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A Grand Lodge is the dogmatic and administrative authority of Ancient Craft Masonry, or the three Symbolic Degrees. It is defined in the Regulations of 1721, as "consisting of and formed by the Masters and Wardens of all the regular 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" (see Constitutions, 1723, page 61). This definition refers to a very modern organization, for of Grand Lodges thus constituted we have no written evidence previous to the years 1717, when Freemasonry was revived in England. Previous to that time the administrative authority of the Craft was exercised by a General Assembly of Freemasons of a Jurisdiction which met annually (see Assembly). The true history of Grand Lodges commences, therefore, from what has been called the Era of the Revival.
In 1716 four old Lodges in London determined, if possible, to revive the Institution from its depressed state, and accordingly they met in February, 1717, at the Apple-Tree Tavern, whose name has thus been rendered famous for all time; and after placing the oldest Master Mason, who was the Master of a Lodge, in the chair, they constituted themselves into a Grand Lodge, and forthwith "revived the Quarterly Communications of the officers of Lodges called the Grand Lodge" (see Constitutions, 1738, page 109). On the following Saint John the Baptist's Day, the Grand Lodge was duly organized, and Antony Sayer, Gentleman, was elected Grand Master, who appointed his Wardens, and commanded the Masters and Wardens of Lodges to meet the Grand Officers every quarter in communication. From that time Grand Lodges have been uninterruptedly held; receiving, however, at different periods, various modifications.
A Grand Lodge is invested with power and authority over all the Craft within its Jurisdiction. It is the Supreme Court of Appeal in all Masonic cases, and to its decrees implicit obedience must be paid by every Lodge and every Freemason situated within its control. The government of Grand Lodges is, therefore, completely despotic, but of course a benevolent despotism. While a Grand Lodge exists, its edicts must be respected and obeyed without examination by its subordinate Lodges.
This autocratic power of a Grand Lodge is based upon a principle of expediency, and derived from the fundamental law established at the organization of Grand Lodges in the beginning of the eighteenth century. In so large a Body as the Craft, it is absolutely necessary that there should be a supreme controlling Body to protect the Institution from anarchy, and none could be more conveniently selected than one which, by its representative character is, or ought to be, composed of the united wisdom, prudence, and experience of all the subordinate Lodges under its obedience; so that the voice of the Grand Lodge is nothing else than the voice of the Craft expressed by their representatives. Hence the twelfth of the General Regulations declares that "the Grand Lodge consists of, and is formed by, the Masters and Wardens of all the particular Lodges upon record" (see Constitutions, 1738, page 158).
So careful has the Institution been to preserve the dogmatic and autocratic power of the Grand Lodge that all elected Masters are required, at the time of their installation, to make the following declaration:
You agree to hold in veneration the original rulers and patrons of the Order of Freemasonry, and their regular successors, supreme and subordinate, according to their stations, and to submit to the awards and resolutions of your Brethren in general Lodge convened, in every case consistent with the Constitutions of the Order. You promise to pay homage to the Grand Master for the time being, and to his officers when duly installed, and strictly to conform to every edict of the Grand Lodge.
The organization of new Grand Lodges in the United States of America has followed that adopted, in essential particulars, by the four Lodges which established the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. When it is desired to organize a Grand Lodge, three or more legally constituted Lodges, working in any State, Territory, or other independent political division, where no Grand Lodge already existe, may meet in Convention, adopt by-laws, elect officers, and organize a Grand Lodge. The Lodges within its Jurisdiction then surrender their Warrants of Constitution to the Grand Lodges from which they respectively had received them, and accept others from the newly organized Grand Lodge, which thenceforward exercises all Masonic Jurisdiction over the State in which it has been organized.
A Grand Lodge thus organized consists of the Masters and Wardens of all the Lodges under its Jurisdiction, and such Past Masters as may enroll themselves or be elected as members. Past Masters are not, however, members of the Grand Lodge by inherent right, but only by courtesy, and no Past Master can remain a member of the Grand Lodge unless he is attached to some subordinate Lodge in its Jurisdiction.
All Grand Lodges are governed by the following officer: Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Senior and Junior Grand Wardens, Grand Treasurer, and Grand Secretary. These are usually termed the Grand Officers; in addition to them there are subordinate officers appointed by the Grand Master and the Grand Stewards, Grand Marshal, Grand Pursuivant, Grand Sword Bearer, and Grand Tiler; but their number and titles vary in different Grand Lodges.
Sir Alfred Robbins, P.G.W., President of the Board of General Purposed in an address before the Manchester Association for Masonic Research says of the United Grand Lodge of England: It is necessary at the outset to have a precise definition of what " Grand Lodge " is. This is supplied, and in very precise fashion, in the draft of a proposed "Charter of Incorporation of Free and Accepted Masons," to be found in an unauthorized edition of the Book of Constitutions published in London and Dublin in 1769, in furtherance of a movement for turning Free and Accepted Masons into a chartered body a movement favoured by the original Grand Lodge, popular for a short period, but doomed to oblivion.
The preamble of the projected Charter declared in the name of King George III that the " Society of Free and Accepted Masons have for Ages held frequent Meetings within this Realm, and have ever demeaned themselves with Duty and Loyalty to Us, and our Predecessors; with Reverence and Obedience to the Laws, and Kindness and Good-will to their Fellow Subjects: and that the said Society appears to have been originally instituted for humane and beneficent Purposes and have distributed from Time to Time to all without Distinction, who have had the single Claim of Wretchedness, Sums to a great Amount, collected by voluntary Contribution among themselves." It was then sought to set up by Royal Charter "a Perpetual Society, which shall be called by the Name of The Society of Free and Accepted Masons of England"; and the Sovereign was expected to go on to declare, "That the said Society shall consist of a Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Grand Wardens, Past Grand Officers, Provincial Grand Masters, Grand Treasurer, Gland Secretary, Grand Sword Bearer Twelve Stewards, and the Masters and Wardens of the several subordinate Lodges, who, together with those already enumerated, compose the Grand Lodge."
The present definition is supplied by the second Rule of the Book of Constitutions in the following terms: "The public interests of the Fraternity are managed by a general representation of all Private Lodges on record together with the Grand Stewards of the Year, and the Present and Past Grand Officers, and the Grand Master at their head. This collective body is styled The United Grand Lodge of Antient, Free and Accepted Masons of England, and is hereinafter referred to as The Grand Lodge. '
The composition of Grand Lodge is determined by Rule 6, which, having placed in order of rank and precedence sixty-one different classes of Present and Past Grand Officers, with the Grand Stewards of the year and such Past Grand Stewards as are Masters or Past Masters of Private Lodges, concludes by embracing within the membership of Grand Lodge the Master, Past Masters and Wardens of the Grand Stewards' Lodge, and of every other Private Lodge, together, by Rule 7, with certain Brethren of eminence and ability who have rendered service to the Craft, and who may, in certain circumstances, be constituted members of Grand Lodge—a privilege that has not for many years been exercised, This present arrangement, except in one important particular, follows closely the seventh of the Articles of Union which, in 1913, united the two Grand Lodges of English Freemasons, this directing that the United Grand Lodge should be composed of Grand Officers and "the actual Masters and Wardens of all warranted Lodges," not more than one Past Master of a Lodge being at that time allowed to attend (with certain exceptions for pre-Union Lodges) unless he had been delegated to do so by his Lodge. The one particular now changed is as to the Past Masters, each of whom, after service for a full year as Master, can attend Grand Lodge so long as he continues a subscribing member of any Private Lodge.
"This is how Grand Lodge is composed; and, when we come to consider its work, we find that from it all laws affecting the Craft emanate and in every matter it has the final decision. These powers are very clearly defined by Rules 4 and 5 of the Book of Constitutions. necessary to be invoked whenever questions of Craft government or discipline are raised. The fourth Rule reads: " The Grand Lodge possesses the supreme superintending authority, and also has the inherent powers of enacting laws and regulations for the government of the Craft and of altering, repealing, and abrogating them, always taking care that the Antient Landmarks of the Order be preserved."
The fifth Rule proceeds: "The Grand Lodge also has the 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 the Grand Lodge alone has the power of erasing Lodges and expelling Brethren from the Craft, a power which it does not delegate to any subordinate authority."
In the case of the Grand Lodge of South Australia, a meeting wan called by a Past Master of one of the Lodges of that country. At this meeting a resolution was offered "that, in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable that a Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of South Australia be formed, and that immediate steps be taken to that end." An amendment was offered to the effect that the consent of the Grand Lodges of England, Scotland and Ireland be obtained. This led to a discussion in which the following statements were made:
V. W. Brother Doctor Seabrook, P. B. G. P., E. C. In reply to the amendment, I will bring forward two facts. Sometime ago, Brother Meek applied home with a view of gaining the consent of the Scotch Grand Lodge and the reply was that they could not direct, neither could they assist them; but if they did form a Lodge they would have their full sympathy. That was three years ago. With reference to the Grand Lodge of England, in addition to what Brother Downer did when at home, the Grand Lodge, through their managing man the Grand Secretary, was asked the same thing, and his reply was that they could not assist in any shape or form they could not give their assent; but they saw that the time would come when a Grand Lodge would be formed, and, presuming that it was done regularly they would not oppose it. With reference to the Irish Grand Lodge, I cannot say anything at all. Brother Barlow, perhaps, knows something of it. These two facts are sufficient basis to take energetic action on to form a Grand Lodge as soon as possible. They (the Grand Lodge) will not give their consent or countenance it until it becomes an actual fact that the Grand Lodge does exist. It is no use losing time.
In fifty years hence the same impediment will exist as now. Brother Barlow vritl acknowledge that is a sufficient answer to his point.
(Brother Lee Have the Grand Bodges been asked by Lodges?) By their representative men. (Brother Lee Not by authority.) Can any Brother, from Masonic authority or experience, say a Grand Lodge has been formed by consent of another? Never. All the Grand Lodges in the civilized world have been formed by taking independent action. We have a sample of it in one instance where four old lodges formed into a Grand Lodge In Scotland, France and elsewhere it has been the same Nobody can mention the ease of a Grand Lodge being formed by another Brother Hocking we are in the position of rebelling nations. If they form a new Government they are recognized. We mat establish this Grand Lodge, and as united South Australian Lodges, pull together; then the Grand Lodges will recognize us.
V. W. Brother Saul Solomon, W. D. G. J. W Much has been said about getting the consent of the Grand Lodges at home, but the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland were formed in precisely the same way as we are doing here; no consent was asked, and none given until they established themselves. This is beyond dispute (see page 236, History of South Ausralia). Brother Addison I shall endeavour to reply to one or two remarks as to Masonic law. I don't think that I need discuss the subject of this resolution any further. As a preliminary remark, let me say no words I gave utterance to could have led anyone to suppose that I or anyone intended in the remotest degree to treat the Grand Lodges with any disrespect.
Nothing was further from my intentions than to be guilty of any breach of etiquette to those from whom we derive our Masonic birth. Are we not doing as every Grand Lodge in the world has done? As stated by Brother Seabrook, it has never been known that any proposed Grand Lodge has asked another Grand Lodge to form it. I am only stating plain facts, as you can judge by referring to any jurisprudence on Masonry. The forming of a Grand Lodge is an inherent right, and we have no need to consult anyone on the point. With regard to expelling Brothers who do not cast their lot in with us on the formation of a Grand Lodge, if there are certain individuals, who will continue to hold warrants under existing lodges, we above all others will be glad to receive them as representatives of Grand Lodges at home. It will, however, be to their advantage to join the majority.
Again, what have we at present to put before the Grand Lodges? Suppose any Brother has the impertinence to write home and as]; whether we will be recognized as a Grand Lodge. (A Voice: Put before them a definite statement.) The answer will be: we cannot entertain the correspondence except it comes through your District Grand Lodge. That would be Masonic etiquette, and we should be deservedly snubbed. (Brother Lee Ask the District Grand Lodge to do it.) Does anyone suppose the District Grand Lodge would do it? and if they did, there would be nothing tangible to be placed before the Grand Lodge. Does anyone think that Grand Lodge would discuss vague possibilities? We should make ourselves contemptible by asking without having something tangible for the Grand Lodge to consider, and they would look upon us as incapable of maintaining the dignity of a Grand Lodge.
There is no sense in the idea. If we canvass and find we have a majority, I don't think that we can be wanting in courtesy if we say to our respective Grand Lodges: we have a majority, and intend to declare ourselves, and request your recognition; but to say: Please may we form a Grand Lodge? That would be childish. The question of forming a Grand Lodge of South Australia was put to a vote of the Lodges and carried, but not unanimously Then a convention was called and a Grand Lodge was formed on April 16, 1884. At the Communication of the Grand Lodge of England, June 3, 1885, the Grand Secretary of England said that a Body calling itself the Grand Lodge of South Australia requested recognition. He also stated that the Brethren of the different Lodges wished to Seep their English Warrants as mementos. He then moved "that this Grand Lodge recognizes and acknowledges the Grand Lodge of Australia."
Brother. the Reverend Canon George Raymond Portal, Grand Chaplain: ost Worshipful Grand Master, I have great pleasure in seconding the proposition which has been 80 ably put by the Grand Registrar. I think it does these Lodges and Brethren great credit that they wish to retain their Warrants as historical records; and it is also much to their credit that they have stated their willingness to acknowledge the indefeasible rights of those lodges and Brethren who retain their allegiance to this Grand Lodge. That, no doubt, is a point on which the Grand Registrar would have been very firm if there had been necessity for it. Under the circumstances, no doubt, we shall be doing a very graceful and fraternal act in acknowledging this new Body, which has through out behaved in a most courteous way towards the Grand Lodge of England. The Most Worshipful, The Grand Master Brethren before I put this motion to the vote of Grand Lodge I think it would not be out of place if I were to say a few words on the resolution, not in any way as from the Chair endeavoring to forecast what the resolution of the Grand Lodge will be, but expressing an individual opinion, though an opinion, which, I think, is shared by a very large number of the Brethren we cannot, I think, but acknowledge the friendly and fraternal spirit with which the Body styling itself, as we must say at present "
The Grand Lodge of South Australia " has approached this Grand Lodge. We must recognize that their request may be said to be unanimous. They have not endeavored to enforce, in fact they have repudiated the idea of enforcing, obedience on any Lodges in that district which did not wish to join them, They have approached this Grand Lodge in a most proper spirit If Grand Lodge decides to accept this motion I feel sure that we shall have in South Australia a Body of Brethren who, although no longer directly subject to this Grand Lodge, will maintain and uphold the great traditions of English Masonry. I think it is not out of place to remember that our Colonies, although in civil matters possessing local self-government, have shown that they are ready to rally to the assistance of the mother country whenever they may be called upon to do so, and I am sure that that spirit would exist also in Freemasonry trust, Brethren, speaking individually, that this motion may be accepted unanimously, and that we may wish the Grand Lodge of Australia hearty good wishes and God speed, and that we may recognize in it a promising addition to the Grand Lodges of the World.
The motion was then put to vote and declared carried unanimously (see Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of England, page 397).
In reference to the formation of Grand Lodges in the United States, no better illustration can be given of the action of the pioneer regular Lodges in a country to form an independent Grand Lodge, than the case of the formation of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1786, and its prompt recognition by the Grand Lodge of England. Proceedings had on this occasion are set out very fully in the Memorial Volume issued by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1912. On page 57 of this volume, we find the Masonic Declaration of Independence, which was passed unanimously on Monday, September 25, 1786. This declaration is as follows:
Resolved that this Grand Lodge is and ought to be B. Grand Lodge Independent of Great Britain or any other authority whatever, and that they are not under any ties to any other Grand Lodge, except those of Brotherly Love and Affection, which they will always be happy to cultivate and preserve with all Lodges throughout the Globe.
On the same day at a Grand Convention of thirteen different Lodges:
It was unanimously resolved that the Lodges under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania lately held under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England will and now do form themselves into a Grand Lodge to be called the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction thereunto belonging to be held in Philadelphia and that the late Grand Officers continue to be the Grand Officers of Pennsylvania invested with all the Powers, Jurisdictions, prominence and authority thereunto belonging, 'til the usual time for the next election, and that the Grand Lodge and the particular Lodges govern themselves by the Rules and Regulations heretofore established 'til other Rules and Regulations shall be adopted.
A letter was then written to the Grand Lodge of England announcing the action taken and the reasons therefor. The reply of the Grand Lodge of England was as follows:
We reflect with pleasure that the Grand Lodge of England has given birth to a Grand Lodge in the Western World, whose strict adherence to the ancient and immutable landmarks of our order reflects honor on its original founders. Here we must beg leave to state that we conceive that in constituting your Grand Lodge we necessarily communicated to it the same independent sovereign Masonic authority within your Jurisdiction which we ourselves possessed within ours, amenable to no superior Jurisdiction under Heaven, and subject only to the immutable landmarks of the errant. All Grand Lodges in Masonry being necessarily Free, Independent, and Equipment within their respective Jurisdictions, which consequently excludes the idea of subjection to a foreign authority or the establishment of an Imperiurn in Imperio (Empire within Empire).
It should be noted that, in declaring their independence from the Grand Lodges of Great Britain, the prevailing motive was loyalty to the government of the land in which they lived. Inasmuch as loyalty to the State is one of the cardinal principles of Freemasonry, this action has met with universal Masonic approval.
Gould's Concise History (page 338) gives the following note which has been quoted as authority for claiming the regular Grand Lodges of the world are illegitimate:
The death of Joseph Warren raised a constitutional question of much complexity. What was the status of the Grand Lodge after the death of the Grand Master It was disposed of by the election of Joseph Webb to the position of "Grand Master of Antient Masonry" in the State of Massachusetts. This, if we leave out of consideration the Lodge, and Grand Lodge, of Pennsylvania in 1731, was the first sovereign and independent Grand Lodge in America, and the second was the Grand Lodge of Virginia, which was established in the following year.
As a matter of tact, all that this statement was intended to mean is that the Grand Lodge could not legitimately be formed from a Provincial Grand Lodge. The death of the Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge left the Grand Lodge with no executive officer until another could be appointed by the home Grand Lodge, but this difficulty was solved by the formation of a Grand Lodge and the election of Joseph Webb to the position of Grand Master of Ancient Masonry. Brother Gould nowhere states, either directly or indirectly, that this election or the action of the Lodges of Massachusetts in thus forming a Grand Lodge was illegal. In fact, he expressly states: Within seven years after the close of the War of the Revolution, the system of Grand Lodges with Territorial Jurisdiction was firmly established. It became an accepted doctrine that the Lodges in an independent State had a right to organize a Grand Lodge; that a Lodge so created possessed exclusive jurisdiction within the State; and that it might constitute Lodges in another State in which no Grand Lodge existed, and maintain them until a Grand Lodge should be established in such State" (page 339, Gould's Concise History).
Thus he is recognizing the principle that the authority to form a Grand Lodge rests in the Lodges themselves and does not come from some outside power.
In order to provide a method by which Provincial Lodges in Colonies, still loyal to Great Britain, might legitimately become Grand Lodges, the Grand Lodge of England in 189~ adopted the following sections as a part of its Book of Constitutions. These sections in effect provide simply a means by which a proposed new Grand Lodge could determine whether or not it would be officially recognized before the final steps were taken.
218a. In a Colony or Foreign part in which a District Grand Lodge exists, if the District Grand Master shall think proper to grant a dispensation for that purpose, it shall be lawful for any Lodge to hold a special meeting or meetings, to discuss and resolve on the question of the formation of a Sovereign Grand Lodge for or including the District or part thereof. or any Lodges not in a District. Such dispensation may be granted subject to any conditions that the District Grand Master may deem proper, and also to provisions enabling two or more Lodges to unite in the special meeting; and, if the District Grand Master should refuse to grant a Dispensation, an appeal may be made to the Grand Master. In a Colony or Foreign part in which more than one District Grand Lodge exists the same procedure shall be adopted in each District, and before any Grand Lodge shall be recognized as having jurisdiction over the whole of such Colony or Foreign part, the consent of each District Grand Lodge shall be certified by the District Grand Master thereof.
218b. Whenever Grand Lodge shall, with the assent of the Grand Masters recognize a Grand Lodge as regular and independent Sovereign Body, having jurisdiction in any Colony or Foreign part where a District Grand Lodge or Lodges not in a District exist, and the Grand Master shall signify that it is not his intention to grant for the future any Warrant for a never Lodge in that Jurisdiction, the following rules shall apply:
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