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The right to be buried with the set ceremonies of the Order is one that, under certain restrictions, belongs to every Master Mason.
None of the ancient Constitutions contain any law upon this subject, nor can the exact time be now determined when funeral processions and a burial service were first admitted as regulations of the Order.
The first official notice, however, that we have of funeral processions is in November, 1754. A regu1ation was then adopted which prohibited any Freemason from attending a funeral or other procession clothed in any of the jewels or clothing of the Craft, except by dispensation of the Grand Master or his Deputy (see Constitutions, 1756, page 303).
There are no further regulations on this subject in any of the editions of the Book of Constitutions previous to the modern code which is now in force in the Grand Lodge of England. But Preston gives us the rules on this subject, which have now been adopted by general consent as the law of the Order, in the following words:
"No Mason can be interred with the formalities of the Order unless it be by his own special request communicated by the Master of the Lodge of which he died a member, foreigners and sojourners excepted; nor unless he has been advanced to the third degree of Masonry, from which restriction there can be no exception.
Fellow Crafts or Apprentices are not entitled to the funeral obsequies'' (see Illustrations, 1792, page 118).
The only restrictions prescribed by Preston are, it will be perceived, that the deceased must have been a Master Mason, that he had himself made the request and that he was affiliated, which is implied by the expression that he must have made the request for burial to the Master of the Lodge of which he was a member.
The regulation of 1754, which requires a Dispensation from the Grand Master for a funeral procession, is not considered of force in the United States of America, where, accordingly, Freemasons have generally been permitted to bury their dead without the necessity of such Dispensation.
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