In men individually and in men collectively arc a number of everlasting needs; in the nature of the world is that which calls forth those needs; to satisfy those needs, which no individual ever escapes, men have the three institutions which are called home, school, and government. An institution differs from every other form of collective action or association by being universally necessary, so that no people anywhere can exist without it; and it has the peculiarity that though the needs it satisfies are in a man, and oftentimes are invisible, yet it must have buildings, equipments, and men to work in it.
In the nature of each man, of peoples, and of the world is the law; it is one of the most difficult of all things to understand, and almost impossible to describe, yet it is so actual, so real, that if a man becomes abnormal in that in himself, which has to do with the law, it will twist him into monstrous shapes of character and may drive him insane a rock, a piece of steel, neither of these is more real than the law! When stated in the form of words the law is, "Thou shalt not destroy another." It does not matter if you destroy a man in one minute or in one year, destroy him at one stroke, as in murder, or destroy him piecemeal by destroying his money, or belongings, or his possessions, or his property, or his freedom or whatever else he must have in order to continue to be; to destroy another by any means is to act as a criminal.
There is a law, and it does not multiply itself; what we call laws in the plural are not many laws but only many declarations of the law. A government is the institution by which our many and various needs for the law are protected or satisfied; any people without government will perish. A government may in detail or in form be in one nation unlike what it is in another, depending on their way of life, but it has its own eternal Landmarks, and always, whatever its form, it will have in it the same framework everywhere. If the citizens under a government begin a practice (such as using automobiles) and if in that practice what they do may destroy others, the government brings that practice under review and "finds" the law in it. Once it has "found" the law in that practice it "declares" it, which means that it authorizes a statement which is put on official record; when this is done it "promulgates" it, which means that citizens everywhere are put under bond to the government not to act unlawfully when engaged in the practice in question if the practice is driving automobiles, the promulgated law commands them not to drive recklessly lest they, or their passengers, or pedestrians shall be destroyed. (It is as criminal to murder a man with an automobile as to murder him with a gun.) The last step taken by the government is to set apart a number of officers, placed under oath, and sworn to act impersonally and impartially to compel citizens to act lawfully by means of force (without compulsion or force there can be no government). Thus, it is now clear and as said above that there is only the law; what we call "laws" are only a number of declarations of it.
It is obvious that the law is unaltered by circumstances, is never modified to suit any one of the many races, sub-races, languages, religions, countries, or climates, in the world wherever it is, it is always the one thing, and to suppose it to be shaped by circumstances or "environments" (whatever that word may mean!) is as impossible as that time, space, gravity, light, weight, etc., can be modified by circumstances. Some peoples do not have a complete government; if so they suffer damage or deprivation from the lack. Other peoples load up the officers of the government with tasks and duties and burdens which do not belong to government, and this attempt to unload the whole of a people's collective and general activities on a government is what is meant by nationalism (what has carrying the mail to do with the law? or conducting experimental farms?); such a government will sooner or later fall apart or else will become a totalitarian despotism and the people under it will perish; no government should ever carry any duties except such as are required by its services to the law. If these things are true it is plain that no man, Mason or non-Mason, can ever raise such a question as "What is Freemasonry's relation to government?" As well ask what are its "relations" to time or to the law of gravity. It has no "relation" of its own; Masons are under the government in exactly the same way that other men are, and Lodges are under it as other bodies are. It matters nothing to the law whether a man is a Mason or not.
Apropos of this it happens that the oldest known written Masonic record which may be described as historical is a passage in the middle of the Regius MS. (600 years old) in which it is clearly stated that the earliest Lodges stood under the government of the time as did other bodies of men. In 926 A.D., it says, King Athelstan, or his son Prince Edwin, or the two together, called the Freemasons together in a general assembly at York. But this was not an assembly attended exclusively by Freemasons but was called by the King in order that he, assisted by "divers lords," should consult together as to how it was best for Freemasonry to be governed or, in the scribe's own words, "How they might govern it." The King either approved rules already in use by the Craft, or else devised new rules for it; in either event old Craft rules were approved by the civil government or else new ones were ordered by it, and it was because the Craft was willing to accept the "fifteen articles" and "the fifteen points" that the King granted it a Royal Charter. This meant, as clearly as anything could be meant at the time, that the authority by which Masters of Masons ruled and governed their Lodges was an authority delegated by the King and his Councillors. Even if this account of the York assembly in 926 A.D. could not be proved in the courts of history because it first appears in a document written nearly 500 years after the event, and therefore is tradition rather than history, it is nevertheless a true picture of the connection between Operative Freemasonry and the civil government over a period of centuries.
That connection was so close that a number of usages, customs, and practices in Operative Freemasonry, and which we have inherited and continue to use, did not grow up out of the bosom of the art of Freemasonry itself but were the effects of laws or regulations ordered in the Craft or imposed upon it by the civil law, and a certain number of the rules and customs which the Freemasons adopted for themselves, and by themselves, they adopted because of the effect of a previous civil law or regulation. It is a fact of the greatest significance to the Ritual; and those writers who interpret everything in the Ritual as mystical or symbolic, or look for its origins far afield in distant countries or cults or in ancient times, ought to give more heed to it: a number of those things in the Ritual which we now use symbolically were not symbols originally, but were civil laws, or else were a response to civil laws.
At one time or another the government of Britain enforced on the Mason Craft directly, or enforced on it indirectly through regulations and laws directed at gilds and fraternities in general, such laws and rules as these: laws regulating wages, hours of work, the number of holidays in a year, indentures for apprentices, the care of apprentices, and commandeering of members for public duties, requisitioning of Craft funds or supplies for public use (the Masons's Company of London had to contribute funds for the settlement of North Ireland), the taking of oaths, the keeping of records, certain functions of Officers, contracts between Freemasons and their employers, impressment of Craftsmen by kings, the demand for annual reports and the forbidding, of assemblies and covines this in modern language would mean that Freemasons were not permitted to hold meetings for public agitation or go on strike (strikes were nevertheless not uncommon). Among laws holding of crafts in general were such as, at various times required Lodges to have Patron Saints, to observe their Saints' Day each year, to wear clothing of a certain kind, to live in certain quarters, to submit work to public inspection, etc., etc. Above any of those in importance was the law (never abated or abrogated in the Middle Ages) which forbade the establishment of any permanent body of men without a charter; it is easy to see that the purpose of this law was to make every such body answerable to the civil government; it also is easy to see that this one law did more to give shape to Masonic history than any other, or any ten combined, because it was in obedience to this law that the first permanent Lodges of Free Masons used that written charter or document which was called The Old Charges. Any body of men in any craft, art, or profession which attempted to work without a charter was called "an adulterine gild," and if caught and tried its officers and members suffered severe penalties. (This writer has discovered no instance of an adulterine gild of Freemasons.)
There are hundreds of forms of associations and organizations of a religious kind, or political, or esthetic, or social, etc., which are desirable, and yet are not necessary; we as a people could get along without them; in the past many peoples have gotten along without them; but neither we nor any other people has ever been able to get along without the three institutions, and that is one of the great facts about them; without families, without schooling, without government no people could long continue to exist. But an institution (by definition) is never composed of intellectual abstractions or imponderable abstractions but always must make use of buildings, equipment, money, and men and women, and since it does the buildings may burn down, the money may fall short, or be stolen, the men and women employed may fail in their duties or else may be guilty of malfeasance; an institution will therefore have questions, problems, and difficulties. The peculiarity of those questions is that they cannot be avoided! Questions similarly arise in organizations or associations of other kinds; many of them are very difficult; but they do not have in them a life-or-death importance. If I am in the field of theological studies I may encounter the question of who was author of the Fourth Gospel; if I am willing to work at that question for some ten or twelve years I may find an answer to it, but if I am not willing I shall not starve to death; I can take Horace Bushnell's advice to "hang it on a hook." If I am a student in the field of history I may be confronted by the problem of what was the secret agreement between Talleyrand and Metternich at the Congress of Vienna; it is a question that I could find the answer to in three years of hard work, but if I choose to evade the question I am free to do so, and will continue to be safe on the streets and have a roof over my head. But if a question arises which involves the existence of one of the institutions I cannot evade it; I, and the people to whom I belong, must find some answer, and we must do it at any cost of time, pain, or money, because without a house or a home we will perish, without schooling we could not work and earn money, without government neither our persons nor our property would be safe for twenty-four hours the institutions arc necessary in the same sense that food, air, and water are necessary; and this truth is one of the keys to history, because always a people will drop everything else if their institutions are threatened, and will go to any extremes of action to save them, even to the extremes of insurrection, or rebellion, or war, and will do so most promptly if that institution be their government, because the results of the loss of government are felt immediately in the form of anarchy, crime, mobs, riots, violence, etc.
The great difficulty which people had in the Middle Ages was with government. Their great difficulty with their governments grew out of their problems of where in government lies that which we call sovereignty, by which is meant the last word in power and authority. They tried to work the theory that this sovereignty belongs to the officers of government, that is, to the king, his colleagues, and his councillors, and these men themselves tried to act upon that theory with the doctrine that they themselves were rulers, and therefore were the government. But what if these officers of government were themselves guilty of crime? What if King Henry was guilty of murder, or King Charles guilty of treason?
It is often said that we here in the United States solved that problem with our doctrine that sovereignty lies in the people, and it is this, so it is said, that we mean by democracy. But this is not true. We solved the problem but not by the doctrine that sovereignty lies in the people (we have no such doctrine); we solved it by discovering the fact that sovereignty lies in the law! Our Constitution is a written instrument by which we set up a government in accordance with the law; our Supreme Court means that the officers of government (including legislators) are themselves, and qua officers of government, as much bound to the law as any other citizens. The whole purpose of our Constitutional system is to make sure that our government itself acts lawfully whenever its officers use force to make the citizens act lawfully. If a bill enacted by the National Congress is proved to have been enacted unlawfully the Supreme Court condemns it, and it ceases to be a law (in reality, it never was one).
Lodges and their members have always been loyal in their citizenship, never conspiring against government, or asking special privileges from it, or hiding from it, or attempting to stand out from under it; and the principles of the Craft's own jurisprudence are such that if an action taken by a Mason, a Lodge, or a Grand Lodge were unlawful in the eyes of the civil government it could not be Masonically lawful. Why? Because Masonry has always identified government with the law; and if it has always been "politically universal" in the sense that its Lodges can work among peoples with many different forms of government it is not because it is indifferent, or "believes that one form of government is as good as another," but because it knows that any given people's own form of government will be fashioned by that people's own way of life, and that in any form of it, the sole function of a government is the law. It is "politically universal" because the law is universal.
Early in the 1910's Brother Madison C. Peters, of New York, delivered an address to an audience of Masons which was so much enjoyed by his hearers that upon their insistence, and after enlarging it a little, he published it as a small volume entitled Masons as Makers of America. Brother Peters, as it turned out, had prepared his brochure in too much haste and as a result was mistaken in a number of his facts; moreover his essay was feeble in logic, and one-sided in argument, yet for all its faults it was read by hundreds of thousands of Masons because in it he had hit upon a fact which Masons had so often noted but which no one had expressed, namely, that there is a similarity between the principles in Masonic government and the principles of the government of the United States so close, so amazingly close, that it is difficult to credit it to coincidence. With our greatly increased knowledge about Freemasonry in the Revolutionary War Period it has become impossible to believe that Masons, as Masons, had anything to do with the "making of America" or with writing the Constitution. Why, then, is the amazing similarity there? For a reason far more amazing than the similarity, namely, because centuries before Franklin or Washington, Freemasonry had discovered that sovereignty is not in the officers of government (kings, etc.), or in the people, but is in the law, and had embodied that discovery in its Doctrine of the Ancient Landmarks. These are the Landmarks; the Book of Constitutions is the instrument by which they are implemented; because it is, the Grand Lodge constituted thereby, with its Grand Master, and its Officers and members, are themselves answerable to the law in Masonry, and can never rise above it.
But if we Masons were before our National Government in this understanding of the whole point and purpose of government, we are far behind the majority of our fellow Americans in seeing the fact that when it is said that each citizen is under the government the story is only half told; the other half of it is the fact that to the same extent that a citizen is answerable to the law a citizen has the full use of the law; he can call upon it, he can demand that it protect him, he can command a hearing in court, he can insist that government shall defend him from anyone who seeks to destroy him. We Masons have that same right; we have been reluctant to make use of it but we ought not to be reluctant; it belongs as much to good citizenship to use the government for self-protection, as it does to act obediently to the government's declaration of the law.
The leaders, editors, and public speakers who worked for the Anti-Masonic Crusade between 1826 A.D. and the Civil War publicly and repeatedly charged the Masonic Fraternity with being a secret conspiratorial society working to overthrow the national government, and a corrupt atheistical society working to destroy Christianity. The Fraternity made no attempt to defend itself, and it is possible that its leaders could find no means to do so. A number of decisions made in the State and in the National Supreme Courts since that time have made it clear that Masons can have protection against such outrageous slanders and libels as often as they are made. Freemasonry is not an unembodied set of theories, or drift of feelings, or vague "movement"; it consists of individual men; each man is identified by having his name and address in the Lodge's membership list and identifies himself by wearing insignia and lodge clothing; and by appearing in public. It is easy for him to prove himself a Mason in any civil court. Any libellous, scandalous, defamatory, damaging false statement made about Freemasonry is made about each and every one of those men in particular it is not the slander of a theory but a harmful slander of known and locally identifiable men; those men can go into court and sue, either separately or collectively (the whole Jewish race sued an American millionaire). If Anti-Masons make true statements about us we cannot hale them into court for being Anti-Masons; but if they slander or libel us we can, not because they are Anti-Masons but because they have uttered libel.
Men and women who use stolen or forged identifications,
or otherwise are impostors, frauds, charlatans, or crooks who
seek Masonic relief or concoct schemes to defraud Masons and Lodges
otherwise, should be arrested and tried. If a group of men set
up what they call a Masonic Lodge, either actually or on paper,
if they call themselves a Masonic Lodge, but are not, if they
have no charter and are on the list of no Grand Lodge, they are
spurious, and they are not spurious Masons because they are not
Masons, nor is theirs a Spurious Masonic Lodge because they are
not a Lodge, but are spurious men and have a spurious organization.
Any regular Lodge nearest to such a spurious organization ought
to indict it and hale it into court because it is not only unlawful
according to Masonic law but is unlawful also according to the
civil law; and the Lodge ought to bring it into court because
it defrauds citizens of the community, obtains money by false
pretenses, and brings their character and reputation into disrepute.
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