Ref NoMS/134a
TitleControversy relating to the bye-laws - Linnean Society
AdminHistoryThe byelaws scandal at the Linnean Society developed as a result of a dispute between President George Bentham and Council member Henry Trimen over altering the byelaws of the Linnean Society. In a Council meeting held in July 1873 Bentham proposed hiring a Fellow to do some editorial work of the Society’s publications, but Trimen pointed out that this would go against the society’s byelaws, which prohibited Fellows from holding a paid position within the Society.

Bentham indicated in a letter to Trimen that asking someone to do this work was no different from hiring a printer or engraver and that the byelaws should be repealed. Trimen responded by saying that the work should be carried out by the Society’s secretaries. However, in a council meeting on the 4th December 1873 Bentham put forward the motion to repeal the byelaws so that Fellows could be employed to do salaried work and the election of the Librarian would be voted on by the Council only. Trimen was completely opposed to the changes and had discussed the issue with other Fellows, including William Carruthers. The alterations were put forward again in a General Meeting on 15th January 1874 in which Fellows would vote on whether to implement them. However, Carruthers and H.G. Seeley put forward the motion that the proposed alterations should be put to separate votes, but this motion was denied by Bentham and the vote took place with 44 Fellows voting in favour of the changes and 21 against.

Carruthers and other Fellows felt that Bentham had acted illegally and so they had consulted a member of the Queen’s Counsel who supported their case. A letter signed by Carruthers and 12 other Fellows was presented to the Council Meeting held on the 5th February 1874 in which they protested the changes and threatened to reopen the question of the alterations in the General Meeting being held that night. Bentham suggested he would resign from the Presidency at the next Anniversary Meeting, but did not accept the accusations that he had acted illegally. It was decided that the council would write back to Carruthers explaining that the question could not be reopened at such a short notice, but if at least ten fellows desired it then a special meeting would take place to discuss the question.

In the General Meeting the minutes from the previous meeting were read and before Bentham could sign them Carruthers rose to submit his question. Bentham declared that this action was irregular, signed the minutes and stated that the Council was willing to hold a special meeting if enough members were in favour of it. However, Carruthers insisted that he had the right to raise a question under another byelaw and motioned that the alterations made in the last General Meeting were illegal and therefore the proceedings from the previous meeting were null and void. Bentham denied this motion and put forward a motion on whether they should discuss the meeting. After a show of hands Bentham proclaimed he had a majority against the motion, but he was challenged on this and after a second vote it was shown that 15 were in favour of a discussion with 11 against. As a result of this Bentham left the chair, which consequently broke up the meeting and he handed in his resignation the following day.
DescriptionComprises photocopies of fifty seven letters and notes of Council and staff at the Linnean Society relating to the controversy concerning the alteration of a Bye-Law which forbade gifts in money to Fellows. This controversy ultimately led to the resignation of George Bentham as President of the Linnean Society. Also includes newspaper cuttings, MS and printed memoranda. Contains the following correspondents with dates and a brief summary of the contents:

1. 1874 Jan 15. Carruthers, W. to Hanbury, D. Asks for details of amounts paid to Secretaries. Quotes Bye-Law which forbids gifts in money to Fellows.

2. 1874 Jan 16. Hooker, J.D. to Trimen, H. Concerned that Trimen, although a Member of Council, endeavoured amongst Fellows at large and at the General Meeting to overthrow decisions made by Council.

3. 1874 Jan 19. Tremen, H. to Hooker, J.D. Defends the action he had taken against Council's decision to repeal Bye-Law relating to gifts in money to Fellows.

4. 1874 Feb 5. - [Note] G. Bentham, as President in the Chair, had not allowed discussion of Proceedings at the last meeting. He was not supported in his decision so he left the Chair and the meeting came to an end.

5. 1874 Feb 5. [Same wording as No. 4 except for the addition of "Hand writing of Mr. Stainton - Secy".]

6. - - - [Draft] Meeting on February 5th. Inaccuracy of the Minutes.

7. 1874 Feb 5. - [Detailed notes on the inaccuracies of Stainton's Minutes of the meeting on February 5th.]

8. 1874 Feb 5. Carruthers, W. to President and Council. Encloses formal letter of complaint [No. 6] against Council relating to change in the Bye-Laws.

9. 1874 Feb 5. Millar, J., Dallas, W.S., Harting, J.E., Britten, J., Butler, A.G., Bowdler-Sharpe, R., Daydon Jackson, B., Trimen, H., Seeley, H.G., Van Voorst, J., Collinson, H., Crisp, F., Holdsworth, E.W.H., Lee, H., Austen, N.L., Carruthers, W., Howse, T., Packe, C., Walker, J.F., Smith, W.G. to George Bentham, President in the Chair. Present what they consider to be an accurate account of the Proceedings, unlike the official Minutes.

10. 1874 Feb 5. Carruthers, W., Daydon Jackson, B., Harting, J.E., Bowdler Sharpe, R., Seeley, H.G., Dallas, W.S., Packe, C., Butler, A.G., Walker, J.F., Howse, T., Millar, J., Lee, H., Van Voorst, J., Smith, W.G., Holdsworth, E.W.H., Crisp, F. to President and Council. Request that a Special General Meeting be called to consider alterations in the Bye-Laws purported to have been agreed at Society Meeting on 15th January last.

11. 1874 Feb 5. Carruthers, W., Millar, J., Seeley, H.G., Dallas, W.S., Stewart, C., Daydon Jackson, B., Crisp, F., Tyler, C., Bowdler Sharpe, R., Butler, R.G., Harting, J.E., Dunning, J.W., Britten, J., Lee, H. to the President and Council. Protest against the Proceedings at the meeting on January 15th. Consider the changes made to the Bye-Laws were illegal.

12. - - Carruthers, G. to Currey, F.. Gives detailed reasons for the action he had taken. Also recorded is a letter to Currey about his proposed Minute.

13. 1874 Feb 5. Stainton, H.T. to Carruthers, W.M. Special Meeting will be called if ten or more Fellows make the request.

14. 1874 Feb 5. - [Draft Minute of the February 5th meeting agreed by the "undersigned", no signatures.]

15. 1874 Feb 6. Carruthers, W. to Stainton, H.T. Encloses copy of Resolution put to the meeting but refused by the President who then left the Chair when on a show of hands Fellows voted in favour of discussing the Resolution.

16. 1874 Feb 7. The Academy. Cutting. Describes the "free fight" at the LS Meeting on February 5th.

17. 1874 Feb 11. (?) to (?). Suggests changes in the LS Administration and the appointment of a Commission to examine the Bye-Laws in relation to the Charter.

18. 1874 Feb 17. Bowdler Sharpe, R. to Nature. Asks that enclosed letter be published in the next issue.

19. 1874 Feb 23. Carruthers, W. to Stainton, H.T. Asks for copy of the Minutes.

20. 1874 Feb 24. The Globe. Cutting. Description of the LS and the turmoil therein.

21. 1874 Feb 25. Stainton, H.T. to Carruthers, W. Tells why the Resolution was ignored in the Minutes. The LS books would be open to inspection.

22. 1874 Feb 27. (?), A. to Carruthers. Suggests it would be in the interests of all were he to make his peace with Bentham.

23. 1874 Jul 28. Carruthers, W. [Draft]. Asks why his request for information had been refused.

24. - - - "A Fellow who was present" to Nature. Protests against false reporting of the Proceedings at the LS Meeting on February 5th.

25. - - Cutting [no date, no name]. Report on the serious crisis through which the LS was passing.

26. 1874 Mar 3. The Globe. Letter from "F.L.S." Deplores publicity about the LS dispute. Presents an argument against the action by Carruthers.

27. 1874 Mar 4. Masters, M.T. to Carruthers, W. Hopes very much that a compromise would bring peace to the LS.

28. 1874 Mar 4. The Globe. Letter from "Another F.L.S." Corrects errors in the "A Fellow who was present" letter [No. 24] and regrets that the majority of Fellows need to take a legal position.

29. 1874 Mar 4. The Globe. Cutting. Gives an unbiased view of the dispute in the LS.

30. 1874 Mar 5. (?). Note about seeing Stainton and complaining about the Minutes of the meeting on February 5th.

31. 1874 Mar 6. The Globe. Letter from "F.L.S." Defends the action of the President.

32. - - The Globe. Two letters, one from "W.L.S." who defends the changing of the Bye-Laws, the other from "Another F.L.S." who attacks the "F.L.S'"s second letter.

33. 1874 Mar 6. Oliver, D. to Carruthers, W. Bentham had appreciated the letter Carruthers had sent to him.

34. 1874 Mar 6. Harting, J.E. to Carruthers, W. Has had friendly meeting with Currey who agreed to exchange of Q.C.s' documentation. Thinks with confidence that everything could go to artibration.

35. 1874 Mar 7. Carruthers, W. to Oliver, D. Happy with the present position. Explains his actions.

36. 1874 Mar 7. The Globe. Letter from "Another F.L.S." [Repeat of No. 32.]

37. - - Botanical News. Report on the conciliatory tone taken at what was perhaps "the largest meeting of the Society ever brought together".

38. 1874 Mar 10. Lubbock, J. to Carruthers. His efforts were to promote peace. Glad everything is settled.

39. 1874 Mar 16. Jeffreys, J.G. to Carruthers, W. Explains his actions. Gives friendly advice to let bygones be bygones.

40. 1874 Mar 19. Carruthers, W. to Currey, F. Protests strongly at Stainton's "untrue and unjust Minute of the Proceedings". Something must be done to correct the erroneous statements.

41. 1874 Mar 20. Stainton, H.T. to Carruthers, W. Tells why he is "as innocent as a babe unborn of the offence of circulating any columny against you".

42. - - [Note] The circular was despatched in envelopes addressed in the handwriting of Prof. Dyer, private Secretary to Dr. Hooker.

43. 1874 Mar 25. Currey, F. to Carruthers, W. Defends action taken by Stainton. Suggests that corrections could be made to the Minutes at the next meeting providing "the subject is approached with more moderation and courtesy than you have shown to Mr. Stainton".

44. 1874 Mar 26. Carruthers, W. to Currey, F. Was aware that Currey was not at the meeting and could not therefore comment on the Minutes. Stresses the inaccuracy of the Minutes and the fact that Stainton "seems to treat the whole affair as a matter of fun!"

45. 1874 Mar 28. Currey, F. to Carruthers, W. Strongly defends Stainton.

46. 1874 Jun 1. Carruthers, W. to Kippist, R. Asks how it was that the secrecy of the ballot papers had been broken. His handwriting had been recognized and discussed.

47. 1874 Jun 2. Kippist, R. to Carruthers, W. Ballot papers had been placed in a draw and a day or two leter removed and destroyed. Had no idea they had been seen by anybody.

48. 1874 Jul 7. Currey, F. to Carruthers, W. At last Council Meeting it was proposed by Dallas that the minutes of February 5th meeting be substituted by a statement signed by Fellows two months ago. Thinks it bad taste on part of Dallas to revive the dispute. Encloses a note to be printed in the Proceedings which he hopes will be acceptable.

49. - - Printed Memorandum outlining the history of the dispute and the action of Council.

50. 1874 Jul 9. Currey, F. to Carruthers. Regrets the tone of the letter he had received. Now thinks it impossible for Carruthers to arrive at any friendly solution. Strongly objects that his friendly letter had been
sent to Dr. Millar.

51. 1874 Jul 9. Carruthers to Currey, F. Asks for his inaccuracies to be specified. If he can be told of any error he will apologize and withdraw what he had said.

52. 1874 Jul 9. Currey, F. to Dallas, W.S.. Council had not accepted his [Dallas's] letter and enclosure. His papers will be referred to the Secretaries with a view to modifying the report which had already appeared in the Proceedings. Complains strongly about the quarrelsome and insulting attitude of Carruthers.

53. 1874 Jul 0. Currey, F. to Carruthers, W. Objects again that his letter had been passed on to Dr. Millar. Now considers it impossible to arrive at any friendly solution to the difficulty about the Minute of February 5th.

54. 1874 Jul 10. Carruthers, W. to Millar, J. Encloses all the correspondence. Either their Minute is true or not true. Thinks Dallas should see the correspondence.

55. 1874 Jul 14. Carruthers, W. to Currey, F. Seeks information he had requested in his letter of the 9th July [No. 51],

56. 1874 Jul 16. Currey, F. to Carruthers, W. Will answer no more letters until he had received an apology. Correspondence now in the hands of Dallas.

56a. 1874 Jul 25. Carruthers, W. to Currey, F. As Secretary he is open to criticism by any Fellow and as Fellow of the LS he [Carruthers] must be informed of specific inaccuracies of which he had been accused, or offered an apology.

57. 1874 Jul 29. Currey, F. to Trimen, H. In every respect Lord Hatherley is in favour of what had been done. The altered Bye-Laws are therefore binding.

58. 1874 Jul 30. Currey, F. to Trimen, H. Encloses copy of Lord Hatherley's opinion.
Extent1 folder
Related MaterialMS/397; Gage & Stearn's History of the Linn. Soc., pp. 68-69
NotesCorrespondence thought to have been compiled by William Carruthers.
Creator NameLinnean Society of London
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