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Acquittal

Under this head it may be proper to discuss two questions of Masonic law.

l. Can a Freemason, having been acquitted by the courts of the country of an offense with which he has been charged, be tried by his Lodge for the same offense?

2. Can a Freemason, having been acquitted by his Lodge on insufficient evidence, be subjected, on the discovery and production of new and more complete evidence, to a second trial for the same offense?

To both of these questions the correct answer would seem to be in the affirmative.

l. An acquittal of a crime by a temporal court does not relieve a Freemason from an inquisition into the same offense by his Lodge. Acquittals may be the result of some technicality of law, or other cause, where, although the party is relieved from legal punishment, his guilt is still manifest in the eyes of the community. If the Order were to be controlled by the action of the courts, the character of the Institution might be injuriously affected by its permitting a man, who had escaped without honor from the punishment of the law, to remain a member of the Fraternity. In the language of the Grand Lodge of Texas, "an acquittal by a jury, while it may, and should, in some circumstances, have its influence in deciding on the course to be pursued, yet has no binding force in Masonry. We decide on our own rules, and our own view of the facts" (Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Texas, volume ii page 273). The Code Governing Procedure and Practice in Masonic Trials, in the Book of Constitutions edited by Brother Henry Pirtle for the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, says, on page 195, fifth edition, "Conviction or acquittal by a civil or military court for the same offense can not be pleaded in bar of trial by a Masonic Lodge.

"2. To come to a correct apprehension of the second question, we must remember that it is a long-settled principle of Masonic law, that every offense which a Freemason commits is an injury to the whole Fraternity, inasmuch as the bad conduct of a single member reflects discredit on the whole Institution. This is a very old and well-established principle of the Institution. Hence we find the Old Constitutions declaring that Freemasons ''should never be thieves nor thieves' mountaineers''(Cooke Manuscript line 916 ).

The safety of the Institution requires that no evil-disposed member should be tolerated with impunity in bringing disgrace on the Craft. Therefore, although it is a well-known maxim of the common law - Nemo debet bis puniri pro uno delicto - that is, No one should be twice placed in peril of punishment for the same crime, yet we must also remember that other and fundamental maxim - Salus populi suprema lex-which may, in its application to Freemasonry, be well translated. The well-being of the Order is the first great law. To this everything else must yield. Therefore, if a member, having been accused of a heinous offense and tried, shall, on his trial, for want of sufficient evidence, be acquitted, or, being convicted, shall, for the same reason, be punished by an inadequate penalty, and if he shall thus be permitted to remain in the Institution with the stigma of the crime upon him, ''whereby the Craft comes to shame, " then, if new and more sufficient evidence shall be subsequently discovered, it is just and right that a new trial shall be had, so that he may, on this newer evidence, receive that punishment which will vindicate the reputation of the Order. No technicalities of law, no plea of autrefois acquit, already acquitted, nor mere verbal exception, should be allowed for the escape of a guilty member, for so long as he lives in the Order, every man is subject to its discipline. A hundred wrongful acquittals of a bad member, who still bears with him the reproach of his evil life, can never discharge the Order from its paramount duty of protecting its own good fame and removing the delinquent member from its fold. To this great duty all private and individual rights and privileges must succumb, for the well-being of the Order is the first great law in Freemasonry.

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