The Principles of Masonic Law/Chapter VII
It is evident, from what has already been said, that there are two kinds of lodges, each regular in itself, but each peculiar and distinct in its character. There are lodges working under a dispensation, and lodges working under a warrant of constitution. Each of these will require a separate consideration. The former will be the subject of the present chapter.
A lodge working under a dispensation is a merely temporary body, originated for a special purpose, and is therefore possessed of very circumscribed powers. The dispensation, or authority under which it acts, expressly specifies that the persons to whom it is given are allowed to congregate that they may "admit, enter, pass, and raise Freemasons;" no other powers are conferred either by words or implication, and, indeed, sometimes the dispensation states, that that congregation is to be "with the sole intent and view, that the Brethren so congregated, admitted, entered, and made, when they become a sufficient number, may be duly warranted and constituted for being and holding a regular lodge."
A lodge under dispensation is simply the creature of the Grand Master. To him it is indebted for its existence, and on his will depends the duration of that existence. He may at any time revoke the dispensation, and the dissolution of the lodge would be the instant result. Hence a lodge working under a dispensation can scarcely, with strict technical propriety, be called a lodge; it is, more properly speaking, a congregation of Masons, acting as the proxy of the Grand Master.
With these views of the origin and character of lodges under dispensation, we will be better prepared to understand the nature and extent of the powers which they possess.
A lodge under dispensation can make no bye-laws. It is governed, during its temporary existence, by the general Constitutions of the Order and the rules and regulations of the Grand Lodge in whose jurisdiction it is situated. In fact, as the bye-laws of no lodge are operative until they are confirmed by the Grand Lodge, and as a lodge working under a dispensation ceases to exist as such as soon as the Grand Lodge meets, it is evident that it would be absurd to frame a code of laws which would have no efficacy, for want of proper confirmation, and which, when the time and opportunity for confirmation had arrived, would be needless, as the society for which they were framed would then have no legal existence--a new body (the warranted lodge) having taken its place.
A lodge under dispensation cannot elect officers. The Master and Wardens are nominated by the Brethren, and, if this nomination is approved, they are appointed by the Grand Master. In giving them permission to meet and make Masons, he gave them no power to do anything else. A dispensation is itself a setting aside of the law, and an exception to a general principle; it must, therefore, be construed literally. What is not granted in express terms, is not granted at all. And, therefore, as nothing is said of the election of officers, no such election can be held. The Master may, however, and always does for convenience, appoint a competent Brother to keep a record of the proceedings; but this is a temporary appointment, at the pleasure of the Master, whose deputy or assistant he is; for the Grand Lodge looks only to the Master for the records, and the office is not legally recognized. In like manner, he may depute a trusty Brother to take charge of the funds, and must, of course, from time to time, appoint the deacons and tiler for the necessary working of the lodge.
As there can be no election, neither can there be any installation, which, of course, always presumes a previous election for a determinate period. Besides, the installation of officers is a part of the ceremony of constitution, and therefore not even the Master and Wardens of a lodge under dispensation are entitled to be thus solemnly inducted into office.
A lodge under dispensation can elect no members. The Master and Wardens, who are named in the dispensation, are, in point of fact, the only persons recognized as constituting the lodge. To them is granted the privilege, as proxies of the Grand Master, of making Masons; and for this purpose they are authorized to congregate a sufficient number of Brethren to assist them in the ceremonies. But neither the Master and Wardens, nor the Brethren, thus congregated have received any power of electing members. Nor are the persons made in a lodge under dispensation, to be considered as members of the lodge; for, as has already been shown, they have none of the rights and privileges which attach to membership--they can neither make bye-laws nor elect officers. They, however, become members of the lodge as soon as it receives its warrant of constitution.
- See such a form of Dispensation in Cole's Masonic Library, p. 91.