The Principles of Masonic Law/Chapter IX

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124229The Principles of Masonic Law — Book Second, Chapter IVAlbert Mackey

Section I.
Of the Officers in General.

Four officers, at least, the ancient customs of the craft require in every lodge; and they are consequently found throughout the globe. These are the Master, the two Wardens, and the Tiler. Almost equally universal are the offices of Treasurer, Secretary, and two Deacons. But, besides these, there may be additional officers appointed by different Grand Lodges. The Grand Lodge of England, for instance, requires the appointment of an officer, called the "Inner Guard." The Grand Orient of France has prescribed a variety of officers, which are unknown to English and American Masonry. The Grand Lodges of England and South Carolina direct that two Stewards shall be appointed, while some other Grand Lodges make no such requisition. Ancient usage seems to have recognized the following officers of a subordinate lodge: the Master, two Wardens, Treasurer, Secretary, two Deacons, two Stewards, and Tiler; and I shall therefore treat of the duties and powers of these officers only, in the course of the present chapter.

The officers of a lodge are elected annually. In this country, the election takes place on the festival of St. John the Evangelist, or at the meeting immediately previous; but, in this latter case, the duties of the offices do not commence until St. John's day, which may, therefore, be considered as the beginning of the masonic year.

Dalcho lays down the rule, that "no Freemason chosen into any office can refuse to serve (unless he has before filled the same office), without incurring the penalties established by the bye-laws." Undoubtedly a lodge may enact such a regulation, and affix any reasonable penalty; but I am not aware of any ancient regulation which makes it incumbent on subordinate lodges to do so.

If any of the subordinate officers, except the Master and Wardens, die, or be removed from office, during the year, the lodge may, under the authority of a dispensation from the Grand Master, enter into an election to supply the vacancy. But in the case of the death or removal of the Master or either of the Wardens, no election can be held to supply the vacancy, even by dispensation, for reasons which will appear when I come to treat of those offices.

No officer can resign his office after he has been installed. Every officer is elected for twelve months, and at his installation solemnly promises to perform the duties of that office until the next regular day of election; and hence the lodge cannot permit him, by a resignation, to violate his obligation of office.

Another rule is, that every officer holds on to his office until his successor has been installed. It is the installation, and not the election, which puts an officer into possession; and the faithful management of the affairs of Masonry requires, that between the election and installation of his successor, the predecessor shall not vacate the office, but continue to discharge its duties.

An office can be vacated only by death, permanent removal from the jurisdiction, or expulsion. Suspension does not vacate, but only suspends the performance of the duties of the office, which must then be temporarily discharged by some other person, to be appointed from time to time; for, as soon as the suspended officer is restored, he resumes the dignities and duties of his office.

Section II.
Of the Worshipful Master.

This is probably the most important office in the whole system of Masonry, as, upon the intelligence, skill, and fidelity of the Masters of our lodges, the entire institution is dependent for its prosperity. It is an office which is charged with heavy responsibilities, and, as a just consequence, is accompanied by the investiture of many important powers.

A necessary qualification of the Master of a lodge is, that he must have previously served in the office of a Warden.[1] This qualification is sometimes dispensed with in the case of new lodges, or where no member of an old lodge, who has served as a Warden, will accept the office of Master. But it is not necessary that he should have served as a Warden in the lodge of which he is proposed to be elected Master. The discharge of the duties of a Warden, by regular election and installation in any other lodge, and at any former period, will be a sufficient qualification.

One of the most important duties of the Master of a lodge is, to see that the edicts and regulations of the Grand Lodge are obeyed by his Brethren, and that his officers faithfully discharge their duties.

The Master has particularly in charge the warrant of Constitution, which must always be present in his lodge, when opened.

The Master has a right to call a special meeting of his lodge whenever he pleases, and is the sole judge of any emergency which may require such special communication.

He has, also, the right of closing his lodge at any hour that he may deem expedient, notwithstanding the whole business of the evening may not have been transacted. This regulation arises from the unwritten law of Masonry. As the Master is responsible to the Grand Lodge for the fidelity of the work done in his lodge, and as the whole of the labor is, therefore, performed under his superintendence, it follows that, to enable him to discharge this responsibility, he must be invested with the power of commencing, of continuing, or of suspending labor at such time as he may, in his wisdom, deem to be the most advantageous to the edifice of Masonry.

It follows from this rule that a question of adjournment cannot be entertained in a lodge. The adoption of a resolution to adjourn, would involve the necessity of the Master to obey it. The power, therefore, of controlling the work, would be taken out of his hands and placed in those of the members, which would be in direct conflict with the duties imposed upon him by the ritual. The doctrine that a lodge cannot adjourn, but must be closed or called off at the pleasure of the Master, appears now to me to be very generally admitted.

The Master and his two Wardens constitute the representatives of the lodge in the Grand Lodge, and it is his duty to attend the communications of that body "on all convenient occasions."[2] When there, he is faithfully to represent his lodge, and on all questions discussed, to obey its instructions, voting in every case rather against his own convictions than against the expressed wish of his lodge.

The Master presides not only over the symbolic work of the lodge, but also over its business deliberations, and in either case his decisions are reversible only by the Grand Lodge. There can be no appeal from his decision, on any question, to the lodge. He is supreme in his lodge, so far as the lodge is concerned, being amenable for his conduct in the government of it, not to its members, but to the Grand Lodge alone. If an appeal were proposed, it would be his duty, for the preservation of discipline, to refuse to put the question. If a member is aggrieved by the conduct or decisions of the Master, he has his redress by an appeal to the Grand Lodge, which will, of course, see that the Master does not rule his lodge "in an unjust or arbitrary manner." But such a thing as an appeal from the Master of the lodge to its members is unknown in Masonry.

This may, at first sight, appear to be giving too despotic power to the Master. But a slight reflection will convince any one that there can be but little danger of oppression from one so guarded and controlled as a Master is, by the sacred obligations of his office, and the supervision of the Grand Lodge, while the placing in the hands of the craft so powerful, and at times, and with bad spirits, so annoying a privilege as that of immediate appeal, would necessarily tend to impair the energies and lessen the dignity of the Master, while it would be subversive of that spirit of discipline which pervades every part of the institution, and to which it is mainly indebted for its prosperity and perpetuity.

The ancient charges rehearsed at the installation of a Master, prescribe the various moral qualifications which are required in the aspirant for that elevated and responsible office. He is to be a good man, and peaceable citizen or subject, a respecter of the laws, and a lover of his Brethren--cultivating the social virtues and promoting the general good of society as well as of his own Order.

Within the last few years, the standard of intellectual qualifications has been greatly elevated. And it is now admitted that the Master of a lodge, to do justice to the exalted office which he holds, to the craft over whom he presides, and to the candidates whom he is to instruct, should be not only a man of irreproachable moral character, but also of expanded intellect and liberal education. Still, as there is no express law upon this subject, the selection of a Master and the determination of his qualifications must be left to the judgment and good sense of the members.

Section III.
Of the Wardens.

The Senior and Junior Warden are the assistants of the Master in the government of the lodge. They are selected from among the members on the floor, the possession of a previous office not being, as in the case of the Master, a necessary qualification for election. In England they are appointed by the Master, but in this country they are universally elected by the lodge.

During the temporary absence of the Master the Senior Warden has the right of presiding, though he may, and often does by courtesy, invite a Past Master to assume the chair. In like manner, in the absence of both Master and Senior Warden, the Junior Warden will preside, and competent Brethren will by him be appointed to fill the vacant seats of the Wardens. But if the Master and Junior Warden be present, and the Senior Warden be absent, the Junior Warden does not occupy the West, but retains his own station, the Master appointing some Brother to occupy the station of the Senior Warden. For the Junior Warden succeeds by law only to the office of Master, and, unless that office be vacant, he is bound to fulfill the duties of the office to which he has been obligated.

In case of the death, removal from the jurisdiction, or expulsion of the Master, by the Grand Lodge, no election can be held until the constitutional period. The Senior Warden will take the Master's place and preside over the lodge, while his seat will be temporarily filled from time to time by appointment. The Senior Warden being in fact still in existence, and only discharging one of the highest duties of his office, that of presiding in the absence of the Master, his office cannot be declared vacant and there can be no election for it. In such case, the Junior Warden, for the reason already assigned, will continue at his own station in the South.

In case of the death, removal, or expulsion of both Master and Senior Warden, the Junior Warden will discharge the duties of the Mastership and make temporary appointments of both Wardens. It must always be remembered that the Wardens succeed according to seniority to the office of Master when vacant, but that neither can legally discharge the duties of the other. It must also be remembered that when a Warden succeeds to the government of the lodge, he does not become the Master; he is still only a Warden discharging the functions of a higher vacated station, as one of the expressed duties of his own office. A recollection of these distinctions will enable us to avoid much embarrassment in the consideration of all the questions incident to this subject. If the Master be present, the Wardens assist him in the government of the lodge. The Senior Warden presides over the craft while at labor, and the Junior when they are in refreshment. Formerly the examination of visitors was intrusted to the Junior Warden, but this duty is now more appropriately performed by the Stewards or a special committee appointed for that purpose.

The Senior Warden has the appointment of the Senior Deacon, and the Junior Warden that of the Stewards.

Section IV.
Of the Treasurer.

Of so much importance is this office deemed, that in English Lodges, while all the other officers are appointed by the Master, the Treasurer alone is elected by the lodge. It is, however, singular, that in the ritual of installation, Preston furnishes no address to the Treasurer on his investiture. Webb, however, has supplied the omission, and the charge given in his work to this officer, on the night of his installation, having been universally acknowledged and adopted by the craft in this country, will furnish us with the most important points of the law in relation to his duties.

It is, then, in the first place, the duty of the Treasurer "to receive all moneys from the hands of the Secretary." The Treasurer is only the banker of the lodge. All fees for initiation, arrearages of members, and all other dues to the lodge, should be first received by the Secretary, and paid immediately over to the Treasurer for safe keeping.

The keeping of just and regular accounts is another duty presented to the Treasurer. As soon as he has received an amount of money from the Secretary, he should transfer the account of it to his books. By this means, the Secretary and Treasurer become mutual checks upon each other, and the safety of the funds of the lodge is secured.

The Treasurer is not only the banker, but also the disbursing officer of the lodge; but he is directed to pay no money except with the consent of the lodge and on the order of the Worshipful Master. It seems to me, therefore, that every warrant drawn on him should be signed by the Master, and the action of the lodge attested by the counter-signature of the Secretary.

It is usual, in consequence of the great responsibility of the Treasurer, to select some Brother of worldly substance for the office; and still further to insure the safety of the funds, by exacting from him a bond, with sufficient security. He sometimes receives a per centage, or a fixed salary, for his services.

Section V.
Of the Secretary.

It is the duty of the Secretary to record all the proceedings of the lodge, "which may be committed to paper;" to conduct the correspondence of the lodge, and to receive all moneys due the lodge from any source whatsoever. He is, therefore, the recording, corresponding, and receiving officer of the lodge. By receiving the moneys due to the lodge in the first place, and then paying them over to the Treasurer, he becomes, as I have already observed, a check upon that officer.

In view of the many laborious duties which devolve upon him, the Secretary, in many lodges, receives a compensation for his services.

Should the Treasurer or Secretary die or be expelled, there is no doubt that an election for a successor, to fill the unexpired term, may be held by dispensation from the Grand Master. But the incompetency of either of these officers to perform his duties, by reason of the infirmity of sickness or removal from the seat of the lodge, will not, I think, authorize such an election. Because the original officer may recover from his infirmity, or return to his residence, and, in either case, having been elected and installed for one year, he must remain the Secretary or Treasurer until the expiration of the period for which he had been so elected and installed, and, therefore, on his recovery or his return, is entitled to resume all the prerogatives and functions of his office. The case of death, or of expulsion, which is, in fact, masonic death, is different, because all the rights possessed during life cease ex necessitate rei, and forever lapse at the time of the said physical or masonic death; and in the latter case, a restoration to all the rights and privileges of Masonry would not restore the party to any office which he had held at the time of his expulsion.

Section VI.
Of the Deacons.

In every lodge there are two of these officers--a Senior and a Junior Deacon. They are not elected, but appointed; the former by the Master, and the latter by the Senior Warden.

The duties of these officers are many and important; but they are so well defined in the ritual as to require no further consideration in this place.

The only question that here invites our examination is, whether the Deacons, as appointed officers, are removable at the pleasure of the officers who appointed them; or, whether they retain their offices, like the Master and Wardens, until the expiration of the year. Masonic authorities are silent on this subject; but, basing my judgment upon analogy, I am inclined to think that they are not removable: all the officers of a lodge are chosen to serve for one year, or, from one festival of St. John the Evangelist to the succeeding one. This has been the invariable usage in all lodges, and neither in the monitorial ceremonies of installation, nor in any rules or regulations which I have seen, is any exception to this usage made in respect to Deacons. The written as well as the oral law of Masonry being silent on this subject, we are bound to give them the benefit of this silence, and place them in the same favorable position as that occupied by the superior officers, who, we know, by express law are entitled to occupy their stations for one year. Moreover, the power of removal is too important to be exercised except under the sanction of an expressed law, and is contrary to the whole spirit of Masonry, which, while it invests a presiding officer with the largest extent of prerogative, is equally careful of the rights of the youngest member of the fraternity.

From these reasons I am compelled to believe that the Deacons, although originally appointed by the Master and Senior Warden, are not removable by either, but retain their offices until the expiration of the year.

Section VII.
Of the Stewards.

The Stewards, who are two in number, are appointed by the Junior Warden, and sit on the right and left of him in the lodge. Their original duties were, "to assist in the collection of dues and subscriptions; to keep an account of the lodge expenses; to see that the tables are properly furnished at refreshment, and that every Brother is suitably provided for." They are also considered as the assistants of the Deacons in the discharge of their duties, and, lately, some lodges are beginning to confide to them the important trusts of a standing committee for the examination of visitors and the preparation of candidates.

What has been said in relation to the removal of the Deacons in the preceding section, is equally applicable to the Stewards.

Section VIII.
Of the Tiler.

This is an office of great importance, and must, from the peculiar nature of our institution, have existed from its very beginning. No lodge could ever have been opened until a Tiler was appointed, and stationed to guard its portals from the approach of "cowans and eavesdroppers." The qualifications requisite for the office of a Tiler are, that he must be "a worthy Master Mason." An Entered Apprentice, or a Fellow Craft, cannot tile a lodge, even though it be opened in his own degree. To none but Master Masons can this important duty of guardianship be intrusted. The Tiler is not necessarily a member of the lodge which he tiles. There is no regulation requiring this qualification. In fact, in large cities, one Brother often acts as the Tiler of several lodges. If, however, he is a member of the lodge, his office does not deprive him of the rights of membership, and in ballotings for candidates, election of officers, or other important questions, he is entitled to exercise his privilege of voting, in which case the Junior Deacon will temporarily occupy his station, while he enters the lodge to deposit his ballot. This appears to be the general usage of the craft in this country.

The Tiler is sometimes elected by the lodge, and sometimes appointed by the Master. It seems generally to be admitted that he may be removed from office for misconduct or neglect of duty, by the lodge, if he has been elected, and by the Master, if he has been appointed.


  1. "No Brother can be a Warden until he has passed the part of a Fellow Craft; nor a Master until he has acted as a Warden."--Old Charges, IV. (U.M.L., vol. xv., book 1, p. 52).
  2. Regulations on Installation of a Master, No. III. Preston, p. 74 (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 61).