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more light #265
Signing of By-Laws and Candidate
by Ed Halpaus
Brother Albert Mackey asks us a good question, and then he gives us the (his) answer. I think you will enjoy reading his thoughts.
How long after his election does the right of signing the by-laws inure to the candidate; in other words, how long is it after his reception that the recipient may still come forward, and by affixing his signature to the by-laws, avail himself of his right of membership, and without further application or ballot, be constituted a member of the Lodge in which he has been initiated?
Although the landmarks and ancient Constitutions leave us without any specific reply to this question, analogy and the just conclusions to be derived from the reason of the law are amply sufficient to supply us with an answer.
The newly made candidate, it has already been intimated, possesses the right to claim his membership without further ballot, on the reasonable ground that, as he was deemed worthy of reception into the third degree, it would be idle to suppose that he was not equally worthy of admission into full membership; and we have seen that this was the reason assigned by the Grand Lodge of England for the incorporation of this provision into its constitution.
Now, this is undoubtedly an excellent and unanswerable reason for his admission to membership, immediately upon his reception. But the reason loses its force if any time is permitted to elapse between the reception of the degree and the admission to membership. No man knows what a day may bring forth. He that was worthy on Monday, may on Tuesday have committed some act by which his worthiness will be forfeited. It may be true, as the Roman satirist expresses it, that no man becomes suddenly wicked; and it may be reasonable to suppose that, for some time after his initiation, the habits and character of the initiate will remain unchanged, and therefore that for a certain period the members of the Lodge will be justified in believing the candidate whom they have received to continue in possession of the same qualifications of character and conduct which had recommended and obtained his reception. But how are we to determine the extent of that period, and the time when it will be unsafe to predicate of the recipient a continuance of good character? It is admitted that after three months, it would be wrong to draw any conclusions as to the candidate’s qualifications, from what was known of him on the day of his reception; and accordingly many Lodges have prescribed as a regulation, that if he does not within that period claim his right of membership, and sign the by-laws, that right shall be forfeited, and he can then only be admitted upon application, and after ballot. But why specify three months, and not two, or four, or six? Upon what principle of ethics is the number three to be especially selected? The fact is that the moment that we permit the initiate to extend the privilege of exercising his right beyond the time which is concurrent with his reception, the reason of the law is lost. The candidate having been deemed worthy of receiving the third degree, must, at the time of his reception of that degree, also be presumed to be worthy of membership. This is in the reason of things. But if a month, a week, or a single day is allowed to elapse, there is no longer a certainty of the continuance of that worthiness; the known mutability and infirmity of human character are against the presumption, and the question of its existence should then be tested by a ballot.
Again, one of the reasons why a unanimous ballot is required is that a “fractious member” shall not be imposed on the Lodge, or one who would “spoil its harmony.” Now, if A is admitted to receive the third degree on a certain evening, with the unanimous consent of all the Lodge, which must, of necessity, include the affirmative vote of B, then on the same evening he must be qualified for admission to membership, because it is not to be presumed that B would be willing that A should receive the third degree, and yet be unwilling to sit with him in the Lodge as a fellow-member; and therefore A may be admitted at once to membership, without a needless repetition of the ballot, which, of course, had been taken on his application for the degree. But if any length of time is permitted to elapse, and if after a month, for instance, A comes forward to avail himself of his right of admission, then he shall not be admitted without a ballot; because, between the time of his reception at the preceding meeting, and the time of his application at the subsequent one, something may have occurred between himself and B, a member of the Lodge, which would render him objectionable to the latter, and his admission would then “spoil the harmony” of the Lodge, and “hinder its freedom.” The Regulation, therefore, adopted by the Grand Lodge of England, which prescribes that the candidate, to avoid a ballot, must express his wish to be received a member on the day of his initiation, that is, of his reception into the third degree, seems to be the only proper one. Any Regulation that extends the period, and permits the candidate to sign the by-laws and become a member without a ballot, provided he does so within two or three months, or any other determined period extending beyond the day of his reception, is contrary to the spirit and tenor of the law, and is calculated to be sometimes of a mischievous tendency. If the candidate does not assert his right on the day of his reception into the third degree, he loses it altogether; and must, to acquire membership, submit to a petition and ballot, as in the case of any other affiliation.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014