The Right of Visitation

A visitor must make clear his identity to the satisfaction of the Lodge he proposes to visit.

More than once have we been asked to explain our views as to the reception of strangers in a Lodge.

Only last week a correspondent in Australia submitted for our decision a case in which the rights of visitors were in-volved.

Hence we have thought it better to treat the matter editorially at some length. At the outset the law seems precise enough.

It is laid down, firstly:

” that no visitor shall be admitted into a Lodge, unless he is personally known, recommended, or well vouched for, after due examination, by one of the present brethren; and during his continuance in the Lodge he must be subject to the bye-laws of the Lodge. The Master of the Lodge is bound to enforce these regulations.”

In the next place:

” it is within the power of the Master, Wardens, and brethren of every private Lodge to refuse admission to any visitor of known bad character.”

And finally:

” a brother, who is not a subscribing member to a Lodge, shall not be permitted to visit any Lodge in the town or place where he resides more than once during his secession from the Craft.”

 

There is nothing doubtful in these [UGLE c1875] regulations.

In the first place the Masonic character of the visitor must be proved. Then the authorities of a Lodge may exclude a visitor who is of known bad character, and, finally, if the visitor is not a subscribing member to any Lodge he can only exercise his right of visitation at any Lodge once during his secession.

The terms, then, of the law are defined strictly, yet in practice there is a divergence of opinion as to its application.

Some hold that every Master Mason who is a subscribing member of a Lodge, duly constituted, can exercise his right without restriction, while others regard the exercise of the right with jealousy.

The late Dr. Oliver, than whom we imagine no Masonic writer ever existed who takes a more liberal view of the rights and privileges of Masonry, devotes several pages in his Masonic Jurisprudence to the consideration of this question, and, like all liberal-minded men, he treats the matter in a broad common sensible point of view.

There is no one in fact whose dicta on this or any other subject are more worthy of our respect, and accordingly we do not hesitate to pin our faith to his most lucid exposition.

We make this admission the more readily that we find our esteemed Brother Chalmers I. Paton proposes the same, or at all events, very similar views. Here then is what the late Bro. Oliver says.

The laws, he points out, are stringent, but it is often found to be expedient to relax this stringency.

A visitor must make clear his identity to the satisfaction of the Lodge he proposes to visit.

He must show that he is a subscribing member of some regular Lodge. If not known, or recommended by any well-known brother, he must submit himself for examination by some experienced member, and having given satisfactory evidence of his Mason hood, he then becomes eligible for admission into the Lodge during the transaction of Masonic business.

But clearly the right should be exercised with discretion, while the propriety of the restriction imposed bylaw is self evident.

A Mason, for instance, who is not a sub-scribing member of any Lodge, yet claims to exercise this right of visitation, evades the most important of his Masonic duties.

He will attend a Lodge without contributing to its expenses, and will be a burden to the brethren who compose it.

Again, a Mason who happens unfortunately to be on unfriendly terms with any member of a Lodge should clearly not press his claim to admission, for in such case he would destroy that harmony which it is the aim of Masonry to establish.

Certainly, if of two members of a Lodge, whose relations towards each other are unfriendly, it is desirable that one should avoid being present, it is still more important that a visitor whose unfriendliness towards some member is established, should forego his right of visitation.

He makes no sacrifice by doing so, while, on the other hand, his insistence virtually deprives the member affected of his rights of membership.

Again, no brother should press his claim to be present when the private business of the Lodge is under discussion.

To do so were in the highest degree indelicate. The privacy of a Lodge should no more be invaded than the privacy of an individual.

Our late Bro. Oliver mentions that at a Quarterly Communication held in 1819, a report from the Board of General Purposes was read, in which it was stated that a complaint had been submitted to them to the effect that certain brethren, though well known, had been refused admission to a certain Lodge in London, on the ground that a candidate was about to be initiated, and the Board laid it down that it was the inherent right of every Mason, who is known or vouched for, to visit any Lodge during the time it is open for the transaction of Masonic business, but ” notwithstanding this resolution,” writes Dr. Oliver, ” there are Lodges which refuse admission to visitors when practising the ceremonies of any of the degrees, although such exclusion is undoubtedly illegal.”

The writer adds, ” It was the declaration of a late Grand Master (when the subject was brought under his consideration) that a Mason’s Lodge is a Mason’s Church ; and that no qualified brother could be legally refused admittance under any circumstances ; this, then, is a landmark which ought to be reverenced.”

And Bro. Paton remarks, in his Freemasonry and its Jurisprudence, ” Masonic Jurists have always decided that the right of visitation is absolute and positive, and inures to every Mason in his travels through out the world. Wherever he may be, however distant from his residence, and in the land of the stranger, every Lodge is, to a Mason in good standing, his home, where he should be ever sure of the warmest and truest welcome.”

He further states, ” In concluding this section, it may be remarked, by way of recapitulation, that the right of visit is a positive right, which inures to every unaffiliated Master Mason once, and to every affiliated Master Mason always ; but that it is a right which can never be exercised without a previous examination and legal avouchment, and may be forfeited for good and sufficient cause; while, for the Master of any Lodge to deny it, without such cause, is to do a Masonic wrong to the Brother claiming it, for which he will have his redress upon complaint to the Grand Lodge within whose jurisdiction the injury is inflicted.

This, it appears, is now the settled law upon the subject of the Masonic right of visit, while the exposition both by Oliver and Paton is sufficiently perspicuous.

Nor will any of our readers, we imagine, doubt the wisdom of the restrictions imposed.

And after all, no difficulty need ever occur if brethren will only exercise common sense and that kindly feeling which should animate all gentlemen in their dealings one with another.

Visiting a Lodge is like visiting a house, and must be governed by the same unwritten code of laws.

No gentleman is ever wittingly guilty of intrusion into company where his presence is undesired or undesirable.

To claim a right on all occasions merely because it exists, is not gentlemanly, and therefore not Masonic.

In order to be a Mason, a man must first be a gentleman, not in the mere conventional sense which is usually assigned to the word, but a gentleman in its widest and fullest significance.

We feel convinced no Worshipful Master, with a sense of the proprieties, would close the doors of his Lodge against any strange brother who had established his character as a Mason, nor would a Mason, worthy of the name, seek to thrust himself into any Lodge where his presence would be obnoxious.

The right to visit is a landmark of our Order. There strictions on such right are only such as wisdom and policy must dictate.

But in claiming or denying it, we must be governed, after all, by prudence and common sense.

The cases in which a refusal is likely to be met are few and far between, but numerous or the reverse, they can only be determined by the proprieties of time, place, and circumstance

The Freemasons Chronicle, a weekly record of masonic intelligence, was first published 2nd January 1875 London, England as an independent weekly journal of masonic interest and continued for 27 years.

 

It should be the business of a journal devoted to the interests of the Order to attempt the removal of prejudices such as these, which, though they may have little perceptible influence upon the prosperity of the Fraternity, yet have the effect of preventing timid or ill-informed persons from enlisting under its banner.

It will not only attempt to keep pace with the growing literary requirements of the day, but it will seek to exhibit the Order to the non-Masonic world divested of its technical details, and clothed in the garb of Charity and Brotherly Love.

The questions of the hour, which exercise the minds of thoughtful men, will be handled freely and broadly, without any tinge of political or sectarian bias.

The memoranda of Masonic gatherings which will appear from week to week, will be full and accurate; and as free interchange of opinion is one of the best signs of life and vigour in any society, ample scope will be given for Correspondence on topics of interest to the Order.

If we may venture upon a new rendering of words which recent events have made memorable, we will say here, once and for all, that we will be keen men of business, and will spare no effort, consistent with honour, to achieve commercial success; but first, and before all things, we will prove to our brethren and the world that we are FREEMASONS.

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