The Principles of Masonic Law/Chapter II

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The topic to be discussed in this section is, the answer to the question, How shall a Grand Lodge be established in any state or country where such a body has not previously existed, but where there are subordinate lodges working under Warrants derived from Grand Lodges in other states? In answering this question, it seems proper that I should advert to the course pursued by the original Grand Lodge of England, at its establishment in 1717, as from that body nearly all the Grand Lodges of the York rite now in existence derive their authority, either directly or indirectly, and the mode of its organization has, therefore, universally been admitted to have been regular and legitimate.

In the first place, it is essentially requisite that the active existence of subordinate lodges in a state should precede the formation of a Grand Lodge; for the former are the only legitimate sources of the latter. A mass meeting of Masons cannot assemble and organize a Grand Lodge. A certain number of lodges, holding legal warrants from a Grand Lodge or from different Grand Lodges, must meet by their representatives and proceed to the formation of a Grand Lodge. When that process has been accomplished, the subordinate lodges return the warrants, under which they had theretofore worked, to the Grand Lodges from which they had originally received them, and take new ones from the body which they have formed.

That a mass meeting of the fraternity of any state is incompetent to organize a Grand Lodge has been definitively settled--not only by general usage, but by the express action of the Grand Lodges of the United States which refused to recognize, in 1842, the Grand Lodge of Michigan which had been thus irregularly established in the preceding year. That unrecognized body was then dissolved by the Brethren of Michigan, who proceeded to establish four subordinate lodges under Warrants granted by the Grand Lodge of New York. These four lodges subsequently met in convention and organized the present Grand Lodge of Michigan in a regular manner.

It seems, however, to have been settled in the case of Vermont, that where a Grand Lodge has been dormant for many years, and all of its subordinates extinct, yet if any of the Grand Officers, last elected, survive and are present, they may revive the Grand Lodge and proceed constitutionally to the exercise of its prerogatives.

The next inquiry is, as to the number of lodges required to organize a new Grand Lodge. Dalcho says that five lodges are necessary; and in this opinion he is supported by the Ahiman Rezon of Pennsylvania, published in 1783 by William Smith, D.D., at that time the Grand Secretary of that jurisdiction, and also by some other authorities. But no such regulation is to be found in the Book of Constitutions, which is now admitted to contain the fundamental law of the institution. Indeed, its adoption would have been a condemnation of the legality of the Mother Grand Lodge of England, which was formed in 1717 by the union of only four lodges. The rule, however, is to be found in the Ahiman Rezon of Laurence Dermott, which was adopted by the "Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons," that seceded from the lawful Grand Lodge in 1738. But as that body was undoubtedly, under our present views of masonic law, schismatic and illegal, its regulations have never been considered by masonic writers as being possessed of any authority.

In the absence of any written law upon the subject, we are compelled to look to precedent for authority; and, although the Grand Lodges in the United States have seldom been established with a representation of less than four lodges, the fact that that of Texas was organized in 1837 by the representatives of only three lodges, and that the Grand Lodge thus instituted was at once recognized as legal and regular by all its sister Grand Lodges, seems to settle the question that three subordinates are sufficient to institute a Grand Lodge.

Three lodges, therefore, in any territory where a Grand Lodge does not already exist, may unite in convention and organize a Grand Lodge. It will then be necessary, that these lodges should surrender the warrants under which they had been previously working, and take out new warrants from the Grand Lodge which they have constituted; and, from that time forth, all masonic authority is vested in the Grand Lodge thus formed.

The Grand Lodge having been thus constituted, the next inquiries that suggest themselves are as to its members and its officers, each of which questions will occupy a distinct discussion.