J. J. Miller
Lodge Southern Cross No. 44
"Every wrong done by one man to another, whether it affect his person, his property, his happiness or his reputation, is an offence against the law of Justice. Freemasonry, by its teachings, endeavors to restrain men from the commission of injustice and acts of wrong."
— Albert Pike.
Justice, throughout Masonic teachings, is inculcated as a cardinal virtue. A Freemason should be one "whose head is guided by justice." In all constitutions the desire to extend Justice to an erring brother is most pronounced. The machinery provided to secure Justice is most elaborate, being equal to that of a court of civil justice, even to an appeal to the High Court, which is Grand Lodge. The whole construction of Masonic law is aimed to maintain the divine principle of Justice. If, therefore, these teachings, so beautifully portrayed in some degrees, are imbibed and followed, a Freemason can do no unjust act; he is conscientiously bound to judge the causes of all persons uprightly and impartially, divesting himself of all personal prejudice.
Recognising fully the injunction, "Whatsoever judgement ye measure unto others, the same shall in turn be measured unto you," I cannot help but risk saying that I have frequently charged brethren with the violation of this cardinal Masonic principle.
More than a quarter of a century ago there were two editors running in competition in a country town in the United States. One was a Craftsman. The other applied for admission to our Order, was accepted and initiated. The older editor objected to any further advancement. How he made his objection stick, history does not relate. However, 25 long years went past, and in all that time, the initiate of whom I am writing never say the inside of a lodge-room. But he advanced in other ways. He became prosperous; his newspaper grew to be a power in the land; he was chosen for many high offices by his fellow citizens; ultimately the highest honour in the gift of the people was bestowed upon him - that of President of the United States of America. Shortly afterwards, the other editor was summoned to the Grand Lodge Above, there to give an account of his life before the All Wise and All Powerful Judge. The way was now clear for Warren Harding to complete his degrees and get his Master Mason's apron, which, notwithstanding the responsibilities connected with his high office as head of the American Republic, he found time to do - and also to advance in the associate orders of Freemasonry. His last address on earth was made to his fellow Knight Templars in California. Unable to be present himself, his secretary read his manuscript, the address being buttressed with Christian principles upon which the Templar Order is founded.
When we realise the type of man that Warren Harding was, his high ideals of manhood and citizenship and his purity of soul, we must come to the conclusion that justice unasserted robbed him of 25 years of internal fellowship, and the Craft of the services of one who would have been a tower of strength to the Fraternity.
The great principle of Justice is too often thrust aside by the overpowering influence of prejudice, personal animosity, hatred and other forms of human frailty. Pity that it should be so in the Masonic Fraternity! The outside world should be made to feel confident that when a man is said to be a Mason "he is one whose head is guided by Justice." Every Mason who sits in a lodge and adjudicates on the petition of one of the outside world is a juror, and, as a Masonic juror, he should approach his responsibility with the utmost gravity. A warped decision, or a decision influenced perhaps by another's prejudice, may pervert the ends of Justice and bring pain and sorrow to hearts that are clean and good.
But what shall be said of those Masons who sit in judgement on their fellow Craftsman and deny them the privileges of advancement which they themselves enjoy? The Fraternity has ordained that the utmost care must be exercised in scrutinising the petition of one of the outside world, and that every juror present must vote for the petitioner before he can be admitted. But when once admitted he is a fellow whose well-being and interests become the care of every Craftsman. He is not to be injured by his fellows, and no one else is to be permitted to injure him, if it is in the power of a Craftsman to prevent it. Justice stands naked and ashamed when injury is done to the noble-minded, earnest Craftsman by a rejection of his petition for further Light in Masonry.
The question arises, should the power be taken out of the hands of the very small minority of brethren who exercise their power without any recognition of the virtue of Justice? Objectionable subterfuges have been resorted to in order to circumvent the wrong doer. But there should be no subterfuge in Freemasonry; it must be clear and above board. If all brethren were to make up their minds to rise above their picayune and imaginary grievances, there would be no occasion to discuss this question which grieves the hearts of many today. No one will advocate a change in the time-honoured Masonic custom of unanimous election of one of the outside world. Injustice may be done occasionally, but, in the main, the system of unanimous election has proved throughout time to be the best system for the Craft. The system of election for the advancement of brethren is, however, open to improvement, as a safeguard against the erratic operations of prejudiced minds unimpressed with the principles of Justice and Brotherly Love.
I began with a quotation from that great Masonic scholar, Albert Pike. I will conclude with another:
"Those who are invested with the power of judgement should judge the causes of all persons uprightly and impartially, without any personal consideration of the power of the mighty, the bribe of the rich or the needs of the poor. That is a cardinal rule. But they must do more. They must divest themselves of prejudice and preconception."