This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
ON the 28th of December last, a communication bearing that date, and signed by the Assistant-Secretary of the Royal Horticultural Society of London, was addressed to Mr Richard Dean, one of the Editors of the 'Gardener,' wherein was contained the following suggestive passage: "I regret to inform you that, in making the annual changes in the constitution of the Floral Committee, your name was chosen as one of those whom the Council were compelled to withdraw from that body." It would be interesting to know the nature of the compulsion brought to bear on the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society, so as to create a necessity for the removal of the name of Mr Dean from the roll of the Floral Committee; and further, the readers of the ' Gardener' will not fail to be struck by the singularity of the coincidence, that this act of the Council takes place simultaneously with Mr Dean's appointment as one of the Editors of the 'Gardener.'
Hitherto, and up to the last meeting of the Floral Committee in 1869, the changes in that body have been made as follows: the Secretary read a list of attendances of each member during the year, then the names of a few of the members whose attendance had been lowest during that period were struck out, and other names substituted, it being understood that the list of names so modified was to be submitted to the Council for their concurrence. Such a practice might be open to objection, but it had the merit of being both above-board and intelligible. On the 2d of October last, the Editors of the ' Gardeners' Chronicle' - and seeing that one of the Editors holds the position of Floral Director of the Royal Horticultural Society, the passage might fairly be considered as constituting a kind of semi-official declaration - thus stated the principle which has usually governed removals from, and appointments to, the Floral Committee: "It has been customary - and we think it a proper custom, to make a slight change annually, so as to admit some three or four new members; and in order that this may be done without injustice or invidious-ness, we believe the plan of selection has been to strike off those whose attendances have been fewest during the year." On Tues-da)7, December 21st last, the Floral Committee met for the last time in 18G9, and, singular to state, no list of attendances of members during the year was read as had been usual; no mention was made of striking off a single name in consequence of infrequent attendance; a few nominations were made; and the Committee broke up, wondering why the customary procedure was not followed, the majority of the members of that body severely censuring such a state of things as involving much personal uncertainty, not called for, and certainly not assuring.
The letter of the Assistant-Secretary, conveying to Mr Dean the notification of his expulsion from the Floral Committee, made no mention of the reasons for the departure from the usual custom observed at the last meeting of the Floral Committee in the year; and yet, with two exceptions, Mr Dean had attended the whole of the meetings of the Floral Committee at South Kensington during the year, and he therefore could not have been dismissed for non-attendance; hence the necessity for departing from the customary rule, which regulated dismissals from the Floral Committee. An appeal was made by Mr Dean to the Chairman of the Floral Committee, in order to learn the nature of the reasons assigned for his removal from that body, and by that functionary he was referred to the Council. The next step was to wait on Colonel Scott, the Secretary of the Royal Horticultural Society, in the hope of gaining the information sought; but Colonel Scott stated that he knew nothing of the matter, not having attended the meeting of the Council on the 21st of December. On the 30th of December, Colonel Scott wrote as follows: - "I find that the report of the Sub-Committee appointed to consider the revision of the Floral Committee list was considered and approved by the Council at their last meeting, at which, as I told you, I was not present.
Had I been present, however, I could not but have concurred at once in the propriety of receiving the recommendations of a Sub-Committee of five gentlemen, of whom three were members of the Council, and one of these three the President of the Floral Committee." A postscript to this communication stated that "the gentlemen who go off with you are Messrs Jackman, Ivery, and Veitch." Now, in regard to these three gentlemen, it may be stated that during 1869 Mr Ivery was present at a few meetings of the Committee, Messrs Jackman and J. G. Veitch at scarcely a single meeting, if at one. There was therefore a fitness in the removal of the names of these gentlemen from the roll of the body, but not in the case of Mr Dean; and yet the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society withholds an answer to the reasonable inquiry - on what principle has the name of Mr Dean been selected for special and unusual treatment in this matter?
The members of the Sub-Committee present at the meeting of that body when the annual changes in the constitution of the Floral Committee were agreed upon, were the Chairman and Secretary of the Floral Committee and the Floral Director of the Society, and this meeting was held previous to the meeting of the Floral Committee on the 21st of December last. Why to these functionaries should have been intrusted at this particular juncture the duties properly belonging to, and hitherto discharged by, the Floral Committee, certainly seems to need explanation. There is every reason to believe that the Chairman of the Floral Committee had in his pocket, on the occasion of its last meeting in 1869, a list of the members of that body, as revised by the Sub-Committee, and it would be interesting to know why the proposed changes were not laid before the Floral Committee, as had hitherto been done; but now that the object of the Sub-Committee appears to have been the getting rid of one member of the Floral Committee apparently personally obnoxious to them, the omission is not to be wondered at.
There is an ugly aspect to the business, neither creditable to the Sub-Committee nor calculated to shed lustre on the Council of the Society.
And this view of the subject, as contained in the last two sentences, is strongly impressed on the minds of a large majority of the members of the Floral Committee at the present moment. They feel they have not been treated with much courtesy by those who, it would appear, take upon themselves to advise the Council as to the removal or nomination of the members of that body; and that such a mode of proceeding as that exposed in the present instance can only end in doing great injury, not only to the efficiency of the Committee, but to the Society itself. Being men of spirit and honour, they have already taken a decided and firm step in the way of manifesting their great dislike of such questionable proceedings; and there is reason to believe prompt measures will be taken to prevent the recurrence of such a scandal in the future.
But let us be just to the Council. That body must not be held morally responsible for all the actions of its officials. There are in that body men of culture, position, and attainments; men who love fairplay - who are honourable, just, and upright. With deep regret be it stated, these fair names can be sullied over with seeming wrongdoing through the action of a Sub-Committee of the officials of the Society, done in their name, and stamped with their approval. From the occurrence which unfortunately casts a passing reflection on them, they will learn something of the existence of an evil which has given much cause for regret to many of the Society's best friends. Once made aware of this by seeing in how unlovely a character it manifests itself through its secret workings, the moment which shall witness its effectual and permanent repression cannot be far distant.
Lastly, the public instinct will readily seize on the circumstance of the expulsion from the Floral Committee at this particular time of one of the Editors of the 'Gardener' as lending a confirmation to the charge frequently brought against the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society, that it favours certain horticultural journals to the hurt of others. Such a consideration as this should have had due weight with the Sub-Committee, but in their ill-judged haste they seemed to care but little for the reputation of the Council, as they make that body responsible for their act. If they are all we believe them to be, men of honour and integrity, they will not hesitate to demand, at the hands of the Sub-Committee, the nature of the reasons that induced them so to compromise the high character of the Council.