Laws of Subordinate Lodges
the principles of masonic law
Albert Gallatin Mackey
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.
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
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
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 lodge29
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.30
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.
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."32
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.
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."33
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 in express terms, is not granted at all.
And, therefore, as nothing is said of the election of officers, no such
election can be held. The Master may, however, and always does for
convenience, appoint a competent Brother to keep a record of the
proceedings; but this is a temporary appointment, at the pleasure of the
Master, whose deputy or assistant he is; for the Grand Lodge looks only to
the Master for the records, and the office is not legally recognized. In
like manner, he may depute a trusty Brother to take charge of the funds,
and must, of course, from time to time, appoint the deacons and tiler for
the necessary working of the lodge.
As there can be no election, neither can there be any installation,
which, of course, always presumes a previous election for a determinate
period. Besides, the installation of officers is a part of the ceremony of
constitution, and therefore not even the Master and Wardens of a lodge
under dispensation are entitled to be thus solemnly inducted into
A lodge under dispensation can elect no members. The Master and
Wardens, who are named in the dispensation, are, in point of fact, the
only persons recognized as constituting the lodge. To them is granted the
privilege, as proxies of the Grand Master, of making Masons; and for this
purpose they are authorized to congregate a sufficient number of Brethren
to assist them in the ceremonies. But neither the Master and Wardens, nor
the Brethren, thus congregated have received any power of electing
members. Nor are the persons made in a lodge under dispensation, to be
considered as members of the lodge; for, as has already been shown, they
have none of the rights and privileges which attach to membership—they can
neither make bye-laws nor elect officers. They, however, become members of
the lodge as soon as it receives its warrant of constitution.
In respect to the powers and privileges possessed by a lodge working
under a warrant of constitution, we may say, as a general principle, that
whatever it does possess is inherent in it—nothing has been delegated by
either the Grand Master or the Grand Lodge—but that all its rights and
powers are derived originally from the ancient regulations, made before
the existence of Grand Lodges, and that what it does not possess, are the
powers which were conceded by its predecessors to the Grand Lodge. This is
evident from the history of warrants of constitution, the authority under
which subordinate lodges act. The practice of applying by petition to the
Grand Master or the Grand Lodge, for a warrant to meet as a regular lodge,
commenced in the year 1718. Previous to that time, Freemasons were
empowered by inherent privileges, vested, from time immemorial, in the
whole fraternity, to meet as occasion might require, under the direction
of some able architect; and the proceedings of these meetings, being
approved by a majority of the Brethren convened at another lodge in the
same district, were deemed constitutional.34
But in 1718, a year after the formation of the Grand Lodge of England,
this power of meeting ad libitum was resigned into the hands of
that body, and it was then agreed that no lodges should thereafter meet,
unless authorized so to do by a warrant from the Grand Master, and with
the consent of the Grand Lodge. But as a memorial that this abandonment of
the ancient right was entirely voluntary, it was at the same time resolved
that this inherent privilege should continue to be enjoyed by the four old
lodges who formed the Grand Lodge. And, still more effectually to secure
the reserved rights of the lodges, it was also solemnly determined, that
while the Grand Lodge possesses the inherent right of making new
regulations for the good of the fraternity, provided that the old
landmarks be carefully preserved, yet that these regulations, to be of
force, must be proposed and agreed to at the third quarterly communication
preceding the annual grand feast, and submitted to the perusal of all the
Brethren, 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."35
The corollary from all this is clear. All the rights, powers, and
privileges, not conceded, by express enactment of the fraternity, to the
Grand Lodge, have been reserved to themselves. Subordinate lodges are the
assemblies of the craft in their primary capacity, and the Grand Lodge is
the Supreme Masonic Tribunal, only because it consists of and is
constituted by a representation of these primary assemblies. And,
therefore, as every act of the Grand Lodge is an act of the whole
fraternity thus represented, each new regulation that may be made is not
an assumption of authority on the part of the Grand Lodge, but a new
concession on the part of the subordinate lodges.
This doctrine of the reserved rights of the lodges is very important,
and should never be forgotten, because it affords much aid in the decision
of many obscure points of masonic jurisprudence. The rule is, that any
doubtful power exists and is inherent in the subordinate lodges, unless
there is an express regulation conferring it on the Grand Lodge. With this
preliminary view, we may proceed to investigate the nature and extent of
these reserved powers of the subordinate lodges.
A lodge has the right of selecting its own members, with which the
Grand Lodge cannot interfere. This is a right that the lodges have
expressly reserved to themselves, and the stipulation is inserted in the
"general regulations" in the following words:
"No man can be entered a Brother in any particular lodge, or admitted a
member thereof, without the unanimous consent of all the members of that
lodge then present, when the candidate is proposed, and when their consent
is formally asked by the Master. They are to give their consent in their
own prudent way, either virtually or in form, but with unanimity. Nor is
this inherent privilege subject to a dispensation, because the members of
a particular lodge are the best judges of it; and because, if a turbulent
member should be imposed upon them, it might spoil their harmony, or
hinder the freedom of their communication; or even break and disperse the
lodge, which ought to be avoided by all true and faithful."36
But although a lodge has the inherent right to require unanimity in the
election of a candidate, it is not necessarily restricted to such a degree
A lodge has the right to elect its own officers. This right is
guaranteed to it by the words of the Warrant of Constitution. Still the
right is subject to certain restraining regulations. The election must be
held at the proper time, which, according to the usage of Masonry, in most
parts of the world, is on or immediately before the festival of St. John
the Evangelist. The proper qualifications must be regarded. A member
cannot be elected as Master, unless he has previously served as a Warden,
except in the instance of a new lodge, or other case of emergency. Where
both of the Wardens refuse promotion, where the presiding Master will not
permit himself to be reelected, and where there is no Past Master who will
consent to take the office, then, and then only, can a member be elected
from the floor to preside over the lodge.
By the Constitutions of England, only the Master and Treasurer are
The Wardens and all the other officers are appointed by the Master, who
has not, however, the power of removal after appointment, except by
consent of the lodge;38
but American usage gives the election of all the officers, except the
deacons, stewards, and, in some instances, the tiler, to the lodge.
As a consequence of the right of election, every lodge has the power of
installing its officers, subject to the same regulations, in relation to
time and qualifications, as given in the case of elections.
The Master must be installed by a Past Master,39
but after his own installation he has the power to install the rest of the
officers. The ceremony of installation is not a mere vain and idle one,
but is productive of important results. Until the Master and Wardens of a
lodge are installed, they cannot represent the lodge in the Grand Lodge,
nor, if it be a new lodge, can it be recorded and recognized on the
register of the Grand Lodge. No officer can permanently take possession of
the office to which he has been elected, until he has been duly
The rule of the craft is, that the old officer holds on until his
successor is installed, and this rule is of universal application to
officers of every grade, from the Tiler of a subordinate lodge, to the
Grand Master of Masons.
Every lodge that has been duly constituted, and its officers installed,
is entitled to be represented in the Grand Lodge, and to form, indeed, a
constituent part of that body.41
The representatives of a lodge are its Master and two Wardens.42
This character of representation was established in 1718, when the four
old lodges, which organized the Grand Lodge of England, agreed "to extend
their patronage to every lodge which should hereafter be constituted by
the Grand Lodge, according to the new regulations of the society; and
while such lodges acted in conformity to the ancient constitutions of the
Order, to admit their Masters and Wardens to share with them all the
privileges of the Grand Lodge, excepting precedence of rank."43
Formerly all Master Masons were permitted to sit in the Grand Lodge, or,
as it was then called, the General Assembly, and represent their lodge;
and therefore this restricting the representation to the three superior
officers was, in fact, a concession of the craft. This regulation is still
generally observed; but I regret to see a few Grand Lodges in this country
innovating on the usage, and still further confining the representation to
the Masters alone.
The Master and Wardens are not merely in name the representatives of
the lodge, but are bound, on all questions that come before the Grand
Lodge, truly to represent their lodge, and vote according to its
instructions. This doctrine is expressly laid down in the General
Regulations, in the following words: "The majority of every particular
lodge, when congregated, not else, shall have the privilege of giving
instructions to their Master and Wardens, before the meeting of the Grand
Chapter, or Quarterly Communication; because the said officers are their
representatives, and are supposed to speak the sentiments of their
Brethren at the said Grand Lodge."44
Every lodge has the power to frame bye-laws for its own government,
provided they are not contrary to, nor inconsistent with, the general
regulations of the Grand Lodge; nor the landmarks of the order.45
But these bye-laws will not be valid, until they are submitted to and
approved by the Grand Lodge. And this is the case, also, with every
subsequent alteration of them, which must in like manner be submitted to
the Grand Lodge for its approval.
A lodge has the right of suspending or excluding a member from his
membership in the lodge; but it has no power to expel him from the rights
and privileges of Masonry, except with the consent of the Grand Lodge. A
subordinate lodge tries its delinquent member, and, if guilty, declares
him expelled; but the sentence is of no force until the Grand Lodge, under
whose jurisdiction it is working, has confirmed it. And it is optional
with the Grand Lodge to do so, or, as is frequently done, to reverse the
decision and reinstate the Brother. Some of the lodges in this country
claim the right to expel, independently of the action of the Grand Lodge;
but the claim is not valid. The very fact that an expulsion is a penalty,
affecting the general relations of the punished party with the whole
fraternity, proves that its exercise never could, with propriety, be
intrusted to a body so circumscribed in its authority as a subordinate
lodge. Accordingly, the general practice of the fraternity is opposed to
it; and therefore all expulsions are reported to the Grand Lodge, not
merely as matters of information, but that they may be confirmed by that
body. The English Constitutions are explicit on this subject. "In the
Grand Lodge alone," they declare, "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 England." They allow, however, a
subordinate lodge to exclude a member from the lodge; in which case
he is furnished with a certificate of the circumstances of his exclusion,
and then may join any other lodge that will accept him, after being made
acquainted with the fact of his exclusion, and its cause. This usage has
not been adopted in this country.
A lodge has a right to levy such annual contribution for membership as
the majority of the Brethren see fit. This is entirely a matter of
contract, with which the Grand Lodge, or the craft in general, have
nothing to do. It is, indeed, a modern usage, unknown to the fraternity of
former times, and was instituted for the convenience and support of the
A lodge is entitled to select a name for itself, to be, however,
approved by the Grand Lodge.46
But the Grand Lodge alone has the power of designating the number by which
the lodge shall be distinguished. By its number alone is every lodge
recognized in the register of the Grand Lodge, and according to their
numbers is the precedence of the lodges regulated.
Finally, a lodge has certain rights in relation to its Warrant of
Constitution. This instrument having been granted by the Grand Lodge, can
be revoked by no other authority. The Grand Master, therefore, has no
power, as he has in the case of a lodge under dispensation, to withdraw
its Warrant, except temporarily, until the next meeting of the Grand
Lodge. Nor is it in the power of even the majority of the lodge, by any
act of their own, to resign the Warrant. For it has been laid down as a
law, that if the majority of the lodge should determine to quit the lodge,
or to resign their warrant, such action would be of no efficacy, because
the Warrant of Constitution, and the power of assembling, would remain
with the rest of the members, who adhere to their allegiance.47
But if all the members withdraw themselves, their Warrant ceases and
becomes extinct. If the conduct of a lodge has been such as clearly to
forfeit its charter, the Grand Lodge alone can decide that question and
pronounce the forfeiture.
So far in relation to the rights and privileges of subordinate lodges.
But there are certain duties and obligations equally binding upon these
bodies, and certain powers, in the exercise of which they are restricted.
These will next engage our attention.
The first great duty, not only of every lodge, but of every Mason, is
to see that the landmarks of the Order shall never be impaired. The
General Regulations of Masonry—to which every Master, at his installation,
is bound to acknowledge his submission—declare that "it is not in the
power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of
Masonry." And, hence, no lodge, without violating all the implied and
express obligations into which it has entered, can, in any manner, alter
or amend the work, lectures, and ceremonies of the institution. As its
members have received the ritual from their predecessors, so are they
bound to transmit it, unchanged, in the slightest degree, to their
successors. In the Grand Lodge, alone, resides the power of enacting new
regulations; but, even it must be careful that, in every such
regulation, the landmarks are preserved. When, therefore, we hear young
and inexperienced Masters speak of making improvements (as they arrogantly
call them) upon the old lectures or ceremonies, we may be sure that such
Masters either know nothing of the duties they owe to the craft, or are
willfully forgetful of the solemn obligation which they have contracted.
Some may suppose that the ancient ritual of the Order is imperfect, and
requires amendment. One may think that the ceremonies are too simple, and
wish to increase them; another, that they are too complicated, and desire
to simplify them; one may be displeased with the antiquated language;
another, with the character of the traditions; a third, with something
else. But, the rule is imperative and absolute, that no change can or must
be made to gratify individual taste. As the Barons of England, once, with
unanimous voice, exclaimed, "Nolumus leges Anglić mutare!" so do all good
Masons respond to every attempt at innovation, "We are unwilling to alter
the customs of Freemasonry."
In relation to the election of officers, a subordinate lodge is allowed
to exercise no discretion. The names and duties of these officers are
prescribed, partly by the landmarks or the ancient constitutions, and
partly by the regulations of various Grand Lodges. While the landmarks are
preserved, a Grand Lodge may add to the list of officers as it pleases;
and whatever may be its regulation, the subordinate lodges are bound to
obey it; nor can any such lodge create new offices nor abolish old ones
without the consent of the Grand Lodge.
Lodges are also bound to elect their officers at a time which is always
determined; not by the subordinate, but by the Grand Lodge. Nor can a
lodge anticipate or postpone it unless by a dispensation from the Grand
No lodge can, at an extra meeting, alter or amend the proceedings of a
regular meeting. If such were not the rule, an unworthy Master might, by
stealth, convoke an extra meeting of a part of his lodge, and, by
expunging or altering the proceedings of the previous regular meeting, or
any particular part of them, annul any measures or resolutions that were
not consonant with his peculiar views.
No lodge can interfere with the work or business of any other lodge,
without its permission. This is an old regulation, founded on those
principles of comity and brotherly love that should exist among all
Masons. It is declared in the manuscript charges, written in the reign of
James II., and in the possession of the Lodge of Antiquity, at London,
that "no Master or Fellow shall supplant others of their work; that is to
say, that, if he hath taken a work, or else stand Master of any work, that
he shall not put him out, unless he be unable of cunning to make an end of
his work." And, hence, no lodge can pass or raise a candidate who was
initiated, or initiate one who was rejected, in another lodge. "It would
be highly improper," says the Ahiman Rezon, "in any lodge, to confer a
degree on a Brother who is not of their house-hold; for, every lodge ought
to be competent to manage their own business, and are the best judges of
the qualifications of their own members."
I do not intend, at the present time, to investigate the qualifications
of candidates—as that subject will, in itself, afford ample materials for
a future investigation; but, it is necessary that I should say something
of the restrictions under which every lodge labors in respect to the
admission of persons applying for degrees.
In the first place, no lodge can initiate a candidate, "without
previous notice, and due examination into his character; and not unless
his petition has been read at one regular meeting and acted on at
another." This is in accordance with the ancient regulations; but, an
exception to it is allowed in the case of an emergency, when the lodge may
read the petition for admission, and, if the applicant is well
recommended, may proceed at once to elect and initiate him. In some
jurisdictions, the nature of the emergency must be stated to the Grand
Master, who, if he approves, will grant a dispensation; but, in others,
the Master, or Master and Wardens, are permitted to be competent judges,
and may proceed to elect and initiate, without such dispensation. The
Grand Lodge of South Carolina adheres to the former custom, and that of
England to the latter.
Another regulation is, that no lodge can confer more than two degrees,
at one communication, on the same candidate. The Grand Lodge of England is
still more stringent on this subject, and declares that "no candidate
shall be permitted to receive more than one degree, on the same day; nor
shall a higher degree in Masonry be conferred on any Brother at a less
interval than four weeks from his receiving a previous degree, nor until
he has passed an examination, in open lodge, in that degree." This rule is
also in force in South Carolina and several other of the American
jurisdictions. But, the law which forbids the whole three degrees of
Ancient Craft Masonry to be conferred, at the same communication, on one
candidate, is universal in its application, and, as such, may be deemed
one of the ancient landmarks of the Order.
There is another rule, which seems to be of universal extent, and is,
indeed, contained in the General Regulations of 1767, to the following
effect: "No lodge shall make more than five new Brothers at one and the
same time, without an urgent necessity."
All lodges are bound to hold their meetings at least once in every
calendar month; and every lodge neglecting so to do for one year, thereby
forfeits its warrant of constitution.
The subject of the removal of lodges is the last thing that shall
engage our attention. Here the ancient regulations of the craft have
adopted many guards to prevent the capricious or improper removal of a
lodge from its regular place of meeting. In the first place, no lodge can
be removed from the town in which it is situated, to any other place,
without the consent of the Grand Lodge. But, a lodge may remove from one
part of the town to another, with the consent of the members, under the
following restrictions: The removal cannot be made without the Master's
knowledge; nor can any motion, for that purpose, be presented in his
absence. When such a motion is made, and properly seconded, the Master
will order summonses to every member, specifying the business, and
appointing a day for considering and determining the affair. And if then a
majority of the lodge, with the Master, or two-thirds, without him,
consent to the removal, it shall take place; but notice thereof must be
sent, at once, to the Grand Lodge. The General Regulations of 1767 further
declare, that such removal must be approved by the Grand Master. I suppose
that where the removal of the lodge was only a matter of convenience to
the members, the Grand Lodge would hardly interfere, but leave the whole
subject to their discretion; but, where the removal would be calculated to
affect the interests of the lodge, or of the fraternity—as in the case of
a removal to a house of bad reputation, or to a place of evident
insecurity—I have no doubt that the Grand Lodge, as the conservator of the
character and safety of the institution, would have a right to interpose
its authority, and prevent the improper removal.
I have thus treated, as concisely as the important nature of the
subjects would permit, of the powers, privileges, duties, and obligations
of lodges, and have endeavored to embrace, within the limits of the
discussion, all those prominent principles of the Order, which, as they
affect the character and operations of the craft in their primary
assemblies, may properly be referred to the Law of Subordinate
Four officers, at least, the ancient customs of the craft require in
every lodge; and they are consequently found throughout the globe. These
are the Master, the two Wardens, and the Tiler. Almost equally universal
are the offices of Treasurer, Secretary, and two Deacons. But, besides
these, there may be additional officers appointed by different Grand
Lodges. The Grand Lodge of England, for instance, requires the appointment
of an officer, called the "Inner Guard." The Grand Orient of France has
prescribed a variety of officers, which are unknown to English and
American Masonry. The Grand Lodges of England and South Carolina direct
that two Stewards shall be appointed, while some other Grand Lodges make
no such requisition. Ancient usage seems to have recognized the following
officers of a subordinate lodge: the Master, two Wardens, Treasurer,
Secretary, two Deacons, two Stewards, and Tiler; and I shall therefore
treat of the duties and powers of these officers only, in the course of
the present chapter.
The officers of a lodge are elected annually. In this country, the
election takes place on the festival of St. John the Evangelist, or at the
meeting immediately previous; but, in this latter case, the duties of the
offices do not commence until St. John's day, which may, therefore, be
considered as the beginning of the masonic year.
Dalcho lays down the rule, that "no Freemason chosen into any office
can refuse to serve (unless he has before filled the same office), without
incurring the penalties established by the bye-laws." Undoubtedly a lodge
may enact such a regulation, and affix any reasonable penalty; but I am
not aware of any ancient regulation which makes it incumbent on
subordinate lodges to do so.
If any of the subordinate officers, except the Master and Wardens, die,
or be removed from office, during the year, the lodge may, under the
authority of a dispensation from the Grand Master, enter into an election
to supply the vacancy. But in the case of the death or removal of the
Master or either of the Wardens, no election can be held to supply the
vacancy, even by dispensation, for reasons which will appear when I come
to treat of those offices.
No officer can resign his office after he has been installed. Every
officer is elected for twelve months, and at his installation solemnly
promises to perform the duties of that office until the next regular day
of election; and hence the lodge cannot permit him, by a resignation, to
violate his obligation of office.
Another rule is, that every officer holds on to his office until his
successor has been installed. It is the installation, and not the
election, which puts an officer into possession; and the faithful
management of the affairs of Masonry requires, that between the election
and installation of his successor, the predecessor shall not vacate the
office, but continue to discharge its duties.
An office can be vacated only by death, permanent removal from the
jurisdiction, or expulsion. Suspension does not vacate, but only suspends
the performance of the duties of the office, which must then be
temporarily discharged by some other person, to be appointed from time to
time; for, as soon as the suspended officer is restored, he resumes the
dignities and duties of his office.
This is probably the most important office in the whole system of
Masonry, as, upon the intelligence, skill, and fidelity of the Masters of
our lodges, the entire institution is dependent for its prosperity. It is
an office which is charged with heavy responsibilities, and, as a just
consequence, is accompanied by the investiture of many important
A necessary qualification of the Master of a lodge is, that he must
have previously served in the office of a Warden.48
This qualification is sometimes dispensed with in the case of new lodges,
or where no member of an old lodge, who has served as a Warden, will
accept the office of Master. But it is not necessary that he should have
served as a Warden in the lodge of which he is proposed to be elected
Master. The discharge of the duties of a Warden, by regular election and
installation in any other lodge, and at any former period, will be a
One of the most important duties of the Master of a lodge is, to see
that the edicts and regulations of the Grand Lodge are obeyed by his
Brethren, and that his officers faithfully discharge their duties.
The Master has particularly in charge the warrant of Constitution,
which must always be present in his lodge, when opened.
The Master has a right to call a special meeting of his lodge whenever
he pleases, and is the sole judge of any emergency which may require such
He has, also, the right of closing his lodge at any hour that he may
deem expedient, notwithstanding the whole business of the evening may not
have been transacted. This regulation arises from the unwritten law of
Masonry. As the Master is responsible to the Grand Lodge for the fidelity
of the work done in his lodge, and as the whole of the labor is,
therefore, performed under his superintendence, it follows that, to enable
him to discharge this responsibility, he must be invested with the power
of commencing, of continuing, or of suspending labor at such time as he
may, in his wisdom, deem to be the most advantageous to the edifice of
It follows from this rule that a question of adjournment cannot be
entertained in a lodge. The adoption of a resolution to adjourn, would
involve the necessity of the Master to obey it. The power, therefore, of
controlling the work, would be taken out of his hands and placed in those
of the members, which would be in direct conflict with the duties imposed
upon him by the ritual. The doctrine that a lodge cannot adjourn, but must
be closed or called off at the pleasure of the Master, appears now to me
to be very generally admitted.
The Master and his two Wardens constitute the representatives of the
lodge in the Grand Lodge, and it is his duty to attend the communications
of that body "on all convenient occasions."49
When there, he is faithfully to represent his lodge, and on all questions
discussed, to obey its instructions, voting in every case rather against
his own convictions than against the expressed wish of his lodge.
The Master presides not only over the symbolic work of the lodge, but
also over its business deliberations, and in either case his decisions are
reversible only by the Grand Lodge. There can be no appeal from his
decision, on any question, to the lodge. He is supreme in his lodge, so
far as the lodge is concerned, being amenable for his conduct in the
government of it, not to its members, but to the Grrand Lodge alone. If an
appeal were proposed, it would be his duty, for the preservation of
discipline, to refuse to put the question. If a member is aggrieved by the
conduct or decisions of the Master, he has his redress by an appeal to the
Grrand Lodge, which will, of course, see that the Master does not rule his
lodge "in an unjust or arbitrary manner." But such a thing as an appeal
from the Master of the lodge to its members is unknown in Masonry.
This may, at first sight, appear to be giving too despotic power to the
Master. But a slight reflection will convince any one that there can be
but little danger of oppression from one so guarded and controlled as a
Master is, by the sacred obligations of his office, and the supervision of
the Grand Lodge, while the placing in the hands of the craft so powerful,
and at times, and with bad spirits, so annoying a privilege as that of
immediate appeal, would necessarily tend to impair the energies and lessen
the dignity of the Master, while it would be subversive of that spirit of
discipline which pervades every part of the institution, and to which it
is mainly indebted for its prosperity and perpetuity.
The ancient charges rehearsed at the installation of a Master,
prescribe the various moral qualifications which are required in the
aspirant for that elevated and responsible office. He is to be a good man,
and peaceable citizen or subject, a respecter of the laws, and a lover of
his Brethren—cultivating the social virtues and promoting the general good
of society as well as of his own Order.
Within the last few years, the standard of intellectual qualifications
has been greatly elevated. And it is now admitted that the Master of a
lodge, to do justice to the exalted office which he holds, to the craft
over whom he presides, and to the candidates whom he is to instruct,
should be not only a man of irreproachable moral character, but also of
expanded intellect and liberal education. Still, as there is no express
law upon this subject, the selection of a Master and the determination of
his qualifications must be left to the judgment and good sense of the
The Senior and Junior Warden are the assistants of the Master in the
government of the lodge. They are selected from among the members on the
floor, the possession of a previous office not being, as in the case of
the Master, a necessary qualification for election. In England they are
appointed by the Master, but in this country they are universally elected
by the lodge.
During the temporary absence of the Master the Senior Warden has the
right of presiding, though he may, and often does by courtesy, invite a
Past Master to assume the chair. In like manner, in the absence of both
Master and Senior Warden, the Junior Warden will preside, and competent
Brethren will by him be appointed to fill the vacant seats of the Wardens.
But if the Master and Junior Warden be present, and the Senior Warden be
absent, the Junior Warden does not occupy the West, but retains his own
station, the Master appointing some Brother to occupy the station of the
Senior Warden. For the Junior Warden succeeds by law only to the office of
Master, and, unless that office be vacant, he is bound to fulfill the
duties of the office to which he has been obligated.
In case of the death, removal from the jurisdiction, or expulsion of
the Master, by the Grand Lodge, no election can be held until the
constitutional period. The Senior Warden will take the Master's place and
preside over the lodge, while his seat will be temporarily filled from
time to time by appointment. The Senior Warden being in fact still in
existence, and only discharging one of the highest duties of his office,
that of presiding in the absence of the Master, his office cannot be
declared vacant and there can be no election for it. In such case, the
Junior Warden, for the reason already assigned, will continue at his own
station in the South.
In case of the death, removal, or expulsion of both Master and Senior
Warden, the Junior Warden will discharge the duties of the Mastership and
make temporary appointments of both Wardens. It must always be remembered
that the Wardens succeed according to seniority to the office of Master
when vacant, but that neither can legally discharge the duties of the
other. It must also be remembered that when a Warden succeeds to the
government of the lodge, he does not become the Master; he is still only a
Warden discharging the functions of a higher vacated station, as one of
the expressed duties of his own office. A recollection of these
distinctions will enable us to avoid much embarrassment in the
consideration of all the questions incident to this subject. If the Master
be present, the Wardens assist him in the government of the lodge. The
Senior Warden presides over the craft while at labor, and the Junior when
they are in refreshment. Formerly the examination of visitors was
intrusted to the Junior Warden, but this duty is now more appropriately
performed by the Stewards or a special committee appointed for that
The Senior Warden has the appointment of the Senior Deacon, and the
Junior Warden that of the Stewards.
Of so much importance is this office deemed, that in English Lodges,
while all the other officers are appointed by the Master, the Treasurer
alone is elected by the lodge. It is, however, singular, that in the
ritual of installation, Preston furnishes no address to the Treasurer on
his investiture. Webb, however, has supplied the omission, and the charge
given in his work to this officer, on the night of his installation,
having been universally acknowledged and adopted by the craft in this
country, will furnish us with the most important points of the law in
relation to his duties.
It is, then, in the first place, the duty of the Treasurer "to receive
all moneys from the hands of the Secretary." The Treasurer is only the
banker of the lodge. All fees for initiation, arrearages of members, and
all other dues to the lodge, should be first received by the Secretary,
and paid immediately over to the Treasurer for safe keeping.
The keeping of just and regular accounts is another duty presented to
the Treasurer. As soon as he has received an amount of money from the
Secretary, he should transfer the account of it to his books. By this
means, the Secretary and Treasurer become mutual checks upon each other,
and the safety of the funds of the lodge is secured.
The Treasurer is not only the banker, but also the disbursing officer
of the lodge; but he is directed to pay no money except with the consent
of the lodge and on the order of the Worshipful Master. It seems to me,
therefore, that every warrant drawn on him should be signed by the Master,
and the action of the lodge attested by the counter-signature of the
It is usual, in consequence of the great responsibility of the
Treasurer, to select some Brother of worldly substance for the office; and
still further to insure the safety of the funds, by exacting from him a
bond, with sufficient security. He sometimes receives a per centage, or a
fixed salary, for his services.
It is the duty of the Secretary to record all the proceedings of the
lodge, "which may be committed to paper;" to conduct the correspondence of
the lodge, and to receive all moneys due the lodge from any source
whatsoever. He is, therefore, the recording, corresponding, and receiving
officer of the lodge. By receiving the moneys due to the lodge in the
first place, and then paying them over to the Treasurer, he becomes, as I
have already observed, a check upon that officer.
In view of the many laborious duties which devolve upon him, the
Secretary, in many lodges, receives a compensation for his services.
Should the Treasurer or Secretary die or be expelled, there is no doubt
that an election for a successor, to fill the unexpired term, may be held
by dispensation from the Grand Master. But the incompetency of either of
these officers to perform his duties, by reason of the infirmity of
sickness or removal from the seat of the lodge, will not, I think,
authorize such an election. Because the original officer may recover from
his infirmity, or return to his residence, and, in either case, having
been elected and installed for one year, he must remain the Secretary or
Treasurer until the expiration of the period for which he had been so
elected and installed, and, therefore, on his recovery or his return, is
entitled to resume all the prerogatives and functions of his office. The
case of death, or of expulsion, which is, in fact, masonic death, is
different, because all the rights possessed during life cease ex
necessitate rei, and forever lapse at the time of the said physical or
masonic death; and in the latter case, a restoration to all the rights and
privileges of Masonry would not restore the party to any office which he
had held at the time of his expulsion.
In every lodge there are two of these officers—a Senior and a Junior
Deacon. They are not elected, but appointed; the former by the Master, and
the latter by the Senior Warden.
The duties of these officers are many and important; but they are so
well defined in the ritual as to require no further consideration in this
The only question that here invites our examination is, whether the
Deacons, as appointed officers, are removable at the pleasure of the
officers who appointed them; or, whether they retain their offices, like
the Master and Wardens, until the expiration of the year. Masonic
authorities are silent on this subject; but, basing my judgment upon
analogy, I am inclined to think that they are not removable: all the
officers of a lodge are chosen to serve for one year, or, from one
festival of St. John the Evangelist to the succeeding one. This has been
the invariable usage in all lodges, and neither in the monitorial
ceremonies of installation, nor in any rules or regulations which I have
seen, is any exception to this usage made in respect to Deacons. The
written as well as the oral law of Masonry being silent on this subject,
we are bound to give them the benefit of this silence, and place them in
the same favorable position as that occupied by the superior officers,
who, we know, by express law are entitled to occupy their stations for one
year. Moreover, the power of removal is too important to be exercised
except under the sanction of an expressed law, and is contrary to the
whole spirit of Masonry, which, while it invests a presiding officer with
the largest extent of prerogative, is equally careful of the rights of the
youngest member of the fraternity.
From these reasons I am compelled to believe that the Deacons, although
originally appointed by the Master and Senior Warden, are not removable by
either, but retain their offices until the expiration of the
The Stewards, who are two in number, are appointed by the Junior
Warden, and sit on the right and left of him in the lodge. Their original
duties were, "to assist in the collection of dues and subscriptions; to
keep an account of the lodge expenses; to see that the tables are properly
furnished at refreshment, and that every Brother is suitably provided
for." They are also considered as the assistants of the Deacons in the
discharge of their duties, and, lately, some lodges are beginning to
confide to them the important trusts of a standing committee for the
examination of visitors and the preparation of candidates.
What has been said in relation to the removal of the Deacons in the
preceding section, is equally applicable to the Stewards.
This is an office of great importance, and must, from the peculiar
nature of our institution, have existed from its very beginning. No lodge
could ever have been opened until a Tiler was appointed, and stationed to
guard its portals from the approach of "cowans and eavesdroppers." The
qualifications requisite for the office of a Tiler are, that he must be "a
worthy Master Mason." An Entered Apprentice, or a Fellow Craft, cannot
tile a lodge, even though it be opened in his own degree. To none but
Master Masons can this important duty of guardianship be intrusted. The
Tiler is not necessarily a member of the lodge which he tiles. There is no
regulation requiring this qualification. In fact, in large cities, one
Brother often acts as the Tiler of several lodges. If, however, he is a
member of the lodge, his office does not deprive him of the rights of
membership, and in ballotings for candidates, election of officers, or
other important questions, he is entitled to exercise his privilege of
voting, in which case the Junior Deacon will temporarily occupy his
station, while he enters the lodge to deposit his ballot. This appears to
be the general usage of the craft in this country.
The Tiler is sometimes elected by the lodge, and sometimes appointed by
the Master. It seems generally to be admitted that he may be removed from
office for misconduct or neglect of duty, by the lodge, if he has been
elected, and by the Master, if he has been appointed.
The safety of the minority, the preservation of harmony, and the
dispatch of business, all require that there should be, in every
well-regulated society, some rules and forms for the government of their
proceedings, and, as has been justly observed by an able writer on
parliamentary law, "whether these forms be in all cases the most rational
or not, is really not of so great importance; for it is much more material
that there should be a rule to go by, than what that rule is."50
By common consent, the rules established for the government of Parliament
in England, and of Congress in the United States, and which are known
collectively under the name of "Parliamentary Law," have been adopted for
the regulation of all deliberative bodies, whether of a public or private
nature. But lodges of Freemasons differ so much in their organization and
character from other societies, that this law will, in very few cases, be
found applicable; and, indeed, in many positively inapplicable to them.
The rules, therefore, for the government of masonic lodges are in general
to be deduced from the usages of the Order, from traditional or written
authority, and where both of them are silent, from analogy to the
character of the institution. To each of these sources, therefore, I shall
apply, in the course of the present chapter, and in some few instances,
where the parliamentary law coincides with our own, reference will be made
to the authority of the best writers on that science.
When the Brethren have been "congregated," or called together by the
presiding officer, the first thing to be attended to is the ceremony of
opening the lodge. The consideration of this subject, as it is
sufficiently detailed in our ritual, will form no part of the present
The lodge having been opened, the next thing to be attended to is the
reading of the minutes of the last communication. The minutes having been
read, the presiding officer will put the question on their confirmation,
having first inquired of the Senior and Junior Wardens, and lastly of the
Brethren "around the lodge," whether they have any alterations to propose.
It must be borne in mind, that the question of confirmation is simply a
question whether the Secretary has faithfully and correctly recorded the
transactions of the lodge. If, therefore, it can be satisfactorily shown
by any one that there is a mis-entry, or the omission of an entry, this is
the time to correct it; and where the matter is of sufficient importance,
and the recording officer, or any member disputes the charge of error, the
vote of the lodge will be taken on the subject, and the journal will be
amended or remain as written, according to the opinion so expressed by the
majority of the members. As this is, however, a mere question of memory,
it must be apparent that those members only who were present at the
previous communication, the records of which are under examination, are
qualified to express a fair opinion. All others should ask and be
permitted to be excused from voting.
As no special communication can alter or amend the proceedings of a
regular one, it is not deemed necessary to present the records of the
latter to the inspection of the former. This preliminary reading of the
minutes is, therefore, always omitted at special communications.
After the reading of the minutes, unfinished business, such as motions
previously submitted and reports of committees previously appointed, will
take the preference of all other matters. Special communications being
called for the consideration of some special subject, that subject must of
course claim the priority of consideration over all others.
In like manner, where any business has been specially and specifically
postponed to another communication, it constitutes at that communication
what is called, in parliamentary law, "the order of the day," and may at
any time in the course of the evening be called up, to the exclusion of
all other business.
The lodge may, however, at its discretion, refuse to take up the
consideration of such order; for the same body which determined at one
time to consider a question, may at another time refuse to do so. This is
one of those instances in which parliamentary usage is applicable to the
government of a lodge. Jefferson says: "Where an order is made, that any
particular matter be taken up on any particular day, there a question is
to be put, when it is called for, Whether the house will now proceed to
that matter?" In a lodge, however, it is not the usage to propose such a
question, but the matter being called up, is discussed and acted on,
unless some Brother moves its postponement, when the question of
postponement is put.
But with these exceptions, the unfinished business must first be
disposed of, to avoid its accumulation and its possible subsequent
New business will then be taken up in such order as the local bye-laws
prescribe, or the wisdom of the Worshipful Master may suggest.
In a discussion, when any member wishes to speak, he must stand up in
his place, and address himself not to the lodge, nor to any particular
Brother, but to the presiding officer, styling him "Worshipful."
When two or more members rise nearly together, the presiding officer
determines who is entitled to speak, and calls him by his name, whereupon
he proceeds, unless he voluntarily sits down, and gives way to the other.
The ordinary rules of courtesy, which should govern a masonic body above
all other societies, as well as the general usage of deliberative bodies,
require that the one first up should be entitled to the floor. But the
decision of this fact is left entirely to the Master, or presiding
Whether a member be entitled to speak once or twice to the same
question, is left to the regulation of the local bye-laws of every lodge.
But, under all circumstances, it seems to be conceded, that a member may
rise at any time with the permission of the presiding officer, or for the
purpose of explanation.
A member may be called to order by any other while speaking, for the
use of any indecorous remark, personal allusion, or irrelevant matter; but
this must be done in a courteous and conciliatory manner, and the question
of order will at once be decided by the presiding officer.
No Brother is to be interrupted while speaking, except for the purpose
of calling him to order, or to make a necessary explanation; nor are any
separate conversations, or, as they are called in our ancient charges,
"private committees," to be allowed.
Every member of the Order is, in the course of the debate as well as at
all other times in the lodge, to be addressed by the title of "Brother,"
and no secular or worldly titles are ever to be used.
In accordance with the principles of justice, the parliamentary usage
is adopted, which permits the mover of a resolution to make the concluding
speech, that he may reply to all those who have spoken against it, and sum
up the arguments in its favor. And it would be a breach of order as well
as of courtesy for any of his opponents to respond to this final argument
of the mover.
It is within the discretion of the Master, at any time in the course of
the evening, to suspend the business of the lodge for the purpose of
proceeding to the ceremony of initiation, for the "work" of Masonry, as it
is technically called, takes precedence of all other business.
When all business, both old and new, and the initiation of candidates,
if there be any, has been disposed of, the presiding officer inquires of
the officers and members if there be anything more to be proposed before
closing. Custom has prescribed a formulary for making this inquiry, which
is in the following words.
The Worshipful Master, addressing the Senior and Junior Wardens and
then the Brethren, successively, says: "Brother Senior, have you anything
to offer in the West for the good of Masonry in general or of this lodge
in particular? Anything in the South, Brother Junior? Around the lodge,
Brethren?" The answers to these inquiries being in the negative on the
part of the Wardens, and silence on that of the craft, the Master proceeds
to close the lodge in the manner prescribed in the ritual.
The reading of the minutes of the evening, not for confirmation, but
for suggestion, lest anything may have been omitted, should always precede
the closing ceremonies, unless, from the lateness of the hour, it be
dispensed with by the members.
Freemasonry differs from all other institutions, in permitting no
appeal to the lodge from the decision of the presiding officer. The Master
is supreme in his lodge, so far as the lodge is concerned. He is amenable
for his conduct, in the government of the lodge, not to its members, but
to the Grand Lodge alone. In deciding points of order as well as graver
matters, no appeal can be taken from that decision to the lodge. If an
appeal were proposed, it would be his duty, for the preservation of
discipline, to refuse to put the question. It is, in fact, wrong that the
Master should even by courtesy permit such an appeal to be taken; because,
as the Committee of Correspondence of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee have
wisely remarked, by the admission of such appeals by courtesy, "is
established ultimately a precedent from which will be claimed the right
to take appeals."52
If a member is aggrieved with the conduct or the decisions of the Master,
he has his redress by an appeal to the Grand Lodge, which will of course
see that the Master does not rule his lodge "in an unjust or arbitrary
manner." But such a thing as an appeal from the Master to the lodge is
unknown in Masonry.
This, at first view, may appear to be giving too despotic a power to
the Master. But a little reflection will convince any one that there can
be but slight danger of oppression from one so guarded and controlled as
the Master is by the obligations of his office and the superintendence of
the Grand Lodge, while the placing in the hands of the craft so powerful,
and, with bad spirits, so annoying a privilege as that of immediate
appeal, would necessarily tend to impair the energies and lessen the
dignity of the Master, at the same time that it would be totally
subversive of that spirit of strict discipline which pervades every part
of the institution, and to which it is mainly indebted for its prosperity
In every case where a member supposes himself to be aggrieved by the
decision of the Master, he should make his appeal to the Grand Lodge.
It is scarcely necessary to add, that a Warden or Past Master,
presiding in the absence of the Master, assumes for the time all the
rights and prerogatives of the Master.
The question in Masonry is not taken viva voce or by "aye" and
"nay." This should always be done by "a show of hands." The regulation on
this subject was adopted not later than the year 1754, at which time the
Book of Constitutions was revised, "and the necessary alterations and
additions made, consistent with the laws and rules of Masonry," and
accordingly, in the edition published in the following year, the
regulation is laid down in these words—"The opinions or votes of the
members are always to be signified by each holding up one of his hands:
which uplifted hands the Grand Wardens are to count; unless the number of
hands be so unequal as to render the counting useless. Nor should any
other kind of division be ever admitted among Masons."53
Calling for the yeas and nays has been almost universally condemned as
an unmasonic practice, nor should any Master allow it to be resorted to in
Moving the "previous question," a parliamentary invention for stopping
all discussion, is still more at variance with the liberal and harmonious
spirit which should distinguish masonic debates, and is, therefore, never
to be permitted in a lodge.
Adjournment is a term not recognized in Masonry. There are but two ways
in which the communication of a lodge can be terminated; and these are
either by closing the lodge, or by calling from labor to
refreshment. In the former case the business of the communication is
finally disposed of until the next communication; in the latter the lodge
is still supposed to be open and may resume its labors at any time
indicated by the Master.
But both the time of closing the lodge and of calling it from labor to
refreshment is to be determined by the absolute will and the free judgment
of the Worshipful Master, to whom alone is intrusted the care of "setting
the craft to work, and giving them wholesome instruction for labor." He
alone is responsible to the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge, that his
lodge shall be opened, continued, and closed in harmony; and as it is by
his "will and pleasure" only that it is opened, so is it by his "will and
pleasure" only that it can be closed. Any attempt, therefore, on the part
of the lodge to entertain a motion for adjournment would be an
infringement of this prerogative of the Master. Such a motion is,
therefore, always out of order, and cannot be; and cannot be acted on.
The rule that a lodge cannot adjourn, but remain in session until
closed by the Master, derives an authoritative sanction also from the
following clause in the fifth of the Old Charges.
"All Masons employed shall meekly receive their wages without murmuring
or mutiny, and not desert the Master till the work is
It is the prerogative of the Master to appoint all Committees, unless
by a special resolution provision has been made that a committee shall
otherwise be appointed.
The Master is also, ex officio, chairman of every committee
which he chooses to attend, although he may not originally have been named
a member of such committee. But he may, if he chooses, waive this
privilege; yet he may, at any time during the session of the committee,
reassume his inherent prerogative of governing the craft at all times when
in his presence, and therefore take the chair.
Masonry is preeminently an institution of forms, and hence, as was to
be expected, there is a particular form provided for recording the
proceedings of a lodge. Perhaps the best method of communicating this form
to the reader will be, to record the proceedings of a supposititious
meeting or communication.
The following form, therefore, embraces the most important transactions
that usually occur during the session of a lodge, and it may serve as an
exemplar, for the use of secretaries.
"A regular communication of —— Lodge, NO. ——, was holden at ——; on
----, the —— day of ——A.: L.: 58—.
Bro.: A. B——, W.: Master.
" B. C——, S.: Warden.
" C. D——, J.: Warden.
" D. E——, Treasurer.
" E. F——, Secretary.
" F. G——, S.: Deacon.
" G. H——, J.: Deacon.
" H. I——, } Stewards.
" I. K——, }
" K. L——, Tiler.
Bro.: L. M——
The Lodge was opened in due form on the third degree of Masonry.
"The minutes of the regular communication of —— were read and
"The committee on the petition of Mr. C. B., a candidate for
initiation, reported favorably, whereupon he was balloted for and duly
"The committee on the application of Mr. D. C., a candidate for
initiation, reported favorably, whereupon he was balloted for, and the box
appearing foul he was rejected.
"The committee on the application of Mr. E. D., a candidate for
initiation, having reported unfavorably, he was declared rejected without
"The petition of Mr. F. E., a candidate for initiation, having been
withdrawn by his friends, he was declared rejected without a ballot.
"A petition for initiation from Mr. G.F., inclosing the usual amount
and recommended by Bros. C. D.—— and H. I.——, was referred to a committee
of investigation consisting of Bros. G. H.——, L. M.——, and O. P.——.
"Bro. S.R., an Entered Apprentice, having applied for advancement, was
duly elected to take the second degree; and Bro. W.Y., a Fellow Craft,
was, on his application for advancement, duly elected to take the third
"A letter was read from Mrs. T. V.——, the widow of a Master Mason, when
the sum of twenty dollars was voted for her relief.
"The amendment to article 10, section 5 of the bye-laws, proposed by
Bro. M. N. —— at the communication of ——, was read a third time, adopted
by a constitutional majority and ordered to be sent to the Grand Lodge for
approval and confirmation.
"The Lodge of Master Masons was then closed, and a lodge of Entered
Apprentices opened in due form.
"Mr. C. B., a candidate for initiation, being in waiting, was duly
prepared, brought forward and initiated as an Entered Apprentice, he
paying the usual fee.
"The Lodge of Entered Apprentices was then closed, and a Lodge of
Fellow Crafts opened in due form.
"Bro. S. R., an Entered Apprentice, being in waiting, was duly
prepared, brought forward and passed to the degree of a Fellow Craft, he
paying the usual fee.
"The Lodge of Fellow Crafts was then closed, and a lodge of Master
Masons opened in due form.
"Bro. W. Y., a Fellow Craft, being in waiting, was duly prepared,
brought forward and raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason, he
paying the usual fee.
Amount received this evening, as follows:
||Mr. G. F.,
||Bro. C. B.,
||Bro. S. R.,
||Bro. W. Y.,
all of which was paid over to the Treasurer.
There being no further business, the lodge was closed in due form and
Such is the form which has been adopted as the most convenient mode of
recording the transactions of a lodge. These minutes must be read, at the
close of the meeting, that the Brethren may suggest any necessary
alterations or additions, and then at the beginning of the next regular
meeting, that they may be confirmed, after which they should be
transcribed from the rough Minute Book in which they were first entered
into the permanent Record Book of the lodge.
29. This is a small chest or coffer, representing the ark of the
covenant, and containing the three great lights of Masonry.
30. "What man is there that hath a new house and hath not dedicated it?
Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another
man dedicate it." Deut. xx. 5.
31. De Syned. Vet. Ebrćor., 1. iii., c. xiv., § 1.
32. Cicero, Brut. i.
33. See such a form of Dispensation in Cole's Masonic Library, p.
34. Preston, Append., n. 4 (U.M.L., vol. iii., pp. 150, 151).
35. Book of Constitutions, orig. ed, p., 70 (U.M.L., vol. xv., book 1,
36. General Regulations of 1722. A subsequent regulation permitted the
election of a candidate, if there were not more than three black balls
against him, provided the lodge desired such a relaxation of the rule. The
lodges of this country, however, very generally, and, as I think, with
propriety, require unanimity. The subject will be hereafter
37. Every lodge shall annually elect its Master and Treasurer by
ballot. Such Master having been regularly appointed and having served as
Warden of a warranted lodge for one year. Constitutions of the Ancient
Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, published by authority of the
United Grand Lodge of England, 1847, p. 58 (U.M.L., vol. ix.,
38. The Wardens, or officers, of a lodge cannot be removed, unless for
a cause which appears to the lodge to be sufficient; but the Master, if he
be dissatisfied with the conduct of any of his officers, may lay the cause
of complaint before the lodge; and, if it shall appear to the majority of
the Brethren present that the complaint be well founded, he shall have
power to displace such officer, and to nominate another. English
Constitutions, as above, p. 80 (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1).
39. It is not necessary that he should be a Past Master of the
40. No master shall assume the Master's chair, until he shall have been
regularly installed, though he may in the interim rule the lodge.
English Constitutions (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1).
41. Every Warranted Lodge is a constituent part of the Grand Lodge, in
which assembly all the power of the fraternity resides. English
Constitutions, p. 70 (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1).
42. We shall not here discuss the question whether Past Masters are
members of the Grand Lodge, by inherent right, as that subject will be
more appropriately investigated when we come to speak of the Law of Grand
Lodges, in a future chapter. They are, however clearly, not the
representatives of their lodge.
43. Preston, p. 167 (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 151).
44. General Regulations. Of the duty of members, Art. X, (U.M.L., vol.
xv., book 1, p. 61).
45. English Constitutions, p. 59 (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1).
46. In selecting the name, the modern Constitutions of England make the
approbation of the Grand Master or Provincial Grand Master
47. Such is the doctrine of the modern English Constitutions.
48. "No Brother can be a Warden until he has passed the part of a
Fellow Craft; nor a Master until he has acted as a Warden."—Old
Charges, IV. (U.M.L., vol. xv., book 1, p. 52).
49. Regulations on Installation of a Master, No. III. Preston, p. 74
(U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 61).
50. Hats. quoted in Jefferson, p. 14.
51. One of the ancient charges, which Preston tells us that it was the
constant practice of our Ancient Brethren to rehearse at the opening and
closing of the lodge, seems to refer to this rule, when it says, "the
Master, Wardens, and Brethren are just and faithful, and carefully
finish the work they begin."—Oliver's Preston, p. 27, note
(U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 22).
52. Proceedings of G.L. of Tennessee, 1850. Appendix A, p. 8.
53. Book of Constitutions, edition of 1755, p. 282.
54. If it is an extra communication, this item of the transaction is,
of course, omitted, for minutes are only to be confirmed at regular
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