In presenting to the fraternity a work on the Principles of Masonic Law, it is due to those for whom it is intended, that something should be said of the design with which it has been written, and of the plan on which it has been composed. It is not pretended to present to the craft an encyclopedia of jurisprudence, in which every question that can possibly arise, in the transactions of a Lodge, is decided with an especial reference to its particular circumstances. Were the accomplishment of such an herculean task possible, except after years of intense and unremitting labor, the unwieldy size of the book produced, and the heterogeneous nature of its contents, so far from inviting, would rather tend to distract attention, and the object of communicating a knowledge of the Principles of Masonic Law, would be lost in the tedious collation of precedents, arranged without scientific system, and enunciated without explanation. When I first contemplated the composition of a work on this subject, a distinguished friend and brother, whose opinion I much respect, and with whose advice I am always anxious to comply, unless for the most satisfactory reasons, suggested the expediency of collecting the decisions of all Grand Masters, Grand Lodges, and other masonic authorities upon every subject of Masonic Law, and of presenting them, without commentary, to the fraternity. But a brief examination of this method, led me to perceive that I would be thus constructing simply a digest of decrees, many of which would probably be the results of inexperience, of prejudice, or of erroneous views of the masonic system, and from which the authors themselves have, in repeated instances, subsequently recededfor Grand Masters and Grand Lodges, although entitled to great respect, are not infallibleand I could not, conscientiously, have consented to assist, without any qualifying remark, in the extension and perpetuation of edicts and opinions, which, however high the authority from which they emanated, I did not believe to be in accordance with the principles of Masonic jurisprudence. another inconvenience which would have attended the adoption of such a method is, that the decisions of different Grand Lodges and Grand Masters are sometimes entirely contradictory on the same points of Masonic Law. The decree of one jurisdiction, on any particular question, will often be found at variance with that of another, while a third will differ from both. The consultor of a work, embracing within its pages such distracting judgments, unexplained by commentary, would be in doubt as to which decision he should adopt, so that coming to the inspection with the desire of solving a legal question, he would be constrained to close the volume, in utter despair of extracting truth or information from so confused a mass of contradictions
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