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EDICTS FROM 1850 TO 1899

The Grand Masters of Masons in Massachusetts have frequently offered opinions and made declarations from the Oriental Chair of Grand Lodge which have the force of Masonic law within the jurisdiction. This page lists those that appear in the pages of the Proceedings.



Edward A. Raymond, Grand Master


Page V-330, 06/12/1851, resolutions regarding the exclusive jurisdiction of Grand Lodges recognized by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

The resolutions were occasioned by the "Supreme Council, Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction" in Louisiana, purporting to create Lodges and make Masons.

"Resolved. That this Grand Lodge recognizes no body of Masons, as having the authority to constitute Lodges of Symbolic Masonry, except the legally constituted Grand Lodge of the State within whose jurisdiction said subordinate Lodges may be located. . .

"Resolved. That this Grand Lodge do hold all Lodges which have been constituted hv any other body of Masons, than the Grand Lodge aforesaid and who acknowledge any other jurisdiction than that of the said Grand Lodge as clandestine Lodges.

"Resolved. That this Grand Lodge will hold no Masonic communication with any such Lodges constituted by any such spurious body, by whatever name or title they may be called or known.

"Resolved. That the Lodges within the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts be, and are hereby prohibited from holding any Masonic communication with any such clandestine Lodge, or with any members of the same, or with any Masons, who acknowledge any such spurious authority as that, under which the said clandestine Lodges are held."


George M. Randall, Grand Master

Foreign Language Work

Page V-540, 12/13/1854, regarding a petition for a Lodge to work in a foreign language.

The original petition for dispensation for Germania Lodge requested that it be permitted to use the German language for its ritual. Following some debate, the following report was accepted.

"That Masonry is cosmopolitan. She acknowledges for her votaries no particular tongue, nation or sect. She opens her portals for all, if they be but worthy and well qualified. She asks not for any especial dialect. She but teaches and requires that universal language which is used whenever its influence is diffused.

"There are no laws of naturalization in Masonry; its demand only — Is he good and true.

"The undersigned are not aware that there is any regulation or law of any Grand Lodge in any part of the world which requires the applicants for a Charter to state in what language they propose to converse or administer the rituals of the Institution.

"It is understood that in Boston and in its vicinity there are 22,000 Germans. As a nation, the Germans are distinguished for their industry and honesty: and from this stock we have ever had quiet and good citizens.

"Now among these are many masons of character who are attached to the Institution and are desirous of enjoying its happy, moral and social influences. This they cannot do in our Lodges, and are therefore cut off from those advantages and pleasures with which others are so highly favored.

"They ask to be previously well tried; for a dispensation only; promising to observe all the inculcations, laws and regulations and ceremonies enjoined by the Grand Lodge, — in short to submit implicitly to this body.

"They ask it now, when there is a necessity for new Lodges, when our numbers are overflowing, and when there is scarcely an evening unoccupied.

"They come with their application in due form, with the approbation of the Dist. Dep. Grand Master and the approval of one of our own Lodges: —

"They ask for that which has always been granted elsewhere by the Grand Lodge of England, where the degrees are conferred in the Hebrew, German and French languages, and the same is true of the continental Grand Lodges."

The dispensation was granted, and Germania Lodge worked for many years using an approved version of the ritual in German.


John T. Heard, Grand Master

Restoration of Charter

Page VI-196, 09/08/1858, on the fee for restoration of a charter.

Resolution based on the Grand Master's 1857 Address. "Resolved: That the fee for a restoration of a Charter shall be the same, as that required for issuing a new Charter unless otherwise ordered by a vote of this Grand Lodge."

District Deputies (Meetings)

Page VI-212, 12/08/1858, on meetings of District Deputies.

By order of the Grand Master, District Deputies were directed to meet. "Ordered: That the District Deputy Grand Masters be authorized to hold Quarterly meetings for the purpose of consulting upon any questions that may arise in the several districts for the discussion or action of the several District Deputy Grand Masters, and that the expenses of such meetings and of the officers attending the same shall be paid by the Grand Lodge."


William Parkman, Grand Master


Page VI-483, 12/10/1863, on what constitutes a candidate.

A Committee was appointed to clarify the status of persons applying to take the degrees, and the prerogatives of the Grand Master and his District Deputies with regard to applications and dispensations.

"All Grand Lodges have rules regulating the admission of candidates, with provisions for the relaxation of their rigor in certain cases. In fact the provision for relaxing the rule or rendering it flexible is apart of the rule itself. . . The provisions of our own Constitutions to which we are to look for a solution of this question are as follows. Part 4 - Article 1 - Section 1 - all applications for initiations shall be made in writing over the signature of the applicant, and in the following form (form omitted). And the no candidate shall be balloted for, who has not been proposed at a stated monthly meeting, and who shall not have stood so proposed from one regular monthly meeting to another without a dispensation therefor, nor shall a candidate, in any event, be balloted for, into whose moral character, a strict inquiry has not been made, and whose name has not been borne on the notifications, for the meeting at which he is to be balloted for. . .

"The limitations do not apply at all to a case where there is a dispensation therefor.

"With the obtaining of a dispensation there ceases to be any restraint whatever as to the meeting at which an application is to be made, or the length of time it shall stand over.

"And here note well the distinction intended by the framers of the Constitutions, between what shall not be done without a dispensation, and what shall not be done at all; for the next clause reads, 'nor shall a candidate in any event be balloted for, into whose moral character a strict inquiry has not been made, and whose name has not been borne on the notifications for the meeting at which he is to be balloted for.'

"More time may be dispensed with, but an inquiry into the character of the candidate, and notice to the Brethren shall not be dispensed with. Who is to give these dispensations - the Constitutions, Part 1 - Article 8 - Section 1 authorizes the Grand Master to grant dispensations, 'for conferring the degrees' and in Section 10 of the same article it is also expressly provided that District Deputy Grand Masters shall have power to grant dispensations for initiation.

"The language in both instances is equally generous and unrestricted. . .

"It may be well as tending to shorten, if it does not succeed in altogether obviating discussion, to consider two suggestions that have been brought to the attention of the Committee.

"One is that no person becomes a candidate for initiation until his application has been presented to and by the Lodge, the Lodge having the right by vote, to reject it, by refusing to receive it, and refer it to a Committee and that until he becomes a Candidate there is nothing to which a dispensation can properly attach. . .

"A man may never have the slightest prospect of obtaining the object of his ambition and yet be a candidate. The signer of an application on presenting it to the Master becomes Candidate. He has done all he could to that end. The Master may properly place his name on the notices for the meeting, that it may be in a condition to be acted upon by the Lodge, nor does this course deprive the Lodge of the privilege, if the members see fit, of rejecting the application, without submitting it to a ballot.

"The other objection is that it comes within what is technically called making masons at sight, a prerogative of the Grand Master of which it is insisted that he cannot be deprived without his consent.

"This prerogative empowers the Grand Master to enter any Lodge within his jurisdiction, and make masns of persons into whose character no inquiry has been made by the Lodge, and whose name has not been placed upon the notices for the meetings, and of whom no member of the Lodge has ever heard, and without any ballot whatsoever.

"Without a further examination of this power now rapidly becoming obsolete; it surely requires no argument to show that its exercise is a very different thing from making masons, after notice to all the brethren, a strict inquiry by the Lodge into the Candidate's moral character, and a clear ballot. . . Besides whatever the authority of the Grand Master may be in this respect, it is not exclusive but concurrent with that of the Grand Lodge. . .

"The Committee are of opinion that District Deputy Grand Masters have the power to grant dispensations, to submit applications to the ballot, and to confer the degrees at the meeting when the application is first brought before the Lodge, and that they cannot dispense with notice to the brethren and an examination into the applicant's character and a clear ballot . . .

"Ordered: That it shall not be regular hereafter for any Lodge, which does not usually issue written or printed notification of its meetings to ballot upon any application for the degrees where there is a dispensation therefor, at any but stated monthly meetings without written or printed notifications to the members of the Lodge, with the name of their Candidate borne thereon."


William Parkman, Grand Master

Lodge Records

Page VI-498, 03/09/1864, on Lodge records.

In the petition for Charter of Mount Olivet Lodge, the committee reported on deficiencies in record keeping, in which the record of attending Brethren and acting officers was insufficient.

"It has been an immemorial usage among Masons, to record the names of all Brethren filling the different stations and offices at meetings of their Lodges. If a regular Officer is absent, his place is filled by appointment and the records show the fact, and by the letters p. t. (pro tempore) indicate that he occupies the office temporarily.

"Your Committee believe that this usage and custom exists in all Masonic assemblies and organizations, to say nothing of other good reasons for carefully continuing this custom, it is the only way in which the proper officers who are appointed to examine and visit the Lodges officially, can ascertain whether a proper number of Masons were present to constitute a Lodge. The fact that this usage has existed without any change so long is sufficient reason for us to continue it.

"Formerly and until within a very few years it was the universal custom to place upon the Records, the names of every member and visitor present, and this custom still prevails in many of the Lodges in this jurisdiction. The temptation is strong for recording officers to neglect their duty in this regard, but your Com. believe that no proper record of a Masonic Lodge can be made without it contains the full organization, and the names of the Brethren occupying the various stations."

Master's Powers (Appointment)

Page VI-504, 06/08/1864, on the right to appoint.

In the consideration of the By-Laws of Eden Lodge under dispensation, the committee noted that the right of appointment of officers should lie with the Master only.

"Your Committee believe that the inherent appointing power exists in the Master of the Lodge, and that the power of appointment should not lie in the Wardens . . . the Master of the Lodge should have the absolute power of appointing such officers as he may deem proper to fill the places not elective."

See also an 1866 ruling below.

Past Masters (Definition)

Page VI-559, 12/14/1864, on the rank and privileges of Past Masters.

A committee was appointed to consider the definition of Past Master, a qualification for certain offices in Grand Lodge under the Grand Constitutions.

"The question first arising in the Committee, was, who are Past Masters?

"We quote from the publications of those three great lights in Masonic literature: Bro. Moore in the East, Bro. Reynolds in the West and Bro. Mackey in the South, their recorded opinions on this subject and believe them to be in harmony with all Masonic writers of any note.

"In Vol. 13, Page 130 of the Freemasons' Monthly Magazine, is published the following queries of a correspondent.

  • 1st. What constitutes a Past Master?
  • 2nd. Does the receiving the degree of Past Master as conferred, in the Chapter, do this?
  • 3rd. If this be so, then, is a Past Master so made thereby qualified, all other things being equal to fill the chair in a subordinate lodge, or an office in the Grand Lodge, one of the pre-requisites of which is that the officer shall be a Past Master.

"In answer to the 1st query, the editor says 'But when so given (referring to conferring the degree in the chapter) it confers no privileges that can as of right be asserted, or made available, in a Lodge or Grand Lodge of Ancient Craft Masonry.'

"In answer to the 2nd query he says "Ancient Craft Masonry gives another and more satisfactory answer in the following words, --- A Brother who having been duly elected and installed, has served one term as Master of a Lodge working under the jurisdiction and authority of some Grand Lodge is alone entitled to the rank and privileges of a Past Master.

"This answer says nothing of the Past Master's degree for ancient craft Masonry knows nothing of any such degree - nevertheless the only answer which as ancient craft Masonry, it can give to the inquiry of cur correspondent, is, that a Past Master, is a Brother, who having been duly elected and installed has pre¬sided as Master over one of its Lodges.

"It knows no other Past Masters than those who have served in the capacity of presiding Masters of Lodges, which it has itself constituted and authorized. This is the answer of Ancient Craft Masonry, and it is the only answer which a Grand Lodge, adhering strictly and literally to the ancient rule and usage can properly recognize. It is the only answer known to the Grand Lodge of England, and so far as we are informed the only one known to any Grand Lodge out of the United States, organized on the basis of Ancient York Masonry, as understood and practiced in this Country and in England.

"In answer to the 3rd query he says, "Taking the rule, then in its ancient strictness, and true interpretation, as our standpoint; an answer to this branch of the inquiry of our correspondent as we have intimated in another place, that the receiving of the Past Masters degree in the Chapter does not in¬vest the recipient with the official qualifications contemplated by the regulations of Craft Masonry, in requiring that certain offices in the Grand Lodge shall be filled only by Past Masters of Lodges.

"In the Masonic Trowel dated August 10, 1863, Page 14 is an article on the eligibility and qualifications of Grand Master, where may be found the following language: The only thing required is, that he shall be an actual Past Master - An actual Past Master is one who has been duly elected to the Office of Worshipful Master, at the regular annual election, and who has been regularly qualified and installed, and served the full term of office.

"In the Lexicon of Freemasonry, published by Albert G. Mackey, M.D. under the title "Past Master", at Page 239, we read 'The Past Master of a Chapter is only a quasi Past Master; the true and legitimate Past Master, is the one who has presided over a symbolic Lodge.'"


William Parkman, Grand Master

Master's Powers (Right to Remove)

Page VII-15, 06/14/1865, on the right of the Master to remove appointed officers.

In the consideration of the By-Laws of William Parkman Lodge under dispensation, the committee noted that the Master has right of appointment but not removal.

"Although the Master of the Lodge has the appointing power, he has no power to remove an installed officer, however inferior the rank of such Officer may be. He may suspend such officer for good cause, and report his action to the Gd. Master but he cannot remove him from the position into which he has been solemnly installed, nor does there any where exist the power to remove him capriciously and at pleasure."


Charles C. Dame, Grand Master

Candidates (Aprons)

Page VII-108, 12/13/1866, regarding aprons for candidates.

A committee reported on regalia for Grand Lodge and subordinate Lodges, and included the following provision which was approved by vote of the Grand Lodge.

"That hereafter each Lodge, at the time of initiation, present the candidate with an apron of the style prescribed by the Constitutions, to be kept by him for use on public occasions."

Master's Powers (Appointment)

Page VII-110, 12/13/1866, on the right to appoint.

This ruling reprises a ruling in 1864 and reinforces the independence of the Master.

In the consideration of proposed By-Laws for King Philip Lodge, under dispensation; the committee wrote as follows:

"There appears to be an increasing disposition to take from the Masters of Lodges some of their ancient prerogatives and privileges. Such is the provision of these By-Laws that certain officers shall be appointed by 'the Master with the advice and consent of the Wardens.'

"The W. Master is the supreme governor of his Lodge. He rules and governs it according to his will and pleasures. He is not amenable to his Lodge, but to the G. Master and the G. Lodge. There is no appeal to the Lodge from his decisions. The Lodge in its By-Laws may retain the right to elect all the Officers, but it must be done by a general election, in which all the members take part. But the appointing power cannot be divided between the W. Master and any one or two of his officers.

"He must be unrestrained and untrammelled in all his appointments. He must be independent and not controlled. This principle is as old as Masonry itself, so far as we know anything of its history, by tradition or written records."

Parliamentary Procedure

Page VII-119, 12/13/1866, on parliamentary procedure.

In the petition by Adams Lodge for a Charter, the committee reported the following proposed By-Law, and its objections to it.

"Section 12. is as follows, In the transaction of business and in the discussion upon the same this Lodge shall be governed by the ordinary usages of Parliamentary bodies.

"Masonry does not recognize any such usage. Parliamentary rules are unknown in our Lodges, except so far as our own rules, for the dispatch of our masonic business correspond with Parliamentary rules. The Worshipful Master as the head and governor of the Lodge is not bound by any such usage as this section contemplates.

"He can stop debate when he considers it proper, and close the Lodge at his will and pleasure. He cannot be circumscribed in his power by any such regulation. Our Lodges need no code to regulate their discussions for they are not debating, or legislative societies; they are Masonic Lodges, and are unlike all other assemblies which the ingenuity of man has devised. They cannot therefore adopt the rules and usages of any other assembly, society or organization, for their government. In fact, our Lodges need no reform in this particular, and the fewer of those rules which are necessary in order to govern debate in other bodies, we introduce into our institution, the purer our Lodges will be."

The Grand Lodge approved the change in the By-Laws, and the charter was granted.


William Sewall Gardner, Grand Master

Masonic Offenses

Page VII-306, 03/10/1869, on Masonic offenses.

In a report given by the Trial Commissioners, there was a description of Masonic offenses, which applied not only to the case in question (a lodge's proceeding against a Brother which had been referred to the Grand Lodge) but also "their relation to all Masonic trials."

"The question, The question, What constitutes a Masonic Offence? has, perhaps, never been determined with accuracy, and, certainly, not with completeness. It is perhaps impossible, by any verbal definition to determine perfectly, in all cases, a crime, or an offence in Masonry. The compass can not describe a circle inside of which the crime always exists, and outside of which it can never be found. There are no lines in moral geometry within which the misdemeanor may always be traced.

Accordingly there is no strict Masonic code, or classification of offenses. Yet such is the nature of our Fraternity, that the absence of a written criminal law can hardly be regarded as a defect. So much depends upon the facts and circumstances of the particular case, upon the relation which the accused sustains to others, upon the intent, of which the Municipal law does not always take cognizance; nay even upon the temper and manners, that we at once realize the difficulty of declaring, in advance, what shall be deemed an act against Masonry. It would be manifestly absurd to hold that every act which contravenes the civil law is a crime against this Fraternity, although obedience to the law and constituted authorities of the State is one of our fundamental doctrines. Nevertheless no Lodge would expel or even try one of its members for keeping a dog without a licence, or for neglecting to shovel the snow from his sidewalk. Some acts, also, which in contemplation of the law are fraudulent, being made so perhaps by the express words of the statute, such as the preference by a bankrupt of a particular creditor, and other acts known as legal frauds, are not therefore and necessarily offences against Masonry.

On the contrary it is not difficult to find cases where the fraud in law is clear, and yet the act itself is entirely innocent, and perhaps commendable when tried by the rule of Masonic right.

On the other hand there is a large class of statute crimes, such as felonies, and other offences involving moral obliquity and turpitude; —offences as to which all rightminded men, as well as all Masons, are in harmony with the law, and of which it is the imperative duty of Lodges to take cognizance, even should they anticipate the Grand Jury or the Police Court, As such crimes are directed against the law, against society as a whole, and against the rights of the peace of the individual, they are necessarily crimes against an institution sacredly devoted to the protection of all these interests.

Another large class of offences which may be deemed Masonic offences, consists of acts clearly and directly opposed to our constitutions and established regulations, to those cardinal principles known as the general tenets of the Fraternity, and to the special obligations involved in the ritual, and voluntarily assumed by every initiate. Thus, acts against the cardinal virtue of justice, persistent intemperance, wilful or habitual violation of the Regulations of the Grand Lodge, or the By-laws of a Subordinate Lodge; the disclosure to the uninitiated of the secrets or the private business of the Lodge, the failure to comply with those ties of obligation which should be most sacredly observed, though perhaps involving other elements of wrong and wickedness, are to be considered as strictly Masonic offences. This enumeration is not intended to exclude many cases, which, as has been before observed, do not admit of classification or definition. Whenever it shall be found that the acts of a brother are clearly adverse to the principles or regulations of the Craft, or the rights or happiness of any of its members, it will be the duty of his Lodge to try him for those acts, although the offence involved was never described or known before on sea or land.

The attempt thus briefly and imperfectly made, to discover the nature and character of that which should be known as a Masonic offence, leads us next to consider the manners and methods under which the trial for such offence should be conducted.

The absence of a settled code or classification of offences, furnishes in itself a strong reason for the observance of the highest care, caution, and accuracy, in the conduct of all Masonic trials. Certain regulations of the most obvious necessity, for such trials, have been adopted by this Grand Lodge, but they are mostly external in their character, and only intended to meet the plainest and simplest rights of the parties.

The true spirit of the trial cannot come from mere forms or regulations of the proceeding. There is another unwritten law higher than the regulations of this Grand Lodge, but with which they are in harmony. When the accused appears before the Lodge to answer the charges against him, and the trial proceeds, he should be met by that spirit of justice, charity, and fairness, which, while it be large enough to comprehend the Lodge, and the whole Fraternity, is not too large to overlook him. While the specified regulations are to be strictly observed in the absence of formulas of language, he is not to be opposed, or to be shielded by any merely technical vote.

The charges of the written accusation should be made in clear and precise terms. When the charge is general in its nature, as for conduct unbecoming a Mason, there should be clear and accurate specifications, so that there may be a distinct issue to be tried, and that the accused may know exactly what he is to meet.

The evidence should be strictly confined to the issues on trial, excluding all hearsay. The examination of the witnesses on either side should be conducted by managers or counsel appointed for that purpose, the members of the Lodge maintaining the dignified demeanor and bearing of judges in the case. The course of the testimony should never be interrupted by commentary upon the case, which always should be reserved for the summing up of each party. The best and most candid judgment should be expressed in the vote, which is the verdict of the Lodge. The general burden of proof is on the accusers, although that burden may by the acts or admissions of the accused, be shifted and fall upon his shoulders.

Inasmuch as the result of the trial may be the expulsion of the accused from the rights and privileges of Masonry, a disgrace to him, equivalent to a sentence by the civil judge to an ignominious punishment,— a disgrace which his family must share, and which his innocent children must bear as a reproach in after life, — he is entitled ordinarily to the vote of every member. In such a case if a member is not fully satisfied by the proof offered by the prosecution and upon all the evidence, has doubts of the guilt of the accused, the accused should have the benefit of the doubts. If, on the other hand, the evidence offered be clear and satisfactory, every member is bound to reject all consideration of fear, favor, or affection, and vote for conviction."

See below a more modern ruling in 1934 by Grand Master Chipman.

Candidates (Advancement)

Page VII-491, 12/13/1869, regarding objections to advancement.

"If a candidate is accepted by a clear ballot, and a brother afterwards objects to his advancement, what course is to be pursued?

"I have decided that if the candidate was regularly accepted by a clear ballot, in a Lodge where notices were sent to the members with the name of the candidate upon the notices, or in a Lodge where no notices are sent, but where the ballot was at a regular meeting, that no new ballot can be had.

"That if a brother objects, the W. Master has the right to refuse to confer the degrees.

"If the Master does not so decide, it is his duty - under Section 7, Article 3, Part 4 of our Constitutions, which provides that 'Every member of a subordinate Lodge may object to the initiation, passing, or raising of a candidate at any time before the degree is conferred; and it shall be the duty of the Lodge to investigatesuch objections before proceeding with the candidate.' - to appoint a committee to consider the objections, and to report thereon to the Lodge, and that the Lodge is to decide by a majority vote of the sufficiency of the objections. That the ballot once fairly and regularly taken, by which the candidate is accepted cannot be repeated, unless the Lodge, by vote, decide so to do."

See also a ruling in 1877.


William Sewall Gardner, Grand Master


Page 1870-24, 03/09/1870, regarding Grand Lodge jurisdictions.

This declaration reinforces the 1794 ruling by Grand Master Cutler, regarding the granting of dispensations and charters outside of Massachusetts. (By this time, the Grand Lodge had granted dispensations in Hawaii, British Guiana, Chile, and Peru, as well as in what would become the Canal Zone.)

The "American Doctrine of Grand Lodge Jurisdiction," briefly stated, is this: Three regularly-chartered Lodges existing in any State or Territory have the right to establish a Grand Lodge therein. Such Grand Lodge, when lawfully organized, has sole, absolute, and exclusive jurisdiction over the three degrees of Craft Masonry; over the Lodges and their Members; and over all Masons, unaffiliated as well as affiliated, in such State or Territory. No other Grand Lodge whatever, can lawfully interfere with this jurisdiction, and can neither establish Lodges in such State, nor continue any authority over Bodies which it might properly have exercised prior to the organization of such Grand Lodge therein.

By the erection of a Grand Lodge in such State, all masonic powers over what is popularly called Blue Masonry are merged in it, and henceforth it exists therein supreme and sovereign over a jurisdiction which it can neither divide nor share with any other Masonic Grand Body in the world."


Page 1870-228, 12/14/1870, regarding visitors to Lodges.

"Resolved, That it is the privilege of every affiliated Mason, in good and regular standing, to visit any Lodge, when not engaged in the transaction of private business; but that it is also the right of a sitting member of the Lodge, to object to the admission of a visitor, giving his reasons therefor, if required by a majority-vote of the members to do so; or, as the alternative, declaring, upon his honor as a Masons, that his reasons are such that he cannot with propriety disclose them to the Lodge."


William Sewall Gardner, Grand Master

Membership (Status at Restoration)

Page 1871-20, 03/08/1871, regarding the status of certain Brothers at the restoration of their Lodge.

Star in the East Lodge, the Charter of which had been revoked by the Grand Master, was restored to its former status; but three Brothers' names were omitted in the petition for restoration. The Grand Master ruled that these Brothers fell under the provisions of Part 3, Article 3, Section 3 of the Grand Constitutions, requiring them to obtain special permission of the Grand Lodge to visit any Lodge.

Returns of Lodges

Page 1871-72, 06/14/1871, regarding the obligation of a Lodge to present returns.

"Ordered, That any Lodge neglecting to present its returns and Grand Lodge dues to the District Deputy Grand Master, at the time of his official visit to such Lodge, when demanded by him, shall not be permitted to work in any of the degrees of Masonry until such returns and dues are placed in the hands of the District Deputy Grand Master." (This order was developed as a result of the dispute between Grand Lodge and Star in the East Lodge the previous year, which resulted in the revocation of that Lodge's charter for several months.)

Healing Fee

Page 1871-75, 06/14/1871,, regarding the fee for healing.

"Voted, That a fee of fifteen dollars be hereafter required from every candidate for healing, the same to be applied toward the extinguishing of the debt of the Grand Lodge."

District Deputy Grand Masters

Page 1871-226, 12/13/1871, regarding the form of address and responsibilities of District Deputy Grand Masters.

The Grand Master issued a circular letter to his Deputies prior to the beginning of the September official visitations.

BOSTON, August 1, 1871.


While upon your circuit I wish you to ascertain from each Lodge what disposition has been made of the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge annually sent to the Lodges, and especially if the printed Proceedings for the last year are in the Lodge Rooms; and if not, what reason is given therefor. You will make a full report of this subject in your annual report of each Lodge. These Proceedings are printed at great expense, and are especially for the use of the several Lodges.

As District Deputy Grand Master, it may be necessary for you to open a District Deputy Grand Lodge; if so, remember that your title is R.W. District Deputy Grand Master; your other officers, W. District Deputy Grand Officers. On all occasions of visit, this is their proper address; for instance, W. District Deputy Senior Grand Warden; W. District Deputy Grand Marshal. Your attention is called to this, because last year, being present at a District Deputy's Grand Visitation, I found the titles used the same as in Grand Lodge.

If you should be appointed proxy of the Grand Master to constitute a Lodge, dedicate a Hall, or perform any special service, you are then the special Deputy of the Grand Master. You open a Deputy Grand Lodge; your title is R.W. Deputy Grand Master; and your officers are W. Deputy Grand Officers.

If any of the matters, relating to which special instructions were referred to you last year, need your attention, it is expected that you will attend to them without further notice, and make report thereon.

Wishing you pleasant journeys and happy reunions on the occasions of your annual visits to the Lodges,

I remain, with fraternal courtesy,


Trials (Testimony)

Page 1871-266, 12/13/1871, regarding testimony in a trial.

In a committee report on a trial of a Brother, the Committee made the following statement:

"One circumstance occurred, in the production of the evidence at this trial, which we deem of sufficient importance to bring to the notice of the Grand Lodge. The record states that after the Treasurer had given his testimony, the W. Master was conducted to the altar, where he took upon himself the obligation in due form. The W. Master then from his place in the East made the following statement, — which statement was a confession made to him by the respondent.

"We are firmly of the opinion, that where the exigencies of a case require the testimony of the Master of the Lodge to appear as a witness, and thus to leave his station in the East and take the required obligation, that official should not undertake to preside at the trial, but should delegate the duty of presiding to a Past Master, or, if necessary, invoke the assistance of the Deputy Grand Master of his District. The Constitutions of Freemasonry in this regard do not differ in essence from the Constitution of this Commonwealth, which declares it to be the right of every citizen to be tried by judges as free, impartial and independent as the lot of humanity will admit. The officer presiding at a Masonic trial is charged by the Constitutions with the enforcement of all the regulations and the preservation of all the safeguards by which the rights and interests both of the accused and of the Fraternity at large are to be scrupulously andsacredly maintained. Consequently he should be free not only from the effect of the prejudices and the preconceptions which are liable to arise under the limitations of our human nature, from such a knowledge of the case as a witness often has, but even from the very appearance of such prejudice or preconception. The most baneful effects of prejudice and partiality often arise unconsciously to the individual, and therefore it is that we cannot guard too jealously against such evils."


Sereno D. Nickerson, Grand Master


Page 1872-19, 03/13/1872, regarding qualifications for admission for visitors.

"It is hereby ordered that no one be admitted into any of our Lodges who is not known to be a Mason in good and regular standing, unless he is vouched for by some well known Brother, or produces the Certificate of some Grand Lodge and passes a strict examination.

"Masters of Lodges are enjoined to enforce this regulation stringently, and to caution the Brethren that in order to vouch for any one it is necessary to have sat in a Lodge with him and to be able to tell the Degree upon which the Lodge was working at the time."

Public Processions

Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XXXI, No. 8, June 1872, Page 244:

We are kindly permitted to lay the following interesting letter before our readers. It is addressed to one of the District Deputy Grand Masters of this jurisdiction, and clearly indicates the views of Grand Master Nickerson on the important subject of public parades, by our Lodges and other Masonic Bodies. It is timely and judicious, and we commend it to the careful consideration of our Brethren in Massachusetts and elsewhere:

Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
Masonic Temple, Boston, May 14, 1872.

Daniel Upton, Esq., D. D. G. Master, District No. 9.

Dear Sir and R. W. Brother,

Personally I have a very great repugnance to public Masonic ceremonies and parades, and I never participate in, or consent to them, except in deference to the earnest wishes of Brethren whose opinions on such subjects I consider entitled to great respect; and then only when the precedents are clear. There are so many associations in existence now which imitate the titles, the regalia and the forms of Masonry, that there is great danger that the profane will soon regard them as of equal importance and dignity, unless we teach them to the contrary by holding ourselves, as Masons, aloof from all public displays, except upon the grandest occasions.

In olden times people so rarely saw a Masonic procession that they remembered it as long as they lived ; it was an event of a life time. The tendency now is to make them as frequent and as common as the parades of the Sons of Temperance, Kts. of Pythias, the Odd Fellows, or the Kts. of St. Patrick, These organizations may be, and doubtless are, very worthy and excellent, but they are not to be compared with Freemasonry. They are modern, local and transitory, while Freemasonry is ancient, universal and co-extensive with time. There is no surer way to impress this distinction upon the minds of the uninitiated than to confine our displays and ceremonies to duly tiled Lodges. If "familiarity breeds contempt," let us endeavor to secure respect by a return to the strictest possible secrecy.

I have thought it advisable to express these views to you at this time, as it is not unlikely that applications may be made to you to grant dispensations for public Masonic processions upon Decoration Day. That occasion is observed in every town in the country at each annual recurrence. It is not such a special and rare occasion as would seem to justify the waiving of the express provisions of the Constitutions, and I greatly fear that if such dispensations are granted frequently, the dignity of the Institution will be materially lowered. I therefore trust that if such applications are made to you you will decline to grant them except for peculiar and pressing reasons. Very truly and fraternally yours,

(Signed) Sereno D. Nickerson, Grand Master.

Charters (Signatories)

Page 1872-112, 06/12/1872, regarding signatories to petitions for Charters.

In the petition for Charter by the Brethren of Williams Lodge, under dispensation, the Committee noted the following report.

"Your committee . . . report: That they find only four of the ten Brethren to whom the Dispensation was granted have signed the petition for Charter, while eighteen who have been made Masons under their Dispensation, have signed the same.

"It has not been customary for this Grand Lodge to issue Charters to Brethren made in the Lodge while under Dispensation or to include such names in the Charter, unless for special reasons."

The Dispensation was continued until the next Quarterly Communication, at which time an amended petition was presented and the Charter was granted.

Page 1872-229, 12/11/1872, regarding the right of the Grand Lodge to issue a writ of mandamus.

Writ of Mandamus

In order to compel a recalcitrant Lodge to pay a required tax (in this case, the Capitation Tax), the Grand Lodge is permitted to issue a writ of mandamus, i.e., a legal demand compelling the recipient to act.


Sereno D. Nickerson, Grand Master

Page 1873-82, 09/10/1873, regarding evidence in a trial.

Trials (Evidence)

A Brother was subjected to a trial for un-Masonic conduct. A number of depositions against the offending Brother were taken under oath and introduced as evidence.

"To establish the facts alleged in the first and third specifications, reliance was mainly had upon the testimony of several persons not members of the Fraternity, whose statements were given in the form of depositions under oath, and which are annexed to the record of the proceedings; and the only point of technical interest in this case arises from the introduction of these depositions as evidence. There is nothing in the record to show that the respondent knew they were to be taken, or that he was present at the taking of them. There was, of course, no cross-examination of the deponents, and their statements, although made under oath, must regarded as wholly ex parte. The testimony of the profane may be often necessary to secure the ends of justice in a Masonic trial, on both sides of the controversy. But inasmuch as the Masonic right, in harmony and correspondence with the civil right, of a Brother accused is, that he may confront the witnesses against him, if he desire, it follows that no mere ex parte deposition, notice to attend at the taking of which has not been duly given to him, is competent as testimony in the case; and as a corollary from this proposition, no conviction which depends on testimony thus taken can be sustained. But while this doctrine should be insisted upon, it should not be forgotten that the right of a respondent to be present and hear the testimony of all witnesses against him, and to affect the force of such testimony by cross-examination, is a personal right, in his personal interest, and for his benefit, and consequently may be waived by any act or deed which indicates, either at the time or subsequently that he does not desire to exercise it."

Page 1873-115, 12/10/1873, regarding the right to suspend a Master.

Powers of Grand Master (Suspension)

"Some weeks since complaint was made to me that the Master of one of our Lodges had contracted grossly intemperate habits, and that his conduct was so notorious as to bring great reproach upon the Fraternity. After due investigation of the charges I deemed it my duty to suspend him from office, and summoned him to appear at this Communication of the Grand Lodge to show cause why he should not be dealt with according to the regulations and usages in such cases established. Accompanying my order to him I sent a private letter, presenting in the strongest terms the disgrace and danger in which his conduct would involve him, and entreating him to adopt and practice resolutions of reform; at the same time promising, in case he followed my advice, to do all in my power to shield him from further disgrace, and aid him in his restoration to the confidence of his Brethren."

Page 1873-134, 12/10/1873, regarding contempt of the Grand Lodge.

Trials (Contempt of Grand Lodge)

In a case involving a Masonic trial, Grand Master Gardner issued an order directing the Lodge to stay its proceedings in the matter.

"The fact that such an order was issued by Past Grand Master Gardner came to the knowledge of the present Grand Master, as also the fact that the proceedings went on, notwithstanding the order. No other material facts were presented to the Grand Master; and, upon this statement, and without knowledge of anything beyond it, it is hear that his conclusion, that some of these Brethren had, knowingly and willfully, disobeyed a plain and positive order of the Grand Master, was nearly irresistible. No change in the appearance of the facts already shown to him having been made, and supposing the previous statement to contain all that was material in the case, the Grand Master on learning [that the Lodge had elected the disobeying Brother to an office in the Lodge] . . . issued an order to the present Master, declaring [the Brother] ineligible to any office in the Lodge, by reason of his being in contempt of the Grand Lodge, in consequence of having wilfully violated the order of Past Grand Master Gardner, - a contempt from which he had not been purged."

Page 1873-143, 12/10/1873, regarding Masonic guilt.

Trials (Masonic Guilt)

A Brother was subjected to a Masonic trial for various civil or criminal offenses. The committee report included the following statement.

"In any case, however, the record of conviction and sentence would not be conclusive of the guilt of a respondent, but would be open to contradiction or explanation by him. This may be considered as a firmly established doctrine of Masonic jurisprudence, having been expressly held by the Grand Lodge of New York, and in other jurisdictions."


"By Section 1, Article V., of the Constitutions, it is declared that the Grand Lodge necessarily possesses a supreme superintending authority, and the power of finally deciding on every case which concerns the interest of the Craft. Although enacted alio intuitu, it would seem that this provision may properly be construed to cover the case of a person who, in his absence from the Commonwealth, has been erroneously convicted of an offence, and expelled from the Fraternity, even though such conviction and expulsion has been sustained by the Grand Lodge. An innocent person having been thus convicted and expelled in his absence, and without a knowledge of the pendency of the proceedings against him, should have the right by a petition, in the nature of a petition for a review, and in analogy with the methods of proceedings in review under the civil law, to come before the Grand Lodge and pray that the judgment under the former trial may be set aside and a new trial granted, and if, upon the showing of facts, justice requires such new trial, it would be a competent as well as a graceful act for the Grand Lodge to grant the prayer."


Sereno D. Nickerson, Grand Master

Healing (Petitions)

Page 1874-13, 03/11/1874, regarding healing.

A candidate who had been rejected by a Lodge in Massachusetts made application to, and received the degrees from, a Lodge in Scotland. A petition was laid before the Grand Lodge to recommend healing of this individual.

". . . no Lodge, by solemn vote, can be presumed to desire the formal healing of a person which it has rejected in the exercise of its loyal Masonic duty, unless he brings himself within the rule and practice of the Grand Lodge in such cases. That rule and practice, so often laid down in similar applications, is this: the petitioner must show that his irregular reception of the degrees proceeded from a pardonable ignorance of our regulations, and, of course, with no intent to violate them; that it was in good faith, and that he is at least, prima facie, worthy of a lawful connection with the Fraternity; or, in other words, that his error was one of form alone. If either of these elements be wanting, the petitioner rightfully fails in his application for healing."

The petition was denied.

Trials (Voting)

Page 1874-47, 06/10/1874, regarding voting in a trial.

During the conduct of a Masonic trial, the counsel for the defendant claimed that the votes of two-thirds of the Brethren present were necessary to convict, a ruling supported by the presiding officer.

"There is indeed no written regulation, no direction of the Constitutions prescribed. There is, however, a regulation as potent and binding, as any provision of the Constitutions could be. It is found in an uninterrupted serious of decisions, ordered by the Grand Lodge as a High Court of Appeals upon all the cases of Masonic trial which have arisen in our jurisdiction, and not only bearing the weight of its controlling authority as concluding all such cases in this Commonwealth, but sustained and advocated by its leading jurists, among whom the ever lamented Bro. Moore was conspicuous in his assertion of the doctrine. The undoubted rule of Massachusetts Practice is that a majority vote suffices both for conviction, and for the imposition of whatever sentence a Lodge is entitled to render. Until this well-established rule shall be purposely changed by the Grand Lodge, it must stand as the law of Massachusetts."

Candidates (Advancement)

Page 1874-84, 09/09/1874, regarding an injunction to stop progress of a candidate.

The Grand Master ruled on a dispute between Trinity and Wilder Lodges, in which a candidate in its jurisdiction and rejected by the former was initiated by the latter.

Trinity Lodge submitted a letter to the Grand Lodge stating its objections to the admission and progression of the candidate.

"On receipt of this communication the Grand Master issued the following order.

"To the Master of Wilder Lodge, Leominster:
Dear Sir and W. Brother: - Complaint having been made to me that your Lodge has improperly taken jurisdiction over a candidate by the name of ---- ----, of Sterling, you are hereby directed to refrain from further conferring any of the degrees of Freemasonry upon said ---- ----, until said complaint is investigated, and until further instructions are issued from the Grand Master.
Very truly and fraternally yours, Sereno D. Nickerson, Grand Master.

"This order officially stopped all further progress, and the candidate still remains an Entered Apprentice."


Percival L. Everett, Grand Master

Inspection of Visitors

Page 1875-414, 12/08/1875, regarding credentials of visitors.

The Grand Master warned the Grand Lodge regarding an impostor gaining admission to Lodges and offering to grant charters and confer degrees for a fee.

"Our only safeguard, besides a rigid examination, is to demand that strange visitors show their diploma. The Master of a Lodge, at his installation, promises that no visitor shall be received into his Lodge without due examination, and producing proper vouchers of his having been initiated in a regular Lodge. These vouchers should be critically examined. It is sometimes annoying to a Brother to be refused admission because he has not his diploma with him; but if he has a spark of the true spirit of Masonry in him, he will see the justice of this requirement. The Masters of Lodges are therefore hereby directed not to admit visitors unless they produce their diploma, and pass a thorough examination, or can be vouched for by a Brother who has sat in a Lodge with them."



Percival Everett, Grand Master

Page 1876-129, 12/13/1876, regarding charges in a Masonic trial.

Trials (Charges)

A Brother was charged with un-Masonic conduct and a Masonic trial was held. The following statement appears in the committee report.

"In respect to the question whether a respondent can lawfully be convicted of an offence lesser or other than that charged in the specification, the Commissioners are of opinion that he cannot be so convicted, even if the evidence presented under that specification should suffice to disclose such lesser or other offence. If the complainant chooses to make his specification in manner and form as presented, the respondent seems clearly to be entitled to consider the offence charged therein to be the only one really charged against him, and the only one to which he is called to make answer.

"The complainant may present as many specifications as he pleases, but the respondent may not be held to answer a charge which is not contained in a specification actually presented. These observations are made thus at length, because the Commissioners are of opinion that the principle involved is an important one, and that its establishment and recognition as a sound doctrine of Masonic law and practice is desirable."


Percival Everett, Grand Master

Candidates (Advancement)

Page 1877-219, 09/12/1877, regarding the right of the Lodge to decide on objections to conferring of the degrees.

A committee report on a petition by members of Caleb Butler Lodge, requesting a ruling by the Grand Master on objections to the admission of a candidate. It was the sense of the committee that no such appeal was permitted.

"Where a seasonable objection has been made to the conferring of either of the degrees, and such objection has been properly referred to a committee for consideration, and the committee has made its report to the Lodge, which report has been accepted by the vote of a majority of the members, such action is regular and conclusive, whetherin favor of against the candidate; or, in other words, that the Lodge itself is the only tribunal to try and determine such objections."

Page 1877-284, 12/12/1877, on false representation.

False Representation

A Brother represented himself as a Past Master of a Canadian lodge when visiting a Massachusetts Lodge.

"The Brother "falsely and fraudulently represented himself as a Past Master of Canadian Lodge in Granby, P.Q. and by said false and fraudulent representation said Narragansett Lodge was induced to receive him, and did receive him, as such Past Master; whereas, in truth and fact, he was not at that time and never was a Past Master of said Canadian Lodge.

"Second, that the said P. V. Roudiez, at divers times between January 1st, A.D. 1876, and April 1st, A.D. 1876, at Fall River aforesaid, falsely and fraudulently represented himself as a Past Master of Canadian Lodge, for the purpose of obtaining pecuniary assistance, and by reason of such false and fraudulent representation did obtain from Worshipful Brother Dr. John B. Whitaker, pecuniary assistance, to wit, the sum of three dollars; whereas, in truth and fact, the said P. V. Roudiez was not then and never was a Past Master of said Canadian Lodge.

"The complaint was duly served on the respondent, and due return of the service made by the Grand Tyler, in conformity with the provisions of the Grand Constitutions and the regulations of the Commissioners. The testimony in the cause was taken at Fall River by the President of the Board, on November 22d. The respondent failed to appear, either at the time of the taking of the testimony or at the hearing before the Commissioners. The testimony and exhibits submitted in behalf of the complainant established beyond question the truth of the facts in each specification of the complaint. The respondent, as by the testimony fully appeared, had been in the habit — a habit which seemed to have become chronic with him — of claiming and pretending to have been a Past Master of the Lodge in question, and by such claim and pretence gained not only admission into Narragansett Lodge and other Lodges in the neighborhood, but also secured the Masonic recognition due to his pretended rank, besides pecuniary and other collateral advantages. It appeared in evidence that Canadian Lodge, to which a Dispensation has been issued, never received a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Quebec, by reason of the loose and inefficient character of its work while under Dispensation, and the only Master it ever had, to wit, under the Dispensation, was not the respondent. It was further shown that the respondent had never been a Master of any Lodge in that jurisdiction.

"The respondent was found guilty of the charge, and under both specifications of the complaint, and was therefore sentenced to expulsion from the rights and privileges of Masonry."


Charles A. Welch, Grand Master

Page 1878-15, 03/13/1878, on healing.

Healing (Petitions)

A petition for formal healing was presented by a certain George E. Nelson, twice rejected by a Lodge in Massachusetts. He subsequently removed to Cleveland, Ohio, where he was admitted and made a Mason. The following appears in the committee report:

"It appears by the statement of Mr. Nelson, and also by inspection of his application to said Cleveland City Lodge (which on the request of this committee was forwarded to them by the Worshipful Master of said Lodge), that the blank for said application did not contain a clause in which said Nelson should state whether or not he had before applied for the degrees. Mr. Nelson also states that the fact of his former application was not called to his attention, and this statement is confirmed by a letter received by this committee from the Worshipful Master of said Cleveland City Lodge."

Since the provision for this request for information was not a part of his application, the Massachusetts Lodge voted to ask for formal healing, and the application was granted.


Abraham H. Howland, Jr., Grand Master

Page 1885-20, 03/11/1885, Regarding the use of rituals.

Rituals (Printed)

The M.W. Grand Master addressed the Grand Lodge, in very impressive and forcible language, in condemnation of the use of written or printed rituals, so called, and especially of a publication styled Ecce Orienti, or Rites and Ceremonies of the Essenes, - a work pretending to give the Masonic ritual by letters and characters. He pointed out most clearly the serious consequences resulting from the use of such "inaccurate and unauthorized catchpenny affairs", and enjoined it upon every member of the Fraternity to exert every means in his power to prevent their circulation.


Edwin B. Holmes, Grand Master

Page 1895-302: Regarding innovations in the Work.

Innovations in Work

"I herewith submit some recommendations for your consideration. They concern the introduction of certain practices into our Lodge work which are clearly innovations, and are not warranted by the requirements of our Grand Constitutions.

"I refer, first, to the use of the stereopticon. It mars the simplicity and grandeur of our work and adds nothing to its impressiveness. It introduces a new, unwarranted practice, which, if allowed to continue, might be used as a precedent for numerous other innovations. Where I have known the stereopticon to be used, I have on my own responsibility ordered its discontinuance. The Brethren seem to have cheerfully conformed to my desire.

"I refer, secondly, to the practice of dressing the Fellow-Crafts in an ancient and unusual garb, and the introduction of fancy evolutions and paraphernalia unknown until our day. These are innovations and have no warrant in our Grand Constitutions. The costuming might serve as a precedent for the clothing of all the officers of a Lodge in distinctive and expensive regalia. Where my attention has been called to these matters I have requested their discontinuance."


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