It is a rule in Freemasonry, that a Lodge may dispense with the examination of a visitor, if any Brother present will vouch that he possesses the necessary qualifications.. This is an important prerogative that every Freemason is entitled to exercise; and yet it is one which may so materially affect the well-being of the whole Fraternity, since, by its injudicious use, impostors might be introduced among the faithful, that it should be controlled by the most stringent regulations.
To vouch for one is to bear witness for him, and in witnessing to truth, every Caution should be observed, lest falsehood may Cunningly assume its garb. The brother who vouches should know to a Certainty that the one for whom he vouches is really what he Claims to be. He should know this, not from a casual conversation, nor a loose and careless inquiry, but from Strict Trial, due examination, or lawful information. These are the three requisites which the instructions have laid down as essentially necessary to authorize the act of vouching. Let us inquire into the import of each.
1. Strait Trial. By this is meant that every question is to be asked, and every answer demanded, which is necessary to convince the examiner that the party examined is acquainted with what he ought to know, to entitle him to the appellation of a brother. Nothing is to be taken for granted- categorical answers must be returned to all that it is deemed important to be asked; no forgetfulness is to be excused; nor is the want of memory to be considered as a valid reason for the want of knowledge. The Freemason who is so unmindful of his obligations as to have forgotten the instructions he has received, must pay the penalty of his Carelessness, and be deprived of his contemplated visit to that Society whose secret modes of recognition he has so little valued as not to have treasured them in his memory. The strict trial refers to the matter which is sought to be obtained by inquiry. While there are some things which may safely be passed over in the investigation of one who confesses himself to be "rusty," because they are details which require much study to acquire and constant practice to retain, there are still other things of great importance which must be rigidly demanded.
2. Due Examination. If strict trial refers to the matter, due examination alludes to the mode of investigation. This must be conducted with all the necessary forms and antecedent Cautions. Inquiries should be made as to the time and place of initiation as a preliminary step, the Tiler's oath of Course never being admitted. Then the good old rule of "commencing at the beginning" should be pursued. Let everything go on in regular course; not is it to be supposed that the information sought was originally received Whatever be the suspicions of imposture, let no expression of those suspicions be made until the final degree for rejection is uttered. And let that decree be uttered in general terms, such as, "I am not satisfied," or "I do not recognize you," and not in more specific language, such as, "You did not answer this inquire ," or "You are ignorant on that point." The candidate for examination is only entitled to know that he has not Complied generally with the requisitions of his examiner. To descend to particulars is always improper, and often dangerous. Above all, never ask what the lawyers Call "leading questions," which include in themselves the answer, nor in any way aid the memory, or prompt the forgetfulness of the party examined, by the slightest hints.
3. Lawful Information. This authority for vouching is dependent on what has been already described. For no Freemason Can lawfully give information of another's qualifications unless he has himself actually tested him But it is not every Freemason who is competent to give lawful information. Ignorant or unskillful brethren cannot do so, because they are incapable of discovering truth or of detecting error.
A "rusty Freemason" should never attempt to examine a stranger, and Certainly, lf he does, his opinion as to the result is worth nothing. If the information given is on the ground that the party who is vouched for has been seen sitting in a Lodge, Care must be taken to inquire if it was a "just and legally Constituted Lodge of Master Masons." A person may forget from the lapse of time, and vouch for a stranger as a Master Mason, whets the Lodge in which he saw him was only opened in the first or Second degree Information given by letter, or through a third party, is irregular. The person giving information, the one receiving it, and the one of whom it is given, should all be present at the time, for otherwise there would be no certainty of identity.
The information must be positive, not founded on belief or opinion, but derived from a legitimate source. And, furthermore, it must not have been received casually, but for the very purpose of being used for Masonic purposes. For one to say to another, in the course of a desultory conversation, "A. B. is a Freemason," is not sufficient.. He may not be speaking with due caution, under the expectation that his words will be considered of weight. He must say something to this effect, "I know this man to be a Master Mason, for such or such reasons, and you may safely recognize him as such.'' This alone will insure the necessary care and proper observance of prudence.
Lastly, never should an unjustifiable delicacy weaken the rigor of these rules. For the wisest and most evident reasons, that merciful maxim of the law, which says that it is better that ninety-nine guilty men should escape than that one innocent man should be punished, is with us reversed; so that in Freemasonry it is better that ninety anal nine true men Should be turned away from the door of a Lodge, than that one Cowan should be admitted.