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The following Remarks and Laws were originally intended for the use of the Members of THE EDINBURGH COMPOSITORS' SOCIETY only; but as this is the first Society which has been instituted upon the principles recommended by THE HIGHLAND SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND, several respectable individuals have requested that they might be submitted to the Public. În compliance with this request, and as numerous applications have been made for copies, it has been resolved, that a limited number should be published ;--and it will be gratifying should these Remarks so far attract the attention of the Members of Friendly Societies, as to lead them to perceive and remedy those errors which have hitherto proved the ruin of these useful institutions.
. I. REMARKS.
Page Origin and Progress of FRIENDLY SOCIETIES in Britain, Their objects and advantages,
- - - ib.
Rate of Sickness and Mortality among Compositors, ' . 15 Observations on ditto, ..
16 Sick and Funeral Contributions and Allowances for the Compositors' ,Society, a . . .
. - ibi Tables shewing the Funds which it ought always to possess, . 17 Explanations of these, and how the Society's affairs may be periodi. . . cally balanced,
18 Other general Directions, Conclusion,
X. Funeral Allowance,
Table of Sick and Funeral Equivalents,
IN whatever speculation individuals may engage, or with whatever institution they may become connected, it is of the utmost importance rightly to understand the principles upon which it is or ought to be conducted. For want of such knowledge, many useful undertakings, and laudable institutions, have totally failed ; but perhaps of none can this be more justly remarked, than of that class of copartneries denominated Benefit or Friendly Societies; whose too general failure, and the serious and destructive consequences which have followed to their members, have of late years been the subject of equal notoriety. It being therefore with a view to avoid those evils that The EDINBURGH COMPOSITORS' SOCIETY was instituted, it has been judged expedient to give a brief summary of the inquiries which have been recently undertaken and published on so important a subject, that the true principles upon which such Societies ought to be conducted, may be more generally understood by the members.
BENEFIT or FRIENDLY SOCIETIES are pretty well understood to have ori. ginated in charitable institutions, connected with incorporated or such other trades as were chiefly confined to populous towns. Sickness or infirmity did not alone entitle their members to benefit or weekly aid, unless when coupled with extreme indigence ; and even this limited relief was restricted and reguilated according to the amount of the funds at the time, and the opinion the Society or its managers might form of the needs of the applicants. The advantages, however, derived even upon this limited scale, were soon observed and duly appreciated by other classes of the community; and numerous Societies of all classes and occupations were, in a short time, formed in al. most every town and considerable village in the kingdom. Indeed to such an extent have these institutions gradually increased, as to be estimated, in the Edinburgh Review for January 1820, to include one-eighth part of the whole population of the Empire, and to distribute upwards of a million and a half annually. They have very generally also undergone such material alterations in their principles, as at length to have assumed the respectable character of mutual Insurance Societies, where every member is entitled to claim as his right the stipulated allowances ;--and hence the idea of charity, so repugnant to every independent mind, can now no longer be as, sociated with these copartneries.
By means of being connected with well regulated Societies, therefore, and at a small expence, every individual may secure a comfortable subsistence in sickness and old age, and a considerable sum at death to his relatives or friends. However easy a man's present circumstances may be, or however promising his prospects, it is nevertheless every one's interest, whose liveli. · hood depends on his own exertions, to provide for those pecuniary wants which must be always more or less occasioned by sickness, old age, and death. On this subject Mr BURNS has justly remarked, " It is but little that a'man
“can spare from his earnings to lay up as a fund for future use; and even “ should a little be carefully laid up, three or four months' sickness may sweep “ away the savings of as many years, and leave him more destitute than be “fore. It is here, then, that the benefit of Friendly Societies comes to be “ practically felt, for twenty can join with ease in making a comfortable pro“ vision during sickness for one, and as none of the twenty can know who that 6 one may be, they are all thereby equally insured from want.” Savings Banks have no doubt been strongly recommended in preference to Friendly Societies; but it must be evident that the former institutions can bear no comparison with the latter. On both of these, an anonymous writer has lately observed : “ I admit of no comparison ; they are not for the same pur“ poses; they do not produce the same results, and all who have recom. " mended a Savings Bank to him who required the objects of a Friendly “ Society, have recommended a stone to him who wanted bread, and a serpent " to him who wanted a fish. Will the advocates for Savings Banks be easily 56 persuaded to save their annual premiums instead of insuring their houses “ against fire ? certainly not ; yet they recommend the mechanic to place “ his money in the bank to provide against sickness and old age, whilst they “ know that sickness, like fire, though somewhat slower in its operations, “ may, in a short time, exhaust the savings of fifty years, and like fire, too, “ may come suddenly before the first year expires.
“ The best friends of the working classes will always entreat them to pro. “ vide against the manifold wants of sickness and old age, by means of re“spectable and well conducted Benefit Societies, the payments to which " ought to form a part of their current and positive expences. To those “who have any thing to spare after this, a Savings Bank may be useful; “ the necessities of sickness and old age being first secured by these So. “cieties, the mechanic and labourer, through the medium of the bank, may " add to their comfort ; but no individual either befriends his neighbour or “ his country, by enjoining a reliance upon individual savings, as a security “ against casualties which may overtake a man in an hour, and in a few 6 months sweep away the savings of a whole life.” In short, Friendly Societies, when properly conducted, can alone, afford the means of providing for the vicissitudes of infirmities and disease; while they at the same time encourage those careful and provident habits, which are the only sure sources of happiness and independence.
In 1773 and 1789, Friendly Societies first attracted the notice of the Le. gislature; and since 1792 several Acts of Parliament have been passed for their regulation and encouragement. Such institutions are declared to be law-ful, upon their Regulations being exhibited to the Justices of the Peace, and - confirmed by them at a Quarter Sessions. They are authorised to prosecute
their Treasurers, for any defalcation in their funds, in the Supreme Courts of England, Scotland, and Wales, free of expence; and if any Office-bearer entrusted with their funds die, or become bankrupt, the claim of the Society is preferable to all other debts. All disputes between Societies and their members are determinable by the Justices, without appeal; but if their regulations appoint these matters to be settled by arbitration, the decision of the Arbiters is declared to be final. By these acts it is also declared, that the usual Committee of Management must not consist of less than eleven in
number, and that the books be at all times open for the inspection of mem. bers, that no rule or regulation once confirmed can be afterwards altered, nor any new regulations adopted, but at a General Meeting of the members of such Society, convened by letters addressed to them individually, that the proposed alterations or additions shall have been read at the two usual Meetings of the Society previous to calling the said General Meeting, --that three-fourths of the Members then present shall have agreed to the measure, and that such new alterations and additions be finally submitted to the Justices for their approval as before. Lastly, it is declared, that no Society can be dissolved without the concurrence of five-sixths of its whole Members, as well as with the consent of all those who may then be receiving aid from the funds. The last statute, in 1819, does not extend to Scotland.
From numerous documents relative to Friendly Societies, as well as from several interesting Reports in the Transactions of the Philanthropic Society of Paris, it appears that these Societies are but comparatively late institu. tions in France. They are stated to have there originated with religious bodies, upon whose dissolution by political events, the box and funds forthe support of the sick and aged were preserved and supported, by such of the members as continued to reside near to each other. Upon these Societies becoming thus independent of the Church, entrants of various occupations came to be afterwards admitted ; and several new Societies were formed upon the same principles. Their progress, however, seems to have been for a long time extremely slow;-the first of which there is any account having been instituted in 1694, and only other three from that date till 1789, when three more were established at Paris. In 1805, they only amounted to 26; in the beginning of which year the Philanthropic Society of Paris directed their attention to these institutions. This body appointed a committee to inquire into the origin, number, and regulations of those then in that city, as also to ascertain what measures should be adopted for their more general encourage, ment. Upon their Report 100 francs (a franc is about 10d. Sterling) were awarded to one of the Societies established in 1789; and premiums of from 100 to 200 francs were offered to every Society which should be afterwards instituted, so soon as they had obtained sixty members. It was at the same • time intimated in all the public Journals, that copies of Laws, considered well adapted for Friendly Societies in general, would be furnished gratis to all those who might choose to apply for them. This laudable example of the Philanthropic Society was soon followed by a similar Society in Mar. seilles, and through their exertions no less than Forty Friendly Societies were, in the course of three years, established in that city. To such Societies Government have now also extended their protection and encouragement; and, in May 1821, on the occasion of the baptism of the Duke of Bour. deaux, 50,000 francs were distributed among those in Paris. In June 1824, there were 164 Friendly Societies in Paris alone ; but they seem all to be upon a very limited seale, the whole only comprising 14,700 members, and a total capital of 821,198 francs, (L. 34,216 Sterling, or about L. 2:6: 9 of individual stock per member). There are no legislative enactments regard. ing them, but their laws must be at first submitted to and approved of by the Prefect of Police; and notice thereafter given to him some days previous to each meeting. To the Philanthropic Society, then, as well as to