The visit of a Grand Master, accompanied by his Grand Officers, to a subordinate Lodge, to inspect its condition, is called a Grand Visitation. There is no allusion to anything of the kind in the Old Constitutions, because there was no organization of the Order before the eighteenth century that made such an inspection necessary. But immediately after the Revival in 1717, it was found expedient, in consequence of the growth of Lodges in London, to provide for some form of visitation and inspection. So, in the very first of the Thirty-nine General Regulations, adopted in 1721, it is declared that "the Grand Master or his Deputy hath authority and right not only to be present in any true Lodge, but also to preside wherever he is, with the Master of the Lodge on his left hand, and to order his Grand Wardens to attend him, who are not to act in any particular Lodges as Wardens, but in his presence and at his command; because there the Grand Master may command the Wardens of that Lodge, or any other Brethren he pleaseth, to attend and act as his Wardens pro tempore" (Constitutions, 1723, page 58). In compliance with this old regulation, whenever the Grand Master, accompanied by his Wardens and other officers, visits a Lodge in his Jurisdiction, for the purpose of inspecting its condition, the Master and officers of the Lodge thus visited surrender their seats to the Grand Master and the Grand Officers.
Grand Visitations are among the oldest usages of Freemasonry since the revival period. In the United States of America they are not now so frequently practiced, in consequence of the extensive territory in which the Lodges are scattered, and the difficulty of collecting at one point all the Grand Officers, many of whom generally reside at great distances apart. Still, where it can be done, the practice of Grand Visitations should never be neglected. The power of visitation for inspection is confined to the Grand Master and Deputy Grand Master and those holding official proxies for the purpose.
The Grand Wardens possess no such prerogative. The Master must always tender the Gavel and the Chair to the Grand or Deputy Grand Master when either of them informally visits a Lodge; for the Grand Master and, in his absence, the Deputy have the right to preside in all Lodges where they may be present. But this privilege does not extend to the Grand Wardens.
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