the British Forces are in possession of Pretoria." Small wonder that after the pent-up anxiety felt throughout the kingdom for many months the news was received with unbounded enthusiasm, the deputies rising in their places and lustily singing "God Save the Queen." On the resumption of business after luncheon the enthusiasm had been intensified. Union Jacks were waved all over the meeting, and it was some time before sufficient order could be obtained to pass a resolution congratulating Her Majesty on the success obtained by the valour and endurance of her soldiers. Propositions from all over the ball were made for adjournment of the meeting until next morning, but as they were contrary to general rule they could not be accepted. The feelings of some of the deputies had to find vent in marching round the corridors of the Town Hall carrying flags and shouting patriotic ditties, rendering it impossible for some time to carry on further business. Eventually, after the exuberant deputies had let off sufficient steam, they returned to their places, and the sitting was continued until the usual time.
It was at this meeting decided to take the seventh valuation, then about to be commenced, in four sections instead of three.
When the A.M.C. met at Norwich in 1901 the nation had scarcely recovered from the effects of the blow occasioned by the death of Queen Victoria. For over 60 years her name had been united with the throne of England; so intimately had she associated herself with the life of her people, rejoicing with them in their joys and weeping with them in their sorrows, that it was difficult to realise she had passed from their midst. The directors at their meeting in February passed a resolution of condolence with King Edward VII and his family, as well as one of congratulation on His Majestys accession, which was heartily endorsed by the A.M.C. Brethren in the Colonies sent similar resolutions, which were forwarded to the Colonial Secretary.
At Norwich it was made clear to many lodges which had been defying the rules of the Order that they could no longer do so with impunity. A large number were reported to the A.M.C., which resolved that if they did not comply with the directors resolutions and the general rules by the following November they should be expelled the Order.
At Norwich it was decided to alter the method of election of directors from that which had hitherto prevailed, by placing on the Board the nine highest on the first poll, instead of proceeding by an exhaustive vote to obtain an actual majority of votes for each successful candidate.
A stiff little breeze ruffled the surface of the waters at this meeting. During the year the treasurer of the Unity, Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, died, and in order to carry on the work of the Unity the directors elected Mr. John Close Brooks, a member of the same banking firm, to act until the next A.M.C. To this the trustees in whose names the current account with the treasurer then stood objected, and one of them took legal advice as to the position and responsibility of himself and colleagues. At a conference between the trustees and the directors it was resolved to pay the costs of the advice obtained by the trustees, which was duly shown in the balance sheet. A somewhat acrimonious discussion ensued, which resulted in a resolution that the sum of £8 12s. 4d. charged as law expenses be disallowed.
There were many and important points brought forward for consideration of the A.M.C. at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1902. The one that attracted most attention was the alteration of rules which defined the conditions with which lodges must comply before they could sever their connection with the Unity, and the similar obligations on those which were expelled by resolution of the A.M.C. It had been found that rich lodges in poor districts could leave their poorer brethren without making any provision for meeting the liabilities in the district which the rich lodges in common with the poor ones had helped to create. It had also been found that a simple way of getting out of a district (and the Order) when there were uncomfortable responsibilities with respect to the remainder of the lodges in the district was to break one of the rules of the society and flatly refuse to come into obedience. The rule forbidding "wet rent" provided a ready means of breaking rules and of reverting to a once-cherished practice, which was selfishly taken advantage of by well-to-do lodges anxious to repudiate moral liability. The rules governing secession and expulsion were accordingly submitted by the directors in an amended form, in order to make the moral liability into a legal one.
A stormy discussion ensued, during which the directors (in their corporate capacity) were, as usual, charged with the desire to commit every crime enumerated in the Decalogue, with a few others which perhaps did not occur to the law-giver of old, but the meeting still, as usual, adopted the directors recommendations. In fact, a section of the meeting at its opening seemed like the proverbial Irishman at Donnybrook, "spoiling for a fight." There is but one natural and self-evident enemy in such circumstances - the Board of Directors - all honourable men as individuals, and respected as officers of their districts or lodges, but when brought together as a Board of Directors by the vote of one A.M.C., members of the next ensuing one deem it their first duty to look out the harshest words in the English vocabulary that they may be thrown at the unfortunate body whose honours are but a year old.
The battle began at Newcastle over a rule concerning district-aided sick pay sent up to the Board for registration by the North London District, but which was sent back by the directors in consequence of an appeal to the arbitration of the Board. The usual game of "director baiting" was carried on with much spirit, the efforts of the "baitors" and "baitees" causing intense enjoyment to the spectators. When the time for voting came, the directors - again as usual - emerged from the bout easy winners.
It was while the A.M.C. was in this combative mood that the proposal of the directors on a matter which had been referred to them by the Portsmouth A.M.C. - viz., remuneration and office accommodation of the actuaries - was brought forward. The proposition, in brief, was to define more clearly the duties which should be covered by the next contract with the actuaries, and to leave them to find their own staff and office accommodation as before. The proposal was being briskly debated when the meeting adjourned at 5p.m. on Wednesday, May 21st. Shortly after the adjournment rumours became current that P.G.M. Reuben Watson, the senior member of the firm, whose illness had been mentioned as the cause of his absence from the meeting, had died during the day. Immediately on the rumour being confirmed a special meeting of the directors was called, and it was decided to ask the A.M.C. at its meeting on the following morning, after passing a resolution of condolence, to postpone the consideration of their proposal until the following year. To this the meeting agreed.
The magnitude of the task which the Order set itself to accomplish at Oxford in 1898 was scarcely realised at the time. Even if it had been there is little doubt that it would have been as cheerfully undertaken by the society generally as had every other effort which in the past had been found necessary for its well-being. During the intervening period secretaries had been industriously extracting particulars; the special actuarial staff, guided by Mr. Alfred W. Watson, F.I.A., had been carefully tabulating the information furnished, and the result was presented to the Cheltenham A.M.C. in form of a volume which contained a report and tables of greater value and importance in respect of friendly society experience than had ever before been presented to the world.
The report, which was referred to the A.M.C. in 1904 for consideration, fully justified the labour and expense bestowed on its preparation. The new departure in dividing the risks according to geographical areas, instead of by the old arbitrary division according to the number of the population in any place, under which it had been classified as "Rural," "Town," or "City," the care taken to ascertain the duration of continuous sickness, the investigation into the experience of various trades, and their grouping into sets, were alike a revelation in the methods of research. The book will stand forth as a monument exhibiting to the world the determination of the Manchester Unity to arrive at the truth and the capacity of the highly-trained actuary who directed the investigation.
The subjects dealt with at Cheltenham were largely references from the previous year. An attempt was made to rescind the penal clauses of the suspension and secession rules, but it failed. The proposal of the directors concerning the remuneration of the actuaries, which after its postponement in 1902 owing to the death of P.G.M. Watson was amplified to make the payment take the form of salary instead of fees, was adopted, and the rules of a proposed Manchester Unity Guarantee Society, which the directors had been instructed to prepare, were adopted by a meeting specially convened for the purpose after the close of the A.M.C. business proper.
In the evening of Friday, June 5th, after the proposals for alterations of general rules were closured by the operation of the rule, a special meeting was held, the rules were adopted, and the Manchester Unity Guarantee Society was launched on its career as a specially authorised society entirely distinct from the body which gave it its name, though managed by the same personnel.
The report of this, the latest of the series of quinquennial valuations, was presented to the Manchester A.M.C., and is the most encouraging of all. The total surpluses reach the sum of £1,066,802, while the deficiencies total up to £1,033,456. Deducting this latter sum from the gross surplus, there will be found a net surplus of £33,346. When it is remembered that beyond this there is a large reserve of capital possessed by many lodges in the form of unexpended portions of surpluses previously appropriated under the general rules, that the improved position is exhibited all along the line in the form of an increased number of lodges with surpluses, and a decreased number of lodges with deficiency, the greatness of the achievement will be more fully understood. But it cannot be too strongly emphasised that the real deficiency to be dealt with is the gross amount of the deficiencies of the less prosperous lodges. The surpluses in the others can be and generally are dealt with for the benefit of their own members within the provisions of the general rules. This fact is fully realised by the directors, who after each valuation spend much time in the effort to make backward lodges "toe the line."
The most important topic dealt with by the Manchester A.M.C. in 1904 was the consideration of "An Account of an Investigation of the Sickness and Mortality Experience of the I.O.O.F., Manchester Unity, during the five years 1893-7," which had been presented to the Order a year previously, and referred by the Cheltenham A.M.C. to the directors that they might prepare new tables of contributions and benefits founded on the latest experience. The tables, which occupy 184 pages, embrace nearly every amount and duration of benefit. They were circulated in the February, 1904, Quarterly Report for the information of all who cared to study the facts when translated into plain terms of pounds, shillings, and pence, and were laid before the Manchester A.M.C.
It must be confessed that the Manchester meeting lacked the courage of some of its predecessors. At Glasgow in 1845, at Preston in 1853, at Birkenhead in 1864, and at Burton-on-Trent in 1866, the representatives of the Unity did not flinch from the duty plainly pointed out by the experience then accumulated. To the Manchester A.M.C. the directors had, in accordance with instructions given at Cheltenham in the previous year, reported on the financial requirements as set forth in the Experience volume. It cannot be said of the directors themselves that they were strong in their recommendations. A consolidation of the rules relating to district funeral funds, and the amendment of a rule by which a member in receipt of accident compensation pay should not draw full sick pay, were all that the directors definitely recommended. A sort of pious opinion was expressed that the standard rates of contributions and benefits to be inserted in the general rules, at a date to be hereafter fixed, should be for 12 months full pay, 12 months half pay, and quarter pay for the remainder of sickness.
Even these extremely mild recommendations were not accepted by the A.M.C. in their entirety. The rule to be submitted to the Plymouth A.M.C. on the accident compensation question only empowers districts to make rules limiting a members sick pay when in receipt of accident compensation allowance by consent of the Board of Directors. The other important recommendation, viz., that relating to the scales of benefit to be inserted as models in the general rules, met with considerable opposition. Eventually the A.M.C., being apparently "willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike," shelved it, without expressing any opinion, by a resolution to proceed to the next business.
The deputies had apparently forgotten that even after nearly 40 years of strenuous effort on the part of the law-abiding, the financial requirements in the existing general rules were flagrantly disregarded in many districts, with results that were painfully manifest in the deficiencies brought to light on valuation. The A.M.C. disregarded the fact that so long as the obsolete tables remain in the general rules a start would not be made in utilising tables based on the experience collected at the cost of so much labour and cash; and seemed to fear the old bogey - unfair competition from other societies: quite different from the men of sixty years ago, who persisted in what they knew to be right, though it led to the defection of members by whole battalions. Though we of the present day have not profited by their example of sturdy determination, we have to thank them for the stand they made, and we can point to the position of the Order, both numerically and financially, as a monument to their courage.
To Manchester will attach the distinction of having removed the dividing line between male and female lodges. Henceforth lodges may consist of both male and female members under certain conditions.
The excitement exhibited at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1902 over the secession and expulsion rules had been kept alive during the two following years. Propositions to amend or rescind what were felt by some to be too drastic regulations were set down for consideration at Manchester. There was, however, an appeal pending on this very subject to the High Court of Justice from a decision by Mr. Justice Ridley at the Bedford Assizes in June, 1902. At the request of the directors, the districts in whose names the propositions stood generously consented to allow them to stand over until the next A.M.C., so that nothing which might be uttered in the heat of debate could influence the arguments to be brought before the Court of Appeal.
The appeal itself, which will be known to posterity as "Hannell v. Westrope," was brought by the trustees of the Bedford District against the trustees of the Egbert Lodge (which had seceded) to recover the amount of the actuaries award made in accordance with the terms of General Rule 5, and was heard on 10th and 11th June, 1904. Mr. Justice Ridley had decided at Bedford that because the Egbert Lodge had a surplus it was not called upon to bear any portion of the "net deficiency" in the district before seceding. The claim by the directors had been made on the principle that when a surplus lodge secedes from a district in which the remainder of the lodges are in deficiency, the district should not be left in any worse position after than before the secession of the surplus lodge. Reduced to practice, this means that if the district with the surplus lodge had 95 per cent of assets to liabilities, the surplus lodge should leave enough cash behind it to make the assets of the other lodges equal to 95 per cent of their liabilities. The sum sought to be recovered in this instance to comply with the conditions named was £553.
After two days hearing the Court of Appeal, which consisted of the Master of the Rolls (Sir W. Henn Collins), Lord Justice Stirling, and Lord Justice Mathew, revoked the decision of Mr. Justice Ridley, and ordered the payment of the money claimed, with costs in both actions. An application for a stay of execution, so that the lodge might consider whether the case should be carried further, was refused. Thus once again was it shown that the Manchester Unity was no longer outside the pale of the law as in 1847, when funds could be appropriated without penalty. On the contrary, the judges of the land decided that even a lodge could not take away money which, under the general rules, belongs to a district.
Having now come to the end of this eventful history, it will not be without interest to note the gigantic proportions which the society has attained through nearly a century of silent, unobtrusive growth, and to compare its position with that which it occupied in years gone by.
The absence of returns in the earlier years of its history prevents any statement of the financial condition of the Unity in its youthful days, but we may take from the case submitted to Sir John Campbell, the Attorney-General, when the question of the legality of the society was submitted to him in 1834, that there were then 70,000 members. By the latest numerical statement, only recently issued, we find that at the end of 1903 there were 769,680 adult members, with a further 121,892 juveniles, 12,057 widows of members, who keep up their connection with the Order by subscribing for funeral benefits, 3,546 members of female societies, and 11,570 honorary members. Thus in seventy years 900,000 souls have been added to the Manchester Unity, and this in spite of the inevitable losses by death, as well as the wholesale secessions of lodges at one period, and thousands of lapses by non-payment year after year. Truly a magnificent achievement in itself, and one that is even greater when the method of accomplishment is considered. Not by compulsion, not by advertisements on street hoardings, but by sheer force of its own merits, which the love its brethren bear for the Order and its work have made quietly known to eligible candidates, has the membership gone on increasing year after year to upwards of one million, until the lodges have spread over the English-speaking portion of the globe.
The funds of the society, which when they were counted by thousands were referred to with pride, amounted at the end of 1878 to £4,476,948. At the end of 1903 the amount had reached £11,139,154, accumulated to meet sickness and funeral claims only. Beyond this are the various other funds, each with its own beneficent object, which are part and parcel of the work of the Unity. In twenty-six years the funds have increased by six and a half million pounds. In the same period there has been expended in sickness and funeral benefits the enormous amount of nearly nineteen millions of pounds, and to all those who, like the writer, have been privileged for over 30 years to take an active part at successive A.M.C.s in making the history herein written, it must be a source of intense satisfaction to look around on the results of their efforts.
So that the brethren who in response to the call of duty left their homes to fight their countrys battles in South Africa should not lose the rights and privileges represented by membership of such an organisation, £10,267 was raised by special levy to pay their contributions while on active service. The relief granted to distressed lodges in order that they might again become creditable branches of the important society to which they belong was up to the time of the last A.M.C. £17,861, with a responsibility to pay a much larger sum to those same lodges as the liabilities mature on the deaths of members or their wives.
It would not serve any useful purpose to follow the valuations through from the beginning, but it is worthy of record that the Unity set the example of examination into the affairs of all its branches by valuation before the legislature, at the instance of the Manchester Unity, made the process compulsory on all societies that sought the protection of registration. From the fourth general valuation the rate of progress towards absolute solvency has been steady and continuous. Large sums have been disbursed for the welfare of the brethren from surpluses declared on valuation, but the true financial progress of the Order has not been retarded. The report of the seventh valuation was presented to the Manchester A.M.C., and in it there is proof that the attainment of the universally-desired object - actuarial solvency in every branch - has been brought much nearer to its realisation through the efforts which the directors have made during the past five years to bring backward lodges into the marching line.
In 1826 there met at Manchester ninety-five deputies elected to the A.M.C. These represented as many lodges. In 1904 representatives of some 4,000 lodges in 400 districts, to the number of 710, assembled in the Free Trade Hall of the same city. These two facts placed side by side speak eloquently of the progress of the great Unity which takes its name from the place at which its representatives met in 1904.
The foregoing pages make no pretence to being a complete history of the Order. They are but little more than a chronological table of events lightly touched on for the entertainment or information of those who care to read. The early position of the lodges, bound together by the bond of sympathy; the declared "illegality" of the association; the first Act of Parliament which gave the Order a legal status, but still left it but a federation of separate societies; and the Act of Parliament which enabled the Unity to legalise the voluntary association of its branches, have been little more than hinted at. Its progress from being a number of lodges, each pursuing blindly its own course for want of proper guidance, to its present highly-organised condition as the greatest of all friendly societies, can be traced in the brief reports of the several valuations. The financial and legal struggles through which the Unity has passed; its efforts to obtain from Parliament for itself, and in consequence for all other properly-constituted societies, firstly recognition, and then such modifications of the law as were found to be necessary; its effects on the social life of the people and its educational influence on its members remain yet to be more fully recorded.
The noble Free Trade Hall, which has resounded with the eloquence of the greatest of Englands orators during the latter half of the past century, was during Whit-week, 1904, the scene of a gathering of equal importance with any which have preceded it. Though less exciting than some of those at which the political passions of the audience have been stirred to their depths, its importance in the effect on the affairs of a society which enters closely into the daily lives of a million of our fellow subjects and their families cannot be over-rated.
The Manchester Annual Movable Committee, the latest of a series of meetings which have been continued without a break since 1822, was the last to bear the time-honoured designation. The A.M.C. which will meet at Plymouth in 1905 will be known as the Annual Movable Conference. But we can rest assured that whatever may be the name, chosen for the annual representative gathering, the zeal of the brethren who attend will not relax, so that as the years roll on an ever-increasing measure of success will attend the MANCHESTER UNITY OF THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF ODD FELLOWS.