- 1 EDICTS BEFORE 1850
- 1.1 EDICTS AND RULINGS BEFORE 1800
- 1.2 EDICTS AND RULINGS FROM 1800-1825
- 1.3 EDICTS AND RULINGS FROM 1825-1850
- 1.3.1 1826
- 1.3.2 1827
- 1.3.3 1832
- 1.3.4 1843
- 1.3.5 1844
- 1.3.6 1845
- 1.3.7 1847
- 1.3.8 1848
- 1.3.9 1849
EDICTS BEFORE 1850
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.
EDICTS AND RULINGS BEFORE 1800
Thomas Oxnard, Grand Master
Age of Worshipful Masters
Page I-29, 01/11/1754, with regard the age of Worshipful Masters.
Voted, That no Brother within our district shall be Master of any Regular Lodge, under Thirty Years of age.
This vote was rescinded one year later, in January 1755, on Page I-37:
Voted, that the Vote that was passed in January 5754 with regard to the Masters being Thirty years of age be reconsidered, and every Lodge within our district for the Future chuse their Masters according to their discretion.
John Rowe, Grand Master
Conduct By Disputing Brothers
Page I-136, 04/23/1768, with regard to the responsibilities of Brothers to each other in disputes.
A letter to the Grand Master was presented at the April 1768 Quarterly Communication:
The following Questions, Answered by the Grand Lodge will sufficiently determine a dispute betwixt Two Brothers, and perhaps Regulate the Conduct of a Number of the Fraternity.
- 1st If it is not the duty of a Mason, to acquaint his Brother with any Thing, which threatens his Person, Fame or Fortune, and more especially when a declared Enemy is not a Mason?
- And, whether any Obligation (except the only Solemn) can bind the threaten'd Brother, from seeking Legal Redress, even upon the Evidence of the informer; should he chuse to reveal it?
I am Sir,
Your dutiful & Affectionate Brother
To the first Question, the Grand Lodge, Answer in the Affirmative.
To the second, they for Answer say, that till the particular Circumstances to which said Questions refer are known, do decline giving any Answer, which Resolutions were Voted unanimously.
John Cutler, Grand Master
Page II-59, 09/10/1794, regarding the granting of charters outside of Massachusetts.
In response to requests and petitions from outside of Massachusetts where Grand Lodges had been erected, the Grand Master directed a letter to be sent to the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island in particular "informing them that it is the intention and full determination of this Grand Lodge, not to grant any charter of erection to any Lodge out of this commonwealth, where another Grand Lodge has jurisdiction: hinting to them the absolute necessity of the measure, and requesting them to join in a plan so likely to operate to the benefit of Masonry in General." (This ruling was confirmed on 03/08/1802, Page II-197, by Grand Master Samuel Dunn, in response to a petition from Columbian Lodge in Norwich, Connecticut; the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts resigned authority of this lodge when the Grand Lodge of Connecticut was erected. A similar petition from Masons in New Brunswick was withdrawn in 1807; Page II-352.)
EDICTS AND RULINGS FROM 1800-1825
Isaiah Thomas, Grand Master
Page II-211, 03/14/1803, on improper use of Lodge regalia.
Certain members of Rising States Lodge were accused of the following:
". . . charged first of having at several times taken from the chest of the Rising States Lodge the charter and jewels of said Lodge; second, for having used the same, or been present at the using of the same, in a clandestine manner, inconsistent with their duty as Masons, derogatory to the Craft and highly injurious to the Lodge of which they are members."
The offending Brothers were expelled for this misuse.
Timothy Bigelow, Grand Master
Disability (Physical Qualifications)
Page II-328, 03/10/1806, regarding the fitness of disabled men to be Masons.
"It was moved by the Most Worshipful Timothy Bigelow to know the opinion of this Grand Lodge, if a blind man can, or cannot, be made a Mason, such an one having applied for admission to King Solomon's Lodge in Charlestown; and on motion, Voted, That it is inconsistent and incompatible with the Constitutions of Masonry." (This was reconsidered in the 1843 Grand Constitutions, with the following text: "where the deformity does not amount to an inability honestly to acquire the means of subsistence, it constitutes no hindrance to initiation." (Part 4, Article 3, Section 4. )
Page II-345, 12/08/1806, regarding oaths of affirmation.
"In pursuance of a vote of the Grand Lodge at the last Quarterly Communication, submitting the question to his decision, it pleased the Most Worshipful Grand Master to give his opinion, that with respect to such candidates for initiation and other degrees, as have conscientious scruples about taking an oath, the act of affirmation is equally valid as swearing in receiving the obligations of Masonry."
Isaiah Thomas, Grand Master
Regalia (Grand Lodge)
Page II-410, 06/12/1809, regarding the entrusting of the Grand Lodge regalia.
"On motion, Voted, that the jewels and regalia of this Grand Lodge be entrusted in future to the Grand Stewards, for the time being, and that they be answerable for the same." (This was enshrined in the By-Laws in 1819; see Chapter 4, Section 3; the Senior Grand Steward was given charge of these items.)
Francis J. Oliver, Grand Master
Page III-138, 02/04/1818, regarding the right of summons.
Following a discussion of revisions to the By-Laws of the Grand Lodge, the Grand Master rendered the following opinion.
"This decision was not considered as affecting the unalterable and unalienable right of the Grand Lodge to require the personal attendance of any member of the Fraternity upon a regular summons, a right which had been transmitted from the earliest ages, and which he could not, consistently with the obligations he considered himself under, suffer to be questioned, so long as he had the honor to preside over the Grand Lodge."
John Dixwell, Grand Master
Page III-399, 06/12/1822, regarding the Master's control of the records of the Lodge.
A complaint was made regarding the Worshipful Master of Jordan Lodge, who had struck out some material in the Secretary's record. A committee was appointed to review the Master's rights and powers in this matter.
"The Secretary is the servant of the Lodge; and his duty is well defined in the charges given him by the Master on his being inducted into office. That part of his duty which consists in making a record of the meeting and business of the Lodge is performed by the side of the Master, and under his eye, and the first draught should be inspected by the Master before entered and recorded; for it is the duty of the Master to see that the proceedings of the Lodge be faithfully and properly recorded. Of course the Master has a right to express his opinion with regard to the accuracy of statement or mode of expression. Moreover, there may be transaction in a Lodge which are not worth recording, or which it would not be proper to make matters of history to be perpetuated in the records, and about the inexpediency of entering which the opinion of the Master is to be given.
"If, however, a misunderstanding should arise between the Master and the Secretary as to the article for record, it may be stated in open Lodge for explanation or decision. If the Master object to an article as improper for record, or to the terms in which one is expressed that is a fit matter for record, and the Secretary, making no reference to the opinon of the Lodge inserts and certifies it, he errs; but the record cannot be cancelled, the Lodge Book is not to be defaced, nor may the leaf be cut out. All the remedy is an entry of emendation or correction by the Master or under his direction or by a vote of the Lodge."
EDICTS AND RULINGS FROM 1825-1850
John Abbot, Grand Master
Page IV-39, 09/13/1826, regarding obligation to respond to a summons.
In a committee report concerning the relationship between the Fraternity and Masons unaffiliated with any Lodge, the following statement appears:
"Every Mason is bound to obey the summons of a Lodge of Master Masons and presented himself before then, if within the scope of his ability. There is no relation in which he can stand with the fraternity that can absolve a mason from this obligation. He may have sufficient excuse for not obeying a summons, and in that case it is his duty to lay his excuse before the summoning body which has the power of admitting it as satisfactory and it is presumed that it will always be ready to exercise this power liberally whenever a proper spirit is manifested. Thus a Lodge may excuse a Freemason for not performing this duty, but cannot absolve him from his obligation to perform it."
John Soley, Grand Master
Page IV-91, 06/13/1827, regarding the privilege of Lodges to meet in different towns.
"The prayer of of the petition of this ancient and respectable Lodge (Hiram, of West Cambridge) is for an authority to hold alternate meetings by semi annual changes at Lexington and West Cambridge. The reasons assigned are, that as the Members of this Lodge are nearly in equal numbers from each town, those living in West Cambridge are subject to inconvenience and expense in the discharge of their Masonic duties.
"The question therefore to be decided is, whether the inconvenience complained of will justify the Grand Lodge in granting the privilege which will in all probability be attended with many embarrassing consequences. On the one hand it would be very desirable to afford every facility to Lodges and members thus situated. On the other hand it is of the utmost importance that order and regularity should be preserved throughout the whole.
"Your Committee are of opinion that many Lodges under this jurisdiction are subject to similar inconveniences and would be entitled to all the rights and privileges which a precedent once placed on the records of the Grand Lodge would seem to warrant, although not in exact accordance with the present case. Applications of a like nature have been made to this Grand Lodge, which it is believed have in no instance been sustained. Among the many evils to be apprehended by such an indulgence are - a tendency to disturb the harmony of the present system, to unsettle the location of Lodges, and to encourage an itinerant spirit which the Grand Lodge have hitherto thought it their duty to suppress."
This petition was therefore not granted.
Joseph Jenkins, Grand Master
Page IV-270, 12/12/1832, regarding debt of a subordinate Lodge.
Cassia Lodge applied for financial assistance to the Grand Lodge but the request was denied. The committee report contained the following statement.
"Your Committee can find no precedent as far as their inquiries have extended, of the Grand Lodge paying the debts contracted by any subordinate Lodge.
"And when it is remembered that all the funds of the Grand Lodge have been invested in the Temple on Tremont Street, and that a large debt is due from the Grand Lodge, secured by a mortgage upon the Temple, the Committee are constrained to report that it is inexpedient to make any appropriation for Cassia Lodge."
Cassia Lodge was among those surrendering charters in 1834.
Augustus Peabody, Grand Master
Conferral of Degrees
Page IV-587, 03/09/1843, regarding the conferral of multiple degrees at the same meeting.
"The Most Worshipful Grand Master stated that he had been called upon for his opinion as to the propriety of the Lodges conferring more than one degree on the Same individual at one and the same meeting, and that he had expressed his conviction that the practice was irregular and injudicious, and ought not to be resorted to except in cases of pressing emergency, and then only by dispensation. Whereupon the Recording Grand Secretary offered the following order:
"Ordered. That from and after the passage of this order, it shall not be regular for any Lodge to give more than one degree to a Brother on the same day, nor at a less interval than one month from his receiving a previous degree, unless a dispensation shall be obtained therefor." (Adopted 06/14/1843, Page IV-598; referred to the committee on the Grand Constitutions, but this ruling was not included in the 1843 edition, and therefore should be considered as an edict in force. Note that a motion was proposed in March 1845, on Page V-22, to rescind this order and to reduce the month of elapsed time between degrees; this was not adopted. The full text of the committee report appears here.)
Augustus Peabody, Grand Master
Restoration of Charters
Page IV-683, 03/13/1844, regarding the obligations of petitioners on restoration of a revoked or surrendered charter.
The Brethren of The Tyrian Lodge, on petitioning for restoration of the Charter following the anti-Masonic period, brought up several questions when making the request of the Grand Lodge. A committee reported on these questions.
"To the first inquiry, viz., 'The Brethren of Tyrian Lodge who divided their funds in 1834 and now are unable to refund it back, ask advice whether Tyrian Lodge or the Grand Lodge ought to remit said amount to them,' your Committee are unanimously of the opinion that to remit would answer no good purpose for either the Grand Lodge or Tyrian Lodge, and it might lead to consequences which we should all find occasion to regret, as the Brethren have justly forfeited all their Masonic rights, by an abuse of Masonic privileges - and as there is no probability that they will hereafter be of any advantage to the institution your committee are of the opinion that a remission under such circumstances and consequent restoration to Masonic privileges would be inexpedient.
"Second inquiry, viz., several Brethren did not sign the petition to restore the Charter - will the Grand Lodge direct Tyrian Lodge to request all such members in Gloucester to refund whether petitioners or not? Or is that left to the discretion of Tyrian Lodge.'
In reference to the foregoing, your Committee are clearly of opinion that it is the duty of Tyrian Lodge to demand the immediate repayment of the money the brethren have thus wrongfully appropriated to their own private use. The funds of a Lodge is not the property of its members it belongs to the poor and needy; and to divide or pervert its use is a violation of Masonic Engagements, and under ordinary circumstances would be visited with the severest penalty known to our laws. It would seem to your committee that these Brethren were carried away by the popular delusion of the times and were led to believe that the institution had ceased to exist — but as the Lodges have now resumed their wonted activity and the sound of the gavel is every-where heard, this belief can no longer obtain — They must see their error — and it is hoped will promptly refund. But if they hold fast their ill begotten wealth — if they love the money, more than the institution, it is conclusive evidence that they are unworthy to participate in any of its privileges, and should be refused admission to any and all Lodges. In view of these facts your committee would recommend that Tyrian Lodge be directed, to demand in the name of the Grand Lodge the return of these funds.
"Third inquiry - 'To become a member of said Lodge a brother must be balloted for, pay a fee and sign the By-Laws — a Brother who has received his degrees in Tyrian Lodge before the Surrender of its Charter, claims the right of membership solely because the Charter is restored without any ballot, fee, or Signing of the By Laws.'
"The restoration of the Charter does not by any possibility of construction, confer upon the Brother here alluded to any rights or privileges that he did not enjoy previous to its surrender — consequently if he were not a member then, he certainly is not now. If the By-Laws of Tyrian Lodge require a ballot and a fee before a Brother can be admitted to membership, then there is not a shadow of Justice in the claim, nor can the Lodge admit him in any other than a regular & constitutional manner."
Augustus Peabody, Grand Master
Honorary Members (Grand Lodge)
Page V-51, 12/10/1845, regarding the creation of honorary members of the Grand Lodge.
"Brethren of eminence out of this State, who have rendered important services to the Craft, may, by a vote of this Grand Lodge duly confirmed, be constituted honorary members thereof, with such rank as the vote constituting them members shall designate." (This order was first applied at the December 27 meeting of that year, when Rt. Wor. George Oliver, D.D. was elected with the rank of Past Deputy Grand Master, and Rt. Wor. Robert Thomas Crucefix, M.D., was elected with the rank of Past Senior Grand Warden.)
Simon W. Robinson, Grand Master
Page V-131, 03/10/1847, regarding the conveyance of property.
"The Committee to whom was referred the petition of Union Lodge, Nantucket, have since the last report examined into the affairs of said Lodge and find that during the dark period of Anti-masonic excitement, they were the owners of a building valued at about Two Thousand dollars, which was held by Trustees.
"In 1833 the number of the Trustees was reduced to two, and the number of the members of the Lodge was greatly diminished. Very justly apprehending that in case the surviving Trustees should be taken away or the Lodge be disbanded, their interest in the building would be lost to the Fraternity — and there being no power in the Grand Lodge to hold real estate, the brethren came to the conclusion, after mature deliberation, that they should best discharge their duty, by conveying the property to the Coffin School Corporation — This was accordingly done in December 1835, and in terms which your Committee believe to be just and equitable. The Lodge relinquishes to the School, one fourth part of the interest arising from the funds, for and in consideration of the privilege of admission to the School, of the Orphan Children of the deceased masons on the Island, on the same terms as the Children of the Coffin family are received — And the Trustees of the School further engage to pay to the Lodge the remaining three fourths of the interest arising from the funds. — So far all is well — But the Lodge has gone one step farther, and made the Coffin School Corporation the residuary legatee in case the Lodge should ever be disbanded. This places the funds forever beyond the reach of the Grand Lodge, and here is the great error of the transaction.
"The Lodge did not masonically or morally possess the right to make such a conveyance. It was done in violation of established Masonic usage, and meets with the severest reprobation of your Committee."
Simon W. Robinson, Grand Master
Page V-173, 06/14/1848, one set of grounds for expulsion without formal trial.
A brother of a dissolved lodge held the Charter and other property of the Lodge (Mount Moriah Lodge of Reading) and refused to surrender it to officers of the Grand Lodge; he furthermore engaged in "contumacious and unmasonic conduct." By a unanimous vote of the Grand Lodge, the Brother was expelled from Masonry without trial.
Page V-217, 12/27/1848, a new 'Form of Summons' promulgated.
"By order of the Grand Master, a Form of Summons was adopted and ordered to be printed. This summons was directed to be used by subordinate Lodges when issuing summons to Brothers, per the provision in the 1843 Grand Constitutions.
Edward A. Raymond, Grand Master
Page V-255, 09/12/1849, regarding the powers and station of the Grand Master.
Powers of Grand Master
An extensive report was made concerning disputes and schism in the Grand Lodge of New York. The committee report contained the following statements.
"A Grand Lodge legally formed and constituted has from high antiquity, ample right to bear Masonic rule over those subject to its jurisdiction. A Grand Master duly qualified, sitting in open Lodge, clothed with the insignia of his office, have [has] an ample right to bear rule in his Lodge, to exact and receive obedience and courteous deportment from all in the Lodge. None but the Grand Master, unless by his consent, can put any questions to vote or declare the result.
"A Grand Master may err; he may act in gross violation of Masonic laws and usages, but his misconduct can never dissolve a Grand Lodge, or can it ever justify or excuse those in the Lodge, in deposing him from his Chair, or usurping his legal authority, disobeying his commands or treating him with disrespect. Much less can an individual or any number of individuals, of their own motion, declare the Grand Lodge dissolved for any cause whatever."