Benefit Society, Masonic
In 1798, a society was established in London, under the patronage of the Prince of Wales, the Earl of Moira, and all the other acting officers of the Grand Lodge, whose object was "the relief of sick, aged, and imprisoned Brethren, and for the protection of their widows, children, and orphans." The payment of one guinea per annula entitled every member, when sick or destitute, or his widow and orphans in case of his death, to a fixed contribution- After a few years, however, the Society came to an end as it was considered improper to turn Freemasonry into a Benefit Club. Benefit funds of this kind have been generally unknown to the Freemasons of America, although some Lodges have established a fund for the purpose.
The Lodge of Strict Observance in the City of New York, and others in Troy, Ballston, Schenectady, etc., years ago, adopted a system of benefit funds.
In 1844, several members of the Lodges in Louisville, Kentucky, organized a society under the title of the Friendly Sons of St. John. It was constructed after the model of the English society already mentioned. No member was received after forty-five years of age, or who was not a contributing member of a Lodge ; the per diem allowance to sick members was seventy- five cents; fifty dollars were appropriated to pay the funeral expenses of a deceased member, and twenty-five for those of a member's wife ; on the death of a member a gratuity was given to his family ; ten per cent of all fees and dues was appropriated to an orphan fund; and it was contemplated, if the funds would justify, to pension the widows of deceased members, if their circumstances required it.
Similar organizations are Low Twelve Clubs which have been formed in Lodges and other Masonic bodies and these are usually voluntary, a group of the brethren paying a stipulated sum into a common fund by regular subscriptions or by assessment whenever a member dies; a contribution from this fund being paid to the surviving relatives on the death of any brother affiliated in the undertaking.
But the establishment in Lodges of such benefit funds is by some Brethren held to be in opposition to the pure system of Masonic charity, and they have, therefore, been discouraged by several Grand Lodges, though several have existed in Scotland and elsewhere.
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