A few months ago, fellow Midnight Freemason contributor, Michael Arce, and I were discussing the idea of missing rings. This is the idea in sports, that there were some teams that should have won a championship, but for one reason or another did not. Teams like the Buffalo Bills who reached the Super Bowl four years in a row and did not walk away with a win in any of them, or the New York Knicks who were in the playoffs for 13 years straight from 1988 to 2001. The thought Michael had was that there were individuals throughout history who should have been a Freemason, but for whatever reason did not become one. They were therefore missing their Masonic Ring, like these teams were missing their Championship Rings.
As I thought about this, I thought about the idea of making a Mason at sight. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, it is the Eighth Landmark in the Landmarks of Freemasonry by Albert Mackey. Mackey published his landmarks in 1858. It reads as below:
LANDMARK EIGHTH The prerogative of the Grand Master to make masons masons at sight, is a Landmark which is closely connected with the preceding one. There has been much misapprehension in relation to this Landmark, which misapprehension has sometimes led to a denial of its existence in jurisdictions where the Grand Master was perhaps at the very time substantially exercising the prerogative, without the slightest remark or opposition. [It is not to be supposed that the Grand Master can retire with a profane into a private room, and there, without assistance, confer the degrees of Freemasonry upon him. No such prerogative exists, and yet many believe that this is the so much talked of right of "making Masons at sight". The real mode and the only mode of exercising the prerogative is this: The Grand Master summons to his assistance not less than six other masons, convenes a Lodge, and without any previous probation, but in sight of the candidate, confers the degrees upon him, after which he dissolves the Lodge and dismisses the brethren. Lodges thus convened for special purposes are called occasional lodges. This is the only way in which any Grand Master within the records of the institution has ever been known to "make a Mason at sight". The prerogative is dependent upon that of granting dispensations to open and hold Lodges. If the Grand Master has the power of granting to any other Mason the privilege of presiding over Lodges working by his dispensation, he may assume this privilege of presiding to himself; and as no one can deny his right to revoke his dispensation granted to a number of brethren at a distance, and to dissolve the Lodge at his pleasure, it will scarcely be contended that he may not revoke his dispensation for a Lodge over which he himself has been presiding, within a day, and dissolve the Lodge as soon as the business for which he had assembled it is accomplished. The making of Masons at sight is only the conferring of the degrees by the Grand Master, at once, in an occasional Lodge, constituted by his dispensing power for the purpose, and over which he presides in person.
I started to think about individuals from History who exemplified the ideals of our Fraternity. Considering they would most likely have to be made a “Mason at Sight” due to their popularity, I then began to whittle down my list to individuals who were alive during or after the time when Mackey published his landmarks. After much thought, I made a decision. Since I’m from the State of Illinois, my choice maybe considered biased. My choice is Abraham Lincoln. Granted, Lincoln was not without flaws. W.E.B. DuBois famously stated in 1922 the following about Lincoln: “I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed.”
Lincoln had applied for membership with Tyrian Lodge #333 AF & AM in Springfield, Illinois in 1860, shortly after his nomination for the presidency. He withdrew the application because he felt that his applying for membership at the time might be viewed as a political move to win votes. He advised the lodge that he would resubmit his application again after he had returned from the presidency. Of course, he never got that chance. Upon his assassination, Tyrian Lodge adopted on April 17, 1865 a resolution saying: “...that the decision of President Lincoln to postpone his application for the honours of Freemasonry, lest his motives be misconstrued, is the highest degree honorable to his memory."
What would have made Lincoln an ideal Freemason? Although his religious affiliation remains a matter of debate, Lincoln did believe in God. Secondly, he was a man of extremely good character. The Abraham Lincoln Center for Character Development at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois lists the below nine qualities of his character. Specific examples from each quality is able to be accessed by the hyperlinks below.
- Honesty – Striving for dealing with individuals and situations fairly and with truth.
- Empathy – Showing concern and attempting to understand the feelings of others.
- Humility – Working for the betterment of others, and in the interest of others over self.
- Perseverance – Showing hope and determination in the face of defeats and loss.
- Courage – Bravely standing for what is right in the face of opposition and personal fears.
- Intellect – Continually learning all one can about the world around us.
- Vision – Being governed by a firm set of principles & attainable ideas about the future.
- Responsibility – Willingness to work hard and to do one’s duty as a citizen.
- Leadership – Showing an ability to lead others in service and with justice & fairness.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know what Lincoln could have done for Freemasonry in Illinois, or even on a national level. I do feel however that he would have been an excellent Freemason. He seemed to embody all of the things that Freemasonry represents. What do you think? If you had to make a choice, who would you chose? I’d be interested in the feedback of our readers.
WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.