If a man is such that he will take property belonging to others or will assault or murder them when he expects to gain by doing so it is manifestly unsafe to leave such a man at large; the community must lock him up. It is an unpleasant thing to have to put a man into a room and keep him there year after year, especially if the room is made of stone and steel to prevent his breaking out of it; he himself cannot be happy in such confinement, and the majority of men cannot continue to be healthy in it; moreover it is always a burden on the taxpayers to keep him there because they must feed and house him and pay wages to men to guard him at their own expense. History is full of experiments tried by one people after another to avoid measures so hard and so costly by trying with other devices to protect themselves against criminals; it is not an exaggeration to say that peoples and nations have been as experimental and ingenious in devices and inventions to avoid having to lock up their criminals as their criminals have been to evade being locked up, or to escape after they have been locked up; but the experiments always have failed, and sooner or later the people have had to face the fact that if a man is not safe to be allowed at large then he must not be left to run at large.
It is obvious that the purpose of locking him up, or even of hanging him, is not to make him suffer but to protect the community from him. If he is not safe to be left free it is his own fault; if it is dreary and painful or dreadful to be imprisoned or hanged it again is his own fault; the men and women of the community do not imprison or execute a man because they are sadists or torturers but because they have no choice; they cannot live without property, and they cannot live if they are always in danger of being murdered or robbed, therefore they are compelled to protect themselves, and it does not matter how painful it may be to them to have to use imprisonment as the means of protection.
There are some men who are not criminals but who may act unlawfully now and then tho they do not resort to murder. The danger in such men is that if they are left alone they will become criminals, and the community must protect itself against their becoming such. The only protection ever yet discovered has been to make such men realize that if they continue to act unlawfully they will lose their means of making a living; this is done by fines, which means that a portion of a man's money or his property is taken away from him, or he is excluded (or expelled) from the work he is in, or loses his position in the community, or forfeits some office he may hold, etc., etc. To be thus fined may be exceedingly painful - men sometimes commit suicide rather than to go through its disgrace - and it is also painful to have to inflict fines, and in this again peoples and nations have experimented with many substitutes, but after their experiments have failed one after another they have always come back to the use of fines because they have no choice except to do so.
If a man decides to so act as to occasion loss or suffering to others (in any of a thousand forms) he does not always do it in the dark or on the spur of the moment. If others discover what he is planning to do, or if they catch him in the midst of doing it, they confront him, and immediately try to prevent or to stop him. Nearly always the only means they have at hand is to inflict pain on him, and the pain may be physical, or emotional, or mental, or social - there are times when merely to expose a man (as when he is caught in a lie) is sufficient to stop him.
The Greeks used the word poine as the name for "to put an end to," "to finish." The Latins adopted the word in the form of poena, and gave it the double meaning of pain and of "put an end to"; we still use that Latin word in the form of penalty, and as the above paragraphs show we also denote by it two acts of related meanings: something done to imprison or fine, or put an end to, unlawful acts; or pain used to prevent a man from occasioning loss or suffering to others. The purpose of pains and penalties always and everywhere is to prevent lawless and criminal acts, and, if the prevention does not succeed, we lock a man up because it is too dangerous for him to be at large. And however painful or ugly may be this use of pains and penalties we must all of us put up with them because we have no choice except to do so; lawless and criminal men could put an end to the use of pains and penalties tomorrow by the simple act of ceasing to be criminal or unlawful but there is no known instance in history of their ever having collectively done so.
Communities differ as much among themselves in their use of pains and penalties as they do in their use of anything else in civilization; one community's jail is clean and humane, another is a filthy chamber of horrors; in one prison inmates have good food and medical care, in another they do not; in one community pain and penalties are considerate, in another they are savage and extreme. But a community's failure to make a right use of pains and penalties is no more an argument for discontinuing their use everywhere than the same community's failure to provide schools would be an argument for doing without education. The one infallible test is: Does a community's own use of pains and penalties prevent unlawful acts in it and keep criminals from going free, or does it not?
During the long period in the Middle Ages when the Masonic Fraternity was taking its permanent form, and when the Landmarks, one after another, were being established, it was an extraordinary British community which did not have to answer to that test many times over. "Machinery of the law" is a piece of slang or jargon which is often used, though it ought never to be because it is false to the facts and betrays an ignorance of what law is, than which nothing could be less like a piece of machinery; but if the law, or the government, which is the institution of the law, were a piece of machinery it was never so ill-designed, or creaky, or so hard to manage as in Britain early in the Middle Ages. Government is always complex; the peoples of the early Middle Ages were not content to have it complex but went on to make it complicated by giving a swarm of different "governments" authority to enforce pains and penalties, and to do so at the same time:
1. There was "the King's Government," or the national government, or the civil government, or the common law by which was meant law common to men of every class and everywhere - many different names for the same thing. It could impose pains and penalties on any man, woman or child.
2. There was the Church which governed by means of the Ordinances of Religion, and by ecclesiastical officers, who could indict, arrest, try, fine, banish, excommunicate, imprison, and execute, and often did.
3. There were many dukes, earls, barons and other high lords who ruled over their own region with a sovereignty little short of the king's, and who had the powers of life and death over the men and women who belonged to them, or who served them.
4. There were an uncounted number of gilds, fraternities, societies, sodalities, etc., each of which had its own officers and rules and regulations. Such a gild (to employ that as a generic term) had a monopoly of its own work and workers within its own jurisdiction, and its officers possessed the power which had been delegated to them by the civil government to wield authority equal to the scope of that jurisdiction. Such a gild could expel a man, thereby taking away his one means to earn a living, and hence could impose a penalty more severe than any other except imprisonment or execution; it could also suspend a member, fine him, or reprimand him. The Fraternity of Freemasons possessed that gild authority over its own members.
5. There were also a number of cities, towns, or boroughs which were self-governing in whole or in part, which had city charters, or had ordinances grounded in sovereignty, and which were almost like small nations and could impose pains and penalties.
To maintain a certain degree of uniformity among these many units of government the laws of the realm laid down a number of general rules. One of these was the rule that no man could lawfully act as the officer or deputy for a body of men, however small, or for any borough, community, or for the realm unless he took an oath, and a large number of these oaths were made as uniform as possible, and oftentimes were collected into Oath Books, and no body of men could use an oath which violated the general rules governing oaths. When therefore the Freemasons exacted an oath before accepting a man into membership or when installing an officer they were doing nothing peculiar; they were doing what the civil law required, and their oaths were of such form or wording as required by civil authorities.
Thurlow Weed, John Quincy Adams, Thaddeus Stevens, Milliard Fillmore and their colleagues in the crusade to destroy Freemasonry which the Anti-Masonic Party kept alive from 1826 A. D. until the end of the Civil War asserted that American Freemasons had invented a terrible oath which was a sort of blood-pledge that every new member would blindly obey his leaders or officers in whatever search, or nefarious, or conspirational undertaking they would be led into. In the long and leprous history of the persecution by men of their fellow men it has been very seldom that so many men have made so large a mistake about so little, and it is still a mystery to his biographers how so traveled and so welleducated a man as John Quincy Adams could have fallen into so infantile a blunder. For one thing a Candidate does not vow a blind obedience to either the Lodge or his Officers but pledges himself to observe the Ancient Landmarks and the Rules and Regulations. Had Mr. Adams consulted the first Worshipful Master he encountered that Master could have told him how little "blind obedience" his members ever gave him! For another thing, a new member is tied into and bound into the membership of the Fraternity not by an oath but by an obligation, in which an oath is only one ingredient. For yet another thing Mr. Adams could have learned, had he stopped long enough to catch his breath, that "the powerful and peculiar language" which he declared to have frightened the wits out of him was ritualistic and symbolic, that it had originated in the first instance in the Catholic Church and for centuries had been used by priests and theologians, and that the "language" refers not to the pains and penalties used in the Fraternity but to a dramatic and tragical story. Again, what Mr. Adams took to be "the oath" was not peculiar to Freemasonry but in the Middle Ages had been used by the churches, monasteries, nunneries, colleges, and gilds all over Britain, and that it therefore had not been invented by American Masons for purposes of secret and conspirational attacks on Mr. Adams' Federalist Political Party but had been preserved in the Fraternity by centuries of usage and had been used by Lodges generations before either America or Mr. Adams had been discovered. And also the oath had not been invented by Freemasons for their own peculiar and private purposes but had been framed and used in obedience to laws enforced by the civil government. And finally "the powerful and peculiar language," even after allowing for its ritualistic and symbolic form, is not and never was a glorification of either crime or savage punishments of crime, or an invitation to either, but has always been the complete opposite; it is a kind of picture of the horrors of crime, a denunciation of unlawful or criminal actions - the nefarious things which the upside-down Mr. Adams accused the Freemasons of doing were the very things against which the oath was directed, and "the powerful and peculiar language" is the measure of its opposition to those things. A Candidate takes an oath not to violate the law but to keep the law.
When Pope Leo XIII made his attack on Freemasons in his Bull entitled "Humanum Genus" in 1884 A. D. he fell into the same blunders of fact as Dr. Adams, except that he fell into them more deeply. He not only accused Freemasonry of being a sort of murder society but also accused the Freemasons of being a "sect." To him this meant that Freemasons had banded themselves together expressly for the purpose of destroying the Roman Catholic Church, and that their "oath" was nothing but a pledge to stop at nothing, or to shrink at nothing, to accomplish that purpose. Pope Leo could have learned, had he considered it good form for a Pope to learn from other men, that Freemasons had been using their oath long before the Protestant Reformation; that for four or so centuries all Freemasons had been Catholic, and that for another two centuries many of them had been; and that one of the reasons the Freemasons began to use the oath in the first place was in obedience to the Ordinances of Religion which were laws drawn and enforced by the Pope's own church. There was no reason why the Freemasons in the Middle Ages should not use an oath, because every other body of men, lay or clerical, used them (priests and nuns take oaths); and there was every reason why the Freemasons should use them because the laws of King and Church compelled them to; and there never has been any reason why the Freemasons should not preserve so old a custom, especially since today, and in the Pope's own church, and everywhere else, the use of obligations and oaths is too commonplace to attract attention. The Masonic oath is not open to question, peculiar, or unusual, and never has been.
When something must be said by a body of men, generation after generation, and other bodies of men in association with them also must say the same thing, it will become in time formalized, conventionalized, it may even become stylized, and finally after long usage it will be given an "orthodox" form. This applies to the oaths and the penalties which were invoked during the Middle Ages, and included Freemasonry. By the time these oaths had reached their "orthodox" form crimes had become classified under two heads, as either heresy in some one of its forms, or treason in some of its forms. A set of penalties also became orthodox; a man guilty of heresy was burned at the stake, a man guilty of treason was hanged. Both forms of execution had a few practices in common, such as to "draw" the victim to the place of execution, and to mutilate his body before, or during, or after his execution. If he was guilty of a capital crime classified as heresy his tongue might be torn out to warn the onlookers to keep watch over what they might themselves say; if he was guilty of a crime classified as treason his body might be cut into pieces ("quartered"), to exhibit the fact that he had cut himself off from the body of his fellow citizens, or that he had had a divided allegiance. A pirate was hanged, or else he was staked down in the sand and drowned by the tide. If these practices were brought into a single picture it was to indicate the general idea of oaths, and the general idea of penalties; such a picture was very common before 1700 A. D. and is often encountered in old books, prints, decorations, emblems, and symbols.
The pains and penalties used by Operative
Freemasons were simple in form and few in number: reprimand, fines,
suspension, and expulsion; penalties other than these, or less
than these, or more than these would violate both civil and religious
law; for while the Masonic Fraternity (like the gilds) had its
own officers, rules and regulations, and courts, its officers
possessed no authority to try members or to penalize members,
except such as was delegated to them by civil authorities; and
had the Fraternity's own officers exceeded the authority thus
delegated to them they would have themselves become subject to
trials and penalties in a civil court. That is true of Masonic
Officers now, which is a fact that Anti-Masons are careful to
ignore; a Lodge is permitted by American civil law to reprimand,
suspend, or expel a member but if it went beyond those mild and
reasonable penalties, its members would be hailed into civil court.
(Lodge fines were discontinued a century ago.) If any man asserts
otherwise in print or public speech he knows not whereof he speaks;
or else he speaks in spite of knowing better.
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