Why one only?

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was much discussion about encouraging Clubs to give ground in large cities for the formation of more clubs. In 1930 at the height of the argument, Will Moffatt wrote an article ‘Why One Only?”‘ in the ‘Rotary Wheel’ strongly propounding the advantages of doing just this, and in April 1930, the magazine received this reply from Paul Harris:

“My dear Will.

While in exile in a small town in the West, your ‘Why One Only?’ came to me.

The tendency towards slavish adherence to precedent only stands in the way – the present plan has nothing whatever except precedent to recommend it. Otherwise it is sheer nonsense. As Rufe (Rufus) Chapin once remarked:

‘There can be a score of Rotary Clubs in the down-town district of Chicago – several for each day of the week and each being of advantage to the others.

Bowl this thing over in Great Britain. Needless and purposeless limitation is immoral. Will you not be the Moses to lead us out of this wilderness?”

Sincerely yours

Paul P Harris

A London Rotarian, Stanley Leverton, later to be PRIBI in 1952, had visited Chicago in 1927 as a member of the R.I. Extension Committee and while there, guested at the Chicago Club. Afterwards he wrote: “As a nation of course, America thinks big and acts big. I am wondering if you sometimes act too big. The impression I have formed in Chicago leads me to wonder how long this organising on such an enormous scale will continue. Is there not a danger that you will over-organise and over-develop?”

What he proposed on his return applied initially to London and prompted Will Moffatt to write his article, recommending a more widespread application. of Leverton’s principle. This in turn prompted a letter of support from Paul Harris. Leverton’s plan suggested that clubs (babies) could be formed within the territory of another (mother) club who would still retain recruiting rights in the ceded area. In 1933 a resolution was passed at the Convention accepting some of his views, but even in London the opposition blocked any attempt to put it into practice. In 1943, however, at the St Louis Convention, RI formally incorporated the Leverton Plan into its constitution.

Researched and written by RGHF Senior Historian Basil Lewis, UK, 4 May 2007