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THE PRINCIPLES OF MASONIC LAW:
A Treatise on the Constitutional Laws, Usages And Landmarks of
Albert G. Mackey, M.D.,
"The Lexicon of Freemasonry," "The Mystic Tie," "Legends and Traditions of
Freemasonry," Etc., Etc.,
Grand Lecturer and Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of South Carolina;
Secretary General of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Rite
for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, Etc., Etc., Etc.
"Est enim unum jus, quo devincta est hominum societas, quod lex
constituit una; quae lex est recta ratio imperandi atque prohibendi,
quam qui ignorat is est injustus."
Cicero de Legibus. c. XV.
Jno. W. Leonard & Co., Masonic Publishers,
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by Jno. W.
Leonard & Co.,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New York.
Brother J.J.J. Gourgas,
Sovereign Grand Inspector General in the Supreme Council for the Northern
Jurisdiction of the United States,
I Dedicate This Work,
As a Slight Testimonial of My Friendship and Esteem for Him
As a Man,
And of My Profound Veneration for His Character
As a Mason;
Whose Long and Useful Life Has Been Well Spent in the
Laborious Prosecution of the Science,
And the Unremitting Conservation of the Principles of Our
Table of Contents
Book First. The Law of Grand Lodges.
Chapter I. Historical Sketch.
Chapter II. Of the Mode of Organizing Grand Lodges.
Chapter III. Of the Members of a Grand Lodge.
Chapter IV. Of the Officers of a Grand Lodge.
Section I. Of the Grand Master.
Section II. The Deputy Grand Master.
Section III. Of the Grand Wardens.
Section IV. Of the Grand Treasurer.
Section V. Of the Grand Secretary.
Section VI. Of the Grand Chaplain.
Section VII. Of the Grand Deacons.
Section VIII. Of the Grand Marshal.
Section IX. Of the Grand Stewards.
Section X. Of the Grand Sword-Bearer.
Section XI. Of the Grand Tiler.
Chapter V. Of the Powers and Prerogatives of a Grand Lodge.
Section I. General View.
Section II. Of the Legislative Power of a Grand Lodge.
Section III. Of the Judicial Power of a Grand Lodge.
Section IV. Of the Executive Power of a Grand Lodge.
Book Second. Laws of Subordinate Lodges.
Chapter I. Of the Nature and Organization of Subordinate Lodges.
Chapter II. Of Lodges under Dispensation.
Chapter III. Of Lodges Working under a Warrant of Constitution.
Chapter IV. Of the Officers of a Subordinate Lodge.
Section I. Of the Officers in General.
Section II. Of the Worshipful Master.
Section III. Of the Wardens.
Section IV. Of the Treasurer.
Section V. Of the Secretary.
Section VI. Of the Deacons.
Section VII. Of the Stewards.
Section VIII. Of the Tiler.
Chapter V. Of Rules of Order.
Section I. Of the Order of Business.
Section II. Of Appeals from the Decision of the Chair.
Section III. Of the Mode of Taking the Question.
Section IV. Of Adjournments.
Section V. Of the Appointment of Committees.
Section VI. Of the Mode of Keeping the Minutes.
Book Third. The Law of Individuals.
Chapter I. Of the Qualifications of Candidates.
Section I. Of the Moral Qualifications of Candidates.
Section II. Of the Physical Qualifications of Candidates.
Section III. Of the Intellectual Qualifications of Candidates.
Section IV. Of the Political Qualifications of Candidates.
Section V. Of the Petition of Candidates for Admission, and the
Section VI. Of Balloting for Candidates.
Section VII. Of the Reconsideration of the Ballot.
Section VIII. Of the Renewal of Applications by Rejected Candidates.
Section IX. Of the Necessary Probation and Due Proficiency of
Candidates before Advancement
Section X. Of Balloting for Candidates in each Degree.
Section XI. Of the Number to be Initiated at one Communication.
Section XII. Of Finishing the Candidates of one Lodge in another.
Section XIII. Of the Initiation of Non-residents.
Chapter II. Of the Rights of Entered Apprentices.
Chapter III. Of the Rights of Fellow Crafts.
Chapter IV. Of the Rights of Master Masons.
Section I. Of the Right of Membership.
Section II. Of the Right of Visit.
Section III. Of the Examination of Visitors.
Section IV. Of Vouching for a Brother.
Section V. Of the Right of Claiming Relief.
Section VI. Of the Right of Masonic Burial.
Chapter V. Of the Rights of Past Masters.
Chapter VI. Of Affiliation.
Chapter VII. Of Demitting.
Chapter VIII. Of Unaffiliated Masons.
Book Fourth. Of Masonic Crimes and Punishments.
Chapter I. Of What Are Masonic Crimes.
Chapter II. Of Masonic Punishments.
Section I. Of Censure.
Section II. Of Reprimand.
Section III. Of Exclusion from the Lodge.
Section IV. Of Definite Suspension.
Section V. Of Indefinite Suspension.
Section VI. Of Expulsion.
Chapter III. Of Masonic Trials.
Section I. Of the Form of Trial.
Section II. Of the Evidence in Masonic Trials.
Chapter IV. Of the Penal Jurisdiction of a Lodge.
Chapter V. Of Appeals.
Chapter VI. Of Restoration.
In presenting to the fraternity a work on the Principles of Masonic Law,
it is due to those for whom it is intended, that something should be said
of the design with which it has been written, and of the plan on which it
has been composed. It is not pretended to present to the craft an
encyclopedia of jurisprudence, in which every question that can possibly
arise, in the transactions of a Lodge, is decided with an especial
reference to its particular circumstances. Were the accomplishment of such
an herculean task possible, except after years of intense and unremitting
labor, the unwieldy size of the book produced, and the heterogeneous
nature of its contents, so far from inviting, would rather tend to
distract attention, and the object of communicating a knowledge of the
Principles of Masonic Law, would be lost in the tedious collation of
precedents, arranged without scientific system, and enunciated without
When I first contemplated the composition of a work on this subject, a
distinguished friend and Brother, whose opinion I much respect, and with
whose advice I am always anxious to comply, unless for the most
satisfactory reasons, suggested the expediency of collecting the decisions
of all Grand Masters, Grand Lodges, and other masonic authorities upon
every subject of Masonic Law, and of presenting them, without commentary,
to the fraternity.
But a brief examination of this method, led me to perceive that I would be
thus constructing simply a digest of decrees, many of which would probably
be the results of inexperience, of prejudice, or of erroneous views of the
masonic system, and from which the authors themselves have, in repeated
instances, subsequently receded--for Grand Masters and Grand Lodges,
although entitled to great respect, are not infallible--and I could not,
conscientiously, have consented to assist, without any qualifying remark,
in the extension and perpetuation of edicts and opinions, which, however
high the authority from which they emanated, I did not believe to be in
accordance with the principles of Masonic jurisprudence.
Another inconvenience which would have attended the adoption of such a
method is, that the decisions of different Grand Lodges and Grand Masters
are sometimes entirely contradictory on the same points of Masonic Law.
The decree of one jurisdiction, on any particular question, will often be
found at variance with that of another, while a third will differ from
both. The consultor of a work, embracing within its pages such distracting
judgments, unexplained by commentary, would be in doubt as to which
decision he should adopt, so that coming to the inspection with the desire
of solving a legal question, he would be constrained to close the volume,
in utter despair of extracting truth or information from so confused a
mass of contradictions.
This plan I therefore at once abandoned. But knowing that the
jurisprudence of Masonry is founded, like all legal science, on abstract
principles, which govern and control its entire system, I deemed it to be
a better course to present these principles to my readers in an elementary
and methodical treatise, and to develop from them those necessary
deductions which reason and common sense would justify.
Hence it is that I have presumed to call this work "The Principles of
Masonic Law." It is not a code of enactments, nor a collection of
statutes, nor yet a digest of opinions; but simply an elementary treatise,
intended to enable every one who consults it, with competent judgment, and
ordinary intelligence, to trace for himself the bearings of the law upon
any question which he seeks to investigate, and to form, for himself, a
correct opinion upon the merits of any particular case.
Blackstone, whose method of teaching I have endeavored, although I confess
"ab longo inter-vallo," to pursue, in speaking of what an academical
expounder of the law should do, says:
"He should consider his course as a general map of the law, marking out
the shape of the country, its connections, and boundaries, its greater
divisions, and principal cities; it is not his business to describe
minutely the subordinate limits, or to fix the longitude and latitude of
every inconsiderable hamlet."
Such has been the rule that has governed me in the compilation of this
work. But in delineating this "general map" of the Masonic Law, I have
sought, if I may continue the metaphor, so to define boundaries, and to
describe countries, as to give the inspector no difficulty in "locating"
(to use an Americanism) any subordinate point. I have treated, it is true,
of principles, but I have not altogether lost sight of cases.
There are certain fundamental laws of the Institution, concerning which
there never has been any dispute, and which have come down to us with all
the sanctions of antiquity, and universal acceptation. In announcing
these, I have not always thought it necessary to defend their justice, or
to assign a reason for their enactment.
The weight of unanimous authority has, in these instances, been deemed
sufficient to entitle them to respect, and to obedience.
But on all other questions, where authority is divided, or where doubts of
the correctness of my decision might arise, I have endeavored, by a course
of argument as satisfactory as I could command, to assign a reason for my
opinions, and to defend and enforce my views, by a reference to the
general principles of jurisprudence, and the peculiar character of the
masonic system. I ask, and should receive no deference to my own
unsupported theories--as a man, I am, of course, fallible--and may often
have decided erroneously. But I do claim for my arguments all the weight
and influence of which they may be deemed worthy, after an attentive and
unprejudiced examination. To those who may at first be ready--because I do
not agree with all their preconceived opinions--to doubt or deny my
conclusions, I would say, in the language of Themistocles, "Strike, but
Whatever may be the verdict passed upon my labors by my Brethren, I trust
that some clemency will be extended to the errors into which I may have
fallen, for the sake of the object which I have had in view: that, namely,
of presenting to the Craft an elementary work, that might enable every
Mason to know his rights, and to learn his duties.
The intention was, undoubtedly, a good one. How it has been executed, it
is not for me, but for the masonic public to determine.
Albert G. Mackey.
Charleston, S.C., January 1st., 1856.
The Authorities for Masonic Law.
The laws which govern the institution of Freemasonry are of two kinds,
_unwritten_ and _written,_ and may in a manner be compared with the "lex
non scripta," or common law, and the "lex seripta," or statute law of
English and American jurists.
The "lex non scripta," or _unwritten law_ of Freemasonry is derived from
the traditions, usages and customs of the fraternity as they have existed
from the remotest antiquity, and as they are universally admitted by the
general consent of the members of the Order. In fact, we may apply to
these unwritten laws of Masonry the definition given by Blackstone of the
"leges non scriptae" of the English constitution--that "their original
institution and authority are not set down in writing, as acts of
parliament are, but they receive their binding power, and the force of
laws, by long and immemorial usage and by their universal reception
throughout the kingdom." When, in the course of this work, I refer to
these unwritten laws as authority upon any point, I shall do so under the
appropriate designation of "ancient usage."
The "lex scripta," or written law of Masonry, is derived from a variety of
sources, and was framed at different periods. The following documents I
deem of sufficient authority to substantiate any principle, or to
determine any disputed question in masonic law.
1. The "Ancient Masonic charges, from a manuscript of the Lodge of
Antiquity," and said to have been written in the reign of James II.
2. The regulations adopted at the General Assembly held in 1663, of which
the Earl of St. Albans was Grand Master.
3. The interrogatories propounded to the Master of a lodge at the time of
his installation, and which, from their universal adoption, without
alteration, by the whole fraternity, are undoubtedly to be considered as
a part of the fundamental law of Masonry.
4. "The Charges of a Freemason, extracted from the Ancient Records of
Lodges beyond sea, and of those in England, Scotland, and Ireland, for the
use of the Lodges in London," printed in the first edition of the Book of
Constitutions, and to be found from p. 49 to p. 56 of that work.
5. The thirty-nine "General Regulations," adopted "at the annual assembly
and feast held at Stationers' hall on St. John the Baptist's day, 1721,"
and which were published in the first edition of the Book of
Constitutions, p. 58 to p.
6. The subsequent regulations adopted at various annual communications by
the Grand Lodge of England, up to the year 1769, and published in
different editions of the Book of Constitutions. These, although not of
such paramount importance and universal acceptation as the Old Charges
and the Thirty-nine Regulations, are, nevertheless, of great value as the
means of settling many disputed questions, by showing what was the law and
usage of the fraternity at the times in which they were adopted.
Soon after the publication of the edition of 1769 of the Book of
Constitutions, the Grand Lodges of America began to separate from their
English parent and to organize independent jurisdictions. From that
period, the regulations adopted by the Grand Lodge of England ceased to
have any binding efficacy over the craft in this country, while the laws
passed by the American Grand Lodges lost the character of general
regulations, and were invested only with local authority in their several
Before concluding this introductory section, it may be deemed necessary
that something should be said of the "Ancient Landmarks of the Order," to
which reference is so often made.
Various definitions have been given of the landmarks. Some suppose them to
be constituted of all the rules and regulations which were in existence
anterior to the revival of Masonry in 1717, and which were confirmed and
adopted by the Grand Lodge of England at that time. Others, more
stringent in their definition, restrict them to the modes of recognition
in use among the fraternity. I am disposed to adopt a middle course, and
to define the Landmarks of Masonry to be, all those usages and customs of
the craft--whether ritual or legislative--whether they relate to forms and
ceremonies, or to the organization of the society--which have existed from
time immemorial, and the alteration or abolition of which would materially
affect the distinctive character of the institution or destroy its
identity. Thus, for example, among the legislative landmarks, I would
enumerate the office of Grand Master as the presiding officer over the
craft, and among the ritual landmarks, the legend of the third degree. But
the laws, enacted from time to time by Grand Lodges for their local
government, no matter how old they may be, do not constitute landmarks,
and may, at any time, be altered or expunged, since the 39th regulation
declares expressly that "every annual Grand Lodge has an inherent power
and authority to make new regulations or to alter these (viz., the
thirty-nine articles) for the real benefit of this ancient fraternity,
provided always that the old landmarks be carefully preserved."
The Law of Grand Lodges.
It is proposed in this Book, first to present the reader with a brief
historical sketch of the rise and progress of the system of Grand Lodges;
and then to explain, in the subsequent sections, the mode in which such
bodies are originally organized, who constitute their officers and
members, and what are their acknowledged prerogatives.
Grand Lodges under their present organization, are, in respect to the
antiquity of the Order, of a comparatively modern date. We hear of no such
bodies in the earlier ages of the institution. Tradition informs us, that
originally it was governed by the despotic authority of a few chiefs. At
the building of the temple, we have reason to believe that King Solomon
exercised an unlimited and irresponsible control over the craft, although
a tradition (not, however, of undoubted authority) says that he was
assisted in his government by the counsel of twelve superintendants,
selected from the twelve tribes of Israel. But we know too little, from
authentic materials, of the precise system adopted at that remote period,
to enable us to make any historical deductions on the subject.
The first historical notice that we have of the formation of a supreme
controlling body of the fraternity, is in the "Gothic Constitutions"
which assert that, in the year 287, St. Alban, the protomartyr of England,
who was a zealous patron of the craft, obtained from Carausius, the
British Emperor, "a charter for the Masons to hold a general council, and
gave it the name of assembly." The record further states, that St. Alban
attended the meeting and assisted in making Masons, giving them "good
charges and regulations." We know not, however, whether this assembly ever
met again; and if it did, for how many years it continued to exist. The
subsequent history of Freemasonry is entirely silent on the subject.
The next general assemblage of the craft, of which the records of
Freemasonry inform us, was that convened in 926, at the city of York, in
England, by Prince Edwin, the brother of King Athelstane, and the grandson
of Alfred the Great. This, we say, was the next general assemblage,
because the Ashmole manuscript, which was destroyed at the revival of
Freemasonry in 1717, is said to have stated that, at that time, the Prince
obtained from his brother, the king, a permission for the craft "to hold a
yearly communication and a general assembly." The fact that such a power
of meeting was then granted, is conclusive that it did not before exist:
and would seem to prove that the assemblies of the craft, authorised by
the charter of Carausius, had long since ceased to be held. This yearly
communication did not, however, constitute, at least in the sense we now
understand it, a Grand Lodge. The name given to it was that of the
"General Assembly of Masons." It was not restricted, as now, to the
Masters and Wardens of the subordinate lodges, acting in the capacity of
delegates or representatives, but was composed, as Preston has observed,
of as many of the fraternity at large as, being within a convenient
distance, could attend once or twice a year, under the auspices of one
general head, who was elected and installed at one of these meetings, and
who, for the time being, received homage as the governor of the whole
body. Any Brethren who were competent to discharge the duty, were allowed,
by the regulations of the Order, to open and hold lodges at their
discretion, at such times and places as were most convenient to them, and
without the necessity of what we now call a Warrant of Constitution, and
then and there to initiate members into the Order. To the General
Assembly, however, all the craft, without distinction, were permitted to
repair; each Mason present was entitled to take part in the deliberations,
and the rules and regulations enacted were the result of the votes of the
whole body. The General Assembly was, in fact, precisely similar to those
political congregations which, in our modern phraseology, we term "mass
These annual mass meetings or General Assemblies continued to be held, for
many centuries after their first establishment, at the city of York, and
were, during all that period, the supreme judicatory of the fraternity.
There are frequent references to the annual assemblies of Freemasons in
public documents. The preamble to an act passed in 1425, during the reign
of Henry VI., just five centuries after the meeting at York, states that,
"by the _yearly congregations_ and confederacies made by the Masons in
their _general assemblies, _ the good course and effect of the statute of
laborers were openly violated and broken." This act which forbade such
meetings, was, however, never put in force; for an old record, quoted in
the Book of Constitutions, speaks of the Brotherhood having frequented
this "mutual assembly," in 1434, in the reign of the same king. We have
another record of the General Assembly, which was held in York on the 27th
December, 1561, when Queen Elizabeth, who was suspicious of their secrecy,
sent an armed force to dissolve the meeting. A copy is still preserved of
the regulations which were adopted by a similar assembly held in 1663, on
the festival of St. John the Evangelist; and in these regulations it is
declared that the private lodges shall give an account of all their
acceptations made during the year to the General Assembly. Another
regulation, however, adopted at the same time, still more explicitly
acknowledges the existence of a General Assembly as the governing body of
the fraternity. It is there provided, "that for the future, the said
fraternity of Freemasons shall be regulated and governed by one Grand
Master and as many Wardens as the said society shall think fit to appoint
at every Annual General Assembly."
And thus the interests of the institution continued, until the beginning
of the eighteenth century, or for nearly eight hundred years, to be
entrusted to those General Assemblies of the fraternity, who, without
distinction of rank or office, annually met at York to legislate for the
government of the craft.
But in 1717, a new organization of the governing head was adopted, which
gave birth to the establishment of a Grand Lodge, in the form in which
these bodies now exist. So important a period in the history of Masonry
demands our special attention.
After the death, in 1702, of King William, who was himself a Mason, and a
great patron of the craft, the institution began to languish, the lodges
decreased in number, and the General Assembly was entirely neglected for
many years. A few old lodges continued, it is true, to meet regularly, but
they consisted of only a few members.
At length, on the accession of George I., the Masons of London and its
vicinity determined to revive the annual communications of the society.
There were at that time only four lodges in the south of England, and the
members of these, with several old Brethren, met in February, 1717, at the
Apple Tree Tavern, in Charles street, Covent Garden, and organized by
putting the oldest Master Mason, who was the Master of a lodge, in the
chair; they then constituted themselves into what Anderson calls, "a Grand
Lodge _pro tempore;"_ resolved to hold the annual assembly and feast, and
then to choose a Grand Master.
Accordingly, on the 24th of June, 1717, the assembly and feast were held;
and the oldest Master of a lodge being in the chair, a list of candidates
was presented, out of which Mr. Anthony Sayer was elected Grand Master,
and Capt. Joseph Elliott and Mr. Jacob Lamball, Grand Wardens.
The Grand Master then commanded the Masters and Wardens of lodges to meet
the Grand Officers every quarter, in communication, at the place he should
appoint in his summons sent by the Tiler.
This was, then, undoubtedly, the commencement of that organization of the
Masters and Wardens of lodges into a Grand Lodge, which has ever since
continued to exist.
The fraternity at large, however, still continued to claim the right of
being present at the annual assembly; and, in fact, at that meeting, their
punctual attendance at the next annual assembly and feast was recommended.
At the same meeting, it was resolved "that the privilege of assembling as
Masons, which had been hitherto unlimited, should be vested in certain
lodges or assemblies of Masons convened in certain places; and that every
lodge to be hereafter convened, except the four old lodges at this time
existing, should be legally authorized to act by a warrant from the Grand
Master for the time being, granted to certain individuals by petition,
with the consent and approbation of the Grand Lodge in communication; and
that, without such warrant, no lodge should be hereafter deemed regular or
In consequence of this regulation, several new lodges received Warrants of
Constitution, and their Masters and Wardens were ordered to attend the
communications of the Grand Lodge. The Brethren at large vested all their
privileges in the four old lodges, in trust that they would never suffer
the old charges and landmarks to be infringed; and the old lodges, in
return, agreed that the Masters and Wardens of every new lodge that might
be constituted, should be permitted to share with them all the privileges
of the Grand Lodge, except precedence of rank. The Brethren, says Preston,
considered their further attendance at the meetings of the society
unnecessary after these regulations were adopted; and therefore trusted
implicitly to their Masters and Wardens for the government of the craft;
and thenceforward the Grand Lodge has been composed of all the Masters and
Wardens of the subordinate lodges which constitute the jurisdiction.
The ancient right of the craft, however, to take a part in the proceedings
of the Grand Lodge or Annual Assembly, was fully acknowledged by a new
regulation, adopted about the same time, in which it is declared that all
alterations of the Constitutions must be proposed and agreed to, at the
third quarterly communication preceding the annual feast, and be offered
also to the perusal of _all_ the Brethren before dinner, _even of the
youngest Entered Apprentice_
This regulation has, however, (I know not by what right,) become obsolete,
and the Annual Assembly of Masons has long ceased to be held; the Grand
Lodges having, since the beginning of the eighteenth century, assumed the
form and organization which they still preserve, as strictly
Of the Mode of Organizing Grand Lodges.
The topic to be discussed in this section is, the answer to the question,
How shall a Grand Lodge be established in any state or country where such
a body has not previously existed, but where there are subordinate lodges
working under Warrants derived from Grand Lodges in other states? In
answering this question, it seems proper that I should advert to the
course pursued by the original Grand Lodge of England, at its
establishment in 1717, as from that body nearly all the Grand Lodges of
the York rite now in existence derive their authority, either directly or
indirectly, and the mode of its organization has, therefore, universally
been admitted to have been regular and legitimate.
In the first place, it is essentially requisite that the active existence
of subordinate lodges in a state should precede the formation of a Grand
Lodge; for the former are the only legitimate sources of the latter. A
mass meeting of Masons cannot assemble and organize a Grand Lodge. A
certain number of lodges, holding legal warrants from a Grand Lodge or
from different Grand Lodges, must meet by their representatives and
proceed to the formation of a Grand Lodge. When that process has been
accomplished, the subordinate lodges return the warrants, under which they
had theretofore worked, to the Grand Lodges from which they had originally
received them, and take new ones from the body which they have formed.
That a mass meeting of the fraternity of any state is incompetent to
organize a Grand Lodge has been definitively settled--not only by general
usage, but by the express action of the Grand Lodges of the United States
which refused to recognize, in 1842, the Grand Lodge of Michigan which had
been thus irregularly established in the preceding year. That unrecognized
body was then dissolved by the Brethren of Michigan, who proceeded to
establish four subordinate lodges under Warrants granted by the Grand
Lodge of New York. These four lodges subsequently met in convention and
organized the present Grand Lodge of Michigan in a regular manner.
It seems, however, to have been settled in the case of Vermont, that where
a Grand Lodge has been dormant for many years, and all of its subordinates
extinct, yet if any of the Grand Officers, last elected, survive and are
present, they may revive the Grand Lodge and proceed constitutionally to
the exercise of its prerogatives.
The next inquiry is, as to the number of lodges required to organize a new
Grand Lodge. Dalcho says that _five_ lodges are necessary; and in this
opinion he is supported by the Ahiman Rezon of Pennsylvania, published in
1783 by William Smith, D.D., at that time the Grand Secretary of that
jurisdiction, and also by some other authorities. But no such regulation
is to be found in the Book of Constitutions, which is now admitted to
contain the fundamental law of the institution. Indeed, its adoption would
have been a condemnation of the legality of the Mother Grand Lodge of
England, which was formed in 1717 by the union of only _four_ lodges. The
rule, however, is to be found in the Ahiman Rezon of Laurence Dermott,
which was adopted by the "Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons," that seceded
from the lawful Grand Lodge in 1738. But as that body was undoubtedly,
under our present views of masonic law, schismatic and illegal, its
regulations have never been considered by masonic writers as being
possessed of any authority.
In the absence of any written law upon the subject, we are compelled to
look to precedent for authority; and, although the Grand Lodges in the
United States have seldom been established with a representation of less
than four lodges, the fact that that of Texas was organized in 1837 by the
representatives of only _three_ lodges, and that the Grand Lodge thus
instituted was at once recognized as legal and regular by all its sister
Grand Lodges, seems to settle the question that three subordinates are
sufficient to institute a Grand Lodge.
Three lodges, therefore, in any territory where a Grand Lodge does not
already exist, may unite in convention and organize a Grand Lodge. It will
then be necessary, that these lodges should surrender the warrants under
which they had been previously working, and take out new warrants from the
Grand Lodge which they have constituted; and, from that time forth, all
masonic authority is vested in the Grand Lodge thus formed.
The Grand Lodge having been thus constituted, the next inquiries that
suggest themselves are as to its members and its officers, each of which
questions will occupy a distinct discussion.
Of the Members of a Grand Lodge.
It is an indisputable fact that the "General Assembly" which met at York
in 926 was composed of all the members of the fraternity who chose to
repair to it; and it is equally certain that, at the first Grand Lodge,
held in 1717, after the revival of Masonry, all the craft who were present
exercised the right of membership in voting for Grand Officers, and
must, therefore, have been considered members of the Grand Lodge. The
right does not, however, appear to have been afterwards claimed. At this
very assembly, the Grand Master who had been elected, summoned only the
Master and Wardens of the lodges to meet him in the quarterly
communications; and Preston distinctly states, that soon after, the
Brethren of the four old lodges, which had constituted the Grand Lodge,
considered their attendance on the future communications of the society
unnecessary, and therefore concurred with the lodges which had been
subsequently warranted in delegating the power of representation to their
Masters and Wardens, "resting satisfied that no measure of importance
would be adopted without their approbation."
Any doubts upon the subject were, however, soon put at rest by the
enactment of a positive law. In 1721, thirty-nine articles for the future
government of the craft were approved and confirmed, the twelfth of which
was in the following words:
"The Grand Lodge consists of, and is formed by, the Masters and Wardens of
all the regular particular lodges upon record, with the Grand Master at
their head, and his Deputy on his left hand, and the Grand Wardens in
their proper places."
From time to time, the number of these constituents of a Grand Lodge were
increased by the extension of the qualifications for membership. Thus, in
1724, Past Grand Masters, and in 1725, Past Deputy Grand Masters, were
admitted as members of the Grand Lodge. Finally it was decreed that the
Grand Lodge should consist of the four present and all past grand
officers; the Grand Treasurer, Secretary, and Sword-Bearer; the Master,
Wardens, and nine assistants of the Grand Stewards' lodge, and the Masters
and Wardens of all the regular lodges.
Past Masters were not at first admitted as members of the Grand Lodge.
There is no recognition of them in the old Constitutions. Walworth thinks
it must have been after 1772 that they were introduced. I have extended
my researches to some years beyond that period, without any success in
finding their recognition as members under the Constitution of England. It
is true that, in 1772, Dermott prefixed a note to his edition of the
Ahiman Rezon, in which he asserts that "Past Masters of warranted lodges
on record are allowed this privilege (of membership) whilst they continue
to be members of any regular lodge." And it is, doubtless, on this
imperfect authority, that the Grand Lodges of America began at so early a
period to admit their Past Masters to seats in the Grand Lodge. In the
authorized Book of Constitutions, we find no such provision. Indeed,
Preston records that in 1808, at the laying of the foundation-stone of the
Covent Garden Theatre, by the Prince of Wales, as Grand Master, "the Grand
Lodge was opened by Charles Marsh, Esq., attended by the _Masters and
Wardens_ of all the regular lodges;" and, throughout the description of
the ceremonies, no notice is taken of Past Masters as forming any part of
the Grand Lodge. The first notice that we have been enabled to obtain of
Past Masters, as forming any part of the Grand Lodge of England, is in the
"Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges of England," adopted in
1813, which declare that the Grand Lodge shall consist of the Grand and
Past Grand Officers, of the actual Masters and Wardens of all the
warranted lodges, and of the "Past Masters of Lodges who have regularly
served and passed the chair before the day of Union, and who continued,
without secession, regular contributing members of a warranted lodge." But
it is provided, that after the decease of all these ancient Past Masters,
the representation of every lodge shall consist of its Master and Wardens,
and one Past Master only. There is, I presume, no doubt that, from 1772,
Past Masters had held a seat in the Athol Grand Lodge of Ancient Masons,
and that they did not in the original Grand Lodge, is, I believe, a fact
equally indisputable. By the present constitutions of the United Grand
Lodge of England, Past Masters are members of the Grand Lodge, while they
continue subscribing members of a private lodge. In some of the Grand
Lodges of the United States, Past Masters have been permitted to retain
their membership, while in others, they have been disfranchised.
On the whole, the result of this inquiry seems to be, that Past Masters
have no inherent right, derived from the ancient landmarks, to a seat in
the Grand Lodge; but as every Grand Lodge has the power, within certain
limits, to make regulations for its own government, it may or may not
admit them to membership, according to its own notion of expediency.
Some of the Grand Lodges have not only disfranchised Past Masters but
Wardens also, and restricted membership only to acting Masters. This
innovation has arisen from the fact that the payment of mileage and
expenses to three representative would entail a heavy burden on the
revenue of the Grand Lodge. The reason may have been imperative; but in
the practice, pecuniary expediency has been made to override an ancient
In determining, then, who are the constitutional members of a Grand Lodge,
deriving their membership from inherent right, I should say that they are
the Masters and Wardens of all regular lodges in the jurisdiction, with
the Grand Officers chosen by them. All others, who by local regulations
are made members, are so only by courtesy, and not by prescription or
Of the Officers of a Grand Lodge.
The officers of a Grand Lodge may be divided into two classes, _essential_
and _accidental_, or, as they are more usually called, _Grand_ and
_Subordinate_. The former of these classes are, as the name imports,
essential to the composition of a Grand Lodge, and are to be found in
every jurisdiction, having existed from the earliest times. They are the
Grand and Deputy Grand Masters, the Grand Wardens, Grand Treasurer, and
Grand Secretary. The Grand Chaplain is also enumerated among the Grand
Officers, but the office is of comparatively modern date.
The subordinate officers of a Grand Lodge consist of the Deacons, Marshal,
Pursuivant, or Sword-Bearer, Stewards, and others, whose titles and duties
vary in different jurisdictions. I shall devote a separate section to the
consideration of the duties of each and prerogatives of these officers.
_Of the Grand Master._
The office of Grand Master of Masons has existed from the very origin of
the institution; for it has always been necessary that the fraternity
should have a presiding head. There have been periods in the history of
the institution when neither Deputies nor Grand Wardens are mentioned, but
there is no time in its existence when it was without a Grand Master; and
hence Preston, while speaking of that remote era in which the fraternity
was governed by a General Assembly, says that this General Assembly or
Grand Lodge "was not then restricted, as it is now understood to be, to
the Masters and Wardens of private lodges, with the Grand Master and his
Wardens at their head; it consisted of as many of the Fraternity _at
large_ as, being within a convenient distance, could attend, once or twice
in a year, under the auspices of one general head, who was elected and
installed at one of these meetings; and who for the time being received
homage as the sole governor of the whole body." The office is one of
great honour as well as power, and has generally been conferred upon some
individual distinguished by an influential position in society; so that
his rank and character might reflect credit upon the craft.
The Grand Mastership is an elective office, the election being annual and
accompanied with impressive ceremonies of proclamation and homage made to
him by the whole craft. Uniform usage, as well as the explicit declaration
of the General Regulations, seems to require that he should be
installed by the last Grand Master. But in his absence the Deputy or some
Past Grand Master may exercise the functions of installation or
investiture. In the organization of a new Grand Lodge, ancient precedent
and the necessity of the thing will authorize the performance of the
installation by the Master of the oldest lodge present, who, however,
exercises, _pro hac vice_, the prerogatives and assumes the place of a
The Grand Master possesses a great variety of prerogatives, some of which
are derived from the "lex non scripta," or ancient usage; and others from
the written or statute law of Masonry.
I. He has the right to convene the Grand Lodge whenever he pleases, and to
preside over its deliberation. In the decision of all questions by the
Grand Lodge he is entitled to two votes. This is a privilege secured to
him by Article XII. of the General Regulations.
It seems now to be settled, by ancient usage as well as the expressed
opinion of the generality of Grand Lodges and of masonic writers, that
there is no appeal from his decision. In June, 1849, the Grand Master of
New York, Bro. Williard, declared an appeal to be out of order and refused
to submit it to the Grand Lodge. The proceedings on that eventful occasion
have been freely discussed by the Grand Lodges of the United States, and
none of them have condemned the act of the Grand Master, while several
have sustained it in express terms. "An appeal," say the Committee of
Correspondence of Maryland, "from the decision of the Grand Master is an
anomaly at war with every principle of Freemasonry, and as such, not for
a moment to be tolerated or countenanced." This opinion is also
sustained by the Committee of the Grand Lodge of Florida in the year 1851,
and at various times by other Grand Lodges. On the other hand, several
Grand Lodges have made decisions adverse to this prerogative, and the
present regulations of the Grand Lodge of England seem, by a fair
interpretation of their phraseology, to admit of an appeal from the Grand
Master. Still the general opinion of the craft in this country appears to
sustain the doctrine, that no appeal can be made from the decision of that
officer. And this doctrine has derived much support in the way of analogy
from the report adopted by the General Grand Chapter of the United States,
declaring that no appeal could lie from the decision of the presiding
officer of any Royal Arch body.
Since we have enunciated this doctrine as masonic law, the question next
arises, in what manner shall the Grand Master be punished, should he abuse
his great prerogative? The answer to this question admits of no doubt. It
is to be found in a regulation, adopted in 1721, by the Grand Lodge of
England, and is in these words:--"If the Grand Master should abuse his
great power, and render himself unworthy of the obedience and submission
of the Lodges, he shall be treated in a way and manner to be agreed upon
in a new regulation." But the same series of regulations very explicitly
prescribe, how this new regulation is to be made; namely, it is to be
"proposed and agreed to at the third quarterly communication preceding the
annual Grand Feast, and offered to the perusal of all the Brethren before
dinner, in writing, even of the youngest entered apprentice; the
approbation and consent of the majority of all the Brethren present being
absolutely necessary, to make the same binding and obligatory." This
mode of making a new regulation is explicitly and positively
prescribed--it can be done in no other way--and those who accept the old
regulations as the law of Masonry, must accept this provision with them.
This will, in the present organization of many Grand Lodges, render it
almost impracticable to make such a new regulation, in which case the
Grand Master must remain exempt from other punishment for his misdeeds,
than that which arises from his own conscience, and the loss of his
Brethren's regard and esteem.
II. The power of granting dispensations is one of the most important
prerogatives of the Grand Master. A dispensation may be defined to be an
exemption from the observance of some law or the performance of some duty.
In Masonry, no one has the authority to grant this exemption, except the
Grand Master; and, although the exercise of it is limited within the
observance of the ancient landmarks, the operation of the prerogative is
still very extensive. The dispensing power may be exercised under the
1. The fourth old Regulation prescribes that "no lodge shall make more
than five new Brothers at one and the same time without an urgent
necessity." But of this necessity the Grand Master may judge, and, on
good and sufficient reason being shown, he may grant a dispensation
enabling any lodge to suspend this regulation and make more than five new
2. The next regulation prescribes "that no one can be accepted a member of
a particular lodge without previous notice, one month before given to the
lodge, in order to make due inquiry into the reputation and capacity of
the candidate." But here, also, it is held that, in a suitable case of
emergency, the Grand Master may exercise his prerogative and dispense with
this probation of one month, permitting the candidate to be made on the
night of his application.
3. If a lodge should have omitted for any causes to elect its officers or
any of them on the constitutional night of election, or if any officer so
elected shall have died, been deposed or removed from the jurisdiction
subsequent to his election, the Grand Master may issue a dispensation
empowering the lodge to proceed to an election or to fill the vacancy at
any other specified communication; but he cannot grant a dispensation to
elect a new master in consequence of the death or removal of the old one,
while the two Wardens or either of them remain--because the Wardens
succeed by inherent right and in order of seniority to the vacant
mastership. And, indeed, it is held that while one of the three officers
remains, no election can be held, even by dispensation, to fill the other
two places, though vacancies in them may have occurred by death or
4. The Grand Master may grant a dispensation empowering a lodge to elect
a Master from among the members on the floor; but this must be done only
when every Past Master, Warden, and Past Warden of the lodge has refused
to serve, because ordinarily a requisite qualification for the
Mastership is, that the candidate shall, previously, have served in the
office of Warden.
5. In the year 1723 a regulation was adopted, prescribing "that no Brother
should belong to more than one lodge within the bills of mortality."
Interpreting the last expression to mean three miles--which is now
supposed to be the geographical limit of a lodge's jurisdiction, this
regulation may still be considered as a part of the law of Masonry; but in
some Grand Lodges, as that of South Carolina, for instance, the Grand
Master will sometimes exercise his prerogative, and, dispensing with this
regulation, permit a Brother to belong to two lodges, although they may be
within three miles of each other.
6. But the most important power of the Grand Master connected with his
dispensing prerogative is, that of constituting new lodges. It has
already been remarked that, anciently, a warrant was not required for the
formation of a lodge, but that a sufficient number of Masons, met together
within a certain limit, were empowered, with the consent of the sheriff or
chief magistrate of the place, to make Masons and practice the rites of
Masonry, without such warrant of Constitution. But, in the year 1717, it
was adopted as a regulation, that every lodge, to be thereafter convened,
should be authorised to act by a warrant from the Grand Master for the
time being, granted to certain persons by petition, with the consent and
approbation of the Grand Lodge in communication. Ever since that time, no
lodge has been considered as legally established, unless it has been
constituted by the authority of the Grand Master. In the English
Constitutions, the instrument thus empowering a lodge to meet, is called,
when granted by the Grand Master, a Warrant of Constitution. It is granted
by the Grand Master and not by the Grand Lodge. It appears to be a final
instrument, notwithstanding the provision enacted in 1717, requiring the
consent and approbation of the Grand Lodge; for in the Constitution of the
United Grand Lodge of England, there is no allusion whatever to this
consent and approbation.
But in this country, the process is somewhat different, and the Grand
Master is deprived of a portion of his prerogative. Here, the instrument
granted by the Grand Master is called a Dispensation. The lodge receiving
it is not admitted into the register of lodges, nor is it considered as
possessing any of the rights and privileges of a lodge, except that of
making Masons, until a Warrant of Constitution is granted by the Grand
Lodge. The ancient prerogative of the Grand Master is, however, preserved
in the fact, that after a lodge has been thus warranted by the Grand
Lodge, the ceremony of constituting it, which embraces its consecration
and the installation of its officers, can only be performed by the Grand
Master in person, or by his special Deputy appointed for that purpose.
III. The third prerogative of the Grand Master is that of visitation. He
has a right to visit any lodge within his jurisdiction at such times as he
pleases, and when there to preside; and it is the duty of the Master to
offer him the chair and his gavel, which the Grand Master may decline or
accept at his pleasure. This prerogative admits of no question, as it is
distinctly declared in the first of the Thirty-nine Regulations, adopted
in 1721, in the following words:--
"The Grand Master or Deputy has full authority and right, not only to be
present, but to preside in every lodge, with the Master of the lodge on
his left hand, and to order his Grand Wardens to attend him, who are not
to act as Wardens of particular lodges, but in his presence and at his
command; for the Grand Master, while in a particular lodge, may command
the Wardens of that lodge, or any other Master Masons, to act as his
Wardens, _pro tempore_."
But in a subsequent regulation it was provided, that as the Grand Master
cannot deprive the Grand Wardens of that office without the consent of the
Grand Lodge, he should appoint no other persons to act as Wardens in his
visitation to a private lodge, unless the Grand Wardens were absent. This
whole regulation is still in existence.
The question has been lately mooted, whether, if the Grand Master declines
to preside, he does not thereby place himself in the position of a
private Brother, and become subject, as all the others present, to the
control of the Worshipful Master. I answer, that of course he becomes
subject to and must of necessity respect those rules of order and decorum
which are obligatory on all good men and Masons; but that he cannot, by
the exercise of an act of courtesy in declining to preside, divest himself
of his prerogative, which, moreover, he may at any time during the evening
assume, and demand the gavel. The Grand Master of Masons can, under no
circumstances, become subject to the decrees and orders of the Master of a
IV. Another prerogative of the Grand Master is that of appointment; which,
however, in this country, has been much diminished. According to the old
regulations, and the custom is still continued in the Constitutions of the
Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Master has the right of appointing his
Deputy and Wardens. In the United States, the office has been shorn of
this high prerogative, and these Officers are elected by the Grand Lodge.
The Deputy, however, is still appointed by the Grand Master, in some of
the States, as Massachusetts, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas. The
appointment of the principal subordinate officers, is also given to the
Grand Master by the American Grand Lodges.
V. The last and most extraordinary power of the Grand Master, is that of
_making Masons at sight_.
The power to "make Masons at sight" is a technical term, which may be
defined to be the power to initiate, pass, and raise candidates by the
Grand Master, in a lodge of emergency, or as it is called in the Book of
Constitutions, "an occasional lodge," especially convened by him, and
consisting of such Master Masons as he may call together for that purpose
only--the lodge ceasing to exist as soon as the initiation, passing, or
raising, has been accomplished and the Brethren have been dismissed by the
Whether such a power is vested in the Grand Master, is a question that,
within the last few years, has been agitated with much warmth, by some of
the Grand Lodges of this country; but I am not aware that, until very
lately, the prerogative was ever disputed.
In the Book of Constitutions, however, several instances are furnished of
the exercise of this right by various Grand Masters.
In 1731, Lord Lovel being Grand Master, he "formed an occasional lodge at
Houghton Hall, Sir Robert Walpole's House in Norfolk," and there made the
Duke of Lorraine, afterwards Emperor of Germany, and the Duke of
Newcastle, Master Masons.
I do not quote the case of the initiation, passing, and raising of
Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1737, which was done in "an occasional
lodge," over which Dr. Desaguliers presided, because as Desaguliers
was not the Grand Master, nor even, as has been incorrectly stated by the
New York Committee of Correspondence, Deputy Grand Master, but only a Past
Grand Master, it cannot be called _a making at sight_. He most probably
acted under the dispensation of the Grand Master, who at that time was the
Earl of Darnley.
But in 1766, Lord Blaney, who was then Grand Master, convened "an
occasional lodge" and initiated, passed, and raised the Duke of
Again in 1767, John Salter, the Deputy, then acting as Grand Master,
convened "an occasional lodge," and conferred the three degrees on the
Duke of Cumberland.
In 1787, the Prince of Wales was made a Mason "at an occasional lodge,
convened," says Preston, "for the purpose, at the Star and Garter, Pall
Mall, over which the Duke of Cumberland, (Grand Master) presided in
But it is unnecessary to multiply instances of the right, exercised by
former Grand Masters, of congregating occasional lodges, and making Masons
at sight. It has been said, however, by the oppugners of this prerogative,
that these "occasional lodges" were only special communications of the
Grand Lodge, and the "makings" are thus supposed to have taken place under
the authority of that body, and not of the Grand Master. The facts,
however, do not sustain this position. Throughout the Book of
Constitutions, other meetings, whether regular or special, are distinctly
recorded as meetings of the Grand Lodge, while these "occasional lodges"
appear only to have been convened by the Grand Master, for the purpose of
making Masons. Besides, in many instances, the lodge was held at a
different place from that of the Grand Lodge, and the officers were not,
with the exception of the Grand Master, the officers of the Grand Lodge.
Thus the occasional lodge, which initiated the Duke of Lorraine, was held
at the residence of Sir Robert Walpole, in Norfolk, while the Grand Lodge
always met in London. In 1766, the Grand Lodge held its communications at
the Crown and Anchor; but the occasional lodge, which, in the same year,
conferred the degrees on the Duke of Gloucester, was convened at the Horn
Tavern. In the following year, the lodge which initiated the Duke of
Cumberland was convened at the Thatched House Tavern, the Grand Lodge
continuing to meet at the Crown and Anchor.
This may be considered very conclusive evidence of the existence of the
prerogative of the Grand Master, which we are now discussing, but the
argument _a fortiori_, drawn from his dispensing power, will tend to
confirm the doctrine.
No one doubts or denies the power of the Grand Master to constitute new
lodges by dispensation. In 1741, the Grand Lodge of England forgot it for
a moment, and adopted a new regulation, that no new lodge should be
constituted until the consent of the Grand Lodge had been first obtained,
"But this order, afterwards appearing," says the Book of
Constitutions, "to be an infringement on the prerogative of the Grand
Master, and to be attended with many inconveniences and with damage to the
craft, was repealed."
It is, then, an undoubted prerogative of the Grand Master to constitute
lodges by dispensation, and in these lodges, so constituted, Masons may be
legally entered, passed, and raised. This is done every day. Seven Master
Masons, applying to the Grand Master, he grants them a dispensation, under
authority of which they proceed to open and hold a lodge, and to make
Masons. This lodge is, however, admitted to be the mere creature of the
Grand Master, for it is in his power, at any time, to revoke the
dispensation he had granted, and thus to dissolve the lodge.
But, if the Grand Master has the power thus to enable others to confer the
degrees and make Masons by his individual authority out of his presence,
are we not permitted to argue _a fortiori_ that he has also the right of
congregating seven Brethren and causing a Mason, to be made in his sight?
Can he delegate a power to others which he does not himself possess? And
is his calling together "an occasional lodge," and making, with the
assistance of the Brethren thus assembled, a Mason "at sight," that is to
say, in his presence, anything more or less than the exercise of his
dispensing power, for the establishment of a lodge under dispensation, for
a temporary period, and for a special purpose. The purpose having been
effected, and the Mason having been made, he revokes his dispensation, and
the lodge is dismissed. If we assumed any other ground than this, we
should be compelled to say, that though the Grand Master might authorise
others to make Masons, when he was absent, as in the usual case of lodges
under dispensation yet the instant that he attempted to convey the same
powers to be exercised in his presence, and under his personal
supervision, his authority would cease. This course of reasoning would
necessarily lead to a contradiction in terms, if not to an actual
It is proper to state, in conclusion, that the views here set forth are
not entertained by the very able Committee of Foreign Correspondence of
the Grand Lodge of Florida, who only admit the power of the Grand Master
to make Masons in the Grand Lodge. On the other hand, the Grand Lodge of
Wisconsin, at its last communication, adopted a report, asserting "that
the Grand Master has the right to make Masons at sight, in cases which he
may deem proper"--and the Committee of Correspondence of New York
declares, that "since the time when the memory of man runneth not to the
contrary, Grand Masters have enjoyed the privilege of making Masons at
sight, without any preliminaries, and at any suitable time or place."
The opinions of the two last quoted Grand Lodges embody the general
sentiment of the Craft on this subject. But although the prerogative
is thus almost universally ceded to Grand Masters, there are many very
reasonable doubts as to the expediency of its exercise, except under
extraordinary circumstances of emergency.
In England, the practice has generally been confined to the making of
Princes of the Royal Family, who, for reasons of state, were unwilling to
reduce themselves to the level of ordinary candidates and receive their
initiation publicly in a subordinate lodge.
But in the exercise of this prerogative, the Grand Master cannot dispense
with any of the requisite forms of initiation, prescribed by the oral laws
of the Order. He cannot communicate the degrees, but must adhere to all
the established ceremonies--the conferring of degrees by "communication"
being a form unknown to the York rite. He must be assisted by the number
of Brethren necessary to open and hold a lodge. Due inquiry must be made
into the candidate's character, (though the Grand Master may, as in a case
of emergency, dispense with the usual probation of a month). He cannot
interfere with the business of a regular lodge, by making one whom it had
rejected, nor finishing one which it had commenced. Nor can he confer the
three degrees, at one and the same communication. In short, he must, in
making Masons at sight, conform to the ancient usages and landmarks of the
_The Deputy Grand Master._
The office of Deputy Grand Master is one of great dignity, but not of much
practical importance, except in case of the absence of the Grand Master,
when he assumes all the prerogatives of that officer. Neither is the
office, comparatively speaking, of a very ancient date. At the first
reorganization of the Grand Lodge in 1717, and for two or three years
afterwards, no Deputy was appointed, and it was not until 1721 that the
Duke of Montagu conferred the dignity on Dr. Beal. Originally the Deputy
was intended to relieve the Grand Master of all the burden and pressure of
business, and the 36th of the Regulations, adopted in 1721, states that "a
Deputy is said to have been always needful when the Grand Master was nobly
born," because it was considered as a derogation from the dignity of a
nobleman to enter upon the ordinary business of the craft. Hence we find,
among the General Regulations, one which sets forth this principle in the
"The Grand Master should not receive any private intimations of business,
concerning Masons and Masonry, but from his Deputy first, except in such
cases as his worship can easily judge of; and if the application to the
Grand Master be irregular, his worship can order the Grand Wardens, or any
other so applying, to wait upon the Deputy, who is immediately to prepare
the business, and to lay it orderly before his worship."
The Deputy Grand Master exercises, in the absence of the Grand Master, all
the prerogatives and performs all the duties of that officer. But he does
so, not by virtue of any new office that he has acquired by such absence,
but simply in the name of and as the representative of the Grand Master,
from whom alone he derives all his authority. Such is the doctrine
sustained in all the precedents recorded in the Book of Constitutions.
In the presence of the Grand Master, the office of Deputy is merely one of
honour, without the necessity of performing any duties, and without the
power of exercising any prerogatives.
There cannot be more than one Deputy Grand Master in a jurisdiction; so
that the appointment of a greater number, as is the case in some of the
States, is a manifest innovation on the ancient usages. District Deputy
Grand Masters, which officers are also a modern invention of this
country, seem to take the place in some degree of the Provincial Grand
Masters of England, but they are not invested with the same prerogatives.
The office is one of local origin, and its powers and duties are
prescribed by the local regulations of the Grand Lodge which may have
_Of the Grand Wardens._
The Senior and Junior Grand Wardens were originally appointed, like the
Deputy, by the Grand Master, and are still so appointed in England; but in
this country they are universally elected by the Grand Lodge. Their duties
do not materially differ from those performed by the corresponding
officers in a subordinate lodge. They accompany the Grand Master in his
visitations, and assume the stations of the Wardens of the lodge visited.
According to the regulations of 1721, the Master of the oldest lodge
present was directed to take the chair of the Grand Lodge in the absence
of both the Grand Master and Deputy; but this was found to be an
interference with the rights of the Grand Wardens, and it was therefore
subsequently declared that, in the absence of the Grand Master and Deputy,
the last former Grand Master or Deputy should preside. But if no Past
Grand or Past Deputy Grand Master should be present, then the Senior Grand
Warden was to fill the chair, and, in his absence, the Junior Grand
Warden, and lastly, in absence of both these, then the oldest
Freemason who is the present Master of a lodge. In this country,
however, most of the Grand Lodges have altered this regulation, and the
Wardens succeed according to seniority to the chair of the absent Grand
Master and Deputy, in preference to any Past Grand Officer.
_Of the Grand Treasurer._
The office of Grand Treasurer was first established in 1724, in
consequence of a report of the Committee of Charity of the Grand Lodge of
England. But no one was found to hold the trust until the 24th of June,
1727, when, at the request of the Grand Master, the appointment was
accepted by Nathaniel Blackerby, Deputy Grand Master. The duties of the
office do not at all differ from those of a corresponding one in every
other society; but as the trust is an important one in a pecuniary view,
it has generally been deemed prudent that it should only be committed to
"a brother of good worldly substance," whose ample means would place him
beyond the chances of temptation.
The office of Grand Treasurer has this peculiarity, that while all the
other officers below the Grand Master were originally, and still are in
England, appointed, that alone was always elective.
_Of the Grand Secretary._
This is one of the most important offices in the Grand Lodge, and should
always be occupied by a Brother of intelligence and education, whose
abilities may reflect honor on the institution of which he is the
accredited public organ. The office was established in the year 1723,
during the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Wharton, previous to which
time the duties appear to have been discharged by the Grand Wardens.
The Grand Secretary not only records the proceedings of the Grand Lodge,
but conducts its correspondence, and is the medium through whom all
applications on masonic subjects are to be made to the Grand Master, or
the Grand Lodge.
According to the regulations of the Grand Lodges of England, New York and
South Carolina, the Grand Secretary may appoint an assistant, who is not,
however, by virtue of such appointment, a member of the Grand Lodge. The
same privilege is also extended in South Carolina to the Grand Treasurer.
_Of the Grand Chaplain._
This is the last of the Grand Offices that was established, having been
instituted on the 1st of May, in the year 1775. The duties are confined to
the reading of prayers, and other sacred portions of the ritual, in
consecrations, dedications, funeral services, etc. The office confers no
masonic authority at all, except that of a seat and a vote in the Grand
_Of the Grand Deacons._
But little need be said of the Grand Deacons. Their duties correspond to
those of the same officers in subordinate lodges. The office of the
Deacons, even in a subordinate lodge, is of comparatively modern
institution. Dr. Oliver remarks that they are not mentioned in any of the
early Constitutions of Masonry, nor even so late as 1797, when Stephen
Jones wrote his "Masonic Miscellanies," and he thinks it "satisfactorily
proved that Deacons were not considered necessary, in working the business
of a lodge, before the very latter end of the eighteenth century."
But although the Deacons are not mentioned in the various works published
previous to that period, which are quoted by Dr. Oliver, it is
nevertheless certain that the office existed at a time much earlier than
that which he supposes. In a work in my possession, and which is now lying
before me, entitled "Every Young Man's Companion, etc., by W. Gordon,
Teacher of the Mathematics," sixth edition printed at London, in 1777,
there is a section, extending from page 413 to page 426, which is
dedicated to the subject of Freemasonry and to a description of the
working of a subordinate lodge. Here the Senior and Junior Deacons are
enumerated among the officers, their exact positions described and their
duties detailed, differing in no respect from the explanations of our own
ritual at the present day. The positive testimony of this book must of
course outweigh the negative testimony of the authorities quoted by
Oliver, and shows the existence in England of Deacons in the year 1777 at
It is also certain that the office of Deacon claims an earlier origin in
America than the "very latter end of the eighteenth century;" and, as an
evidence of this, it may be stated that, in the "Ahiman Rezon" of
Pennsylvania, published in 1783, the Grand Deacons are named among the
officers of the Grand Lodge, "as particular assistants to the Grand
Master and Senior Warden, in conducting the business of the Lodge." They
are to be found in all Grand Lodges of the York Rite, and are usually
appointed, the Senior by the Grand Master, and the Junior by the Senior
_Of the Grand Marshal._
The _Grand Marshal_, as an officer of convenience, existed from an early
period. We find him mentioned in the procession of the Grand Lodge, made
in 1731, where he is described as carrying "a truncheon, blue, tipped with
gold," insignia which he still retains. He takes no part in the usual work
of the Lodge; but his duties are confined to the proclamation of the Grand
Officers at their installation, and to the arrangement and superintendence
of public processions.
The Grand Marshal is usually appointed by the Grand Master.
_Of the Grand Stewards._
The first mention that is made of Stewards is in the Old Regulations,
adopted in 1721. Previous to that time, the arrangements of the Grand
Feast were placed in the hands of the Grand Wardens; and it was to relieve
them of this labor that the regulation was adopted, authorizing the Grand
Master, or his Deputy, to appoint a certain number of Stewards, who were
to act in concert with the Grand Wardens. In 1728, it was ordered that the
number of Stewards to be appointed should be twelve. In 1731, a regulation
was adopted, permitting the Grand Stewards to appoint their successors.
And, in 1735, the Grand Lodge ordered, that, "in consideration of their
past service and future usefulness," they should be constituted a Lodge of
Masters, to be called the Stewards' Lodge, which should have a registry in
the Grand Lodge list, and exercise the privilege of sending twelve
representatives. This was the origin of that body now known in the
Constitutions of the Grand Lodges of England and New York, as the
Grand Stewards' Lodge, although it has been very extensively modified in
its organization. In New York, it is now no more than a Standing Committee
of the Grand Lodge; and in England, although it is regularly constituted,
as a Lodge of Master Masons, it is by a special regulation deprived of all
power of entering, passing, or raising Masons. In other jurisdictions, the
office of Grand Stewards is still preserved, but their functions are
confined to their original purpose of preparing and superintending the
The appointment of the Grand Stewards should be most appropriately vested
in the Junior Grand Warden.
_Of the Grand Sword-Bearer._
_Grand Sword-Bearer._--It was an ancient feudal custom, that all great
dignitaries should have a sword of state borne before them, as the
insignia of their dignity. This usage has to this day been preserved in
the Masonic Institution, and the Grand Master's sword of state is still
borne in all public processions by an officer specially appointed for that
purpose. Some years after the reorganization of the Grand Lodge of
England, the sword was borne by the Master of the Lodge to which it
belonged; but, in 1730, the Duke of Norfolk, being then Grand Master,
presented to the Grand Lodge the sword of Gustavus Adolphus, King of
Sweden, which had afterwards been used in war by Bernard, Duke of Saxe
Weimar, and which the Grand Master directed should thereafter be adopted
as his sword of state. In consequence of this donation, the office of
Grand Sword-Bearer was instituted in the following year. The office is
still retained; but some Grand Lodges have changed the name to that of
_Of the Grand Tiler._
It is evident from the Constitutions of Masonry, as well as from the
peculiar character of the institution, that the office of Grand Tiler must
have existed from the very first organization of a Grand Lodge. As, from
the nature of the duties that he has to perform, the Grand Tiler is
necessarily excluded from partaking of the discussions, or witnessing the
proceedings of the Grand Lodge, it has very generally been determined,
from a principle of expediency, that he shall not be a member of the Grand
Lodge during the term of his office.
The Grand Tiler is sometimes elected by the Grand Lodge, and sometimes
appointed by the Grand Master.
Of the Powers and Prerogatives of a Grand Lodge.
The necessary and usual officers of a Grand Lodge having been described,
the rights, powers, and prerogatives of such a body is the next subject of
The foundation-stone, upon which the whole superstructure of masonic
authority in the Grand Lodge is built, is to be found in that conditional
clause annexed to the thirty-eight articles, adopted in 1721 by the Masons
of England, and which is in these words:
"Every annual Grand Lodge has an inherent power and authority to make new
regulations, or to alter these for the real benefit of this ancient
fraternity; PROVIDED ALWAYS THAT THE OLD LANDMARKS BE CAREFULLY
PRESERVED; and that such alterations and new regulations be proposed and
agreed to at the third quarterly communication preceding the annual Grand
Feast; and that they be offered also to the perusal of all the Brethren
before dinner, in writing, even of the youngest Entered Apprentice: the
approbation and consent of the majority of all the Brethren present being
absolutely necessary, to make the same binding and obligatory."
The expression which is put in capitals--"provided always that the old
landmarks be carefully preserved"--is the limiting clause which must be
steadily borne in mind, whenever we attempt to enumerate the powers of a
Grand Lodge. It must never be forgotten (in the words of another
regulation, adopted in 1723, and incorporated in the ritual of
installation), that "it is not in the power of any man, or body of men, to
make any alteration or innovation in the body of Masonry."
"With these views to limit us, the powers of a Grand Lodge may be
enumerated in the language which has been adopted in the modern
constitutions of England, and which seem to us, after a careful
comparison, to be as comprehensive and correct as any that we have been
able to examine. This enumeration is in the following language:
"In the Grand Lodge, alone, resides the power of enacting laws and
regulations for the permanent government of the craft, and of altering,
repealing, and abrogating them, always taking care that the ancient
landmarks of the order are preserved. The Grand Lodge has also the
inherent power of investigating, regulating, and deciding all matters
relative to the craft, or to particular lodges, or to individual Brothers,
which it may exercise either of itself, or by such delegated authority, as
in its wisdom and discretion it may appoint; but in the Grand Lodge alone
resides the power of erasing lodges, and expelling Brethren from the
craft, a power which it ought not to delegate to any subordinate authority
In this enumeration we discover the existence of three distinct classes of
powers:--1, a legislative power; 2, a judicial power; and 3, an executive
power. Each of these will occupy a separate section.
_Of the Legislative Power of a Grand Lodge._
In the passage already quoted from the Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of
England it is said, "in the Grand Lodge, alone, resides the power of
enacting laws and regulations for the government of the craft, and of
altering, repealing, and abrogating them." General regulations for the
government of the whole craft throughout the world can no longer be
enacted by a Grand Lodge. The multiplication of these bodies, since the
year 1717, has so divided the supremacy that no regulation now enacted can
have the force and authority of those adopted by the Grand Lodge of
England in 1721, and which now constitute a part of the fundamental law of
Masonry, and as such are unchangeable by any modern Grand Lodge.
Any Grand Lodge may, however, enact local laws for the direction of its
own special affairs, and has also the prerogative of enacting the
regulations which are to govern all its subordinates and the craft
generally in its own jurisdiction. From this legislative power, which
belongs exclusively to the Grand Lodge, it follows that no subordinate
lodge can make any new bye-laws, nor alter its old ones, without the
approval and confirmation of the Grand Lodge. Hence, the rules and
regulations of every lodge are inoperative until they are submitted to and
approved by the Grand Lodge. The confirmation of that body is the enacting
clause; and, therefore, strictly speaking, it may be said that the
subordinates only propose the bye-laws, and the Grand Lodge enacts them.
_Of the Judicial Power of a Grand Lodge._
The passage already quoted from the English Constitutions continues to
say, that "the Grand Lodge has the inherent power of investigating,
regulating and deciding all matters relative to the craft, or to
particular lodges, or to individual Brothers, which it may exercise,
either of itself, or by such delegated authority as in its wisdom and
discretion it may appoint." Under the first clause of this section, the
Grand Lodge is constituted as the Supreme Masonic Tribunal of its
jurisdiction. But as it would be impossible for that body to investigate
every masonic offense that occurs within its territorial limits, with that
full and considerate attention that the principles of justice require, it
has, under the latter clause of the section, delegated this duty, in
general, to the subordinate lodges, who are to act as its committees, and
to report the results of their inquiry for its final disposition. From
this course of action has risen the erroneous opinion of some persons,
that the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge is only appellate in its
character. Such is not the case. The Grand Lodge possesses an original
jurisdiction over all causes occurring within its limits. It is only for
expediency that it remits the examination of the merits of any case to a
subordinate lodge as a _quasi_ committee. It may, if it thinks proper,
commence the investigation of any matter concerning either a lodge, or an
individual brother within its own bosom, and whenever an appeal from the
decision of a lodge is made, which, in reality, is only a dissent from the
report of the lodge, the Grand Lodge does actually recommence the
investigation _de novo_, and, taking the matter out of the lodge, to whom
by its general usage it had been primarily referred, it places it in the
hands of another committee of its own body for a new report. The course of
action is, it is true, similar to that in law, of an appeal from an
inferior to a superior tribunal. But the principle is different. The Grand
Lodge simply confirms or rejects the report that has been made to it, and
it may do that without any appeal having been entered. It may, in fact,
dispense with the necessity of an investigation by and report from a
subordinate lodge altogether, and undertake the trial itself from the
very inception. But this, though a constitutional, is an unusual course.
The subordinate lodge is the instrument which the Grand Lodge employs in
considering the investigation. It may or it may not make use of the
instrument, as it pleases.
_Of the Executive Power of a Grand Lodge._
The English Constitutions conclude, in the passage that has formed the
basis of our previous remarks, by asserting that "in the Grand Lodge,
alone, resides the power of erasing lodges and expelling Brethren from the
craft, a power which it ought not to delegate to any subordinate
authority." The power of the Grand Lodge to erase lodges is accompanied
with a coincident power of constituting new lodges. This power it
originally shared with the Grand Master, and still does in England; but in
this country the power of the Grand Lodge is paramount to that of the
Grand Master. The latter can only constitute lodges temporarily, by
dispensation, and his act must be confirmed, or may be annulled by the
Grand Lodge. It is not until a lodge has received its Warrant of
Constitution from the Grand Lodge, that it can assume the rank and
exercise the prerogatives of a regular and legal lodge.
The expelling power is one that is very properly intrusted to the Grand
Lodge, which is the only tribunal that should impose a penalty affecting
the relations of the punished party with the whole fraternity. Some of the
lodges in this country have claimed the right to expel independently of
the action of the Grand Lodge. But the claim is founded on an erroneous
assumption of powers that have never existed, and which are not recognized
by the ancient constitutions, nor the general usages of the fraternity. A
subordinate lodge tries its delinquent member, under the provisions which
have already been stated, and, according to the general usage of lodges in
the United States, declares him expelled. But the sentence is of no force
nor effect until it has been confirmed by the Grand Lodge, which may, or
may not, give the required confirmation, and which, indeed, often refuses
to do so, but actually reverses the sentence. It is apparent, from the
views already expressed on the judicial powers of the Grand Lodge, that
the sentence of expulsion uttered by the subordinate is to be taken in
the sense of a recommendatory report, and that it is the confirmation and
adoption of that report by the Grand Lodge that alone gives it vitality
The expelling power presumes, of course, coincidently, the reinstating
power. As the Grand Lodge alone can expel, it also alone can reinstate.
These constitute the general powers and prerogatives of a Grand Lodge. Of
course there are other local powers, assumed by various Grand Lodges, and
differing in the several jurisdictions, but they are all derived from some
one of the three classes that we have enumerated. From these views, it
will appear that a Grand Lodge is the supreme legislative, judicial, and
executive authority of the Masonic jurisdiction in which it is situated.
It is, to use a feudal term, "the lord paramount" in Masonry. It is a
representative body, in which, however, it constituents have delegated
everything and reserved no rights to themselves. Its authority is almost
unlimited, for it is restrained by but a single check:--_It cannot alter
or remove the ancient landmarks_.
Laws of Subordinate Lodges.
Having thus succinctly treated of the law in relation to Grand Lodges, I
come next in order to consider the law as it respects the organization,
rights, powers, and privileges of subordinate Lodges; and the first
question that will engage our attention will be, as to the proper method
of organizing a Lodge.
Of the Nature and Organization of Subordinate Lodges.
The old charges define a Lodge to be "a place where Masons assemble and
work;" and also "that assembly, or duly organized society of Masons." The
lecture on the first degree gives a still more precise definition. It says
that "a lodge is an assemblage of Masons, duly congregated, having the
Holy Bible, square, and compasses, and a charter, or warrant of
constitution, empowering them to work."
Every lodge of Masons requires for its proper organization, that it should
have been congregated by the permission of some superior authority, which
may be either a Grand Master or a Grand Lodge. When a lodge is organized
by the authority of a Grand Master, it is said to work under a
Dispensation, and when by the authority of a Grand Lodge, it is said to
work under a warrant of constitution. In the history of a lodge, the
former authority generally precedes the latter, the lodge usually working
for some time under the dispensation of the Grand Master, before it is
regularly warranted by the Grand Lodge. But this is not necessarily the
case. A Grand Lodge will sometimes grant a warrant of constitution at
once, without the previous exercise, on the part of the Grand Master, of
his dispensing power. As it is, however, more usually the practice for the
dispensation to precede the warrant of constitution, I shall explain the
formation of a lodge according to that method.
Any number of Master Masons, not under seven, being desirous of uniting
themselves into a lodge, apply by petition to the Grand Master for the
necessary authority. This petition must set forth that they now are, or
have been, members of a regularly constituted lodge, and must assign, as a
reason for their application, that they desire to form the lodge "for the
conveniency of their respective dwellings," or some other sufficient
reason. The petition must also name the brethren whom they desire to act
as their Master and Wardens, and the place where they intend to meet; and
it must be recommended by the nearest lodge.
Dalcho says that not less than three Master Masons should sign the
petition; but in this he differs from all the other authorities, which
require not less than seven. This rule, too, seems to be founded in
reason; for, as it requires seven Masons to constitute a quorum for
opening and holding a lodge of Entered Apprentices, it would be absurd to
authorize a smaller number to organize a lodge which, after its
organization, could not be opened, nor make Masons in that degree.
Preston says that the petition must be recommended "by the Masters of
three regular lodges adjacent to the place where the new lodge is to be
held." Dalcho says it must be recommended "by three other known and
approved Master Masons," but does not make any allusion to any adjacent
lodge. The laws and regulations of the Grand Lodge of Scotland require the
recommendation to be signed "by the Masters and officers of two of the
nearest lodges." The Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of England require
that it must be recommended "by the officers of some regular lodge." The
recommendation of a neighboring lodge is the general usage of the craft,
and is intended to certify to the superior authority, on the very best
evidence that can be obtained, that, namely, of an adjacent lodge, that
the new lodge will be productive of no injury to the Order.
If this petition be granted, the Grand Secretary prepares a document
called a _dispensation_, which authorizes the officers named in the
petition to open and hold a lodge, and to "enter, pass, and raise
Freemasons." The duration of this dispensasation is generally expressed on
its face to be, "until it shall be revoked by the Grand Master or the
Grand Lodge, or until a warrant of constitution is granted by the Grand
Lodge." Preston says, that the Brethren named in it are authorized "to
assemble as Masons for forty days, and until such time as a warrant of
constitution can be obtained by command of the Grand Lodge, or that
authority be recalled." But generally, usage continues the dispensation
only until the next meeting of the Grand Lodge, when it is either revoked,
or a warrant of constitution granted.
If the dispensation be revoked by either the Grand Master or the Grand
Lodge (for either has the power to do so), the lodge of course at once
ceases to exist. Whatever funds or property it has accumulated revert, as
in the case of all extinct lodges, to the Grand Lodge, which may be called
the natural heir of its subordinates; but all the work done in the lodge,
under the dispensation, is regular and legal, and all the Masons made by
it are, in every sense of the term, "true and lawful Brethren."
Let it be supposed, however, that the dispensation is confirmed or
approved by the Grand Lodge, and we thus arrive at another step in the
history of the new lodge. At the next sitting of the Grand Lodge, after
the dispensation has been issued by the Grand Master, he states that fact
to the Grand Lodge, when, either at his request, or on motion of some
Brother, the vote is taken on the question of constituting the new lodge,
and, if a majority are in favor of it, the Grand Secretary is ordered to
grant a warrant of constitution.
This instrument differs from a dispensation in many important particulars.
It is signed by all the Grand Officers, and emanates from the Grand Lodge,
while the dispensation emanates from the office of the Grand Master, and
is signed by him alone. The authority of the dispensation is temporary,
that of the warrant permanent; the one can be revoked at pleasure by the
Grand Master, who granted it; the other only for cause shown, and by the
Grand Lodge; the one bestows only a name, the other both a name and a
number; the one confers only the power of holding a lodge and making
Masons, the other not only confers these powers, but also those of
installation and of succession in office. From these differences in the
characters of the two documents, arise important differences in the powers
and privileges of a lodge under dispensation and of one that has been
regularly constituted. These differences shall hereafter be considered.
The warrant having been granted, there still remain certain forms and
ceremonies to be observed, before the lodge can take its place among the
legal and registered lodges of the jurisdiction in which it is situated.
These are its consecration, its dedication, its constitution, and the
installation of its officers. We shall not fully enter into a description
of these various ceremonies, because they are laid down at length in all
the Monitors, and are readily accessible to our readers. It will be
sufficient if we barely allude to their character.
The ceremony of constitution is so called, because by it the lodge becomes
constituted or established. Orthoepists define the verb to constitute, as
signifying "to give a formal existence to anything." Hence, to constitute
a lodge is to give it existence, character, and standing as such; and the
instrument that warrants the person so constituting or establishing it, in
this act, is very properly called the "warrant of constitution."
The consecration, dedication, and constitution of a lodge must be
performed by the Grand Master in person; or, if he cannot conveniently
attend, by some Past Master appointed by him as his special proxy or
representative for that purpose. On the appointed evening, the Grand
Master, accompanied by his Grand Officers, repairs to the place where the
new lodge is to hold its meetings, the lodge having been placed in the
centre of the room and decently covered with a piece of white linen or
satin. Having taken the chair, he examines the records of the lodge and
the warrant of constitution; the officers who have been chosen are
presented before him, when he inquires of the Brethren if they continue
satisfied with the choice they have made. The ceremony of consecration is
then performed. The Lodge is uncovered; and corn, wine, and oil--the
masonic elements of consecration--are poured upon it, accompanied by
appropriate prayers and invocations, and the lodge is finally declared to
be consecrated to the honor and glory of God.
This ceremony of consecration has been handed down from the remotest
antiquity. A consecrating--a separating from profane things, and making
holy or devoting to sacred purposes--was practiced by both the Jews and
the Pagans in relation to their temples, their altars, and all their
sacred utensils. The tabernacle, as soon as it was completed, was
consecrated to God by the unction of oil. Among the Pagan nations, the
consecration of their temples was often performed with the most sumptuous
offerings and ceremonies; but oil was, on all occasions, made use of as an
element of the consecration. The lodge is, therefore, consecrated to
denote that henceforth it is to be set apart as an asylum sacred to the
cultivation of the great masonic principles of Friendship, Morality, and
Brotherly Love. Thenceforth it becomes to the conscientious Mason a place
worthy of his reverence; and he is tempted, as he passes over its
threshold, to repeat the command given to Moses: "Put off thy shoes from
off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
The corn, wine, and oil are appropriately adopted as the Masonic elements
of consecration, because of the symbolic signification which they present
to the mind of the Mason. They are enumerated by David as among the
greatest blessings which we receive from the bounty of Divine Providence.
They were annually offered by the ancients as the first fruits, in a
thank-offering for the gifts of the earth; and as representatives of "the
corn of nourishment, the wine of refreshment, and the oil of joy," they
symbolically instruct the Mason that to the Grand Master of the Universe
he is indebted for the "health, peace, and plenty" that he enjoys.
After the consecration of the lodge, follows its dedication. This is a
simple ceremony, and principally consists in the pronunciation of a
formula of words by which the lodge is declared to be dedicated to the
holy Saints John, followed by an invocation that "every Brother may revere
their character and imitate their virtues."
Masonic tradition tells us that our ancient Brethren dedicated their
lodges to King Solomon, because he was their first Most Excellent Grand
Master; but that modern Masons dedicate theirs to St. John the Baptist and
St. John the Evangelist, because they were two eminent patrons of Masonry.
A more appropriate selection of patrons to whom to dedicate the lodge,
could not easily have been made; since St. John the Baptist, by
announcing the approach of Christ, and by the mystical ablution to which
he subjected his proselytes, and which was afterwards adopted in the
ceremony of initiation into Christianity, might well be considered as the
Grand Hierophant of the Church; while the mysterious and emblematic nature
of the Apocalypse assimilated the mode of teaching adopted by St. John the
Evangelist to that practiced by the fraternity. Our Jewish Brethren
usually dedicate their lodges to King Solomon, thus retaining their
ancient patron, although they thereby lose the benefit of that portion of
the Lectures which refers to the "lines parallel." The Grand Lodge of
England, at the union in 1813, agreed to dedicate to Solomon and Moses,
applying the parallels to the framer of the tabernacle and the builder of
the temple; but they have no warranty for this in ancient usage, and it is
unfortunately not the only innovation on the ancient landmarks that that
Grand Lodge has lately permitted.
The ceremony of dedication, like that of consecration, finds its archetype
in the remotest antiquity. The Hebrews made no use of any new thing until
they had first solemnly dedicated it. This ceremony was performed in
relation even to private houses, as we may learn from the book of
Deuteronomy. The 30th Psalm is a song said to have been made by David
on the dedication of the altar which he erected on the threshing-floor of
Ornan the Jebusite, after the grievous plague which had nearly devastated
the kingdom. Solomon, it will be recollected, dedicated the temple with
solemn ceremonies, prayers, and thank-offerings. The ceremony of
dedication is, indeed, alluded to in various portions of the Scriptures.
Selden says that among the Jews sacred things were both dedicated and
consecrated; but that profane things, such as private houses, etc., were
simply dedicated, without consecration. The same writer informs us that
the Pagans borrowed the custom of consecrating and dedicating their sacred
edifices, altars, and images, from the Hebrews.
The Lodge having been thus consecrated to the solemn objects of
Freemasonry, and dedicated to the patrons of the institution, it is at
length prepared to be constituted. The ceremony of constitution is then
performed by the Grand Master, who, rising from his seat, pronounces the
following formulary of constitution:
"In the name of the most Worshipful Grand Lodge, I now constitute and form
you, my beloved Brethren, into a regular lodge of Free and Accepted
Masons. From this time forth, I empower you to meet as a regular lodge,
constituted in conformity to the rites of our Order, and the charges of
our ancient and honorable fraternity;--and may the Supreme Architect of
the Universe prosper, direct, and counsel you, in all your doings."
This ceremony places the lodge among the registered lodges of the
jurisdiction in which it is situated, and gives it a rank and standing and
permanent existence that it did not have before. In one word, it has, by
the consecration, dedication, and constitution, become what we technically
term "a just and legally constituted lodge," and, as such, is entitled to
certain rights and privileges, of which we shall hereafter speak. Still,
however, although the lodge has been thus fully and completely organized,
its officers have as yet no legal existence. To give them this, it is
necessary that they be inducted into their respective offices, and each
officer solemnly bound to the faithful performance of the duties he has
undertaken to discharge. This constitutes the ceremony of installation.
The Worshipful Master of the new lodge is required publicly to submit to
the ancient charges; and then all, except Past Masters, having retired, he
is invested with the Past Master's degree, and inducted into the oriental
chair of King Solomon. The Brethren are then introduced, and due homage is
paid to their new Master, after which the other officers are obligated to
the faithful discharge of their respective trusts, invested with their
insignia of office, and receive the appropriate charge. This ceremony must
be repeated at every annual election and change of officers.
The ancient rule was, that when the Grand Master and his officers attended
to constitute a new lodge, the Deputy Grand Master invested the new
Master, the Grand Wardens invested the new Wardens, and the Grand
Treasurer and Grand Secretary invested the Treasurer and Secretary. But
this regulation has become obsolete, and the whole installation and
investiture are now performed by the Grand Master. On the occasion of
subsequent installations, the retiring Master installs his successor; and
the latter installs his subordinate officers.
The ceremony of installation is derived from the ancient custom of
inauguration, of which we find repeated instances in the sacred as well as
profane writings. Aaron was inaugurated, or installed, by the unction of
oil, and placing on him the vestments of the High Priest; and every
succeeding High Priest was in like manner installed, before he was
considered competent to discharge the duties of his office. Among the
Romans, augurs, priests, kings, and, in the times of the republic, consuls
were always inaugurated or installed. And hence, Cicero, who was an augur,
speaking of Hortensius, says, "it was he who installed me as a member of
the college of augurs, so that I was bound by the constitution of the
order to respect and honour him as a parent." The object and intention
of the ancient inauguration and the Masonic installation are precisely the
same, namely, that of setting apart and consecrating a person to the
duties of a certain office.
The ceremonies, thus briefly described, were not always necessary to
legalize a congregation of Masons. Until the year 1717, the custom of
confining the privileges of Masonry, by a warrant of constitution, to
certain individuals, was wholly unknown. Previous to that time, a
requisite number of Master Masons were authorized by the ancient charges
to congregate together, temporarily, at their own discretion, and as best
suited their convenience, and then and there to open and hold lodges and
make Masons; making, however, their return, and paying their tribute to
the General Assembly, to which all the fraternity annually repaired, and
by whose awards the craft were governed.
Preston, speaking of this ancient privilege, says: "A sufficient number of
Masons met together within a certain district, with the consent of the
sheriff or chief magistrate of the place, were empowered at this time to
make Masons and practice the rights of Masonry, without a warrant of
constitution." This privilege, Preston says, was inherent in them as
individuals, and continued to be enjoyed by the old lodges, which formed
the Grand Lodge in 1717, as long as they were in existence.
But on the 24th June, 1717, the Grand Lodge of England adopted the
following regulation: "That the privilege of assembling as Masons, which
had hitherto been unlimited, should be vested in certain lodges or
assemblies of Masons, convened in certain places; and that every lodge to
be hereafter convened, except the four old lodges at this time existing,
should be legally authorized to act by a warrant from the Grand Master for
the time being, granted to certain individuals by petition, with the
consent and approbation of the Grand Lodge in communication; and that,
without such warrant, no lodge should be hereafter deemed regular or
This regulation has ever since continued in force, and it is the original
law under which warrants of constitution are now granted by Grand Lodges
for the organization of their subordinates.
Of Lodges under Dispensation.
It is evident, from what has already been said, that there are two kinds
of lodges, each regular in itself, but each peculiar and distinct in its
character. There are lodges working under a dispensation, and lodges
working under a warrant of constitution. Each of these will require a
separate consideration. The former will be the subject of the present
A lodge working under a dispensation is a merely temporary body,
originated for a special purpose, and is therefore possessed of very
circumscribed powers. The dispensation, or authority under which it acts,
expressly specifies that the persons to whom it is given are allowed to
congregate that they may "admit, enter, pass, and raise Freemasons;" no
other powers are conferred either by words or implication, and, indeed,
sometimes the dispensation states, that that congregation is to be "with
the sole intent and view, that the Brethren so congregated, admitted,
entered, and made, when they become a sufficient number, may be duly
warranted and constituted for being and holding a regular lodge."
A lodge under dispensation is simply the creature of the Grand Master. To
him it is indebted for its existence, and on his will depends the duration
of that existence. He may at any time revoke the dispensation, and the
dissolution of the lodge would be the instant result. Hence a lodge
working under a dispensation can scarcely, with strict technical
propriety, be called a lodge; it is, more properly speaking, a
congregation of Masons, acting as the proxy of the Grand Master.
With these views of the origin and character of lodges under dispensation,
we will be better prepared to understand the nature and extent of the
powers which they possess.
A lodge under dispensation can make no bye-laws. It is governed, during
its temporary existence, by the general Constitutions of the Order and the
rules and regulations of the Grand Lodge in whose jurisdiction it is
situated. In fact, as the bye-laws of no lodge are operative until they
are confirmed by the Grand Lodge, and as a lodge working under a
dispensation ceases to exist as such as soon as the Grand Lodge meets, it
is evident that it would be absurd to frame a code of laws which would
have no efficacy, for want of proper confirmation, and which, when the
time and opportunity for confirmation had arrived, would be needless, as
the society for which they were framed would then have no legal
existence--a new body (the warranted lodge) having taken its place.
A lodge under dispensation cannot elect officers. The Master and Wardens
are nominated by the Brethren, and, if this nomination is approved, they
are appointed by the Grand Master. In giving them permission to meet and
make Masons, he gave them no power to do anything else. A dispensation is
itself a setting aside of the law, and an exception to a general
principle; it must, therefore, be construed literally. What is not granted