This paper is adapted from “The Lodge Plan for Masonic Education”, Mentor’s Guide, Published by the Grand Lodge of Alberta A.F. &A.M., August 1974
THE MASON AS A CITIZEN
In the Old Charges it is laid down as a fundamental law of the old Craft that “a Mason is to be a peaceable subject to the civil powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concerned in Plots and Conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the Nation . . . ”
The 1st Degree Charge states:
“As a citizen of the world, I am next to enjoin you to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties by never proposing, or at all countenancing any act that may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; by paying due obedience to the laws of any state which may for a time become the place of your residence or to afford you its protection and above all by never losing sight of the allegiance due to the sovereign of this nation, ever remembering the obligation of loyalty which you owe to your Queen and Country.
As an individual I am further to recommend the practice of every domestic as well as public virtue. Let prudence direct you, temperance chasten you, fortitude support you and justice be the guide of all your actions”.
What does this charge mean?
It may be generally stated that as a citizen, you are to be a quiet and peaceable subject, true to your government and just to your country. You are not to countenance disloyalty or rebellion, but patiently submit to legal authority, and conform with cheerfulness to the government of the country in which you live.
The 1st time I gave this charge in open Lodge, a PM approached me and stated; “That was a nice charge, but I will never let Freemasonry dictate whether or not I can rebel against any government policy or law that I think is unjust, or for that matter against the Government itself – And I had to agree with him –
I don’t want Freemasonry dictating my views on my Government. How does Freemasonry (which does not allow the discussion of Politics) get off make this kind of statement?
Let’s look a little closer at what this charge says and means looking first at its origin;
At the time the Old Charges were written, the people had no voice in their government. They were ruled by kings, and often the dynasty to which the king belonged was challenged in its right to rule by some other dynasty. A rebellion or a revolution was the only method by which a government could be changed. Almost every organization, including even churches and colleges, took sides with one dynasty against the other. Masonic law took the position that this system of warring parties was hurtful to mankind; and a great danger to a people, and that it ought to be replaced by the principle of good will and peaceable cooperation.
Here in Canada, instead of quarreling with each other as to what the government shall be, our parties are in contention as to what the government shall do, and instead of deciding which one shall triumph by means of rebellions and revolutions, our parties make ‘ use of political campaigns. While these campaigns do not result in the shedding of blood, they sometimes result in a great deal of bitterness. In the face of this modern situation our Craft continues to take the same position that it took in an earlier time; it believes that these bitter, partisan contentions are hurtful to the people, – subversive of sound government, – and that the welfare of the State can be best secured by good will, toleration and a patient, friendly cooperation. Although Masons should and do vote their convictions, the Lodge refuses to participate in partisan politics and forbids its members ever to do so in the name of Masonry!
It is now possible for us to define the Masonic conception of citizenship. It means that in all his relations with the community and the State a Freemason is motivated and controlled by the principle of fraternalism, which means that as one of the people, he works for and with the people in the spirit of good will and for the general good. He is to apply fraternalism in detail in such manner as meets with his best judgment.
A Mason may be an active worker in some political party; it is for him to decide what party it is; but as a Mason he will not hate those who differ with him nor enter unjust intrigues against them; he will not set up his own party in opposition to the public good, nor will he proselyte for supporters among his Brethren.
He may be an active member of a church, but as a Mason he will not be actuated by prejudice or intolerance; nor will he be a party toward making war upon any other religious communion, however much in error he may deem it to be.
In his social life, he may belong to any circle he wishes, wealthy or poor, and enjoy the companionship of such as please him, nobody else having any right to dictate; but as a Mason he will not consider his own circle above others, or despise those who may not be as fortunate as he in his social relations-for such snobbery is repugnant to the principle of fraternalism.
Again, it is possible that he may feel a pride of race, may cherish the traditions of his own people, may love its language and prefer its customs; if so, nobody has the right to forbid him, for it is right and honourable in every man to respect his own blood; but as a Mason he will not, therefore, despise others of a different race, nor seek – at their expense – to exalt his own, for there is nothing more un-Masonic than race prejudice.
Freemasonry leaves it wholly to us to decide what form our citizenship shall take in detail or where we shall find our own niche in the great structure of public life. You will now understand why neither a Lodge, nor a Grand Lodge, nor any group of Masons as such, ever interferes with matters of church, state, or society, or joins one party as against another
To sum up: If a Mason asks, “How am I to apply the teachings of Masonry to Citizenship?” the answer is this:
It is for you to decide and according to your opportunity. All that is required of you is to be guided throughout by the principle of fraternalism.