All the Grand Lodges of the world, all the Lodges, all Freemasons, consider the

 

Text of the "Old Charges" as the

 

Fundamental Law of Universal Freemasonry.

 

The constant and strict respect of this tradition, despite the diversity of nature of the Grand Lodges or the various countries, despite the variety of the Lodges composing them, despite the particular tendencies of the Brethren of all races, all nationalities, all faiths and all opinions composing them, ensure it universal character to the Masonic Order and allows all Free-Masons to recognize each other as Brethren. These traditional rules are our cement and our bond. They are of both a moral and practical nature. They set the broad outlines for the life of Grand lodges and Lodges, and prescribe to all our Brethren intangible moral imperatives. They maintain the framework of Masonic work, perpetual quest for freedom and justice, sheltered from any religious and political quarrel. They allow Free-Masonry to constitute that true Center of Union where meet, fraternally, men who without it would have perpetually remained strangers to each other.

 

 

 

The Old Charges

 

The General Heads

 

 

Viz.:

 

I-    Of God and Religion.

II-   Of the Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate.

III-  Of Lodges.

IV-  Of Masters, Wardens, Fellows, and Apprentices.

V-   Of the Management of the Craft in working.

VI-  Of Behaviour, viz.

1.    In the Lodge while constituted.

2.    After the Lodge is over and the Brethren not gone.

3.    When Brethren meet without Strangers, but not in a Lodge.

4.    In Presence of Strangers not Masons.

5.    At Home, and in the Neighbourhood.

6.    Towards a strange Brother.

 

Compiled by the Author in their Old Records, by order of the Grand Master, the present Duke of Montagu. Approved by the Grand Lodge and printed by order in the first Edition of the Book of Constitutions, on the 25 March 1722.

 

I-    Concerning God and Religion.

 

A Mason is oblig'd, by this Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg'd in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ‘tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men an true1 or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever  Denominations  or  Persuasions they  may  be distinguish'd; whereby Masonry becomes the Centre of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain'd at a perpetual Distance.


 

 

II-   Of the Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate.

 

A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern'd in Plots an Conspiracies against the Peace an Welfare of the Nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior Magistrates,' for as Masonry hath been always injured by War, Bloodshed, and Confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much dispos'd to encourage the Craftsmen, because of their Peaceableness and Loyalty, whereby they practically answer'd the Cavils of their Adversaries, and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish'd in Times of Peace. So that if a Brother should be a Rebel against the State, he is not to be countenanc'd in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime, though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.

 

III-   Of Lodges.

 

A Lodge is a Place where Masons assemble and work: Hence that Assembly, or duly organitd Society of Masons, is calI'd a Lodge, and every Brother ought to belong to one, and to be subject to its By-Laws and the General Regulations. It is either particular or general, and will be best understood by attending it, and by the Regulations of the General or Grand Lodge hereunto annex'd. In ancient Times, no Master or Fellow could be absent from it, espedally when warn'd to appear at it, without incurring a severe Censure, until it appear'd to the Master and Wardens, that pure Necessity hinderd him. The Persons admitted Members of a Lodge must be good and true Men, freetom, and of mature and discreet Age, no Bondmen, no Women, no immoral or scandalous Men, but of good Report.

 

IV-  Of Masters, Wardens, Fellows, and Apprentices.

 

All Preferment among Masons is grounded upon real Worth and personal Merit only; that so the Lords may be well served, the Brethren not put to Shame, nor the Royal Craft despis'd: Therefore no Master or Warden is chosen by seniority, but for his Merit. It is impossible to describe these things in writing, and every Brother must attend in his Place, and learn them in a way peculiar to this Fraternity: Only Candidates may know, that no Master should take an Apprentice, unless he has sufficient Employment for him, and unless he be a perfect Youth, having no Maim or Defect in his Body, that may render him uncapable to learning the Art, of serving his Masters Lord, and of being made a Brother, and then a Fellow-Craft in due time, even after he has served such a term of Years as the Custom of the Country directs; and that should be descended of honest Parents ; that so, when otherwise qualify'd, he may arrive to the Honour of being the Warden, and then the Master of the Lodge, the Grand Warden, and at length the Grand-Master of all the Lodges according to his Merit. No Brother can be a Warden until he has pass'd the part of a Fellow-Craft, nor a Master until he has acted as a Warden, nor Grand Warden until he has been Master of a Lodge, nor Grand-Master unless he has been a Fellow-Craft before his Election, who is also to be nobly born, or a Gentleman of the best Fashion, or some eminent scholar, or some curious Architect, or other Artist descended of honest Parents, and who is of singular great Merit in the Opinion of the Lodges. And for the better, and easier, and more honourable Discharge of his Office, the Grand-Master has a Power to chuse his own Deputy Grand-Master, who must be then, or must have been formerly, the Master of a particular Lodge, and has the Privilege of acting whatever the Grand-Master, his Principal, should act, unless the said Principal be present, or interpose his Authority by a Letter. These rules and Governors, Supreme and Subordinate, of the ancient Lodge, are to be obey'd in their respective Stations by all the Brethren, according to the old Charges and Regulations, with all Humility, Reverence, Love, and Alacrity.

 

V-    Of the Management Of the Craft in working.

 

All Masons shall work honestly on working Days, that they may live creditably on holy Days; and the time appointed by the Law of the Land, or confirm'd by Custom, shall be observ'd. The most expert of the fellow-Craftsmen shall be chosen or appointed the Master, or Overseer of the Lord's Work; who is to be called Master by those that work under him. The Craftsmen are to avoid all ill Language, and to call each other by no disobliging Name, but Brother or Fellow: and to behave themselves courteously within and without the Lodge. The Master, knowing himself to be able of Cunning, shall undertake the Lord's Work as reasonably as possible, and truly dispend his Goods as if they were his own; nor to give more Wages to any Brother or Apprentice than he really may deserve. Both the Master and the Masons receiving their Wages justly, shall be faithful to the Lord, and honestly finish their Work whether Task or Journey; nor put the Work to Task that hath been accustom'd to Journey. None shall discover Envy at the Prosperity of a Brother, nor supplant him, or put him out of his Work, if he be capable to finish the same; for no Man can finish another's Work so much to the Lord's Profit unless he be thoroughly acquainted with the Designs and Draughts of him that began it. When a Fellowcrafman is chosen Warden of the Work under the Master, he shall be true both to Master and Fellows, shall carefully oversee the Work in the Masters Absence to the Lord's Profit and his Brethren shall obey him. All Masons employ'd, shall meekly receive their Wages without Murmuring or Mutiny, and not desert the Master till the Work is finish'd. A younger Brother shall be instructed in working, to prevent spoiling the Materials for want of Judgment, and for encreasing and continuing of Brotherly Love. All the Tools used in working shall be approved by the Grand Lodge. No Labourer shall be employd in the proper Work of Masonry; nor shall Free Masons work with those that are not free, without an urgent Necessity; nor shall they teach Labourers and unaccepted Masons, as they should teach a Brother or Fellow.

 

VI-   Of Behaviour,

 

VIZ.

 

1.    In the Lodge while constituted.

 

You are not to hold private Committees, or separate Conversation, without Leave from the Master, nor to talk of any thing impertinent or unseemly, nor interrupt the Master or Wardens, or any Brother speaking to the Master: Nor behave yourself ludicrously or jestlingly while the Lodge is engaged in what is  serious and  solemn;  nor  use  any unbecoming  Language  upon  any  Pretence whatsoever; but to pay due Reverence to your Master, Wardens, and Fellows, and put them to worship. If any Complaint be brought, the Brother found  guilty shall  stand to  the  Award  and Determination of the Lodge, who are the proper and competent Judges of all such Controversies, (unless you carry it by Appeal to the Grand Lodge) and to whom they ought to be referr'd, unless a Lord's Work be hindered the mean while, in which Case a particular Reference may be made; but you must never go to Law about what concern the Masonry, without an absolute Necessity apparent to the Lodge.

 

2.   Behaviour after the Lodge is over and the Brethren not gone.

 

You may enjoy yourselves with innocent Mirth, treating one another according to Ability, but avoiding all Excess, or forcing any Brother to eat or drink beyond his Inclination, or hindering him from going when his Occasions call him, or doing or saying any thing offensive, or that may forbid an easy and free Conversation; for that would blast our Harmony, and defeat our laudable  Purposes. Therefore no private Piques or Quarrels must be brought within the Door of the Lodge, far less any Quarrels about Religion, or Nations or State Policy, we being only, as Masons, of the Catholick Religion above-mention'd; we are also of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds, and Languages, and resolv'd against all politicks, as what never yet conduc'd to the Welfare of the Lodge, nor ever will. This Charges has been always strictly enjoin'd and observ'd; but especially ever since the Reformation in Britain, or the Dissent and Secession of these Nations from the Communion of Rome.

 

3. Behaviour when Brethren meet without Strangers, but not in a Lodge form'd.

 

You are to salute one another in a courteous manner, as you will be instructed, calling each other Brother, freely giving mutual Instructions as shall be thought expedient, without being overseen or overheard, and without encroaching upon each other, or derogating from that Respect which is due to any Brother, were he not a Mason: For though all Masons are as Brethren upon the same Level, yet Masonry takes no Honour to whom it is due, and avoid ill Manners. 

 

4. Behaviour in Presence of Strangers not Masons

 

You shall be cautious in your Words and Carriage, the most penetrating Stranger shall not be able to discover or find out what is not proper to be intimated; and sometimes you shall divert a Discourse, and manage it prudently for the Honour of the worshipful Fraternity.

 

5-  Behaviour at Home, and in your Neighbourhood.

 

You are to act as becomes a moral and wise Man; particularly, not to let your Family, Friends, and Neighbours know the concerns of the Lodge, etc. but wisely to consult your own Honour, and that of the ancient Brotherhood, for Reasons not to be mention'd here. You must also consult your Health by not continuing together too late, or too long from home after Lodge Hours are past; and by avoiding of Gluttony or Drunkenness, that your Families be not neglected or injured, nor you disabled from working.

 

6-  Behaviour towards a Strange Brother

 

You are cautiously to examine him, in such a Method as Prudence shall direct you, that you may not be impos'd upon by an ignorant false Pretender! whom you are to reject with Contempt and Derision and beware of giving him any Hints of Knowledge. But if you discover him to be a true and genuine Brother, you are to respect him accordingly; and if he is in want you must relieve him if you can, or else direct him how he may be reliev'd: You must employ him some Days, or else recommend him to be employd. But you are not charged to do beyond your Ability, only to prefer a poor Brother, that is a good Man and true, before any other poor People in the same Circumstances.

 

Finally, All these Charges you are to observe, and also those that shall be communicated to you in another way; cultivating BROTHERLY-LOVE, the Foundation and Cape-stone, the Cement and Glory of this ancient Fraternity, avoiding all Wrangling and Quarrelling, all Slander an Backbiting, nor permitting others to slander any honest Brother, but defending his Character. and doing him all good Offlces, as far as is consistent with your Honour and Safety, and no farther. And if any of them do you Injury, you must apply to your own or his Lodge; and from thence you may appeal to the GRAND LODGE at the Quarterly Communication, and from thence to the annual GRAND LODGE as has been the ancient laudable Conduct of our Fore-fathers in every Nation; never taking a legal Course but when the Case cannot be otherwise decided, and patiently listening to the honest and friendly Advice of Master and Fellows, when they would prevent your going to Law with Strangers, or would excite you to put a speedy Period to all Law-Suits, that so you may mind the Affair of MASONRY with the more Alacrity and Success; but with respect to Brothers or Fellows at Law, the Master and Brethren should kindly offer their Mediation, which ought to be thankfully submitted to by the contending Brethren: and if that Submission is impracticable, they must however carry on their Process, Of Law-Suit, without Wrath an Rancor (not in the common way) saying or doing nothing which may hinder Brotherly Love, and good Offices to be renew'd and continu'd; that all may see the benign Influence of MASONRY, as all true Masons have done from the Beginning of the World, and will do to the End of Time.