from the book "THE PRINCIPLES OF MASONIC LAW"
A Treatise on the Constitutional Laws, Usages And Landmarks of Freemasonry
by Dr.Albert Gallatin Mackey, 1856
In respect to the powers and privileges possessed by a lodge working under a warrant of constitution, we may say, as a general principle, that whatever it does possess is inherent in itnothing has been delegated by either the Grand Master or the Grand Lodgebut that all its rights and powers are derived originally from the ancient regulations, made before the existence of Grand Lodges and that what it does not possess, are the powers which were conceded by its predecessors to the Grand Lodge. This is evident from the history of warrants of constitution, the authority under which subordinate lodges act. The practice of applying by petition to the Grand Master or the Grand Lodge, for a warrant to meet as a regular lodge, commenced in the year 1718. Previous to that time, Freemasons were empowered by inherent privileges, vested, from time immemorial, in the whole fraternity, to meet as occasion might require, under the direction of some able architect, and the proceedings of these meetings, being approved by a majority of the Brethren convened at another lodge in the same district, were deemed constitutional. [Preston, Append., n. 4 (U.M.L., vol. iii., pp. 150, 151). But in 1718, a year after the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, this power of meeting ad libitum was resigned into the hands of that body and it was then agreed that no lodges should thereafter meet, unless authorized so to do by a warrant from the Grand Master and with the consent of the Grand Lodge. But as a memorial that this abandonment of the ancient right was entirely voluntary, it was at the same time resolved that this inherent privilege should continue to be enjoyed by the four old lodges who formed the Grand Lodge. And, still more effectually to secure the reserved rights of the lodges, it was also solemnly determined, that while the Grand Lodge possesses the inherent right of making new regulations for the good of the fraternity, provided that the old landmarks be carefully preserved, yet that these regulations, to be of force, must be proposed and agreed to at the third quarterly communication preceding the annual grand feast and submitted to the perusal of all the Brethren, in writing, even of the youngest entered apprentice, "the approbation and consent of the majority of all the Brethren present being absolutely necessary, to make the same binding and obligatory." [Book of Constitutions, orig. ed, p., 70 (U.M.L., vol. xv., book 1, p. 70).]
The corollary from all this is clear. All the rights, powers and privileges, not conceded, by express enactment of the fraternity, to the Grand Lodge, have been reserved to themselves. Subordinate lodges are the assemblies of the craft in their primary capacity and the Grand Lodge is the Supreme Masonic Tribunal, only because it consists of and is constituted by a representation of these primary assemblies. And, therefore, as every act of the Grand Lodge is an act of the whole fraternity thus represented, each new regulation that may be made is not an assumption of authority on the part of the Grand Lodge, but a new concession on the part of the subordinate lodges.
This doctrine of the reserved rights of the lodges is very important and should never be forgotten, because it affords much aid in the decision of many obscure points of Masonic jurisprudence. The rule is, that any doubtful power exists and is inherent in the subordinate lodges, unless there is an express regulation conferring it on the Grand Lodge. With this preliminary view, we may proceed to investigate the nature and extent of these reserved powers of the subordinate lodges.
A lodge has the right of selecting its own members, with which the Grand Lodge cannot interfere. This is a right that the lodges have expressly reserved to themselves and the stipulation is inserted in the "general regulations" in the following words, "No man can be entered a Brother in any particular lodge, or admitted a member thereof, without the unanimous consent of all the members of that lodge then present, when the candidate is proposed and when their consent is formally asked by the Master. They are to give their consent in their own prudent way, either virtually or in form, but with unanimity. Nor is this inherent privilege subject to a dispensation, because the members of a particular lodge are the best judges of it, and because, if a turbulent member should be imposed upon them, it might spoil their harmony, or hinder the freedom of their communication, or even break and disperse the lodge, which ought to be avoided by all true and faithful." [General Regulations of 1722. A subsequent regulation permitted the election of a candidate, if there were not more than three black balls against him, provided the lodge desired such a relaxation of the rule. The lodges of this country, however, very generally and, as I think, with propriety, require unanimity. The subject will be hereafter discussed.]
But although a lodge has the inherent right to require unanimity in the election of a candidate, it is not necessarily restricted to such a degree of rigor.
A lodge has the right to elect its own officers. This right is guaranteed to it by the words of the Warrant of Constitution. Still the right is subject to certain restraining regulations. The election must be held at the proper time, which, according to the usage of Masonry, in most parts of the world, is on or immediately before the festival of St. John the Evangelist. The proper qualifications must be regarded. A member cannot be elected as Master, unless he has previously served as a Warden, except in the instance of a new lodge, or other case of emergency. Where both of the Wardens refuse promotion, where the presiding Master will not permit himself to be reelected and where there is no Past Master who will consent to take the office, then and then only, can a member be elected from the floor to preside over the lodge.
By the Constitutions of England, only the Master and Treasurer are elected officers.[ Every lodge shall annually elect its Master and Treasurer by ballot. Such Master having been regularly appointed and having served as Warden of a warranted lodge for one year. Constitutions of the Ancient Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, published by authority of the United Grand Lodge of England, 1847, p. 58 (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1).]
The Wardens and all the other officers are appointed by the Master, who has not, however, the power of removal after appointment, except by consent of the lodge,[ The Wardens, or officers, of a lodge cannot be removed, unless for a cause which appears to the lodge to be sufficient; but the Master, if he be dissatisfied with the conduct of any of his officers, may lay the cause of complaint before the lodge; and, if it shall appear to the majority of the Brethren present that the complaint be well founded, he shall have power to displace such officer and to nominate another. English Constitutions, as above, p. 80 (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1).]
but American usage gives the election of all the officers, except the deacons, stewards and, in some instances, the tiler, to the lodge.
As a consequence of the right of election, every lodge has the power of installing its officers, subject to the same regulations, in relation to time and qualifications, as given in the case of elections.
The Master must be installed by a Past Master, [It is not necessary that he should be a Past Master of the lodge.] but after his own installation he has the power to install the rest of the officers. The ceremony of installation is not a mere vain and idle one, but is productive of important results. Until the Master and Wardens of a lodge are installed, they cannot represent the lodge in the Grand Lodge, nor, if it be a new lodge, can it be recorded and recognized on the register of the Grand Lodge. No officer can permanently take possession of the office to which he has been elected, until he has been duly installed.[ No master shall assume the Master's chair, until he shall have been regularly installed, though he may in the interim rule the lodge. English Constitutions (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1).]
The rule of the craft is, that the old officer holds on until his successor is installed and this rule is of universal application to officers of every grade, from the Tiler of a subordinate lodge, to the Grand Master of Masons.
Every lodge that has been duly constituted and its officers installed, is entitled to be represented in the Grand Lodge and to form, indeed, a constituent part of that body.[ Every Warranted Lodge is a constituent part of the Grand Lodge, in which assembly all the power of the fraternity resides. English Constitutions, p. 70 (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1)]
The representatives of a lodge are its Master and two Wardens.[ We shall not here discuss the question whether Past Masters are members of the Grand Lodge, by inherent right, as that subject will be more appropriately investigated when we come to speak of the Law of Grand Lodges, in a future chapter. They are, however clearly, not the representatives of their lodge]
This character of representation was established in 1718, when the four old lodges, which organized the Grand Lodge of England, agreed "to extend their patronage to every lodge which should hereafter be constituted by the Grand Lodge, according to the new regulations of the society, and while such lodges acted in conformity to the ancient constitutions of the Order, to admit their Masters and Wardens to share with them all the privileges of the Grand Lodge, excepting precedence of rank." [ Preston, p. 167 (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 151).]
Formerly all Master Masons were permitted to sit in the Grand Lodge, or, as it was then called, the General Assembly and represent their lodge, and therefore this restricting the representation to the three superior officers was, in fact, a concession of the craft. This regulation is still generally observed, but I regret to see a few Grand Lodges in this country innovating on the usage and still further confining the representation to the Masters alone.
The Master and Wardens are not merely in name the representatives of the lodge, but are bound, on all questions that come before the Grand Lodge, truly to represent their lodge and vote according to its instructions. This doctrine is expressly laid down in the General Regulations, in the following words, "The majority of every particular lodge, when congregated, not else, shall have the privilege of giving instructions to their Master and Wardens, before the meeting of the Grand Chapter, or Quarterly Communication, because the said officers are their representatives and are supposed to speak the sentiments of their Brethren at the said Grand Lodge."
[General Regulations. Of the duty of members, Art. X, (U.M.L., vol. xv., book 1, p. 61).]
Every lodge has the power to frame bye-laws for its own government, provided they are not contrary to, nor inconsistent with, the general regulations of the Grand Lodge, nor the landmarks of the order. [English Constitutions, p. 59 (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1).]
But these bye-laws will not be valid, until they are submitted to and approved by the Grand Lodge. And this is the case, also, with every subsequent alteration of them, which must in like manner be submitted to the Grand Lodge for its approval.
A lodge has the right of suspending or excluding a member from his membership in the lodge, but it has no power to expel him from the rights and privileges of Masonry, except with the consent of the Grand Lodge. A subordinate lodge tries its delinquent member and, if guilty, declares him expelled, but the sentence is of no force until the Grand Lodge, under whose jurisdiction it is working, has confirmed it. And it is optional with the Grand Lodge to do so, or, as is frequently done, to reverse the decision and reinstate the Brother. Some of the lodges in this country claim the right to expel, independently of the action of the Grand Lodge, but the claim is not valid. The very fact that an expulsion is a penalty, affecting the general relations of the punished party with the whole fraternity, proves that its exercise never could, with propriety, be intrusted to a body so circumscribed in its authority as a subordinate lodge. Accordingly, the general practice of the fraternity is opposed to it, and therefore all expulsions are reported to the Grand Lodge, not merely as matters of information, but that they may be confirmed by that body. The English Constitutions are explicit on this subject. "In the Grand Lodge alone," they declare, "resides the power of erasing lodges and expelling Brethren from the craft, a power which it ought not to delegate to any subordinate authority in England." They allow, however, a subordinate lodge to exclude a member from the lodge, in which case he is furnished with a certificate of the circumstances of his exclusion and then may join any other lodge that will accept him, after being made acquainted with the fact of his exclusion and its cause. This usage has not been adopted in this country.
A lodge has a right to levy such annual contribution for membership as the majority of the Brethren see fit. This is entirely a matter of contract, with which the Grand Lodge, or the craft in general, have nothing to do. It is, indeed, a modern usage, unknown to the fraternity of former times and was instituted for the convenience and support of the private lodges.
A lodge is entitled to select a name for itself, to be, however, approved by the Grand Lodge.[ English Constitutions, p. 59 (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1)]
But the Grand Lodge alone has the power of designating the number by which the lodge shall be distinguished. By its number alone is every lodge recognized in the register of the Grand Lodge and according to their numbers is the precedence of the lodges regulated.
Finally, a lodge has certain rights in relation to its Warrant of Constitution. This instrument having been granted by the Grand Lodge, can be revoked by no other authority. The Grand Master, therefore, has no power, as he has in the case of a lodge under dispensation, to withdraw its Warrant, except temporarily, until the next meeting of the Grand Lodge. Nor is it in the power of even the majority of the lodge, by any act of their own, to resign the Warrant. For it has been laid down as a law, that if the majority of the lodge should determine to quit the lodge, or to resign their warrant, such action would be of no efficacy, because the Warrant of Constitution and the power of assembling, would remain with the rest of the members, who adhere to their allegiance. [English Constitutions, p. 59 (U.M.L., vol. ix., book 1).]
But if all the members withdraw themselves, their Warrant ceases and becomes extinct. If the conduct of a lodge has been such as clearly to forfeit its charter, the Grand Lodge alone can decide that question and pronounce the forfeiture.