The Master's Book 2
Carl H. Claudy
POWERS OF A MASTER
The Master of a Masonic Lodge has more power than the presiding officer of any secular body. The "rules of order" under which business is conducted in other assemblies apply only partially in a Lodge. The by-laws of a profane organization may enclose a president or chairman as with stone walls, fetter him as with chains; in a Masonic Lodge no by-law which restricts the inherent powers of a Master can be passed, or, if passed, will be sustained by Grand Master or Grand Lodge.
A railroad engine is a potent tool for wise use, but who would ride in a train pulled by a locomotive at the throttle of which was a ten year-old child. A book of matches may kindle the fire which cooks our food or destroys a forest. A thirty-eight calibre revolver may defend one's country or commit a murder. Power is constructive only when used with knowledge. The Master who does not know his powers cannot use them intelligently. The Master who knows what he may and may not lawfully do will lead with wisdom, discretion and success.
Laws differ in the forty-nine Grand Jurisdictions of continental United States, but certain powers of a Master are universally acknowledged. The Master is responsible only to the Grand Master, the Grand Lodge (or the Deputy of the Grand Master) for his acts; consequently he must have full authority and, within limits, be the ruler of his Lodge. But while Grand Masters uphold Masters in all lawful exercise of authority, they are quick to frown upon arbitrary rulings.
With one or two exceptions, only the Master may call special communications of his Lodge. In one or two Jurisdictions the Lodge has power to summons the whole membership, but these but prove the rule.
No one but the Master may preside over his Lodge, in his presence (except the Grand Master or his Deputy) unless by his order.
Masters have full control of debate. A Master may propose a motion, second it, put it, close discussion, refuse to put a motion, at his pleasure . . . but let him think carefully before refusing to put any motion. If the proposer of the motion which the Master refuses to put lays the matter before the Grand Master, the Master must have a good reason or may be convicted of arbitrary use of his power and disciplined.
During the war an enthusiastic Lodge member moved that the Lodge sell all its assets and invest in liberty Bonds. The Master refused to put the motion. The brother was incensed and complained to the Grand Master. The Master's reason, that such a drastic performance should have the advice of the Finance Committee before Lodge action, the Grand Master thought excellent. In another Lodge a motion to spend a certain sum for charitable relief was made. The Master refused to put the motion. On complaint being made, he stated that he needed the money for entertainment!
The Grand Master reprimanded him severely for arbitrary refusal to permit the Lodge to spend its own money on its own Masonic business. Good reasons for refusing to put a motion may be: that there is not time enough to discuss it, when a degree is scheduled with candidate duly notified and in waiting; that the motion will disturb the peace and harmony of the Lodge; that the matter requires the study of a committee before being brought before the Lodge, etc.
No appeal lies from a Master's decision, either to the Lodge, to a committee, or to any Past Master. Some Masters are weak, and afraid they cannot sustain an unpopular ruling. These have been known to allow some brother to "appeal to the Lodge" and have then abided by what the Lodge decided.
This is subversive of the dignity of the Master's station. It is not John Smith in the Chair who is thus over-ruled — it is the Master. He is a good Master who insists on all respect being paid the dignity of the office. The brother with the gavel is not only John Smith, but Worshipful  Master. To permit interference with the ancient usages and customs which surround the Master's Chair decreases reverence for tradition.
No motion to "lay on the table," "to postpone, to adjourn," "to close"; for "unanimous consent for a brother to speak," for "the previous question" should ever be entertained, much less put. It is only for the Master to say whether this subject is to be discussed now or later. The Lodge is opened and closed at his pleasure (except that he must not do business at a Stated Communication at an hour earlier than that stated in the by-laws; some by-laws in some Jurisdictions provide a stated time f or a Stated Communication to be opened; in such the Master should not open before that specified time).
It is for the Master to say who may and who may not speak. He can be responsible for the "peace and harmony" of his Lodge only by controlling its deliberations. But he is also responsible for the Masonic fairness, charity, courtesy and reasonableness of his actions; while his brethren may not appeal to the Lodge for redress for any wrong, real or fancied, they may appeal to Grand Lodge, Grand Master or District Deputy Grand Master. Where an appeal is to be made depends on the law in the particular Grand Jurisdiction; consult the book of Masonic law to ascertain.
The appeal, if sustained, may have serious consequences.
The Master has the sole right of appointing committees. The Lodge may refer a matter to a committee, but may not name its personnel. Were it otherwise the Lodge might control the Master, not the Master the Lodge. Too much care can hardly be exercised in appointing the personnel of committees and the minor officers. The sapling of today is the tree of tomorrow; the Master whose appointments are made with care, forethought and particular reference to the fitness, by training and education, of certain brethren for certain positions, will see his appointees grow to greater and straighter stature in the years to come.
The Master fills all vacant offices by appointment; if the Senior Warden is absent, the Junior Warden does not, of inherent right, assume the West. The Master sends him there, or puts another brother or Past Master there, at his pleasure. But if the Master is absent, the Senior Warden does, by inherent power, occupy the East for that period; the Junior Warden, in the absence of both Master and Senior Warden.
The Master may not alter the minutes nor may he spend Lodge money without consent of the Lodge. (Note: many Lodges provide a limit in emergency relief to which the Master may go without authority of the Lodge.) The Master may refuse to permit minutes which he believes contain improper to-be written material to be confirmed; if any brother insists, it is for Grand Master or District Deputy to decide. The Master may decline to put the motion to confirm minutes which he deems incomplete, but he cannot change the account of facts so that they state that which is not so.
The Master controls who may enter and who may leave the Lodge. There is a vast difference here between power and right. The Master has the power to refuse to open the door to any one — member or visitor (except the Grand Master or his Deputy). But he must have excellent reasons or subject himself to discipline. How far the "right of visitation" extends is still a moot point. Here the local law upon the subject will probably be explicit. In some Jurisdictions the visitor must be admitted (supposing him to be vouched for or passing a proper examination) unless some member objects; in others the matter is left wholly to the Master. The Master would run a risk of complaint should he admit a visitor with whom some member objected to sit.
The Master who is conciliatory, smiling, friendly and peaceable; who refuses to take offense; who does not exercise his great power unless he must; who rules justly, governing with brotherly love, and who believes that the dignity of his office is best upheld by that "harmony" which is the "strength and support of all well regulated institutions" is wise and successful.
- "Worchyp," old English for "greatly respect." ↩