On the morning of 22 July
1915, after a night that included some partying and having fun in Chinatown and
along Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, the delegates to the Sixth Annual
Convention of the International Association of Rotary Clubs adopted a resolution
that formalized the Rotary
Code of Ethics.
A preamble was proposed, but
it was not adopted because it appeared to violate one
Harris's first principles of Rotary, as Rotary was not to be either a
religion or a substitute for one. The denied preamble: "By recognizing and
applying these attributes contained in this Code of Ethics, we fortify our faith
in Divine Providence a guide post to a richer and fuller life." Unanswered
questions remain, including, "When was this preamble made a part of the original
discussion?" And, "Why did it take four years to adopt the Rotary Code of
Ethics?" What we can only surmise is that the answer to one may also explain the
answer to the other.
Evolution was afoot.
Rotary and Rotary clubs were beginning to change from business clubs to service
clubs. 1916 found RI defining "community service." 1922 saw the organization's name
changed to Rotary International. The following year, the RI Board passed Resolution
23-34, "the policy of Rotary towards community activities". It was a
complete expression (so far as Community Service is concerned) of the policy of
personal rather than corporate responsibility already enumerated in 1916.
the Rotary International Convention passing the Aims
and Objects Plan. To become the "Avenues of Service", the plan was
devised by British RotarianSydney
Pascall and R.I.B.I.
Secretary Vivian Carter and introduced into R.I.B.I. in 1925. In 1927 it was
officially adopted for the whole of Rotary and an Aims and Objects committee
established, however, the plan originally consisted only of Club, Vocational,
and Community Service. International Service was added a year later. (Pascall
was to become the first European elected International President in 1931)
That next year
during the RI
Presidency of Arthur Sapp, the RI Board of Directors then heard from the
Aims and Objects Committee that the wording of the code of
ethics needed to be improved. As its roots were in the era
of the business club, and it was directed at "Businessmen
of All Lines," it didn't seem to fit with "Aims and Objects." The RI Board appointed a committee on
"code of ethics
revision". The evolution continued the next year, when the board agreed that it
would be best to give emphasis to the Object of Rotary, rather than to the
Rotary Code of Ethics. In 1931-32, the board agreed to continue the policy of
publishing the "Code
of Ethics" in the Manual of
Procedure but to give the code no special circulation or general publicity.
Then, in 1932, Chicago
Rotarian Herbert J Taylor took
over bankrupt Club Aluminum Company. We don't know what effect the Rotary Code
of Ethics played when Herb Taylor laid his head on his desk, and the words of
Testcame to him, all we know is the effect the Four-Way Test had on Club
Aluminum, and subsequently, on Rotary International. Members of ROTARY/One, the
Chicago club, found out about the Test in 1939 upon the election of Herb Taylor
as club president.
From that introduction to Rotary, it spread like
wildfire. Just four years later, in January of 1943, the Board of Directors of
Rotary International officially adopted the Four-Way Test "as a means of
furthering the vocational service phase of the Rotary program," but it wasn't
until the RI Presidency of Frank
E. Spain during the 1951-52
Rotary year that the distribution of the Rotary Code of Ethics was discontinued
by the Board of Directors. They did agree that a copy of the "Code of Ethics,"
as adopted at the 1915 convention, may be obtained upon application to the
general secretary of R.I., with the understanding that in any such distribution
a background statement should also be included.
Moving forward to the 1977 Council on Legislation, the delegates adopted the
"WHEREAS, Article XVI of the bylaws of R.I. provides for a
code of ethics andWHEREAS, publication of the code of ethics
has been discontinued, andWHEREAS, it is the consensus of
this council that, at this point in time, the entire world
needs to revive its ethics,IT IS RESOLVED by Rotary
International at its sixty-eighth annual convention that the
board of directors is requested to revive the publication
and dissemination of the Rotary Code of Ethics."
year, after the new Board of Directors had taken office, it adopted the
following position vis-à-vis the COL's (Rotary's Council on Legislation) action:
"Responding to the above resolution, the board of directors recognizes that the
code of ethics, as published by R.I. in 1915, requires careful review for
possible revision and updating prior to re-instituting publication and
distribution of the code. Further, the board recognizes that any such revision
cannot be effective without action thereon by the council on legislation."
(Board of Directors minutes 1977-78)
concept, terminology and need of the Rotary code of
ethics, including a possible revision and updating, were
carefully considered the following year by the RI Board.
It was concluded, "because of changes in the realm of
business and professional life since the adoption of the
code, any revision and updating for the purpose of
re-instituting the publication and distribution of the
code would be ineffectual." Accordingly, the board
agreed that the Rotary Code of Ethics not be revised and
updated and that it be withdrawn from any possible
distribution or circulation among Rotarians and Rotary
clubs. (Board of Directors minutes 1978-79.) At the 1980
Council on Legislation, reference to the Rotary Code of
Ethics was deleted from the by-laws of Rotary
Sources include Rotary
International and its archives, numerous issues of The
Rotarian, numerous Convention
Proceedings, and Oren Arnold's book, The
The Rotary Code of Ethics
For Businessmen of All Lines
My business standards shall have in them a note of sympathy for our common
humanity. My business dealings, ambitions and relations shall always cause me to
take into consideration my highest duties as a member of society. In every
position in business life, in every responsibility that comes before me, my
chief thought shall be to fill that responsibility and discharge that duty so
when I have ended each of them, I shall have lifted the level of human ideals
and achievements a little higher than I found it. As a Rotarian it is my duty:
To consider any vocation worthy and as affording me distinct opportunity to
To improve myself, increase my efficiency and enlarge my service, and by doing
so attest my faith in the fundamental principle of Rotary, that he/she profits
most who serves the best.
To realize that I am a business man and ambitious to succeed; but that I am
first an ethical man and wish no success that is not founded on the highest
justice and morality.
To hold that the exchange of my goods, my service and my ideas for profit is
legitimate and ethical, provided that all parties in the exchange are benefited
To use my best endeavors to elevate the standards of the vocation in which I am
engaged, and so to conduct my affairs that others in my vocation may find it
wise, profitable and conducive to happiness to emulate my example.
To conduct my business in such a manner that I may give a perfect service equal
to or even better than my competitor, and when in doubt to give added service
beyond the strict measure of debt or obligation.
To understand that one of the greatest assets of a professional or of a business
man is his friends and that any advantage gained by reason of friendship is
eminently ethical and proper.
To hold that true friends demand nothing of one another and that any abuse of
the confidence of friendship for profit is foreign to the spirit of Rotary, and
in violation of its Code of Ethics.
To consider no personal success legitimate or ethical which is secured by taking
unfair advantage of certain opportunities in the social order that are
absolutely denied others, nor will I take advantage of opportunities to achieve
material success that others will not take because of the questionable morality
To be not more obligated to a brother Rotarian than I am to every other man in
human society; because the genius of Rotary is not in its competition, but in
its cooperation; for provincialism can never have a place in an institution like
Rotary, and Rotarians assert that Human Rights are not confined to Rotary Clubs,
but are as deep and as broad as the race itself; and for these high purposes
does Rotary exist to educate all men and all institutions.
Finally, believing in the universality of the Golden
Rule, all things
whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them, we
contend that Society best holds together when equal opportunity is accorded all
men in the natural resources of this planet.