Vol. XXXVI No. 3 — March 1958

Lodge Inspection

Every grand lodge in the United States has some system of lodge inspection and/or instruction.

These systems are called by many names; nineteen Grand lodges denominate their officers for this work as district deputy grand masters. Others call them district lecturers; deputy instructors, grand lecturers, deputy grand lecturers, grand inspectors, grand and assistant grand custodians, district representatives, board of custodians, committee on general welfare, district masters, district deputies, lodge instructors, etc.

Their powers and duties differ widely, from informal visits to complete supervision. In some Codes of grand lodges the duties and responsibilities of these officers are set forth in detail; in others, a single paragraph in the Code contains both the duties and responsibilities.

Reasons for these wide divergencies in the powers and duties of these officers of grand lodges are found in the varying relations between size of territory and population of the jurisdiction. In the District of Columbia, the smallest grand lodge territorially, the grand lecturer and members of the committee on work and lectures easily can visit all forty-eight lodges not once but several times yearly.

In Nevada, the smallest grand lodge in population, a Grand Master of Instruction appoints a qualified brother in each lodge as Deputy Master of Instruction. The duties of these officers as set forth in the law are concerned wholly with matters of ritual and ceremony to the end of securing uniform work and the elimination of forbidden ciphers.

In Nevada, with its great distances, a weekly School of Instruction and continual visits of a grand lecturer to each lodge, such as obtains in the District of Columbia, would be physically impossible; in the District, while many lodges have brethren certified by the grand lecturer as competent teachers of the ritual, the weekly school of instruction provides all the machinery necessary for making possible a uniform work in all lodges.

Massachusetts has used the district deputy grand master system of lodge instruction and inspection for a hundred and fifty years and reports its complete success and their satisfaction in its functioning. In the grand lodge Code the system is set forth as follows:

The District Deputy Grand Masters are the personal representatives of the Grand Master to the lodges of their respective districts. They shall visit their lodges and (between the thirty-first of August and the twentieth of November in each year) shall inspect the Charters, or certified copies thereof, By-Laws, records, and mode of work. They shall communicate edicts and regulations of the grand lodge and Grand Master; shall receive and receipt for all moneys due the grand lodge except grand lodge dues of members as provided in Sec. 332; shall receive the returns of the lodges and make comments thereon; shall generally supervise and advise their lodges under the direction of the Grand Master and perform such other duties as are ordered by him. They may, with the approval of the Grand Master, delegate their duties, or any part thereof to some suitable brother. They shall annually transmit the returns of the lodges and all moneys in their hands to the Grand Secretary on or before the twentieth of November; and if they shall fail to comply with this regulation, unless prevented by sickness or by some other cause beyond their control, they shall not be eligible to re-appointment. They shall be reimbursed their necessary expenses in visiting the lodges; but shall present their accounts to the Board of Directors for allowance.

The Grand Master may call meetings of the District Deputy Grand Masters (together with such other officers or members of the Grand Lodge as he may desire) and he is authorized and empowered to draw upon the Grand Treasurer for such sums of money as are necessary to defray the expenses of such meetings.

The heart of the system in Massachusetts is in the district deputy grand master being the “personal representative of the grand master” and being required to “generally supervise and advise their lodges.”

Pennsylvania’s district deputy grand masters number sixty-eight (ten of them are in Philadelphia). Their duties are many and varied.

The grand lodge issues annually a circular letter of instructions to the district deputy grand masters that closely printed document of four pages instructs the District Deputies to plan to visit the lodges in the districts, to examine the minute books of each lodge and make a written report to the lodge in regard to the way in which the minutes are kept. District Deputies inspect lodge rooms, see that the lodge warrant or charter is properly displayed, advise of books of dispensations and their use, instruct as to the keeping of a record book by the District Deputies, inform them that the officers and members of their lodges must address them first on all questions of work or law, except as to those matters that the Constitution and Code of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania require must be referred to the grand secretary. District Deputies are instructed how to advise lodges in regard to funerals, teaching of the esoteric work, physical qualifications, and applications for admission to the Masonic home, examination and treatment of visitors, remission of dues. The following paragraph, signed by the R.W. grand master, contains the heart of Pennsylvania’s inspection system:

You will understand that your judgment and discretion are relied upon to carry out these regulations, but I urge you to be sympathetic in your contacts with your lodges and willing at all times to confer with members in an advisory capacity to the end that a better understanding of Freemasonry may be obtained by all and that your relations with the members of the lodges in your district be most cordial.

Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are the oldest grand lodges. Looking now at the youngest, Oklahoma, her district deputy system is set forth in her Code as follows:

The duties of a District Deputy Grand Master shall be to make an official visit to each lodge in his district during the year; to examine the lodge records and see that the same are properly kept and are in a businesslike condition and that the accounts of the treasurer and secretary have been balanced and audited at the end of each fiscal year and approved by the lodge; to see that all grand lodge dues are paid on time; to see that the bonds of the treasurer and secretary are executed and approved; to see that the annual report to grand lodge is correctly made on time and approved by the lodge before it is transmitted to the grand secretary; to preserve peace and harmony among the Craft throughout his district; to preside at all lodge trials held in his district, where for any reason, the Master of such lodge is disqualified; to perform any and all other duties that the Grand Master may assign him.

He shall make prompt report to the Grand Master, on blanks furnished for such purpose, giving the condition of the lodge at the time of his official visit; he shall observe the degree work of the lodge and report its proficiency therein and recommend a visit of the grand lecturer to hold a school of instruction when he deems it necessary; he should attend all communications of the grand lodge, both annual and special.

This grand lodge demands information regarding the financial affairs of the lodges, annual audit approved by the lodge and proper bonds for secretary and treasurer. It is also pleasant to read the instructions regarding preserving the “peace and harmony” of lodges, Masons and Masonry.

Maine is among the grand lodges that use a printed blank for the report of its District Deputies, a lengthy document that, among other things, provides for giving detailed information as to the attendance of all lodge officers throughout the year and a question: “Does the treasurer keep the funds of the lodge on deposit in the name of the lodge?” Many times in Masonic history lodges and treasurers have been in trouble because treasurers were so unwise as to mix lodge and their personal funds in the same bank account, depending upon their memories to maintain accuracy in reporting lodge funds. That cannot happen, uncorrected, for long in this state.

The largest grand lodge, New York, uses the district deputy system and has done so for a hundred years. Sixty-four districts have each a district deputy grand master and of these officers it has been said, “They are the eyes, ears, mouth and hands of the grand master for the effectuation of the grand master’s policies.” District Deputies in New York report to the grand secretary on a blank supplied by him; to the grand master they make reports that are in the form of confidential letters. According to the Code the duties of District Deputies in New York are:

To preside in each lodge upon the occasion of his official visit; to examine its books and records and see if they are properly kept; to inform himself of the number of members and the punctuality and regularity of their attendance; to ascertain the state and condition of the lodge in all respects; to point out any errors he may discover in their conduct and mode of working; and to instruct them in every particular wherein he shall find they may require or may desire information and particularly to recommend attention to the moral and benevolent principles of Masonry and caution in the admission of candidates; to determine and order in what cases a member, alleged to have been illegally unaffiliated for nonpayment of dues, shall be restored; and, if he discover in his district any Masonic error or evil, to endeavor to immediately arrest the same by Masonic means and, if he judges it expedient, specially to report the same to the Grand Master.

The duties of each district deputy are specified in the Constitution; specifically he shall visit every lodge in his district at least once during the year of his office, collect and take charge of the property of any defunct lodge, make a report to the grand secretary before April 15th in each year; report to the grand master respecting the general condition of Masonry in his district and “To perform such other services and duties as may be deputed or entrusted to him by the Grand Master or by the Grand Lodge.”

Items of special interest are to be found in the legislation passed in many grand lodges regarding inspection and checking on lodges.

In Alabama, district lecturers report once a year to the grand master on their lodges and “a lodge must make 85% in order to maintain its Charter.”

Arkansas has district deputy grand masters who are the representatives of the grand master, but has no set form of lodge inspection. Every lodge makes a monthly report and grand lodge makes no attempt to supervise finances or minor affairs.

California has several pages of laws and instructions for their grand lecturer, assistant grand lecturers, ritual committee and inspectors. Among the duties of the latter are “to cause to be organized within his district an Officers’ Association and to supervise meetings of such association for the purpose of instruction in those portions of the Constitution and Regulations of the grand lodge that relate to the government of the lodge, for instruction in the proper administration of the affairs of the lodges, and such other matters as may be for the welfare of the Craft. It shall be the duty of the Officers of his district to attend such meetings.”

Inspectors are to be received with grand honors.

Representatives of the grand master have been a part of Connecticut Freemasonry since 1821; the famous Jeremy L. Cross — author of The True Masonic Chart — was grand lecturer from 1821 to 1830. During three years following 1877, Connecticut experimented with “proxies for the grand master, one to each county.” Now there are nine districts, each with two district deputies. District deputies in Connecticut are permanent members of grand lodge.

Idaho presents a questionnaire to each prospective master that he must answer to the satisfaction of the district deputy before he can become master and the district deputy is the sole authority to decide if he is sufficiently proficient to become a master.

Indiana does not use the district deputy system but has a grand lecturer “whose duty it is to visit not less than 300 lodges per year. He may, however, group not more than three lodges together for one visit.”

For many years Kentucky called its lodge inspection officers “Key Men.” Something picturesque went out of American Freemasonry when this grand lodge dropped that title and denominated these officers District Deputies!

In Louisiana, the district deputy grand master is selected first by a meeting of lodges in the district; the grand master may appoint someone else but in practice this selection is generally honored by the grand master. Voting is by written secret ballot. The law states “The District Deputy Grand Master shall not exercise any of the prerogatives of the Grand Master without special authorization. . . .” District deputy grand masters “shall, when practicable, consult together and interchange opinions on Masonic subjects.” Also the law provides that they “will not intrude unnecessarily into the affairs of the respective lodges, but shall, consistent with the ancient customs of our Fraternity, exercise such superintendence over the lodges of their respective districts as will tend to increase the prestige of the Fraternity.”

In Mississippi, it is the grand lecturer who appoints a district deputy grand lecture for each of thirty districts.

Montana divides itself into districts, each district in charge of one of eleven grand lodge officers of “the advancing line.” These officers have charge not only of lodge inspection and reporting upon their lodges to the grand master but also of the Masonic educational program of the state.

New Jersey’s system includes district deputy grand masters who must memorize the work to the satisfaction of the grand instructor who holds monthly District meetings. District deputy grand masters are instructed to have each of their lodges exemplify the secret work upon dummy candidates by the regular officers of the lodges.

North Carolina has detailed legislation about its district deputy grand masters, in which is found

It shall be the duty of each district deputy grand master to bring the lodges in his district into closer relations with each other and with the grand lodge . . . and particularly to recommend attention to the moral and benevolent principles of Masonry.

South Carolina changes her district deputy grand masters every two years; as grand masters serve for two years in South Carolina each grand master can thus appoint his own officials.

South Dakota calls its inspecting officials “district masters” and its code provides that it is among their duties “To hold a general meeting, or institute, at some convenient point within his district at least once each year for the benefit of all Master Masons.”

Texas district deputy grand masters report in triplicate and send copies to both grand master and deputy grand master. Wyoming requires its District Instructors to visit each lodge in their districts once a year, but will pay mileage for two visits each year.

While Grand Lecturers, or principal instructors by whatever named called, may receive a salary, their assistants, the Deputies (under any name) are just devoted Masons who give their nights and days to travel, inspection, instruction and report, without money and without price; they are, literally, priceless assets of the Ancient Craft, the ties that keep its ancient usages and customs in force, its ritual pure, and its spirit high.

Question Box

This column will attempt to answer questions about Freemasonry

Where should the American flag be placed in a lodge?

If upon the platform, on a level with the master, at his right, which is to the left of the brethren in the lodge. If the flag is displayed in the East on its staff standing on the floor of the lodge, at the right of the brethren, on the left of the worshipful master. The flag is never draped, not even upon the altar; nothing should be beneath the Great Lights but the altar; the flag is only draped when it is lovingly laid upon a casket containing the remains of a soldier or sailor. In lodges near the borders of the United States it is a pretty courtesy to display the flag of the neighboring country when visitors from Canada or Mexico are expected.

When two flags are displayed side by side in lodge, the American flag is nearest the right hand of the master, if displayed on the platform; nearest to the right of the brethren if displayed on the floor of the lodge.

What is the distinction between due form and ample form?

A lodge is opened and dosed by its master “in due form,” meaning according to the ancient usages and customs, the laws and ritual, of its grand lodge. When the grand master opens and closes a grand lodge (or a particular lodge) he is said to do so in “ample form.” In some jurisdictions the grand master will shorten the common ritual, to save time, but his power and authority are “ample” to accomplish his purpose, regardless of the manner in which he does it.

In some jurisdictions the phrase “due examination” is used in referring to one of the methods of obtaining legal or lawful Masonic information. “Due examination” specifies the manner of such an examination; that it be conducted with due caution, and according to all the regulations of the grand lodge.

The Masonic Service Association of North America