CHAPTER 32: MELVIN M. JOHNSON
At the annual Communication of 1913, R. W. Melvin M, Johnson was unanimously elected Grand Master.
Melvin Maynard Johnson was born in Waltham on May 11, 1871. Educated in the Waltham public schools he attended Tufts College, graduating therefrom in 1892. He received the degree of Bachelor of Laws, magna cum laude from Boston University in 1895 and has since been engaged in the practice of law in Boston. He joined the staff of the Boston University Law School as a Lecturer in 1918, became a Professor in 1920 and Dean in 1935. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Vermont in 1936.
He served the city of Waltham on the School Board, the Library Board, as Civil Service Commissioner, and as City Solicitor. He served on the Boards of several banks and was a Trustee of Tufts College from 1918 to 1938. He has been connected with numerous philanthropic agencies and various Bar Associations, including the American Law Institute, of which he is a Charter and Life Member. He is also a member of numerous social and educational clubs.
His Masonic career has been active and distinguished. A member of all the Bodies of both York and Scottish Rites, he was Master of his Lodge in 1902 and 1903 and Thrice Potent Master of Boston-Lafayette Lodge of Perfection in 1917 and 1918. Raised in Monitor Lodge in 1892, he was a Charter member of Boston University Lodge in 1927 and of Waltham Lodge in 1929.
M. W. Bro. Johnson began his service in Grand Lodge as a Trial Commissioner, being appointed while Master of Monitor Lodge. He was District Deputy Grand Master for the Fifth Masonic District in 1904 and 1905, Grand Marshal in 1996, 1907 and 1908, and Senior Grand Warden in 1909. He was a Director in 1909 and again after his retirement from the Grand Mastership and still holds the position.
When the Board of Masonic Relief was established in 1910 he was one of the first members elected and is still a member. He became an Honorary Member of the Supreme Council, 33°, in 1914, and Active Member in 1920 and Sovereign Grand Commander in 1933.
He is the New England representative on the Executive Committee of the Masonic Service Association and an original member of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association and was a Vice President 1916 to 1920, and has ever since been a Director and a member of the Executive Committee.
In addition to all this he has been very active in the work of the Order of DeMolay for boys since 1922 as Deputy for Massachusetts and an Active Member of the Grand Council.
One of the first tasks he undertook on assuming office was an examination of the records of the Grand Lodge from 1733 onwards. As a result of these researches he published in the Proceedings for 1916 brief biographical sketches of all the Grand Masters from Henry Price down to his own time. Later in the some year he published in the Proceedings Freemasonry in America prior to 1750. This was a careful collection, chronologically arranged, of all the known information on the subject of the early Masonic meetings in America during the period covered. This was published, with some additions, in the volume The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America. It is an invaluable source book for students of the period.
M. W. Bro. Johnson is a thorough student and untiringly industrious. One wonders how he has ever found time to accomplish all the things he has done. He Is a man of very distinguished appearance and charming manner. A speaker of very unusual gifts, he is one of the best known and most popular Masonic orators in the country.
As has already been pointed out, Grand Master Benton made brief addresses at each Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge during his administration. At the March Quarterly of 1914 Grand Master Johnson made an address which ran to some forty-five pages of the printed Proceedings. From that time on every Grand Master has made an elaborate address at each Quarterly. These addresses are of the greatest value and importance. They contain comment and advice on the several phases of Grand Lodge work and the rulings made by the Grand Master from time to time. They hove added very greatly to the interest of the meetings and have greatly increased attendance. For a considerable number of years a brief abstract of the proceedings has been sent to each Lodge immediately after each Quarterly, Through these abstracts the important parts of the Grand Muster’s addresses, rulings and decisions, and all Grand Lodge legislation are immediately distributed, with orders that they be read in all Lodges. In this way the Lodges are kept in constant touch with the Grand Lodge and the Grand Master.
The March address contained a full statement of the charity funds in the possession of the Masonic Education and Charity Trust with the income therefrom and a budget for the maintenance of the Home for the current year. It showed a probable deficit of nearly $5,000. The Grand Master pointed out that pending increase in the funds some measures would have to be taken to balance the budget annually.
Grand Master Benton had raised what was known as the Benton Subscription Fund. This was not included in the budget, as it was held for emergencies. There passed through this fund a total of about $8,500. This was used to meet insurance premiums and the last of it was paid out in 1923.
Grand Master Johnson issued an appeal to the Lodges to subscribe to a "Rainy Day Fund." This was to be held as on equalizing fund and was to be drawn upon as needed to balance the Home budget. The appeal was immediately successful, and the current deficit was provided for within six months. The appeal was renewed, and the annual contributions to the Rainy Day Fund took care of the deficit until the adoption of Grand Lodge dues in 1924 provided regular income in sufficient quantity. The considerable amount then remaining in the fund was set aside os an emergency fund and placed at the absolute disposal of the Grand Master to be used for purposes of Masonic Relief. The fund has proved of very great value. Twice, in one case a disastrous flood and in the other a devastating hurricane: the Grand Master has been able to extend needed relief without the slightest delay. A general statement to the Lodges of what was done has resulted in voluntary subscriptions sufficient to reimburse the fund almost or quite completely. A great number of emergencies on a smaller scale have been met in the same way.
On May 14, 15, and 16, 1914, a Conference of Grand Masters was held at St. Louis. Grand Master Johnson was unable to attend but deputized R. W. James M. Gleason to represent him, R. W. Bro. Gleason's report describes a very interesting and useful conference. Unlike those later held the Conference put itself on record by passing a number of resolutions 'perhaps the most important one was a declaration that it was "not Masonic courtesy" to require a part of the fee fordegrees conferred at the request of another Lodge. Occasionally for some years afterwards Lodges in foreign jurisdictions put in claims for fees for "courtesy" degrees conferred at the request of Massachusetts. Massachusetts has never put in any such, claims and has never honored them except to the extent of reimbursing money actually expended, such as the cost of lambskins. Ail such cases were amicably settled by correspondence between the Grand Secretaries.
Another resolution was that "An emergency or relief fund should be established by each Grand Lodge." Certainly this was a proper subject for discussion and for the expressions of opinion on the floor, but to the sensitive ear the resolution sounds a bit like an attempt at legislation quite outside the proper scope of the conference.
In 1914 the Grand Master arranged a Masonic Lecture course in the Boston Temple free to oil Masons. These lectures were published in the Proceedings and were of permanent value. This is particularly true of those delivered by R. W. Roscoe Pound. Similar courses were given in 1915 and 1916.
On June 25, 1914, Salem was visited by a disastrous fire. Conditions preventing the assembling of the Directors to provide the formal authorization, the Grand Master assumed the responsibility of ordering $500.00 to be sent immediately for Masonic relief. This was of course ratified in due time and no further contribution was needed.
On the outbreak of the World War Grand Master Johnson addressed a letter to the Grand Masters of the jurisdictions with which we were in fraternal intercourse and which were in the field of war. He expressed sympathy and fraternal affection for the Brethren in these lands which were involved. This Grand Lodge, while officially avoiding partisanship, could not let the hour pass without advising these Grand Lodges of the deep concern felt here for those of their members and their dependents who were suffering in body or estate. We wished to offer all the Masonic succor in our power consistent with citizenship in a neutral nation. The Grand Master begged to be informed of any such aid and or comfort to the afflicted Brethren or their families within our power to extend. It was a gracious and fraternal gesture. Formal replies were received from the Grand Lodges of England and Scotland. Both replies expressed warm appreciation, but declined aid us the Grand Lodges wore, for the time at least, able to attend to the needs of their own Brethren.
In the summer of 1914 a request for recognition was received from The National Independent and Regular Grand Lodge for France and the French Colonies. The request was referred to a Committee consisting of Charles T. Gallagher, Dana J. Flanders, and Everett C. Benton. The Committee reported elaborately. in June 1915. It found that the petitioning Grand Lodge had been recognized by England, and had a considerable proportion of Englishmen in its membership. It had actually three constituent Lodges with n prospect of four more after the war was over. There did not then appear to be essential differences between it and the old Grand Lodge of France which we had refused to recognize in 1907. The Committee recommended that the request be denied, and it was so voted.
The request for recognition was renewed in 1925. The membership was then twenty-five Lodges. The old French Grand Lodge Bodies were neither of them sound on the question of recognition of a Supreme Being, and therefore were outside the limits of possible recognition as Masonic. The new Grand Lodge was sound on this and other principles of Masonry as understood and practiced by the English speaking Grand Lodges. The Committee on Recognition of Foreign Grand Lodges recommended recognition in December 1926, and it was so voted.
During the second half of 1914, although nobody realized what the war was to mean before it was ended, the question of war relief was much to the fore. Several ill-considered schemes were proposed, all of which were dealt with by the Grand Master and the Directors with characteristic level-headedness. The most ambitious appeal came from the Grand Lodge of France (the old one). They said that they had decided to open (1) a hospital for wounded regardless of nationality or religion, (2) a service of free meals, and (3) a service of aid and assistance in their homes for sick women. All these were to be for the benefit of the profane as well as for Masons. very courteous and tactful reply assured the French that, waiving all questions of recognition, they hod our profound sympathy, but that we considered that Masonic money should be used for purely Masonic purposes and therefore could not contribute to funds largely to be used in general relief.
In September a letter was received from the Grand Master of Oregon asking if we would be willing to raise and contribute funds at the rate of one dollar per member per year for the aid of "distressed worthy members of our Fraternity, wives, widows and orphans, wheresoever dispersed through their respective grand jurisdictions, in the grief stricken zones of the nations at war." By whom and how the money was to be expended was to be decided later. He wanted the Grand Master to use his own authority and issue an immediate appeal to the Lodges.
The Grand Master replied warmly approving the charitable instincts expressed. The method of aiding our distressed Brethren should be very carefully considered. Our Grand bodge was ready to consider the matter, but the Grand Master believed that no appeal should be considered until a definite plan of relief should be outlined, based upon advice received from our Brethren in the nations involved.
Past Grand Master William B. Melish, of Ohio, wired a call for a conference of Grand Masters and other prominent Masons" to be held in Cincinnati for the purpose of a Masonic War belief Association of the United States. Grand Master Johnson replied somewhat at length that in his opinion such funds as were sent from the United States should be sent by each Grand Lodge to some well known and reliable European agency for distribution, rather than being placed in charge of some general American Committee. Massachusetts has already sent over more than three thousand dollars including a thousand dollars from one of our Lodges (St. Andrew) to the Grand Lodge of Scotland and another thousand to the Lodge organized within the London Honorable Artillery Company.
The call for conference resulted in the assembling of eighteen persons representing eight Grand Lodges. In two cases Grand Lodges were not represented by their by their own officers. The conference asked three questions; (1) would we be willing to raise and contribute funds for the relief of "the distressed worthy members of our Fraternity their widows and orphans wheresoever dispersed, and other destitute persons in the grief-stricken zones of the nations at war," (2) cannot this be done immediately? (3) could we not contribute from Grand Lodge funds and issue an immediate appeal to our Lodges for contributions." These funds were to be sent to a body in Ohio which could use them as it saw fit. Those matters were all referred to the Directors, who voted; "That, in the opinion of the Board of Directors as at present advised, Masonic aid from the Grand Body, should be extended through other well defined and already established channels rather than through a National Masonic movement."
All these movements were premature and ill-advised. They represented the immediate reaction of generous and sympathetic souls in face of a condition which they had no means of measuring. No one could foresee what the coming terrible four years held in. store. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, as always, was more wise, conservative, and cautious. It would not be stampeded by enthusiasm. It was ready and willing to do its part, but it must know what was to be done and how best to do it.
We hear no more of these matters until the United States entered the war and then we got busy to good purpose on our own War Relief Fund, as we shall see.
At the December Quarterly of 1914 Grand Master Johnson called attention to the fact that the Grand Lodge regalia did not correspond to the requirements of the Grand Constitutions. In 1855 a Committee had reported recommending the purchase of regalia for the first four officers of the Grand Lodge similar to that of the Grand Lodge of England. This was provided for in the Grand Constitutions of 1857. Aprons and collars were ordered from England. The only difference from that of England was that in our regalia the lining, edging, and strings were purple, while the English were garter blue. This regalia was burned in 1864. The regalia purchased to replace it was quite different, but all the Grand Lodge could then afford. In 1866 the Grand Lodge adopted a resolution that the regalia should conform to the Constitutional specifications "as soon as the funds of the Grand Lodge will admit of it." For years the Grand Lodge had to struggle hard to balance its budget, and nothing had ever been done about regalia. The Grand Master recommended that the resolutions of 1866 be revived and complied with. This was done and during 1915 the proper regalia was procured and is now in use. Later a new apron was procured for each Grand Master and is worn by him after his retirement from office. The Grand Masters’ aprons are made in London. The others are made locally.
At the December Quarterly of 1914, a Past Grand Master’s jewel was presented to the Junior Past Grand Master, M.W. Everett C. Benton. This was in accordance with a standing vote passed at the September Quarterly, that the Directors should prepare and present to the Junior Past Grand Master a jewel of standard pattern. The elaborate jewel then designed is still in use.
At the December Quarterly of 1912 Grand Master Benton had recommended the organization of our Lodges in China and Chile into District Grand Lodges. In 1914 the necessary Constitutional amendments were passed and in 1915 the Regulations for the government of District Grand Masters and District Grand Lodges were promulgated by the Grand Master. Later the Canal Zone was put under a District Grand Master. In Chile the system did not work so well. We had but three widely separated Lodges there and the numbers could not be increased. R. W. David Urquhart, who was appointed District Grand Master .was very well known and very popular among the Chileans, and was well received by them in his new dignity.
At his death in 1919 there was good reason to believe that while the Chileans made no protest they were not pleased at having a District Grand Lodge of another jurisdiction established within their territory. Accordingly R. W. Bro. Urquhart's position was not filled. The Chile District Grand Lodge was dissolved and the Lodges placed under charge of a District Deputy Grand Master, as they had previously been.
The legislation regarding overseas Lodges was completed in 1915 by an amendment under which the assessments for the Masonic Home Fund were not to be sent to Massachusetts but retained in the several Districts as District Grand Charity Funds and provision was made for their care and administration.
At the December Quarterly of 1914 Grand Master Johnson was re-elected. Grand Secretary Davis was re-elected, but died the day before the Feast of St. John after a very short illness. An Acting Recording Grand Secretary had to be appointed at once. Grand Master Johnson thought it best to appoint some who could not be considered a candidate when the time came for an election. Wor. Frank Vogel, head of the Department of Modern Languages in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, consented to serve. At the 1915 Annual Communication he was appointed Deputy Grand Master.
At the beginning of 1915 an accounting and supply office was organized. This was a timely end much needed reform. The business of supply, covering the sale and issue of a considerable variety of blanks and other necessary supplies, had been handled in the Grand Secretary's office. The Grand Lodge accounting had now become a rather serious matter. There was never the slightest doubt of the accuracy and honesty of the accounts, but the system of accounting, if system it could be called, had "growed" like Topsy. Now all the accounts were kept in one office. Regular books of account were opened in accordance with the best business methods. Receipts and expenditures were carefully distributed in numerous sub-heads and a full and accurate detailed picture of all business transactions was open for inspection at any time. The Auditing Committee of Grand Lodge members was abolished end a firm of Certified Public Accountants thereafter audited the accounts of the Grand Lodge and those of the Masonic Education and Charity Trust.
At the March Quarterly of 1915 R. W. Frederick W. Hamilton was unanimously elected Recording Grand Secretary.
Frederick W. Hamilton was born in Portland, Maine, March 30, 1860. He attended the Portland schools and Tufts College, from which he was graduated in 1870. On graduation he entered the service of the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad, now the Mountain Division of the Maine Central. In 1890 he took a special course at Tufts Theological School and entered the ministry of the Universalist Church. In 1905 he was elected President of Tufts College. In 1913 he resigned and took the post of Secretary of the Committee on Education of the United Typothetae of America, a Committee which was then engaged in working out an educational system for the great printing industry. He was a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Eduction from its organization in 1909 until it was again reorganized in 1920. He took a Master of Arts degree at Tufts in 1886 for work in history. Tufts gave him the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1899 and St. Lawrence University that of Doctor of Laws in 1906.
He was raised in Atlantic Lodge No. 81, of Portland, October 19, 1881, dimitted In 1892 and affiliated with Union Lodge No. 10, of Pawtucket, R. I. dimitted therefrom in 1900 and joined Washington Lodge of Roxbury of which he was Master in 1910. In 1912 he was a Charter member and first Master of Somerville Lodge. He was appointed Deputy Grand Master in December 1914, vacating that position on his installation as Recording Grand Secretary. He is a member of St. Andrew's Chapter, Boston Council, and St. Bernard's Commandery, of which he is a Past Commander. He took membership in the Scottish Rite Bodies in 1905 and 1906. He became an Honorary Member of the Supreme Council in 1909 and an Active Member in 1911.
Grand Master Johnson appointed Wor. Roscoe Pound to the vacant post of Deputy Grand Master. R. W. Bro. Pound was a great addition to the permanent membership of the Grand Lodge. Ho had been Master of a Lodge in Nebraska, and was perhaps the foremost Masonic scholar in the United States, He was a member of the Faculty of the Harvard Law School and for many years its Dean.
At the June Quarterly the Grand Master promulgated the regulations concerning District Grand Masters and District Grand Lodges which are still in force.
At the same meeting the office of Corresponding Grand Secretary was abolished by constitutional amendment, as was the title of Recording Grand Secretary. Since then there has been but one Grand Secretary.
The office of Corresponding Grand Secretary was created by the Grand Lodge in 1801. It was an appointive office and R. W. Thaddeus Mason Harris was the first incumbent. The division of duty between a Grand Secretary who should keep the records and another who should conduct the correspondence of the Grand Lodge proved unworkable. There appears to have been at one time some thought that the Corresponding Grand Secretary might do the reviewing work of revising the Proceedings of other Grand Lodges which is done by Committees on Foreign Correspondence in most Grand Lodges, but it never worked out. The office soon became a a sinecure, simply giving a seat in Grand Lodge to some Brother of distinguished intellectual and literary attainments. All the work was done by the Recording Grand Secretary. For that reason throughout this work the Recording Grand Secretary has been designated simply as the Grand Secretary. In 1914 Dr. William L. Richardson, who had held the office for a considerable time, declined reappointment, and Grand Master Johnson loft the position vacant.
A question had arisen as to the proper title of Past District Deputy Grand Masters. By the Constitutions of 1811 District Deputy Grand Masters "Past or in Office” were accorded the title of ”Right Worshipful.” The Constitutions of 1843 were silent on the subject, proscribing the titles only of "Officers and Members of the Grand Lodge." The Proceedings from 1843 to 1894 refer to Past District Deputy Grand Masters as Right Worshipful. At some time between September end December 1894 the title was dropped. This was not done by any action of the Grand Lodge or of the Grand Master. It appears to have been the act of the Grand Secretary, who had the opportunity, but not the authority, to make the change. Reviewing the case in response to a request for a ruling Grand Master Johnson ruled at the June Quarterly that "District Deputy Grand Masters, past or in Office, and are as a matter of Masonic right to he called ’'Right Worshipful."
At the same Quarterly Grand Master Johnson called attention to certain improper practice, of an almost incredibly lax nature which had crept into some Lodges. In some cases two degrees were worked simultaneously in separate halls. In others a part of a degree was omitted and subsequently given to the candidate at a sodality. Believing that the Masters who had done these things were acting in good faith no disciplinary action had been token. Such practices were absolutely forbidden, with a warning that future cases would be dealt with and a stern reminder that Charters had been arrested for less.
The old question of a Committee on Correspondence came up again at the June Quarterly. The Grand Master had appointed a Committee consisting of Charles T. Gallagher, Frank Vogel, and William H. Rider to report on the advisability of creating such a Committee. At the June Quarterly the Committee presented an elaborate report and recommended that legislation was inexpedient. The recommendation was unanimously adopted.
Grand Master Benton had recommended the appointment of a Committee to consider the general question of recognition of foreign Grand Lodges. A Committee of five was a pointed at the December Quarterly of 1913. The Committee asked to bo discharged at the June Quarterly of 1913, on the ground that "the terrible condition of affairs in Europe involving every Masonic jurisdiction to such an extent that any satisfactory consideration of tie subject cannot be thought of for months and perhaps years, is a sufficient reason for asking to be relieved." The Committee was accordingly discharged.
At the September Quarterly of 1915 Grand Master Johnson set forth clearly the procedure to be followed in case of the mental or physical disqualifications of a Master. The immediate occasion of the statement was the disqualification of a Master by reason of insanity. The Master of a Lodge cannot resign. If he dies, dimits, is suspended, deposed, disabled, or absent, the Senior Warden assumes the chair. The office must remain vacant until the next annual election. The Senior Warden becomes "Senior Warden, Acting Master." He has all the powers and prerogatives of the Master, except that of being covered in the Lodge. He appoints officers to fill the stations vacated, but these appointments are from meeting to meeting only and should be so recorded by the Secretary. If the Senior Warden is disqualified or absent the Junior Warden becomes acting Master. If all these officers are disqualified or absent the facts should immediately be made known to the District Deputy Grand Master for the District who will fill the choir himself or,if that be impossible, the Grand Master will preside or commission a special deputy for the purpose.
At the same Quarterly the Grand Master reported that he had received several requests for rulings concerning the physical qualifications of particular candidates for the degrees. After stating the law as to physical qualifications and the ruling of Grand Master Gardner, approved by the Grand Lodge in 1871, the Grand Master stated that he refused consistently to pass upon these questions. It is the duty of the Master to apply the law in all such oases and to rule accordingly. Such questions are constantly rising, but the rule set forth by Grand Master Johnson is consistently followed.
At the same Quarterly the Grand Master called attention to the fact that the body of Jeremy Gridley, Provincial Grand Master from 1755 until his death in 1767, was in an unmarked grave in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston and recommended that the Grand Master with the advice and consent of the Directors, be given authority to erect a suitable monument to his memory.
Authority was given and a table monument, of the sort used in the eighteenth century,was duly placed over Gridley's grave and dedicated with full ceremony on May 11, 1916. The tombstone is very simple and dignified, as well as beautiful. The Grand Secretary, who was then a member of the State Board of Education, took the matter up with the head master of the Massachusetts Normal Art School and the project for such a tombstone was submitted to a class in design as a class exercise. The design used was submitted from the class and adopted by the Grand Master. A smell honorarium was given to the designer.
At the September Quarterly the Grand Master reported that he had received a petition for a Dispensation for a Lodge to be located at Peking (Peiping) China and to be called International Lodge. The petition was signed by thirteen Master Masons, three of whom were Chinese who had been raised in Washington, D.C.
This petition had raised five questions. (1) the personnel of the petitioners, (h) the field of usefulness, (3) the relations of the proposed Lodge to the civil government, (4) the eligibillty of candidates who subscribed to the prevailing Oriental religions, (5) the adaptability for of our ritual working under such material. The Grand Master had considered all these questions at length and reported that he had resolved them satisfactorily and gave the grounds for his conclusions. He had, accordingly, issued the Dispensation. He considered the fourth and fifth questions, however, to be of such moment that he desired the judgment and advice of the Grand Lodge upon them. he therefore had appointed n Committee consisting of M. W. Edwin B. Holmes, R. W. Roscoe Pound, R. W. Leon M. Abbott, R. W. Frederick W. Hamilton, and W. and Rev. R. Perry Bush to take these questions under consideration and to report to the Grand Lodge such action thereon as might seem advisable. Definite and final determination of these questions should now be recorded and promulgated for future guidance.
The Committee presented a unanimous report at the December Quarterly. After citing the uniform practice of the Grand Lodge of England since 1776, and quoting the works of Masonic writers and of Orientalists of the highest authority, the Committee concluded that, "the conclusions of the Grand Master upon the two questions referred (the eligibility of candidates who subscribe to prevailing Oriental religions, and to adaptability of our rites to the working of such material) are in its opinion beyond controversy, being sustained by long precedent and usage, by the clearest deduction from the fundamental tenets of the Fraternity, and by the concurrent testimony of Masonic scholars.' The report was accepted and adopted.
It need only be added, as testimony to the perspicacity (?) f the Committees on Foreign Correspondence that several of these announced in their reports that the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts had abolished the Bible from the altar.
At the December Quarterly the Grand Master was authorized to petition the Legislature to amend the Charter of the Grand Lodge to permit it to hold real estate to the value $5,000,000 and personal property to the value of $1,000,000, and the trust of the Masonic Education and Charity Trust to hold property to the value of $5,000,000. The petitions wore filed, granted by the Legislature, and the enabling acts wen signed by the Governor February 2, 1916.
At the March Quarterly of 1916 the Grand Master called attention to the pestilential nuisance of chain letters and said that all such appeals should be promptly consigned to the waste basket. There were several recurrences of this nuisance within tie next few years. Some were appeals for money. One particularly exasperating one was a silly and superstitious "Masonic prayer," which promised all sorts of good fortune if the chain was continued and dire misfortune if it was broken. All of these were denounced by the Grand Master, but apparently not with complete success in suppressing their circulation.
Early in 1916 an Employment Bureau supported by contributions from the greater Boston Lodges, was opened in the office of the Relief Commissioner. Its purpose was to find employment for Masonic applicants without any fee for the service. The Bureau was operated for several years, but with very unsatisfactory results. There was question of unfair competition with licensed employment agencies. It was not found possible to make sufficient and satisfactory contacts with employers. Many applicants, not without some reason, felt that the Bureau must and could find employment for them because of their Masonic membership. Some of these applicants were really unemployable. The number of applications greatly exceeded the possible placements and the result was wide spread. disappointment and dissatisfaction which was damaging to the Fraternity.
As a result the Bureau was finally abandoned. After the establishment of the Masonic Service Department many placements were secured, although this is only a minor part of the Department’s activities.
At the June Quarterly the Grand Master presented sketches of all the Past Grand Masters in alphabetical order, accompanied in many cases by portraits. In oases where biographical sketches or portraits had already appeared in the Proceedings the proper citations were given. Some of the sketches given by the Grand Master were the results of much patient investigation on his part. Tho result, is an invaluable compendium of information regarding our Past Grand Masters.
At the September Quarterly of 1916, Grand Master Johnson dwelt at some length on the matter of Masonic burial. The occasion was the refusal of a Master to give Masonic burial in a ease where the nephew of the deceased Brother claimed that the deceased had told members of the family that he desired such burial.
The Grand Master pointed out the distinction between the "Right of Burial" and the "Privilege of Burial." The right exists only where the deceased himself made the request and communicated it to the Lodge, The privilege exists in two cases (1) where a Lodge other than his own is requested and voluntarily consents to perform the service, and (2) when the request has not been made by the deceased but does come from the family.
In case (1) there is no obligation in Masonic low. The Master must act according to the dictates of his heart and conscience. In case (2) Masonic burial cannot be had without a Dispensation from the Grand Master. In such cases where the request Is not dictated by a desire for display, but represents a veal reaching out by the family for sympathy and comfort, dispensation is never refused.
At the September Quarterly a Committee consisting of R. W. Louis C. Southard, R. W. Gurdon W. Gordon, and R. W. John H. Schoonmaker, made a report of considerable importance because of the legal points involved.
The Master of a certain Lodge failed of re-election. There followed an epidemic of rejections. The members of the Lodge were convinced in their own minds that the rejections wore the work of the defeated Master. A member of the Lodge introduced the following resolution; "the bearing, deportment, and general conduct of Worshipful Brother _____ for some time past has been such as to render his continued membership incompatible with legitimate Masonic purposes, the interest and harmony of the Lodge and therefore said membership be and is hereby terminated."
The Master appointed a Committee on the resolution and the respondent was notified that the Committee would meet at a certain date at which time he might appear and be heard if he so desired. The respondent met the Committee and asked what was alleged against him, and could get nothing from them except the resolution itself. The respondent was later notified that a special meeting of the Lodge would be held on a certain date to hear and act upon the report of the Committee. At the meeting the respondent was present with counsel. Protest was made against the proposed action of the Lodge and the legal right of the Lodge to proceed as it was proceeding. During the discussion, which was prolonged, several members asked what the charges were against the respondent. As before, the only reply was a reading of the resolution, which was done several times. Finally the resolution w&b adopted by a vote of 57 to 18, there being 76 present and all voting except the Master.
The discharged Master appealed to the Grand Lodge, claiming that he had been unjustly, unmasonically, and illegally deprived of his membership rights, that no charges were preferred against him, no trial had, and no opportunity given him for defense.
The Committee on the appeal found that the Lodge had an unquestionable right to try a member and discharge him from membership. This conclusion was abundantly supported by precedents which were quoted, and by citations from accepted Masonic authorities. The Committee, however, further held that the discharging resolution was not sufficiently definite. "There were no allegations of definite acts which could be proved or disapproved, and therefore the appellant did not have the full and free trial which Masonic law and custom demand. The Committee recommended that the appeal be sustained and it was so voted.
This action was important for its affirmation of two things. First, a Lodge is the ultimate judge of its own membership. In admissions, suspensions, or discharges the Grand Lodge can not intervene except to inquire into regularity of procedure. Second: a Mason cannot be tried on general accusations. There must be specific allegations of facts upon which an issue can be framed.
Some years later a Lodge sent charges against a member to the Trial Commissioners. The charges simply alleged that the member was dishonest. The Commissioners remanded the charges and demanded that specific acts of dishonesty be specified. This the Lodge could not, or would not, do and nothing further was heard of the case.
It is interesting to note that the Past Master whose troubles have been described shortly afterward took a dimit and disappeared from sight. At the December Quarterly of 1916 Grand Master Johnson, having taken the advice of a Committee, made the following important ruling. The question was: "Is it a Masonic offense for a member of the Craft to disclose his standing or the standing of any member of his Lodge to a person or persons not members of the Craft?" The ruling was:
- If the Brother's report, so far as Masonic standing is concerned, states merely the fact as to whether the petitioner (to the Order of the Eastern Star) is affiliated with a Masonic Lodge under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, the Brother in so reporting has not committed a Masonic offense.
- If said Brother in his said report discloses or tends to disclose the private affairs of a Masonic Lodge under the jurisdiction of said Grand Lodge he commits a Masonic offense.
In other words the only answer to be given to such an inquiry is that a man is not a member of a certain Lodge. This puts a stop to a common, but very incorrect, habit of saying that a man whoso dues were in arrears, was a member of a Lodge, but not in good standing. Under Massachusetts Law and practice there can be no such thing as a member not in good standing. A member of a Lodge is in good standing, that is to say, in full enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of membership, no matter how his accounts stand, unless and until he has been suspended, discharged, or expelled by his Lodge or by Grand Lodge. After action has been taken his name is removed from the Lodge roster and he is no longer a member.
At the December Quarterly a long communication, with supporting documents, was received asking recognition for a recently organized Grand Lodge of the Republic of Panama. The papers, which were voluminous, were ordered read by title and the Grand Master announced that the petition would be received and referred to a Committee.
The notable administration of Grand Master Johnson ended with 1916.