The mason as a citizen
From the booklet, More Light on Freemasonry
Distributed by the Grand Lodge of New Brunswick
The Operative Mason of the Middle Ages drew up a code of
rules or regulations to govern the behavior of the members of the Craft.
These they called "charges". Today they are known as the Ancient Charges and
they constitute the basis of Masonic law.
Among these Charges is one that states "a Mason is a peaceable subject to
the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works and is never to be concerned
in plots or conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the Nation".
Another law of the Masonic Fraternity is that no candidate or Brother can be
questioned as to his peculiar mode of religious faith or political opinion,
nor can any discussion upon such subjects be permitted in any assembly of
At the time the Old Charges were written people had not direct vote or voice
in their own government; they were ruled by kings, and often the dynasty to
which a king belonged was challenged in its right to rule by some other
dynasty, or even by more than one of them. Under such conditions a rebellion
or a revolution was the only method by which a government could be changed;
what was then called a "political party" was a group of adherents to a
dynasty. Almost every then-existing organization, including even churches
and colleges, took sides with one dynasty as against the other. You may from
this see how exceptional and extraordinary was the Masonic Law; it
took the position that this system of warring parties, fighting over the
very existence of government, was hurtful to mankind and a great danger to a
people, and that it ought to be replaced by the principle of goodwill and
peaceable and harmonious co-operation. It was a part of the mission of
Masonry to stand for that principle and it consistently kept itself aloof
from the warfare of contending parties and forbade any member to take part
in them as a Mason.
Here in Canada we have, as you know, political parties. Instead of
quarreling with each other as to what the government shall be, our parties
are in contention as to what the government shall do; and instead of
deciding which one or another shall triumph by means of rebellions and
revolutions, our parties make use of political campaigns, and while these
campaigns do not result in the shedding of blood they often result in a
great deal of bitterness, ill-will, and general disharmony. In the face of
this modern situation our Craft continues to take the same position that it
took in an earlier time; it believes that these bitter, partisan contentions
are hurtful to the people, dangerous to the general welfare and subversive
of sound government, and that the welfare of the State can be secured only
by good-will, toleration, and a patient, friendly co-operation. It therefore
refuses to participate in partisan politics and it forbids its members ever
to do so in the name of Masonry.
Masonry's sole concern is that we act throughout in the spirit of and
according to the guidance of fraternalism; how we are to apply it in detail
or upon local occasion it leaves wholly to our judgment.
A Mason, let us say, is an active worker in some political party. What party
it is, what may be his opinion on political issues, is for him to decide;
but, as a Mason, he will not hate those who differ from him, nor enter
unjust intrigues against them, he will not set up his own party in
opposition to the public good, nor will he use his Masonic connection for
political party purposes.
He may be an active member of a religious body. It is for him to choose that
body; nobody has any right to dictate to him as to this. His beliefs are
held sacred to his own conscience; but, as a Mason, he will have goodwill
toward men of a different faith, will not be actuated by prejudice or
intolerance, nor will he be a party to making war upon any other religious
communion, however much in error he may deem it to be.
In his social life, he may belong to any circle he wishes, wealthy or poor,
and enjoy his companionship of such as please him, nobody else having any
right to dictate what club he shall belong to or in what circle he moves;
but, as a Mason, he will not consider his own circle above others, or
despise those who may not be as fortunate as he in his social relations, for
such snobbery is repugnant to the principle of fraternalism.
Again, it is possible that he may feel a pride of race, may cherish the
traditions of his own people, may love its language and prefer its customs.
If so, nobody has the right to forbid him, for it is a right and honorable
in every man to respect his own blood; but, as a Mason, he will not
therefore despise others of a different race, or seek at their expense to
exalt his own, for there nothing more un-Masonic than race prejudice.
So long as we are loyal to the principle of fraternalism in all our dealings
with others, Freemasonry asks nothing further of us, and it leaves it wholly
to us to decide what form our citizenship shall take in detail, or where we
shall find our own niche in the great structure of the public life. This is
only another way of saying that towards us, its members, it practices the
same fraternalism that it enjoins upon us to practice towards others.
From this you will clearly understand why neither any Lodge nor Grand Lodge,
nor any group of Masons as such, ever interfere with matters of church,
state, or society, or joins one party against another. It is nevertheless
not inconsistent for the Craft to perform at times such service to the
community as stand by common consent on a level beyond all parties.
Above all it has been an aider and helper of all forms of general charity,
asylums, homes, orphanages, hospitals and the less special forms of public
To sum up. If a Mason asks, How am I to apply the teaching of Masonry to
citizen ship? the answer is, That is for you to decide, and according as you
have opportunity. All that is required of you is to be guided throughout by
the principle of fraternalism, in which case nothing more will be asked of
you because you will then be, as the Old Charges require, "a peaceable
subject to the Civil Power."
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