The Principles of Masonic Law/Chapter XI
The qualifications of a candidate for initiation into the mysteries of Freemasonry, are four-fold in their character--moral, physical, intellectual and political.
The moral character is intended to secure the respectability of the Order, because, by the worthiness of its candidates, their virtuous deportment, and good reputation, will the character of the institution be judged, while the admission of irreligious libertines and contemners of the moral law would necessarily impair its dignity and honor.
The physical qualifications of a candidate contribute to the utility of the Order, because he who is deficient in any of his limbs or members, and who is not in the possession of all his natural senses and endowments, is unable to perform, with pleasure to himself or credit to the fraternity, those peculiar labors in which all should take an equal part. He thus becomes a drone in the hive, and so far impairs the usefulness of the lodge, as "a place where Freemasons assemble to work, and to instruct and improve themselves in the mysteries of their ancient science."
The intellectual qualifications refer to the security of the Order; because they require that its mysteries shall be confided only to those whose mental developments are such as to enable them properly to appreciate, and faithfully to preserve from imposition, the secrets thus entrusted to them. It is evident, for instance, that an idiot could neither understand the hidden doctrines that might be communicated to him, nor could he so secure such portions as he might remember, in the "depositary of his heart," as to prevent the designing knave from worming them out of him; for, as the wise Solomon has said, "a fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul."
The political qualifications are intended to maintain the independence of the Order; because its obligations and privileges are thus confided only to those who, from their position in society, are capable of obeying the one, and of exercising the other without the danger of let or hindrance from superior authority.
Of the moral, physical and political qualifications of a candidate there can be no doubt, as they are distinctly laid down in the ancient charges and constitutions. The intellectual are not so readily decided.
These four-fold qualifications may be briefly summed up in the following axioms.
Morally, the candidate must be a man of irreproachable conduct, a believer in the existence of God, and living "under the tongue of good report."
Physically, he must be a man of at least twenty-one years of age, upright in body, with the senses of a man, not deformed or dismembered, but with hale and entire limbs as a man ought to be.
Intellectually, he must be a man in the full possession of his intellects, not so young that his mind shall not have been formed, nor so old that it shall have fallen into dotage; neither a fool, an idiot, nor a madman; and with so much education as to enable him to avail himself of the teachings of Masonry, and to cultivate at his leisure a knowledge of the principles and doctrines of our royal art.
Politically, he must be in the unrestrained enjoyment of his civil and personal liberty, and this, too, by the birthright of inheritance, and not by its subsequent acquisition, in consequence of his release from hereditary bondage.
The lodge which strictly demands these qualifications of its candidates may have fewer members than one less strict, but it will undoubtedly have better ones.
But the importance of the subject demands for each class of the qualifications a separate section, and a more extended consideration.
Of the Moral Qualifications of Candidates.
The old charges state, that "a Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law." It is scarcely necessary to say, that the phrase, "moral law," is a technical expression of theology, and refers to the Ten Commandments, which are so called, because they define the regulations necessary for the government of the morals and manners of men. The habitual violation of any one of these commands would seem, according to the spirit of the Ancient Constitutions, to disqualify a candidate for Masonry.
The same charges go on to say, in relation to the religious character of a Mason, that he should not be "a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine." A denier of the existence of a Supreme Architect of the Universe cannot, of course, be obligated as a Mason, and, accordingly, there is no landmark more certain than that which excludes every atheist from the Order.
The word "libertine" has, at this day, a meaning very different from what it bore when the old charges were compiled. It then signified what we now call a "free-thinker," or disbeliever in the divine revelation of the Scriptures. This rule would therefore greatly abridge the universality and tolerance of the Institution, were it not for the following qualifying clause in the same instrument:--
"Though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves; that is, to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished."
The construction now given universally to the religious qualification of a candidate, is simply that he shall have a belief in the existence and superintending control of a Supreme Being.
These old charges from which we derive the whole of our doctrine as to the moral qualifications of a candidate, further prescribe as to the political relations of a Mason, that he is to be "a peaceable subject to the civil powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concerned in plots and conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior magistrates. He is cheerfully to conform to every lawful authority; to uphold on every occasion the interest of the community, and zealously promote the prosperity of his own country."
Such being the characteristics of a true Mason, the candidate who desires to obtain that title, must show his claim to the possession of these virtues; and hence the same charges declare, in reference to these moral qualifications, that "The persons made Masons, or admitted members of a lodge, must be good and true men--no immoral or scandalous men, but of good report."
Of the Physical Qualifications of Candidates.
The physical qualifications of a candidate refer to his sex, his age, and the condition of his limbs.
The first and most important requisite of a candidate is, that he shall be "a man." No woman can be made a Mason. This landmark is so indisputable, that it would be wholly superfluous to adduce any arguments or authority in its support.
As to age, the old charges prescribe the rule, that the candidate must be "of mature and discreet age." But what is the precise period when one is supposed to have arrived at this maturity and discretion, cannot be inferred from any uniform practice of the craft in different countries. The provisions of the civil law, which make twenty-one the age of maturity, have, however, been generally followed. In this country the regulation is general, that the candidate must be twenty-one years of age. Such, too, was the regulation adopted by the General Assembly, which met on the 27th Dec., 1663, and which prescribed that "no person shall be accepted unless he be twenty-one years old or more." In Prussia, the candidate is required to be twenty-five; in England, twenty-one, "unless by dispensation from the Grand Master, or Provincial Grand Master;" in Ireland, twenty-one, except "by dispensation from the Grand Master, or the Grand Lodge;" in France, twenty-one, unless the candidate be the son of a Mason who has rendered important service to the craft, with the consent of his parent or guardian, or a young man who has served six months with his corps in the army--such persons may be initiated at eighteen; in Switzerland, the age of qualification is fixed at twenty-one, and in Frankfort-on-Mayn, at twenty. In this country, as I have already observed, the regulation of 1663 is rigidly enforced, and no candidate, who has not arrived at the age of twenty-one, can be initiated.
Our ritual excludes "an old man in his dotage" equally with a "young man under age." But as dotage signifies imbecility of mind, this subject will be more properly considered under the head of intellectual qualifications.
The physical qualifications, which refer to the condition of the candidate's body and limbs, have given rise, within a few years past, to a great amount of discussion and much variety of opinion. The regulation contained in the old charges of 1721, which requires the candidate to be "a perfect youth," has in some jurisdictions been rigidly enforced to the very letter of the law, while in others it has been so completely explained away as to mean anything or nothing. Thus, in South Carolina, where the rule is rigid, the candidate is required to be neither deformed nor dismembered, but of hale and entire limbs, as a man ought to be, while in Maine, a deformed person may be admitted, provided "the deformity is not such as to prevent him from being instructed in the arts and mysteries of Freemasonry."
The first written law which we find on this subject is that which was enacted by the General Assembly held in 1663, under the Grand Mastership of the Earl of St. Albans, and which declares "that no person shall hereafter be accepted a Freemason but such as are of able body."
Twenty years after, in the reign of James II., or about the year 1683, it seems to have been found necessary, more exactly to define the meaning of this expression, "of able body," and accordingly we find, among the charges ordered to be read to a Master on his installation, the following regulation:
"Thirdly, that he that be made be able in all degrees; that is, free-born, of a good kindred, true, and no bondsman, and that he have his right limbs as a man ought to have."
The old charges, published in the original Book of Constitutions in 1723, contain the following regulation:
"No Master should take an Apprentice, unless he be a perfect youth having no maim or defect that may render him uncapable of learning the art."
Notwithstanding the positive demand for perfection, and the positive and explicit declaration that he must have no maim or defect, the remainder of the sentence has, within a few years past, by some Grand Lodges, been considered as a qualifying clause, which would permit the admission of candidates whose physical defects did not exceed a particular point. But, in perfection, there can be no degrees of comparison, and he who is required to be perfect, is required to be so without modification or diminution. That which is perfect is complete in all its parts, and, by a deficiency in any portion of its constituent materials, it becomes not less perfect, (which expression would be a solecism in grammar,) but at once by the deficiency ceases to be perfect at all--it then becomes imperfect. In the interpretation of a law, "words," says Blackstone, "are generally to be understood in their usual and most known signification," and then "perfect" would mean, "complete, entire, neither defective nor redundant." But another source of interpretation is, the "comparison of a law with other laws, that are made by the same legislator, that have some affinity with the subject, or that expressly relate to the same point." Applying this law of the jurists, we shall have no difficulty in arriving at the true signification of the word "perfect," if we refer to the regulation of 1683, of which the clause in question appears to have been an exposition. Now, the regulation of 1683 says, in explicit terms, that the candidate must "have his right limbs as a man ought to have." Comparing the one law with the other, there can be no doubt that the requisition of Masonry is and always has been, that admission could only be granted to him who was neither deformed nor dismembered, but of hale and entire limbs as a man should be.
But another, and, as Blackstone terms it, "the most universal and effectual way of discovering the true meaning of a law" is, to consider "the reason and spirit of it, or the cause which moved the legislator to enact it." Now, we must look for the origin of the law requiring physical perfection, not to the formerly operative character of the institution, (for there never was a time when it was not speculative as well as operative,) but to its symbolic nature. In the ancient temple, every stone was required to be perfect, for a perfect stone was the symbol of truth. In our mystic association, every Mason represents a stone in that spiritual temple, "that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," of which the temple of Solomon was the type. Hence it is required that he should present himself, like the perfect stone in the material temple, a perfect man in the spiritual building. "The symbolic relation of each member of the Order to its mystic temple, forbids the idea," says Bro. W.S. Rockwell, of Georgia, "that its constituent portions, its living stones, should be less perfect or less a type of their great original, than the immaculate material which formed the earthly dwelling place of the God of their adoration." If, then, as I presume it will be readily conceded, by all except those who erroneously suppose the institution to have been once wholly operative and afterwards wholly speculative, perfection is required in a candidate, not for the physical reason that he may be enabled to give the necessary signs of recognition, but because the defect would destroy the symbolism of that perfect stone which every Mason is supposed to represent in the spiritual temple, we thus arrive at a knowledge of the causes which moved the legislators of Masonry to enact the law, and we see at once, and without doubt, that the words perfect youth are to be taken in an unqualified sense, as signifying one who has "his right limbs as a man ought to have."
It is, however, but fair to state that the remaining clause of the old charge, which asserts that the candidate must have no maim or defect that may render him incapable of learning the art, has been supposed to intend a modification of the word "perfect," and to permit the admission of one whose maim or defect was not of such a nature as to prevent his learning the art of Masonry. But I would respectfully suggest that a criticism of this kind is based upon a mistaken view of the import of the words. The sentence is not that the candidate must have no such maim or defect as might, by possibility, prevent him from learning the art; though this is the interpretation given by those who are in favor of admitting slightly maimed candidates. It is, on the contrary, so worded as to give a consequential meaning to the word "that." He must have no maim or defect that may render him incapable; that is, because, by having such maim or defect, he would be rendered incapable of acquiring our art.
In the Ahiman Rezon published by Laurence Dermott in 1764, and adopted for the government of the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons in England, and many of the Provincial Grand and subordinate lodges of America, the regulation is laid down that candidates must be "men of good report, free-born, of mature age, not deformed nor dismembered at the time of their making, and no woman or eunuch." It is true that at the present day this book possesses no legal authority among the craft; but I quote it, to show what was the interpretation given to the ancient law by a large portion, perhaps a majority, of the English and American Masons in the middle of the eighteenth century.
A similar interpretation seems at all times to have been given by the Grand Lodges of the United States, with the exception of some, who, within a few years past, have begun to adopt a more latitudinarian construction.
In Pennsylvania it was declared, in 1783, that candidates are not to be "deformed or dismembered at the time of their making."
In South Carolina the book of Constitutions, first published in 1807, requires that "every person desiring admission must be upright in body, not deformed or dismembered at the time of making, but of hale and entire limbs, as a man ought to be."
In the "Ahiman Rezon and Masonic Ritual," published by order of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina and Tennessee, in the year 1805, candidates are required to be "hale and sound, not deformed or dismembered at the time of their making."
Maryland, in 1826, sanctioned the Ahiman Rezon of Cole, which declares the law in precisely the words of South Carolina, already quoted.
In 1823, the Grand Lodge of Missouri unanimously adopted a report, which declared that all were to be refused admission who were not "sound in mind and all their members," and she adopted a resolution asserting that "the Grand Lodge cannot grant a letter or dispensation to a subordinate lodge working under its jurisdiction, to initiate any person maimed, disabled, or wanting the qualifications establishing by ancient usage."
But it is unnecessary to multiply instances. There never seems to have been any deviation from the principle that required absolute physical perfection, until, within a few years, the spirit of expediency has induced some Grand Lodges to propose a modified construction of the law, and to admit those whose maims or deformities were not such as to prevent them from complying with the ceremonial of initiation. Still, a large number of the Grand Lodges have stood fast by the ancient landmark, and it is yet to be hoped that all will return to their first allegiance. The subject is an important one, and, therefore, a few of the more recent authorities, in behalf of the old law may with advantage be cited.
"We have examined carefully the arguments 'pro and con,' that have accompanied the proceedings of the several Grand Lodges, submitted to us, and the conviction has been forced upon our minds, even against our wills, that we depart from the ancient landmarks and usages of Masonry, whenever we admit an individual wanting in one of the human senses, or who is in any particular maimed or deformed."--Committee of Correspondence G. Lodge of Georgia, 1848, page 36.
"The rationale of the law, excluding persons physically imperfect and deformed, lies deeper and is more ancient than the source ascribed to it. It is grounded on a principle recognized in the earliest ages of the world; and will be found identical with that which obtained among the ancient Jews. In this respect the Levitical law was the same as the masonic, which would not allow any 'to go in unto the vail' who had a blemish--a blind man, or a lame, or a man that was broken-footed, or broken-handed, or a dwarf, &c....
"The learned and studious Freemasonic antiquary can satisfactorily explain the metaphysics of this requisition in our Book of Constitutions. For the true and faithful Brother it sufficeth to know that such a requisition exists. He will prize it the more because of its antiquity.... No man can in perfection be 'made a Brother,' no man can truly 'learn our mysteries,' and practice them, or 'do the work of a Freemason,' if he is not a man with body free from maim, defect and deformity."--Report of a Special Committee of the Grand Lodge of New York, in 1848.
"The records of this Grand Lodge may be confidently appealed to, for proofs of her repeated refusal to permit maimed persons to be initiated, and not simply on the ground that ancient usage forbids it, but because the fundamental constitution of the Order--the ancient charges--forbid it."--Committee of Correspondence of New York, for 1848, p. 70.
"The lodges subordinate to this Grand Lodge are hereby required, in the initiation of applicants for Masonry, to adhere to the ancient law (as laid down in our printed books), which says he shall be of entire limbs"--Resolution of the G.L. of Maryland, November, 1848.
"I received from the lodge at Ashley a petition to initiate into our Order a gentleman of high respectability, who, unfortunately, has been maimed. I refused my assent.... I have also refused a similar request from the lodge of which I am a member. The fact that the most distinguished masonic body on earth has recently removed one of the landmarks, should teach us to be careful how we touch those ancient boundaries."--Address of the Grand Master of New Jersey in 1849.
"The Grand Lodge of Florida adopted such a provision in her constitution, [the qualifying clause permitting the initiation of a maimed person, if his deformity was not such as to prevent his instruction], but more mature reflection, and more light reflected from our sister Grand Lodges, caused it to be stricken from our constitution."--Address of Gov. Tho. Brown, Grand Master of Florida in 1849.
"As to the physical qualifications, the Ahiman Rezon leaves no doubt on the subject, but expressly declares, that every applicant for initiation must be a man, free-born, of lawful age, in the perfect enjoyment of his senses, hale, and sound, and not deformed or dismembered; this is one of the ancient landmarks of the Order, which it is in the power of no body of men to change. A man having but one arm, or one leg, or who is in anyway deprived of his due proportion of limbs and members, is as incapable of initiation as a woman."--Encyclical Letter of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina to its subordinates in 1849.
Impressed, then, by the weight of these authorities, which it would be easy, but is unnecessary, to multiply--guided by a reference to the symbolic and speculative (not operative) reason of the law--and governed by the express words of the regulation of 1683--I am constrained to believe that the spirit as well as the letter of our ancient landmarks require that a candidate for admission should be perfect in all his parts, that is, neither redundant nor deficient, neither deformed nor dismembered, but of hale and entire limbs, as a man ought to be.
Of the Intellectual Qualifications of Candidates.
The Old Charges and Ancient Constitutions are not as explicit in relation to the intellectual as to the moral and physical qualifications of candidates, and, therefore, in coming to a decision on this subject, we are compelled to draw our conclusions from analogy, from common sense, and from the peculiar character of the institution. The question that here suggests itself on this subject is, what particular amount of human learning is required as a constitutional qualification for initiation?
During a careful examination of every ancient document to which I have had access, I have met with no positive enactment forbidding the admission of uneducated persons, even of those who can neither read nor write. The unwritten, as well as the written laws of the Order, require that the candidate shall be neither a fool nor an idiot, but that he shall possess a discreet judgment, and be in the enjoyment of all the senses of a man. But one who is unable to subscribe his name, or to read it when written, might still very easily prove himself to be within the requirements of this regulation. The Constitutions of England, formed since the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, are certainly explicit enough on this subject. They require even more than a bare knowledge of reading and writing, for, in describing the qualifications of a candidate, they say:
"He should be a lover of the liberal arts and sciences, and have made some progress in one or other of them; and he must, previous to his initiation, subscribe his name at full length, to a declaration of the following import," etc. And in a note to this regulation, it is said, "Any individual who cannot write is, consequently, ineligible to be admitted into the Order." If this authority were universal in its character, there would be no necessity for a further discussion of the subject. But the modern constitutions of the Grand Lodge of England are only of force within its own jurisdiction, and we are therefore again compelled to resort to a mode of reasoning for the proper deduction of our conclusions on this subject.
It is undoubtedly true that in the early period of the world, when Freemasonry took its origin, the arts of reading and writing were not so generally disseminated among all classes of the community as they now are, when the blessings of a common education can be readily and cheaply obtained. And it may, therefore, be supposed that among our ancient Brethren there were many who could neither read nor write. But after all, this is a mere assumption, which, although it may be based on probability, has no direct evidence for its support. And, on the other hand, we see throughout all our ancient regulations, that a marked distinction was made by our rulers between the Freemason and the Mason who was not free; as, for instance, in the conclusion of the fifth chapter of the Ancient Charges, where it is said: "No laborer shall be employed in the common work of Masonry, nor shall Freemasons work with those who are not free, without an urgent necessity." And this would seem to indicate a higher estimation by the fraternity of their own character, which might be derived from their greater attainments in knowledge. That in those days the ordinary operative masons could neither read nor write, is a fact established by history. But it does not follow that the Freemasons, who were a separate society of craftsmen, were in the same unhappy category; it is even probable, that the fact that they were not so, but that they were, in comparison with the unaccepted masons, educated men, may have been the reason of the distinction made between these two classes of workmen.
But further, all the teachings of Freemasonry are delivered on the assumption that the recipients are men of some education, with the means of improving their minds and increasing their knowledge. Even the Entered Apprentice is reminded, by the rough and perfect ashlars, of the importance and necessity of a virtuous education, in fitting him for the discharge of his duties. To the Fellow Craft, the study of the liberal arts and sciences is earnestly recommended; and indeed, that sacred hieroglyphic, the knowledge of whose occult signification constitutes the most solemn part of his instruction, presupposes an acquaintance at least with the art of reading. And the Master Mason is expressly told in the explanation of the forty-seventh problem of Euclid, as one of the symbols of the third degree, that it was introduced into Masonry to teach the Brethren the value of the arts and sciences, and that the Mason, like the discoverer of the problem, our ancient Brother Pythagoras, should be a diligent cultivator of learning. Our lectures, too, abound in allusions which none but a person of some cultivation of mind could understand or appreciate, and to address them, or any portion of our charges which refer to the improvement of the intellect and the augmentation of knowledge, to persons who can neither read nor write, would be, it seems to us, a mockery unworthy of the sacred character of our institution.
From these facts and this method of reasoning, I deduce the conclusion that the framers of Masonry, in its present organization as a speculative institution, must have intended to admit none into its fraternity whose minds had not received some preliminary cultivation, and I am, therefore, clearly of opinion, that a person who cannot read and write is not legally qualified for admission.
As to the inexpediency of receiving such candidates, there can be no question or doubt. If Masonry be, as its disciples claim for it, a scientific institution, whose great object is to improve the understanding and to enlarge and adorn the mind, whose character cannot be appreciated, and whose lessons of symbolic wisdom cannot be acquired, without much studious application, how preposterous would it be to place, among its disciples, one who had lived to adult years, without having known the necessity or felt the ambition for a knowledge of the alphabet of his mother tongue? Such a man could make no advancement in the art of Masonry; and while he would confer no substantial advantage on the institution, he would, by his manifest incapacity and ignorance, detract, in the eyes of strangers, from its honor and dignity as an intellectual society.
Idiots and madmen are excluded from admission into the Order, for the evident reason that the former from an absence, and the latter from a perversion of the intellectual faculties, are incapable of comprehending the objects, or of assuming the responsibilities and obligations of the institution.
A question here suggests itself whether a person of present sound mind, but who had formerly been deranged, can legally be initiated. The answer to this question turns on the fact of his having perfectly recovered. If the present sanity of the applicant is merely a lucid interval, which physicians know to be sometimes vouched to lunatics, with the absolute certainty, or at best, the strong probability, of an eventual return to a state of mental derangement, he is not, of course, qualified for initiation. But if there has been a real and durable recovery (of which a physician will be a competent judge), then there can be no possible objection to his admission, if otherwise eligible. We are not to look to what the candidate once was, but to what he now is.
Dotage, or the mental imbecility produced by excessive old age, is also a disqualification for admission. Distinguished as it is by puerile desires and pursuits, by a failure of the memory, a deficiency of the judgment, and a general obliteration of the mental powers, its external signs are easily appreciated, and furnish at once abundant reason why, like idiots and madmen, the superannuated dotard is unfit to be the recipient of our mystic instructions.
Of the Political Qualifications of Candidates.
The Constitutions of Masonry require, as the only qualification referring to the political condition of the candidate, or his position in society, that he shall be free-born. The slave, or even the man born in servitude--though he may, subsequently, have obtained his liberty--is excluded by the ancient regulations from initiation. The non-admission of a slave seems to have been founded upon the best of reasons; because, as Freemasonry involves a solemn contract, no one can legally bind himself to its performance who is not a free agent and the master of his own actions. That the restriction is extended to those who were originally in a servile condition, but who may have since acquired their liberty, seems to depend on the principle that birth, in a servile condition, is accompanied by a degradation of mind and abasement of spirit, which no subsequent disenthralment can so completely efface as to render the party qualified to perform his duties, as a Mason, with that "freedom, fervency, and zeal," which are said to have distinguished our ancient Brethren. "Children," says Oliver, "cannot inherit a free and noble spirit except they be born of a free woman."
The same usage existed in the spurious Freemasonry or the Mysteries of the ancient world. There, no slave, or men born in slavery, could be initiated; because, the prerequisites imperatively demanded that the candidate should not only be a man of irreproachable manners, but also a free-born denizen of the country in which the mysteries were celebrated.
Some masonic writers have thought that, in this regulation in relation to free birth, some allusion is intended, both in the Mysteries and in Freemasonry, to the relative conditions and characters of Isaac and Ishmael. The former--the accepted one, to whom the promise was given--was the son of a free woman, and the latter, who was cast forth to have "his hand against every man, and every man's hand against him," was the child of a slave. Wherefore, we read that Sarah demanded of Abraham, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son." Dr. Oliver, in speaking of the grand festival with which Abraham celebrated the weaning of Isaac, says, that he "had not paid the same compliment at the weaning of Ishmael, because he was the son of a bondwoman, and, consequently, could not be admitted to participate in the Freemasonry of his father, which could only be conferred on free men born of free women." The ancient Greeks were of the same opinion; for they used the word [Greek: douloprepeia] or, "slave manners," to designate any very great impropriety of manners.
The Grand Lodge of England extends this doctrine, that Masons should be free in all their thoughts and actions, so far, that it will not permit the initiation of a candidate who is only temporarily deprived of his liberty, or even in a place of confinement. In the year 1782, the Master of the Royal Military Lodge, at Woolwich, being confined, most probably for debt, in the King's Bench prison, at London, the lodge, which was itinerant in its character, and allowed to move from place to place with its regiment, adjourned, with its warrant of constitution, to the Master in prison, where several Masons were made. The Grand Lodge, being informed of the circumstances, immediately summoned the Master and Wardens of the lodge "to answer for their conduct in making Masons in the King's Bench prison," and, at the same time, adopted a resolution, affirming that "it is inconsistent with the principles of Freemasonry for any Freemason's lodge to be held, for the purposes of making, passing, or raising Masons, in any prison or place of confinement."
Of the Petition of Candidates for Admission, and the Action thereon.
The application of a candidate to a lodge, for initiation, is called a "petition." This petition should always be in writing, and generally contains a statement of the petitioner's age, occupation, and place of residence, and a declaration of the motives which have prompted the application, which ought to be "a favorable opinion conceived of the institution and a desire of knowledge." This petition must be recommended by at least two members of the lodge.
The petition must be read at a stated or regular communication of the lodge, and referred to a committee of three members for an investigation of the qualifications and character of the candidate. The committee having made the necessary inquiries, will report the result at the next regular communication and not sooner.
The authority for this deliberate mode of proceeding is to be found in the fifth of the 39 General Regulations, which is in these words:
"No man can be made or admitted a member of a particular lodge, without previous notice one month before given to the said lodge, in order to make due inquiry into the reputation and capacity of the candidate; unless by dispensation aforesaid."
The last clause in this article provides for the only way in which this probation of a month can be avoided, and that is when the Grand Master, for reasons satisfactory to himself, being such as will constitute what is called (sometimes improperly) a case of emergency, shall issue a dispensation permitting the lodge to proceed forthwith to the election.
But where this dispensation has not been issued, the committee should proceed diligently and faithfully to the discharge of their responsible duty. They must inquire into the moral, physical, intellectual and political qualifications of the candidate, and make their report in accordance with the result of their investigations.
The report cannot be made at a special communication, but must always be presented at a regular one. The necessity of such a rule is obvious. As the Master can at any time within his discretion convene a special meeting of his lodge, it is evident that a presiding officer, if actuated by an improper desire to intrude an unworthy and unpopular applicant upon the craft, might easily avail himself for that purpose of an occasion when the lodge being called for some other purpose, the attendance of the members was small, and causing a ballot to be taken, succeed in electing a candidate, who would, at a regular meeting, have been blackballed by some of those who were absent from the special communication.
This regulation is promulgated by the Grand Lodge of England, in the following words: "No person shall be made a Mason without a regular proposition at one lodge and a ballot at the next regular stated lodge;" it appears to have been almost universally adopted in similar language by the Grand Lodges of this country; and, if the exact words of the law are wanting in any of the Constitutions, the general usage of the craft has furnished an equivalent authority for the regulation.
If the report of the committee is unfavorable, the candidate should be considered as rejected, without any reference to a ballot. This rule is also founded in reason. If the committee, after a due inquiry into the character of the applicant, find the result so disadvantageous to him as to induce them to make an unfavorable report on his application, it is to be presumed that on a ballot they would vote against his admission, and as their votes alone would be sufficient to reject him, it is held unnecessary to resort in such a case to the supererogatory ordeal of the ballot. It would, indeed, be an anomalous proceeding, and one which would reflect great discredit on the motives and conduct of a committee of inquiry, were its members first to report against the reception of a candidate, and then, immediately afterwards, to vote in favor of his petition. The lodges will not suppose, for the honor of their committees, that such a proceeding will take place, and accordingly the unfavorable report of the committee is always to be considered as a rejection.
Another reason for this regulation seems to be this. The fifth General Regulation declares that no Lodge should ever make a Mason without "due inquiry" into his character, and as the duty of making this inquiry is entrusted to a competent committee, when that committee has reported that the applicant is unworthy to be made a Mason, it would certainly appear to militate against the spirit, if not the letter, of the regulation, for the lodge, notwithstanding this report, to enter into a ballot on the petition.
But should the committee of investigation report favorably, the lodge will then proceed to a ballot for the candidate; but, as this forms a separate and important step in the process of "making Masons," I shall make it the subject of a distinct section.
Of Balloting for Candidates.
The Thirty-nine Regulations do not explicitly prescribe the ballot-box as the proper mode of testing the opinion of the lodge on the merits of a petition for initiation. The sixth regulation simply says that the consent of the members is to be "formally asked by the Master; and they are to signify their assent or dissent in their own prudent way either virtually or in form, but with unanimity." Almost universal usage has, however, sanctioned the ballot box and the use of black and white balls as the proper mode of obtaining the opinion of the members.
From the responsibility of expressing this opinion, and of admitting a candidate into the fraternity or of repulsing him from it, no Mason is permitted to shrink. In balloting on a petition, therefore, every member of the Lodge is expected to vote; nor can he be excused from the discharge of this important duty, except by the unanimous consent of his Brethren. All the members must, therefore, come up to the performance of this trust with firmness, candor, and a full determination to do what is right--to allow no personal timidity to forbid the deposit of a black ball, if the applicant is unworthy, and no illiberal prejudices to prevent the deposition of a white one, if the character and qualifications of the candidate are unobjectionable. And in all cases where a member himself has no personal or acquired knowledge of these qualifications, he should rely upon and be governed by the recommendation of his Brethren of the Committee of Investigation, who he has no right to suppose would make a favorable report on the petition of an unworthy applicant.
The great object of the ballot is, to secure the independence of the voter; and, for this purpose, its secrecy should be inviolate. And this secrecy of the ballot gives rise to a particular rule which necessarily flows out of it.
No Mason can be called to an account for the vote which he has deposited. The very secrecy of the ballot is intended to secure the independence and irresponsibility to the lodge of the voter. And, although it is undoubtedly a crime for a member to vote against the petition of an applicant on account of private pique or personal prejudice, still the lodge has no right to judge that such motives alone actuated him. The motives of men, unless divulged by themselves, can be known only to God; "and if," as Wayland says, "from any circumstances we are led to entertain any doubts of the motives of men, we are bound to retain these doubts within our own bosoms." Hence, no judicial notice can be or ought to be taken by a lodge of a vote cast by a member, on the ground of his having been influenced by improper motives, because it is impossible for the lodge legally to arrive at the knowledge; in the first place, of the vote that he has given, and secondly, of the motives by which he has been controlled.
And even if a member voluntarily should divulge the nature of his vote and of his motives, it is still exceedingly questionable whether the lodge should take any notice of the act, because by so doing the independence of the ballot might be impaired. It is through a similar mode of reasoning that the Constitution of the United States provides, that the members of Congress shall not be questioned, in any other place, for any speech or debate in either House. As in this way the freedom of debate is preserved in legislative bodies, so in like manner should the freedom of the ballot be insured in lodges.
The sixth General Regulation requires unanimity in the ballot. Its language is: "but no man can be entered a Brother in any particular lodge, or admitted to be a member thereof, without the unanimous consent of all the members of that lodge then present when the candidate is proposed." This regulation, it will be remembered, was adopted in 1721. But in the "New Regulations," adopted in 1754, and which are declared to have been enacted "only for amending or explaining the Old Regulations for the good of Masonry, without breaking in upon the ancient rules of the fraternity, still preserving the old landmarks," it is said: "but it was found inconvenient to insist upon unanimity in several cases; and, therefore, the Grand Masters have allowed the lodges to admit a member, if not above three black balls are against him; though some lodges desire no such allowance."
The Grand Lodge of England still acts under this new regulation, and extends the number of black balls which will reject to three, though it permits its subordinates, if they desire it, to require unanimity. But nearly all the Grand Lodges of this country have adhered to the old regulation, which is undoubtedly the better one, and by special enactment have made the unanimous consent of all the Brethren present necessary to the election of a candidate.
Another question here suggests itself. Can a member, who by the bye-laws of his lodge is disqualified from the exercise of his other franchises as a member, in consequence of being in arrears beyond a certain amount, be prevented from depositing his ballot on the application of a candidate? That by such a bye-law he may be disfranchised of his vote in electing officers, or of the right to hold office, will be freely admitted. But the words of the old regulation seem expressly, and without equivocation, to require that every member present shall vote. The candidate shall only be admitted "by the unanimous consent of all the members of that lodge then present when the candidate is proposed." This right of the members to elect or reject their candidates is subsequently called "an inherent privilege," which is not subject to a dispensation. The words are explicit, and the right appears to be one guaranteed to every member so long as he continues a member, and of which no bye-law can divest him as long as the paramount authority of the Thirty-nine General Regulations is admitted. I should say, then, that every member of a lodge present at balloting for a candidate has a right to deposit his vote; and not only a right, but a duty which he is to be compelled to perform; since, without the unanimous consent of all present, there can be no election.
Our written laws are altogether silent as to the peculiar ceremonies which are to accompany the act of balloting, which has therefore been generally directed by the local usage of different jurisdictions. Uniformity, however, in this, as in all other ritual observances, is to be commended, and I shall accordingly here describe the method which I have myself preferred and practised in balloting for candidates, and which is the custom adopted in the jurisdiction of South Carolina.
The committee of investigation having reported favorably, the Master of the lodge directs the Senior Deacon to prepare the ballot box. The mode in which this is accomplished is as follows:--The Senior Deacon takes the ballot box, and, opening it, places all the white and black balls indiscriminately in one compartment, leaving the other entirely empty. He then proceeds with the box to the Junior and Senior Wardens, who satisfy themselves by an inspection that no ball has been left in the compartment in which the votes are to be deposited. I remark here, in passing, that the box, in this and the other instance to be referred to hereafter, is presented to the inferior officer first, and then to his superior, that the examination and decision of the former may be substantiated and confirmed by the higher authority of the latter. Let it, indeed, be remembered, that in all such cases the usage of masonic circumambulation is to be observed, and that, therefore, we must first pass the Junior's station before we can get to that of the Senior Warden.
These officers having thus satisfied themselves that the box is in a proper condition for the reception of the ballots, it is then placed upon the altar by the Senior Deacon, who retires to his seat. The Master then directs the Secretary to call the roll, which is done by commencing with the Worshipful Master, and proceeding through all the officers down to the youngest member. As a matter of convenience, the Secretary generally votes the last of those in the room, and then, if the Tiler is a member of the lodge, he is called in, while the Junior Deacon tiles for him, and the name of the applicant having been told him, he is directed to deposit his ballot, which he does, and then retires.
As the name of each officer and member is called he approaches the altar, and having made the proper masonic salutation to the Chair, he deposits his ballot and retires to his seat. The roll should be called slowly, so that at no time should there be more than one person present at the box; for, the great object of the ballot being secrecy, no Brother should be permitted so near the member voting as to distinguish the color of the ball he deposits.
The box is placed on the altar, and the ballot is deposited with the solemnity of a masonic salutation, that the voters may be duly impressed with the sacred and responsible nature of the duty they are called on to discharge. The system of voting thus described, is, therefore, far better on this account than the one sometimes adopted in lodges, of handing round the box for the members to deposit their ballots from their seats
The Master having inquired of the Wardens if all have voted, then orders the Senior Deacon to "take charge of the ballot box." That officer accordingly repairs to the altar, and taking possession of the box, carries it, as before, to the Junior Warden, who examines the ballot, and reports, if all the balls are white, that "the box is clear in the South," or, if there is one or more black balls, that "the box is foul in the South." The Deacon then carries it to the Senior Warden, and afterwards to the Master, who, of course, make the same report, according to the circumstances, with the necessary verbal variation of "West" and "East."
If the box is clear--that is, if all the ballots are white--the Master then announces that the applicant has been duly elected, and the Secretary makes a record of the fact.
But if the box is declared to be foul, the Master inspects the number of black balls; if he finds two, he declares the candidate to be rejected; if only one, he so states the fact to the lodge, and orders the Senior Deacon again to prepare the ballot box, and a second ballot is taken in the same way. This is done lest a black ball might have been inadvertently voted on the first ballot. If, on the second scrutiny, one black ball is again found, the fact is announced by the Master, who orders the election to lie over until the next stated meeting, and requests the Brother who deposited the black ball to call upon him and state his reasons. At the next stated meeting the Master announces these reasons to the lodge, if any have been made known to him, concealing, of course, the name of the objecting Brother. At this time the validity or truth of the objections may be discussed, and the friends of the applicant will have an opportunity of offering any defense or explanation. The ballot is then taken a third time, and the result, whatever it may be, is final. As I have already observed, in most of the lodges of this country, a reappearance of the one black ball will amount to a rejection. In those lodges which do not require unanimity, it will, of course, be necessary that the requisite number of black balls must be deposited on this third ballot to insure a rejection. But if, on inspection, the box is found to be "clear," or without a black ball, the candidate is, of course, declared to be elected. In any case, the result of the third ballot is final, nor can it be set aside or reversed by the action of the Grand Master or Grand Lodge; because, by the sixth General Regulation, already so frequently cited, the members of every particular lodge are the best judges of the qualifications of their candidates; and, to use the language of the Regulation, "if a fractious member should be imposed on them, it might spoil their harmony, or hinder their freedom, or even break and disperse the lodge."
Of the Reconsideration of the Ballot.
There are, unfortunately, some men in our Order, governed, not by essentially bad motives, but by frail judgments and by total ignorance of the true object and design of Freemasonry, who never, under any circumstances, have recourse to the black ball, that great bulwark of Masonry, and are always more or less incensed when any more judicious Brother exercises his privilege of excluding those whom he thinks unworthy of participation in our mysteries.
I have said, that these men are not governed by motives essentially bad. This is the fact. They honestly desire the prosperity of the institution, and they would not willfully do one act which would impede that prosperity. But their judgments are weak, and their zeal is without knowledge. They do not at all understand in what the true prosperity of the Order consists, but really and conscientiously believing that its actual strength will be promoted by the increase of the number of its disciples; they look rather to the quantity than to the quality of the applicants who knock at the doors of our lodges.
Now a great difference in respect to the mode in which the ballot is conducted, will be found in those lodges which are free from the presence of such injudicious brethren, and others into which they have gained admittance.
In a lodge in which every member has a correct notion of the proper moral qualifications of the candidates for Masonry, and where there is a general disposition to work well with a few, rather than to work badly with many, when a ballot is ordered, each Brother, having deposited his vote, quietly and calmly waits to hear the decision of the ballot box announced by the Chair. If it is "clear," all are pleased that another citizen has been found worthy to receive a portion of the illuminating rays of Masonry. If it is "foul," each one is satisfied with the adjudication, and rejoices that, although knowing nothing himself against the candidate, some one has been present whom a more intimate acquaintance with the character of the applicant has enabled to interpose his veto, and prevent the purity of the Order from being sullied by the admission of an unworthy candidate. Here the matter ends, and the lodge proceeds to other business.
But in a lodge where one of these injudicious and over-zealous Brethren is present, how different is the scene. If the candidate is elected, he, too, rejoices; but his joy is, that the lodge has gained one more member whose annual dues and whose initiation fee will augment the amount of its revenues. If he is rejected, he is indignant that the lodge has been deprived of this pecuniary accession, and forthwith he sets to work to reverse, if possible, the decision of the ballot box, and by a volunteer defense of the rejected candidate, and violent denunciations of those who opposed him, he seeks to alarm the timid and disgust the intelligent, so that, on a reconsideration, they may be induced to withdraw their opposition.
The motion for reconsideration is, then, the means generally adopted, by such seekers after quantity, to insure the success of their efforts to bring all into our fold who seek admission, irrespective of worth or qualification. In other words, we may say, that the motion for reconsideration is the great antagonist of the purity and security of the ballot box. The importance, then, of the position which it thus assumes, demands a brief discussion of the time and mode in which a ballot may be reconsidered.
In the beginning of the discussion, it may be asserted, that it is competent for any brother to move a reconsideration of a ballot, or for a lodge to vote on such a motion. The ballot is a part of the work of initiating a candidate. It is the preparatory step, and is just as necessary to his legal making as the obligation or the investiture. As such, then, it is clearly entirely under the control of the Master. The Constitutions of Masonry and the Rules and Regulations of every Grand and Subordinate lodge prescribe the mode in which the ballot shall be conducted, so that the sense of the members may be taken. The Grand Lodge also requires that the Master of the lodge shall see that that exact mode of ballot shall be pursued and no other, and it will hold him responsible that there shall be no violation of the rule. If, then, the Master is satisfied that the ballot has been regularly and correctly conducted, and that no possible good, but some probable evil, would arise from its reconsideration, it is not only competent for him, but it is his solemn duty to refuse to permit any such reconsideration. A motion to that effect, it may be observed, will always be out of order, although any Brother may respectfully request the Worshipful Master to order such a reconsideration, or suggest to him its propriety or expediency.
If, however, the Master is not satisfied that the ballot is a true indication of the sense of the lodge, he may, in his own discretion, order a reconsideration. Thus there may be but one black ball;--now a single black ball may sometimes be inadvertently cast--the member voting it may have been favorably disposed towards the candidate, and yet, from the hurry and confusion of voting, or from the dimness of the light or the infirmity of his own eyes, or from some other equally natural cause, he may have selected a black ball, when he intended to have taken a white one. It is, therefore, a matter of prudence and necessary caution, that, when only one black ball appears, the Master should order a new ballot. On this second ballot, it is to be presumed that more care and vigilance will be used, and the reappearance of the black ball will then show that it was deposited designedly.
But where two or three or more black balls appear on the first ballot, such a course of reasoning is not authorized, and the Master will then be right to refuse a reconsideration. The ballot has then been regularly taken--the lodge has emphatically decided for a rejection, and any order to renew the ballot would only be an insult to those who opposed the admission of the applicant, and an indirect attempt to thrust an unwelcome intruder upon the lodge.
But although it is in the power of the Master, under the circumstances which we have described, to order a reconsideration, yet this prerogative is accompanied with certain restrictions, which it may be well to notice.
In the first place, the Master cannot order a reconsideration on any other night than that on which the original ballot was taken. After the lodge is closed, the decision of the ballot is final, and there is no human authority that can reverse it. The reason of this rule is evident. If it were otherwise, an unworthy Master (for, unfortunately, all Masters are not worthy) might on any subsequent evening avail himself of the absence of those who had voted black balls, to order a reconsideration, and thus succeed in introducing an unfit and rejected candidate into the lodge, contrary to the wishes of a portion of its members.
Neither can he order a reconsideration on the same night, if any of the Brethren who voted have retired. All who expressed their opinion on the first ballot, must be present to express it on the second. The reasons for this restriction are as evident as for the former, and are of the same character.
It must be understood, that I do not here refer to those reconsiderations of the ballot which are necessary to a full understanding of the opinion of the lodge, and which have been detailed in the ceremonial of the mode of balloting, as it was described in the preceding Section.
It may be asked whether the Grand Master cannot, by his dispensations, permit a reconsideration. I answer emphatically, NO. The Grand Master possesses no such prerogative. There is no law in the whole jurisprudence of the institution clearer than this--that neither the Grand Lodge nor the Grand Master can interfere with the decision of the ballot box. In Anderson's Constitutions, the law is laid down, under the head of "Duty of Members" (edition of 1755, p. 312), that in the election of candidates the Brethren "are to give their consent in their own prudent way, either virtually or in form, but with unanimity." And the regulation goes on to say: "Nor is this inherent privilege subject to a dispensation, because the members of a 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 communications, or even break and disperse the lodge." This settles the question. A dispensation to reconsider a ballot would be an interference with the right of the members "to give their consent in their own prudent way;" it would be an infringement of an "inherent privilege," and neither the Grand Lodge nor the Grand Master can issue a dispensation for such a purpose. Every lodge must be left to manage its own elections of candidates in its own prudent way.
I conclude this section by a summary of the principles which have been discussed, and which I have endeavored to enforce by a process of reasoning which I trust may be deemed sufficiently convincing. They are briefly these:
1. It is never in order for a member to move for the reconsideration of a ballot on the petition of a candidate for initiation, nor for a lodge to entertain such a motion.
2. The Master alone can, for reasons satisfactory to himself, order such a reconsideration.
3. The Master cannot order a reconsideration on any subsequent night, nor on the same night, after any member, who was present and voted, has departed.
4. The Grand Master cannot grant a dispensation for a reconsideration, nor in any other way interfere with the ballot. The same restriction applies to the Grand Lodge.
Of the Renewal of Applications by Rejected Candidates.
As it is apparent from the last section that there can be no reconsideration by a lodge of a rejected petition, the question will naturally arise, how an error committed by a lodge, in the rejection of a worthy applicant, is to be corrected, or how such a candidate, when once rejected, is ever to make a second trial, for it is, of course, admitted, that circumstances may occur in which a candidate who had been once blackballed might, on a renewal of his petition, be found worthy of admission. He may have since reformed and abandoned the vicious habits which caused his first rejection, or it may have been since discovered that that rejection was unjust. How, then, is such a candidate to make a new application?
It is a rule of universal application in Masonry, that no candidate, having been once rejected, can apply to any other lodge for admission, except to the one which rejected him. Under this regulation the course of a second application is as follows:
Some Grand Lodges have prescribed that, when a candidate has been rejected, it shall not be competent for him to apply within a year, six months, or some other definite period. This is altogether a local regulation--there is no such law in the Ancient Constitutions--and therefore, where the regulations of the Grand Lodge of the jurisdiction are silent upon the subject, general principles direct the following as the proper course for a rejected candidate to pursue on a second application. He must send in a new letter, recommended and vouched for as before, either by the same or other Brethren--it must be again referred to a committee--lie over for a month--and the ballot be then taken as is usual in other cases. It must be treated in all respects as an entirely new petition, altogether irrespective of the fact that the same person had ever before made an application. In this way due notice will be given to the Brethren, and all possibility of an unfair election will be avoided.
If the local regulations are silent upon the subject, the second application may be made at any time after the rejection of the first, all that is necessary being, that the second application should pass through the same ordeal and be governed by the same rules that prevail in relation to an original application.
Of the necessary Probation and due Proficiency of Candidates before Advancement.
There is, perhaps, no part of the jurisprudence of Masonry which it is more necessary strictly to observe than that which relates to the advancement of candidates through the several degrees. The method which is adopted in passing Apprentices and raising Fellow Crafts--the probation which they are required to serve in each degree before advancing to a higher--and the instructions which they receive in their progress, often materially affect the estimation which is entertained of the institution by its initiates. The candidate who long remains at the porch of the temple, and lingers in the middle chamber, noting everything worthy of observation in his passage to the holy of holies, while he better understands the nature of the profession upon which he has entered, will have a more exalted opinion of its beauties and excellencies than he who has advanced, with all the rapidity that dispensations can furnish, from the lowest to the highest grades of the Order. In the former case, the design, the symbolism, the history, and the moral and philosophical bearing of each degree will be indelibly impressed upon the mind, and the appositeness of what has gone before to what is to succeed will be readily appreciated; but, in the latter, the lessons of one hour will be obliterated by those of the succeeding one; that which has been learned in one degree, will be forgotten in the next; and when all is completed, and the last instructions have been imparted, the dissatisfied neophyte will find his mind, in all that relates to Masonry, in a state of chaotic confusion. Like Cassio, he will remember "a mass of things, but nothing distinctly."
An hundred years ago it was said that "Masonry was a progressive science, and not to be attained in any degree of perfection, but by time, patience, and a considerable degree of application and industry." And it is because that due proportion of time, patience and application, has not been observed, that we so often see Masons indifferent to the claims of the institution, and totally unable to discern its true character. The arcana of the craft, as Dr. Harris remarks, should be gradually imparted to its members, according to their improvement.
There is no regulation of our Order more frequently repeated in our constitutions, nor one which should be more rigidly observed, than that which requires of every candidate a "suitable proficiency" in one degree, before he is permitted to pass to another. But as this regulation is too often neglected, to the manifest injury of the whole Order, as well as of the particular lodge which violates it, by the introduction of ignorant and unskillful workmen into the temple, it may be worth the labor we shall spend upon the subject, to investigate some of the authorities which support us in the declaration, that no candidate should be promoted, until, by a due probation, he has made "suitable proficiency in the preceding degree."
In one of the earliest series of regulations that have been preserved--made in the reign of Edward III., it was ordained, "that such as were to be admitted Master Masons, or Masters of work, should be examined whether they be able of cunning to serve their respective Lords, as well the lowest as the highest, to the honor and worship of the aforesaid art, and to the profit of their Lords."
Here, then, we may see the origin of that usage, which is still practiced in every well governed lodge, not only of demanding a proper degree of proficiency in the candidate, but also of testing that proficiency by an examination.
This cautious and honest fear of the fraternity, lest any Brother should assume the duties of a position which he could not faithfully discharge, and which is, in our time, tantamount to a candidate's advancing to a degree for which he is not prepared, is again exhibited in the charges enacted in the reign of James II., the manuscript of which was preserved in the archives of the Lodge of Antiquity in London. In these charges it is required, "that no Mason take on no lord's worke, nor any other man's, unless he know himselfe well able to perform the worke, so that the craft have no slander." In the same charges, it is prescribed that "no master, or fellow, shall take no apprentice for less than seven years."
In another series of charges, whose exact date is not ascertained, but whose language and orthography indicate their antiquity, it is said: "Ye shall ordain the wisest to be Master of the work; and neither for love nor lineage, riches nor favor, set one over the work who hath but little knowledge, whereby the Master would be evil served, and ye ashamed."
These charges clearly show the great stress that was placed by our ancient Brethren upon the necessity of skill and proficiency, and they have furnished the precedents upon which are based all the similar regulations that have been subsequently applied to Speculative Masonry.
In the year 1722, the Grand Lodge of England ordered the "Old Charges of the Free and Accepted Masons" to be collected from the ancient records, and, having approved of them, they became a part of the Constitutions of Speculative Freemasonry. In these Charges, it is ordained that "a younger Brother shall be instructed in working, to prevent spoiling the materials for want of judgment, and for increasing and continuing of brotherly love."
Subsequently, in 1767, it was declared by the Grand Lodge, that "no lodge shall be permitted to make and raise the same Brother, at one and the same meeting, without a dispensation from the Grand Master, or his Deputy;" and, lest too frequent advantage should be taken of this power of dispensation, to hurry candidates through the degrees, it is added that the dispensation, "on very particular occasions only, may be requested."
The Grand Lodge of England afterwards found it necessary to be more explicit on this subject, and the regulation of that body is now contained in the following language:
"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 seems to be the recognized principle on which the fraternity are, at this day, acting in this country. The rule is, perhaps, sometimes, and in some places, in abeyance. A few lodges, from an impolitic desire to increase their numerical strength, or rapidly to advance men of worldly wealth or influence to high stations in the Order, may infringe it, and neglect to demand of their candidates that suitable proficiency which ought to be, in Masonry, an essential recommendation to promotion; but the great doctrine that each degree should be well studied, and the candidate prove his proficiency in it by an examination, has been uniformly set forth by the Grand Lodge of the United States, whenever they have expressed an opinion on the subject.
Thus, for instance, in 1845, the late Bro. A.A. Robertson, Grand Master of New York, gave utterance to the following opinion, in his annual address to the intelligent body over which he presided:
"The practice of examining candidates in the prior degrees, before admission to the higher, in order to ascertain their proficiency, is gaining the favorable notice of Masters of lodges, and cannot be too highly valued, nor too strongly recommended to all lodges in this jurisdiction. It necessarily requires the novitiate to reflect upon the bearing of all that has been so far taught him, and consequently to impress upon his mind the beauty and utility of those sublime truths, which have been illustrated in the course of the ceremonies he has witnessed in his progress in the mystic art. In a word, it will be the means of making competent overseers of the work--and no candidate should be advanced, until he has satisfied the lodge, by such examination, that he has made the necessary proficiency in the lower degrees."
In 1845, the Grand Lodge of Iowa issued a circular to her subordinates, in which she gave the following admonition:
"To guard against hasty and improper work, she prohibits a candidate from being advanced till he has made satisfactory proficiency in the preceding degrees, by informing himself of the lectures pertaining thereto; and to suffer a candidate to proceed who is ignorant in this essential particular, is calculated in a high degree to injure the institution and retard its usefulness."
The Grand Lodge of Illinois has practically declared its adhesion to the ancient regulation; for, in the year 1843, the dispensation of Nauvoo Lodge, one of its subordinates, was revoked principally on the ground that she was guilty "of pushing the candidate through the second and third degrees, before he could possibly be skilled in the preceding degree." And the committee who recommended the revocation, very justly remarked that they were not sure that any length of probation would in all cases insure skill, but they were certain that the ancient landmarks of the Order required that the lodge should know that the candidate is well skilled in one degree before being admitted to another.
The Grand Lodges of Massachusetts and South Carolina have adopted, almost in the precise words, the regulation of the Grand Lodge of England, already cited, which requires an interval of one month to elapse between the conferring of degrees. The Grand Lodge of New Hampshire requires a greater probation for its candidates; its constitution prescribes the following regulation: "All Entered Apprentices must work five months as such, before they can be admitted to the degree of Fellow Craft. All Fellow Crafts must work in a lodge of Fellow Crafts three months, before they can be raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. Provided, nevertheless, that if any Entered Apprentice, or Fellow Craft, shall make himself thoroughly acquainted with all the information belonging to his degree, he may be advanced at an earlier period, at the discretion of the lodge."
But, perhaps, the most stringent rule upon this subject, is that which exists in the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Hanover, which is in the following words:
"No Brother can be elected an officer of a lodge until he has been three years a Master Mason. A Fellow Craft must work at least one year in that degree, before he can be admitted to the third degree. An Entered Apprentice must remain at least two years in that degree."
It seems unnecessary to extend these citations. The existence of the regulation, which requires a necessary probation in candidates, until due proficiency is obtained, is universally admitted. The ancient constitutions repeatedly assert it, and it has received the subsequent sanction of innumerable Masonic authorities. But, unfortunately, the practice is not always in accordance with the rule. And, hence, the object of this article is not so much to demonstrate the existence of the law, as to urge upon our readers the necessity of a strict adherence to it. There is no greater injury which can be inflicted on the Masonic Order (the admission of immoral persons excepted), than that of hurrying candidates through the several degrees. Injustice is done to the institution, whose peculiar principles and excellencies are never properly presented--and irreparable injury to the candidate, who, acquiring no fair appreciation of the ceremonies through which he rapidly passes, or of the instructions which he scarcely hears, is filled either with an indifference that never afterwards can be warmed into zeal, or with a disgust that can never be changed into esteem. Masonry is betrayed in such an instance by its friends, and often loses the influence of an intelligent member, who, if he had been properly instructed, might have become one of its warmest and most steadfast advocates.
This subject is so important, that I will not hesitate to add to the influence of these opinions the great sanction of Preston's authority.
"Many persons," says that able philosopher of Masonry, "are deluded by the vague supposition that our mysteries are merely nominal; that the practices established among us are frivolous, and that our ceremonies may be adopted, or waived at pleasure. On this false foundation, we find them hurrying through all the degrees of the Order, without adverting to the propriety of one step they pursue, or possessing a single qualification requisite for advancement. Passing through the usual formalities, they consider themselves entitled to rank as masters of the art, solicit and accept offices, and assume the government of the lodge, equally unacquainted with the rules of the institution they pretend to support, or the nature of the trust they engage to perform. The consequence is obvious; anarchy and confusion ensue, and the substance is lost in the shadow. Hence men eminent for ability, rank, and fortune, are often led to view the honors of Masonry with such indifference, that when their patronage is solicited, they either accept offices with reluctance, or reject them with disdain."
Let, then, no lodge which values its own usefulness, or the character of our institution, admit any candidate to a higher degree, until he has made suitable proficiency in the preceding one, to be always tested by a strict examination in open lodge. Nor can it do so, without a palpable violation of the laws of Masonry.
Of Balloting for Candidates in each Degree.
Although there is no law, in the Ancient Constitutions, which in express words requires a ballot for candidates in each degree, yet the whole tenor and spirit of these constitutions seem to indicate that there should be recourse to such a ballot. The constant reference, in the numerous passages which were cited in the preceding Section, to the necessity of an examination into the proficiency of those who sought advancement, would necessarily appear to imply that a vote of the lodge must be taken on the question of this proficiency. Accordingly, modern Grand Lodges have generally, by special enactment, required a ballot to be taken on the application of an Apprentice or Fellow Craft for advancement, and where no such regulation has been explicitly laid down, the almost constant usage of the craft has been in favor of such ballot.
The Ancient Constitutions having been silent on the subject of the letter of the law, local usage or regulations must necessarily supply the specific rule.
Where not otherwise provided by the Constitutions of a Grand Lodge or the bye-laws of a subordinate lodge, analogy would instruct us that the ballot, on the application of Apprentices or Fellow Crafts for advancement, should be governed by the same principles that regulate the ballot on petitions for initiation.
Of course, then, the vote should be unanimous: for I see no reason why a lodge of Fellow Crafts should be less guarded in its admission of Apprentices, than a lodge of Apprentices is in its admission of profanes.
Again, the ballot should take place at a stated meeting, so that every member may have "due and timely notice," and be prepared to exercise his "inherent privilege" of granting or withholding his consent; for it must be remembered that the man who was worthy or supposed to be so, when initiated as an Entered Apprentice, may prove to be unworthy when he applies to pass as a Fellow Graft, and every member should, therefore, have the means and opportunity of passing his judgment on that worthiness or unworthiness.
If the candidate for advancement has been rejected once, he may again apply, if there is no local regulation to the contrary. But, in such a case, due notice should be given to all the members, which is best done by making the application at one regular meeting, and voting for it on the next. This, however, I suppose to be only necessary in the case of a renewed application after a rejection. An Entered Apprentice or a Fellow Craft is entitled after due probation to make his application for advancement; and his first application may be balloted for on the same evening, provided it be a regular meeting of the lodge. The members are supposed to know what work is before them to do, and should be there to do it.
But the case is otherwise whenever a candidate for advancement has been rejected. He has now been set aside by the lodge, and no time is laid down in the regulations or usages of the craft for his making a second application. He may never do so, or he may in three months, in a year, or in five years. The members are, therefore, no more prepared to expect this renewed application at any particular meeting of the lodge, than they are to anticipate any entirely new petition of a profane. If, therefore, the second application is not made at one regular meeting and laid over to the next, the possibility is that the lodge may be taken by surprise, and in the words of the old Regulation, "a turbulent member may be imposed on it."
The inexpediency of any other course may be readily seen, from a suppositions case. We will assume that in a certain lodge, A, who is a Fellow Craft, applies regularly for advancement to the third degree. On this occasion, for good and sufficient reasons, two of the members, B and C, express their dissent by depositing black balls. His application to be raised is consequently rejected, and he remains a Fellow Graft. Two or three meetings of the lodge pass over, and at each, B and C are present; but, at the fourth meeting, circumstances compel their absence, and the friends of A, taking advantage of that occurrence, again propose him for advancement; the ballot is forthwith taken, and he is elected and raised on the same evening. The injustice of this course to B and C, and the evil to the lodge and the whole fraternity, in this imposition of one who is probably an unworthy person, will be apparent to every intelligent and right-minded Mason.
I do not, however, believe that a candidate should be rejected, on his application for advancement, in consequence of objections to his moral worth and character. In such a case, the proper course would be to prefer charges, to try him as an Apprentice or Fellow Craft; and, if found guilty, to suspend, expel, or otherwise appropriately punish him. The applicant as well as the Order is, in such a case, entitled to a fair trial. Want of proficiency, or a mental or physical disqualification acquired since the reception of the preceding degree, is alone a legitimate cause for an estoppal of advancement by the ballot. But this subject will be treated of further in the chapter on the rights of Entered Apprentices.
Of the Number to be Initiated at one Communication.
The fourth General Regulation decrees that "no Lodge shall make more than five new Brothers at one time." This regulation has been universally interpreted (and with great propriety) to mean that not more than five degrees can be conferred at the same communication.
This regulation is, however, subject to dispensation by the Grand Master, or Presiding Grand Officer, in which case the number to be initiated, passed, or raised, will be restricted only by the words of the dispensation.
The following, or fifth General Regulation, says that "no man can be made or admitted a member of a particular lodge, without previous notice, one month before, given to the same lodge."
Now, as a profane cannot be admitted an Entered Apprentice, or in other words, a member of an Entered Apprentices' lodge, unless after one month's notice, so it follows that an Apprentice cannot be admitted a member of a Fellow Crafts' lodge, nor a Fellow Craft of a Masters', without the like probation. For the words of the regulation which apply to one, will equally apply to the others. And hence we derive the law, that a month at least must always intervene between the reception of one degree and the advancement to another. But this rule is also subject to a dispensation.
Of Finishing the Candidates of one Lodge in another.
It is an ancient and universal regulation, that no lodge shall interfere with the work of another by initiating its candidates, or passing or raising its Apprentices and Fellow Crafts. Every lodge is supposed to be competent to manage its own business, and ought to be the best judge of the qualifications of its own members, and hence it would be highly improper in any lodge to confer a degree on a Brother who is not of its household.
This regulation is derived from a provision in the Ancient Charges, which have very properly been supposed to contain the fundamental law of Masonry, and which prescribes the principle of the rule in the following symbolical language:
"None shall discover envy at the prosperity of a Brother, nor supplant him or put him out of his work, if he be capable to finish the same; for no man can finish another's work, so much to the Lord's profit, unless he be thoroughly acquainted with the designs and draughts of him that began it."
There is, however, a case in which one lodge may, by consent, legally finish the work of another. Let us suppose that a candidate has been initiated in a lodge at A----, and, before he receives his second degree, removes to B----, and that being, by the urgency of his business, unable either to postpone his departure from A----, until he has been passed and raised, or to return for the purpose of his receiving his second and third degrees, then it is competent for the lodge at A---- to grant permission to the lodge at B---- to confer them on the candidate.
But how shall this permission be given--by a unanimous vote, or merely by a vote of the majority of the members at A----? Here it seems to me that, so far as regards the lodge at A----, the reasons for unanimity no longer exist. There is here no danger that a "fractious member will be imposed on them," as the candidate, when finished, will become a member of the lodge at B----. The question of consent is simply in the nature of a resolution, and may be determined by the assenting votes of a majority of the members at A---. It is, however, to be understood, that if any Brother believes that the candidate is unworthy, from character, of further advancement, he may suspend the question of consent, by preferring charges against him. If this is not done, and the consent of the lodge is obtained, that the candidate may apply to the lodge at B---, then when his petition is read in that lodge, it must, of course, pass through the usual ordeal of a month's probation, and a unanimous vote; for here the old reasons for unanimity once more prevail.
I know of no ancient written law upon this subject, but it seems to me that the course I have described is the only one that could be suggested by analogy and common sense.
Of the Initiation of Non-residents.
The subject of this section is naturally divided into two branches:--First, as to the initiation by a lodge of a candidate, who, residing in the same State or Grand Lodge jurisdiction, is still not an inhabitant of the town in which the lodge to which he applies is situated, but resides nearer to some other lodge; and, secondly, as to the initiation of a stranger, whose residence is in another State, or under the jurisdiction of another Grand Lodge.
1. The first of these divisions presents a question which is easily answered. Although I can find no ancient regulation on this subject, still, by the concurrent authority of all Grand Lodges in this country, at least, (for the Grand Lodge of England has no such provision in its Constitution,) every lodge is forbidden to initiate any person whose residence is nearer to any other lodge. If, however, such an initiation should take place, although the lodge would be censurable for its violation of the regulations of its superior, yet there has never been any doubt that the initiation would be good and the candidate so admitted regularly made. The punishment must fall upon the lodge and not upon the newly-made Brother.
2. The second division presents a more embarrassing inquiry, on account of the diversity of opinions which have been entertained on the subject. Can a lodge in one State, or Grand Lodge jurisdiction, initiate the resident of another State, and would such initiation be lawful, and the person so initiated a regular Mason, or, to use the technical language of the Order, a Mason made "in due form," and entitled to all the rights and privileges of the Order?
The question is one of considerable difficulty; it has given occasion to much controversy, and has been warmly discussed within the last few years by several of the Grand Lodges of the United States.
In 1847, the Grand Lodge of Alabama adopted the following regulation, which had been previously enacted by the Grand Lodge of Tennessee:
"Any person residing within the jurisdiction of this Grand Lodge, who has already, or shall hereafter, travel into any foreign jurisdiction, and there receive the degrees of Masonry, such person shall not be entitled to the rights, benefits, and privileges of Masonry within this jurisdiction, until he shall have been regularly admitted a member of the subordinate lodge under this Grand Lodge, nearest which he at the time resides, in the manner provided by the Constitution of this Grand Lodge for the admission of members."
The rule adopted by the Grand Lodge of Maryland is still more stringent. It declares, "that if any individual, from selfish motives, from distrust of his acceptance, or other causes originating in himself, knowingly and willfully travel into another jurisdiction, and there receive the masonic degrees, he shall be considered and held as a clandestine made Mason."
The Grand Lodge of New York, especially, has opposed these regulations, inflicting a penalty on the initiate, and assigns its reasons for the opposition in the following language:
"Before a man becomes a Mason, he is subject to no law which any Grand Lodge can enact. No Grand Lodge has a right to make a law to compel any citizen, who desires, to be initiated in a particular lodge, or in the town or State of his residence; neither can any Grand Lodge forbid a citizen to go where he pleases to seek acceptance into fellowship with the craft; and where there is no right to compel or to forbid, there can be no right to punish; but it will be observed, that the laws referred to were enacted to punish the citizens of Maryland and Alabama, as Masons and Brethren, for doing something before they were Masons and Brethren, which they had a perfect right to do as citizens and freemen; and it must certainly be regarded as an act of deception and treachery by a young Mason, on returning home, to be told, that he is 'a clandestine Mason,' that he 'ought to be expelled,' or, that he cannot be recognized as a Brother till he 'joins a lodge where his residence is,' because he was initiated in New York, in England, or in France, after having heard all his life of the universality and oneness of the institution."
It seems to us that the Grand Lodge of New York has taken the proper view of the subject; although we confess that we are not satisfied with the whole course of reasoning by which it has arrived at the conclusion. Whatever we may be inclined to think of the inexpediency of making transient persons (and we certainly do believe that it would be better that the character and qualifications of every candidate should be submitted to the inspection of his neighbors rather than to that of strangers), however much we may condemn the carelessness and facility of a lodge which is thus willing to initiate a stranger, without that due examination of his character, which, of course, in the case of non-residents, can seldom be obtained, we are obliged to admit that such makings are legal--the person thus made cannot be called a clandestine Mason, because he has been made in a legally constituted lodge--and as he is a regular Mason, we know of no principle by which he can be refused admission as a visitor into any lodge to which he applies.
Masonry is universal in its character, and knows no distinction of nation or of religion. Although each state or kingdom has its distinct Grand Lodge, this is simply for purposes of convenience in carrying out the principles of uniformity and subordination, which should prevail throughout the masonic system. The jurisdiction of these bodies is entirely of a masonic character, and is exercised only over the members of the Order who have voluntarily contracted their allegiance. It cannot affect the profane, who are, of course, beyond its pale. It is true, that as soon as a candidate applies to a lodge for initiation, he begins to come within the scope of masonic law. He has to submit to a prescribed formula of application and entrance, long before he becomes a member of the Order. But as this formula is universal in its operation, affecting candidates who are to receive it and lodges which are to enforce it in all places, it must have been derived from some universal authority. The manner, therefore, in which a candidate is to be admitted, and the preliminary qualifications which are requisite, are prescribed by the landmarks, the general usage, and the ancient constitutions of the Order. And as they have directed the mode how, they might also have prescribed the place where, a man should be made a Mason. But they have done no such thing. We cannot, after the most diligent search, find any constitutional regulation of the craft, which refers to the initiation of non-residents. The subject has been left untouched; and as the ancient and universally acknowledged authorities of Masonry have neglected to legislate on the subject, it is now too late for any modern and local authority, like that of a Grand Lodge, to do so.
A Grand Lodge may, it is true, forbid--as Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, and several other Grand Lodges have done--the initiation of non-residents, within its own jurisdiction, because this is a local law enacted by a local authority; but it cannot travel beyond its own territory, and prescribe the same rule to another Grand Lodge, which may not, in fact, be willing to adopt it.
The conclusions, then, at which we arrive no this subject are these: The ancient constitutions have prescribed no regulation on the subject of the initiation of non-residents; it is, therefore, optional with every Grand Lodge, whether it will or will not suffer such candidates to be made within its own jurisdiction; the making, where it is permitted, is legal, and the candidate so made becomes a regular Mason, and is entitled to the right of visitation.
What, then, is the remedy, where a person of bad character, and having, in the language of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, "a distrust of his acceptance" at home, goes abroad and receives the degrees of Masonry? No one will deny that such a state of things is productive of great evil to the craft. Fortunately, the remedy is simple and easily applied. Let the lodge, into whose jurisdiction he has returned, exercise its power of discipline, and if his character and conduct deserve the punishment, let him be expelled from the Order. If he is unworthy of remaining in the Order, he should be removed from it at once; but if he is worthy of continuing in it, there certainly can be no objection to his making use of his right to visit.
- Oliver's Preston, p. 163, note (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 135).
- Such is the provision in the modern constitutions of England, but the 4th of the 39 Regulations required the candidate to be at least twenty-five.
- See these regulations in Preston, p. 162, Oliver's ed. (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 135).
- Oliver's Preston, p. 72, (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 59).
- Blackstone, Com. I., Introd., Sec. 2.
- In an able report on this subject, in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Georgia for 1852. In accordance with the views there expressed, Bro. Rockwell decided officially, as District Deputy Grand Master, in 1851, that a man who had lost one eye was not admissible.
- Potter, 184.
- Page 18. In December, 1851, the Committee of Correspondence of North Carolina, unregardful of the rigid rule of their predecessors, decided that maimed candidates might be initiated, "provided their loss or infirmity will not prevent them from making full proficiency in Masonry."
- Proceedings of the G.L. of Mo. for 1823, p. 5. The report and resolution were on the petitions of two candidates to be initiated, one with only one arm, and the other much deformed in his legs.
- When the spirit of expediency once begins, we know not where it will stop. Thus a blind man has been initiated in Mississippi, and a one-armed one in Kentucky; and in France a few years since, the degrees were conferred by sign-language on a deaf mute!
- Namely, the incorrectly presumed operative origin of the Order. The whole of this report, which is from the venerable Giles F. Yates, contains an able and unanswerable defense of the ancient law in opposition to any qualification.
- See proceedings of New York, 1848, pp. 36, 37.
- Such is the formula prescribed by the Constitutions of England as well as all the Monitors in this country.
- See Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry, 3d Edit., art, Ballot.
- Book of Constitutions. Edit. 1755, p. 312.
- See Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry, 3d Edit., art. Ballot.
- Except when there is but one black ball, in which case the matter lies over until the next stated meeting. See preceding Section.
- Masonry founded on Scripture, a Sermon preached in 1752, by the Rev. W. Williams.
- That is, advance him, from the subordinate position of a serving man or Apprentice, to that of a Fellow Craft or journeyman.
- This is also the regulation of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina.
- Proceedings of Grand Lodge of New York, for 1845. He excepts, of course, from the operation of the rule, those made by dispensation; but this exception does not affect the strength of the principle.
- Preston, edition of Oliver, p. 12 (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 10).
- Transactions of the G.L. of New York, anno 1848, p. 73.