Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library
In the early years of Freemasonry there were many secret groups or societies working against the Crown of England. Parliament enacted the "Unlawful Societies Act” of 1799 banning all Secret Societies that required their members to take oaths. its prime object was to suppress all secret activity that could Involve the Jacobites and the Roman Catholic Church. After considerable debate In the House of Commons, the Bill was passed with some amendments. One was to specifically exclude Freemasonry from the requirements of the Act This, It is thought, was because of the loyalty to the Crown expressed by the Members of Parliament, both the Commons and Lords, who were active members of Masonic Lodges as well as Grand Lodge.

As a result of the exemption, all Masonic Loges, on their meeting night, were required to list the names of all members and visitors attending. This list was prepared by the J.W. and handed by him to the J.D. for the latter to deliver to the Clerk of the Peace. The J.D. then returned to the Lodge poste haste and reported to the J.W. The S.D. could then return to the W.M., report the return of the J.D. , and the W.M. would then open his Lodge and conduct Its business.

Later this requirement was amended to a list of names and addresses of all members of a Lodge to be returned by the Lodge Secretary to the Clerk of the Peace annually.

This requirement for an annual return ceased In 1967 when an Act of Parliament repealed the Act of 1799.

It Is still the responsibility of the J.W. to ensure that any visitor to the Lodge Is vouched for and is known to the Brethren.

Ref.                   Communications of U. G. L. of Eng.
Hepburn, C.                Q. and A.
Pick and Knight          Freemasons Pocket Reference Book