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
When the Brethren have been "congregated," or called together by the presiding officer, the first thing to be attended to is the ceremony of opening the lodge. The consideration of this subject, as it is sufficiently detailed in our ritual, will form no part of the present work.
The lodge having been opened, the next thing to be attended to is the reading of the minutes of the last communication. The minutes having been read, the presiding officer will put the question on their confirmation, having first inquired of the Senior and Junior Wardens and lastly of the Brethren "around the lodge," whether they have any alterations to propose. It must be borne in mind, that the question of confirmation is simply a question whether the Secretary has faithfully and correctly recorded the transactions of the lodge. If, therefore, it can be satisfactorily shown by any one that there is a mis entry, or the omission of an entry, this is the time to correct it, and where the matter is of sufficient importance and the recording officer, or any member disputes the charge of error, the vote of the lodge will be taken on the subject and the journal will be amended or remain as written, according to the opinion so expressed by the majority of the members. As this is, however, a mere question of memory, it must be apparent that those members only who were present at the previous communication, the records of which are under examination, are qualified to express a fair opinion. All others should ask and be permitted to be excused from voting.
As no special communication can alter or amend the proceedings of a regular one, it is not deemed necessary to present the records of the latter to the inspection of the former. This preliminary reading of the minutes is, therefore, always omitted at special communications.
After the reading of the minutes, unfinished business, such as motions previously submitted and reports of committees previously appointed, will take the preference of all other matters. Special communications being called for the consideration of some special subject, that subject must of course claim the priority of consideration over all others.
In like manner, where any business has been specially and specifically postponed to another communication, it constitutes at that communication what is called, in parliamentary law, "the order of the day," and may at any time in the course of the evening be called up, to the exclusion of all other business.
The lodge may, however, at its discretion, refuse to take up the consideration of such order, for the same body which determined at one time to consider a question, may at another time refuse to do so. This is one of those instances in which parliamentary usage is applicable to the government of a lodge. Jefferson says: "Where an order is made, that any particular matter be taken up on any particular day, there a question is to be put, when it is called for, Whether the house will now proceed to that matter?" In a lodge, however, it is not the usage to propose such a question, but the matter being called up, is discussed and acted on, unless some Brother moves its postponement, when the question of postponement is put. But with these exceptions, the unfinished business must first be disposed of, to avoid its accumulation and its possible subsequent neglect. [One of the ancient charges, which Preston tells us that it was the constant practice of our Ancient Brethren to rehearse at the opening and closing of the lodge, seems to refer to this rule, when it says, "the Master, Wardens and Brethren are just and faithful and carefully finish the work they begin."Oliver's Preston, p. 27, note (U.M.L., vol. iii., p. 22).]
New business will then be taken up in such order as the local bye-laws prescribe, or the wisdom of the Worshipful Master may suggest.
In a discussion, when any member wishes to speak, he must stand up in his place and address himself not to the lodge, nor to any particular Brother, but to the presiding officer, styling him "Worshipful."
When two or more members rise nearly together, the presiding officer determines who is entitled to speak and calls him by his name, whereupon he proceeds, unless he voluntarily sits down and gives way to the other. The ordinary rules of courtesy, which should govern a Masonic body above all other societies, as well as the general usage of deliberative bodies, require that the one first up should be entitled to the floor. But the decision of this fact is left entirely to the Master, or presiding officer.
Whether a member be entitled to speak once or twice to the same question, is left to the regulation of the local bye-laws of every lodge. But, under all circumstances, it seems to be conceded, that a member may rise at any time with the permission of the presiding officer, or for the purpose of explanation.
A member may be called to order by any other while speaking, for the use of any indecorous remark, personal allusion, or irrelevant matter, but this must be done in a courteous and conciliatory manner and the question of order will at once be decided by the presiding officer.
No Brother is to be interrupted while speaking, except for the purpose of calling him to order, or to make a necessary explanation, nor are any separate conversations, or, as they are called in our ancient charges, "private committees," to be allowed.
Every member of the Order is, in the course of the debate as well as at all other times in the lodge, to be addressed by the title of "Brother," and no secular or worldly titles are ever to be used.
In accordance with the principles of justice, the parliamentary usage is adopted, which permits the mover of a resolution to make the concluding speech, that he may reply to all those who have spoken against it and sum up the arguments in its favor. And it would be a breach of order as well as of courtesy for any of his opponents to respond to this final argument of the mover.
It is within the discretion of the Master, at any time in the course of the evening, to suspend the business of the lodge for the purpose of proceeding to the ceremony of initiation, for the "work" of Masonry, as it is technically called, takes precedence of all other business.
When all business, both old and new and the initiation of candidates, if there be any, has been disposed of, the presiding officer inquires of the officers and members if there be anything more to be proposed before closing. Custom has prescribed a formulary for making this inquiry, which is in the following words.
The Worshipful Master, addressing the Senior and Junior Wardens and then the Brethren, successively, says: "Brother Senior, have you anything to offer in the West for the good of Masonry in general or of this lodge in particular? Anything in the South, Brother Junior? Around the lodge, Brethren?" The answers to these inquiries being in the negative on the part of the Wardens and silence on that of the craft, the Master proceeds to close the lodge in the manner prescribed in the ritual.
The reading of the minutes of the evening, not for confirmation, but for suggestion, lest anything may have been omitted, should always precede the closing ceremonies, unless, from the lateness of the hour, it be dispensed with by the members.