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[ The Fourth Book, the
concluding portion of The Principles of Masonic Law is posted herein. Index at
the end of this Book has been omitted. Footnotes have been incorporated in the
text and at the appropriate places]
The Principles Of Masonic Law- Book Fourth
Bro.Albert Gallatin Mackey
Book Fourth --Of Masonic Crimes and Punishments.
I. -- Of What Are
Chapter II. --
Of Masonic Punishments
Of Exclusion from the Lodge
Of Definite Suspension
Of Indefinite Suspension
Chapter III. -- Of Masonic Trials
the Form of Trial
Of the Evidence in Masonic Trials
Chapter IV. -- Of
the Penal Jurisdiction of a Lodge
V. -- Of
Chapter VI. -- Of
I.--Of What Are Masonic Crimes.
division of wrongs, by the writers on municipal law, into private and public, or
civil injuries and crimes and misdemeanors, does not apply to the jurisprudence
of Freemasonry. Here all wrongs are crimes, because they are a violation of the
precepts of the institution, and an offense against an individual is punished,
not so much because it is a breach of his private rights, as because it affects
the well-being of the whole Masonic community.
In replying to the question, "what are Masonic
crimes?" by which is meant what crimes are punishable by the constituted
authorities, our safest guide will be that fundamental law which is contained
in the Old Charges. These give a concise, but succinct summary of the duties
of a Mason and of course, whatever is a violation of any one of these duties
will constitute a Masonic crime and the perpetrator will be amenable to Masonic
But before entering on the
consideration of these penal offenses, it will be well that we should relieve
the labor of the task, by inquiring what crimes or offenses are not supposed to
come within the purview of Masonic jurisprudence.
Religion and politics are
subjects which it is well known are stringently forbidden to be introduced into
Masonry. And hence arises the doctrine, that Masonry will not take cognizance of
religious or political offenses.
Heresy, for instance, is not a
Masonic crime. Masons are obliged to use the words of the Old Charges, "to
that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to
themselves," and, therefore, as long as a Mason acknowledges his belief in
the existence of one God, a lodge can take no action on his peculiar opinions,
however heterodox they may be.
like manner, although all the most ancient and universally received precepts of
the institution inculcate obedience to the civil powers and strictly forbid any
mingling in plots or conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation,
yet no offense against the state, which is simply political in its character,
can be noticed by a lodge. On this important subject, the Old Charges are
remarkably explicit. They say, putting perhaps the strongest case by way of
exemplifying the principle, "that if a Brother should be a rebel against
the State, he is not to be countenanced in his rebellion, however he may be
pitied as an unhappy man, and, if convicted of no other crime, though the loyal
Brotherhood must and ought to disown his rebellion and give no umbrage or ground
of political jealousy to the government for the time being, they cannot expel
him from the lodge and his relation to it remains indefeasible"
lodge can, therefore, take no cognizance of religious or political offenses.
The first charge says: "a Mason is obliged by his
tenure to obey the moral law." Now, although, in a theological sense,
the ten commandments are said to embrace and constitute the moral law, because
they are its best exponent, yet jurists have given to the term a more general
latitude, in defining the moral laws to be "the eternal, immutable laws of
good and evil, to which the Creator himself, in all dispensations, conformsand
which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for
the conduct of human actions."[
Blackstone, Introd., § i.] Perhaps the well known summary of Justinian
will give the best idea of what this law is, namely, that we "should
live honestly, (that is to say, without reproach,) should injure nobody and
render to every one his just due."[
For so we should interpret the word "honeste."]
If such, then, be the meaning of the moral law and if
every Mason is by his tenure obliged to obey it, it follows, that all such
crimes as profane swearing or great impiety in any form, neglect of social and
domestic duties, murder and its concomitant vices of cruelty and hatred,
adultery, dishonesty in any shape, perjury or malevolence and habitual
falsehood, inordinate covetousness and in short, all those ramifications of
these leading vices which injuriously affect the relations of man to God, his
neighbor and himself, are proper subjects of lodge jurisdiction. Whatever
moral defects constitute the bad man, make also the bad Mason and consequently
come under the category of Masonic offenses. The principle is so plain and
comprehensible as to need no further exemplification. It is sufficient to say
that, whenever an act done by a Mason is contrary to or subversive of the three
great duties which he owes to God, his neighbor and himself, it becomes at once
a subject of Masonic investigation and of Masonic punishment.
But besides these offenses
against the universal moral law, there are many others arising from the peculiar
nature of our institution. Among these we may mention and in their order,
those that are enumerated in the several sections of the Sixth Chapter of the
Old Charges. These are, unseemly and irreverent conduct in the lodge, all
excesses of every kind, private piques or quarrels brought into the lodge,
imprudent conversation in relation to Masonry in the presence of uninitiated
strangers, refusal to relieve a worthy distressed Brother, if in your power, and
all "wrangling, quarreling, back-biting and slander."
The lectures in the various
degrees and the Ancient Charges read on the installation of the Master of a
lodge, furnish us with other criteria for deciding what are peculiarly Masonic
offenses. All of them need not be detailed, but among them may be
particularly mentioned the following. All improper revelations, undue
solicitations for candidates, angry and over-zealous arguments in favor of
Masonry with its enemies, every act which tends to impair the unsullied purity
of the Order, want of reverence for and obedience to Masonic superiors, the
expression of a contemptuous opinion of the original rulers and patrons of
Masonry, or of the institution itself, all countenance of impostors, and lastly,
holding Masonic communion with clandestine Masons, or visiting irregular lodges.
From this list, which, extended
as it is, might easily have been enlarged, it will be readily seen, that the
sphere of Masonic penal jurisdiction is by no means limited. It should,
therefore, be the object of every Mason, to avoid the censure or reproach of his
Brethren, by strictly confining himself as a point within that circle of duty
which, at his first initiation, was presented to him as an object worthy of his
II.---Of Masonic Punishments.
Having occupied the last chapter in a
consideration of what constitute Masonic crimes, it is next in order to
inquire how these offenses are to be punished, and accordingly I propose in
the following sections to treat of the various modes in which Masonic law is
vindicated, commencing with the slightest mode of punishment, which is censure
and proceeding to the highest, or expulsion from all the rights and privileges
of the Order.
A censure is the mildest form
of punishment that can be inflicted by a lodge, and as it is simply the
expression of an opinion by the members of the lodge, that they do not approve
of the conduct of the person implicated, in a particular point of view and as it
does not in any degree affect the Masonic standing of the one censured, nor for
a moment suspend or abridge his rights and benefits, I have no doubt that it
may be done on a mere motion, without previous notice and adopted, as any other
resolution, by a bare majority of the members present.
Masonic courtesy would, however,
dictate that notice should be given to the Brother, if absent, that such a
motion of censure is about to be proposed or considered, to enable him to show
cause, if any he have, why he should not be censured. But such notice is not, as
I have said, necessary to the legality of the vote of censure.
A vote of censure will
sometimes, however, be the result of a trial and in that case its adoption must
be governed by the rules of Masonic trials, which are hereafter to be laid down.
A reprimand is the next
mildest form of Masonic punishment. It should never be adopted on a mere motion,
but should always be the result of a regular trial, in which the party may have
the opportunity of defense. A reprimand may be either private or public.
If to be given in private, none should be present but the Master and the
offender, or, if given by letter, no copy of that letter should be preserved.
If given in public, the lodge is
the proper place and the reprimand should be given by the Master from his
The Master is always the
executive officer of the lodge and in carrying out the sentence he must exercise
his own prudent discretion as to the mode of delivery and form of words.
A reprimand, whether private or
public, does not affect the Masonic standing of the offender.
Exclusion from the Lodge.
Exclusion from a lodge may be of
1. A member may for
indecorous or un Masonic conduct be excluded from a single meeting of the lodge.
This may be done by the Master, under a provision of the bye-laws giving him the
authority, or on his own responsibility, in which case he is amenable to the
Grand Lodge for the correctness of his decision. Exclusion in this way does
not affect the Masonic standing of the person excluded and does not require a
I cannot entertain any doubt
that the Master of a lodge has the right to exclude temporarily any member or
Mason, when he thinks that either his admission, if outside, or his continuance
within, if present, will impair the peace and harmony of the lodge. It is a
prerogative necessary to the faithful performance of his duties and inalienable
from his great responsibility to the Grand Lodge for the proper government of
the Craft intrusted to his care. If, as it is described in the ancient manner of
constituting a lodge, the Master is charged "to preserve the cement of
the Lodge," it would be folly to give him such a charge, unless he were
invested with the power to exclude an unruly or disorderly member. But as
Masters are enjoined not to rule their lodges in an unjust or arbitrary manner
and as every Mason is clearly entitled to redress for any wrong that has been
done to him, it follows that the Master is responsible to the Grand Lodge for
the manner in which he has executed the vast power intrusted to him and he may
be tried and punished by that body, for excluding a member, when the motives of
the act and the other circumstances of the exclusion were not such as to warrant
the exercise of his prerogative.
The system of payment of lodge dues does not by any
means belong to the ancient usages of the fraternity. It is a modern custom,
established for purposes of convenience and arising out of other modifications,
in the organization of the Order. It is not an obligation on the part of a Mason, to
the institution at large, but is in reality a special contract, in which the
only parties are a particular lodge and its members, of which the fraternity, as
a mass, are to know nothing. It is not presented by any general Masonic law,
nor any universal Masonic precept. No Grand Lodge has ever yet attempted to
control or regulate it and it is thus tacitly admitted to form no part of the
general regulations of the Order. Even in that Old Charge in which a lodge is
described and the necessity of membership in is enforced, not a word is said of
the payment of arrears to it, or of the duty of contributing to its support.
Hence the non-payment of arrears is a violation of a special and voluntary
contract with a lodge and not of any general duty to the craft at large. The
corollary from all this is, evidently, that the punishment inflicted in such a
case should be one affecting the relations of the delinquent with the particular
lodge whose bye-laws he has infringed and not a general one, affecting
his relations with the
whole Order. After a consideration of all these circumstances, I
am constrained to think that suspension from a lodge, for non-payment of
arrears, should only suspend the rights of the member as to his own lodge, but
should not affect his right of visiting other lodges, nor any of the other
privileges inherent in him as a Mason. Such
is not, I confess, the general opinion, or usage of the craft in this country,
but yet I cannot but believe that it is the doctrine most consonant with the
true spirit of the institution. It is the practice pursued by the Grand Lodge
of England, from which most of our Grand Lodges derive, directly or indirectly,
their existence. It is also the regulation of the Grand Lodge of
Massachusetts. The Grand Lodge of South Carolina expressly forbids suspension
from the rights and benefits of Masonry for non-payment of dues and the Grand
Lodge of New York has a similar provision in its Constitution.
Of the two modes of exclusion from a lodge for
non-payment of dues, namely, suspension and erasure, the effects are very
different. Suspension does not abrogate the connection between the member and
his lodge and places his rights in abeyance only. Upon the payment of the debt,
he is at once restored without other action of the lodge. But erasure from the
roll terminates all connection between the delinquent and the lodge and he
ceases to be a member of it. Payment of the dues, simply, will not restore him,
for it is necessary that he should again be elected by the Brethren, upon formal
The word exclusion has a meaning in England differing
from that in which it has been used in the present section. There the
prerogative of expulsion is, as I think very rightly, exercised only by the
Grand Lodge. The term "expelled" is therefore used only when a Brother
is removed from the raft, by the Grand Lodge. The removal by a
District Grand Lodge, or a subordinate lodge, is called
"exclusion." The effect, however, of the punishment of exclusion,
is similar to that which has been here advocated.
IV.---Of Definite Suspension.
Suspension is a punishment by which a party is
temporarily deprived of his rights and privileges as a Mason. It does not
terminate his connection with the craft, but only places it in abeyance and it
may again be resumed in a mode hereafter to be indicated.
Suspension may be, in relation to time, either
definite or indefinite. And as the effects produced upon the delinquent,
especially in reference to the manner of his restoration, are different, it is
proper that each should be separately considered.
In a case of definite suspension, the time for which
the delinquent is to be suspended, whether for one month, for three, or six
months, or for a longer or shorter period, is always mentioned in the sentence.
At its termination, the party suspended is at once restored without further
action of the lodge. But as this is a point upon which there has been some
difference of opinion, the argument will be fully discussed in the chapter on
the subject of Restoration.
By a definite suspension, the delinquent is for a
time placed beyond the pale of Masonry. He is deprived of all his rights as a
Master Mason is not permitted to visit any lodge, or hold Masonic communication
with his Brethren, is not entitled to Masonic relief and should he die during
his suspension, is not entitled to Masonic burial. In short, the amount of
punishment differs from that of indefinite suspension or expulsion only in the
period of time for which it is inflicted.
The punishment of definite suspension is the lightest
that can be inflicted of those which affect the relations of a Mason with the
fraternity at large. It must always be preceded by a trial and the prevalent
opinion is, that it may be inflicted by a two-thirds vote of the lodge.
V.--Of Indefinite Suspension.
Indefinite suspension is a punishment by which the
person suspended is deprived of all his rights and privileges as a Mason, until
such time as the lodge, which has suspended him shall see fit, by a special
action, to restore him.
All that has been said of definite suspension in the
preceding section, will equally apply to indefinite suspension, except that in
the former case the suspended person is at once restored by the termination of
the period for which he was suspended, while in the latter, as no period of
termination had been affixed, a special resolution of the lodge will be
necessary to effect a restoration.
By suspension the connection of
the party with his lodge and with the institution is not severed, he still
remains a member of his lodge, although his rights as such are placed in
abeyance. In this respect it materially differs from expulsion and, as an
inferior grade of punishment, is inflicted for offenses of a lighter character
than those for which expulsion is prescribed.
The question here arises, whether the dues of a
suspended member to his lodge continue to accrue during his suspension? I think
they do not. Dues or arrears are payments made to a lodge for certain rights and
benefits, the exercise and enjoyment of which are guaranteed to the member, in
consideration of the dues thus paid. But as by suspension, whether definite or
indefinite, he is for the time deprived of these rights and benefits, it would
seem unjust to require from him a payment for that which he does not enjoy. I
hold, therefore, that suspension from the rights and benefits of Masonry,
includes also a suspension from the payment of arrears.
No one can be indefinitely suspended, unless after a
due form of trial and upon the vote of at least two-thirds of the members
Section VI.--Of Expulsion.
[I have treated
this subject of expulsion so fully in my "Lexicon of Freemasonry," and
find so little more to say on the subject, that I have not at all varied from
the course of argument and very little from the phraseology of the article in
Expulsion is the very highest penalty that can be
inflicted upon a delinquent Mason. It deprives the party expelled of all the
Masonic rights and privileges that he ever enjoyed, not only as a member of the
lodge from which he has been ejected, but also of all those which were inherent
in him as a member of the fraternity at large.
He is at once as completely divested of his Masonic character as though he had
never been admitted into the institution. He can no longer demand the aid of his
Brethren, nor require from them the performance of any of the duties to which he
was formerly entitled, nor visit any lodge, nor unite in any of the public or
private ceremonies of the Order. No conversation on Masonic subjects can be held
with him and he is to be considered as being completely without the pale of the
institution and to be looked upon in the same light as a profane, in relation to
the communication of any Masonic information.
is a custom too generally adopted in this country, for subordinate lodges to
inflict this punishment and hence it is supposed by many, that the power of
inflicting it is vested in the subordinate lodges. But the fact is, that the
only proper tribunal to impose this heavy penalty is a Grand Lodge. A
subordinate may, indeed, try its delinquent member and if guilty declare him
expelled. But the sentence is of no force until the Grand Lodge, under whose
jurisdiction it is working, has confirmed it. And it is optional with the
Grand Lodge to do so, or, as is frequently done, to reverse the decision and
reinstate the Brother. Some of the lodges in this country claim the right to
expel independently of the action of the Grand Lodge, but the claim is not
valid. The very fact that an expulsion is a penalty, affecting the general
relations of the punished party with the whole fraternity, proves that its
exercise never could, with propriety, be intrusted to a body so circumscribed in
its authority as a subordinate lodge. Besides, the general practice of the
fraternity is against it. The English Constitutions vest the power to expel
exclusively in the Grand Lodge. [In
England, ejection from a membership by a subordinate lodge is called
"exclusion," and it does not deprive the party of his general rights
as a member of the fraternity.]
The severity of the punishment will at once indicate
the propriety of inflicting it only for the most serious offenses, such, for
instance, as immoral conduct, that would subject a candidate for initiation to
As the punishment is general, affecting the relation
of the one expelled with the whole fraternity, it should not be lightly imposed,
for the violation of any Masonic act not general in its character. The
commission of a grossly immoral act is a violation of the contract entered into
between each Mason and his Order. If sanctioned by silence or impunity, it would
bring discredit on the institution and tend to impair its usefulness. A Mason
who is a bad man, is to the fraternity what a mortified limb is to the body and
should be treated with the same mode of cure—he should be cut off, lest his
example spread and disease be propagated through the constitution.
The punishment of expulsion can only be inflicted
after a due course of trial and upon the votes of at least two-thirds of the
members present and should always be submitted for approval and confirmation to
the Grand Lodge.
question here arises, in respect not only to expulsion but to the other Masonic
punishments, of which I have treated in the preceding sections:—Does
suspension or expulsion from a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, an Encampment of
Knights Templar, or any other of what are called the higher degrees of Masonry,
affect the relations of the expelled party to Symbolic or Ancient Craft Masonry?
I answer, unhesitatingly, that it does not and for reasons which, years ago, I
advanced, in the following language and which appear to have met with the
approval of the most of my contemporaries, “ A chapter of Royal Arch
Masons, for instance, is not and cannot be, recognized as a Masonic body, by a
lodge of Master Masons. 'They hear them so to be, but they do not know them so
to be,' by any of the modes of recognition known to Masonry. The acts,
therefore, of a Chapter cannot be recognized by a Master Masons' lodge, any more
than the acts of a literary or charitable society wholly unconnected with the
Order. Again, by the present organization of Freemasonry, Grand Lodges are
the supreme Masonic tribunals. If, therefore, expulsion from a Chapter of
Royal Arch Masons involved expulsion from a Blue Lodge, the right of the Grand
Lodge to hear and determine causes and to regulate the internal concerns of the
institution, would be interfered with by another body beyond its control.
But the converse of this proposition does not hold good. Expulsion from a
Blue Lodge involves expulsion from all the higher degrees, because, as they are
composed of Blue Masons, the members could not of right sit and hold
communications on Masonic subjects with one who was an expelled Mason."
[. Lexicon of Freemasonry.]
III.---Of Masonic Trials.
Having thus discussed the penalties, which are
affixed to Masonic offenses, we are next to inquire into the process of trial by
which a lodge determines on the guilt or innocence of the accused. This subject
will be the most conveniently considered by a division into two sections, first,
as to the form of trial, and secondly, as to the character of the evidence.
I.--Of the Form of Trial.
Although the authority for submitting Masonic
offenses to trials by lodges is derived from the Old Charges, none of the
ancient regulations of the Order have prescribed the details by which these
trials are to be governed. The form of trial must, therefore, be obtained from
the customs and usages of the craft and from the regulations which have been
adopted by various Grand Lodges. The present section will, therefore, furnish a
summary of these regulations as they are generally observed in this country.
A charge or statement of the offense imputed to the
party is always a preliminary step to every trial.
This charge must be made in writing, signed by the
accuser and delivered to the Secretary, who reads it at the next regular
communication of the lodge. A time and place are then appointed by the lodge for
The accused is entitled to a copy of the charge and
must be informed of the time and place that have been appointed for his trial.
Although it is necessary that the accusation should
be preferred at a stated communication, so that no one may be taken at a
disadvantage, the trial may take place at a special communication. But ample
time and opportunity should always be given to the accused to prepare his
It is not essential that the accuser should be a
Mason. A charge of immoral conduct can be preferred by a profane, and if the
offense is properly stated and if it comes within the jurisdiction of the Order
or the lodge, it must be investigated. It is not the accuser but the accused
that is to be put on trial and the lodge is to look only to the nature of the
accusation and not to the individual who prefers it. The motives of the accuser,
but not his character, may be examined.
If the accused is living beyond the jurisdiction of
the lodge, that is to say, if he be a member and have removed to some other
place without withdrawing his membership, not being a member, or if, after
committing the offense, he has left the jurisdiction, the charge must be
transmitted to his present place of residence, by mail or otherwise and a
reasonable time be allowed for his answer before the lodge proceeds to trial.
The lodge should be opened in
the highest degree to which the accused has attained, and the examinations
should take place in the presence of the accused and the accuser (if the latter
be a Mason), but the final decision should always be made in the third degree.
The accused and the accuser have
a right to be present at all examinations of witnesses, whether those
examinations are taken in open lodge or in a committee and to propose such
relevant questions as they desire.
When the trial is concluded, the accused and accuser
should retire and the Master or presiding officer must then put the question of
guilty or not guilty to the lodge. Of course, if there are several charges or
specifications, the question must be taken on each separately. For the purposes
of security and independence in the expression of opinion, it seems generally
conceded, that this question should be decided by ballot, and the usage has also
obtained, of requiring two-thirds of the votes given to be black, to secure a
conviction. A white ball, of course, is equivalent to acquittal and a black one
Every member present is bound to vote, unless excused
by unanimous consent.
If, on a scrutiny, it is found that the verdict is
guilty, the Master or presiding officer must then put the question as to the
amount and nature of the punishment to be inflicted.
He will commence with the highest penalty, or
expulsion and, if necessary, by that punishment being negatived, proceed to
propose indefinite and then definite suspension, exclusion, public or private
reprimand and censure.
For expulsion or either kind of suspension,
two-thirds of the votes present are necessary. For either of the other and
lighter penalties, a bare majority will be sufficient.
The votes on the nature of the punishment should be
taken by a show of hands.
If the residence of the accused is not known, or if,
upon due summons, he refuses or neglects to attend, the lodge may, nevertheless,
proceed to trial without his presence.
In trials conducted by Grand Lodges, it is usual to
take the preliminary testimony in a committee, but the final decision must
always be made in the Grand Lodge.
II.---Of the Evidence in Masonic Trials.
In the consideration of the nature of the evidence
that is to be given in Masonic trials, it is proper that we should first inquire
what classes of persons are to be deemed incompetent as witnesses.
The law of the land, which, in this instance, is the
same as the law of Masonry, has declared the following classes of person to be
incompetent to give evidence.
who have not the use of reason, are, from the infirmity of their nature,
considered to be utterly incapable of giving evidence.[ Phillips,
on Evidence, p. 3.]This
class includes idiots, madmen and children too young to be sensible of the
obligations of an oath and to distinguish between good and evil.
2. Persons who are entirely devoid of any such
religious principle or belief as would bind their consciences to speak the
truth, are incompetent as witnesses. Hence, the testimony of an atheist must be
rejected, because, as it has been well said, such a person cannot be subject to
that sanction which is deemed an indispensable test of truth. But as Masonry
does not demand of its candidates any other religious declaration than that of a
belief in God, it cannot require of the witnesses in its trials any profession
of a more explicit faith. But even here it seems to concur with the law of the
land, for it has been decided by Chief Baron Willes, that "an infidel
who believes in a God and that He will reward and punish him in this world, but
does not believe in a future state, may be examined upon oath."
3. Persons who have been rendered infamous by their
conviction of great crimes, are deemed incompetent to give evidence. This rule
has been adopted, because the commission of an infamous crime implies, as Sir
William Scott has observed, "such a dereliction of moral principle on the
part of the witness, as carries with it the conclusion that he would entirely
disregard the obligation of an oath." Of such a witness it has been
said, by another eminent judge, that "the credit of his oath is
over-balanced by the stain of his iniquity."[Chief
4. Persons interested in the result of the trial
are considered incompetent to give evidence. From the nature of human
actions and passions and from the fact that all persons, even the most virtuous,
are unconsciously swayed by motives of interest, the testimony of such persons
is rather to be distrusted than believed. This rule will, perhaps, be generally
of difficult application in Masonic trials, although in a civil suit at law it
is easy to define what is the interest of a party sufficient to render his
evidence incompetent. But whenever it is clearly apparent that the interests of
a witness would be greatly benefited by either the acquittal or the conviction
of the accused, his testimony must be entirely rejected, or, if admitted, its
value must be weighed with the most scrupulous caution.
Such are the rules that the wisdom of successive
generations of men, learned in the law, have adopted for the establishment of
the competency or in competency of witnesses. There is nothing in them which
conflicts with the principles of justice, or with the Constitutions of
Freemasonry, and hence they may, very properly, be considered as a part of our
own code. In determining, therefore, the rule for the admission of witnesses in
Masonic trials, we are to be governed by the simple proposition that has been
enunciated by Mr. Justice Lawrence in the following language, "I find no
rule less comprehensive than this, that all persons are admissible witnesses who
have the use of their reason and such religious belief as to feel the obligation
of an oath, who have not been convicted of any infamous crime and who are not
influenced by interest."
The peculiar, isolated character of our institution,
here suggests as an important question, whether it is admissible to take the
testimony of a profane, or person who is not a Freemason, in the trial of a
Mason before his lodge.
To this question I feel compelled to reply, that such
testimony is generally admissible, but, as there are special cases in which it
is not, it seems proper to qualify that reply by a brief inquiry into the
grounds and reasons of this admissibility and the mode and manner in which such
testimony is to be taken.
The great object of every trial, in Masonry, as
elsewhere, is to elicit truth, and, in the spirit of truth, to administer
whatever source, therefore, this truth can be obtained, it is not only competent
there to seek it, but it is obligatory on us so to do. This is the principle
of law as well as of common sense. Mr. Phillips, in the beginning of his
great "Treatise on the Law of Evidence," says: "In
inquiries upon this subject, the great end and object ought always to be, the
ascertaining of the most convenient and surest means for the attainment of
truth, the rules laid down are the means used for the attainment of that
Now, if A, who is a Freemason, shall have committed
an offense, of which B and C alone were cognizant as witnesses, shall it be said
that A must be acquitted for want of proof, because B and C are not members of
the Order? We apprehend that in this instance the ends of justice would be
defeated, rather than sub served. If the veracity and honesty of B and C are
unimpeached, their testimony as to the fact cannot lawfully be rejected on any
ground, except that they may be interested in the result of the trial and might
be benefited by the conviction or the acquittal of the defendant. But this is an
objection that would hold against the evidence of a Mason, as well as a profane.
Any other rule would be often attended with injurious
consequences to our institution. We may readily suppose a case by way of
illustration. A, who is a member of a lodge, is accused of habitual
intemperance, a vice eminently un Masonic in its character and one which will
always reflect a great portion of the degradation of the offender upon the
society which shall sustain and defend him in its perpetration. But it may
happen, and this is a very conceivable case, that in consequence of the
remoteness of his dwelling, or from some other supposable cause, his Brethren
have no opportunity of seeing him, except at distant intervals. There is,
therefore, no Mason, to testify to the truth of the charge, while his neighbors
and associates, who are daily and hourly in his company, are all aware of his
habit of intoxication.
If, then, a dozen or more men, all of reputation and veracity, should come, or
be brought before the lodge, ready and willing to testify to this fact, by what
process of reason or justice, or under what maxim of Masonic jurisprudence,
could their testimony be rejected, simply because they were not Masons? And if
rejected—if the accused with this weight of evidence against him, with this
infamy clearly and satisfactorily proved by these reputable witnesses, were to
be acquitted and sent forth purged of the charge, upon a mere technical ground
and thus triumphantly be sustained in the continuation of his vice and that in
the face of the very community which was cognizant of his degradation of life
and manners, who could estimate the disastrous consequences to the lodge and the
Order which should thus support and uphold him in his guilty course? The world
would not and could not appreciate the causes that led to the rejection of such
clear and unimpeachable testimony and it would visit with its just reprobation
the institution, which could thus extend its fraternal affections to the support
of undoubted guilt.
But, moreover, this is not a question of mere theory,
the principle of accepting the testimony of non-Masonic witnesses has been
repeatedly acted on. If a Mason has been tried by the courts of his country on
an indictment for larceny, or any other infamous crime and been convicted by the
verdict of a jury, although neither the judge nor the jury, nor the witnesses
were Masons, no lodge after such conviction would permit him to retain his
membership, but, on the contrary, it would promptly and indignantly expel him
from the Brotherhood. If, however, the lodge should refuse to expel him, on the
ground that his conviction before the court was based on the testimony of
non-Masonic witnesses and should grant him a lodge trial for the same offense,
then, on the principle against which we are contending, the evidence of these
witnesses as "profanes" would be rejected and the party be acquitted
for want of proof, and thus the anomalous and disgraceful spectacle would
present itself of a felon condemned and punished by the laws of his country for
an infamous crime, acquitted and sustained by a lodge of Freemasons.
But we will be impressed with the inexpediency and
injustice of this principle, when we look at its operation from another point of
view. It is said to be a bad rule that will not work both ways, and, therefore,
if the testimony of non-Masonic witnesses against the accused is rejected on the
ground of inadmissibility, it must also be rejected when given in his favor.
Now, if we suppose a case, in which a Mason was accused before his lodge of
having committed an offense, at a certain time and place and, by the testimony
of one or two disinterested persons, he could establish what the law calls an
alibi, that is, that at that very time he was at a far distant place and could
not, therefore, have committed the offense charged against him, we ask with what
show of justice or reason could such testimony be rejected, simply because the
parties giving it were not Masons? But if the evidence of a "profane"
is admitted in favor of the accused, rebutting testimony of the same kind cannot
with consistency be rejected, and hence the rule is determined that in the
trial of Masons, it is competent to receive the evidence of persons who are not
Masons, but whose competency, in other respects, is not denied.
It must, however, be noted, that the testimony of
persons who are not Masons is not to be given as that of Masons is, within the
precincts of the lodge. They are not to be present at the trial, and whatever
testimony they have to adduce, must be taken by a committee, to be afterwards
accurately reported to the lodge. But in all cases, the accused has a right to
be present and to interrogate the witnesses.
The only remaining topic to be discussed is the
method of taking the testimony and this can be easily disposed of. The testimony
of Masons is to be taken either in lodge or in committee and under the sanction
of their obligations. The testimony of profanes is always to be taken by a
committee and on oath administered by a competent legal officer, the most
convenient way of taking such testimony is by affidavit.
IV.--Of the Penal Jurisdiction of a Lodge.
The penal jurisdiction of a lodge is that
jurisdiction which it is authorized to exercise for the trial of Masonic
offenses and the infliction of Masonic punishment. It may be considered as
either geographical or personal.
The geographical jurisdiction of a lodge extends in
every direction, half way to the nearest lodge. Thus, if two lodges be situated
at the distance of sixteen miles from each other, then the penal jurisdiction of
each will extend for the space of eight miles in the direction of the other.
The personal jurisdiction of a lodge is that
jurisdiction which a lodge may exercise over certain individuals, respective or
irrespective of geographical jurisdiction. This jurisdiction is more complicated
than the other and requires a more detailed enumeration of the classes over whom
it is to be exercised.
1. A lodge exercises penal jurisdiction over all its
members, no matter where they may reside. A removal from the geographical
jurisdiction will not, in this case, release the individual from personal
jurisdiction. The allegiance of a member to his lodge is indefeasible.
2. A lodge exercises penal jurisdiction over all
unaffiliated Masons, living within its geographical jurisdiction. An
unaffiliated Mason cannot release himself from his responsibilities to the
Order. And if, by immoral or disgraceful conduct, he violates the regulations of
the Order, or tends to injure its reputation in the estimation of the community,
he is amenable to the lodge nearest to his place of residence, whether this
residence be temporary or permanent and may be reprimanded, suspended, or
This doctrine is founded on the wholesome reason,
that as a lodge is the guardian of the purity and safety of the institution,
within its own jurisdiction, it must, to exercise this guardianship with
success, be invested with the power of correcting every evil that occurs within
its precincts. And if unaffiliated Masons were exempted from this control, the
institution might be seriously affected in the eyes of the community, by their
3. The personal jurisdiction of a lodge, for the same
good reason, extends over all Masons living in its vicinity. A Master Mason
belonging to a distant lodge, but residing within the geographical jurisdiction
of another lodge, becomes amenable for his conduct to the latter, as well as to
the former lodge. But if his own lodge is within a reasonable distance, courtesy
requires that the lodge near which he resides should rather make a complaint to
his lodge than itself institute proceedings against him. But the reputation of
the Order must not be permitted to be endangered and a case might occur, in
which it would be inexpedient to extend this courtesy and where the lodge would
feel compelled to proceed to the trial and punishment of the offender, without
appealing to his lodge. The geographical jurisdiction will, in all cases,
legalize the proceedings.
4. But a lodge situated near the confines of a State
cannot extend its jurisdiction over Masons residing in a neighboring State and
not being its members, however near they may reside to it: for no lodge can
exercise jurisdiction over the members of another Grand Lodge jurisdiction. Its
geographical, as well as personal jurisdiction, can extend no further than that
of its own Grand Lodge.
5. Lastly, no lodge can exercise penal
jurisdiction over its own Master, for he is alone responsible for his conduct to
the Grand Lodge. But it may act as his accuser before that body and impeach him
for any offense that he may have committed. Neither can a lodge exercise penal
jurisdiction over the Grand Master, although under other circumstances it might
have both geographical and personal jurisdiction over him, from his residence
Every Mason, who has been tried and convicted by a
lodge, has an inalienable right to appeal from that conviction and from the
sentence accompanying it, to the Grand Lodge.
As an appeal always supposes the necessity of a
review of the whole case, the lodge is bound to furnish the Grand Lodge with an
attested copy of its proceedings on the trial and such other testimony in its
possession as the appellant may deem necessary for his defense.
The Grand Lodge may, upon investigation, confirm the
verdict of its subordinate. In this case, the appeal is dismissed and the
sentence goes into immediate operation without any further proceedings on the
part of the lodge.
The Grand Lodge may, however, only approve in part
and may reduce the penalty inflicted, as for instance, from expulsion to
suspension. In this case, the original sentence of the lodge becomes void and
the milder sentence of the Grand Lodge is to be put in force. The same process
would take place, were the Grand Lodge to increase instead of diminishing the
amount of punishment, as from suspension to expulsion. For it is competent for
the Grand Lodge, on an appeal, to augment, reduce or wholly abrogate the penalty
inflicted by its subordinate.
But the Grand Lodge may take no direct action on the
penalty inflicted, but may simply refer the case back to the subordinate for a
new trial. In this case, the proceedings on the trial will be commenced de novo,
if the reference has been made on the ground of any informality or illegality in
the previous trial. But if the case is referred back, not for a new trial, but
for further consideration, on the ground that the punishment was
inadequate—either too severe, or not sufficiently so—in this case, it is not
necessary to repeat the trial. The discussion on the nature of the penalty to be
inflicted should, however, be reviewed and any new evidence calculated to throw
light on the nature of the punishment which is most appropriate, may be
Lastly, the Grand Lodge may entirely reverse the
decision of its subordinate and decree a restoration of the appellant to all his
rights and privileges, on the ground of his innocence of the charges which had
been preferred against him. But, as this action is often highly important in its
results and places the appellant and the lodge in an entirely different relative
position, I have deemed its consideration worthy of a distinct chapter.
During the pendency of an appeal, the sentence of the
subordinate lodge is held in abeyance and cannot, be enforced. The appellant in
this case remains in the position of a Mason "under charges."
The penalties of suspension and expulsion are
terminated by restoration, which may take place either by the action of the
lodge, which inflicted them, or by that of the Grand Lodge.
Restoration from definite suspension is terminated
without any special action of the lodge, but simply by the termination of the
period for which the party was suspended. He then at once reenters into the
possession of all the rights, benefits and functions, from which he had been
I have myself no doubt of the correctness of this
principle, but, as it has been denied by some writers, although a very large
majority of the authorities are in its favor, it may be well, briefly, to
discuss its merits.
Let us suppose that on the 1st of January A.B. had
been suspended for three months, that is, until the 1st day of April. At the end
of the three months, that is to say, on the first of April, A.B. would no longer
be a suspended member—for the punishment decreed will have been endured, and
as the sentence of the lodge had expressly declared that his suspension was to
last until the 1st of April, the said sentence, if it means anything, must mean
that the suspension was, on the said 1st of April, to cease and determine. If he
were, therefore, to wait until the 1st of May for the action of the lodge,
declaring his restoration, he would suffer a punishment of four months'
suspension, which was not decreed by his lodge upon his trial and which would,
therefore, be manifestly unjust and illegal.
Again, if the offense which he had committed was,
upon his trial, found to be so slight as to demand only a dismissal for one
night from the lodge, will it be contended that, on his leaving the lodge room
pursuant to his sentence, he leaves not to return to it on the succeeding
communication, unless a vote should permit him? Certainly not. His punishment of
dismissal for one night had been executed, and on the succeeding night he
reentered into the possession of all his rights. But if he can do so after a
dismissal or suspension of one night, why not after one or three, six or twelve
months? The time is extended, but the principle remains the same.
But the doctrine, that after the expiration of the
term of a definite suspension, an action by the lodge is still necessary to a
complete restoration, is capable of producing much mischief and oppression. For,
if the lodge not only has a right, but is under the necessity of taking up the
case anew and deciding whether the person who had been suspended for three
months and whose period of suspension has expired, shall now be restored, it
follows, that the members of the lodge, in the course of their inquiry, are
permitted to come to such conclusion as they may think just and fit, for to say
that they, after all their deliberations, are, to vote only in one way, would be
too absurd to require any consideration. They may, therefore, decide that A.B.,
having undergone the sentence of the lodge, shall be restored and then of course
all would be well and no more is to be said. But suppose that they decide
otherwise and say that A.B., having undergone the sentence of suspension of
three months, shall not be restored, but must remain suspended until further
orders. Here, then, a party would have been punished a second time for the same
offense and that, too, after having suffered what, at the time of his
conviction, was supposed to be a competent punishment and without a trial and
without the necessary opportunities of defense, again found guilty and his
comparatively light punishment of suspension for three months changed into a
severer one and of an indefinite period. The annals of the most arbitrary
government in the world, the history of the most despotic tyrant that ever
lived, could not show an instance of more unprincipled violation of law and
justice than this. And yet it may naturally be the result of the doctrine, that
in a sentence of definite suspension, the party can be restored only by a vote
of the lodge at the expiration of his term of suspension. If the lodge can
restore him, it can as well refuse to restore him and to refuse to restore him
would be to inflict a new punishment upon him for an old and atoned for offense.
On the 1st of January, for instance, A.B., having
been put upon his trial, witnesses having been examined, his defense having been
heard, was found guilty by his lodge of some offense, the enormity of which,
whatever it might be, seemed to require a suspension from Masonry for just three
months, neither more nor less. If the lodge had thought the crime still greater,
it would, of course, we presume, have decreed a suspension of six, nine, or
twelve months. But considering, after a fair, impartial and competent
investigation of the merits of the case (for all this is to be presumed), that
the offended law would be satisfied with a suspension of three months, that
punishment is decreed. The court is adjourned sine die, for it has done all that
is required—the prisoner undergoes his sentence with becoming contrition and
the time having expired, the bond having been paid and the debt satisfied, he is
told that he must again undergo the ordeal of another trial, before another
court, before he can reassume what was only taken from him for a definite
period, and that it is still doubtful, whether the sentence of the former court
may not even now, after its accomplishment, be reversed and a new and more
severe one be inflicted.
The analogy of a person who has been sentenced to
imprisonment for a certain period and who, on the expiration of that period, is
at once released, has been referred to, as apposite to the case of a definite
suspension. Still more appropriately may we refer to the case of a person
transported for a term of years and who cannot return until that term expires,
but who is at liberty at once to do so when it has expired. "Another
capital offense against public justice," says Blackstone, "is the
returning from transportation, or being seen at large in Great Britain before
the expiration of the term for which the offender was sentenced to be
transported." Mark these qualifying words: "before the expiration of
the term:" they include, from the very force of language, the proposition
that it is no offense to return after the expiration of the term. And so
changing certain words to meet the change of circumstances, but leaving the
principle unchanged, we may lay down the law in relation to restorations from
definite suspensions, as follows:
It is an offense against the Masonic code to claim
the privileges of Masonry, or to attempt to visit a lodge after having been
suspended, before the expiration of the term for which the offender was
Of course, it is no crime to resume these privileges
after the term has expired, for surely he must have strange notions of the
powers of language, who supposes that suspension for three months and no more,
does not mean, that when the three months are over the suspension ceases. And,
if the suspension ceases, the person is no longer suspended, and, if no longer
suspended he is in good standing and requires no further action to restore him
to good moral and Masonic health.
But it is said that, although originally only
suspended for three months, at the expiration of that period, his conduct might
continue to be such as to render his restoration a cause of public reproach.
What is to be done in such a case? It seems strange that the question should be
asked. The remedy is only too apparent. Let new charges be preferred and let a
new trial take place for his derelictions of duty during the term of his
suspension. Then, the lodge may again suspend him for a still longer period, or
altogether expel him, if it finds him deserving such punishment. But in the name
of justice, law and common sense, do not insidiously and unmanfully continue a
sentence for one and a former offense, as a punishment for another and a later
one and that, too, without the due forms of trial.
Let us, in this case, go again for an analogy to the
laws of the land. Suppose an offender had been sentenced to an imprisonment of
six months for a larceny and that while in prison he had committed some new
crime. When the six months of his sentence had expired, would the Sheriff feel
justified, or even the Judge who had sentenced him, in saying: "I will not
release you, you have guilty of another offense during your incarceration and
therefore, I shall keep you confined six months longer?" Certainly not. The
Sheriff or the Judge who should do so high-handed a measure, would soon find
himself made responsible for the violation of private rights. But the course to
be pursued would be, to arrest him for the new offense, give him a fair trial
and, if convicted again, imprison or otherwise punish him, according to his new
sentence, or, if acquitted, discharge him.
The same course should be pursued with a Mason whose
conduct during the period of his suspension has been liable to reproach or
suspicion. Masons have rights as well as citizens, every one is to be considered
innocent until he is proved guilty and no one should suffer punishment, even of
the lightest kind, except after an impartial trial by his peers.
But the case of an indefinite suspension is
different. Here no particular time has been appointed for the termination of the
punishment. It may be continued during life, unless the court which has
pronounced it think proper to give a determinate period to what was before
indeterminate and to declare that on such a day the suspension shall cease and
the offender be restored. In a case of this kind, action on the part of the
lodge is necessary to effect a restoration.
Such a sentence being intended to last indefinitely,
that is to say, during the pleasure of the lodge, may, I conceive, be reversed
at any legal time and the individual restored by a mere majority vote the of
lodge. Some authorities think a vote of two-thirds necessary, but I see no
reason why a lodge may not, in this as in other cases, reverse its decision by a
vote of a simple majority. The Ancient Constitutions are completely silent on
this and all its kindred points, and, therefore, where a Grand Lodge has made no
local regulation on the subject, we must be guided by the principles of reason
and analogy, both of which direct us to the conclusion that a lodge may express
its will, in matters unregulated by the Constitutions, through the vote of a
But the restoration of an expelled Mason requires a
different action. By expulsion, as I have already said, all connection with the
Order is completely severed. The individual expelled ceases to be a Mason, so
far as respects the exercise of any Masonic rights or privileges. His
restoration to the Order is, therefore, equivalent to the admission of a
profane. Having ceased on his expulsion to be a member of the lodge, which had
expelled him, his restoration would be the admission of a new member. The
expelled Mason and the uninitiated candidate are to be placed on the same
footing, both are equally unconnected with the institution, the one having never
been in it and the other having been completely discharged from it.
The rule for the admission of new members, as laid
down in the Thirty-nine Regulations, seems to me, therefore, to be applicable in
this case, and hence, I conceive that to reverse a sentence of expulsion and to
restore an expelled Mason will require as unanimous a vote as that which is
necessary on a ballot for initiation.
Every action taken by a lodge for restoration must be
done at a stated communication and after due notice, that if any member should
have good and sufficient reasons to urge against the restoration, he may have an
opportunity to present them.
In conclusion, the Grand Lodge may restore a
suspended or expelled Mason, contrary to the wishes of the lodge. In such case,
if the party has been suspended only, he, at once, resumes his place and
functions in the lodge, from which, indeed, he had only been temporarily
But in the case of the restoration of an expelled
Mason to the rights and privileges of Masonry, by a Grand Lodge, does such
restoration restore him to membership in his lodge?
This question is an important one and has very generally been decided in the
negative by the Grand Lodges of this country. But as I unfortunately differ from
these high authorities, I cannot refrain, as an apology for this difference of
opinion, from presenting the considerations, which have led me to the conclusion
which I have adopted. I cannot, it is true, in the face of the mass of opposing
authority, offer this conclusion as Masonic law. But I would fain hope that the
time is not far distant when it will become so, by the change on the part of
Grand Lodges of the contrary decisions, which they have made.
The general opinion in this country is, that when a
Mason has been expelled by his lodge, the Grand Lodge may restore him to the
rights and privileges, but cannot restore him to membership in his lodge. My own
opinion, in contradiction to this, is, that when a Grand Lodge restores an
expelled Mason, on the ground that the punishment of expulsion from the rights
and privileges of Masonry was too severe and disproportioned to the offense, it
may or may not restore him to membership in his lodge. It might, for instance,
refuse to restore his membership on the ground that exclusion from his lodge is
an appropriate punishment, but where the decision of the lodge as to the
guilt of the individual is reversed and the Grand Lodge declares him to be
innocent, or that the charge against him has not been proved, then I hold, that
it is compelled by a just regard to the rights of the expelled member to restore
him not only to the rights and privileges of Masonry, but also to membership in
I cannot conceive how a Brother,
whose innocence has been declared by the verdict of his Grand Lodge, can be
deprived of his vested rights as the member of a particular lodge, without a
violation of the principles of justice. If guilty, let his expulsion stand, but,
if innocent, let him be placed in the same position in which he was before the
passage of the unjust sentence of the lodge which has been reversed.
The whole error, for such I conceive it to be, in
relation to this question of restoration to membership, arises, I suppose, from
a misapprehension of an ancient regulation, which says that "no man can be
entered a Brother in any particular lodge, or admitted a member thereof, without
the unanimous consent of all the members"—which inherent privilege is
said not to be subject to dispensation, "lest a turbulent member should
thus be imposed upon them, which might spoil their harmony, or hinder the
freedom of their communication, or even break and disperse the Lodge." But
it should be remembered that this regulation altogether refers to the admission
of new members and not to the restoration of old ones—to the granting of a
favor which the candidate solicits and which the lodge may or may not, in its
own good pleasure, see fit to confer and not to the resumption of a vested and
already acquired right, which, if it be a right, no lodge can withhold. The
practical working of this system of incomplete restoration, in a by no means
extreme case, will readily show its absurdity and injustice. A member having
appealed from expulsion by his lodge to the Grand Lodge, that body calmly and
fairly investigates the case. It finds that the appellant has been falsely
accused of an offense, which he has never committed, that he has been unfairly
tried and unjustly convicted. It declares him innocent, clearly and undoubtedly
innocent and far freer from any sort of condemnation than the prejudiced jurors
who convicted him. Under these circumstances, it becomes obligatory that the
Grand Lodge should restore him to the place he formerly occupied and reinvest
him with the rights of which he has been unjustly despoiled. But that it cannot
do. It may restore him to the privileges of Masonry in general, but, innocent
though he be, the Grand Lodge, in deference to the prejudices of his Brethren,
must perpetuate a wrong and punish this innocent person by expulsion from his
lodge. I cannot, I dare not, while I remember the eternal principles of justice,
subscribe to so monstrous an exercise of wrong—so flagrant an outrage upon
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