The Principles of Masonic Law is a treatise on the constitutional laws, usages and landmarks of Freemasonry. The book is very informative and thorough, and it treats a wide range of topics in Masonic jurisprudence, providing a good insight to the overall governance of freemasonry. Freemasonry consists of fraternal organizations that trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons that from the end of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients. The basic, local organizational unit of Freemasonry is the Lodge. These private Lodges are usually supervised at the regional level by a Grand Lodge or Grand Orient. The degrees of Freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of Apprentice, Journeyman or Fellow Craft, and Master Mason.
Albert Gallatin Mackey (1807-1881) was an American medical doctor and author. He is best known for his books and articles about freemasonry, particularly the Masonic Landmarks. He wrote on a variety of subjects, but specialized in the study of several languages, the Middle Ages, and Freemasonry.
Chapter IV. Table of Contents
Of the Officers of a Grand Lodge.
The officers of a Grand Lodge may be divided into two classes, essential and accidental, or, as they are more usually called, Grand and Subordinate. The former of these classes are, as the name imports, essential to the composition of a Grand Lodge, and are to be found in every jurisdiction, having existed from the earliest times. They are the Grand and Deputy Grand Masters, the Grand Wardens, Grand Treasurer, and Grand Secretary. The Grand Chaplain is also enumerated among the Grand Officers, but the office is of comparatively modern date.
The subordinate officers of a Grand Lodge consist of the Deacons, Marshal, Pursuivant, or Sword-Bearer, Stewards, and others, whose titles and duties vary in different jurisdictions. I shall devote a separate section to the consideration of the duties of each and prerogatives of these officers.
Of the Grand Master.
The office of Grand Master of Masons has existed from the very origin of the institution; for it has always been necessary that the fraternity should have a presiding head. There have been periods in the history of the institution when neither Deputies nor Grand Wardens are mentioned, but there is no time in its existence when it was without a Grand Master; and hence Preston, while speaking of that remote era in which the fraternity was governed by a General Assembly, says that this General Assembly or Grand Lodge "was not then restricted, as it is now understood to be, to the Masters and Wardens of private lodges, with the Grand Master and his Wardens at their head; it consisted of as many of the Fraternity at large as, being within a convenient distance, could attend, once or twice in a year, under the auspices of one general head, who was elected and installed at one of these meetings; and who for the time being received homage as the sole governor of the whole body."9 The office is one of great honour as well as power, and has generally been conferred upon some individual distinguished by an influential position in society; so that his rank and character might reflect credit upon the craft.10
The Grand Mastership is an elective office, the election being annual and accompanied with impressive ceremonies of proclamation and homage made to him by the whole craft. Uniform usage, as well as the explicit declaration of the General Regulations,11 seems to require that he should be installed by the last Grand Master. But in his absence the Deputy or some Past Grand Master may exercise the functions of installation or investiture. In the organization of a new Grand Lodge, ancient precedent and the necessity of the thing will authorize the performance of the installation by the Master of the oldest lodge present, who, however, exercises, pro hac vice, the prerogatives and assumes the place of a Grand Master.
The Grand Master possesses a great variety of prerogatives, some of which are derived from the "lex non scripta," or ancient usage; and others from the written or statute law of Masonry.12
I. He has the right to convene the Grand Lodge whenever he pleases, and to preside over its deliberation. In the decision of all questions by the Grand Lodge he is entitled to two votes. This is a privilege secured to him by Article XII. of the General Regulations.
It seems now to be settled, by ancient usage as well as the expressed opinion of the generality of Grand Lodges and of masonic writers, that there is no appeal from his decision. In June, 1849, the Grand Master of New York, Bro. Williard, declared an appeal to be out of order and refused to submit it to the Grand Lodge. The proceedings on that eventful occasion have been freely discussed by the Grand Lodges of the United States, and none of them have condemned the act of the Grand Master, while several have sustained it in express terms. "An appeal," say the Committee of Correspondence of Maryland, "from the decision of the Grand Master is an anomaly at war with every principle of Freemasonry, and as such, not for a moment to be tolerated or countenanced."13 This opinion is also sustained by the Committee of the Grand Lodge of Florida in the year 1851, and at various times by other Grand Lodges. On the other hand, several Grand Lodges have made decisions adverse to this prerogative, and the present regulations of the Grand Lodge of England seem, by a fair interpretation of their phraseology, to admit of an appeal from the Grand Master. Still the general opinion of the craft in this country appears to sustain the doctrine, that no appeal can be made from the decision of that officer. And this doctrine has derived much support in the way of analogy from the report adopted by the General Grand Chapter of the United States, declaring that no appeal could lie from the decision of the presiding officer of any Royal Arch body.
Since we have enunciated this doctrine as masonic law, the question next arises, in what manner shall the Grand Master be punished, should he abuse his great prerogative? The answer to this question admits of no doubt. It is to be found in a regulation, adopted in 1721, by the Grand Lodge of England, and is in these words:-"If the Grand Master should abuse his great power, and render himself unworthy of the obedience and submission of the Lodges, he shall be treated in a way and manner to be agreed upon in a new regulation." But the same series of regulations very explicitly prescribe, how this new regulation is to be made; namely, it is to be "proposed and agreed to at the third quarterly communication preceding the annual Grand Feast, and offered to the perusal of all the Brethren before dinner, in writing, even of the youngest entered apprentice; the approbation and consent of the majority of all the Brethren present being absolutely necessary, to make the same binding and obligatory."14 This mode of making a new regulation is explicitly and positively prescribed-it can be done in no other way-and those who accept the old regulations as the law of Masonry, must accept this provision with them. This will, in the present organization of many Grand Lodges, render it almost impracticable to make such a new regulation, in which case the Grand Master must remain exempt from other punishment for his misdeeds, than that which arises from his own conscience, and the loss of his Brethren's regard and esteem.
II. The power of granting dispensations is one of the most important prerogatives of the Grand Master. A dispensation may be defined to be an exemption from the observance of some law or the performance of some duty. In Masonry, no one has the authority to grant this exemption, except the Grand Master; and, although the exercise of it is limited within the observance of the ancient landmarks, the operation of the prerogative is still very extensive. The dispensing power may be exercised under the following circumstances:
1. The fourth old Regulation prescribes that "no lodge shall make more than five new Brothers at one and the same time without an urgent necessity."15 But of this necessity the Grand Master may judge, and, on good and sufficient reason being shown, he may grant a dispensation enabling any lodge to suspend this regulation and make more than five new Brothers.
2. The next regulation prescribes "that no one can be accepted a member of a particular lodge without previous notice, one month before given to the lodge, in order to make due inquiry into the reputation and capacity of the candidate." But here, also, it is held that, in a suitable case of emergency, the Grand Master may exercise his prerogative and dispense with this probation of one month, permitting the candidate to be made on the night of his application.
3. If a lodge should have omitted for any causes to elect its officers or any of them on the constitutional night of election, or if any officer so elected shall have died, been deposed or removed from the jurisdiction subsequent to his election, the Grand Master may issue a dispensation empowering the lodge to proceed to an election or to fill the vacancy at any other specified communication; but he cannot grant a dispensation to elect a new master in consequence of the death or removal of the old one, while the two Wardens or either of them remain-because the Wardens succeed by inherent right and in order of seniority to the vacant mastership. And, indeed, it is held that while one of the three officers remains, no election can be held, even by dispensation, to fill the other two places, though vacancies in them may have occurred by death or removal.
4. The Grand Master may grant a dispensation empowering a lodge to elect a Master from among the members on the floor; but this must be done only when every Past Master, Warden, and Past Warden of the lodge has refused to serve,16 because ordinarily a requisite qualification for the Mastership is, that the candidate shall, previously, have served in the office of Warden.
5. In the year 1723 a regulation was adopted, prescribing "that no Brother should belong to more than one lodge within the bills of mortality." Interpreting the last expression to mean three miles-which is now supposed to be the geographical limit of a lodge's jurisdiction, this regulation may still be considered as a part of the law of Masonry; but in some Grand Lodges, as that of South Carolina, for instance, the Grand Master will sometimes exercise his prerogative, and, dispensing with this regulation, permit a Brother to belong to two lodges, although they may be within three miles of each other.
6. But the most important...