from the book Encylcopedia of Freemasonry & its Kindred Sciences
by Albert C. Mackey M. D.
This book is in the public domain.
The Document which authorizes or gives a Warrant to certain persons therein named to organize and constitute a Lodge, Chapter, or other Masonic Body, and which ends usually with the formula, "for which this shall be your sufficient Warrant "
The practice of granting Warrants for the Constitution of Lodges, dates only from the period of the Revival of Freemasonry in 1717 Previous to that period "a sufficient number oƒ brethren," says Preston (Illustrations, edition of 1792, page 248), "met together within a certain district, had ample power to make Masons, and discharge every duty of Masonry without a Warrant of Constitution " But in 1717 a regulation was adopted "that the privilege of assembling as Masons, which had been hitherto unlimited, should be vested in certain Lodges or assemblies of Masons convened in certain places; and that every Lodge to be hereafter Convened, except the four old Lodges at this time existing, should be legally authorized to act by a Warrant from the Grand Master, for the time being, granted to certain individuals by petition, with the Consent and approbation of the Grand Lodge in communication; and that without such Warrant no Lodge should be hereafter deemed regular or Constitutional "
Consequently ever Since the adoption of that regulation, no Lodge has been regular unless it is working under such an authority The Word Warrant is appropriately used, because in its legal acceptation it means a document giving authority to perform some Specified act In England, the Warrant of Constitution emanates frown the Grand Master; in the United states from the Grand Lodge in America, the Grand Master grants only a dispensation to hold a Lodge, which may be revoked or confirmed by the Grand Lodge; and in the latter case, the Warrant will then be issued The Warrant of Constitution is granted to the Master and Wardens, and to their successors in office.
It continues in force only during the pleasure of the Grand Lodge, and may, therefore, at any time be revoked, and the Lodge dissolved by a vote of that Body, or it may be temporarily arrested or suspended by an edict of the Grand Master This will, however, never be done, unless the Lodge has violated the ancient landmarks or failed to pay due respect and obedience to the Grand Lodge or to the Grand Master At the formation of the first Lodges in a number of the States in the South and Middle West, the Grand Lodges of other States granted both Dispensations and Charters When a Warrant of Constitution is revoked or recalled, the jewels furniture, and funds of the Lodge revert to the Grand Lodge
Lastly, as a Lodge holds its communications only under the authority of this Warrant of Constitution, no Lodge can be opened, or proceed to business, unless it be present if it be mislaid or destroyed, it must be recovered or another obtained; and until that is done, the Communications of the Lodge must be suspended; and if the Warrant of Constitution be taken out of the room during the session of the Lodge, the authority of the Master instantly ceases Some pertinent Comments upon the early use of Significant and frequently employed words to be found in the documents of Freemasonry are discussed by Brother W J Chetwode Crawley (see Caementaria Hiberica, Fasciculus ii). we condense these herewith on the word Warrant, Constitution, Deputation, and Regular. The earliest mention of the word Warrant in connection with Grand Lodge is found in Number VIII of the General Regulations of 1721, comprised in doctor Anderson's Constitutions, 1723, where the Brethren are warned that "they must obtain the Grand Master's Warrant to join in forming a new Lodge, and that he must approve of them by his Warrant, which must be signified to the other Lodges " The provision is in the first Irish Code, 1730, hut condensed by the Grand Secretary, Brother John Pennell.
The Minutes of the Grand Lodge of Munster for John the Baptist's Day, 1730, show that Grand Lodge considered the petitions of Brethren at Waterford and Clonmell "to have a Warrant from our Grand Lodge for assembling and holding Regular Lodges " Both passages and context allow no doubt that the word Warrand is used in its etymological Sense of permission, and not in its secondary sense of a permanent document embodying that authorization. This permission was involved in the formal Constitution of the Lodge by the Grand Master, or, failing him, by a brothers to whom he issued a written Deputation for the purpose This document has often and mistakenly been called the Warrant, or Charter, by brethren familiar with the legal qualities that form a Charter, and who were unable to distinguish between a Warrant or general authorization of 1723, and Warrant or permanent documents of today.
The words Constitution and Deputation had similar development The Constitution and Deputation of 1723 meant a ceremony; the Constitution of fifty years later often, not always, meant a document. The Deputation of 1723 meant entrusting duties to one who stood for the Grand Master; the Deputation displayed today, with just pride, in certain old Lodges, is a document delegating those temporary duties.
The word Regular, too, has had a modern connotation attributed to it that has helped to increase the confusion. It simply meant, in the first instance, that the Lodge to which it was applied had come under the jurisdiction—sub regula —of the Grand Lodge, in contradistinction to Lodges which had not so submitted themselves. These latter Lodges were not necessarily clandestine or irregular. They were only non-regular in that they were outside the jurisdiction of the recently formed Grand Lodge but many, with hasty judgment, have assumed that all Brethren who, in those early days, were not regular, must be irregular a judgment far from truth. Evidence of the existence of legitimate non-regular Lodges has multiplied of late years.
The Lodge at Warrington, in which Elias Ashmole was initiated in 1646, once stood well-nigh alone as an accredited example. Today we have even more striking examples in the Lodge discovered by Brother Edward Condor to have been held in 1636 under the auspices of the Masons Company, in London, and in the Lodge at Chester, to which Randle Holme belonged in l688, and which Brother W. H Rylands has proved to have been a Speculative Lodge. The Irish Lodge, traditionally held at Donneraile, in which the honorable Elizabeth Saint Leger was initiated before 1713, belonged to the same category.
The old Lodge at Alnwick, apparently an Operative survival, has left By-laws dated 1701, and Minutes dated 1703 The Lodge at Swalwell, in Durham, possessing records from 1725, did not become Regular by exhibiting a Constitution from the Grand Lodge of England until 1735 Evidence is not wanted of similar neighboring Lodges which failed to follow the Lodge at Swalwell even in this tardy submissions to the Grand Lodge in London. When we passed in review the series of Masonic Manuals published by Brother William Smith in 1735 and 1736, we find a flourishing Lodge at Hexhan mentioned in the Book M (see introduction to the Pocket Companion, 1735) This Lodge according to Brother John Lane, never became Regular by coming under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England Similarly, Doctor Stukely's Lodge at Grantham, in Lincolnshire, never became Regular, though we knew from his Diary that it existed under his tutelage from 1796 to 1730.
As a matter of history all Lodges before 1717 existed under like conditions Those Time Immemorial Lodges continuing work after Grand Lodge was founded, came gradually and voluntarily under its jurisdiction, if they did so at all. Such of them as remained aloof did not forfeit their right to be regarded as Lodges of Freemasons.
They were Non-Regular Lodges. Reference to the ecclesiastical use of the word Regular will help to make its original Masonic use clear. In the Roman Catholic Church the clergy were divided into two great sections—the Monastic and the Parochial. The Monastic clergy are alone entitled to be styled Regular, as being under the Rule— sub regula—of their special Order. Parochial clergy are styled Non-Regular, or Secular It would be the height of inconsequence to style them Irregular. Each of these verbal misconceptions is trifling in itself, and obvious when pointed out in the aggregate, they have generally helped to obscure the origin of the now universal practice of holding no Lodge to be Regular unless it possesses a permanent Charter embodying its rights This is the Irish use.
We have seen that the issuing of permanent Warrants or Charters to its supporting Lodges formed no part of the theory of Constitution contemplated by the Grand Lodge of England When the first Warrant was issued by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, the step was along a new path .No precedent could be discerned in the Sister Grand Lodge of England for either the theory or the practice The growth of our mother tongue has been almost imperceptible during the generations that have passed since the first book of Constitutions was published by Brother James Anderson Yet the interval has been long enough to impart confusion into the terminology of our history. No student can afford to be ignorant or careless of the ceaseless changes of meaning in the words of a living language The words Warrant, Constitution and Regular connote many things today which our forefathers had not in view at the Revival of 1717.