The Principles of Masonic Law/Chapter XII

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In an inquiry into the rights of Entered Apprentices, we shall not be much assisted by the Ancient Constitutions, which, leaving the subject in the position in which usage had established it, are silent in relation to what is the rule. In all such cases, we must, as I have frequently remarked before, in settling the law, have recourse to analogy, to the general principles of equity, and the dictates of common sense, and, with these three as our guides, we shall find but little difficulty in coming to a right conclusion.

At present, an Entered Apprentice is not considered a member of the Lodge, which privilege is only extended to Master Masons. This was not formerly the case. Then the Master's degree was not as indiscriminately conferred as it is now. A longer probation and greater mental or moral qualifications were required to entitle a candidate to this sublime dignity. None were called Master Masons but such as had presided over their Lodges, and the office of Wardens was filled by Fellow Crafts. Entered Apprentices, as well as Fellow Crafts, were permitted to attend the communications of the Grand Lodge, and express their opinions; and, in 1718, it was enacted that every new regulation, proposed in the Grand Lodge, should be submitted to the consideration of even the youngest Entered Apprentice. Brethren of this degree composed, in fact, at that time, the great body of the craft. But, all these things have, since, by the gradual improvement of our organization, undergone many alterations; and Entered Apprentices seem now, by universal consent, to be restricted to a very few rights. They have the right of sitting in all lodges of their degree, of receiving all the instructions which appertain to it, but not of speaking or voting, and, lastly, of offering themselves as candidates for advancement, without the preparatory necessity of a formal written petition.

These being admitted to be the rights of an Entered Apprentice, few and unimportant as they may be, they are as dear to him as those of a Master Mason are to one who has been advanced to that degree; and he is, and ought to be, as firmly secured in their possession. Therefore, as no Mason can be deprived of his rights and privileges, except after a fair and impartial trial, and the verdict of his peers, it is clear that the Entered Apprentice cannot be divested of these rights without just such a trial and verdict.

But, in the next place, we are to inquire whether the privilege of being passed as a Fellow Craft is to be enumerated among these rights? And, we clearly answer, No. The Entered Apprentice has the right of making the application. Herein he differs from a profane, who has no such right of application until he has qualified himself for making it, by becoming an Entered Apprentice. But, if the application is granted, it is ex gratia, or, by the favour of the lodge, which may withhold it, if it pleases. If such were not the case, the lodge would possess no free will on the subject of advancing candidates; and the rule requiring a probation and an examination, before passing, would be useless and absurd--because, the neglect of improvement or the want of competency would be attended with no penalty.

It seems to me, then, that, when an Apprentice applies for his second degree, the lodge may, if it thinks proper, refuse to grant it; and that it may express that refusal by a ballot. No trial is necessary, because no rights of the candidate are affected. He is, by a rejection of his request, left in the same position that he formerly occupied. He is still an Entered Apprentice, in good standing; and the lodge may, at any time it thinks proper, reverse its decision and proceed to pass him.

If, however, he is specifically charged with any offense against the laws of Masonry, it would then be necessary to give him a trial. Witnesses should be heard, both for and against him, and he should be permitted to make his defense. The opinion of the lodge should be taken, as in all other cases of trial, and, according to the verdict, he should be suspended, expelled, or otherwise punished.

The effect of these two methods of proceeding is very different. When, by a ballot, the lodge refuses to advance an Entered Apprentice, there is not, necessarily, any stigma on his moral character. It may be, that the refusal is based on the ground that he has not made sufficient proficiency to entitle him to pass. Consequently, his standing as an Entered Apprentice is not at all affected. His rights remain the same. He may still sit in the lodge when it is opened in his degree; he may still receive instructions in that degree; converse with Masons on masonic subjects which are not beyond his standing; and again apply to the lodge for permission to pass as a Fellow Craft.

But, if he be tried on a specific charge, and be suspended or expelled, his moral character is affected. His masonic rights are forfeited; and he can no longer be considered as an Entered Apprentice in good standing. He will not be permitted to sit in his lodge, to receive masonic instruction, or to converse with Masons on masonic subjects; nor can he again apply for advancement until the suspension or expulsion is removed by the spontaneous action of the lodge.

These two proceedings work differently in another respect. The Grand Lodge will not interfere with a subordinate lodge in compelling it to pass an Entered Apprentice; because every lodge is supposed to be competent to finish, in its own time, and its own way, the work that it has begun. But, as the old regulations, as well as the general consent of the craft, admit that the Grand Lodge alone can expel from the rights and privileges of Masonry, and that an expulsion by a subordinate lodge is inoperative until it is confirmed by the Grand Lodge, it follows that the expulsion of the Apprentice must be confirmed by that body; and that, therefore, he has a right to appeal to it for a reversal of the sentence, if it was unjustly pronounced.

Let it not be said that this would be placing an Apprentice on too great an equality with Master Masons. His rights are dear to him; he has paid for them. No man would become an Apprentice unless he expected, in time, to be made a Fellow Craft, and then a Master. He is, therefore, morally and legally wronged when he is deprived, without sufficient cause, of the capacity of fulfilling that expectation. It is the duty of the Grand Lodge to see that not even the humblest member of the craft shall have his rights unjustly invaded; and it is therefore bound, as the conservator of the rights of all, to inquire into the truth, and administer equity. Whenever, therefore, even an Entered Apprentice complains that he has met with injustice and oppression, his complaint should be investigated and justice administered.

The question next occurs--What number of black balls should prevent an Apprentice from passing to the second degree? I answer, the same number that would reject the application of a profane for initiation into the Order. And why should this not be so? Are the qualifications which would be required of one applying, for the first time, for admission to the degree of an Apprentice more than would subsequently be required of the same person on his applying for a greater favor and a higher honor--that of being advanced to the second degree? Or do the requisitions, which exist in the earlier stages of Masonry, become less and less with every step of the aspirant's progress? Viewing the question in this light--and, indeed, I know of no other in which to view it--it seems to me to be perfectly evident that the peculiar constitution and principles of our Order will require unanimity in the election of a profane for initiation, of an Apprentice for a Fellow Craft, and of a Fellow Craft for a Master Mason; and that, while no Entered Apprentice can be expelled from the Order, except by due course of trial, it is competent for the lodge, at any time, on a ballot, to refuse to advance him to the second degree. But, let it be remembered that the lodge which refuses to pass an Apprentice, on account of any objections to his moral character, or doubts of his worthiness, is bound to give him the advantage of a trial, and at once to expel him, if guilty, or, if innocent, to advance him when otherwise qualified.