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Friendly Scieties

relief, society, age, sickness, bill, infirmity and payment

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FRIENDLY SCIETIES. These institutions, which, if founded upon cor rect principles and prudently conducted, are beneficial both to their members and to the community at large, are of very ancient origin. Mr. Turner, in his His tory of the Anglo-Saxons,' notices them in these words :—" The guilds or social corporations of the Anglo-Saxons seem on the whole to have been friendly asso ciations made for mutual aid and contri bution, to meet the pecuniary exigencies which were perpetually arising from burials, legal exactions, penal mulcts, and other payments or compensations." (See also Herbert's History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies,' vol. i. p. 1.) By the 10 Geo. IV. c. 56 (as amended by the 4 & 5 Wm. IV. c. 40), Friendly Societies may be formed for providing relief to members, their wives, children, relations or nominees, in sickness, infancy, advanced age, widowhood, or other na tural state of continency whereof the occurrence is susceptible of calculation by way of average, or for any other pur pose which is not illegal ; the rules there fore may now provide for relief in case of loss by fire, or by shipwreck ; substitutes if drawn for the militia ; a weekly al lowance if reduced to a workhouse, or imprisoned for debt, and for payment to wards the expenses of the feast, &c. &c. ; but, for all such purposes, the contribu tions must be kept separate and distinct from the payments which may be re quired, on account of relief in case of sickness, infancy, advanced age, widow hood, or other natural state of contingency, susceptible of calculation by way of aver age ; or the charges must be defrayed at the time by extra subscription of the members. The money payable on the death of a member may be received by any person nominated by such member, and is not confined to his wife, child, or relation.

In 1773 a bill was brought into the House of Commons for "the better sup port of poor persons in certain circum stances, by enabling parishes to grant them annuities for lives upon purchase, and under certain restrictions." The bill passed the Commons but was rejected by the Lords. A bill with a similar object met with the like fate in 1780. A bill

introduced in 1793 by the late Mr. George Rose passed into a law (33 Geo. III. c. 54), which is known by his name, and was extensively acted upon. This act recited " that the protection and encou ragement of Friendly Societies in this kingdom, for securing, by voluntary sub scription of the members thereof, separate funds for the mutual relief and mainten ance of the said members in sickness, old age, and infirmity, is likely to be attended with very beneficial effects," and it authorized persons to form themselves into a society of good fellowship, for the purpose of raising funds, by contributions or subscriptions, for the mutual relief and maintenance of the members in old age, sickness, and infirmity, or for the relief of the widows and children of deceased members. A committee of members was authorized to frame regulations for the government of the society, which regu lations, after being approved by the ma jority of the subscribers, were to be ex hibited to the justices in quarter-sessions, and if not repugnant to the laws of the realm, and conformable to the true intent and meaning of the act, were to be con firmed and made binding upon the sub scribers.

Among other provisions, it was allowed to impose reasonable fines upon such members as should offend against the regulations ; such fines to be applied to the general benefit of the society. By this act it was declared unlawful "to dis solve or determine any such society, so long as the intents or purposes declared by the society remain to be carried into effect, without the consent and appro bation of' five-sixths of the then existing members, and also of all persons then re ceiving or entitled to receive relief from the society on account of sickness, age, or infirmity." Societies thus constituted were relieved from the payment of certain stamp-dot:es, and were empowered to proceed for the recovery of monies, or for legal redress in certain cases, by sum mary process, without being liable to the payment of fees to any officer of the court ; and to aid them, the court was required to assign counsel to carry on the suit without fee or reward.

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