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Problems with UK and US Odd Fellow Literature

Dr Bob James.
Newcastle.
January, 2001.

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This pamphlet is published to encourage discussion and urgently-needed research in the area of what are now called 'Affiliated Friendly Societies'. It grows out of my frustration that 250 years after the first references to 'odd fellowship' were printed, students of these societies are still dependent on unsourced anecdotes and recycled heresay for our most basic understandings. Hard facts, ones that have withstood the glare and attention of disputing interpretations, are very scarce, mainly because there have been so few of us willing to try to get at 'the truth'.

I have expressed misgivings in my larger text about the state of 'the record' relating to Speculative Freemasonry [SF] and to 'Trade Unions' but this third strand of benefit society has so far been the least well served by its custodians, fraternal, administrative and academic. It's well past time that all persons who like to think of themselves as 'Masonic' historians or 'Labour' historians or 'Friendly Society' historians got down off their high horses and began talking to one another, in a mutually critical but constructive way.

The state of 'friendly society' scholarship can be gauged from the fact that reliable information relating to the largest and best known grouping of Orders before 1830 is practically non-existent. An inventory of claimed 'facts' with regard to 'odd fellows' would read as follows:

Sheffield Odd Fellows claim that a 'Grand Lodge of the Ancient Order of O'Fellows', was established in Sheffield under a Dispensation granted by City of London in the 17th century.
There is no supporting evidence for this claim.

In 1696 Daniel Defoe supposedly mentioned a 'Society of Odd Fellows'.
I have yet to see this verified with the actual quote.

The London SF Grand Lodge in Feb, 1724, changed its Rules to prevent brethren being members of any other societies/clubs. This supposedly forced 'Odd Fellows' to form own 'club' by 1736.
There is no supporting evidence for the second part of this claim.

Moffrey (1910), among many others has claimed that the OF's were 'founded in imitation of Freemasonry'.
There is no primary evidence for this claim.

Spry (1867) suggested the 'Order of Gregorians' was the source for the odd fellows.
There is no evidence for this claim.

Smith & Roberts (1993) assert the 'Ancient Order of Bucks' is the source.
There is no supporting evidence for this claim. It probably also began with Spry.

Neither the 1745 source for a quote about an 'Odd Fellow's Lodge' in London where a 'comfortable & recreative evening' could be had, the Gentlemans Magazine, nor even the secondary, 1842, source, in Bentley's Magazine, can now be found.

Also in 1745 the London 'Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows' supposedly split into a 'Patriotic Order', supporting Wm of Orange and the Whigs, based in London & southern England, and an 'Ancient Order' strong in the north of England & Scotland, supporting the Stuarts & Tories.
No primary evidence is known for this claim.

Smith & Roberts1 have asserted that the 'O'fellows' were suppressed after seceding from the 'Ancient Order of Bucks'. No date has been given nor any useful references for the claim.

In 1748, the 'Odd Fellows' supposedly excluded the last of 'working men' members, in favour of professional men and 'the better off'.
No evidence is known for this claim.

Minutes of a 'Loyal Aristarchus Lodge' of 'Odd Fellows' for 12/3/1748, and the 'Rules of Loyal Aristarchus Lodge, No 9 'Order of Oddfellows' have been cited but their present whereabouts is unknown.

Comments:

Gould has the 1724 SF resolution, and further evidence showing it lapsed for want of support, and was revived in 1742. 2 That some 'lodges' were not genuine SF, from Grand Lodge's point of view, is evident from Dermott's (1750's) injunction to those who desired to become 'Freemasons' to shun 'Mason-clubs', that is to say 'lodges' formed without authority

for you may rest fully assured that such clubs are generally composed of excluded members, or persons clandestinely made by them, and consequently incapable of giving proper instruction to their pupils...Several of these Clubs or Societies have, in imitation of the Freemasons, called their Club by the name of Lodges and their presidents by the title of Grand Master or Most Noble Grand. 3

Dermott is not necessarily any more objective than anyone else, here presupposing that the SF was the first with 'lodge' and 'Grand Master'. He seems to have been very early in the queue of authors assuming that any society using the same or similar words to those SF used must be copying SF. Spry, as a later example, thought it obvious because of common symbolism and the use of an oath and a degree structure. Such claims reflect ignorance engendered by the lack of research. It should not be necessary to point out that SF was, and is, in exactly the same position as those other societies, and after nearly 300 years still unable to satisfactorily explain from where it 'borrowed' its rites, symbols, etc or how or when it did so.

Many of the claims recycled in the literature stem from Spry's History.. or from an anonymously-published Manual of Odd Fellowship which quoted Spry's work approvingly, and of which Spry, in later editions, claimed to be the author as well.

The 1745 'reference' seems to have come from an 1846 book by a Glaswegian, Burns. It should be noted that Burns was writing in the midst of a crucial struggle for the heart of 'MU' and his scholarship appears no better founded than those who have recycled his 'facts'.

Very little is known about either the 'Order of Bucks' or the 'Order of Gregorians'. Both have been regarded by SF's as their competitors, neither are known to have been associated with a trade. A third 'Order' the 'Gormogons' of similar date, described by SF's as an 'obscure anti-Masonic and probably Jacobite club', sometimes gets mixed into this particular mish-mash. 4

In brief, no primary evidence has come to light substantiating any of the 'borrowing' suggestions, let alone any involving odd fellows and/or these other 'clubs.' To my mind the suggestion is a red herring, anyway. More illumination will come about through pursuit of an understanding of the period's socio/economic/politics.

A 1745 split of a society's membership along Protestant-Jacobite and north-south geographic lines is possible, as is the notion that the losers of the struggle would be suppressed (though by who?) and any lingering supporters expelled after the dust had cleared. The [SF] 'Antient's', predominantly Irish and working class, being established shortly, 1751, after seems too much of a coincidence. The 'comfortable and recreative evening' appears totally out of place against this turbulent background.

I have seen no attempt to explain who, what or why 'Aristarchus'. The word doesn't appear in any reference book I have, nor does it appear in any list of 18th century clubs and societies. Nor have I seen any attempt to explain of what it was 'Lodge Aristarchus' was the ninth.

Many or all of these references may turn out to have been accurately and honestly made, but it is not possible to be sanguine about them at present.

The inventory goes on:

On 7 December, 1755, a sermon was apparently preached to 'Odd Fellows', at Sheffield, and later published. Eyre notes a copy is in the Sheffield City Library collection. I've not sighted this.

In 1779, a 'Star & Collar' was presented to Robert Norris, of St Mary's, Overbury L of OF's, in London. This may be what's portrayed in the illustration noted below. This lodge was apparently closed in 1780 during the Gordon Riots because 'agitators' Wilkes and Saville denounced the Government there. There are many claims in many books about this period as to what certain 'clubs' and 'societies' were or were not doing. Many of the stories are so much recycled rubbish, others amount to misreadings or to variant interpretations of what is 'freemasonry' and what is not. One academic has noted 'elaborate rituals of induction', on occasion in prison, for the 'Society of Old Souls' and the 'Society of Bucks.' The inductee, Wilkes, in 1769 was also

appointed a member of the Ancient and Honorable Order of Freemasons [the Antients]...and of the Ancient Society of Hiccobites...(and of) the Union Grand Lodge [of Odd Fellows?] 5

An enthusiast for 'Grand United Order of Odd Fellows' in Australia in 1848 claimed that GUOOF had received a Royal Charter from George III, but gave no date. 6 Other 'stories' claim that no matter how hard they professed their loyalty, the government retained a deep suspicion about the 'odd fellows.'

The 'Ancient and Honorable Loyal Order of Oddfellows' has been suggested as the source for the 'Union Order of Oddfellows' which, based in London, spread 'rapidly' to other cities before the 1813 'schism'. 7 I know of no useful references either for this 'Order' or for an expansion, rapid or not.

The dates 1789 and 1796 have both been suggested for the 'Ancient' and the 'Patriotic' Orders re-merging, and, in some versions, becoming the 'GUOOF' at that point, presumably in London. Claims made also that this re-merger is the source of the abandonment of all religious and political disputation in lodge. I know of no useful references for either date.

Some lodges are said not to join the merger and set up as the 'Loyal Ancient Independent O'Fellows'. 8 No useful references. This could be the later & better-known 'Kent Unity'?

The first known illustrations of Odd Fellows which the SF source says were taken from the Attic Miscellany of 1789 and reproduced in the Carlton House Magazine in 1795. A wall plaque shows the title 'Grand Imperial Lodge of Odd Fellows'. 9

Comment:

The rites of the 'Patriotic Order' and of the 'Ancient Order' from this period have featured in various 'histories'. No-one, as far as I know, has sat down and made a detailed analysis of either or both or made comparisons with SF. What have been later cited as accurate renditions of the rites of the 'Patriotic Order' and/or the 'Ancient Order' appear to emanate from Burns of Glasgow, in 1846. I have not sighted a copy of his original text. However, a lecture of his around the same date has been quoted as follows:

(There were several societies calling themselves Odd-Fellows towards the end of the 18th century,) the strongest of which were the Union Order and the Independent Order (but the objects of all) did not extend beyond the passing of a convivial evening, divesified occasionally by a dinner or ball. (Candidate shown obliquely things like fiery braziers, instruments of torture, before being blindfolded, and led into lodge room..thence description of) fear, wonder and suspense (as quoted widely, sometimes profound silence, sometimes rattling of chains(unmeaning sound of men's voices (may be tossed in water, in twigs and bushes, sword pointing at the heart) while every part of the room was filled with symbols both of holy and profane things, the meaning of which few could explain. 10

No references were provided by Burns apparently. Hardwicke11 has quoted from something of Burn's to say that Burns ridiculed 'the whole of the ceremonies of the Ancient Order of Odd Fellows with merciless severity', [my emphases] which ridicule appears to reside in Burn's description of the turn of the century ritual as 'absurd', 'buffoonery' and in this:

In the latter part of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries, the mania of Freemasonry had spread itself all over the continent of Europe. Men of all classes had become enamoured of its tinsel and gilded trappings; in fact secret societies had become quite the rage of fashionable loungers and designing demagogues. While Masonry unfurled the banner of loyalty, the Illuminati held up the red flag of anarchy; yet notwithstanding the apparent disparity of character assumed by these two societies, they were frequently dovetailed into each other, both being supported by the same members.

I'm satisfied that this 'history' is a 'crib' from a pamphlet by a certain Abbe Barruel, 12 written to accuse Freemasons of causing the French Revolution, and if it has any substance it is with regard to France and Germany, not Britain. Both Hardwicke and Burns were MUIOOF executive officers and both were very concerned to represent MUIOOF as the epitome of rational, respectable, 'modern' insurance. As to the ritual as presented, its original source needs locating. Its apparent simplicity raises a most significant issue. It does not, to my mind, resemble Speculative Freemasonry in any way.

Flying in the face of the 'absurd', 'buffoonery', etc coming from the 'modernisers' is the strong possibility that at 1748 nine lodges were in some sort of federation, while at 1798, 50 lodges (see next section of inventory) are claimed for 'the Union Order', neither of which would be possible without more administrative sophistication than is given credit for in these comments.

A 'Brother Montgomery' composed a well-known Odd Fellow hymn 'When Friendship, Love and Truth abound' song in 1793, then in the period 1795-96 he was apparently jailed twice for sedition, while editing the Sheffield Iris, after original editor jailed. I have not sighted any of the primary or secondary sources for these claims which seem to have been unknown to 19th century authors such as Spry. I notice that Montgomery has been quoted as being strongly opposed to working people's combinations which would make him an unusual candidate for a sedition charge at the time. 13 The same source quotes others to the effect that Jacobins were 'worming their way' into all sorts of clubs and societies at the time, raising the important issue whether a group is greater than or different to any one of its members. If a brother is arrested for murder, does that make 'his' lodge wholly or in part culpable? Was Montgomery such a 'Jacobin'? The Times shows:

At the General Quarter Sessions held at Doncaster last week, Mr James Montgomery, Editor of the Shefffield Newspaper called the Iris, was found guilty, after a trial of six hours, of publishing a seditious song, written by a Clergyman of Belfast, and sentenced to pay a fine of 20l. and to be imprisoned three months in the Castle of York. 14

The charge suggests Montgomery was a supporter of Irish nationalism, perhaps Catholic rights.

A large part of the errors and omissions in the whole 'friendly society' record flow from its lack of context, which is a polite way of saying that 'historians' have wanted to see 'their' society as being above politics. 'Lodges' have never been free from disputation about religion, politics etc, (that's why the Rules prohibiting same are there) and we mustn't pretend they were. The 1790's in particular was a decade of great turmoil, the politics are very complicated but 'odd fellows' were no doubt up to their armpits in it, and not for just one reason or just on one side. (Continuing the inventory)...

In the period, 1796-7, a medal was apparently awarded to a Lodge Secretary of the 'Grand Independent Order of Oddfellows';

The Corresponding Societies Act of 1797 is claimed to have broken up networks of societies like the odd fellows;

Some odd fellow's supposedly moved to Liverpool as the 'Union Order of Oddfellows';

In 1798, another sermon was preached at Sheffield, this time for the 'Original United Order of Oddfellows', and was also published. A review of it in the Gentleman's Magazine says the pamphlet refers to the 'Order' having 50 lodges. 15

I have been told that this was the time when the London (O'F's) Grand Lodge, based at 'Wych St', challenged the 'original' Grand Lodge' at Sheffield by chartering a new Grand Lodge in that town. I have not sighted any primary source for this claim. What GUOOF has claimed is their 'oldest known' creation document chartering a Sheffield GL in 1798, and taken by GUOOF, Australia, as their virtual founding document, may be the 'rival' Charter referred to.

In 1803 a 'London Union of Oddfellows' was supposedly established. Smith & Roberts (1993), say it later became the 'Grand Lodge of England'.

A document purporting to be from the 'Original Grand Lodge of Oddfellows' and dated 1804 claimed to authorise a certain publican, [one 'Wm Leay'] 'member and Past Noble of this ancient and respectable Order' to open a further London lodge at the White Hart in Foster Lane, London. 16 In 1807, this Charter passed to a further publican and a further pub, and again twice more when in 1819, 'the Loyal and Independent Albion Lodge' is mentioned. (chronology not clear). 17

There are numerous references in local papers, eg, Leeds Mercury, about the 'Society of OddFellows' 1795-1830, some in procession

eg, An 'Ancient Independent Order of Oddfellows' (Kent Unity) is said to have established a 'Britannia Lodge', at Woolwich near London in 1805;

In 1806, a funeral of a brother of the 'Society of Oddfellows' received a mention in the Monthly Mirror, March, 1806, according to Moffrey;

Again, according to Moffrey, 18 in 1800-7 a Dover Lodge of the 'Free & Independent Order of Oddfellows' - Oddfellows Magazine, the 'volume after 1887'.

As another example, the 'Loyal Independent Order of Oddfellows' is noted at Halifax; 19 and

Thos Wildey, blacksmith and supposed 'Father of Odd Fellowship' in the USA (See 1819) is said to have joined the City of London Lodge No 17, but of which 'Order'?

Comment:

This is where we sight a major part of the problem, whether the 'IOOF' in the UK was distinct from and perhaps the 'Head' of the various 'Unities' of the 'IOOF'. No single creation story for the 'IOOF' in the UK exists to my knowledge, and yet many of the 'Unities' have 'IOOF' in their title. The cleanest solution is to have the London 'Grand Lodge' become the 'GUOOF' yet fail, and the Sheffield/Manchester/etc secession become the strand from which the various 'IOOF's' and a new GUOOF derive, but we are a long way from proof for any of this.

The UK 'Odd Fellow' literature finds it very difficult to treat their founders as real-life people, never, for example, accepting that 'Orders' were begun by men simply making somethng out of nothing, probably to raise money as much as to save money. Calling 'their' lodge 'NO 1' meant, if successful, they could charge other groups for charters and other 'paraphenalia' and also cream a profit of the top of the subscriptions. Being No 1 was the first step towards an Order, in other words an Empire.

Throwing some light on these processes, the marginally more realistic American literature discloses that a Lodge of 'Oddfellows' was 'self instituted' in New York on 23 December, 1806, by some UK boat builders, a comedian and one other. Entitled the 'Shakespeare Lodge No 1' it 'flourished until 1811; was next heard of 1813; but shortly after dissolved; was revived in 1818, & continued in existence until 1823'. 20 (See discussion of Ross21 below.)

In 1809 'Bro Bolton', from 'the Grand Lodge in London' supposedly moved to Manchester, and opened the Victory Lodge, usually dismissed as a 'free and easy'. Some members wanting benefits joined the 'Union Order of O'F's' instead, a dispute broke out, probably over money and some declare themselves 'Independent'. (See for one version - O'F's Mag, Oct, 1838, p.171.)

This is most important - Is this the 'IOOF' established? The known 'MUIOOF' authors gloss this and subsequent events as the beginnings of 'their' Order and simply ignore the logical, prior need to have an 'IOOF'. Authors in the USA who can be much more meticulous in their referencing for later periods, since their 'IOOF' is acknowledged by everyone except me to be a secession from 'MUIOOF', show the same lack of interest in distinguishing between an 'IOOF' and a 'MUIOOF' in this early period.

A close reading of the MUIOOF 'glosses' reveals part at least of a hidden story. In what follows, here, note the tribulations of 'Abercrombie Lodge'.

'Anon' (Spry? - p.35) claims the 'first authentic date of a (odd fellows) dispensation' was that of Trafalgar Lodge, Halifax, 13 August, 1810 but has nothing on who gave the Charter. Then 'Anon' says 'the mother lodge of the Manchester Unity, Abercrombie Lodge, was opened in October at Manchester or Salford by Brother Robert Naylor.' Moffrey says the Abercrombie Lodge, Robert Naylor's 'convivial club', at Salford, was opened on the 10/10/1810 and took 'No 1'. It supposedly joined others later and claimed 'Grand Lodge' status. Another version is that Naylor, with others had held periodic 'convivial' meetings at Ropemakers Arms, Chapel St, Salford. They nevertheless already had a code of rules for self-government, but created an 'absurd ceremonial' for the admission of members. The fame of their proceedings induced members of the Prince Regent Lodge of Oddfellows to join them, and with this addition they formed themselves into a benefit club at the Robin Hood, Church St, Manchester, in October, 1810. 22 In effect, 'IOOF, MU' claims its official establishment 'by 27 individuals, working men in Manchester'. 23

Then, in order, the 'Grand Lodge at Sheffield' is noted opening its 23rd lodge in 1810 by granting a Dispensation (Charter) to the 'United Order of Odd Fellows'; 24

An 1812 membership card for the 'Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows, Sheffield', showed 'Lodge No 34'; 25

In 1813, 6 'local members' at Sheffield (can we assume GUOOF members? Eyre implies MUIOOF) jailed for being in an 'illegal society'.

The 'Amicable Lodge,' said to be holding the 1798 Charter for 'GUOOF's' push into Sheffield, secedes from 'GUOOF/Grand Union Order', during the 'disturbances of 1812/13', and perhaps helps to establish the 'Nottingham Ancient Imperial Order'. 26

Are these 'disturbances' within odd fellow ranks or are we referring to the Luddites?

'Oddfellows' were regarded in some circles with fear and loathing, 27 when in 1814 MUIOOF is, later, said to have been remodelled, and some useless and ridiculous customs discarded.'28

Recorded minutes of IOOF,MU begin, 14/1/1814 and the 1st GM was elected. Perhaps the first procession, Stockport, was held 15/6/1814. In 1815, MU's 'Mother', the Abercrombie Lodge was expelled, but it claims it has support of (a/the?) London Lodge in wanting to be recognised as 'Grand Lodge' of 'MUIOOF'.

In 1819, Wildey supposedly establishes 'Washington Lodge No 1', Baltimore, in line with the rites of 'the Union', ie, 'the London Order'. Within 1 month it spontaneously changes allegiance to 'the Independent Order' from which it requests Charter..(ref as at 1806, + July, 1882, p.506; Oct, 1882, p.563.)

The 'Franklin Lodge No 2, Baltimore', also 'self-instituted', was 'chartered 7/2/1821';

A 'Massachusetts Lodge, No 2, Boston, self-inst, 26/3/1820';

'Anon', claims Washington Lodge on 23 Oct, 1819, accepted a Charter from 'the Manchester Unity', 'thus first introducing the Order into America in a regular manner', but on pp.59-61 even he provides another version.

Comment:

Only some of the information above about the establishment of 'odd fellowship' in the USA from UK sources agrees with that contained in Ross, 29 he being past 'Grand Secretary of the Sovereign Grand Lodge, etc, etc'. This seems to me to be a useful account, especially pp.14-16 and the wording of the Charter shown opposite p.14 needs and deserves close reading.

Ross, like the rest of the 'official Odd Fellow' record for the USA is written entirely from the point of 'IOOF', 'GUOOF' in particular is not even mentioned, probably for racist reasons. Ross does disclose that the Charter, on which everything else for 'IOOF' in the States hinges, by which 'Washington Lodge' was 'made' 'Grand Lodge/Mother Lodge' for 'British America' came from a lodge in the UK which had no authority as a Grand Lodge to grant such a Charter, AND that any power that Charter held to legitimate a new jurisdiction rested on the simple fact that it was the first received in Washington.

It seems that the 'Abercrombie Grand Lodge' issued an 1820 charter to 'Washington No 1' but it 'failed to arrive'. It was a Charter from the 'Duke of York Lodge, IOOF' at Preston, arranged by John Crowder, member of 'Duke of York' who was in Baltimore in late 1819 which resulted in Washington Lodge being 'legally constituted a Grand Lodge of Maryland & United States'.

There was clearly competition, in the UK as well as in North America, and not only between the 'MU' and the 'IOOF' but between lodges whose brethren could see opportunities for themselves. Winning the competitive situation meant achieving legitimacy as the 'real' odd fellows.

Ross's account shows continuing 'discord and dissension' within Washington Lodge, before and after this first Charter arrived, between advocates of 3 groupings - the 'Union, or London Order', the 'IOOF', by which must be meant a grouping including some London lodges, and the emergent 'MU' grouping. A group of Washington brothers, I assume beaten in the power struggle and the subsequent vote for office bearers, attempted to form a breakaway MU lodge, 'Franklin's Lodge', but would appear to have been told that the die had been cast and that no MUIOOF Dispensation would be forthcoming. They therefore rejoined the 'IOOF' by accepting a Charter from 'Mother', and a subordinate position in the hierarchy.

The 'first' Charter reads in part:

this Warrant or Dispensation is a free gift from the Duke of York's Lodge...at Preston...in old England, to a number of brothers residing in Baltimore, to establish a Lodge...Hail'd by the Title of "No 1 WASHINGTON'S LODGE, the Grand Lodge of Maryland and of the United States of America" that the said lodge being the first established in the United States, hath power to grant a Warrant or Dispensation to a number of Brothers...into any State of the Union, for the encouragement and support of Brothers of the said Order, when on travel or otherwise. (opposite p.14, Ross 1913, as above)

The term 'a free gift' obviously flows from the competitive race, Preston Lodge knowing full well that the 'American' brothers would be unwilling to pay for a Charter, the normal course.

The American brethren, recognising that a problem existed with 'No 1, Washington Lodge' attempting to fulfil both the Grand Lodge role, AND that of a working lodge, determined that this Charter 'with all its powers' would be surrendered into the hands of brothers who had achieved the status of 'Past Grands' [ie, Past Grand Masters], who by virtue of this hand-over became a new and separate 'Grand Lodge'. This body then provided a new Charter back to Washington Lodge. Note that this complication existed equally in the UK and would in NSW.

The differing accounts also show that up to 1830 at least, a number of English O'F lodges/Orders were keen to establish foot holds in US, and to grab opportunities which this or other situation may have presented to declare themselves 'a Grand Lodge', if necessary of a totally new Order, perhaps as a separate 'Provincial' District. The friction within and between lodges, may therefore be geographic, about the nature of Odd Fellowship, about the nature of friendly societies, about personality drives, and/or about money.

The order achieved out of dis-order in the US seems to have resulted from Wildey's weight of personality - what he wanted he got. What's known as the 'Captain Morgan Affair' in the early 1820's poisoned the atmosphere, not just for SF in the USA, but for all benefit societies which insisted on lodge privacy. 30 In Massachusetts, the legislature passed a law making it illegal for any person 'to administer or take an oath, affirmation or obligation in the nature of an oath.' GL says use pledge instead. 31

Back in the UK, the officially hidden life and death struggle underway for control of 'MU', and for the right to say 'We are the real Odd Fellows' continued. Accounts of the 1820's and 30's in the literature are very similar to those for SF - drawing on official minutes they depict stability and steady progress, when turmoil and dissension are widespread. The situation is complicated by the quasi-legal position of 'friendly societies' and the turmoil of the Owenite GNCTU period culminating in the trial of the Tolpuddle 'brethren.'

A secession by what became the 'Bolton Unity' in 1832-3 and the 'Leeds Unity' in 1834, were suffered by GUOOF, yet in the early 1830's this Order was still growing very quickly, over 400 dispensations being issued by the end of 1835. Surviving records, extremely sparse for this period, show that by 1835 'Grand United' had its own publication for members with a paid editor, that its Grand Lodge employed its own solicitor and the formalised Rules of the Order were being examined and critiqued in a sophisticated manner. However, by 1837 the Sheffield-based Grand Lodge had lost an increasingly vexed dispute and was abolished outright by recalcitrant 'branches' which considered it dictatorial. The new Grand Lodge, in Leeds, was elected the following year by a 'Deputation', or council of lodge delegates setting out a federal structure. One account has it that by 1838, GUOOF was so rent by power struggles it virtually had to start again, existing only by asking for donations. Another made it sound quite positive:

..The then Duke of Clarence was Grand Master, the governing power being vested in the Grand Lodge until September 13th, 1837, when the majority of the Order at a delegate meeting changed the system of government to an annual meeting of delegates... 32

The question of determining which ritual is which is complicated also by accounts that MUIOOF, between 1814 and 1820 developed an Initiate's Degree, the White, and 3 others, the blue and the Scarlet, and a Degree for 'Past Officers'; and that after 1820, 'The Order' in the USA developed a Covenant, a Remembrance and a Patriarchal Degree which were then adopted by MUIOOF in Britain, until the 1834 Dorchester trial caused further changes. Relations, and the nature of the relationship, between 'MU' in the UK and the 'IOOF' in the USA reached boiling point, tension exemplified by struggle over ritual, the former wanting further simplification, the latter wanting more ceremonial. Stallings credits 'IOOF' in USA with correcting the poor grammar and the poor ceremonial of the original UK version.

In 1843 the 'Odd Fellows', which most scholars simply assume means the 'IOOF', in USA severed formal ties with their English 'brethren.' Again the record, closely read, shows vastly differing versions. One is that the American 'Odd Fellows' broke from Manchester Unity because black O'F's received a Charter that year. The black O'F's, who were all in GUOOF say white O'F's had no reason to contest the blacks charter because it was not MUIOOF which provided it. 33

It cannot be coincidental that it is in 1843 that GUOOF established itself in the USA but that it has no white membership. 34 The first US GUOOF lodge was at Philadelphia, to which the Leeds Committee of Management in 1844 granted the power to open new lodges and act as a sub-committee of management until the lodges got sufficiently established to elect a proper c'tee. In other words, 'Head Office' granted a lodge permission to be a 'Grand Lodge'. There are many problems with this 1879 'history' which I have gone into elsewhere but this development has obvious implications for the other colonies.

Curiously, one US source says since 1843, the white O'F's have called themselves the 'Independent Order of Odd Fellows' which among other things raises the question: what did they call themselves before 1843? 1

To conclude here, it's important to note that Spry, very much an advocate of 'modern' Manchester Unity, nevertheless says that in 1843, it was

a name without a reality - composed of the discordant elements of pride and poverty, fraud and benevolence, strife and goodwill to mankind - attractive in the exterior, rotten in its internal government - without the pale of the law - the victim of knaves and charlatans.'

He blamed this situation on the autonomy of lodges setting their own rates of contributions and benefits. 36 In 1844, it is claimed the 'first steps (were) taken to obtain the information (necessary for) financial soundness...'37 this being the direct cause of 16,000 members being suspended and expelled, and an equal number leaving rather than submit to a new regime which is described by Watson as MU's search for 'the truth.'38 Indeed, in 1845 the Manchester and Salford Districts were both expelled from 'MU', yet in 1846, 'MUIOOF' claimed 3,884 lodges, 259,374 members and to be contributing 250,000 to the care of the sick in one year. This is before the first 'Ratcliffe tables' were introduced and before a system of returns from lodges gets under way. It is also just as the defalcations of the other Ratcliffe (William) were coming to light. He, Grand Secretary, was expelled and sued unsuccessfully, and some thought that MU was on the point of total collapse.

 

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REFERENCES:

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Footnotes

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How to contact Dr Bob James
Snail mail: P.O. Box 1078, Brunswick M.D.C., Victoria, 3056, Australia
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