The Principles of Masonic Law
Albert G. Mackey
Part 2 out of 5
in express terms, is not granted at all. And, therefore, as nothing is
said of the election of officers, no such election can be held. The Master
may, however, and always does for convenience, appoint a competent
Brother to keep a record of the proceedings; but this is a temporary
appointment, at the pleasure of the Master, whose deputy or assistant he
is; for the Grand Lodge looks only to the Master for the records, and the
office is not legally recognized. In like manner, he may depute a trusty
Brother to take charge of the funds, and must, of course, from time to
time, appoint the deacons and tiler for the necessary working of the
As there can be no election, neither can there be any installation, which,
of course, always presumes a previous election for a determinate period.
Besides, the installation of officers is a part of the ceremony of
constitution, and therefore not even the Master and Wardens of a lodge
under dispensation are entitled to be thus solemnly inducted into office.
A lodge under dispensation can elect no members. The Master and Wardens,
who are named in the dispensation, are, in point of fact, the only persons
recognized as constituting the lodge. To them is granted the privilege, as
proxies of the Grand Master, of making Masons; and for this purpose they
are authorized to congregate a sufficient number of Brethren to assist
them in the ceremonies. But neither the Master and Wardens, nor the
Brethren, thus congregated have received any power of electing members.
Nor are the persons made in a lodge under dispensation, to be considered
as members of the lodge; for, as has already been shown, they have none of
the rights and privileges which attach to membership--they can neither
make bye-laws nor elect officers. They, however, become members of the
lodge as soon as it receives its warrant of constitution.
Of Lodges Working under a Warrant of Constitution.
_Of the Powers and Rights of a Lodge._
In respect to the powers and privileges possessed by a lodge working under
a warrant of constitution, we may say, as a general principle, that
whatever it does possess is inherent in it--nothing has been delegated by
either the Grand Master or the Grand Lodge--but that all its rights and
powers are derived originally from the ancient regulations, made before
the existence of Grand Lodges, and that what it does not possess, are the
powers which were conceded by its predecessors to the Grand Lodge. This is
evident from the history of warrants of constitution, the authority under
which subordinate lodges act. The practice of applying by petition to the
Grand Master or the Grand Lodge, for a warrant to meet as a regular
lodge, commenced in the year 1718. Previous to that time, Freemasons were
empowered by inherent privileges, vested, from time immemorial, in the
whole fraternity, to meet as occasion might require, under the direction
of some able architect; and the proceedings of these meetings, being
approved by a majority of the Brethren convened at another lodge in the
same district, were deemed constitutional. But in 1718, a year after
the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, this power of meeting _ad
libitum_ was resigned into the hands of that body, and it was then agreed
that no lodges should thereafter meet, unless authorized so to do by a
warrant from the Grand Master, and with the consent of the Grand Lodge.
But as a memorial that this abandonment of the ancient right was entirely
voluntary, it was at the same time resolved that this inherent privilege
should continue to be enjoyed by the four old lodges who formed the Grand
Lodge. And, still more effectually to secure the reserved rights of the
lodges, it was also solemnly determined, that while the Grand Lodge
possesses the inherent right of making new regulations for the good of the
fraternity, provided that the _old landmarks be carefully preserved_, yet
that these regulations, to be of force, must be proposed and agreed to at
the third quarterly communication preceding the annual grand feast, and
submitted to the perusal of all the Brethren, in writing, even of the
youngest entered apprentice; "_the approbation and consent of the majority
of all the Brethren present being absolutely necessary, to make the same
binding and obligatory_."
The corollary from all this is clear. All the rights, powers, and
privileges, not conceded, by express enactment of the fraternity, to the
Grand Lodge, have been reserved to themselves. Subordinate lodges are the
assemblies of the craft in their primary capacity, and the Grand Lodge is
the Supreme Masonic Tribunal, only because it consists of and is
constituted by a representation of these primary assemblies. And,
therefore, as every act of the Grand Lodge is an act of the whole
fraternity thus represented, each new regulation that may be made is not
an assumption of authority on the part of the Grand Lodge, but a new
concession on the part of the subordinate lodges.
This doctrine of the reserved rights of the lodges is very important, and
should never be forgotten, because it affords much aid in the decision of
many obscure points of masonic jurisprudence. The rule is, that any
doubtful power exists and is inherent in the subordinate lodges, unless
there is an express regulation conferring it on the Grand Lodge. With this
preliminary view, we may proceed to investigate the nature and extent of
these reserved powers of the subordinate lodges.
A lodge has the right of selecting its own members, with which the Grand
Lodge cannot interfere. This is a right that the lodges have expressly
reserved to themselves, and the stipulation is inserted in the "general
regulations" in the following words:
"No man can be entered a Brother in any particular lodge, or admitted a
member thereof, without the unanimous consent of all the members of that
lodge then present, when the candidate is proposed, and when their consent
is formally asked by the Master. They are to give their consent in their
own prudent way, either virtually or in form, but with unanimity. Nor is
this inherent privilege subject to a dispensation, because the members of
a particular lodge are the best judges of it; and because, if a turbulent
member should be imposed upon them, it might spoil their harmony, or
hinder the freedom of their communication; or even break and disperse the
lodge, which ought to be avoided by all true and faithful."
But although a lodge has the inherent right to require unanimity in the
election of a candidate, it is not necessarily restricted to such a degree
A lodge has the right to elect its own officers. This right is guaranteed
to it by the words of the Warrant of Constitution. Still the right is
subject to certain restraining regulations. The election must be held at
the proper time, which, according to the usage of Masonry, in most parts
of the world, is on or immediately before the festival of St. John the
Evangelist. The proper qualifications must be regarded. A member cannot be
elected as Master, unless he has previously served as a Warden, except in
the instance of a new lodge, or other case of emergency. Where both of the
Wardens refuse promotion, where the presiding Master will not permit
himself to be reelected, and where there is no Past Master who will
consent to take the office, then, and then only, can a member be elected
from the floor to preside over the lodge.
By the Constitutions of England, only the Master and Treasurer are elected
officers. The Wardens and all the other officers are appointed by the
Master, who has not, however, the power of removal after appointment,
except by consent of the lodge; but American usage gives the election
of all the officers, except the deacons, stewards, and, in some instances,
the tiler, to the lodge.
As a consequence of the right of election, every lodge has the power of
installing its officers, subject to the same regulations, in relation to
time and qualifications, as given in the case of elections.
The Master must be installed by a Past Master, but after his own
installation he has the power to install the rest of the officers. The
ceremony of installation is not a mere vain and idle one, but is
productive of important results. Until the Master and Wardens of a lodge
are installed, they cannot represent the lodge in the Grand Lodge, nor, if
it be a new lodge, can it be recorded and recognized on the register of
the Grand Lodge. No officer can permanently take possession of the office
to which he has been elected, until he has been duly installed. The
rule of the craft is, that the old officer holds on until his successor is
installed, and this rule is of universal application to officers of every
grade, from the Tiler of a subordinate lodge, to the Grand Master of
Every lodge that has been duly constituted, and its officers installed, is
entitled to be represented in the Grand Lodge, and to form, indeed, a
constituent part of that body. The representatives of a lodge are its
Master and two Wardens. This character of representation was
established in 1718, when the four old lodges, which organized the Grand
Lodge of England, agreed "to extend their patronage to every lodge which
should hereafter be constituted by the Grand Lodge, according to the new
regulations of the society; and while such lodges acted in conformity to
the ancient constitutions of the Order, to admit their Masters and Wardens
to share with them all the privileges of the Grand Lodge, excepting
precedence of rank." Formerly all Master Masons were permitted to sit
in the Grand Lodge, or, as it was then called, the General Assembly, and
represent their lodge; and therefore this restricting the representation
to the three superior officers was, in fact, a concession of the craft.
This regulation is still generally observed; but I regret to see a few
Grand Lodges in this country innovating on the usage, and still further
confining the representation to the Masters alone.
The Master and Wardens are not merely in name the representatives of the
lodge, but are bound, on all questions that come before the Grand Lodge,
truly to represent their lodge, and vote according to its instructions.
This doctrine is expressly laid down in the General Regulations, in the
following words: "The majority of every particular lodge, when
congregated, not else, shall have the privilege of giving instructions to
their Master and Wardens, before the meeting of the Grand Chapter, or
Quarterly Communication; because the said officers are their
representatives, and are supposed to speak the sentiments of their
Brethren at the said Grand Lodge."
Every lodge has the power to frame bye-laws for its own government,
provided they are not contrary to, nor inconsistent with, the general
regulations of the Grand Lodge; nor the landmarks of the order. But
these bye-laws will not be valid, until they are submitted to and approved
by the Grand Lodge. And this is the case, also, with every subsequent
alteration of them, which must in like manner be submitted to the Grand
Lodge for its approval.
A lodge has the right of suspending or excluding a member from his
membership in the lodge; but it has no power to expel him from the rights
and privileges of Masonry, except with the consent of the Grand Lodge. A
subordinate lodge tries its delinquent member, and, if guilty, declares
him expelled; but the sentence is of no force until the Grand Lodge, under
whose jurisdiction it is working, has confirmed it. And it is optional
with the Grand Lodge to do so, or, as is frequently done, to reverse the
decision and reinstate the Brother. Some of the lodges in this country
claim the right to expel, independently of the action of the Grand Lodge;
but the claim is not valid. The very fact that an expulsion is a penalty,
affecting the general relations of the punished party with the whole
fraternity, proves that its exercise never could, with propriety, be
intrusted to a body so circumscribed in its authority as a subordinate
lodge. Accordingly, the general practice of the fraternity is opposed to
it; and therefore all expulsions are reported to the Grand Lodge, not
merely as matters of information, but that they may be confirmed by that
body. The English Constitutions are explicit on this subject. "In the
Grand Lodge alone," they declare, "resides the power of erasing lodges and
expelling Brethren from the craft, a power which it ought not to delegate
to any subordinate authority in England." They allow, however, a
subordinate lodge to _exclude_ a member from the lodge; in which case he
is furnished with a certificate of the circumstances of his exclusion, and
then may join any other lodge that will accept him, after being made
acquainted with the fact of his exclusion, and its cause. This usage has
not been adopted in this country.
A lodge has a right to levy such annual contribution for membership as the
majority of the Brethren see fit. This is entirely a matter of contract,
with which the Grand Lodge, or the craft in general, have nothing to do.
It is, indeed, a modern usage, unknown to the fraternity of former times,
and was instituted for the convenience and support of the private lodges.
A lodge is entitled to select a name for itself, to be, however, approved
by the Grand Lodge. But the Grand Lodge alone has the power of
designating the number by which the lodge shall be distinguished. By its
number alone is every lodge recognized in the register of the Grand Lodge,
and according to their numbers is the precedence of the lodges regulated.
Finally, a lodge has certain rights in relation to its Warrant of
Constitution. This instrument having been granted by the Grand Lodge, can
be revoked by no other authority. The Grand Master, therefore, has no
power, as he has in the case of a lodge under dispensation, to withdraw
its Warrant, except temporarily, until the next meeting of the Grand
Lodge. Nor is it in the power of even the majority of the lodge, by any
act of their own, to resign the Warrant. For it has been laid down as a
law, that if the majority of the lodge should determine to quit the lodge,
or to resign their warrant, such action would be of no efficacy, because
the Warrant of Constitution, and the power of assembling, would remain
with the rest of the members, who adhere to their allegiance. But if
all the members withdraw themselves, their Warrant ceases and becomes
extinct. If the conduct of a lodge has been such as clearly to forfeit its
charter, the Grand Lodge alone can decide that question and pronounce the
_Of the Duties of a Lodge._
So far in relation to the rights and privileges of subordinate lodges. But
there are certain duties and obligations equally binding upon these
bodies, and certain powers, in the exercise of which they are restricted.
These will next engage our attention.
The first great duty, not only of every lodge, but of every Mason, is to
see that the landmarks of the Order shall never be impaired. The General
Regulations of Masonry--to which every Master, at his installation, is
bound to acknowledge his submission--declare that "it is not in the power
of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry."
And, hence, no lodge, without violating all the implied and express
obligations into which it has entered, can, in any manner, alter or amend
the work, lectures, and ceremonies of the institution. As its members
have received the ritual from their predecessors, so are they bound to
transmit it, unchanged, in the slightest degree, to their successors. In
the Grand Lodge, alone, resides the power of enacting new regulations;
but, even _it_ must be careful that, in every such regulation, the
landmarks are preserved. When, therefore, we hear young and inexperienced
Masters speak of making improvements (as they arrogantly call them) upon
the old lectures or ceremonies, we may be sure that such Masters either
know nothing of the duties they owe to the craft, or are willfully
forgetful of the solemn obligation which they have contracted. Some may
suppose that the ancient ritual of the Order is imperfect, and requires
amendment. One may think that the ceremonies are too simple, and wish to
increase them; another, that they are too complicated, and desire to
simplify them; one may be displeased with the antiquated language;
another, with the character of the traditions; a third, with something
else. But, the rule is imperative and absolute, that no change can or must
be made to gratify individual taste. As the Barons of England, once, with
unanimous voice, exclaimed, "Nolumus leges Angliae mutare!" so do all good
Masons respond to every attempt at innovation, "We are unwilling to alter
the customs of Freemasonry."
In relation to the election of officers, a subordinate lodge is allowed to
exercise no discretion. The names and duties of these officers are
prescribed, partly by the landmarks or the ancient constitutions, and
partly by the regulations of various Grand Lodges. While the landmarks are
preserved, a Grand Lodge may add to the list of officers as it pleases;
and whatever may be its regulation, the subordinate lodges are bound to
obey it; nor can any such lodge create new offices nor abolish old ones
without the consent of the Grand Lodge.
Lodges are also bound to elect their officers at a time which is always
determined; not by the subordinate, but by the Grand Lodge. Nor can a
lodge anticipate or postpone it unless by a dispensation from the Grand
No lodge can, at an extra meeting, alter or amend the proceedings of a
regular meeting. If such were not the rule, an unworthy Master might, by
stealth, convoke an extra meeting of a part of his lodge, and, by
expunging or altering the proceedings of the previous regular meeting, or
any particular part of them, annul any measures or resolutions that were
not consonant with his peculiar views.
No lodge can interfere with the work or business of any other lodge,
without its permission. This is an old regulation, founded on those
principles of comity and brotherly love that should exist among all
Masons. It is declared in the manuscript charges, written in the reign of
James II., and in the possession of the Lodge of Antiquity, at London,
that "no Master or Fellow shall supplant others of their work; that is to
say, that, if he hath taken a work, or else stand Master of any work, that
he shall not put him out, unless he be unable of cunning to make an end of
his work." And, hence, no lodge can pass or raise a candidate who was
initiated, or initiate one who was rejected, in another lodge. "It would
be highly improper," says the Ahiman Rezon, "in any lodge, to confer a
degree on a Brother who is not of their house-hold; for, every lodge
ought to be competent to manage their own business, and are the best
judges of the qualifications of their own members."
I do not intend, at the present time, to investigate the qualifications of
candidates--as that subject will, in itself, afford ample materials for a
future investigation; but, it is necessary that I should say something of
the restrictions under which every lodge labors in respect to the
admission of persons applying for degrees.
In the first place, no lodge can initiate a candidate, "without previous
notice, and due examination into his character; and not unless his
petition has been read at one regular meeting and acted on at another."
This is in accordance with the ancient regulations; but, an exception to
it is allowed in the case of an emergency, when the lodge may read the
petition for admission, and, if the applicant is well recommended, may
proceed at once to elect and initiate him. In some jurisdictions, the
nature of the emergency must be stated to the Grand Master, who, if he
approves, will grant a dispensation; but, in others, the Master, or Master
and Wardens, are permitted to be competent judges, and may proceed to
elect and initiate, without such dispensation. The Grand Lodge of South
Carolina adheres to the former custom, and that of England to the latter.
Another regulation is, that no lodge can confer more than two degrees, at
one communication, on the same candidate. The Grand Lodge of England is
still more stringent on this subject, and declares that "no candidate
shall be permitted to receive more than one degree, on the same day; nor
shall a higher degree in Masonry be conferred on any Brother at a less
interval than four weeks from his receiving a previous degree, nor until
he has passed an examination, in open lodge, in that degree." This rule is
also in force in South Carolina and several other of the American
jurisdictions. But, the law which forbids the whole three degrees of
Ancient Craft Masonry to be conferred, at the same communication, on one
candidate, is universal in its application, and, as such, may be deemed
one of the ancient landmarks of the Order.
There is another rule, which seems to be of universal extent, and is,
indeed, contained in the General Regulations of 1767, to the following
effect: "No lodge shall make more than five new Brothers at one and the
same time, without an urgent necessity."
All lodges are bound to hold their meetings at least once in every
calendar month; and every lodge neglecting so to do for one year, thereby
forfeits its warrant of constitution.
The subject of the removal of lodges is the last thing that shall engage
our attention. Here the ancient regulations of the craft have adopted many
guards to prevent the capricious or improper removal of a lodge from its
regular place of meeting. In the first place, no lodge can be removed from
the town in which it is situated, to any other place, without the consent
of the Grand Lodge. But, a lodge may remove from one part of the town to
another, with the consent of the members, under the following
restrictions: The removal cannot be made without the Master's knowledge;
nor can any motion, for that purpose, be presented in his absence. When
such a motion is made, and properly seconded, the Master will order
summonses to every member, specifying the business, and appointing a day
for considering and determining the affair. And if then a majority of the
lodge, with the Master, or two-thirds, without him, consent to the
removal, it shall take place; but notice thereof must be sent, at once, to
the Grand Lodge. The General Regulations of 1767 further declare, that
such removal must be approved by the Grand Master. I suppose that where
the removal of the lodge was only a matter of convenience to the members,
the Grand Lodge would hardly interfere, but leave the whole subject to
their discretion; but, where the removal would be calculated to affect the
interests of the lodge, or of the fraternity--as in the case of a removal
to a house of bad reputation, or to a place of evident insecurity--I have
no doubt that the Grand Lodge, as the conservator of the character and
safety of the institution, would have a right to interpose its authority,
and prevent the improper removal.
I have thus treated, as concisely as the important nature of the subjects
would permit, of the powers, privileges, duties, and obligations of
lodges, and have endeavored to embrace, within the limits of the
discussion, all those prominent principles of the Order, which, as they
affect the character and operations of the craft in their primary
assemblies, may properly be referred to the Law of Subordinate Lodges.
Of the Officers of a Subordinate Lodge.
_Of the Officers in General._
Four officers, at least, the ancient customs of the craft require in every
lodge; and they are consequently found throughout the globe. These are the
Master, the two Wardens, and the Tiler. Almost equally universal are the
offices of Treasurer, Secretary, and two Deacons. But, besides these,
there may be additional officers appointed by different Grand Lodges. The
Grand Lodge of England, for instance, requires the appointment of an
officer, called the "Inner Guard." The Grand Orient of France has
prescribed a variety of officers, which are unknown to English and
American Masonry. The Grand Lodges of England and South Carolina direct
that two Stewards shall be appointed, while some other Grand Lodges make
no such requisition. Ancient usage seems to have recognized the following
officers of a subordinate lodge: the Master, two Wardens, Treasurer,
Secretary, two Deacons, two Stewards, and Tiler; and I shall therefore
treat of the duties and powers of these officers only, in the course of
the present chapter.
The officers of a lodge are elected annually. In this country, the
election takes place on the festival of St. John the Evangelist, or at the
meeting immediately previous; but, in this latter case, the duties of the
offices do not commence until St. John's day, which may, therefore, be
considered as the beginning of the masonic year.
Dalcho lays down the rule, that "no Freemason chosen into any office can
refuse to serve (unless he has before filled the same office), without
incurring the penalties established by the bye-laws." Undoubtedly a lodge
may enact such a regulation, and affix any reasonable penalty; but I am
not aware of any ancient regulation which makes it incumbent on
subordinate lodges to do so.
If any of the subordinate officers, except the Master and Wardens, die, or
be removed from office, during the year, the lodge may, under the
authority of a dispensation from the Grand Master, enter into an election
to supply the vacancy. But in the case of the death or removal of the
Master or either of the Wardens, no election can be held to supply the
vacancy, even by dispensation, for reasons which will appear when I come
to treat of those offices.
No officer can resign his office after he has been installed. Every
officer is elected for twelve months, and at his installation solemnly
promises to perform the duties of that office until the next regular day
of election; and hence the lodge cannot permit him, by a resignation, to
violate his obligation of office.
Another rule is, that every officer holds on to his office until his
successor has been installed. It is the installation, and not the
election, which puts an officer into possession; and the faithful
management of the affairs of Masonry requires, that between the election
and installation of his successor, the predecessor shall not vacate the
office, but continue to discharge its duties.
An office can be vacated only by death, permanent removal from the
jurisdiction, or expulsion. Suspension does not vacate, but only suspends
the performance of the duties of the office, which must then be
temporarily discharged by some other person, to be appointed from time to
time; for, as soon as the suspended officer is restored, he resumes the
dignities and duties of his office.
_Of the Worshipful Master._
This is probably the most important office in the whole system of Masonry,
as, upon the intelligence, skill, and fidelity of the Masters of our
lodges, the entire institution is dependent for its prosperity. It is an
office which is charged with heavy responsibilities, and, as a just
consequence, is accompanied by the investiture of many important powers.
A necessary qualification of the Master of a lodge is, that he must have
previously served in the office of a Warden. This qualification is
sometimes dispensed with in the case of new lodges, or where no member of
an old lodge, who has served as a Warden, will accept the office of
Master. But it is not necessary that he should have served as a Warden in
the lodge of which he is proposed to be elected Master. The discharge of
the duties of a Warden, by regular election and installation in any other
lodge, and at any former period, will be a sufficient qualification.
One of the most important duties of the Master of a lodge is, to see that
the edicts and regulations of the Grand Lodge are obeyed by his Brethren,
and that his officers faithfully discharge their duties.
The Master has particularly in charge the warrant of Constitution, which
must always be present in his lodge, when opened.
The Master has a right to call a special meeting of his lodge whenever he
pleases, and is the sole judge of any emergency which may require such
He has, also, the right of closing his lodge at any hour that he may deem
expedient, notwithstanding the whole business of the evening may not have
been transacted. This regulation arises from the unwritten law of Masonry.
As the Master is responsible to the Grand Lodge for the fidelity of the
work done in his lodge, and as the whole of the labor is, therefore,
performed under his superintendence, it follows that, to enable him to
discharge this responsibility, he must be invested with the power of
commencing, of continuing, or of suspending labor at such time as he may,
in his wisdom, deem to be the most advantageous to the edifice of Masonry.
It follows from this rule that a question of adjournment cannot be
entertained in a lodge. The adoption of a resolution to adjourn, would
involve the necessity of the Master to obey it. The power, therefore, of
controlling the work, would be taken out of his hands and placed in those
of the members, which would be in direct conflict with the duties imposed
upon him by the ritual. The doctrine that a lodge cannot adjourn, but must
be closed or called off at the pleasure of the Master, appears now to me
to be very generally admitted.
The Master and his two Wardens constitute the representatives of the lodge
in the Grand Lodge, and it is his duty to attend the communications of
that body "on all convenient occasions." When there, he is faithfully
to represent his lodge, and on all questions discussed, to obey its
instructions, voting in every case rather against his own convictions than
against the expressed wish of his lodge.
The Master presides not only over the symbolic work of the lodge, but
also over its business deliberations, and in either case his decisions are
reversible only by the Grand Lodge. There can be no appeal from his
decision, on any question, to the lodge. He is supreme in his lodge, so
far as the lodge is concerned, being amenable for his conduct in the
government of it, not to its members, but to the Grrand Lodge alone. If an
appeal were proposed, it would be his duty, for the preservation of
discipline, to refuse to put the question. If a member is aggrieved by the
conduct or decisions of the Master, he has his redress by an appeal to the
Grrand Lodge, which will, of course, see that the Master does not rule his
lodge "in an unjust or arbitrary manner." But such a thing as an appeal
from the Master of the lodge to its members is unknown in Masonry.
This may, at first sight, appear to be giving too despotic power to the
Master. But a slight reflection will convince any one that there can be
but little danger of oppression from one so guarded and controlled as a
Master is, by the sacred obligations of his office, and the supervision of
the Grand Lodge, while the placing in the hands of the craft so powerful,
and at times, and with bad spirits, so annoying a privilege as that of
immediate appeal, would necessarily tend to impair the energies and
lessen the dignity of the Master, while it would be subversive of that
spirit of discipline which pervades every part of the institution, and to
which it is mainly indebted for its prosperity and perpetuity.
The ancient charges rehearsed at the installation of a Master, prescribe
the various moral qualifications which are required in the aspirant for
that elevated and responsible office. He is to be a good man, and
peaceable citizen or subject, a respecter of the laws, and a lover of his
Brethren--cultivating the social virtues and promoting the general good of
society as well as of his own Order.
Within the last few years, the standard of intellectual qualifications has
been greatly elevated. And it is now admitted that the Master of a lodge,
to do justice to the exalted office which he holds, to the craft over whom
he presides, and to the candidates whom he is to instruct, should be not
only a man of irreproachable moral character, but also of expanded
intellect and liberal education. Still, as there is no express law upon
this subject, the selection of a Master and the determination of his
qualifications must be left to the judgment and good sense of the
_Of the Wardens._
The Senior and Junior Warden are the assistants of the Master in the
government of the lodge. They are selected from among the members on the
floor, the possession of a previous office not being, as in the case of
the Master, a necessary qualification for election. In England they are
appointed by the Master, but in this country they are universally elected
by the lodge.
During the temporary absence of the Master the Senior Warden has the right
of presiding, though he may, and often does by courtesy, invite a Past
Master to assume the chair. In like manner, in the absence of both Master
and Senior Warden, the Junior Warden will preside, and competent Brethren
will by him be appointed to fill the vacant seats of the Wardens. But if
the Master and Junior Warden be present, and the Senior Warden be absent,
the Junior Warden does not occupy the West, but retains his own station,
the Master appointing some Brother to occupy the station of the Senior
Warden. For the Junior Warden succeeds by law only to the office of
Master, and, unless that office be vacant, he is bound to fulfill the
duties of the office to which he has been obligated.
In case of the death, removal from the jurisdiction, or expulsion of the
Master, by the Grand Lodge, no election can be held until the
constitutional period. The Senior Warden will take the Master's place and
preside over the lodge, while his seat will be temporarily filled from
time to time by appointment. The Senior Warden being in fact still in
existence, and only discharging one of the highest duties of his office,
that of presiding in the absence of the Master, his office cannot be
declared vacant and there can be no election for it. In such case, the
Junior Warden, for the reason already assigned, will continue at his own
station in the South.
In case of the death, removal, or expulsion of both Master and Senior
Warden, the Junior Warden will discharge the duties of the Mastership and
make temporary appointments of both Wardens. It must always be remembered
that the Wardens succeed according to seniority to the office of Master
when vacant, but that neither can legally discharge the duties of the
other. It must also be remembered that when a Warden succeeds to the
government of the lodge, he does not become the Master; he is still only
a Warden discharging the functions of a higher vacated station, as one of
the expressed duties of his own office. A recollection of these
distinctions will enable us to avoid much embarrassment in the
consideration of all the questions incident to this subject. If the Master
be present, the Wardens assist him in the government of the lodge. The
Senior Warden presides over the craft while at labor, and the Junior when
they are in refreshment. Formerly the examination of visitors was
intrusted to the Junior Warden, but this duty is now more appropriately
performed by the Stewards or a special committee appointed for that
The Senior Warden has the appointment of the Senior Deacon, and the Junior
Warden that of the Stewards.
_Of the Treasurer._
Of so much importance is this office deemed, that in English Lodges, while
all the other officers are appointed by the Master, the Treasurer alone is
elected by the lodge. It is, however, singular, that in the ritual of
installation, Preston furnishes no address to the Treasurer on his
investiture. Webb, however, has supplied the omission, and the charge
given in his work to this officer, on the night of his installation,
having been universally acknowledged and adopted by the craft in this
country, will furnish us with the most important points of the law in
relation to his duties.
It is, then, in the first place, the duty of the Treasurer "to receive all
moneys from the hands of the Secretary." The Treasurer is only the banker
of the lodge. All fees for initiation, arrearages of members, and all
other dues to the lodge, should be first received by the Secretary, and
paid immediately over to the Treasurer for safe keeping.
The keeping of just and regular accounts is another duty presented to the
Treasurer. As soon as he has received an amount of money from the
Secretary, he should transfer the account of it to his books. By this
means, the Secretary and Treasurer become mutual checks upon each other,
and the safety of the funds of the lodge is secured.
The Treasurer is not only the banker, but also the disbursing officer of
the lodge; but he is directed to pay no money except with the consent of
the lodge and on the order of the Worshipful Master. It seems to me,
therefore, that every warrant drawn on him should be signed by the Master,
and the action of the lodge attested by the counter-signature of the
It is usual, in consequence of the great responsibility of the Treasurer,
to select some Brother of worldly substance for the office; and still
further to insure the safety of the funds, by exacting from him a bond,
with sufficient security. He sometimes receives a per centage, or a fixed
salary, for his services.
_Of the Secretary._
It is the duty of the Secretary to record all the proceedings of the
lodge, "which may be committed to paper;" to conduct the correspondence of
the lodge, and to receive all moneys due the lodge from any source
whatsoever. He is, therefore, the recording, corresponding, and receiving
officer of the lodge. By receiving the moneys due to the lodge in the
first place, and then paying them over to the Treasurer, he becomes, as I
have already observed, a check upon that officer.
In view of the many laborious duties which devolve upon him, the
Secretary, in many lodges, receives a compensation for his services.
Should the Treasurer or Secretary die or be expelled, there is no doubt
that an election for a successor, to fill the unexpired term, may be held
by dispensation from the Grand Master. But the incompetency of either of
these officers to perform his duties, by reason of the infirmity of
sickness or removal from the seat of the lodge, will not, I think,
authorize such an election. Because the original officer may recover from
his infirmity, or return to his residence, and, in either case, having
been elected and installed for one year, he must remain the Secretary or
Treasurer until the expiration of the period for which he had been so
elected and installed, and, therefore, on his recovery or his return, is
entitled to resume all the prerogatives and functions of his office. The
case of death, or of expulsion, which is, in fact, masonic death, is
different, because all the rights possessed during life cease _ex
necessitate rei_, and forever lapse at the time of the said physical or
masonic death; and in the latter case, a restoration to all the rights and
privileges of Masonry would not restore the party to any office which he
had held at the time of his expulsion.
_Of the Deacons._
In every lodge there are two of these officers--a Senior and a Junior
Deacon. They are not elected, but appointed; the former by the Master, and
the latter by the Senior Warden.
The duties of these officers are many and important; but they are so well
defined in the ritual as to require no further consideration in this
The only question that here invites our examination is, whether the
Deacons, as appointed officers, are removable at the pleasure of the
officers who appointed them; or, whether they retain their offices, like
the Master and Wardens, until the expiration of the year. Masonic
authorities are silent on this subject; but, basing my judgment upon
analogy, I am inclined to think that they are not removable: all the
officers of a lodge are chosen to serve for one year, or, from one
festival of St. John the Evangelist to the succeeding one. This has been
the invariable usage in all lodges, and neither in the monitorial
ceremonies of installation, nor in any rules or regulations which I have
seen, is any exception to this usage made in respect to Deacons. The
written as well as the oral law of Masonry being silent on this subject,
we are bound to give them the benefit of this silence, and place them in
the same favorable position as that occupied by the superior officers,
who, we know, by express law are entitled to occupy their stations for one
year. Moreover, the power of removal is too important to be exercised
except under the sanction of an expressed law, and is contrary to the
whole spirit of Masonry, which, while it invests a presiding officer with
the largest extent of prerogative, is equally careful of the rights of the
youngest member of the fraternity.
From these reasons I am compelled to believe that the Deacons, although
originally appointed by the Master and Senior Warden, are not removable by
either, but retain their offices until the expiration of the year.
_Of the Stewards._
The Stewards, who are two in number, are appointed by the Junior Warden,
and sit on the right and left of him in the lodge. Their original duties
were, "to assist in the collection of dues and subscriptions; to keep an
account of the lodge expenses; to see that the tables are properly
furnished at refreshment, and that every Brother is suitably provided
for." They are also considered as the assistants of the Deacons in the
discharge of their duties, and, lately, some lodges are beginning to
confide to them the important trusts of a standing committee for the
examination of visitors and the preparation of candidates.
What has been said in relation to the removal of the Deacons in the
preceding section, is equally applicable to the Stewards.
_Of the Tiler._
This is an office of great importance, and must, from the peculiar nature
of our institution, have existed from its very beginning. No lodge could
ever have been opened until a Tiler was appointed, and stationed to guard
its portals from the approach of "cowans and eavesdroppers." The
qualifications requisite for the office of a Tiler are, that he must be "a
worthy Master Mason." An Entered Apprentice, or a Fellow Craft, cannot
tile a lodge, even though it be opened in his own degree. To none but
Master Masons can this important duty of guardianship be intrusted. The
Tiler is not necessarily a member of the lodge which he tiles. There is no
regulation requiring this qualification. In fact, in large cities, one
Brother often acts as the Tiler of several lodges. If, however, he is a
member of the lodge, his office does not deprive him of the rights of
membership, and in ballotings for candidates, election of officers, or
other important questions, he is entitled to exercise his privilege of
voting, in which case the Junior Deacon will temporarily occupy his
station, while he enters the lodge to deposit his ballot. This appears to
be the general usage of the craft in this country.
The Tiler is sometimes elected by the lodge, and sometimes appointed by
the Master. It seems generally to be admitted that he may be removed from
office for misconduct or neglect of duty, by the lodge, if he has been
elected, and by the Master, if he has been appointed.
Of Rules of Order.
The safety of the minority, the preservation of harmony, and the dispatch
of business, all require that there should be, in every well-regulated
society, some rules and forms for the government of their proceedings,
and, as has been justly observed by an able writer on parliamentary law,
"whether these forms be in all cases the most rational or not, is really
not of so great importance; for it is much more material that there should
be a rule to go by, than what that rule is." By common consent, the
rules established for the government of Parliament in England, and of
Congress in the United States, and which are known collectively under the
name of "Parliamentary Law," have been adopted for the regulation of all
deliberative bodies, whether of a public or private nature. But lodges of
Freemasons differ so much in their organization and character from other
societies, that this law will, in very few cases, be found applicable;
and, indeed, in many positively inapplicable to them. The rules,
therefore, for the government of masonic lodges are in general to be
deduced from the usages of the Order, from traditional or written
authority, and where both of them are silent, from analogy to the
character of the institution. To each of these sources, therefore, I shall
apply, in the course of the present chapter, and in some few instances,
where the parliamentary law coincides with our own, reference will be made
to the authority of the best writers on that science.
_Of the Order of Business._
When the Brethren have been "congregated," or called together by the
presiding officer, the first thing to be attended to is the ceremony of
opening the lodge. The consideration of this subject, as it is
sufficiently detailed in our ritual, will form no part of the present
The lodge having been opened, the next thing to be attended to is the
reading of the minutes of the last communication. The minutes having been
read, the presiding officer will put the question on their confirmation,
having first inquired of the Senior and Junior Wardens, and lastly of the
Brethren "around the lodge," whether they have any alterations to propose.
It must be borne in mind, that the question of confirmation is simply a
question whether the Secretary has faithfully and correctly recorded the
transactions of the lodge. If, therefore, it can be satisfactorily shown
by any one that there is a mis-entry, or the omission of an entry, this is
the time to correct it; and where the matter is of sufficient importance,
and the recording officer, or any member disputes the charge of error, the
vote of the lodge will be taken on the subject, and the journal will be
amended or remain as written, according to the opinion so expressed by the
majority of the members. As this is, however, a mere question of memory,
it must be apparent that those members only who were present at the
previous communication, the records of which are under examination, are
qualified to express a fair opinion. All others should ask and be
permitted to be excused from voting.
As no special communication can alter or amend the proceedings of a
regular one, it is not deemed necessary to present the records of the
latter to the inspection of the former. This preliminary reading of the
minutes is, therefore, always omitted at special communications.
After the reading of the minutes, unfinished business, such as motions
previously submitted and reports of committees previously appointed, will
take the preference of all other matters. Special communications being
called for the consideration of some special subject, that subject must of
course claim the priority of consideration over all others.
In like manner, where any business has been specially and specifically
postponed to another communication, it constitutes at that communication
what is called, in parliamentary law, "the order of the day," and may at
any time in the course of the evening be called up, to the exclusion of
all other business.
The lodge may, however, at its discretion, refuse to take up the
consideration of such order; for the same body which determined at one
time to consider a question, may at another time refuse to do so. This is
one of those instances in which parliamentary usage is applicable to the
government of a lodge. Jefferson says: "Where an order is made, that any
particular matter be taken up on any particular day, there a question is
to be put, when it is called for, Whether the house will now proceed to
that matter?" In a lodge, however, it is not the usage to propose such a
question, but the matter being called up, is discussed and acted on,
unless some Brother moves its postponement, when the question of
postponement is put.
But with these exceptions, the unfinished business must first be disposed
of, to avoid its accumulation and its possible subsequent neglect.
New business will then be taken up in such order as the local bye-laws
prescribe, or the wisdom of the Worshipful Master may suggest.
In a discussion, when any member wishes to speak, he must stand up in his
place, and address himself not to the lodge, nor to any particular
Brother, but to the presiding officer, styling him "Worshipful."
When two or more members rise nearly together, the presiding officer
determines who is entitled to speak, and calls him by his name, whereupon
he proceeds, unless he voluntarily sits down, and gives way to the other.
The ordinary rules of courtesy, which should govern a masonic body above
all other societies, as well as the general usage of deliberative bodies,
require that the one first up should be entitled to the floor. But the
decision of this fact is left entirely to the Master, or presiding
Whether a member be entitled to speak once or twice to the same question,
is left to the regulation of the local bye-laws of every lodge. But, under
all circumstances, it seems to be conceded, that a member may rise at any
time with the permission of the presiding officer, or for the purpose of
A member may be called to order by any other while speaking, for the use
of any indecorous remark, personal allusion, or irrelevant matter; but
this must be done in a courteous and conciliatory manner, and the question
of order will at once be decided by the presiding officer.
No Brother is to be interrupted while speaking, except for the purpose of
calling him to order, or to make a necessary explanation; nor are any
separate conversations, or, as they are called in our ancient charges,
"private committees," to be allowed.
Every member of the Order is, in the course of the debate as well as at
all other times in the lodge, to be addressed by the title of "Brother,"
and no secular or worldly titles are ever to be used.
In accordance with the principles of justice, the parliamentary usage is
adopted, which permits the mover of a resolution to make the concluding
speech, that he may reply to all those who have spoken against it, and sum
up the arguments in its favor. And it would be a breach of order as well
as of courtesy for any of his opponents to respond to this final argument
of the mover.
It is within the discretion of the Master, at any time in the course of
the evening, to suspend the business of the lodge for the purpose of
proceeding to the ceremony of initiation, for the "work" of Masonry, as it
is technically called, takes precedence of all other business.
When all business, both old and new, and the initiation of candidates, if
there be any, has been disposed of, the presiding officer inquires of the
officers and members if there be anything more to be proposed before
closing. Custom has prescribed a formulary for making this inquiry, which
is in the following words.
The Worshipful Master, addressing the Senior and Junior Wardens and then
the Brethren, successively, says: "Brother Senior, have you anything to
offer in the West for the good of Masonry in general or of this lodge in
particular? Anything in the South, Brother Junior? Around the lodge,
Brethren?" The answers to these inquiries being in the negative on the
part of the Wardens, and silence on that of the craft, the Master proceeds
to close the lodge in the manner prescribed in the ritual.
The reading of the minutes of the evening, not for confirmation, but for
suggestion, lest anything may have been omitted, should always precede the
closing ceremonies, unless, from the lateness of the hour, it be dispensed
with by the members.
_Of Appeals from the Decision of the Chair._
Freemasonry differs from all other institutions, in permitting no appeal
to the lodge from the decision of the presiding officer. The Master is
supreme in his lodge, so far as the lodge is concerned. He is amenable
for his conduct, in the government of the lodge, not to its members, but
to the Grand Lodge alone. In deciding points of order as well as graver
matters, no appeal can be taken from that decision to the lodge. If an
appeal were proposed, it would be his duty, for the preservation of
discipline, to refuse to put the question. It is, in fact, wrong that the
Master should even by courtesy permit such an appeal to be taken; because,
as the Committee of Correspondence of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee have
wisely remarked, by the admission of such appeals by _courtesy_, "is
established ultimately a precedent from which will be claimed _the right
to take_ appeals." If a member is aggrieved with the conduct or the
decisions of the Master, he has his redress by an appeal to the Grand
Lodge, which will of course see that the Master does not rule his lodge
"in an unjust or arbitrary manner." But such a thing as an appeal from the
Master to the lodge is unknown in Masonry.
This, at first view, may appear to be giving too despotic a power to the
Master. But a little reflection will convince any one that there can be
but slight danger of oppression from one so guarded and controlled as the
Master is by the obligations of his office and the superintendence of the
Grand Lodge, while the placing in the hands of the craft so powerful, and,
with bad spirits, so annoying a privilege as that of immediate appeal,
would necessarily tend to impair the energies and lessen the dignity of
the Master, at the same time that it would be totally subversive of that
spirit of strict discipline which pervades every part of the institution,
and to which it is mainly indebted for its prosperity and perpetuity.
In every case where a member supposes himself to be aggrieved by the
decision of the Master, he should make his appeal to the Grand Lodge.
It is scarcely necessary to add, that a Warden or Past Master, presiding
in the absence of the Master, assumes for the time all the rights and
prerogatives of the Master.
_Of the Mode of Taking the Question._
The question in Masonry is not taken _viva voce_ or by "aye" and "nay."
This should always be done by "a show of hands." The regulation on this
subject was adopted not later than the year 1754, at which time the Book
of Constitutions was revised, "and the necessary alterations and additions
made, consistent with the laws and rules of Masonry," and accordingly, in
the edition published in the following year, the regulation is laid down
in these words--"The opinions or votes of the members are always to be
signified by each holding up one of his hands: which uplifted hands the
Grand Wardens are to count; unless the number of hands be so unequal as to
render the counting useless. Nor should any other kind of division be ever
admitted among Masons."
Calling for the yeas and nays has been almost universally condemned as an
unmasonic practice, nor should any Master allow it to be resorted to in
Moving the "previous question," a parliamentary invention for stopping all
discussion, is still more at variance with the liberal and harmonious
spirit which should distinguish masonic debates, and is, therefore, never
to be permitted in a lodge.
Adjournment is a term not recognized in Masonry. There are but two ways in
which the communication of a lodge can be terminated; and these are either
by _closing_ the lodge, or by _calling from labor to refreshment_. In the
former case the business of the communication is finally disposed of until
the next communication; in the latter the lodge is still supposed to be
open and may resume its labors at any time indicated by the Master.
But both the time of closing the lodge and of calling it from labor to
refreshment is to be determined by the absolute will and the free judgment
of the Worshipful Master, to whom alone is intrusted the care of "setting
the craft to work, and giving them wholesome instruction for labor." He
alone is responsible to the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge, that his
lodge shall be opened, continued, and closed in harmony; and as it is by
his "will and pleasure" only that it is opened, so is it by his "will and
pleasure" only that it can be closed. Any attempt, therefore, on the part
of the lodge to entertain a motion for adjournment would be an
infringement of this prerogative of the Master. Such a motion is,
therefore, always out of order, and cannot be; and cannot be acted on.
The rule that a lodge cannot adjourn, but remain in session until closed
by the Master, derives an authoritative sanction also from the following
clause in the fifth of the Old Charges.
"All Masons employed shall meekly receive their wages without murmuring or
mutiny, _and not desert the Master till the work is finished_."
_Of the Appointment of Committees._
It is the prerogative of the Master to appoint all Committees, unless by a
special resolution provision has been made that a committee shall
otherwise be appointed.
The Master is also, _ex officio_, chairman of every committee which he
chooses to attend, although he may not originally have been named a member
of such committee. But he may, if he chooses, waive this privilege; yet he
may, at any time during the session of the committee, reassume his
inherent prerogative of governing the craft at all times when in his
presence, and therefore take the chair.
_Of the Mode of Keeping the Minutes._
Masonry is preeminently an institution of forms, and hence, as was to be
expected, there is a particular form provided for recording the
proceedings of a lodge. Perhaps the best method of communicating this form
to the reader will be, to record the proceedings of a supposititious
meeting or communication.
The following form, therefore, embraces the most important transactions
that usually occur during the session of a lodge, and it may serve as an
exemplar, for the use of secretaries.
"A regular communication of ---- Lodge, NO. ----, was holden at ----; on
----, the ---- day of ----A.: L.: 58--.
Bro.: A. B----, W.: Master.
" B. C----, S.: Warden.
" C. D----, J.: Warden.
" D. E----, Treasurer.
" E. F----, Secretary.
" F. G----, S.: Deacon.
" G. H----, J.: Deacon.
" H. I----, } Stewards.
" I. K----, }
" K. L----, Tiler.
Bro.: L. M----
The Lodge was opened in due form on the third degree of Masonry.
"The minutes of the regular communication of ---- were read and
"The committee on the petition of Mr. C. B., a candidate for initiation,
reported favorably, whereupon he was balloted for and duly elected.
"The committee on the application of Mr. D. C., a candidate for
initiation, reported favorably, whereupon he was balloted for, and the box
appearing foul he was rejected.
"The committee on the application of Mr. E. D., a candidate for initiation,
having reported unfavorably, he was declared rejected without a ballot.
"The petition of Mr. F. E., a candidate for initiation, having been
withdrawn by his friends, he was declared rejected without a ballot.
"A petition for initiation from Mr. G.F., inclosing the usual amount and
recommended by Bros. C. D.---- and H. I.----, was referred to a committee
of investigation consisting of Bros. G. H.----, L. M.----, and O. P.----.
"Bro. S.R., an Entered Apprentice, having applied for advancement, was
duly elected to take the second degree; and Bro. W.Y., a Fellow Craft,
was, on his application for advancement, duly elected to take the third
"A letter was read from Mrs. T. V.----, the widow of a Master Mason, when
the sum of twenty dollars was voted for her relief.
"The amendment to article 10, section 5 of the bye-laws, proposed by Bro.
M. N. ---- at the communication of ----, was read a third time, adopted by
a constitutional majority and ordered to be sent to the Grand Lodge for
approval and confirmation.
"The Lodge of Master Masons was then closed, and a lodge of Entered
Apprentices opened in due form.
"Mr. C. B., a candidate for initiation, being in waiting, was duly
prepared, brought forward and initiated as an Entered Apprentice, he
paying the usual fee.
"The Lodge of Entered Apprentices was then closed, and a Lodge of Fellow
Crafts opened in due form.
"Bro. S. R., an Entered Apprentice, being in waiting, was duly prepared,
brought forward and passed to the degree of a Fellow Craft, he paying the
"The Lodge of Fellow Crafts was then closed, and a lodge of Master Masons
opened in due form.
"Bro. W. Y., a Fellow Craft, being in waiting, was duly prepared, brought
forward and raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason, he paying the
Amount received this evening, as follows:
Petition of Mr. G. F., $5
Fee of Bro. C. B., 5
do. of Bro. S. R., 5
do. of Bro. W. Y., 5--Total, $20
all of which was paid over to the Treasurer.
There being no further business, the lodge was closed in due form and
Such is the form which has been adopted as the most convenient mode of
recording the transactions of a lodge. These minutes must be read, at the
close of the meeting, that the Brethren may suggest any necessary
alterations or additions, and then at the beginning of the next regular
meeting, that they may be confirmed, after which they should be
transcribed from the rough Minute Book in which they were first entered
into the permanent Record Book of the lodge.
The Law Of Individuals.
Passing from the consideration of the law, which refers to Masons in their
congregated masses, as the constituents of Grand and Subordinate Lodges, I
next approach the discussion of the law which governs, them in their
individual capacity, whether in the inception of their masonic life, as
candidates for initiation, or in their gradual progress through each of
the three degrees, for it will be found that a Mason, as he assumes new
and additional obligations, and is presented with increased light,
contracts new duties, and is invested with new prerogatives and
Of the Qualifications of Candidates.
The qualifications of a candidate for initiation into the mysteries of
Freemasonry, are four-fold in their character--moral, physical,
intellectual and political.
The moral character is intended to secure the respectability of the Order,
because, by the worthiness of its candidates, their virtuous deportment,
and good reputation, will the character of the institution be judged,
while the admission of irreligious libertines and contemners of the moral
law would necessarily impair its dignity and honor.
The physical qualifications of a candidate contribute to the utility of
the Order, because he who is deficient in any of his limbs or members, and
who is not in the possession of all his natural senses and endowments, is
unable to perform, with pleasure to himself or credit to the fraternity,
those peculiar labors in which all should take an equal part. He thus
becomes a drone in the hive, and so far impairs the usefulness of the
lodge, as "a place where Freemasons assemble to work, and to instruct and
improve themselves in the mysteries of their ancient science."
The intellectual qualifications refer to the security of the Order;
because they require that its mysteries shall be confided only to those
whose mental developments are such as to enable them properly to
appreciate, and faithfully to preserve from imposition, the secrets thus
entrusted to them. It is evident, for instance, that an idiot could
neither understand the hidden doctrines that might be communicated to him,
nor could he so secure such portions as he might remember, in the
"depositary of his heart," as to prevent the designing knave from worming
them out of him; for, as the wise Solomon has said, "a fool's mouth is his
destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul."
The political qualifications are intended to maintain the independence of
the Order; because its obligations and privileges are thus confided only
to those who, from their position in society, are capable of obeying the
one, and of exercising the other without the danger of let or hindrance
from superior authority.
Of the moral, physical and political qualifications of a candidate there
can be no doubt, as they are distinctly laid down in the ancient charges
and constitutions. The intellectual are not so readily decided.
These four-fold qualifications may be briefly summed up in the following
_Morally_, the candidate must be a man of irreproachable conduct, a
believer in the existence of God, and living "under the tongue of good
_Physically_, he must be a man of at least twenty-one years of age,
upright in body, with the senses of a man, not deformed or dismembered,
but with hale and entire limbs as a _man_ ought to be.
_Intellectually_, he must be a man in the full possession of his
intellects, not so young that his mind shall not have been formed, nor so
old that it shall have fallen into dotage; neither a fool, an idiot, nor a
madman; and with so much education as to enable him to avail himself of
the teachings of Masonry, and to cultivate at his leisure a knowledge of
the principles and doctrines of our royal art.
_Politically_, he must be in the unrestrained enjoyment of his civil and
personal liberty, and this, too, by the birthright of inheritance, and not
by its subsequent acquisition, in consequence of his release from
The lodge which strictly demands these qualifications of its candidates
may have fewer members than one less strict, but it will undoubtedly have
But the importance of the subject demands for each class of the
qualifications a separate section, and a more extended consideration.
_Of the Moral Qualifications of Candidates._
The old charges state, that "a Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the
moral law." It is scarcely necessary to say, that the phrase, "moral law,"
is a technical expression of theology, and refers to the Ten Commandments,
which are so called, because they define the regulations necessary for the
government of the morals and manners of men. The habitual violation of any
one of these commands would seem, according to the spirit of the Ancient
Constitutions, to disqualify a candidate for Masonry.
The same charges go on to say, in relation to the religious character of a
Mason, that he should not be "a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious
libertine." A denier of the existence of a Supreme Architect of the
Universe cannot, of course, be obligated as a Mason, and, accordingly,
there is no landmark more certain than that which excludes every atheist
from the Order.
The word "libertine" has, at this day, a meaning very different from what
it bore when the old charges were compiled. It then signified what we now
call a "free-thinker," or disbeliever in the divine revelation of the
Scriptures. This rule would therefore greatly abridge the universality and
tolerance of the Institution, were it not for the following qualifying
clause in the same instrument:--
"Though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the
religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought
more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men
agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves; that is, to be
good men and true, or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations
or persuasions they may be distinguished."
The construction now given universally to the religious qualification of a
candidate, is simply that he shall have a belief in the existence and
superintending control of a Supreme Being.
These old charges from which we derive the whole of our doctrine as to the
moral qualifications of a candidate, further prescribe as to the political
relations of a Mason, that he is to be "a peaceable subject to the civil
powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concerned in
plots and conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation, nor to
behave himself undutifully to inferior magistrates. He is cheerfully to
conform to every lawful authority; to uphold on every occasion the
interest of the community, and zealously promote the prosperity of his own
Such being the characteristics of a true Mason, the candidate who desires
to obtain that title, must show his claim to the possession of these
virtues; and hence the same charges declare, in reference to these moral
qualifications, that "The persons made Masons, or admitted members of a
lodge, must be good and true men--no immoral or scandalous men, but of
_Of the Physical Qualifications of Candidates._
The physical qualifications of a candidate refer to his sex, his age, and
the condition of his limbs.
The first and most important requisite of a candidate is, that he shall be
"_a man_." No woman can be made a Mason. This landmark is so indisputable,
that it would be wholly superfluous to adduce any arguments or authority
in its support.
As to age, the old charges prescribe the rule, that the candidate must be
"of mature and discreet age." But what is the precise period when one is
supposed to have arrived at this maturity and discretion, cannot be
inferred from any uniform practice of the craft in different countries.
The provisions of the civil law, which make twenty-one the age of
maturity, have, however, been generally followed. In this country the
regulation is general, that the candidate must be twenty-one years of age.
Such, too, was the regulation adopted by the General Assembly, which met
on the 27th Dec., 1663, and which prescribed that "no person shall be
accepted unless he be twenty-one years old or more." In Prussia, the
candidate is required to be twenty-five; in England, twenty-one,
"unless by dispensation from the Grand Master, or Provincial Grand
Master;" in Ireland, twenty-one, except "by dispensation from the Grand
Master, or the Grand Lodge;" in France, twenty-one, unless the candidate
be the son of a Mason who has rendered important service to the craft,
with the consent of his parent or guardian, or a young man who has served
six months with his corps in the army--such persons may be initiated at
eighteen; in Switzerland, the age of qualification is fixed at twenty-one,
and in Frankfort-on-Mayn, at twenty. In this country, as I have already
observed, the regulation of 1663 is rigidly enforced, and no candidate,
who has not arrived at the age of twenty-one, can be initiated.
Our ritual excludes "an old man in his dotage" equally with a "young man
under age." But as dotage signifies imbecility of mind, this subject will
be more properly considered under the head of intellectual qualifications.
The physical qualifications, which refer to the condition of the
candidate's body and limbs, have given rise, within a few years past, to
a great amount of discussion and much variety of opinion. The regulation
contained in the old charges of 1721, which requires the candidate to be
"a perfect youth," has in some jurisdictions been rigidly enforced to the
very letter of the law, while in others it has been so completely
explained away as to mean anything or nothing. Thus, in South Carolina,
where the rule is rigid, the candidate is required to be neither deformed
nor dismembered, but of hale and entire limbs, as a man ought to be, while
in Maine, a deformed person may be admitted, provided "the deformity is
not such as to prevent him from being instructed in the arts and mysteries
The first written law which we find on this subject is that which was
enacted by the General Assembly held in 1663, under the Grand Mastership
of the Earl of St. Albans, and which declares "that no person shall
hereafter be accepted a Freemason but such as are of _able_ body."
Twenty years after, in the reign of James II., or about the year 1683, it
seems to have been found necessary, more exactly to define the meaning of
this expression, "of able body," and accordingly we find, among the
charges ordered to be read to a Master on his installation, the following
"Thirdly, that he that be made be able in all degrees; that is, free-born,
of a good kindred, true, and no bondsman, and that _he have his right
limbs as a man ought to have."_
The old charges, published in the original Book of Constitutions in 1723,
contain the following regulation:
"No Master should take an Apprentice, unless he be a perfect youth having
no maim or defect that may render him uncapable of learning the art."
Notwithstanding the positive demand for _perfection_, and the positive and
explicit declaration that he must have _no maim or defect_, the remainder
of the sentence has, within a few years past, by some Grand Lodges, been
considered as a qualifying clause, which would permit the admission of
candidates whose physical defects did not exceed a particular point. But,
in perfection, there can be no degrees of comparison, and he who is
required to be perfect, is required to be so without modification or
diminution. That which is _perfect_ is complete in all its parts, and, by
a deficiency in any portion of its constituent materials, it becomes not
less perfect, (which expression would be a solecism in grammar,) but at
once by the deficiency ceases to be perfect at all--it then becomes
imperfect. In the interpretation of a law, "words," says Blackstone, "are
generally to be understood in their usual and most known signification,"
and then "perfect" would mean, "complete, entire, neither defective nor
redundant." But another source of interpretation is, the "comparison of a
law with other laws, that are made by the same legislator, that have some
affinity with the subject, or that expressly relate to the same
point." Applying this law of the jurists, we shall have no difficulty
in arriving at the true signification of the word "perfect," if we refer
to the regulation of 1683, of which the clause in question appears to have
been an exposition. Now, the regulation of 1683 says, in explicit terms,
that the candidate must "_have his right limbs as a man ought to have_."
Comparing the one law with the other, there can be no doubt that the
requisition of Masonry is and always has been, that admission could only
be granted to him who was neither deformed nor dismembered, but of hale
and entire limbs as a man should be.
But another, and, as Blackstone terms it, "the most universal and
effectual way of discovering the true meaning of a law" is, to consider
"the reason and spirit of it, or the cause which moved the legislator to
enact it." Now, we must look for the origin of the law requiring physical
perfection, not to the formerly operative character of the institution,
(for there never was a time when it was not speculative as well as
operative,) but to its symbolic nature. In the ancient temple, every stone
was required to be _perfect_, for a perfect stone was the symbol of truth.
In our mystic association, every Mason represents a stone in that
spiritual temple, "that house not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens," of which the temple of Solomon was the type. Hence it is
required that he should present himself, like the perfect stone in the
material temple, a perfect man in the spiritual building. "The symbolic
relation of each member of the Order to its mystic temple, forbids the
idea," says Bro. W.S. Rockwell, of Georgia, "that its constituent
portions, its living stones, should be less perfect or less a type of
their great original, than the immaculate material which formed the
earthly dwelling place of the God of their adoration." If, then, as I
presume it will be readily conceded, by all except those who erroneously
suppose the institution to have been once wholly operative and afterwards
wholly speculative, perfection is required in a candidate, not for the
physical reason that he may be enabled to give the necessary signs of
recognition, but because the defect would destroy the symbolism of that
perfect stone which every Mason is supposed to represent in the spiritual
temple, we thus arrive at a knowledge of the causes which moved the
legislators of Masonry to enact the law, and we see at once, and without
doubt, that the words _perfect youth_ are to be taken in an unqualified
sense, as signifying one who has "his right limbs as a man ought to
It is, however, but fair to state that the remaining clause of the old
charge, which asserts that the candidate must have no maim or defect that
may render him incapable of learning the art, has been supposed to intend
a modification of the word "perfect," and to permit the admission of one
whose maim or defect was not of such a nature as to prevent his learning
the art of Masonry. But I would respectfully suggest that a criticism of
this kind is based upon a mistaken view of the import of the words. The
sentence is not that the candidate must have no such maim or defect as
might, by possibility, prevent him from learning the art; though this is
the interpretation given by those who are in favor of admitting slightly
maimed candidates. It is, on the contrary, so worded as to give a
consequential meaning to the word "_that_." He must have no maim or defect
_that_ may render him incapable; that is, _because_, by having such maim
or defect, he would be rendered incapable of acquiring our art.
In the Ahiman Rezon published by Laurence Dermott in 1764, and adopted for
the government of the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons in England, and
many of the Provincial Grand and subordinate lodges of America, the
regulation is laid down that candidates must be "men of good report,
free-born, of mature age, not deformed nor dismembered at the time of
their making, and no woman or eunuch." It is true that at the present day
this book possesses no legal authority among the craft; but I quote it, to
show what was the interpretation given to the ancient law by a large
portion, perhaps a majority, of the English and American Masons in the
middle of the eighteenth century.
A similar interpretation seems at all times to have been given by the
Grand Lodges of the United States, with the exception of some, who, within
a few years past, have begun to adopt a more latitudinarian construction.
In Pennsylvania it was declared, in 1783, that candidates are not to be
"deformed or dismembered at the time of their making."
In South Carolina the book of Constitutions, first published in 1807,
requires that "every person desiring admission must be upright in body,
not deformed or dismembered at the time of making, but of hale and entire
limbs, as a man ought to be."
In the "Ahiman Rezon and Masonic Ritual," published by order of the Grand
Lodge of North Carolina and Tennessee, in the year 1805, candidates are
required to be "hale and sound, not deformed or dismembered at the time of
Maryland, in 1826, sanctioned the Ahiman Rezon of Cole, which declares
the law in precisely the words of South Carolina, already quoted.
In 1823, the Grand Lodge of Missouri unanimously adopted a report, which
declared that all were to be refused admission who were not "sound in mind
and _all their members_," and she adopted a resolution asserting that "the
Grand Lodge cannot grant a letter or dispensation to a subordinate lodge
working under its jurisdiction, to initiate any person maimed, disabled,
or wanting the qualifications establishing by ancient usage."
But it is unnecessary to multiply instances. There never seems to have
been any deviation from the principle that required absolute physical
perfection, until, within a few years, the spirit of expediency has
induced some Grand Lodges to propose a modified construction of the law,
and to admit those whose maims or deformities were not such as to prevent
them from complying with the ceremonial of initiation. Still, a large
number of the Grand Lodges have stood fast by the ancient landmark, and it
is yet to be hoped that all will return to their first allegiance. The
subject is an important one, and, therefore, a few of the more recent
authorities, in behalf of the old law may with advantage be cited.
"We have examined carefully the arguments 'pro and con,' that have
accompanied the proceedings of the several Grand Lodges, submitted to us,
and the conviction has been forced upon our minds, even against our wills,
that we depart from the ancient landmarks and usages of Masonry, whenever
we admit an individual wanting in one of the human senses, or who is in
any particular maimed or deformed."--_Committee of Correspondence G. Lodge
of Georgia_, 1848, _page_ 36.
"The rationale of the law, excluding persons physically imperfect and
deformed, lies deeper and is more ancient than the source ascribed to
it. It is grounded on a principle recognized in the earliest ages of
the world; and will be found identical with that which obtained among the
ancient Jews. In this respect the Levitical law was the same as the
masonic, which would not allow any 'to go in unto the vail' who had a
blemish--a blind man, or a lame, or a man that was broken-footed, or
broken-handed, or a dwarf, &c....
"The learned and studious Freemasonic antiquary can satisfactorily explain
the metaphysics of this requisition in our Book of Constitutions. For the
true and faithful Brother it sufficeth to know that such a requisition
exists. He will prize it the more because of its antiquity.... No man can
in perfection be 'made a Brother,' no man can truly 'learn our mysteries,'
and practice them, or 'do the work of a Freemason,' if he is not a _man_
with body free from maim, defect and deformity."--_Report of a Special
Committee of the Grand Lodge of New York, in_ 1848.
"The records of this Grand Lodge may be confidently appealed to, for
proofs of her repeated refusal to permit maimed persons to be initiated,
and not simply on the ground that ancient usage forbids it, but because
the fundamental constitution of the Order--the ancient charges--forbid
it."--_Committee of Correspondence of New York, for 1848, p. 70._
"The lodges subordinate to this Grand Lodge are hereby required, in the
initiation of applicants for Masonry, to adhere to the ancient law (as
laid down in our printed books), which says he shall be of _entire
limbs_"--_Resolution of the G.L. of Maryland, November, 1848._
"I received from the lodge at Ashley a petition to initiate into our Order
a gentleman of high respectability, who, unfortunately, has been maimed. I
refused my assent.... I have also refused a similar request from the lodge
of which I am a member. The fact that the most distinguished masonic body
on earth has recently removed one of the landmarks, should teach _us_ to
be careful how we touch those ancient boundaries."--_Address of the Grand
Master of New Jersey in 1849._
"The Grand Lodge of Florida adopted such a provision in her constitution,
[the qualifying clause permitting the initiation of a maimed person, if
his deformity was not such as to prevent his instruction], but more
mature reflection, and more light reflected from our sister Grand Lodges,
caused it to be stricken from our constitution."--_Address of Gov. Tho.
Brown, Grand Master of Florida in_ 1849.
"As to the physical qualifications, the Ahiman Rezon leaves no doubt on
the subject, but expressly declares, that every applicant for initiation
must be a man, free-born, of lawful age, in the perfect enjoyment of his
senses, hale, and sound, and not deformed or dismembered; this is one of
the ancient landmarks of the Order, which it is in the power of no body of
men to change. A man having but one arm, or one leg, or who is in anyway
deprived of his due proportion of limbs and members, is as incapable of
initiation as a woman."--_Encyclical Letter of the Grand Lodge of South
Carolina to its subordinates in_ 1849.
Impressed, then, by the weight of these authorities, which it would be
easy, but is unnecessary, to multiply--guided by a reference to the
symbolic and speculative (not operative) reason of the law--and governed
by the express words of the regulation of 1683--I am constrained to
believe that the spirit as well as the letter of our ancient landmarks
require that a candidate for admission should be perfect in all his
parts, that is, neither redundant nor deficient, neither deformed nor
dismembered, but of hale and entire limbs, as a man ought to be.
_Of the Intellectual Qualifications of Candidates._
The Old Charges and Ancient Constitutions are not as explicit in relation
to the intellectual as to the moral and physical qualifications of
candidates, and, therefore, in coming to a decision on this subject, we
are compelled to draw our conclusions from analogy, from common sense, and
from the peculiar character of the institution. The question that here
suggests itself on this subject is, what particular amount of human
learning is required as a constitutional qualification for initiation?
During a careful examination of every ancient document to which I have had
access, I have met with no positive enactment forbidding the admission of
uneducated persons, even of those who can neither read nor write. The
unwritten, as well as the written laws of the Order, require that the
candidate shall be neither a _fool_ nor an _idiot_, but that he shall
possess a discreet judgment, and be in the enjoyment of all the senses of
a man. But one who is unable to subscribe his name, or to read it when
written, might still very easily prove himself to be within the
requirements of this regulation. The Constitutions of England, formed
since the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, are certainly explicit
enough on this subject. They require even more than a bare knowledge of
reading and writing, for, in describing the qualifications of a candidate,
"He should be a lover of the liberal arts and sciences, and have made some
progress in one or other of them; and he must, previous to his initiation,
subscribe his name at full length, to a declaration of the following
import," etc. And in a note to this regulation, it is said, "Any
individual who cannot write is, consequently, ineligible to be admitted
into the Order." If this authority were universal in its character, there
would be no necessity for a further discussion of the subject. But the
modern constitutions of the Grand Lodge of England are only of force
within its own jurisdiction, and we are therefore again compelled to
resort to a mode of reasoning for the proper deduction of our conclusions
on this subject.
It is undoubtedly true that in the early period of the world, when
Freemasonry took its origin, the arts of reading and writing were not so
generally disseminated among all classes of the community as they now are,
when the blessings of a common education can be readily and cheaply
obtained. And it may, therefore, be supposed that among our ancient
Brethren there were many who could neither read nor write. But after all,
this is a mere assumption, which, although it may be based on probability,
has no direct evidence for its support. And, on the other hand, we see
throughout all our ancient regulations, that a marked distinction was made
by our rulers between the Freemason and the Mason who was not free; as,
for instance, in the conclusion of the fifth chapter of the Ancient
Charges, where it is said: "No laborer shall be employed in the common
work of Masonry, nor shall Freemasons work with those who are not free,
without an urgent necessity." And this would seem to indicate a higher
estimation by the fraternity of their own character, which might be
derived from their greater attainments in knowledge. That in those days
the ordinary operative masons could neither read nor write, is a fact
established by history. But it does not follow that the Freemasons, who
were a separate society of craftsmen, were in the same unhappy category;
it is even probable, that the fact that they were not so, but that they
were, in comparison with the unaccepted masons, educated men, may have
been the reason of the distinction made between these two classes of
But further, all the teachings of Freemasonry are delivered on the
assumption that the recipients are men of some education, with the means
of improving their minds and increasing their knowledge. Even the Entered
Apprentice is reminded, by the rough and perfect ashlars, of the
importance and necessity of a virtuous education, in fitting him for the
discharge of his duties. To the Fellow Craft, the study of the liberal
arts and sciences is earnestly recommended; and indeed, that sacred
hieroglyphic, the knowledge of whose occult signification constitutes the
most solemn part of his instruction, presupposes an acquaintance at least
with the art of reading. And the Master Mason is expressly told in the
explanation of the forty-seventh problem of Euclid, as one of the symbols
of the third degree, that it was introduced into Masonry to teach the
Brethren the value of the arts and sciences, and that the Mason, like the
discoverer of the problem, our ancient Brother Pythagoras, should be a
diligent cultivator of learning. Our lectures, too, abound in allusions
which none but a person of some cultivation of mind could understand or
appreciate, and to address them, or any portion of our charges which refer
to the improvement of the intellect and the augmentation of knowledge, to
persons who can neither read nor write, would be, it seems to us, a
mockery unworthy of the sacred character of our institution.
From these facts and this method of reasoning, I deduce the conclusion
that the framers of Masonry, in its present organization as a speculative
institution, must have intended to admit none into its fraternity whose
minds had not received some preliminary cultivation, and I am, therefore,
clearly of opinion, that a person who cannot read and write is not legally
qualified for admission.
As to the inexpediency of receiving such candidates, there can be no
question or doubt. If Masonry be, as its disciples claim for it, a
scientific institution, whose great object is to improve the understanding
and to enlarge and adorn the mind, whose character cannot be appreciated,
and whose lessons of symbolic wisdom cannot be acquired, without much
studious application, how preposterous would it be to place, among its
disciples, one who had lived to adult years, without having known the
necessity or felt the ambition for a knowledge of the alphabet of his
mother tongue? Such a man could make no advancement in the art of Masonry;
and while he would confer no substantial advantage on the institution, he
would, by his manifest incapacity and ignorance, detract, in the eyes of
strangers, from its honor and dignity as an intellectual society.
Idiots and madmen are excluded from admission into the Order, for the
evident reason that the former from an absence, and the latter from a
perversion of the intellectual faculties, are incapable of comprehending
the objects, or of assuming the responsibilities and obligations of the
A question here suggests itself whether a person of present sound mind,
but who had formerly been deranged, can legally be initiated. The answer
to this question turns on the fact of his having perfectly recovered. If
the present sanity of the applicant is merely a lucid interval, which
physicians know to be sometimes vouched to lunatics, with the absolute
certainty, or at best, the strong probability, of an eventual return to a
state of mental derangement, he is not, of course, qualified for
initiation. But if there has been a real and durable recovery (of which a
physician will be a competent judge), then there can be no possible
objection to his admission, if otherwise eligible. We are not to look to
what the candidate once was, but to what he now is.
Dotage, or the mental imbecility produced by excessive old age, is also a
disqualification for admission. Distinguished as it is by puerile desires
and pursuits, by a failure of the memory, a deficiency of the judgment,
and a general obliteration of the mental powers, its external signs are
easily appreciated, and furnish at once abundant reason why, like idiots
and madmen, the superannuated dotard is unfit to be the recipient of our
_Of the Political Qualifications of Candidates._
The Constitutions of Masonry require, as the only qualification referring
to the political condition of the candidate, or his position in society,
that he shall be _free-born_. The slave, or even the man born in
servitude--though he may, subsequently, have obtained his liberty--is
excluded by the ancient regulations from initiation. The non-admission of
a slave seems to have been founded upon the best of reasons; because, as
Freemasonry involves a solemn contract, no one can legally bind himself to
its performance who is not a free agent and the master of his own actions.
That the restriction is extended to those who were originally in a servile
condition, but who may have since acquired their liberty, seems to depend
on the principle that birth, in a servile condition, is accompanied by a
degradation of mind and abasement of spirit, which no subsequent
disenthralment can so completely efface as to render the party qualified
to perform his duties, as a Mason, with that "freedom, fervency, and
zeal," which are said to have distinguished our ancient Brethren.
"Children," says Oliver, "cannot inherit a free and noble spirit except
they be born of a free woman."
The same usage existed in the spurious Freemasonry or the Mysteries of the
ancient world. There, no slave, or men born in slavery, could be
initiated; because, the prerequisites imperatively demanded that the
candidate should not only be a man of irreproachable manners, but also a
free-born denizen of the country in which the mysteries were celebrated.
Some masonic writers have thought that, in this regulation in relation to
free birth, some allusion is intended, both in the Mysteries and in
Freemasonry, to the relative conditions and characters of Isaac and
Ishmael. The former--the accepted one, to whom the promise was given--was
the son of a free woman, and the latter, who was cast forth to have "his
hand against every man, and every man's hand against him," was the child
of a slave. Wherefore, we read that Sarah demanded of Abraham, "Cast out
this bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir
with my son." Dr. Oliver, in speaking of the grand festival with which
Abraham celebrated the weaning of Isaac, says, that he "had not paid the
same compliment at the weaning of Ishmael, because he was the son of a
bondwoman, and, consequently, could not be admitted to participate in the
Freemasonry of his father, which could only be conferred on free men born
of free women." The ancient Greeks were of the same opinion; for they used
the word [Greek: douloprepeia] or, "slave manners," to designate any very
great impropriety of manners.
The Grand Lodge of England extends this doctrine, that Masons should be
free in all their thoughts and actions, so far, that it will not permit
the initiation of a candidate who is only temporarily deprived of his
liberty, or even in a place of confinement. In the year 1782, the Master
of the Royal Military Lodge, at Woolwich, being confined, most probably
for debt, in the King's Bench prison, at London, the lodge, which was
itinerant in its character, and allowed to move from place to place with
its regiment, adjourned, with its warrant of constitution, to the Master
in prison, where several Masons were made. The Grand Lodge, being informed
of the circumstances, immediately summoned the Master and Wardens of the
lodge "to answer for their conduct in making Masons in the King's Bench
prison," and, at the same time, adopted a resolution, affirming that "it
is inconsistent with the principles of Freemasonry for any Freemason's
lodge to be held, for the purposes of making, passing, or raising Masons,
in any prison or place of confinement."
_Of the Petition of Candidates for Admission, and the Action thereon_.
The application of a candidate to a lodge, for initiation, is called a
"petition." This petition should always be in writing, and generally
contains a statement of the petitioner's age, occupation, and place of
residence, and a declaration of the motives which have prompted the
application, which ought to be "a favorable opinion conceived of the
institution and a desire of knowledge." This petition must be
recommended by at least two members of the lodge.
The petition must be read at a stated or regular communication of the
lodge, and referred to a committee of three members for an investigation
of the qualifications and character of the candidate. The committee having
made the necessary inquiries, will report the result at the next regular
communication and not sooner.
The authority for this deliberate mode of proceeding is to be found in the
fifth of the 39 General Regulations, which is in these words:
"No man can be made or admitted a member of a particular lodge, without
previous notice one month before given to the said lodge, in order to make
due inquiry into the reputation and capacity of the candidate; unless by
The last clause in this article provides for the only way in which this
probation of a month can be avoided, and that is when the Grand Master,
for reasons satisfactory to himself, being such as will constitute what is
called (sometimes improperly) a case of emergency, shall issue a
dispensation permitting the lodge to proceed forthwith to the election.
But where this dispensation has not been issued, the committee should
proceed diligently and faithfully to the discharge of their responsible
duty. They must inquire into the moral, physical, intellectual and
political qualifications of the candidate, and make their report in
accordance with the result of their investigations.
The report cannot be made at a special communication, but must always be
presented at a regular one. The necessity of such a rule is obvious. As
the Master can at any time within his discretion convene a special meeting
of his lodge, it is evident that a presiding officer, if actuated by an
improper desire to intrude an unworthy and unpopular applicant upon the
craft, might easily avail himself for that purpose of an occasion when the
lodge being called for some other purpose, the attendance of the members
was small, and causing a ballot to be taken, succeed in electing a
candidate, who would, at a regular meeting, have been blackballed by some
of those who were absent from the special communication.
This regulation is promulgated by the Grand Lodge of England, in the
following words: "No person shall be made a Mason without a regular
proposition at one lodge and a ballot at the next regular stated lodge;"
it appears to have been almost universally adopted in similar language by
the Grand Lodges of this country; and, if the exact words of the law are
wanting in any of the Constitutions, the general usage of the craft has
furnished an equivalent authority for the regulation.
If the report of the committee is unfavorable, the candidate should be
considered as rejected, without any reference to a ballot. This rule is
also founded in reason. If the committee, after a due inquiry into the
character of the applicant, find the result so disadvantageous to him as
to induce them to make an unfavorable report on his application, it is to
be presumed that on a ballot they would vote against his admission, and as
their votes alone would be sufficient to reject him, it is held
unnecessary to resort in such a case to the supererogatory ordeal of the
ballot. It would, indeed, be an anomalous proceeding, and one which would
reflect great discredit on the motives and conduct of a committee of
inquiry, were its members first to report against the reception of a
candidate, and then, immediately afterwards, to vote in favor of his
petition. The lodges will not suppose, for the honor of their committees,
that such a proceeding will take place, and accordingly the unfavorable
report of the committee is always to be considered as a rejection.
Another reason for this regulation seems to be this. The fifth General
Regulation declares that no Lodge should ever make a Mason without "due
inquiry" into his character, and as the duty of making this inquiry is
entrusted to a competent committee, when that committee has reported that
the applicant is unworthy to be made a Mason, it would certainly appear to
militate against the spirit, if not the letter, of the regulation, for the
lodge, notwithstanding this report, to enter into a ballot on the
But should the committee of investigation report favorably, the lodge will
then proceed to a ballot for the candidate; but, as this forms a separate
and important step in the process of "making Masons," I shall make it the
subject of a distinct section.
_Of Balloting for Candidates._
The Thirty-nine Regulations do not explicitly prescribe the ballot-box as
the proper mode of testing the opinion of the lodge on the merits of a
petition for initiation. The sixth regulation simply says that the consent
of the members is to be "formally asked by the Master; and they are to
signify their assent or dissent _in their own prudent way_ either
virtually or in form, but with unanimity." Almost universal usage has,
however, sanctioned the ballot box and the use of black and white balls as
the proper mode of obtaining the opinion of the members.
From the responsibility of expressing this opinion, and of admitting a
candidate into the fraternity or of repulsing him from it, no Mason is
permitted to shrink. In balloting on a petition, therefore, every member
of the Lodge is expected to vote; nor can he be excused from the discharge
of this important duty, except by the unanimous consent of his Brethren.
All the members must, therefore, come up to the performance of this trust
with firmness, candor, and a full determination to do what is right--to
allow no personal timidity to forbid the deposit of a black ball, if the
applicant is unworthy, and no illiberal prejudices to prevent the
deposition of a white one, if the character and qualifications of the
candidate are unobjectionable. And in all cases where a member himself has
no personal or acquired knowledge of these qualifications, he should rely
upon and be governed by the recommendation of his Brethren of the
Committee of Investigation, who he has no right to suppose would make a
favorable report on the petition of an unworthy applicant.
The great object of the ballot is, to secure the independence of the
voter; and, for this purpose, its secrecy should be inviolate. And this
secrecy of the ballot gives rise to a particular rule which necessarily
flows out of it.
No Mason can be called to an account for the vote which he has deposited.
The very secrecy of the ballot is intended to secure the independence and
irresponsibility to the lodge of the voter. And, although it is
undoubtedly a crime for a member to vote against the petition of an
applicant on account of private pique or personal prejudice, still the
lodge has no right to judge that such motives alone actuated him. The
motives of men, unless divulged by themselves, can be known only to God;
"and if," as Wayland says, "from any circumstances we are led to entertain
any doubts of the motives of men, we are bound to retain these doubts
within our own bosoms." Hence, no judicial notice can be or ought to be
taken by a lodge of a vote cast by a member, on the ground of his having
been influenced by improper motives, because it is impossible for the
lodge legally to arrive at the knowledge; in the first place, of the vote
that he has given, and secondly, of the motives by which he has been
And even if a member voluntarily should divulge the nature of his vote and
of his motives, it is still exceedingly questionable whether the lodge
should take any notice of the act, because by so doing the independence of
the ballot might be impaired. It is through a similar mode of reasoning
that the Constitution of the United States provides, that the members of
Congress shall not be questioned, in any other place, for any speech or
debate in either House. As in this way the freedom of debate is preserved
in legislative bodies, so in like manner should the freedom of the ballot
be insured in lodges.
The sixth General Regulation requires unanimity in the ballot. Its
language is: "but no man can be entered a Brother in any particular lodge,
or admitted to be a member thereof, without the _unanimous consent of all
the members of that lodge_ then present when the candidate is proposed."
This regulation, it will be remembered, was adopted in 1721. But in the
"New Regulations," adopted in 1754, and which are declared to have been
enacted "only for amending or explaining the Old Regulations for the good
of Masonry, without breaking in upon the ancient rules of the fraternity,
still preserving the old landmarks," it is said: "but it was found
inconvenient to insist upon unanimity in several cases; and, therefore,
the Grand Masters have allowed the lodges to admit a member, if not above
three black balls are against him; though some lodges desire no such
The Grand Lodge of England still acts under this new regulation, and
extends the number of black balls which will reject to three, though it
permits its subordinates, if they desire it, to require unanimity. But
nearly all the Grand Lodges of this country have adhered to the old
regulation, which is undoubtedly the better one, and by special enactment
have made the unanimous consent of all the Brethren present necessary to
the election of a candidate.
Another question here suggests itself. Can a member, who by the bye-laws
of his lodge is disqualified from the exercise of his other franchises as
a member, in consequence of being in arrears beyond a certain amount, be
prevented from depositing his ballot on the application of a candidate?
That by such a bye-law he may be disfranchised of his vote in electing
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