One of the qualifications for candidates is that they shall be of lawful age. What that age must be is not settled by any universal law or landmark of the Order. The Ancient Regulations do not express any determinate number of years at the expiration of which a candidate becomes legally entitled to apply for admission.
The language used is, that he must be of "mature and discreet age."
But the usage of the Craft has differed in various countries as to the construction of the time when this period of maturity and discretion is supposed to have arrived. The sixth of the Regulations, which are said to have been made in 1663, prescribes that "no person shall be accepted a Freemason unless he be one and twenty years old or more"; but the subsequent Regulations are less explicit. At Frankfort-on-the-Main, the age required is twenty; in the Lodges of Switzerland, it has been fixed at twenty-one. The Grand Lodge of Hanover prescribes the age of twenty-five, but permits the son of a Freemason to be admitted at eighteen see Lewis). The Grand Lodge of Hamburg decrees that the lawful age for initiation shall be that which in any country has been determined by the laws of the land to be the age of majority. The Grand Orient of France requires the candidate. to be twenty-one, unless he be the son of a Freemason who has performed some important service to the Order, or unless he be a young man who has served six months in the army, when the initiation may take place at the age of eighteen.
In Prussia the required age is twenty-five. Under the Grand Lodge of England the Constitutions of 1723 provided that no man should be made a Freemason under the age of twenty-five unless by Dispensation from the Grand Master. This remained the necessary age until it was lowered in the Constitutions of 1784 to twenty-one years, as at present, though the Ancient Freemasons still retained the requirement of twenty-five until the Union of 1813. Under the Scotch Constitution the age was eighteen until 1891, when it was raised to twenty- one. Under the Irish Constitution the age was twenty-one until 1741, when it was raised to twenty-five and so remained until 1817, when it was lowered again to twenty-one. In the United States, the usage is general that the candidate shall not be less than twenty-one years of age at the time of his initiation, and no Dispensation can issue for conferring the degrees at an earlier period.
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