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[ Book Third of The Principles of Masonic Law is posted
Principles of Masonic Law-
The Law of Individuals
I. Of the Qualifications of
Section I. Of the Moral Qualifications of Candidates.
II. Of the Physical Qualifications of Candidates.
III. Of the
Intellectual Qualifications of Candidates
IV. Of the Political Qualifications
Section V. Of the
Petition of Candidates for Admission and the Action thereon.
VI. Of Balloting for Candidates
Section VII. Of the Reconsideration of the Ballot.
Section VIII. Of the Renewal of Applications by Rejected Candidates.
IX. Of the
Necessary Probation and Due Proficiency of Candidates before Advancement.
X. Of Balloting for
Candidates in each Degree
XI. The Number to be Initiated at
XII. Of Finishing the Candidates of one Lodge in another.
XIII. Of the Initiation of
II. Of the Rights of Entered Apprentices
III. Of the Rights of Fellow Crafts.
IV. Of the Rights of Master Masons.
I. Of the Rights of Membership.
Section II. Of the
Rights of Visit.
Section III. Of the Examination of Visitors.
Section IV. Of Vouching for
Section V. Of the
Right of Claiming Relief.
Section VI. Of the
Right of Masonic Burial.
V. Of the Rights of Past Masters.
VI. Of Affiliation.
VII. Of Demitting.
VIII. Of Unqualified Masons.
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 privileges.
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 axioms.
Morally, the candidate must be a man of irreproachable
conduct, a believer in the existence of God and living "under the tongue
of good report."
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 hereditary
The lodge which strictly demands these qualifications
of its candidates may have fewer members than one less strict, but it will
undoubtedly have better ones. But the importance of the subject demands for
each class of the qualifications a separate section and a more extended
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 good report."
Section II.-- 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
Preston, p. 163, note (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 135)]
In Prussia, the candidate is required to be twenty-five, in England,
twenty-one, [Such is the provision in the modern constitutions of
England, but the 4th of the 39 Regulations required the candidate to be at least
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 of
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."[
See these regulations in Preston, p. 162, Oliver's ed. (U.M.L., vol. iii., p.
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 regulation, "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."[Oliver's
Preston, p. 72, (U.M.L., vol. iii,
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."
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."
I., Introd., § 2]
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, [In
an able report on this subject, in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Georgia
for 1852. In accordance with the views there expressed, Bro. Rockwell decided
officially, as District Deputy Grand Master, in 1851, that a man who had lost
one eye was not admissible] "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 have." [Potter,
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
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
In Pennsylvania it was declared, in 1783, that
candidates are not to be "deformed or dismembered at the time of their
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 their making." [Page
18. In December, 1851, the Committee of Correspondence of North Carolina,
unregardful of the rigid rule of their predecessors, decided that maimed
candidates might be initiated, "provided their loss or infirmity will
not prevent them from making full proficiency in Masonry."]
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." [Proceedings of the G.L. of Mo. for 1823, p. 5. The
report and resolution were on the petitions of two candidates to be initiated,
one with only one arm and the other much deformed in his legs]
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 [When the
spirit of expediency once begins, we know not where it will stop. Thus a blind
man has been initiated in Mississippi and a one-armed one in Kentucky; and in
France a few years since, the degrees were conferred by sign-language on a deaf
mute]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.[ Namely, the incorrectly presumed operative origin of
the Order. The whole of this report, which is from the venerable Giles F. Yates,
contains an able and unanswerable defense of the ancient law in opposition to
any qualification] 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 veil' 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 Free
Masonic 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.) [See
proceedings of New York, 1848, pp. 36, 37]
"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
"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.
III.--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, they say,
"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 mystic
IV.--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
"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
V.--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."[
Such is the formula prescribed by the Constitutions of England as well as all
the Monitors in this country] 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 petition.
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.
VI.-- 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.[ . See Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry, 3d Edit., art, Ballot.]
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 controlled.
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 allowance."[
Book of Constitutions. Edit. 1755, p. 312]
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 officers, or of the right to hold office, will be freely admitted. But
the words of the old regulation seem expressly and without equivocation, to
require that every member present shall vote. The candidate shall only be
admitted "by the unanimous consent of all the members of that lodge then
present when the candidate is proposed." This right of the members to
elect or reject their candidates is subsequently called "an inherent
privilege," which is not subject to a dispensation. The words are
explicit and the right appears to be one guaranteed to every member so long as
he continues a member and of which no bye-law can divest him as long as the
paramount authority of the Thirty-nine General Regulations is admitted. I should
say, then, that every member of a lodge present at balloting for a candidate has
a right to deposit his vote, and not only a right, but a duty which he is to be
compelled to perform, since, without the unanimous consent of all present, there
can be no election.
Our written laws are altogether silent as to the
peculiar ceremonies, which are to accompany the act of balloting, which has
therefore been generally directed by the local usage of different jurisdictions.
Uniformity, however, in this, as in all other ritual observances, is to be
commended and I shall accordingly here describe the method which I have myself
preferred and practiced in balloting for candidates and which is the custom
adopted in the jurisdiction of South Carolina.[
See Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry, 3d Edit., art. Ballot]
The committee of investigation having reported
favorably, the Master of the lodge directs the Senior Deacon to prepare the
ballot box. The mode in which this is accomplished is as follows:—The Senior
Deacon takes the ballot box and, opening it, places all the white and black
balls indiscriminately in one compartment, leaving the other entirely empty. He
then proceeds with the box to the Junior and Senior Wardens, who satisfy
themselves by an inspection that no ball has been left in the compartment in
which the votes are to be deposited. I remark here, in passing, that the box, in
this and the other instance to be referred to hereafter, is presented to the
inferior officer first and then to his superior, that the examination and
decision of the former may be substantiated and confirmed by the higher
authority of the latter. Let it, indeed, be remembered, that in all such cases
the usage of Masonic circumambulation is to be observed and that, therefore, we
must first pass the Junior's station before we can get to that of the Senior
These officers having thus satisfied themselves that
the box is in a proper condition for the reception of the ballots, it is then
placed upon the altar by the Senior Deacon, who retires to his seat.
The Master then directs the Secretary to call the roll, which is done by
commencing with the Worshipful Master and proceeding through all the officers
down to the youngest member. As a matter of convenience, the Secretary generally
votes the last of those in the room and then, if the Tiler is a member of the
lodge, he is called in, while the Junior Deacon tiles for him and the name of
the applicant having been told him, he is directed to deposit his ballot, which
he does and then retires.
As the name of each officer and member is called he
approaches the altar and having made the proper Masonic salutation to the Chair,
he deposits his ballot and retires to his seat.
The roll should be called slowly, so that at no time should there be more than
one person present at the box, for, the great object of the ballot being
secrecy, no Brother should be permitted so near the member voting as to
distinguish the color of the ball he deposits.
The box is placed on the altar and the ballot is
deposited with the solemnity of a Masonic salutation, that the voters may be
duly impressed with the sacred and responsible nature of the duty they are
called on to discharge. The system of voting thus described, is, therefore, far better on this
account than the one sometimes adopted in lodges, of handing round the box for
the members to deposit their ballots from their seats
The Master having inquired of the Wardens if all have
voted, then orders the Senior Deacon to "take charge of the ballot
box." That officer accordingly repairs to the altar and taking possession
of the box, carries it, as before, to the Junior Warden, who examines the ballot
and reports, if all the balls are white, that "the box is clear in the
South," or, if there is one or more black balls, that "the box is foul
in the South." The Deacon then carries it to the Senior Warden and
afterwards to the Master, who, of course, make the same report, according to the
circumstances, with the necessary verbal variation of "West" and
"East." If the box is clear—that is, if all the ballots are
white—the Master then announces that the applicant has been duly elected and
the Secretary makes a record of the fact.
But if the box is declared to be foul, the Master
inspects the number of black balls, if he finds two, he declares the candidate
to be rejected, if only one, he so states the fact to the lodge and orders the
Senior Deacon again to prepare the ballot box and a second ballot is taken in
the same way. This is done lest a black ball might have been inadvertently voted
on the first ballot. If, on the second scrutiny, one black ball is again found,
the fact is announced by the Master, who orders the election to lie over until
the next stated meeting and requests the Brother who deposited the black ball to
call upon him and state his reasons. At the next stated meeting the Master
announces these reasons to the lodge, if any have been made known to him,
concealing, of course, the name of the objecting Brother. At this time the
validity or truth of the objections may be discussed and the friends of the
applicant will have an opportunity of offering any defense or explanation. The
ballot is then taken a third time and the result, whatever it may be, is final.
As I have already observed, in most of the lodges of this country, a
reappearance of the one black ball will amount to a rejection. In those lodges,
which do not require unanimity, it will, of course, be necessary that the
requisite number of black balls must be deposited on this third ballot to insure
a rejection. But if, on inspection, the box is found to be "clear," or
without a black ball, the candidate is, of course, declared to be elected. In
any case, the result of the third ballot is final, nor can it be set aside or
reversed by the action of the Grand Master or Grand Lodge, because, by the sixth
General Regulation, already so frequently cited, the members of every particular
lodge are the best judges of the qualifications of their candidates, and, to use
the language of the Regulation, "if a fractious member should be imposed on
them, it might spoil their harmony, or hinder their freedom, or even break and
disperse the lodge."
VII.--Of the Reconsideration of the Ballot.
There are, unfortunately, some men in our Order,
governed, not by essentially bad motives, but by frail judgments and by total
ignorance of the true object and design of Freemasonry, who never, under any
circumstances, have recourse to the black ball, that great bulwark of Masonry
and are always more or less incensed when any more judicious Brother exercises
his privilege of excluding those whom he thinks unworthy of participation in our
I have said, that these men are not governed by
motives essentially bad. This is the fact. They honestly desire the prosperity
of the institution and they would not willfully do one act ,which would impede
that prosperity. But their judgments are weak and their zeal is without
knowledge. They do not at all understand in what the true prosperity of the
Order consists, but really and conscientiously believing that its actual
strength will be promoted by the increase of the number of its disciples, they
look rather to the quantity than to the quality of the applicants who knock at
the doors of our lodges. Now a great difference in respect to the mode in which
the ballot is conducted, will be found in those lodges which are free from the
presence of such injudicious brethren and others into which they have gained
In a lodge in which every member has a correct notion
of the proper moral qualifications of the candidates for Masonry and where there
is a general disposition to work well with a few, rather than to work badly with
many, when a ballot is ordered, each Brother, having deposited his vote, quietly
and calmly waits to hear the decision of the ballot box announced by the Chair.
If it is "clear," all are pleased that another citizen has been found
worthy to receive a portion of the illuminating rays of Masonry. If it is
"foul," each one is satisfied with the adjudication and rejoices that,
although knowing nothing himself against the candidate, some one has been
present whom a more intimate acquaintance with the character of the applicant
has enabled to interpose his veto and prevent the purity of the Order from being
sullied by the admission of an unworthy candidate. Here the matter ends and the
lodge proceeds to other business.
But in a lodge where one of these injudicious and
over-zealous Brethren is present, how different is the scene. If the candidate
is elected, he, too, rejoices, but his joy is, that the lodge has gained one
more member whose annual dues and whose initiation fee will augment the amount
of its revenues. If he is rejected, he is indignant that the lodge has been
deprived of this pecuniary accession and forthwith he sets to work to reverse,
if possible, the decision of the ballot box and by a volunteer defense of the
rejected candidate and violent denunciations of those who opposed him, he seeks
to alarm the timid and disgust the intelligent, so that, on a reconsideration,
they may be induced to withdraw their opposition.
The motion for reconsideration is, then, the means
generally adopted, by such seekers after quantity, to insure the success of
their efforts to bring all into our fold who seek admission, irrespective of
worth or qualification. In other words, we may say, that the motion for
reconsideration is the great antagonist of the purity and security of the ballot
box. The importance, then, of the position, which it thus assumes, demands a
brief discussion of the time and mode in which a ballot may be reconsidered.
In the beginning of the discussion, it may be asserted,
that it is competent for any brother to move a reconsideration of a ballot, or
for a lodge to vote on such a motion. The ballot is a part of the work of
initiating a candidate. It is the preparatory step and is just as necessary to
his legal making as the obligation or the investiture. As such, then, it is
clearly entirely under the control of the Master. The Constitutions of Masonry
and the Rules and Regulations of every Grand and Subordinate lodge prescribe the
mode in which the ballot shall be conducted, so that the sense of the members
may be taken. The Grand Lodge also requires that the Master of the lodge shall
see that that exact mode of ballot shall be pursued and no other and it will
hold him responsible that there shall be no violation of the rule. If, then, the
Master is satisfied that the ballot has been regularly and correctly conducted
and that no possible good, but some probable evil, would arise from its
reconsideration, it is not only competent for him, but it is his solemn duty to
refuse to permit any such reconsideration. A motion to that effect, it may be
observed, will always be out of order, although any Brother may respectfully
request the Worshipful Master to order such a reconsideration, or suggest to him
its propriety or expediency.
If, however, the Master is not satisfied that the
ballot is a true indication of the sense of the lodge, he may, in his own
discretion, order a reconsideration. Thus there may be but one black ball, now a
single black ball may sometimes be inadvertently cast, the member voting it may
have been favorably disposed towards the candidate and yet, from the hurry and
confusion of voting, or from the dimness of the light or the infirmity of his
own eyes, or from some other equally natural cause, he may have selected a black
ball, when he intended to have taken a white one. It is, therefore, a matter of
prudence and necessary caution, that, when only one black ball appears, the
Master should order a new ballot. On this second ballot, it is to be presumed
that more care and vigilance will be used and the reappearance of the black ball
will then show that it was deposited designedly.
But where two or three or more black balls appear on
the first ballot, such a course of reasoning is not authorized and the Master
will then be right to refuse a reconsideration. The ballot has then been
regularly taken—the lodge has emphatically decided for a rejection and any
order to renew the ballot would only be an insult to those who opposed the
admission of the applicant and an indirect attempt to thrust an unwelcome
intruder upon the lodge.
But although it is in the power
of the Master, under the circumstances which we have described, to order a
reconsideration, yet this prerogative is accompanied with certain restrictions,
which it may be well to notice.
In the first place, the Master
cannot order a reconsideration on any other night than that on which the
original ballot was taken.[ Except when there is but one black ball, in which case the matter lies
over until the next stated meeting. See preceding Section] After the
lodge is closed, the decision of the ballot is final and there is no human
authority that can reverse it. The reason of this rule is evident. If it were
otherwise, an unworthy Master (for, unfortunately, all Masters are not worthy)
might on any subsequent evening avail himself of the absence of those who had
voted black balls, to order a reconsideration and thus succeed in introducing an
unfit and rejected candidate into the lodge, contrary to the wishes of a portion
of its members.
Neither can he order a reconsideration on the same
night, if any of the Brethren who voted have retired. All who expressed their
opinion on the first ballot, must be present to express it on the second. The
reasons for this restriction are as evident as for the former and are of the
It must be understood, that I do not here refer to
those reconsiderations of the ballot which are necessary to a full understanding
of the opinion of the lodge and which have been detailed in the ceremonial of
the mode of balloting, as it was described in the preceding Section.
It may be asked whether the Grand Master cannot, by
his dispensations, permit a reconsideration. I answer emphatically, NO. The
Grand Master possesses no such prerogative. There is no law in the whole
jurisprudence of the institution clearer than this, that neither the Grand Lodge
nor the Grand Master can interfere with the decision of the ballot box. In
Anderson's Constitutions, the law is laid down, under the head of "Duty of
Members" (edition of 1755, p. 312), that in the election of candidates the
Brethren "are to give their consent in their own prudent way, either
virtually or in form, but with unanimity." And the regulation goes on to
say: "Nor is this inherent privilege subject to a dispensation, because the
members of a 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 communications, or even break and disperse the lodge." This
settles the question. A dispensation to reconsider a ballot would be an
interference with the right of the members "to give their consent in their
own prudent way," it would be an infringement of an "inherent
privilege," and neither the Grand Lodge nor the Grand Master can issue a
dispensation for such a purpose. Every lodge must be left to manage its own
elections of candidates in its own prudent way.
I conclude this section by a summary of the principles
which have been discussed and which I have endeavored to enforce by a process of
reasoning which I trust may be deemed sufficiently convincing. They are briefly
1. It is never in order for a member to move for the
reconsideration of a ballot on the petition of a candidate for initiation, nor
for a lodge to entertain such a motion.
2. The Master alone can, for reasons satisfactory to
himself, order such a reconsideration.
3. The Master cannot order a reconsideration on any
subsequent night, nor on the same night, after any member, who was present and
voted, has departed.
4. The Grand Master cannot grant a dispensation for a
reconsideration, nor in any other way interfere with the ballot. The same
restriction applies to the Grand Lodge.
VIII.--Of the Renewal of Applications by Rejected Candidates.
As it is apparent from the last section that there
can be no reconsideration by a lodge of a rejected petition, the question will
naturally arise, how an error committed by a lodge, in the rejection of a worthy
applicant, is to be corrected, or how such a candidate, when once rejected, is
ever to make a second trial, for it is, of course, admitted, that circumstances
may occur in which a candidate who had been once blackballed might, on a renewal
of his petition, be found worthy of admission. He may have since reformed and
abandoned the vicious habits, which caused his first rejection, or it may have
been since discovered that that rejection was unjust. How, then, is such a
candidate to make a new application?
It is a rule of universal application in Masonry,
that no candidate, having been once rejected, can apply to any other lodge for
admission, except to the one, which rejected him. Under this regulation the
course of a second application is as follows.
Some Grand Lodges have prescribed that, when a candidate has been
rejected, it shall not be competent for him to apply within a year, six months,
or some other definite period. This is altogether a local regulation, there
is no such law in the Ancient Constitutions and therefore, where the regulations
of the Grand Lodge of the jurisdiction are silent upon the subject, general
principles direct the following as the proper course for a rejected candidate to
pursue on a second application. He must send in a new letter, recommended
and vouched for as before, either by the same or other Brethren—it must be
again referred to a committee—lie over for a month—and the ballot be then
taken as is usual in other cases. It must be treated in all respects as an
entirely new petition, altogether irrespective of the fact that the same
person had ever before made an application. In this way due notice will be given
to the Brethren and all possibility of an unfair election will be avoided.
If the local regulations are silent upon the subject,
the second application may be made at any time after the rejection of the first,
all that is necessary being, that the second application should pass through the
same ordeal and be governed by the same rules that prevail in relation to an
IX.-- Of the Necessary Probation and Due Proficiency of Candidates before
There is, perhaps, no part of the jurisprudence of
Masonry, which it is more necessary strictly to observe than that which relates
to the advancement of candidates through the several degrees. The method which
is adopted in passing Apprentices and raising Fellow Crafts, the probation which
they are required to serve in each degree before advancing to a higher and the
instructions which they receive in their progress, often materially affect the
estimation which is entertained of the institution by its initiates. The
candidate who long remains at the porch of the temple and lingers in the middle
chamber, noting everything worthy of observation in his passage to the holy of
holies, while he better understands the nature of the profession upon which he
has entered, will have a more exalted opinion of its beauties and excellencies
than he who has advanced, with all the rapidity that dispensations can furnish,
from the lowest to the highest grades of the Order. In the former case, the
design, the symbolism, the history and the moral and philosophical bearing of
each degree will be indelibly impressed upon the mind and the appositeness of
what has gone before to what is to succeed will be readily appreciated, but, in
the latter, the lessons of one hour will be obliterated by those of the
succeeding one, that which has been learned in one degree, will be forgotten in
the next, and when all is completed and the last instructions have been
imparted, the dissatisfied neophyte will find his mind, in all that relates to
Masonry, in a state of chaotic confusion. Like Cassio, he will remember
"a mass of things, but nothing distinctly."
An hundred years ago it was said that "Masonry was
a progressive science and not to be attained in any degree of perfection, but by
time, patience and a considerable degree of application and industry."
[ Masonry founded on Scripture, a Sermon preached in
1752, by the Rev. W. Williams] And it is because that due proportion of time,
patience and application, has not been observed, that we so often see Masons
indifferent to the claims of the institution and totally unable to discern its
true character. The arcana of the craft, as Dr. Harris remarks, should be
gradually imparted to its members, according to their improvement.
There is no regulation of our Order more frequently
repeated in our constitutions, nor one which should be more rigidly observed,
than that which requires of every candidate a "suitable proficiency"
in one degree, before he is permitted to pass to another. But as this regulation
is too often neglected, to the manifest injury of the whole Order, as well as of
the particular lodge which violates it, by the introduction of ignorant and
unskillful workmen into the temple,
it may be worth the labor we shall spend upon the subject, to investigate some
of the authorities which support us in the declaration, that no candidate should
be promoted, until, by a due probation, he has made "suitable proficiency
in the preceding degree."
In one of the earliest series of regulations that
have been preserved, made in the reign of Edward III., it was ordained, "that
such as were to be admitted Master Masons, or Masters of work, should be
examined whether they be able of cunning to serve their respective Lords, as
well the lowest as the highest, to the honor and worship of the aforesaid art
and to the profit of their Lords."
Here, then, we may see the origin of that usage,
which is still practiced in every well governed lodge, not only of demanding a
proper degree of proficiency in the candidate, but also of testing that
proficiency by an examination.
This cautious and honest fear of the fraternity, lest
any Brother should assume the duties of a position which he could not faithfully
discharge and which is, in our time, tantamount to a candidate's advancing to a
degree for which he is not prepared, is again exhibited in the charges enacted
in the reign of James II., the manuscript of which was preserved in the
archives of the Lodge of Antiquity in London. In these charges it is
required, "that no Mason take on no lord's worke, nor any other man's,
unless he know himselfe well able to perform the worke, so that the craft have
no slander." In the same charges, it is prescribed that "no master, or
fellow, shall take no apprentice for less than seven years."
In another series of charges, whose exact date is not
ascertained, but whose language and orthography indicate their antiquity, it is
said: "Ye shall ordain the wisest to be Master of the work, and neither for
love nor lineage, riches nor favor, set one over the work, who hath but little
knowledge, whereby the Master would be evil served and ye ashamed." [
That is, advance him, from the subordinate position of a serving man or
Apprentice, to that of a Fellow Craft or journeyman.]
These charges clearly show the great stress that was placed by our
ancient Brethren upon the necessity of skill and proficiency and they have
furnished the precedents upon which are based all the similar regulations that
have been subsequently applied to Speculative Masonry.
In the year 1722, the Grand Lodge of England ordered
the "Old Charges of the Free and Accepted Masons" to be collected from
the ancient records and, having approved of them, they became a part of the
Constitutions of Speculative Freemasonry. In these Charges, it is ordained
that "a younger Brother shall be instructed in working, to prevent spoiling
the materials for want of judgment and for increasing and continuing of
Subsequently, in 1767, it was
declared by the Grand Lodge, that "no lodge shall be permitted to make and
raise the same Brother, at one and the same meeting, without a dispensation from
the Grand Master, or his Deputy," and lest too frequent advantage should be
taken of this power of dispensation, to hurry candidates through the degrees, it
is added that the dispensation, "on very particular occasions only, may be
The Grand Lodge of England
afterwards found it necessary to be more explicit on this subject and the
regulation of that body is now contained in the following language,
"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 is also the regulation of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina.]
This seems to be the recognized principle on which
the fraternity are, at this day, acting in this country. The rule is, perhaps,
sometimes and in some places, in abeyance. A few lodges, from an impolitic
desire to increase their numerical strength, or rapidly to advance men of
worldly wealth or influence to high stations in the Order, may infringe it and
neglect to demand of their candidates that suitable proficiency which ought to
be, in Masonry, an essential recommendation to promotion, but the great doctrine
that each degree should be well studied and the candidate prove his proficiency
in it by an examination, has been uniformly set forth by the Grand Lodge of the
United States, whenever they have expressed an opinion on the subject.
Thus, for instance,
in 1845, the late Bro. A.A. Robertson, Grand Master of New York, gave
utterance to the following opinion, in his annual address to the intelligent
body over which he presided, "The
practice of examining candidates in the prior degrees, before admission to the
higher, in order to ascertain their proficiency, is gaining the favorable notice
of Masters of lodges and cannot be too highly valued, nor too strongly
recommended to all lodges in this jurisdiction. It necessarily requires the
novitiate to reflect upon the bearing of all that has been so far taught him and
consequently to impress upon his mind the beauty and utility of those sublime
truths, which have been illustrated in the course of the ceremonies he has
witnessed in his progress in the mystic art. In a word, it will be the means of
making competent overseers of the work and no candidate should be advanced,
until he has satisfied the lodge, by such examination, that he has made the
necessary proficiency in the lower degrees."
[Proceedings of Grand Lodge of New York, for 1845. He
excepts, of course, from the operation of the rule, those made by dispensation;
but this exception does not affect the strength of the principle.]
In 1845, the Grand Lodge of Iowa issued a circular
to her subordinates, in which she gave the following admonition, "To
guard against hasty and improper work, she prohibits a candidate from being
advanced till he has made satisfactory proficiency in the preceding degrees, by
informing himself of the lectures pertaining thereto, and to suffer a candidate
to proceed who is ignorant in this essential particular, is calculated in a high
degree to injure the institution and retard its usefulness."
The Grand Lodge of Illinois has practically declared
its adhesion to the ancient regulation, for, in the year 1843, the
dispensation of Nauvoo Lodge, one of its subordinates, was revoked principally
on the ground that she was guilty "of pushing the candidate through the
second and third degrees, before he could possibly be skilled in the preceding
degree." And the committee who recommended the revocation, very justly
remarked that they were not sure that any length of probation would in all cases
insure skill, but they were certain that the ancient landmarks of the Order
required that the lodge should know that the candidate is well skilled in one
degree before being admitted to another.
The Grand Lodges of Massachusetts and South Carolina
have adopted, almost in the precise words, the regulation of the Grand Lodge of
England, already cited, which requires an interval of one month to elapse
between the conferring of degrees. The Grand Lodge of New Hampshire requires a
greater probation for its candidates, its constitution prescribes the
following regulation, "All Entered Apprentices must work five months as
such, before they can be admitted to the degree of Fellow Craft. All Fellow
Crafts must work in a lodge of Fellow Crafts three months, before they can be
raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. Provided, nevertheless, that if
any Entered Apprentice, or Fellow Craft, shall make himself thoroughly
acquainted with all the information belonging to his degree, he may be advanced
at an earlier period, at the discretion of the lodge."
But, perhaps, the most stringent rule upon this
subject, is that which exists in the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of
Hanover, which is in the following words,
"No Brother can be elected an officer of a lodge until he has
been three years a Master Mason. A Fellow Craft must work at least one year in
that degree, before he can be admitted to the third degree. An Entered
Apprentice must remain at least two years in that degree."
It seems unnecessary to extend these citations. The
existence of the regulation, which requires a necessary probation in candidates,
until due proficiency is obtained, is universally admitted. The ancient
constitutions repeatedly assert it and it has received the subsequent sanction
of innumerable Masonic authorities. But, unfortunately, the practice is not
always in accordance with the rule. And, hence, the object of this article is
not so much to demonstrate the existence of the law, as to urge upon our readers
the necessity of a strict adherence to it. There is no greater injury, which
can be inflicted on the Masonic Order (the admission of immoral persons
excepted), than that of hurrying candidates through the several degrees.
Injustice is done to the institution, whose peculiar principles and excellencies
are never properly presented and irreparable injury to the candidate, who,
acquiring no fair appreciation of the ceremonies through which he rapidly
passes, or of the instructions which he scarcely hears, is filled either with an
indifference that never afterwards can be warmed into zeal, or with a disgust
that can never be changed into esteem. Masonry is betrayed in such an
instance by its friends and often loses the influence of an intelligent member,
who, if he had been properly instructed, might have become one of its warmest
and most steadfast advocates.
This subject is so
important, that I will not hesitate to add to the influence of these opinions
the great sanction of Preston's authority. "Many persons,"
says that able philosopher of Masonry, "are deluded by the vague
supposition that our mysteries are merely nominal, that the practices
established among us are frivolous and that our ceremonies may be adopted, or
waived at pleasure. On this false foundation, we find them hurrying through all
the degrees of the Order, without adverting to the propriety of one step they
pursue, or possessing a single qualification requisite for advancement. Passing
through the usual formalities, they consider themselves entitled to rank as
masters of the art, solicit and accept offices and assume the government of the
lodge, equally unacquainted with the rules of the institution they pretend to
support, or the nature of the trust they engage to perform. The consequence is
obvious, anarchy and confusion ensue and the substance is lost in the shadow.
Hence, men eminent for ability, rank and fortune, are often led to view the
honors of Masonry with such indifference, that when their patronage is
solicited, they either accept offices with reluctance, or reject them with
disdain." [Proceedings of Grand Lodge of New York, for 1845. He
excepts, of course, from the operation of the rule, those made by dispensation;
but this exception does not affect the strength of the principle.]
Let, then, no lodge which values its own usefulness, or
the character of our institution, admit any candidate to a higher degree, until
he has made suitable proficiency in the preceding one, to be always tested by a
strict examination in open lodge. Nor can it do so, without a palpable violation
of the laws of Masonry.
X.--Of Balloting for Candidates in each Degree.
Although there is no law, in the Ancient
Constitutions, which in express words requires a ballot for candidates in each
degree, yet the whole tenor and spirit of these constitutions seem to indicate
that there should be recourse to such a ballot.
The constant reference, in the numerous passages, which were cited in the
preceding Section, to the necessity of an examination into the proficiency of
those who sought advancement, would necessarily appear to imply that a vote of
the lodge must be taken on the question of this proficiency. Accordingly,
modern Grand Lodges have generally, by special enactment, required a ballot to
be taken on the application of an Apprentice or Fellow Craft for advancement and
where no such regulation has been explicitly laid down, the almost constant
usage of the craft has been in favor of such ballot.
The Ancient Constitutions having been silent on the
subject of the letter of the law, local usage or regulations must necessarily
supply the specific rule.
Where not otherwise provided by the Constitutions of
a Grand Lodge or the bye-laws of a subordinate lodge, analogy would instruct us
that the ballot, on the application of Apprentices or Fellow Crafts for
advancement, should be governed by the same principles that regulate the ballot
on petitions for initiation.
Of course, then, the vote should be unanimous: for I
see no reason why a lodge of Fellow Crafts should be less guarded in its
admission of Apprentices, than a lodge of Apprentices is in its admission of
Again, the ballot should take place at a stated
meeting, so that every member may have "due and timely notice," and be
prepared to exercise his "inherent privilege" of granting or
withholding his consent, for it must be remembered that the man who was worthy
or supposed to be so, when initiated as an Entered Apprentice, may prove to be
unworthy when he applies to pass as a Fellow Craft and every member should,
therefore, have the means and opportunity of passing his judgment on that
worthiness or unworthiness.
If the candidate for advancement has been rejected
once, he may again apply, if there is no local regulation to the contrary. But,
in such a case, due notice should be given to all the members, which is best
done by making the application at one regular meeting and voting for it on the
next. This, however, I suppose to be only necessary in the case of a renewed
application after a rejection. An Entered Apprentice or a Fellow Craft is
entitled after due probation to make his application for advancement, and his
first application may be balloted for on the same evening, provided it be a
regular meeting of the lodge. The members are supposed to know what work is
before them to do and should be there to do it.
But the case is otherwise whenever a candidate for
advancement has been rejected. He has now been set aside by the lodge and no
time is laid down in the regulations or usages of the craft for his making a
second application. He may never do so, or he may in three months, in a year, or
in five years. The members are, therefore, no more prepared to expect this
renewed application at any particular meeting of the lodge, than they are to
anticipate any entirely new petition of a profane. If, therefore, the second
application is not made at one regular meeting and laid over to the next, the
possibility is that the lodge may be taken by surprise and in the words of the
old Regulation, "a turbulent member may be imposed on it."
The inexpediency of any other course may be readily
seen, from a suppositions case. We will assume that in a certain lodge, A, who
is a Fellow Craft, applies regularly for advancement to the third degree. On
this occasion, for good and sufficient reasons, two of the members, B and C,
express their dissent by depositing black balls. His application to be raised is
consequently rejected and he remains a Fellow Graft. Two or three meetings of
the lodge pass over and at each, B and C are present, but, at the fourth
meeting, circumstances compel their absence and the friends of A, taking
advantage of that occurrence, again propose him for advancement, the ballot is
forthwith taken and he is elected and raised on the same evening. The injustice
of this course to B and C and the evil to the lodge and the whole fraternity, in
this imposition of one who is probably an unworthy person, will be apparent to
every intelligent and right-minded Mason.
I do not, however, believe that a candidate should be
rejected, on his application for advancement, in consequence of objections to
his moral worth and character. In such a case, the proper course would be to
prefer charges, to try him as an Apprentice or Fellow Craft, and, if found
guilty, to suspend, expel, or otherwise appropriately punish him. The applicant
as well as the Order is, in such a case, entitled to a fair trial. Want of
proficiency, or a mental or physical disqualification acquired since the
reception of the preceding degree, is alone a legitimate cause for an estoppal
of advancement by the ballot. But this subject will be treated of further in the
chapter on the rights of Entered Apprentices.
XI. --Of the Number to be Initiated at one Communication.
The fourth General Regulation decrees that "no
Lodge shall make more than five new Brothers at one time." This
regulation has been universally interpreted (and with great propriety) to
mean that not more than five degrees can be conferred at the same communication.
This regulation is, however, subject to dispensation
by the Grand Master, or Presiding Grand Officer, in which case the number to be
initiated, passed, or raised, will be restricted only by the words of the
The following, or fifth General Regulation, says that
"no man can be made or admitted a member of a particular lodge, without
previous notice, one month before, given to the same lodge."
Now, as a profane cannot be admitted an Entered
Apprentice, or in other words, a member of an Entered Apprentices' lodge, unless
after one month's notice, so it follows that an Apprentice cannot be admitted a
member of a Fellow Crafts' lodge, nor a Fellow Craft of a Masters', without the
like probation. For the words of the regulation which apply to one, will equally
apply to the others. And hence we derive the law, that a month at least must
always intervene between the reception of one degree and the advancement to
another. But this rule is also subject to a dispensation.
XI---Of Finishing the Candidates of one Lodge in another.
It is an ancient and universal regulation, that no
lodge shall interfere with the work of another by initiating its candidates, or
passing or raising its Apprentices and Fellow Crafts. Every lodge is supposed to
be competent to manage its own business and ought to be the best judge of the
qualifications of its own members and hence it would be highly improper in any
lodge to confer a degree on a Brother who is not of its household.
This regulation is derived from a provision in the
Ancient Charges, which have very properly been supposed to contain the
fundamental law of Masonry and which prescribes the principle of the rule in the
following symbolical language, "None
shall discover envy at the prosperity of a Brother, nor supplant him or put him
out of his work, if he be capable to finish the same, for no man can finish
another's work, so much to the Lord's profit, unless he be thoroughly acquainted
with the designs and draughts of him that began it."
There is, however, a case in which one lodge may, by
consent, legally finish the work of another. Let us suppose that a candidate has
been initiated in a lodge at A..and, before he receives his second degree,
removes to B…and that being, by the urgency of his business, unable either to
postpone his departure from A . ., until he has been passed and raised, or to
return for the purpose of his receiving his second and third degrees, then it is
competent for the lodge at A. .. to grant permission to the lodge at B. . to
confer them on the candidate.
But how shall this permission be given, by a
unanimous vote, or merely by a vote of the majority of the members at A. . .?
Here it seems to me that, so far as regards the lodge at A. ., the reasons for
unanimity no longer exist. There is here no danger that a "fractious member
will be imposed on them," as the candidate, when finished, will become a
member of the lodge at B. . . The question of consent is simply in the nature of
a resolution and may be determined by the assenting votes of a majority of the
members at A. . . It is, however, to be understood, that if any Brother believes
that the candidate is unworthy, from character, of further advancement, he may
suspend the question of consent, by preferring charges against him. If this is
not done and the consent of the lodge is obtained, that the candidate may apply
to the lodge at B. . , then when his petition is read in that lodge, it must, of
course, pass through the usual ordeal of a month's probation and a unanimous
vote, for here the old reasons for unanimity once more prevail. I know of no
ancient written law upon this subject, but it seems to me that the course I have
described is the only one that could be suggested by analogy and common sense.
XIII.-- Of the Initiation of Non-residents.
The subject of this section is naturally divided into
two branches. First, as to the initiation by a lodge of a candidate, who,
residing in the same State or Grand Lodge jurisdiction, is still not an
inhabitant of the town in which the lodge to which he applies is situated, but
resides nearer to some other lodge, and, secondly, as to the initiation of a
stranger, whose residence is in another State, or under the jurisdiction of
another Grand Lodge.
1. The first of these divisions presents a question,
which is easily answered. Although I can find no ancient regulation on this
subject, still, by the concurrent authority of all Grand Lodges in this country,
at least, (for the Grand Lodge of England has no such provision in its
Constitution,) every lodge is forbidden to initiate any person whose residence
is nearer to any other lodge. If, however, such an initiation should take
place, although the lodge would be censurable for its violation of the
regulations of its superior, yet there has never been any doubt that the
initiation would be good and the candidate so admitted regularly made. The
punishment must fall upon the lodge and not upon the newly-made Brother.
2. The second division presents a more embarrassing
inquiry, on account of the diversity of opinions which have been entertained on
the subject. Can a lodge in one State, or Grand Lodge jurisdiction, initiate the
resident of another State and would such initiation be lawful and the person so
initiated a regular Mason, or, to use the technical language of the Order, a
Mason made "in due form," and entitled to all the rights and
privileges of the Order?
The question is one of considerable difficulty, it
has given occasion to much controversy and has been warmly discussed within the
last few years by several of the Grand Lodges of the United States.
In 1847, the Grand Lodge of Alabama adopted
the following regulation, which had been previously enacted by the Grand
Lodge of Tennessee, "Any person residing within the jurisdiction of this
Grand Lodge, who has already, or shall hereafter, travel into any foreign
jurisdiction and there receive the degrees of Masonry, such person shall not be
entitled to the rights, benefits and privileges of Masonry within this
jurisdiction, until he shall have been regularly admitted a member of the
subordinate lodge under this Grand Lodge, nearest which he at the time resides,
in the manner provided by the Constitution of this Grand Lodge for the admission
The rule adopted by the Grand Lodge of Maryland is
still more stringent. It declares, "that if any individual, from
selfish motives, from distrust of his acceptance, or other causes originating in
himself, knowingly and willfully travel into another jurisdiction and there
receive the Masonic degrees, he shall be considered and held as a clandestine
The Grand Lodge of New York, especially, has opposed
these regulations, inflicting a penalty on the initiate and
assigns its reasons for the opposition in the following language,
"Before a man becomes a Mason, he is subject to no law which any
Grand Lodge can enact. No Grand Lodge has a right to make a law to compel any
citizen, who desires, to be initiated in a particular lodge, or in the town or
State of his residence, neither can any Grand Lodge forbid a citizen to go where
he pleases to seek acceptance into fellowship with the craft, and where there is
no right to compel or to forbid, there can be no right to punish, but it will be
observed, that the laws referred to were enacted to punish the citizens of
Maryland and Alabama, as Masons and Brethren, for doing something before they
were Masons and Brethren, which they had a perfect right to do as citizens and
freemen, and it must certainly be regarded as an act of deception and treachery
by a young Mason, on returning home, to be told, that he is 'a clandestine
Mason,' that he 'ought to be expelled,' or, that he cannot be recognized as a
Brother till he 'joins a lodge where his residence is,' because he was initiated
in New York, in England, or in France, after having heard all his life of the
universality and oneness of the institution." [Transactions
of the G.L. of New York, anno 1848, p. 73.]
It seems to us that the Grand Lodge of New York
has taken the proper view of the subject, although we confess that we are
not satisfied with the whole course of reasoning by which it has arrived at the
conclusion. Whatever we may be inclined to think of the inexpediency of making
transient persons (and we certainly do believe that it would be better that the
character and qualifications of every candidate should be submitted to the
inspection of his neighbors rather than to that of strangers), however much we
may condemn the carelessness and facility of a lodge which is thus willing to
initiate a stranger, without that due examination of his character, which, of
course, in the case of non-residents, can seldom be obtained, we are obliged
to admit that such makings are legal, the person thus made cannot be called a
clandestine Mason, because he has been made in a legally constituted lodge—and
as he is a regular Mason, we know of no principle by which he can be refused
admission as a visitor into any lodge to which he applies.
Masonry is universal in its character and knows no
distinction of nation or of religion. Although each state or kingdom has its
distinct Grand Lodge, this is simply for purposes of convenience in carrying out
the principles of uniformity and subordination, which should prevail throughout
the Masonic system. The jurisdiction of these bodies is entirely of a Masonic
character and is exercised only over the members of the Order, who have
voluntarily contracted their allegiance. It cannot affect the profane, who are,
of course, beyond its pale. It is true, that as soon as a candidate applies to a
lodge for initiation, he begins to come within the scope of Masonic law. He has
to submit to a prescribed formula of application and entrance, long before he
becomes a member of the Order. But as this formula is universal in its
operation, affecting candidates who are to receive it and lodges, which are to
enforce it in all places, it must have been derived from some universal
authority. The manner, therefore, in which a candidate is to be admitted and the
preliminary qualifications which are requisite, are prescribed by the landmarks,
the general usage and the ancient constitutions of the Order. And as they have
directed the mode how, they might also have prescribed the place where, a man
should be made a Mason. But they have done no such thing. We cannot, after
the most diligent search, find any constitutional regulation of the craft, which
refers to the initiation of non-residents. The subject has been left untouched,
and as the ancient and universally acknowledged authorities of Masonry have
neglected to legislate on the subject, it is now too late for any modern and
local authority, like that of a Grand Lodge, to do so.
A Grand Lodge may, it is true, forbid, as Missouri,
South Carolina, Georgia and several other Grand Lodges have done, the initiation
of non-residents, within its own jurisdiction, because this is a local law
enacted by a local authority, but it cannot travel beyond its own territory and
prescribe the same rule to another Grand Lodge, which may not, in fact, be
willing to adopt it.
The conclusions, then, at which we arrive no this
subject are these: The ancient constitutions have prescribed no regulation on
the subject of the initiation of non-residents, it is, therefore, optional with
every Grand Lodge, whether it will or will not suffer such candidates to be made
within its own jurisdiction, the making, where it is permitted, is legal and the
candidate so made becomes a regular Mason and is entitled to the right of
What, then, is the remedy, where a person of bad
character and having, in the language of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, "a
distrust of his acceptance" at home, goes abroad and receives the degrees
of Masonry? No one will deny that such a state of things is productive of great
evil to the craft. Fortunately, the remedy is simple and easily applied. Let
the lodge, into whose jurisdiction he has returned, exercise its power of
discipline and if his character and conduct deserve the punishment, let him be
expelled from the Order. If he is unworthy of remaining in the Order, he should
be removed from it at once, but if he is worthy of continuing in it, there
certainly can be no objection to his making use of his right to visit.
II.--Of the Rights of Entered Apprentices.
In an inquiry into the rights of Entered Apprentices, we
shall not be much assisted by the Ancient Constitutions, which, leaving the
subject in the position in which usage had established it, are silent in
relation to what is the rule. In all such cases, we must, as I have frequently
remarked before, in settling the law, have recourse to analogy, to the general
principles of equity and the dictates of common sense and, with these three as
our guides, we shall find but little difficulty in coming to a right conclusion.
At present, an Entered Apprentice is not considered a
member of the Lodge, which privilege is only extended to Master Masons.
This was not formerly the case. Then the Master's degree was not as
indiscriminately conferred as it is now. A longer probation and greater mental
or moral qualifications were required to entitle a candidate to this sublime
dignity. None were called Master Masons but such as had presided over their
Lodges and the office of Wardens was filled by Fellow Crafts. Entered
Apprentices, as well as Fellow Crafts, were permitted to attend the
communications of the Grand Lodge and express their opinions, and, in 1718, it
was enacted that every new regulation, proposed in the Grand Lodge, should be
submitted to the consideration of even the youngest Entered Apprentice. Brethren
of this degree composed, in fact, at that time, the great body of the craft.
But, all these things have, since, by the gradual improvement of our
organization, undergone many alterations, and Entered Apprentices seem
now, by universal consent, to be restricted to a very few rights. They have
the right of sitting in all lodges of their degree, of receiving all the
instructions which appertain to it, but not of speaking or voting and, lastly,
of offering themselves as candidates for advancement, without the preparatory
necessity of a formal written petition.
These being admitted to be the rights of an Entered
Apprentice, few and unimportant as they may be, they are as dear to him as those
of a Master Mason are to one who has been advanced to that degree, and he is and
ought to be, as firmly secured in their possession. Therefore, as no Mason can
be deprived of his rights and privileges, except after a fair and impartial
trial and the verdict of his peers, it is clear that the Entered Apprentice
cannot be divested of these rights without just such a trial and verdict.
But, in the next place, we are to inquire whether the
privilege of being passed as a Fellow Craft is to be enumerated among these
rights? And, we clearly answer, No. The Entered Apprentice has the right of
making the application. Herein he differs from a profane, who has no such right
of application until he has qualified himself for making it, by becoming an
Entered Apprentice. But, if the application is granted, it is ex gratia, or, by
the favour of the lodge, which may withhold it, if it pleases. If such were not
the case, the lodge would possess no free will on the subject of advancing
candidates, and the rule requiring a probation and an examination, before
passing, would be useless and absurd, because, the neglect of improvement or the
want of competency would be attended with no penalty.
It seems to me, then, that, when an Apprentice
applies for his second degree, the lodge may, if it thinks proper, refuse to
grant it, and that it may express that refusal by a ballot. No trial is
necessary, because no rights of the candidate are affected. He is, by a
rejection of his request, left in the same position that he formerly occupied.
He is still an Entered Apprentice, in good standing, and the lodge may, at any
time it thinks proper, reverse its decision and proceed to pass him.
If, however, he is specifically charged with any
offense against the laws of Masonry, it would then be necessary to give him a
trial. Witnesses should be heard, both for and against him and he should be
permitted to make his defense. The opinion of the lodge should be taken, as in
all other cases of trial and, according to the verdict, he should be suspended,
expelled, or otherwise punished.
The effect of these two methods of proceeding is very
different. When, by a ballot, the lodge refuses to advance an Entered
Apprentice, there is not, necessarily, any stigma on his moral character. It may
be, that the refusal is based on the ground that he has not made sufficient
proficiency to entitle him to pass. Consequently, his standing as an Entered
Apprentice is not at all affected. His rights remain the same. He may still sit
in the lodge when it is opened in his degree, he may still receive instructions
in that degree, converse with Masons on Masonic subjects, which are not beyond
his standing, and again apply to the lodge for permission to pass as a Fellow
But, if he be tried on a specific charge and be
suspended or expelled, his moral character is affected. His Masonic rights are
forfeited, and he can no longer be considered as an Entered Apprentice in good
standing. He will not be permitted to sit in his lodge, to receive Masonic
instruction, or to converse with Masons on Masonic subjects, nor can he again
apply for advancement until the suspension or expulsion is removed by the
spontaneous action of the lodge.
These two proceedings work differently in another
respect. The Grand Lodge will not interfere with a subordinate lodge in
compelling it to pass an Entered Apprentice, because every lodge is supposed to
be competent to finish, in its own time and its own way, the work that it has
begun. But, as the old regulations, as well as the general consent of the craft,
admit that the Grand Lodge alone can expel from the rights and privileges of
Masonry and that an expulsion by a subordinate lodge is inoperative until it is
confirmed by the Grand Lodge, it follows that the expulsion of the Apprentice
must be confirmed by that body, and that, therefore, he has a right to appeal to
it for a reversal of the sentence, if it was unjustly pronounced.Let it not be
said that this would be placing an Apprentice on too great an equality with
Master Masons. His rights are dear to him, he has paid for them. No man would
become an Apprentice unless he expected, in time, to be made a Fellow Craft and
then a Master. He is, therefore, morally and legally wronged when he is
deprived, without sufficient cause, of the capacity of fulfilling that
expectation. It is the duty of the Grand Lodge to see that not even the humblest
member of the craft shall have his rights unjustly invaded, and it is therefore
bound, as the conservator of the rights of all, to inquire into the truth and
administer equity. Whenever, therefore, even an Entered Apprentice complains
that he has met with injustice and oppression, his complaint should be
investigated and justice administered.
The question next occurs—What number of black balls
should prevent an Apprentice from passing to the second degree? I answer, the
same number that would reject the application of a profane for initiation into
the Order. And why should this not be so? Are the qualifications which would be
required of one applying, for the first time, for admission to the degree of an
Apprentice more than would subsequently be required of the same person on his
applying for a greater favor and a higher honor—that of being advanced to the
second degree? Or do the requisitions, which exist in the earlier stages of
Masonry, become less and less with every step of the aspirant's progress?
Viewing the question in this light—and, indeed, I know of no other in which to
view it—it seems to me to be perfectly evident that the peculiar constitution
and principles of our Order will require unanimity in the election of a profane
for initiation, of an Apprentice for a Fellow Craft and of a Fellow Craft for a
Master Mason, and that, while no Entered Apprentice can be expelled from the
Order, except by due course of trial, it is competent for the lodge, at any
time, on a ballot, to refuse to advance him to the second degree. But, let it be
remembered that the lodge which refuses to pass an Apprentice, on account of any
objections to his moral character, or doubts of his worthiness, is bound to give
him the advantage of a trial and at once to expel him, if guilty, or, if
innocent, to advance him when otherwise qualified.
III.---Of the Rights of Fellow Crafts.
In ancient times there were undoubtedly many rights
attached to the second degree which have now become obsolete or been repealed,
for formerly the great body of the fraternity were Fellow Crafts and according
to the old charges, even the Grand Master might be elected from among them. The
Master and Wardens of Subordinate Lodges always were. Thus we are told that no
Brother can be Grand Master, "unless he has been a Fellow Craft before his
election," and in the ancient manner of constituting a lodge, contained in
the Book of Constitutions,[ Edition of 1723, page 71 (U.M.L., vol. xv., book
1, p. 71).] it is said
that "the candidates, or the new Master and Wardens, being yet among the
Fellow Crafts, the Grand Master shall ask his Deputy if he has examined
them," etc. But now that the great body of the Fraternity consists of
Master Masons, the prerogatives of Fellow Crafts are circumscribed within limits
nearly as narrow as those of Entered Apprentices. While, however, Apprentices
are not permitted to speak or vote, in ancient times and up, indeed, to a very
late date. Fellow Crafts were entitled to take a part in any discussion in which
the lodge, while open in the first or second degree, might engage, but not to
vote. This privilege is expressly stated by Preston, as appertaining to a Fellow
Craft, in his charge to a candidate, receiving that degree,
"As a Craftsman, in our private assemblies you may offer your
sentiments and opinions on such subjects as are regularly introduced in the
Lecture, under the superintendence of an experienced Master, who will guard the
landmark against encroachment."
[Preston, p. 48 (U.M.L., vol, iii., p. 40).]
This privilege is not now, however, granted in this country to Fellow
Crafts. All, therefore, that has been said in the preceding chapter, of the
rights of Entered Apprentices, will equally apply, mutatis mutandis, to the
rights of Fellow Crafts.
IV. --Of the Rights of Master Masons.
When a Mason has reached the third degree, he becomes
entitled to all the rights and privileges of Ancient Craft Masonry. These rights
are extensive and complicated, and, like his duties, which are equally as
extensive, require a careful examination, thoroughly to comprehend them. Four of
them, at least, are of so much importance as to demand a distinct consideration.
These are the rights of membership, of visitation, of relief and of burial. To
each I shall devote a separate section.
the Right of Membership.
whole spirit and tenor of the General Regulations, as well as the uniform usage
of the craft, sustain the doctrine, that when a Mason is initiated in a lodge,
he has the right, by signing the bye-laws, to become a member without the
necessity of submitting to another ballot. In the Constitutions of the Grand
Lodge of New York, this principle is asserted to be one of the ancient landmarks
and is announced in the following words: "Initiation makes a man a Mason,
but he must receive the Master's degree and sign the bye-laws before he becomes
a member of the lodge." [Const. New York, 1854, p. 13. The Constitutions of
the Grand Lodge of England (p. 64) have a similar provision; but they require
the Brother to express his wish for membership on the day of his initiation].
If the doctrine be not
exactly a landmark (which I confess I am not quite prepared to admit), it comes
to us almost clothed with the authority of one, from the sanction of universal
and uninterrupted usage.
How long before he loses this right by a non-user, or
neglect to avail himself of it, is, I presume, a question to be settled by local
authority. A lodge, or a Grand Lodge, may affix the period according to its
discretion, but the general custom is, to require a signature of the bye-laws
and a consequent enrollment in the lodge, within three months after receiving
the third degree. Should a Mason neglect to avail himself of his privilege, he
forfeits it (unless, upon sufficient cause, he is excused by the lodge)and must
submit to a ballot.
The reason for such a law is evident. If a Mason does
not at once unite himself with the lodge in which he was raised, but permits an
extended period of time to elapse, there is no certainty that his character or
habits may not have changed and that he may not have become, since his
initiation, unworthy of affiliation. Under the general law, it is, therefore,
necessary that he should in such case submit to the usual probation of one month
and an investigation of his qualifications by a committee, as well as a ballot
by the members.
But there are other privileges also connected with
this right of membership. A profane is required to apply for initiation to the
lodge nearest his place of residence and, if there rejected, can never in future
apply to any other lodge. But the rule is different with respect to the
application of a Master Mason for membership.
A Master Mason is not restricted in his privilege of
application for membership within any geographical limits. All that is required
of him is, that he should be an affiliated Mason, that is, that he should be a
contributing member of a lodge, without any reference to its peculiar locality,
whether near to or distant from his place of residence. The Old Charges simply
prescribe, that every Mason ought to belong to a lodge. A Mason, therefore,
strictly complies with this regulation, when he unites himself with any lodge,
thus contributing to the support of the institution and is then entitled to all
the privileges of an affiliated Mason.
A rejection of the application of a Master Mason for
membership by a lodge does not deprive him of the right of applying to another.
A Mason is in "good standing" until deprived of that character by the
action of some competent Masonic authority, and that action can only be by
suspension or expulsion. Rejection does not, therefore, affect the "good
standing" of the applicant, for in a rejection there is no legal form of
trial and consequently the rejected Brother remains in the same position after
as before his rejection. He possesses the same rights as before, unimpaired and
undiminished, and among these rights is that of applying for membership to any
lodge that he may select.
If, then, a Mason may be a member of a lodge distant
from his place of residence and perhaps, even situated in a different
jurisdiction, the question then arises whether the lodge within whose precincts
he resides, but of which he is not a member, can exercise its discipline over
him should he commit any offense requiring Masonic punishment. On this subject
there is, among Masonic writers, a difference of opinion. I, however, agree with
Brother Pike, the able Chairman of the Committee of Correspondence of Arkansas,
that the lodge can exercise such discipline. I contend that a Mason is amenable
for his conduct not only to the lodge of which he may be a member, but also to
any one within whose jurisdiction he permanently resides. A lodge is the
conservator of the purity and the protector of the integrity of the Order within
its precincts. The unworthy conduct of a Mason, living as it were immediately
under its government, is calculated most injuriously to affect that purity and
integrity. A lodge, therefore, should not be deprived of the power of coercing
such unworthy Mason and by salutary punishment, of vindicating the character of
the institution. Let us suppose, by way of example, that a Mason living in San
Francisco, California, but retaining his membership in New York, behaves in such
an immoral and indecorous manner as to bring the greatest discredit upon the
Order and to materially injure it in the estimation of the uninitiated
community. Will it be, for a moment, contended that a lodge in San Francisco
cannot arrest the evil by bringing the unworthy Mason under discipline and even
ejecting him from the fraternity, if severity like that is necessary for the
protection of the institution? Or will it be contended that redress can only be
sought through the delay and uncertainty of an appeal to his lodge in New York?
Even if the words of the ancient laws are silent on this subject, reason and
justice would seem to maintain the propriety and expediency of the doctrine that
the lodge at San Francisco is amply competent to extend its jurisdiction and
exercise its discipline over the culprit.
In respect to the number of votes necessary to admit
a Master Mason applying by petition for membership in a lodge, there can be no
doubt that he must submit to precisely the same conditions as those prescribed
to a profane on his petition for initiation. There is no room for argument here, for the
General Regulations are express on this subject, "No man can be made or admitted a member of a particular
lodge," says the fifth regulation, "without previous notice one month
before given to the said lodge."
And the sixth regulation adds, that "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
So that it may be considered as settled law, so far
as the General Regulations can settle a law of Masonry, that a Master Mason can
only be admitted a member of a lodge when applying by petition, after a month's
probation, after due inquiry into his character and after a unanimous ballot in
But there are other rights of Master Masons
consequent upon membership, which remain to be considered. In uniting with a
lodge, a Master Mason becomes a participant of all its interests and is entitled
to speak and vote upon all subjects that come before the lodge for
investigation. He is also entitled, if duly elected by his fellows, to hold any
office in the lodge, except that of Master, for which he must be qualified by
previously having occupied the post of a Warden.
A Master has the right in all cases of an appeal from
the decision of the Master or of the lodge.
A Master Mason, in good standing, has a right at any
time to demand from his lodge a certificate to that effect. Whatever other
rights may appertain to Master Masons will be the subjects of separate sections.
II.--Of the Right of Visit.
Every Master Mason, who is an affiliated member of a
lodge, has the right to visit any other lodge as often as he may desire to do
so. This right is secured to him by the ancient regulations and is, therefore,
irreversible. In the "Ancient Charges at the Constitution of a
Lodge," formerly contained in a MS. of the Lodge of Antiquity in London and
whose date is not later than 1688, it is directed "that every Mason receive
and cherish strange fellows when they come over the country and set them on
work, if they will work as the manner is, that is to say, if the Mason have any
mould stone in his place, he shall give him a mould stone and set him on work,
and if he have none, the Mason shall refresh him with money unto the next
lodge."[ Preston, Oliver's Ed., p. 71, note (U.L.M., vol. iii., p. 60)]
This regulation is explicit. It not only infers the
right of visit, but it declares that the strange Brother shall be welcomed,
"received and cherished," and "set on work," that is,
permitted to participate in the work of your lodge. Its provisions are equally
applicable to Brethren residing in the place where the lodge is situated as to
transient Brethren, provided that they are affiliated Masons.
In the year 1819, the law was in England
authoritatively settled by a decree of the Grand Lodge.
A complaint had been preferred against a lodge in London, for having refused
admission to some Brethren who were well known to them, alleging that as the
lodge was about to initiate a candidate, no visitor could be admitted until that
ceremony was concluded. It was then declared, "that it is the undoubted
right of every Mason who is well known, or properly vouched, to visit any lodge
during the time it is opened for general Masonic business, observing the proper
forms to be attended to on such occasions and so that the Master may not be
interrupted in the performance of his duty." [See Oliver, note in Preston, p. 75 (U.M.L.,
vol. iii, p. 61)] A lodge, when not opened for "general Masonic
business," but when engaged in the consideration of matters which interest
the lodge alone and which it would be inexpedient or indelicate to make public,
may refuse to admit a visitor. Lodges engaged in this way, in private business,
from which visitors are excluded, are said by the French Masons to be opened
To entitle him to this right of visit, a Mason must
be affiliated, that is, he must be a contributing member of some lodge. This
doctrine is thus laid down in the Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of England,
"A Brother who is not a subscribing member to some lodge, shall not be
permitted to visit any one lodge in the town or place in which he resides, more
than once during his secession from the craft."
A non-subscribing or unaffiliated Mason is permitted
to visit each lodge once and once only, because it is supposed that this visit
is made for the purpose of enabling him to make a selection of the one with
which he may prefer permanently to unite. But, afterwards, he loses this right
of visit, to discountenance those Brethren who wish to continue members of the
Order and to partake of its pleasures and advantages, without contributing to
A Master Mason is not entitled to visit a lodge, unless
he previously submits to an examination, or is personally vouched for by a
competent Brother present, but this is a subject of so much importance as to
claim consideration in a distinct section.
Another regulation is, that a strange Brother shall
furnish the lodge he intends to visit with a certificate of his good standing in
the lodge from which he last hailed. This regulation has, in late years, given
rise to much discussion. Many of the Grand Lodges of this country and several
Masonic writers, strenuously contend for its antiquity and necessity, while
others as positively assert that it is a modern innovation upon ancient usage.
There can, however, I think, be no
doubt of the antiquity of certificates. That the system requiring them was in
force nearly two hundred years ago, at least, will be evident from the third of
the Regulations made in General Assembly, December 27, 1663, under the Grand
Mastership of the Earl of St. Albans, and which is in the following words, "3.
That no person hereafter who shall be accepted a Freemason, shall be admitted
into any lodge or assembly, until he has brought a certificate of the time and
place of his acceptation, from the lodge that accepted him, unto the Master of
that limit or division where such a lodge is kept." [Oliver's
Preston, p. 162 (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 135.)]
This regulation has been reiterated on several
occasions, by the Grand Lodge of England in 1772 and at subsequent periods by
several Grand Lodges of this and other countries. It is not, however, in force
in many of the American jurisdictions.
Another right connected with the right of visitation
is, that of demanding a sight of the Warrant of Constitution. This instrument it
is, indeed, not only the right but the duty of every strange visitor carefully
to inspect, before he enters a lodge, that he may thus satisfy himself of the
legality and regularity of its character and authority. On such a demand being
made by a visitor for a sight of its Warrant, every lodge is bound to comply
with the requisition and produce the instrument.
The same rule, of course, applies to lodges under dispensation, whose Warrant of
Dispensation supplies the place of a Warrant of Constitution.
III.--Of the Examination of Visitors.
It has already been stated, in the preceding section,
that a Master Mason is not permitted to visit a lodge unless he previously
submits to an examination, or is personally vouched for by some competent
Brother present. The prerogative of vouching for a Brother is an important
one and will constitute the subject of the succeeding section. At present let us
confine ourselves to the consideration of the mode of examining a visitor.
Every visitor, who offers himself to the appointed
committee of the lodge for examination, is expected, as a preliminary step,
to submit to the Tiler's Obligation, so called, because it is administered in
the Tiler's room. As this obligation forms no part of the secret ritual of
the Order, but is administered to every person before any lawful knowledge of
his being a Mason has been received, there can be nothing objectionable in
inserting it here and in fact, it will be advantageous to have the precise words
of so important a declaration placed beyond the possibility of change or
omission by inexperienced Brethren.
The oath, then, which is administered to the visitor
and which he may, if he chooses, require every one present to take with him, is
in the following words, "I,
A. B., do hereby and hereon solemnly and sincerely swear, that I have been
regularly initiated, passed and raised, to the sublime degree of a Master Mason,
in a just and legally constituted lodge of such, that I do not now stand
suspended or expelled and know of no reason why I should not hold Masonic
communication with my Brethren”.
This declaration having been given in the most solemn
manner, the examination must then be conducted with the necessary forms. The
good old rule of "commencing at the beginning" should be observed.
Every question is to be asked and every answer demanded which is necessary to
convince the examiner that the party examined is acquainted with what he ought
to know, to entitle him to the appellation of a Brother. Nothing is to be taken
for granted—categorical answers must be required to all that it is deemed
important to be asked. No forgetfulness is to be excused, nor is the want of
memory to be accepted as a valid excuse for the want of knowledge. The Mason,
who is so unmindful of his duties as to have forgotten the instructions he has
received, must pay the penalty of his carelessness and be deprived of his
contemplated visit to that society whose secret modes of recognition he has so
little valued as not to have treasured them in his memory. While there are some
things which may be safely passed over in the examination of one who confesses
himself to be "rusty," or but recently initiated, because they are
details which require much study to acquire and constant practice to retain,
there are still other things of great importance which must be rigidly demanded
and with the knowledge of which the examiner cannot, under any circumstances,
Should suspicions of imposture arise, let no
expression of these suspicions be made until the final decree for rejection is
pronounced. And let that decree be uttered in general terms, such as: "I am
not satisfied," or, "I do not recognize you," and not in more
specific terms, such as, "You did not answer this inquiry," or,
"You are ignorant on that point." The visitor is only entitled to
know, generally, that he has not complied with the requisitions of his examiner.
To descend to particulars is always improper and often dangerous.
Above all, the examiner should never ask what are
called "leading questions," or such as include in themselves an
indication of what the answer is to be, nor should he in any manner aid the
memory of the party examined by the slightest hint. If he has it in him, it will
come out without assistance and if he has it not, he is clearly entitled to no
Lastly, never should an unjustifiable delicacy weaken
the rigor of these rules. Let it be remembered, that for the wisest and most
evident reasons, the merciful maxim of the law, which says, that it is better
that ninety-nine guilty men should escape than that one innocent man should be
punished, is with us reversed and that in Masonry it is better that ninety and
nine true men should be turned away from the door of a lodge than that one cowan
should be admitted.
IV.--Of Vouching for a Brother.
An examination may sometimes be omitted when any
competent Brother present will vouch for the visitor's Masonic standing and
qualifications. This prerogative of vouching is an important one which every
Master Mason is entitled, under certain restrictions, to exercise,
but it is also one which may so materially affect the well-being of the whole
fraternity, since by its injudicious use impostors might be introduced among the
faithful, that it should be controlled by the most stringent regulations.
To vouch for one, is to bear witness for him, and, in
witnessing to truth, every caution should be observed, lest falsehood should
cunningly assume its garb. The Brother who vouches should, therefore, know to a
certainty that the one for whom he vouches is really what he claims to be. He
should know this not from a casual conversation, nor a loose and careless
inquiry, but, as the unwritten law of the Order expresses it, from "strict
trial, due examination, or lawful information."
Of strict trial and due examination I have already
treated in the preceding section, and it only remains to say, that when the
vouching is founded on the knowledge obtained in this way, it is absolutely
necessary that the Brother so vouching shall be competent to conduct such an
examination and that his general intelligence and shrewdness and his knowledge
of Masonry shall be such as to place him above the probability of being imposed
upon. The important and indispensable qualification of a voucher is, therefore,
that he shall be competent. The Master of a lodge has no right to accept,
without further inquiry, the avouchment of a young and inexperienced, or even of
an old, if ignorant, Mason.
Lawful information, which is the remaining ground for an
avouchment, may be derived either from the declaration of another Brother, or
from having met the party vouched for in a lodge on some previous occasion.
If the information is derived from another Brother,
who states that he has examined the party, then all that has already been said
of the competency of the one giving the information is equally applicable. The
Brother, giving the original information, must be competent to make a rigid
examination. Again, the person giving the information, the one receiving it and
the one of whom it is given, should be all present at the time, for otherwise
there would be no certainty of identity. Information, therefore, given by letter
or through a third party, is highly irregular. The information must also be
positive, not founded on belief or opinion, but derived from a legitimate
source. And, lastly, it must not have been received casually, but for the very
purpose of being used for Masonic purposes. For one to say to another in the
course of a desultory conversation: "A.B. is a Mason," is not
sufficient. He may not be speaking with due caution, under the expectation that
his words will be considered of weight. He must say something to this effect:
"I know this man to be a Master Mason," for such or such reasons and
you may safely recognize him as such. This alone will insure the necessary care
and proper observance of prudence.
If the information given is on the ground that the
person, vouched has been seen sitting in a lodge by the voucher, care must be
taken to inquire if it was a "Lodge of Master Masons." A person may
forget, from the lapse of time and vouch for a stranger as a Master Mason, when
the lodge in which he saw him was only opened in the first or second degree.
V.--Of the Right of Claiming Relief.
One of the great objects of our institution is, to
afford relief to a worthy, distressed Brother. In his want and destitution, the
claim of a Mason upon his Brethren is much greater than that of a profane. This
is a Christian as well as a Masonic doctrine. "As we have therefore
opportunity," says St. Paul, "let us do good unto all men, especially
unto them who are of the household of faith."
This claim for relief he may present either to a
lodge or to a Brother Mason. The rule, as well as the principles by which it is
to be regulated, is laid down in that fundamental law of Masonry, the Old
Charges, in the following explicit words, under the head of "Behavior
towards a strange Brother:",
"You are cautiously to examine him, in such a
method as prudence shall direct you, that you may not be imposed upon by an
ignorant, false pretender, whom you are to reject with contempt and derision and
beware of giving him any hints of knowledge”.
"But if you discover him to be a true and genuine
Brother, you are to respect him accordingly, and if he is in want, you must
relieve him if you can, or else direct him how he may be relieved. You must
employ him some days, or else recommend him to be employed. But you are not
charged to do beyond your ability, only to prefer a poor Brother, that is a good
man and true, before any other people in the same circumstances."
This law thus laid down, includes, it will be
perceived, as two important prerequisites, on which to found a claim for relief,
that the person applying shall be in distress and that he shall be worthy of
He must be in distress.
Ours is not an insurance company, a joint stock association, in which, for a
certain premium paid, an equivalent may be demanded. No Mason, or no lodge, is
bound to give pecuniary or other aid to a Brother, unless he really needs. The
word " benefit," as usually used in the modern friendly societies, has
no place in the vocabulary of Freemasonry. If a wealthy Brother is afflicted
with sorrow or sickness, we are to strive to comfort him with our sympathy, our
kindness and our attention, but we are to bestow our eleemosynary aid only on
the indigent or the destitute.
He must also be worthy.
There is no obligation on a Mason to relieve the distresses, however real they
may be, of an unworthy Brother. The claimant must be, in the language of the
Charge, "true and genuine." True here is used in its good old Saxon
meaning, of "faithful" or "trusty." A true Mason is one who
is mindful of his obligations and who faithfully observes and practices all his
duties. Such a man, alone, can rightfully claim the assistance of his Brethren.
But a third provision is made in the fundamental law,
namely, that the assistance is not to be beyond the ability of the giver. One of
the most important landmarks, contained in our unwritten law, more definitely
announces this provision, by the words, that the aid and assistance shall be
without injury to oneself or his family. Masonry does not require that we shall
sacrifice our own welfare to that of a Brother, but that with prudent liberality
and a just regard to our own worldly means, we shall give of the means with
which Providence may have blessed us for the relief of our distressed Brethren.
It is hardly necessary to say, that the claim for
relief of a worthy distressed Mason extends also to his immediate family.
VI.---Of the Right of Masonic Burial.
After a very careful examination, I can find nothing
in the old charges or General Regulations, nor in any other part of the
fundamental law, in relation to Masonic burial of deceased Brethren. It is
probable that, at an early period, when the great body of the craft consisted of
Entered Apprentices, the usage permitted the burial of members, of the first or
second degree, with the honors of Masonry. As far back as 1754, processions
for the purpose of burying Masons seemed to have been conducted by some of the
lodges with either too much frequency, or some other irregularity, for, in
November of that year, the Grand Lodge adopted a regulation, forbidding them,
under a heavy penalty, unless by permission of the Grand Master, or his Deputy.[
See Anderson's Const., 3d Edit., 1755, page 303.]
As there were,
comparatively speaking, few Master Masons at that period, it seems a natural
inference that most of the funeral processions were for the burial of
Apprentices, or, at least, of Fellow Crafts.
But the usage since then, has been
greatly changed, and by universal consent, the law, as first committed to
writing, by Preston, who was the author of our present funeral service, is now
The Regulation, as laid down by Preston, is so
explicit, that I prefer giving it in his own words, "No Mason can be
interred with the formalities of the Order, unless it be at his own special
request, communicated to the Master of the Lodge of which he died a
member—foreigners and sojourners excepted, nor unless he has been advanced to
the third degree of Masonry, from which restriction there can be no exception.
Fellow Crafts or Apprentices are not entitled to the funeral obsequies."
[ Preston, Oliver's Edit., p. 89 (U.M.L., vol. iii.,
This rule has been embodied in the modern Constitutions
of the Grand Lodge of England, and, as I have already observed, appears by
universal consent to have been adopted as the general usage.
The necessity for a
dispensation, which is also required by the modern English Constitutions, does
not seem to have met with the same general approval and in this country,
dispensations for funeral processions are not usually, if at all, required.
Indeed, Preston himself, in explaining the law, says that it was not intended
to restrict the privileges of the regular lodges, but that, "by the
universal practice of Masons, every regular lodge is authorized by the
Constitution to act on such occasions when limited to its own members." [Preston,
Oliver's Edit" p. 90 (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 73).]
It is only
when members of other lodges, not under the control of the Master, are convened,
that a dispensation is required. But in America, Grand Lodges or Grand Masters
have not generally interfered with the rights of the lodges to bury the dead,
the Master being of course amenable to the constituted authorities for any
indecorum or impropriety.
V.--Of the Rights of Past Masters.
I have already discussed the right of Past Masters to
become members of a Grand Lodge, in a preceding part of this work, [ Preston,
Oliver's Edit" p. 90 (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 73).]
and have there arrived at the conclusion that no such inherent right
exists and that a Grand Lodge may or may not admit them to membership, according
to its own notion of expediency. Still the fact, that they are competent by
their Masonic rank of accepting such a courtesy when extended, in itself
constitutes a prerogative, for none but Masters, Wardens, or Past Masters, can
under any circumstances become members of a Grand Lodge. Past Masters possess a
few other positive rights.
In the first place they have a right to install their
successors and at all times subsequent to their installation to be present at
the ceremony of installing Masters of lodges. I should scarcely have deemed it
necessary to dwell upon so self-evident a proposition, were it not that it
involves the discussion of a question which has of late years been warmly mooted
in some jurisdictions, namely, whether this right of being present at an
installation should, or should not, be extended to Past Masters, made in Royal
In view of the fact, that there are two very
different kinds of possessors of the same degree, the Grand Lodge of England has
long since distinguished them as "virtual" and as
"actual" Past Masters. The terms are sufficiently explicit and
have the advantage of enabling us to avoid circumlocution and I shall,
therefore, adopt them.
An actual Past Master is one who has been regularly
installed to preside over a symbolic lodge under the jurisdiction of a Grand
Lodge. A virtual Past Master is one who has received the degree in a chapter,
for the purpose of qualifying him for exaltation to the Royal Arch.
Now the question to be considered is this. Can a
virtual Past Master be permitted to be present at the installation of an actual
The Committee of Correspondence of New York, in 1851,
announced the doctrine, that a Chapter, or virtual Past Master, cannot legally
install the Master of a Symbolic Lodge, but that there is no rule forbidding his
being present at the ceremony. This doctrine has been accepted by several Grand
Lodges, while others again refuse to admit the presence of a virtual Past Master
at the installation-service.
In South Carolina, for instance, by
uninterrupted usage, virtual Past Masters are excluded from the ceremony of
In Louisiana, under the high authority of the late
Brother Gedge, it is asserted, that "it is the bounden duty of all Grand
Lodges to prevent the possessors of the (chapter) degree from the exercise of
any function appertaining to the office and attributes of an installed Master of
a lodge of Symbolic Masonry and refuse to recognize them as belonging to the
order of Past Masters." [Proceedings of Louisiana, an. 1852.]
Brother Albert Pike, whose opinion on Masonic
jurisprudence is entitled to the most respectful consideration, has announced a
similar doctrine in one of his elaborate reports to the Grand Chapter of
Arkansas. He does not consider "that the Past Master's degree, conferred in
a chapter, invests the recipient with any rank or authority, except within the
chapter itself, that it no ways qualifies or authorizes him to preside in the
chair of a lodge: that a lodge has no legal means of knowing that he has
received the degree in a chapter: for it is not supposed to know anything that
takes place there any more than it knows what takes place in a Lodge of
Perfection, or a Chapter of Knights of the Rose Croix," and, of course, if
the Past Masters of a lodge have no such "legal means" of recognition
of Chapter Masters, they cannot permit them to be present at an installation.
This is, in fact, no new doctrine. Preston, in his
description of the installation ceremony, says: "The new Master is then
conducted to an adjacent room, where he is regularly installed and bound to his
trust in ancient form, in the presence of at least three installed Masters"
Oliver's Edit., p. 76 (U.M.L., vol. iii, p. 62).]
Oliver, in commenting on this passage, says, "this part of the ceremony can
only be orally communicated, nor can any but installed Masters be present."[Ibid]
And this rule appears to be founded on the principles
of reason. There can be no doubt, if we carefully examine the history of Masonry
in this country and in England, that the degree of Past Master was originally
conferred by Symbolic Lodges as an honorarium or reward bestowed upon those
Brethren who had been found worthy to occupy the Oriental Chair. In so far it
was only a degree of office and could be obtained only from the Lodge in which
the office had been conferred. At a later period it was deemed an essential
prerequisite to exaltation in the degree of Royal Arch and was, for that
purpose, conferred on candidates for that position, while the Royal Arch degree
was under the control of the symbolic Lodges, but still only conferred by the
Past Masters of the Lodge. But subsequently, when the system of Royal Arch
Masonry was greatly enlarged and extended in this country and chapters were
organized independent of the Grand and symbolic Lodges, these Chapters took with
them the Past Master's degree and assumed the right of conferring it on their
candidates. Hence, arose the anomaly which now exists in American Masonry, of
two degrees bearing the same name and said to be almost identical in character,
conferred by two different bodies under entirely different qualifications and
for totally different purposes. As was to be expected, when time had in some
degree obliterated the details of history, each party began to claim for itself
the sovereign virtue of legitimacy. The Past Masters of the Chapters denied the
right of the Symbolic Lodges to confer the degree and the latter, in their turn,
asserted that the degree, as conferred in the Chapter, was an innovation.
The prevalence of the former doctrine would, of
course, tend to deprive the Symbolic Lodges of a vested right held by them from
the most ancient times, that, namely, of conferring an honorarium on their
On the whole, then, from this view of the
surreptitious character of the Chapter Degree and supported by the high
authority whom I have cited, as well as by the best usage, I am constrained to
believe that the true rule is, to deny the Chapter, or Virtual Past Masters, the
right to install, or to be present at the installation of the Master of a
Symbolic Lodge. A Past Master may preside over a lodge in the absence of the Master,
provided he is invited to do so by the Senior Warden present. The Second General
Regulation gave the power of presiding, during the absence of the Master, to the
last Past Master present, after the lodge had been congregated by the Senior
Warden, but two years afterwards, the rule was repealed and the power of
presiding in such cases was vested in the Senior Warden. And accordingly, in
this country, it has always been held, that in the absence of the Master, his
authority descends to the Senior Warden, who may, however, by courtesy, offer
the chair to a Past Master present, after the lodge has been congregated. Some
jurisdictions have permitted a Past Master to preside in the absence of the
Master and both Wardens, provided he was a member of that lodge. But I confess
that I can find no warrant for this rule in any portion of our fundamental laws.
The power of congregating the lodge in the absence of the Master has always been
confined to the Wardens, and it therefore seems to me, that when both the Master
and Wardens are absent, although a Past Master may be present, the lodge cannot
A Past Master is eligible for election to the chair,
without again passing through the office of a Warden.
He is also entitled to a seat in the East and to wear
a jewel and collar peculiar to his dignity.
By an ancient regulation, contained in the Old
Charges, Past Masters alone were eligible to the office of Grand Warden. The
Deputy Grand Master was also to be selected from among the Masters, or Past
Masters of Lodges. No such regulation was in existence as to the office of Grand
Master, who might be selected from the mass of the fraternity. At the present
time, in this country, it is usual to select the Grand officers from among the
Past Masters of the jurisdiction, though I know of no ancient law making such a
regulation obligatory, except in respect to the affairs of Grand Wardens and
Deputy Grand Master.
Affiliation is defined to be the act by which a lodge
receives a Mason among its members. A profane is said to be
"initiated," but a Mason is "affiliated." [See
Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry, in voce.]
Now the mode in which a Mason becomes affiliated with a
lodge, in some respects differs from and in others resembles, the mode in which
a profane is initiated.
A Mason, desiring to be affiliated with a lodge, must
apply by petition, this petition must be referred to a committee for
investigation of character, he must remain in a state of probation for one month
and must then submit to a ballot, in which unanimity will be required for his
admission. In all these respects, there is no difference in the modes of
regulating applications for initiation and affiliation. The Fifth and Sixth
General Regulations, upon which these usages are founded, draw no distinction
between the act of making a Mason and admitting a member. The two processes are
disjunctively connected in the language of both regulations. "No man can be
made, or admitted a member without previous notice one month before," are
the words of the Fifth Regulation. And in a similar spirit the Sixth adds:
"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
None but Master Masons are permitted to apply for
affiliation, and every Brother so applying must bring to the lodge to which he
applies a certificate of his regular dismission from the lodge of which he was
last a member. This document is now usually styled a "demit," and
should specify the good standing of the bearer at the time of his resignation or
Under the regulations of the various Grand Lodges of
this country, a profane cannot, as has been already observed, apply for
initiation in any other lodge than the one nearest to his residence. No such
regulation, however, exists in relation to the application of a Mason for
affiliation. Having once been admitted into the Order, he has a right to select
the lodge with which he may desire to unite himself. He is not even bound to
affiliate with the lodge in which he was initiated, but after being raised, may
leave it, without signing the bye-laws and attach himself to another.
A profane, having been rejected by a lodge, can never
apply to any other for initiation. But a Mason, having been rejected, on his
application for affiliation, by a lodge, is not thereby debarred from
subsequently making a similar application to any other.
In some few jurisdictions a local regulation has of late
years been enacted, that no Mason shall belong to more than one lodge. It is, I
presume, competent for a Grand Lodge to enact such a regulation, but where such
enactment has not taken place, we must be governed by the ancient and general
Regulations, adopted in 1721, contain no reference to this case, but in a new
regulation, adopted on the 19th February, 1723, it was declared that "no
Brother shall belong to more than one lodge within the bills of mortality."
This rule was, therefore, confined to the lodges in the city of London and did
not affect the country lodges. Still, restricted as it was in its operation. Anderson
remarks, "this regulation is neglected for several reasons and now
obsolete." [Constitutions, Second Edition of 1738, p. 154.]
Custom now in England and in other parts of Europe, as well as in some few
portions of this country, is adverse to the regulation, and where no local law
exists in a particular jurisdiction, I know of no principle of Masonic
jurisprudence which forbids a Mason to affiliate himself with more than one
The only objection to it is one which must be urged, not
by the Order, but by the individual. It is, that his duties and his
responsibilities are thus multiplied, as well as his expenses. If he is willing
to incur all this additional weight in running his race of Masonry, it is not
for others to resist this exuberance of zeal. The Mason, however, who is
affiliated with more than one lodge, must remember that he is subject to the
independent jurisdiction of each, may for the same offense be tried in each and
although acquitted by all except one, that, if convicted by that one, his
conviction will, if he be suspended or expelled, work his suspension or
expulsion in all the others.
To demit from a lodge is to resign one's membership,
on which occasion a certificate of good standing and a release from all dues is
given to the applicant, which is technically called a demit.
The right to demit or resign never has, until within
a few years, been denied. In 1853, the Grand Lodge of Connecticut adopted a
regulation "that no lodge should grant a demit to any of its members,
except for the purpose of joining some other lodge, and that no member shall be
considered as having withdrawn from one lodge until he has actually become a
member of another." Similar regulations have been either adopted or
proposed by a few other Grand Lodges, but I much doubt both their expediency and
their legality. This compulsory method of keeping Masons, after they have
once been made, seems to me to be as repugnant to the voluntary character of our
institution as would be a compulsory mode of making them in the beginning. The
expediency of such a regulation is also highly questionable. Every candidate is
required to come to our doors "of his own free will and accord," and
surely we should desire to keep none among us after that free will is no longer
We are all familiar with the Hudibrastic adage,
man convinced against his will,
of the same opinion still,"
he who is no longer actuated by that ardent esteem for the institution
which would generate a wish to continue his membership, could scarcely have his
slumbering zeal awakened, or his coldness warmed by the bolts and bars of a
regulation that should keep him a reluctant prisoner within the walls from which
he would gladly escape. Masons with such dispositions we can gladly spare from
The Ancient Charges, while they assert that every Mason should belong to a
lodge, affix no penalty for disobedience. No man can be compelled to continue
his union with a society, whether it be religious, political, or social, any
longer than will suit his own inclinations or sense of duty. To interfere
with this inalienable prerogative of a freeman would be an infringement on
private rights. A Mason's initiation was voluntary and his continuance in the
Order must be equally so.
But no man is entitled to a demit, unless at the time of
demanding it he be in good standing and free from all charges. If under charges
for crime, he must remain and abide his trial, or if in arrears, must pay up his
There is, however, one case of demission for which a
special law has been enacted. That is, when several Brethren at the same time
request demits from a lodge. As this action is sometimes the result of pique or
anger and as the withdrawal of several members at once might seriously impair
the prosperity, or perhaps even endanger the very existence of the lodge, it has
been expressly forbidden by the General Regulations, unless the lodge has become
too numerous for convenient working, and not even then is permitted except by a
Dispensation. The words of this law are to be found in the Eighth General
Regulation, as follows, "No
set or number of Brethren shall withdraw or separate themselves from the lodge
in which they were made Brethren, or were afterwards admitted members, unless
the lodge becomes too numerous, nor even then, without a dispensation from the
Grand Master or his Deputy, and when they are thus separated, they must either
immediately join themselves to such other lodge as they shall like best, with
the unanimous consent of that other lodge to which they go, or else they must
obtain the Grand Master's warrant to join in forming a new lodge."
It seems, therefore, that, although a lodge cannot
deny the right of a single member to demit, when a sort of conspiracy may be
supposed to be formed and several Brethren present their petitions for demits at
one and the same time, the lodge may not only refuse, but is bound to do so,
unless under a dispensation, which dispensation can only be given in the case of
an over-populous lodge.
With these restrictions and qualifications, it cannot
be doubted that every Master Mason has a right to demit from his lodge at his
own pleasure. What will be the result upon himself, in his future relations to
the Order, of such demission, will constitute the subject of the succeeding
VIII.--Of Unaffiliated Masons.
An unaffiliated Mason is one who is not connected by membership with
any lodge. There can be no doubt that such a position is contrary to the spirit
of our institution and that affiliation is a duty obligatory on every Mason. The
Old Charges, which have been so often cited as the fundamental law of Masonry,
say on this subject: "every Brother ought to belong to a lodge and to be
subject to its bye-laws and the General Regulations."
Explicitly as this doctrine has
been announced, it has been too little observed, in consequence of no precise
penalty having been annexed to its violation. In all times, unaffiliated Masons
have existed—Masons who have withdrawn from all active participation in the
duties and responsibilities of the Order and who, when in the hour of danger or
distress, have not hesitated to claim its protection or assistance, while they
have refused in the day of their prosperity to add anything to its wealth, its
power, or its influence. In this country, the anti-Masonic persecutions of
1828and a few years subsequently, by causing the cessation of many lodges, threw
a vast number of Brethren out of all direct connection with the institution, on
the restoration of peace and the renewal of labor by the lodges, too many of
these Brethren neglected to reunite themselves with the craft and thus remained
unaffiliated. The habit, thus introduced, was followed by others, until the sin
of unaffiliation has at length arrived at such a point of excess, as to have
become a serious evil and to have attracted the attention and received the
condemnation of almost every Grand Lodge.
A few Grand Lodges have denied the right of a Mason
permanently to demit from the Order. Texas, for instance, has declared that
"it does not recognize the right of a Mason to demit or separate himself
from the lodge in which he was made, or may afterwards be admitted, except for
the purpose of joining another lodge, or when he may be about to remove without
the jurisdiction of the lodge of which he may be a member."[Proceedings
for 1853].A few other Grand Lodges have adopted a similar regulation, but
the prevailing opinion of the authorities appears to be, that it is competent to
interfere with the right to demit, certain rights and prerogatives being,
however, lost by such demission.
Ohio and one or two other Grand Lodges, while not positively denying the right
of demission, have at various times levied a tax or contribution on the demitted
or unaffiliated Masons within their respective jurisdictions. This principle,
however, has also failed to obtain the general concurrence of other Grand Lodges
and some of them, as Maryland, have openly denounced it. After a careful
examination of the authorities, I cannot deny to any man the right of
withdrawing, whensoever he pleases, from a voluntary association—the laws of
the land would not sustain us in the enforcement of such a regulation, and our
own self-respect should prevent us from attempting it. If, then, he has a right
to withdraw, it clearly follows that we have no right to tax him, which is only
one mode of inflicting a fine or penalty for an act, the right to do which we
have acceded. In the strong language of the Committee of Correspondence of
"The object of Masonry never was to extort, nolens volens, money from its
votaries. Such are not its principles or teaching. The advocating such doctrines
cannot advance the interest or reputation of the institution, but will, as your
committee fear, do much to destroy its usefulness. Compulsive membership
deprives it of the title, Free and Accepted."
But as it is an undoubted precept of the Order that
every Mason should belong to a lodge and contribute, so far as his means will
allow, to the support of the institution and as, by his demission, for other
than temporary purposes, he violates the principles and disobeys the precepts of
the Order, it naturally follows that his withdrawal must place him in a
different position from that which he would occupy as an affiliated Mason. It is
now time for us to inquire what that new position is.
We may say, then, that, whenever a Mason permanently
withdraws his membership, he at once and while he continues unaffiliated,
dissevers all connection between himself and the Lodge organization of the
Order. He, by this act, divests himself of all the rights and privileges which
belong to him as a member of that organization. Among these rights and
privileges are those of visitation, of pecuniary aid and of Masonic burial.
Whenever he approaches the door of a lodge, asking to enter or seeking for
assistance, he is to be met in the light of a profane. He may knock, but the
door must not be opened, he may ask, but he is not to receive. The work of the
lodge is not to be shared by those who have thrown aside their aprons and their
implements and abandoned the labors of the Temple, the funds of the lodge are to
be distributed only among these who are aiding, by their individual
contributions, to the formation of similar funds in other lodges.
But from the well-known and universally-admitted
maxim of "once a Mason and always a Mason," it follows that a demitted
Brother cannot by such demission divest himself of all his Masonic
responsibilities to his Brethren, nor be deprived of their correlative
responsibility to him. An unaffiliated Mason is still bound by certain
obligations, of which he cannot, under any circumstances, divest himself and by
similar obligations are the fraternity bound to him. These relate to the duties
of secrecy and of aid in the imminent hour of peril. Of the first of these there
can be no doubt, and as to the last, the words of the precept directing it
leaves us no option, nor is it a time when the G.H.S. of D. is thrown out to
inquire into the condition of the party.
Speaking on this subject, Brother Albert Pike, in his
report to the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, says "if a person appeals to us as a
Mason in imminent peril, or such pressing need that we have not time to inquire
into his worthiness, then, lest we might refuse to relieve and aid a worthy
Brother, we must not stop to inquire as to anything." But I do not think
that the learned Brother has put the case in the strongest light. It is not
alone "lest we might refuse to relieve and aid a worthy Brother," that
we are in cases of "imminent peril" to make no pause for deliberation.
But it is because we are bound by our highest obligations at all times and to
all Masons, to give that aid when duly called for.
I may, then, after this somewhat protracted
discussion, briefly recapitulate the position, the rights and the
responsibilities of an unaffiliated Mason as follows:
1. An unaffiliated Mason is still bound by all his
Masonic duties and obligations, excepting those connected with the organization
of the lodge.
2. He has a right to aid in imminent peril when he
asks for that aid in the proper and conventional way.
He loses the right to receive pecuniary relief.
4. He loses the general right to visit lodges, or to
walk in Masonic processions.[ The right to visit is restricted to once, by many
Grand Lodges to enable him to become acquainted with the character of the lodge
before he applies for membership.]
5. He loses the right of Masonic burial.
He still remains subject to the government of the Order and may be tried and
punished for any offense as an affiliated Mason would be, by the lodge within
whose geographical jurisdiction he resides.
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