THE BEGINNING OF THE END.
A MEETING of the board of officers of the New Jersey State Council, Order of American Firemen, was held in Jersey City last week. It was attended by all the officers of the board and representatives from the various local councils throughout the State. The principal topic of discussion was the relations of the National Council of the Order to the various subordinate councils, and a spirit of disaffection was manifest which threatens the ultimate disintegration of the Order as a national organization. For some months past there has been expressed a great degree of dissatisfaction with the working of the National Council, especially in regard to the. disbursement of the funds contributed by the subordinate councils, and the question has been agitated, as broached by us when the Order was first started, “ What does it all amount to ?” When the formation of this organization was first announced, we were very doubtful of its success because of the character of the men who were its promoters, and so expressed ourselves. With the most diligent inquiry, we were never able to ascertain what its objects were or what reason it had for existing beyond the fact that its promoters desired to obtain from the firemen of the country contributions in the shape of an annual tax. While this amount was small, yet, by energy and push, accompanied by extravagant representations, the aggregate could be made something handsome. The amount called for was so small that hundreds of firemen were induced to make the contribution, not because they saw anything substantial in the plan as announced by the promoters, but in the hope that association might eventually develop something of value to the firemen. It is nearly or quite two years now since the Order was first started, and it numbers among its members some 12,000 prominent and responsible firemen of the country, who have joined simply in response to urgent solicitation, hoping that some good might come of it. In this they have been entirely disappointed, for, although State councils have been formed in several States, and local councils in a large number of towns and cities, and a national convention held, at this time it is as difficult to ascertain what are the objects of the Order as it was when it started. Nothing practical or of value has been suggested, and it is not surprising that the local and State councils are becoming dissatisfied and demanding to know the “Wherefore of the Why.”
For some time past there has been a rumor floating about that the firemen of New Jersey proposed to take some definite action to define their relations to the national organization, and it was rumored that, failing to perceive any advantages to be derived from the national scheme,-they would secede from it entirely and set up as an independent organization, announcing distinct and definite objects to secure the permanency of the Order in that State. At the meeting last week, a very bitter feeling was shown against the national board, and some very acrimonious words passed between two of the originators of the Order—the national secretary and the editor of the official organ. This organ, by the way, has recently grown not only lukewarm in the interests of the Order, but its editor has made several very severe criticisms upon the national secretary, and it was therefore not surprising that at this meeting, when they came face to face, the lie should have passed between them and a fistic encounter been threatened. With the individuality of the Order we do not care to meddle, but from the first have simply sought to ascertain why it was brought into existence. It has demonstrated one fact, however, and that is, that the firemen of the country can be united in very great numbers for the accomplishment of objects of importance to them. We would, therefore, suggest to the State councils of the Order of American Firemen that it is entirely feasible for them to maintain, each within its own State, an effective organization of firemen if definite, distinct and valuable advantages to be derived from such association are made clear to the members. Mere generalities and bunkum, such as have characterized the national outgivings up to the present time, have neither force nor elfect, and ultimately must bring to grief those who indulge in them.
We regard it as entirely feasible for the firemen in any given State to maintain a State organization for the purpose of looking after such legislation as they deem requisite to preserve their rights ami interests, to stimulate interchange of courtesies, to foster fraternal feeling among firemen, and especially to provide sick and burial benefits for the members. Some attempt has been made to push an accident and sick benefit indemnity business among the firemen by various organizations that were at the same time seeking to do a general business. The experience of organizations of this fraternal character has been that successful business cannot be conducted in this line where general and special risks are mixed together. There are, for instance, some thirty or forty accident insurance companies in this country, some of them stock companies, doing a large and a profitable business, while others are conducted on the assessment plan. They deal with the general public, classifying the various industrial occupations according to the hazard involved therein. The firemen are looked upon as an extremely hazardous class, and, consequently, the rates charged by these companies are so high as to be almost prohibitory. In fact, the companies do not want to insure firemen because of their hazardous occupation. The insurance business—fire and life or accident—is based upon hazards, and the experience of companies engaged in this business, covering a century or more, shows that it is impossible to successfully insure any class of special hazards unless a large number of them are grouped together and made to contribute a sufficient amount to meet the losses and expenses incident to the insuring of such hazards. An accident company cannot afford to insure firemen upon the same basis that it would lawyers, clergymen or others whose exposures are less; but if a large number of firemen are grouped together in a class by themselves, it then becomes feasible for them to insure themselves on a basis which shall secure entire equity between the members. Bearing in mind the experience of all classes of insurance companies, the firemen of any given State might organize in local bodies, having a central body as a State organization; then if each member of the local organization contributed a specified sum at regular intervals for the payment of sicU or burial benefits or accident claims, provision might thus be made for firemen who are so unfortunate as to be sick, to meet with accidents or to die. Here is a suggestion for the New Jersey State Council of the Order of American Firemen, and if they have made up their minds to secede from the national order they might preserve their organization intact and take up this specific work. To preserve the Order it must have some definite object that appeals to the intelligence, and to the sympathy as well, of the firemen. Mutual benefits would make such an appeal, and if a plan embracing this object should be formulated by the State council we believe that the State organization can be preserved with all its subordinate councils as they now exist. This is, substantially, the plan upon which several of the more successful of the fraternal assessment companies are conducted, such as the Royal Arcanum, American Legion of Honor, Order of United Workmen and numerous other benevolent and indemnity societies and organizations. It is for lack of some distinctive object to be gained that the Order of American Firemen is now in the throes of disintegration. Something may be saved from the wreck by prompt action on the part of State and local councils; but if they persist in adhering 10 the fortunes of what was originally a purely speculative proposition, the end is not far off.
As we have said, this Order has demonstrated the fact that large numbers of firemen can be associated together for self-help and mutual benefit under proper organization. To maintain such organization, however, there must be both distinctness of purpose, integrity of management and wisdom in direction. Enrolled among the members of the Order of American Firemen are many firemen of prominence, character and ability; unless they wish their names identified with a failure, humiliating and disgraceful, they should take speedy action to alienate from the national organization such portions of it as they are intimately connected with. The New Jersey State Council, having taken the initiative, might well consult with the officers of other State councils for the purpose of developing some practical method of continuing this Order. Should such an effort take practical form and shape, FIRE AND WATER will cheerfully aid it to the extent of its ability.
—Since January I, the Indianapolisffnd.) Fire Department has answered eighty-two alarms of fire; an average of one each day. Of this number the tower watchman discovered twenty-one. There is no reason, The Indianapolis News says, for believing the alarms will be as plentiful during 1888 as in 18S7, but the fact is already assured that the losses for 188S will be the largest ever known in this city, as they are now considerably over $500,000.