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Thursday, 28 August 2008

Oaths, Oath Taking, Equivocation and Mental Reservation

The widely, but not universally, held notion that the oaths and obligations entered into in Masonry are essentially symbolic, and that it does not matter what book or document is used as a volume of the sacred law during ceremonies, gives rise to a debate about whether oaths are in any real sense necessary in Anglo-Masonic jurisdictions. 1 Those Continental jurisdictions which have done away with the requirement for candidates to profess a belief in God, a "Supreme Being", are necessarily less involved in this debate, as the oaths are, and have always been, essentially sacred in nature.

The nature and necessity of oaths and oath taking is currently under general discussion in the United Kingdom, due to the social and demographic changes which have occurred in recent years, and so it is time for Freemasons to consider carefully the nature of the oaths and concomitant obligations current within their fraternities.

Freemasonry has never been immune to the forces of social and constitutional change, and has often in its global history been faced with the problem of choosing between adaptation, change, and resistance, if and when offered the choice. Sadly there are many historical examples of change being imposed upon jurisdictions where they were unable for one reason or another to articulate an appropriate response to the impetus for change.

The developing debate, within and outside Freemasonry, about the nature, viability, and the effects of oaths and oath taking requires freemasons to take account of the situation, and, along with other institutions, Freemasonry has a need to carefully consider the concepts involved and the consequences which accrue from such change. The danger is, of course, that Freemasonry could allow traditional oaths and obligations to be quietly dropped from its ceremonies, without due consideration, in order to accommodate the secularists, and that a vital element within Masonic tradition could be lost, or what might be worse, rendered empty and meaningless.

What would for many be totally unacceptable, would be the development of a situation in which ceremonies were generally entered into and empty phrases used, in a parody of sacred reverence, which would be hurtful to many of those within Masonry for whom there remains an essentially spiritual or religious dimension.

Albert C. Mackey's presumed position on the nature and status of Masonic oaths is often put forward as an authority for claiming that such oaths are far less powerful and significant than the actual words used would imply. In fact, some maintain that it is an error to even claim that oaths, in the religious or legal sense, are employed at all. However, even a cursory glance at Mackey's Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences published in 1874 will show that Mackey relies upon the view of a Doctor Harris for the manifestly incorrect opinion that:

What the ignorant call the oath, is simply an obligation, covenant, and promise exacted previously to the divulging of the specialities of the Order, and our means of recognizing each other; that they shall be kept from the knowledge of the world lest their original intent should be thwarted, and their benevolent purport prevented.

To the contrary of Doctor Harris's opinion, an oath in any conventional British sense is understood to involve the making of a formal statement or statements, or in declaring a truth of a claim or promising to fulfil a pledge, often calling upon God or a sacred object as a witness. Failure to observe such an oath would, of course, carry with it a severe penalty. It is hard to conceive of any sensible definition which relates to the Anglo-Masonic tradition in which the obligation is not entered into by way of an oath, moreover, an oath made in a religious or sacred sense.

Another point touching Masonic ceremony, but quite evaded by Mackey, is that it is general in oath taking, that something possessing a numinous quality, something involving a sacred or holy conotation is held, touched, or deliberately placed in the vicinity, at the time of the administration of the oath. It is difficult to ignore in this general approach to the administration of oaths, the current Masonic necessity for a Holy Book/Volume of the Sacred Law to be present at such administrations.

Before assessing the significance of the debate for Freemasonry, there are two other areas within British society to be considered, where the current debate about oaths and oath taking is taking place. First in respect of Britsh Citizenship, and the second regarding the relevance of the Hippocratic Oath within the British medical profession, before considering the theological and mythological background to the debate, including the concepts of equivocation and mental reservation.

Oaths, British Citizenship and the Medical Profession
One wonders at the degree of invective directed at Lord Goldsmith for his recent but merely tentative suggestion that school-leavers might be encouraged to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen and country, in the context of encouraging the notion of British Citizenship. However, it was not the anticipated broadsides from Baroness Kennedy, for whom the proposals were "puerile" and "rather silly" and John Dunford of the Association of School and College Leaders, who considered any citizenship ceremony a "half-baked idea," but the seeming absence within society generally of the recognition that there is a means of binding people together whilst promoting the general good, by means of oath and ceremony. Indeed, there seems to be to-day a disturbing lack of interest in what is involved in oath making, despite its continuing and frequent use within our society.

Of course one objection loudly voiced against oath-taking is precisely that it does have the ability to bind a defined group of people together, rendering other persons "outsiders," an objection often heard within the context of medicine and medical practice. However, the religious element within oath-taking is capable of protecting against the type of abuse usually referred to by such objectors, but continuing with the example of oath-taking within the medical profession, one needs to consider the current debate regarding the Hippocratic Oath.

The Hippocratic Oath is traditionally sworn in a university by medical students or graduates about to embark upon a medical career. Whilst there are those who maintain that the Hippocratic Oath was written by either Hippocrates or one of his students in 4 B.C., or possibly by the Pythagoreans, the earliest actual evidence for an oath administered in a university and recognizable as the Hippocratic Oath is restricted to the sixteenth century, and there seems to be no evidence for the oath being sworn regularly by such persons until as late as 1804.

Whatever the genesis of the oath, the fact remains that it promotes two essential features. First, the faith of the patient in the doctor's moral avowal, an essential aspect one would have thought in a post-Shipman society, and secondly the setting apart of the doctor in a medical brotherhood. However, in the United Kingdom the Hippocratic Oath is not sworn in all medical schools, and the oath has undergone many revisions, the most recent being that undertaken by the British Medical Association, an independent trades union. The question posed within the medical profession is whether the mere incantation of a formal oath accompanied by obligations has the power to bind the entrant to the profession, or whether the casual entry into an oath without any committment is actually nothing more than an act of cant hypocrisy. This is especially so, as the medical profession has been governed under the terms of various Medical Acts since the nineteenth century, and recent developments within the General Medical Council including the increased lay element, have certainly eroded the notion of the medical profession being independent.

It is at this point that the current debate about oaths and oath-taking bears most directly upon the Moderns form of Anglo-Masonry which continues to require a belief in a Supreme Being. Masonic obligations are found within a context which takes for granted both the existence of a Deity and an after-life. In such an environment, an oath made without refernce to deity appears to be more akin to a declaration, a statement of intent perhaps, but in any case nothing more than the proffering of an unattested form of guarantee. The Olympic Oath best represents this form, and the guarantee is clearly non-existent. The Olympic Oath was originally called for by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1906, and was first used in 1920, since when it has undergone a number of revisions. A later development has been the construction of a judges'' oath.

The current athletes' oath declares, in the absence of any attestation:

In the name of all competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams".

Without a religious context, in Masonic terms a real belief in God, a "Supreme Being", a Masonic oath is a hollow undertaking, one which renders the insincere oath taker a hypocrite. In the face of such a situation, the question must be posed whether an oath is really necessary within Freemasonry, or whether an unattested pledge or declaration would serve as well.

Turning back to the medical profession, the students of Imperial College, London designed their own "Declaration" as an alternative to the Hippocratic Oath, so, the argument might go, why should Freemasonry maintain oaths at all? Why not construct a declaration or pledge, especially given the looseness of the term "Supreme Being" found currently within a number of Grand Lodges?

In order to refute the possibility of our oaths being replaced by pledges or declarations, it is necessary to consider the theological and mythological background to oaths within regular Freemasonry.

The Theological and Mythological Background to Oaths

From earliest times, organised Freemasonry has drawn upon a Judaeo-Christian tradition. This tradition is one in which some earlier religious forms have been accommodated, including a reverence for stone. In northern Europe, true oaths have always been considered to be of a permanent nature, and to have been "stone like" in their durability. We know from the writings of the Danish medieval historian Saxo Grammaticus (c.1150 to c.1206), who had been asked by Bishop Absalon to write a history which included that of the heathens, that in earliest times when the "ancients" chose a king they would stand on stones proclaiming in this act the steadfastness of their commitment, and likening it to the enduring nature of the stones themselves.

One may also consider within this tradition the continuing symbolic importance of the Stone of Destiny, or as it is sometimes called the Stone of Scone, used in the coronation of the British monarch as part of this notion of steadfastness and commitment found within the northern European tradition. The actual stone, a sandstone block, weighing a little over three hundred and thirty pounds, was captured by Edward I in 1296 and placed in Westminster Abbey, where, as part of the throne of Edward the Confessor. it has been used ever since by English and British monarchs during their coronation ceremonies.

Although some claim biblical origin for the stone, and that it is a holy relic, what is known is that Dalriadic, Scottish, English, and then British monarchs have employed the stone realising its profound symbolic power. The stone, returned to Scotland on St Andrew's Day 1996, retains its potency for political exploitation. Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, claimed earlier this month (August 2008) that the stone captured by the English King, whom Mr Salmond bitterly refers to as "the most ruthless king in Christendom", was a fake, and that he believes that the true stone was hidden from King Edward somewhere in the Perthshire hillside.

We know too that in classical times the Iuppiter Lapis (Jupiter Stone) was considered to represent the god Jupiter, and in a sense was the god, as Jupiter's role as the divine law giver was confirmed by the fetial, one of the twenty priestly officials concerned with international relations, when standing at that point as the representative of the people, in the act of treaty making. The terrible penalty for breaking the oath entered into was made plain at the time of sacrifice which formed an integral part of the ceremony.

Stone has, of course, always possessed a profound relevance within the ceremonies of Freemasonry, and the Old and New Testaments are repleted with religious and ceremonial references to stone. We know that in England early Christian churches were often built upon already existing religious sites. Such sites were frequently marked out by the presence of sacred stones, as is likely to be the case with St Mary's Church at Eversley, in north-Hampshire, where a sarsen stone is located between the font and the choir stalls. Charles Kingsley served as Rector at Eversley from 1844 to 1875, and we will return to Kingsley later, when considering the nature of mental reservation, along with Kingsley's disagreement with John Henry Newman over its use when making statements of fact, or belief.

We read in the Old Testament frequent references to the steadfastness of stone, and the token of permanence proffered by it. The stone set by Samuel between Mizpeh and Shen and named "Ebe-nezer", betokened the help of the Lord. 2

There is, as Sir James Frazer made abundantly clear, a common custom of swearing upon a stone, and Frazer thought it likely that it was the strength and stability of the stone that provided confirmation of an oath. 3 The strength and stability of the stone could be readily contrasted with the frailties to which mortal men were heir.

The notion of "confirmation" in respect of oaths is vitally important if the true nature of an oath is to be recognized. Such confirmation demands the invocation or referral to a power greater than that of the mortal person sworn.

When God made his ever-lasting promise to Abraham, a promise found in Genesis, "He sware by Himself", because it was not possible to swear by any greater power. 4 It is this aspect of oath making, the nature of the supreme power evoked, which makes oaths and obligations indispensible within Freemasonry, as well as requiring within Freemasonry a real belief in God, a "Supreme Being". If the prevaracations and devices found recently upon some Masonic websites, designed to avoid the need for a real belief in God, a "Supreme Being" holds sway, then the whole basis for the obligation entered into by the candidate simply disappears.

The great advantage recognized by our Masonic predecessors, who followed a Judeo-Christian approach when framing our Constitutions and our ceremonies, was within this tradition, as the writer of Hebrews makes clear, there was a standard of confirmation by which the actual obligation entered into could be judged or measured:

For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. 5

"Strife" in this context is, of course, a bitter or heated dispute in which the ordinary word is of insufficient weight to settle the matter, but an oath for confirmation of one's intent relies upon the same standard applied to one's obligation.

An obligation for our Masonic predecessors was just that, a promise or duty entered into under terms involving a penalty. The nature of the Masonic penalty is outside the scope of this article, but the nature of the oath itself is clear, both in terms of its religious solemnity and its permanence. The oath in its clear meaning stands opposed to the devices of equivocation and mental reservation.

Equivocation and Mental Reservation

Both terms have a well established and recognized role within logic and canon law, and offer relief for those who would wish for some purpose or another for their words to mean less, or other than would appear to be the case. Both terms are encountered frequently today within Freemasonry, but with perhaps less understanding that was formerly the case.

Equivocation and its more literary counterpart, amphibology, provide for the misleading use of a term which possesses more than one meaning. Its provenance is essentially that of ambiguity, an example being that of Moses Hadas, the American teacher and classical scholar, "Thank you for sending me a copy of your book - I'll waste no time in reading it."

It is the area of deliberate and desired ambiguity, rather than in the area of the careless or ill-defined, that Freemasonry is concerned. Used in this devious manner, one party may employ distinct and separate meanings or undertakings which can be rendered as equivalent to that proposed or under consideration, with the potential for loss or harm occurring to the genuine party. Where a man's word is meant to be his bond, deliberate equivocation represents the opposite of Masonic virtue, and our predecessors also found in this device of subterfuge a clear and real danger to the very existence of the institution of Freemasonry.

Mental Reservation. The philosopher, Saint Raymund of Pennafort, dealt in his Summa of 1235, with the question as to whether, in dire circumstances, it might be permissible to lie. Raymund took the view that when one is asked by murderers bent on taking the life of someone hiding in the house whether that person is in, no answer should be given; and that if this betrays him, his death will be imputable to the murderers, not the other's silence. However, Raymund then proceeds to enunciate what to-day is considered to be the doctrine of wide mental reservation. For Raymund, the person questioned might use an equivocal expression, such as, "He is not at home", a mental restriction or reservation being employed in the mind of the person responding to the question.

The doctrine of mental reservation was developed in the sixteenth century, notably by the moral theologian, Martin Aspilcueta, who became a professor of canon law at Toulouse and at Cahors, and who, at the age of eighty, defended his friend Archbishop Carranza before the Inquisition. For Aspilcueta, in appropriate circumstances, a person questioned might mentally add some qualification to the words he speaks, and those words added to the mental qualification could provide for a true assertion, one in accordance with fact. In other words there is no need for the element of ambiguity that there is in the earlier doctrine.

The examples given in respect of Saint Raymund and Martin Aspilcueta, are in respect of dire or grave situations, but turning again to Masonry, our early Constitutions stem from times in which it was much easier than to-day for one to fall into grave circumstances. In Masonry, truth is held to be a virtue, and in a mason's dealings with others, false witness is held to be reprehensible. It is therefore safe to assume that in our lodges, when a requirement for answers to be given without equivocation or mental reservation is made, the requirement is perfectly clear.

Kingsley and Newman. There can be no form of lampooning more uncomfortable to those targeted than that addressed to those who are found to have engaged in the activity of encouraging others to believe in what they themselves do not. Where those subject to the lampoons are men of faith and belief, the discomfort is all the more felt. Such was the fate of two of the most highly regarded clergymen and intellectuals of the nineteenth century, a fate Freemasonry ought ever to guard against. The men referred to are the Reverend Charles Kingsley, and the man who was to become the Cardinal-Deacon of St George in Velabro, John Henry Newman.

The reduced influence of organized Christian religion in the United Kingdom of to-day makes it difficult to appreciate either the intellectual strength of the clergy of former years, or the depth of feeling engendered by religious and moral debate. It is therefore not surprising that some of the best minds of the Victorian period considered the question of oaths as well as the question of equivocation and mental reservation.

Of the many protagonists of the Victorian period, we consider Charles Kingsley (referred to earlier in the section dealing with the sarsen stone at St Mary's Church, Eversley), and his long-time opponent, John Henry Newman, later Cardinal Newman.

Kingsley was born at Holne in Devon on the 12th June 1819, the same year as Queen Victoria. His interests marked him out as a man of those times. He was a parson of the Church of England, an amateur naturalist, a Christian Socialist of the "Muscular Christian" type, an educationalist, poet and novelist. He is to-day, one supposes, most remembered as the author of The Water Babies, originally written between 1862 and 1863 as a serial for Macmillan's Magazine, and first publised in its entirety in 1863.

Newman had been born in London on the 21st February 1801, the son of a banker. He is celebrated as the Cardinal-Deacon of St George in Velabro, the leader of the Tractarian Movement, and as a philosopher, man of letters, and a divine. It is expected that the Commission of Theologians which is due to meet in Rome in September of this year (2008) will recommend to the Pope that he beatifies him in a process leading to sainthood.

Kingsley had for many years taken the view that superstition and untruthfulness militated against Christianity, and when in January of 1864 he reviewed Volumes VII and VIII of Froude's History of England for Macmillan's Magazine, he included in the review the opinion that:

Truth for its own sake has never been a virtue of the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and on the whole ought not, to be; that cunning is the weapon which Heaven has given the saints wherewith to withstand the brute male force of the wicked world which marries and is given in marriage.

Kingsley relied for support for his comments about Newman's attitude regarding truth upon one of Newman's sermons entitled Wisdom and Innocence, which had been published years before, in 1844.

Unfortunately for Kingsley, Newman had actually said that the weapons, with which the Church defends herself, prayer, holiness, and innocence, are to the world of physical strength so incomprehensible that it must believe that the Church conquers by craft and hypocrisy. "The words "craft" and "hypocrisy" are but the versions of "wisdom" and "harmlessness", in the language of the world."

Kingsley apologised for his having "so seriously mistaken" Newman in the February edition of Macmillan's Magazine, but there followed, instigated by Newman, a most acrimonious debate conducted in print between the two men, they never actually met with each other, a debate which it is generally agreed Newman won, but at a cost.

It was organized Christian religion in the United Kingdom which counted the cost of what became a highly publicized debate about the nature of truth and belief in the affairs of the Church, and the spectacle the affair presented to a general public still inclined towards religious faith and observance.

The editor of the Athenaeum wrote of how briskly, "do we gather round a brace of reverend gentlemen when the prize for which they contend is which of the two shall be considered the father of lies". 6

The editor of the Athenaeum was an educated man, and the periodical was intended to be read by other educated men, men who would have been expected to immediately have recognized the wit, but also the barb, of suggesting that at least one of the two clergymen was to be considered the father of lies because, of course, the author of the Gospel of St John clearly identifies the devil in such terms. 7

Any institution whose fundamental beliefs and activities are found to be without true significance to its membership is likely to suffer ridicule from the rest of society. No amount of public relations work designed to lessen the need for the absence of significance is likely to redress such a situation. This is what makes the current debate about oaths and oath taking important for Freemasons within the United Kingdom.

For the rich ceremonial and moral integrity of Anglo-Masonry to be maintained, it is necessary to preserve vital elements of Masonic ritual, and to encourage comprehension of the nature of oaths and oath taking, as well as the Masonic relevance of notions such as equivocation and mental reservation. This will do more to foster the cause of Freemasonry than will the efforts of those who seem to think that there is merit in presenting Masonic ritual to the general public as some sort of harmless but ultimately pointless amateur dramatic activity.

The possible objection that taking oaths might foster fellowship and group identity within a group, and render others "outsiders" should be considered, precisely because fellowship and group identity are produced in such circumstances. By retaining the vital sacred and moral elements, traditional within Freemasonry, such a situation may be celebrated, and any objection overcome with full confdence. Freemasonry is, after all, a brotherhood of Masons, not of general society, which is in any event, the intended ultimate beneficiary of our Masonic endeavours.

It is to be hoped that the sacred, will continue to possess relevance within Anglo-Masonry, and that candidates will not be encouraged to believe that the obligations they enter into by way of oath are devoid of either meaning or significance, or that the presence of the Holy Book/Volume of the Sacred Law is necessary, only as part of the Mise en scene.

NOTES ON THE AUTHOR: Richard Martin Young is a retired Law Lacturer and Grand Chancellor of the Grand Lodge of All England.


1. The term "Anglo-Masonic" is meant to incorporate those jurisdictions whose lineage is traceabe to the British Isles.

2. 1 Samuel v12

3. Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough, p33

4. Hebrews 6:13

5. Hebrews 6:16

6. Susan Chitty, The Beast and the Monk, p.230

7. John 8:44

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Elias Ashmole and the Warrington Lodge

Robert Freke Gould in his "History of Freemasonry Its Antiquities, Symbols, Constitutions, Customs, Part 2", deals with the question of Elias Ashmole's initiation into Freemasonry:

"Although the admission of Elias Ashmole into the ranks of the Freemasons may have been, and probably was, unproductive of the momentous consequences which have been so lavishly ascribed to it, the circumstances connected with his membership of what in South Britain was then a very obscure fraternity - so little known, indeed, that not before the date of Ashmole's reception or adoption does it come within the light of history - are, nevertheless, of the greatest importance in our general enquiry, since, on a close view, they will be found to supply a quantity information derivable from no other source, and which, together with the additional evidence I shall adduce from contemporary writings, will give us a tolerably faithful picture of English Freemasonry in the seventeenth century.

The entries in Ashmole's "Diary" which relate to his membership of the craft are three in number, the first in priority being the following:-
"1646, Oct. 16, 4.30. P.M. - I was made a Free
Mason at Warrington in Lancashire, with Coll: Henry Mainwaring of Karincham in
Cheshire. The names of those that were then of the Lodge [were] Mr Rich. Penket
Warden, Mr James Collier, Mr Rich. Sankey, Henry Littler, John Ellam Rich: Ellam
& Hugh Brewer."
The "Diary" then continues :--
"Oct. 25. - I left Cheshire, and came to London about the end of this month, viz, the 30th day, 4 Hor. post merid. About a fortnight or three weeks before [after!] I came to London, Mr Jonas Moore brought and acquainted me with Mr William Lilly: it was on the Friday night, and I think on the 20th of Nov."
"Dec. 3. - This day, at noon, I first became acquainted with Mr John Booker."
It will be seen that Ashmole's initiation or admission into Freemasonry, preceded by upwards of a month, his acquaintances with his astrological friends, Lilly and Booker.

In ascending the stream of English Masonic history, we are deserted by all known contemporary testimony, save that of the "Old Charges" or "Constitution," directly we have passed the year 1646. This of itself would render the proceedings at Warrington in that year of surpassing interest to the student of Masonic antiquities. That Ashmole and Mainwaring, adherents respectively of the Court, and the Parliament, should be admitted into Freemasonry at the same time and place, is also a very noteworthy circumstance. But it is with the internal character, or, in other words, the composition, of the lodge into which they were received that we are chiefly concerned. Down to the year 1881 the prevalent belief was, that, although a lodge was in existence at Warrington in 1646, all were of the "craft of Masonry" except Ashmole and Colonel Mainwaring. A flood of light, however, was suddenly shed on the subject by the research of Mr W. H. Rylands, who, in perhaps the very best of the many valuable articles contributed to the now defunct Masonic Magazine, has so far proved the essentially speculative character of the lodge, as to render it difficult to believe that there could have been a single operative Mason present on the afternoon of October 16, 1646. Thus Mr Richard Penket[h], the Warden is shown to have been a scion of the Penkeths of Penketh, and the last of his race who held the family property.

The two names which next follow were probably identical with those of James Collyer or Colliar, of Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, and Richard Sankie, of the family of Sonkey or Sankey, as they were called, landowners in Warrington from a very early period; they were buried respectively at Winwick and Warrington - the former on January 17, 1673-4, and the latter on September 28, 1667. Of the four remaining Freemasons named in the "Diary", though without the prefix of "Mr," it is shown by Rylands that a gentle family of Littler or Lytlor existed in Cheshire in 1646; while he prints the wills of Richard Ellom, Freemason of Lyme [Lymme], and of John Ellams, husbandman, of Burton, both in the County of Cheshire - that of the former bearing date September 7, 1667, and of the latter June 7, 1689. That there were the Ellams named by Ashmole cannot be positively affirmed, but they were doubtless members of the same yeoman family, a branch of which had apparently settled at Lymm, a village in Cheshire, about five miles from Warrington. Of the family of Hugh Brewer, nothing has come to light beyond the fact that a person bearing this patronymic served in some military capacity under the Earl of Derby in 1643.

The proceedings at Warrington in 1646 establish some very important facts in relation to the antiquity of Freemasonry, and to its character as a speculative science. The words Ashmole use, "the names of those who were then of the lodge"," imlpying as they do either that some of the existing members were absent, or that at a previous period the lodge-roll comprised other and additional names beyond those recorded in the "Diary," amply justify the conclusion that the lodge, when Ashmole joined it, was not a new creation. The term "Warden," moreover, which follows the name of Mr Rich. Penket, will of itself remove any lingering doubt whether the Warrington Lodge could boast a higher antiquity than the year 1646, since it points with the utmost clearness to the fact, that an actual official of a subsisting branch of the Society of Freemasons was present at the meeting.

"Finis p me
Eduarda : Sankey
decimo seato die Octobria
Anno Domini 1646"

Commenting upon the proceedings at the Warrington meeting, Fort remarks, "It is a subject of curious speculation as to the identity of Richard Sankey, a member of the above lodge. Sloane's MS, No. 3848, was transcribed and finished by one Edward Sankey, on the 16th day of October 1646, the day Elias Ashmole was initiated into the secrets of the craft." The research of Rylands has afforded a probable, if not altogether and absolute, solution of the problem referred to, and from the same fount I shall again draw, in order to show that an Edward Sankey, "son to Richard Sankey, gent.," was baptized at Warrington, February 3, 1621-1.

It therefore appears that on October 16, 1646, a Richard Sankey was present in lodge, and that an Edward Sankey copied and attested one of the old manuscript Constitutions; and that a Richard Sankey of Sankey flourished at this time, whose son Edward, if alive, we must suppose would have been a young man of four or five and twenty. Now, as it seems to me, the identification of the Sankeys of Sankey, father and son, with the Freemason and the copyist of the "Old Charges" respectively, is rendered as clear as anything lying within the doctrine of probabilities can be made to appear.

I assume then, that a version of the old manuscript Constitutions, which has fortunately come down to us, was in circulation at Warrington in 1646. Thus we should have, in the year named, speculative, and, it may be, also operative masonry, co-existing with the actual use, by lodges and brethren, of the Scrolls or Constitutions of which the Sloane MS, 3843 (13), affords an illustration in point. Upon this basis I shall presently contend, that having traced a system of Freemasonry, combining the speculative with the operative element, together with a use or employment of the MS, legend of the craft, as prevailing in the first half of the seventeenth century - when contemporary testimony fails us, as we continue to direct our course up the stream of Masonic history, the evidence of manuscript Constitutions, successively dating further and further back, until the transcripts are exhausted, without apparently bringing us any nearer to their common original, may well leave us in doubt at what point of our research between the era of the Lodge at Warrington, 1646, and that of the Lodge at York, 1355, a monopoly of these ancient documents by the working masons can be viewed as even remotely possible.

The remaining entrie in the "Diary" of a Masonic character are the following:-
"March 1682
"10. - About 5 P.M. I recd: a Summons to appr at a Lodge to be held the next day, at Masons Hall London.
"11 - Accordingly I went, & about Noone were admitted into the Fellowship of Free Masons.
"Sr William Wilson Knight, Capt. Rich: Borthwick, Mr Will: Woodman, Mr Wm Grey, Mr Samuel Taylor & Mr William Wise.
"I was the Senior Fellow among them (it being 35 years since I was admitted) There were prsent beside my selfe the Fellowes after named,
"Mr Tho: Wise Mr of the Masons Company this prsent years. Mr Thomas Shorthose, Mr Thomas Shadbolt, xxxxx Waindsford Esq., Mr Nich: Young, Mr John Shorthose, Mr William Hamon, Mr John Thompson, & Mr Will: Stanton.
"Wee all dynerd at the halfe Moone Tavern in Cheapside, at a Nobledinner prepaired at the charge of the New = accepted Masons."
From the circumstances, that Ashmole records his attendance at a meeting of the Freemasons held in a hall of the Company of Masons, a good deal of confusion has been engendered, which some casual remarks of Dr Anderson, in the Constitutions of 1723, have done much to confirm. By way of filling up a page, as he expresses it, he quotes from an old Record of Masons, to the effect that, "the said Record describing a Coat of Arms, much the same with that of the LONDON COMPANY of Freemen Masons, it is generally believ'd that the said Company is descended of the ancient Fraternity; and that in former Times no Man was Free of that Company until he was install'd in some Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, as a necessary Qualification." "But" he adds, "that laudable Practice seems to have been long in Dissuetude."

Preston, in this instance not unnaturally, copied from Anderson, and others of course have followed suit; but as I believe myself to be the only person who has been allowed access to the books and records of the Masons' Company for purposes of historical research, the design of this work will be better fulfilled by a concise summary of the results of my examination, together with such collateral information as I have been able to acquire, than by attempting to fully describe the superstructure of error which has been erected on so treacherous a foundation.

This I shall proceed to do, after which it will be the more easy to rationally scrutinise the later entries in the "Diary". "


In summary, Robert Freke Gould proves from his research and sources that:

1) Elias Ashmole was not the first recorded incident of the initiation of a speculative Freemason in England as has been claimed.

2) Ashmole was initiated into an English Speculative Masonic Lodge in Kermincham, Warrington, in 1646 .

3) The Lodge at Kermincham, Warrington was a speculative Freemason's Lodge of long standing.

4) When Ashmole travelled to London to be made a Fellow of the Craft, the ceremony took place in a speculative Freemasons' Lodge meeting in the hall of the Masons' Company.

5) The Lodge at Warrington could not have been a stand-alone independent Lodge as has also been claimed because:
a) Ashmole's initiation was attended by "an actual official of a subsisting branch of the Society of Freemasons";

b) Ashmole's initiation must have been accepted as being entirely regular, by the Freemasons of the London Lodge;

c) The acceptance of the regularity of Ashmole's initiation could only have been the case if Sankey's Lodge, the London Lodge, and the Lodge at Warrington all worked in accordance with, and provided hand-written copies of, "The Constitutions of Masonrie" recognising the Ancient Landmarks of a Freemason.

Robert Freke Gould was a lieutenant in the 31st Regiment, English Army. He later qualified as a barrister. From 1868, he is best remembered as an early proponent of the authentic school of masonic research and for his three-volume History of Freemasonry (1883-1887).


Biography - Elias Ashmole:

Elias Ashmole (23 May 1617 – 18 May 1692) Politician, Antiquary, Soldier, Astrologer, was a member of The Royal Society. His interests were antiquarian as well as scientific.

Elias Ashmole was born in Breadmarket Street, Lichfield in Staffordshire. His father was a saddler and his mother was the daughter of a wealthy Coventry Draper. He attended Lichfield Grammar School and was a chorister at Lichfield Cathedral. He went to live in London in 1638 and became a Solicitor. He married Eleanor Mainwaring (1603–1641) a member of the poor but aristocratic family. Eleanor died whilst pregnant.

Ashmole supported Charles I in the Royalist cause and at the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 he left London for the house of his father-in-law at Smallwood in Cheshire. He was appointed King's Commissioner of Excise at Lichfield in 1644. Soon afterwards he was given a military post at Oxford where he served as an ordnance officer for the King's forces. During this time he studied mathematics and physics at his lodgings, Brasenose College. 1645, he left Oxford to accept the position of Commissioner of Excise at Worcester. Elias Ashmole was given the additional military post of Captain in Lord Astley's Regiment of Foot, part of the Royalist Infantry. In July 1646, he retired once more to Cheshire after the surrender of Worcester to Parliamentary forces. Three weeks previously he learned of the death of his mother from the plague. On October 16th, 1646 he was initiated a Freemason at Warrington.

In 1647, Ashmole approached several rich widows in the hope of securing a good marriage. In 1649 he married Mary, Lady Mainwaring, the daughter of Sir William Forster of Aldermaston, a wealthy thrice-widowed woman twenty years his senior. She was related to his first wife and was the mother of grown children. The marriage was not a success. She laid suit for a separation and alimony but it was dismissed by the courts in 1657. His marriage to Lady Mainwaring did however, provide Ashmole with her first husband's estates which left him wealthy enough to pursue his interests, including botany and alchemy.

During the 1650s, Ashmole devoted a great deal of energy to the study of alchemy. In 1650, he published Fasciculus Chemicus under the pseudonym James Hasholle. In 1652, he published his most important alchemical work, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, an extensively annotated compilation of metaphysical poems in English. In 1658, his final alchemical publication was The Way to Bliss. After the publication of this work his interest waned in favour of other pursuits. However, his works were avidly studied by other natural philosophers, such as Issac Newton.

In 1656. John Tradescant, who with his father had built a vast collection of exotic plants, mineral specimens and curiosities legally deeded his collection to Ashmole. The terms of the deed left the collection to Ashmole on Tradescant's demise. Tradescant died in 1662. His widow contested the deed but it was vigorously defended and the matter was settled in Chancery in Ashmole's favour.

Ashmole embarked on further catalogues, including one of the Roman coin collection of the Bodleian Library. This task was completed in 1666 after eight years of work.

At the Restoration of Charles II, his loyalty to the Crown was rewarded with political offices. He was appointed Secretary and Clerk of the Courts of Surinam and Comptroller of the White Office. He was also appointed to the office of Commissioner and then Comptroller for the Excise in London. Later he was made the Accountant General of the Excise. This post made him responsible for a large portion of the King's revenue which gave him a considerable income as well as the power of patronage.

The King commissioned Ashmole to prepare a catalogue of the coins and medals held in the Royal Collection and appointed him to the commission responsible for tracing items from the collection which had been dispersed or sold by the parliamentary regime. Ashmole involved himself in the organisation of the coronation.

His most significant appointment was to the College of Arms as Windsor Herald of Arms in Ordinary in June 1660. In this position he devoted himself to the study of the history of the Order of the Garter, which had been a special interest of his since the 1650s.

Ashmole became one of the founding members of the Royal Society in 1661, but he was not a very active member although he proposed a design for the Royal Society's coat of arms.

By 1665 he was collecting information for his Antiquities of Berkshire and, in 1672, published The Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter and was considered a leading authority on court protocol and ceremony.

On 1 April 1668, Lady Mainwaring died, and on 3 November of the same year Ashmole married Elizabeth Dugdale (1632–1701), the much younger daughter of his friend and fellow herald , the antiquarian Sir William Dugdale. The marriage was childless.

In 1675, he resigned as Windsor Herald, perhaps because of factional strife within the College of Arms. He was offered the post of Garter Principal King of Arms, which traditionally came with a knighthood, but he turned it down in favour of his father-in-law, Sir William Dugdale.

The Restoration led to the re-establishment of the Church of England. Ashmole remained a Royalist and presented new service books to Lichfield Cathedral. In 1684, Sir William Dugdale wrote to his son-in-law that "the vulgar sort of people" were not "yet weaned from the presbyterian practises, which was long prayers of their own devising, and senseless sermons".

In 1678 Ashmole stood for Parliament in a by-election for the Constituency of Lichfield. He lost. He then put himself forward as a candidate in the General Election of 1685. Although he was the most popular candidate, he was pursuaded to stand down by King James II in favour of Court favourite, Richard Leveson.

During the 1680's, Ashmole's health began to deteriorate. He continued as an excise officer throughout the reign of James II and retained this post until his death, although he became much less active in public affairs.

During the period before his death, Elias Ashmole collected notes on his life in "Diary" form to serve as source material for a biography. The biography was never written, but as we see from above, these notes are a rich source of information on Ashmole and his times.

Ashmole died at his house in Lambeth on the 18th of May 1692. He was buried at St.Mary's Church, Lambeth on 26 May.

Ashmole bequeathed the remainder of his collection and library to Oxford for the Ashmolean Museum. Two-thirds of his library now resides in the Bodleian at Oxford.

Ashmole’s widow, Elizabeth, married a stonemason, John Reynolds, on 15 March 1694. They had no children and on her death seven years later the house and lands in Lambeth passed into Reynolds’s hands.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Benjamin Franklin: An English Freemason?

Despite our familiarity with his name and image, Benjamin Franklin remains an enigma. Once we peer beneath the surface, and rid ourselves of those too easy images of the scientist and American revolutionary, much of the complexity of Franklin’s character and beliefs, and, indeed, of eighteenth century Freemasonry, are revealed. Such a prospect promises much for English Freemasonry today as it seeks to recover its earlier vitality and relevance. Benjamin Franklin is too important a figure in Freemasonry to leave exclusively to the realms of American history, ideology, and sentiment. Even though we may feel free to share him with those who see his role simply and uncritically as that of an American mason and patriot, the Englishness of Franklin demands attention.

Neither Franklin, the history of the American Revolution, nor eighteenth century Freemasonry, fall into those ready and simple categories many would desire for them, yet each can help to explain the other. In particular, by considering the religious and moral outlook espoused by Franklin during his extraordinary life, one can refer those aspects to Masonic concerns and attitudes current in Franklin’s life-time, and thereby gain useful insights into Franklin’s philosophical outlook and its relationship to Freemasonry per se.

Fortunately, despite the ideology spun about him, much of Franklin’s biographical data is readily available and verifiable; we also have the advantage of a good deal of his writing and correspondence. The difficulty lies in releasing the man from the simplistic ideological structures which have rendered him “the first American” and a Freemason par excellence of the period.

In truth, despite the high regard in which Franklin is rightly held, he had a less than inspiring moral life in his early years, and his deep commitment to an American republic is at the very least questionable. There have even been suggestions that he may indeed have been a “double agent”. There is the evidence of Franklin’s relationship with Sir Francis Dashwood, the founder of the Knights of St Francis of Medmenham Abbey, the Hell Fire Club, at whose House he stayed in 1773 and again in 1774, but more convincingly, there is the extant correspondence of John Vardill, a British spy, which reveals that Franklin passed to London information about shipping which caused great losses to the colonists.

What does single Franklin out, leaving aside his magnificent scientific achievements, which are not considered here, is his profound commitment to reason and inquiry, Liberal Christian theology, and to benevolence of an individual and personal kind. In these areas his religious, philosophical and Masonic views are enlightening, relevant, and important to Freemasons of today. However, Benjamin Franklin was, very much, a man of his times. Those times were complex, difficult, and involved. He was, from birth, exposed to religious and political values derived from his family’s English roots, forged through struggle and contention. This sense of Englishness pervaded his outlook and family environment, and was the reason his illegitimate son William retained his loyalty to England, preferring to live and die in the land fought against by his father, much to his father’s chagrin. Franklin himself embodied peculiarly English virtues, including an advanced pragmatism in personal, religious and political matters.

Franklin valued his wide range of English friends and associates, including Bishop Jonathan Shipley, at whose home, Twyford House, just outside Winchester, Hampshire, he wrote the first part of his autobiography.

Franklin was born on 17th January 1706 in Boston Massachusetts. He was the fifteenth child out of the seventeen born to Josiah, and his second wife Abiah. Both sides of Franklin’s family were English and of a marked dissenting outlook as regards their religious views. The dissenting tradition in English Protestantism of the period held to a focus on the ability of the individual to employ human reason in respect of both the Christian faith and also as regards moral questions, and Franklin clearly used this focus as regards both his religious faith and the conduct of his life. Because of the relationship between Church and State in the English context, the family’s religious outlook had obviously political overtones. Franklin was, therefore, like many others of his class and station, to be exposed to the competing claims of politicians and religionists throughout his life.

The ability to reconcile and overcome competing claims and, where necessary, to strike out on a different, if lonely course, was shared by both Benjamin and his son.

The stress on the use of an individual’s reasoning abilities as opposed to the mere acceptance of external authorities challenged church and government, but was not seen as something which in itself damaged belief in God. There was, as Stromberg points out, too much confidence in the perceived harmony between reason and religion for reason to be considered inimical to religion.

Franklin exhibits an independent not to say idiosyncratic attitude to morality, political loyalty, and Freemasonry which is redeemed by his constancy in applying reason to his actions. Acting in reason appears to justify Franklin’s actions, at least to himself, and whilst his detractors may, with good cause, question his conduct; his determination to rely upon reason as the great arbitrator of conduct can hardly be condemned.

Franklin’s commitment to the process of self-examination through reason provided him with the ability to eschew his youthful addiction to low women, although it did not dispense entirely with his delight in female company.

Reason and understanding, as seen in the sense of eighteenth century English political philosophy, drew heavily upon the formulations provided by John Locke (1632-1704), following England’s own Revolution of 1688. Locke’s two Treatises on Government (1689), his three letters on Toleration (1689, 1690, and 1692), and his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) provided Englishmen at home and in America with a solid and reliable basis for rational constitutional development. The espousal of Locke’s political analysis by the American colonists, and the inclusion of his concepts in their constitutional fabric is evidence of the English contribution to the form of government arrived at in Philadelphia.

The American colonies had been founded by individuals and trading companies rather than the Crown. Whilst the governors of the colonies were appointed by the Crown, their powers were nothing like as great as is often assumed, and were in fact focused upon trade and defence. In any case, any despotic governor would have been confronted by the powers of the elected assemblies which were responsible for legislation and taxation.

Contrary to the deliberately anti-British sentiment of films such as “The Patriot,” directed by Roland Emmerich, it is not fanciful to suggest that in some ways the American Revolution was the English Revolution fought overseas. The substantial degree of support for the American cause amongst Englishmen is evidenced by the speeches of politicians, and the conduct of military officers who shared something of the colonists’ sense of grievance. Of the many Englishmen and English groupings of this persuasion who can be quoted, mention of Admiral Howe, Lord Amherst, Lord Chatham, the Duke of Richmond, and Edmund Burke, together with the Rockingham group of Whigs, and the Lunar Society will suffice here. Burke made the most obvious point when he said, “An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to argue another Englishman into slavery”.

A vital point often glossed over or else entirely neglected by those who seek to present the American Revolution as being a war between American settlers and English oppressors, is that the cause of the war was largely to do with the refusal of the authorities in England and America to encourage the development of what can be termed English Liberty. Thomas Hutchison, when Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts had called for an “abandonment of what are called English liberties”. It is not to be supposed that the development of liberty in England was any more attractive to the English authorities of the time either.

We know that Franklin, at least in the early 1760s, was a supporter of both the Hanoverian dynasty and the British Empire. Seeger claims that Franklin at one time considered George III to be “a virtuous and generous king”.

During his second, and prolonged, six year visit to England beginning in 1757 Franklin’s objective was to plead the cause of the colonists as Englishmen. He was of the party that sought taxation with representation, and believed that a more direct relationship between England and the American colonies would ease the difficulties between them. Franklin was by this time an experienced Freemason, and had published an early edition of Anderson’s Constitutions in 1734. He would have been fully aware of the injunction in the Constitutions against civil unrest, and was, in any case, anxious to resolve the difficulties between the colonists and the Crown.

It is now impossible to ascertain with certainty when Freemasonry was first introduced into the American colonies. However, it is conventional to accept the existence of Masonic structures known as “time immemorial lodges”, those organizations of British origin which lacked, and indeed, did not require, a warrant or grant from any Grand Lodge in order to practice Freemasonry. Indeed, the speculative and philosophical aspects of Freemasonry of the period seem resistant to the constraints inherent in any form of Grand Lodge regulation, and the concept of Masonic independence is discernable not only in America but in Masonic institutions such as the Time Immemorial Assembly at Cork, and in the private lodges of Munster. In this respect, the Grand Lodge of Munster itself has an independent history going back at least as far as December 1726.

The regulatory nature of Grand Lodges was, of course, unknown in the early part of the eighteenth century. In this context it is helpful to note, as Jeremy Pemberton did in his 1984 Address to the Grand Lodge of South Australia that the first Annual Assembly of the four London lodges that came together on 24th June 1717 did not constitute “in any sense a regulatory body.” Regulation by Grand Lodges is certainly a later phenomenon, and obtained gradually, and not without difficulty or objection.

The Freemasonry Franklin first engaged in was of this independent type. Even prior to his entry into Freemasonry, Franklin had recognized the potential of an organization of individuals dedicated to the benefit of society. In 1727 he had combined with a group of nine (sometimes given as twelve) like minded Philadelphians to form the Junto, also known as “The Leather Apron Club”. The club met to discuss philosophical and cultural matters, and began a lending library. It took as its concern the need to promote public protection including a fire watch. Despite its small beginnings, the club was effective, and its members eventually came to form the nucleus of the American Philosophical Society.

Franklin’s Masonic career dates from his induction in 1731 into a time immemorial lodge, St John’s Masonic Lodge, Philadelphia. The account books (ledgers) of St John’s Lodge of Philadelphia date from 24th June 1731, and indicate that the lodge was in existence at least by December of the previous year. We know that the first warranted lodge in America was the Lodge of St John at Boston in Massachusetts, which dates from 1733, so clearly, if either Franklin’s own account of his induction into Freemasonry, or the genuineness of the ledgers of St John’s Masonic Lodge are accepted as credible, and their seems no reason to doubt either of them, then the existence of a Masonic lodge outside the warranted authority of an English Grand Lodge in America at this early point must be accepted, and its vitality recognized.

As with other aspects of eighteenth century Freemasonry, radical changes were being effected as to the religious context of Freemasonry. The subsequent determination of the Duke of Sussex to complete the de-Christianization of the Craft and Royal Arch following ratification of the Articles of Union in 1813, for whatever purpose is ascribed to this radical development, represents the continuing questioning of the role of theology and religiosity within Freemasonry. It is impossible to disguise or ignore the overtly religious and Trinitarian connotations within Craft Freemasonry, and the overtly Christian nature of the Royal Arch prior to the changes introduced by the Duke of Sussex and the introduction into English Freemasonry of the concept of the Great Architect of the Universe. This latter title or designation of God is intriguing not only because of the liberal notion of the Godhead which it implies, but because of the Rosicrucian elements it incorporates.

Blake’s 1794 rendering of the Great Architect of the Universe, complete with compasses, in his Ancient of Days, is perhaps the one such image of deity with which people are most familiar.

Whilst this is not the place to discuss Blake’s concept of Urizen, or of possible Rosicrucian influences upon Blake’s work, it is helpful to recognize the Rosicrucian notion of God as the Architect of the Solar System, and the connections between Rosicrucianism, Alchemy and Freemasonry. For the Rosicrucian Michael Maier, the hermetic philosophers attempted to “reach the intellect via the senses”. This does not seem far from the aims of Masonic ritualism of the eighteenth century, or indeed, of today. However, Franklin would have been exposed initially to a Masonic form radically different to that subsequently introduced through the force of the Moderns.

The possible Rosicrucian connections with eighteenth century Freemasonry are worth considering. This is made more relevant because of Franklin’s interest in alchemy. For Yates, there is within Freemasonry several elements found within Rosicrucianism, but, in line with A. E. Waite, she identifies divergence too.

It is in the combination of esoteric religion, ethical teaching and philanthropy that Yates finds the greatest similarity between Freemasonry and the Rosicrucian Brothers.

The degree to which Franklin’s notion of Freemasonry coincides with Rosicrucian thought, and the extent to which eighteenth century Freemasonry considered Deity involved with human life is of relevance to any consideration of the significance of religion within Freemasonry. With regard to the status of religious thought as opposed to mundane rationality, David Shugarts has pointed out that, in respect of the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, beginning “We hold these truths…” Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration, whilst drawing upon Locke, George Mason and others, passed the draft on to Franklin for editing. Shugarts notes that Franklin, avoiding any religious justification, rendered the draft “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” into the form “self-evident”.

Shugarts suggests that one of the grounds for Franklin’s audacity is that he is a Freemason. However, Russell pointed out in 1946 that that particular passage in the Declaration actually models itself upon Euclid. Were Shugart to be correct, and it is a fascinating suggestion, such an act would cast doubt on the degree to which Franklin’s conception of Deity allowed for Providence in the lives of men, and, if we follow Shugart’s reasoning, whether Freemasonry, especially given the changes subsequently introduced by the Duke of Sussex, progressively held a similarly restricted view of Providence, or the power of divine authority.

However, Franklin, in a letter written on 9th March 1790, made plain his conception of God and the extent of Providence. He wrote: "I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we render to him is doing good to his other Children. That the soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound Religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever Sect I meet with them."

It is in this context that the views of Benjamin Franklin are so enlightening. Any assessment of Franklin’s beliefs and interests reveals an attachment to notions involving alchemy, freemasonry, scientific endeavour, personal philanthropy, and liberal religious views.

His involvement with the Lunar Society at Soho House, Birmingham, whose membership was drawn from scientists, inventors and natural philosophers, and who wished to bring about by the use of scientific advance the betterment of mankind, indicate how far reaching and intense his interests were. However, at base is found Franklin’s determination to weld together these seemingly disparate elements for the good of mankind. In this final analysis Franklin’s personal religious views seem to have provided the impetus for his work, and the rationale for his actions. What is clear is the resonance they have with the ideals of eighteenth century English speculative Freemasonry, and with English notions of political philosophy and liberty.

NOTES ON THE AUTHOR: Richard Martin Young is a Writer, Historian, and a retired Law Lecturer. Richard is currently Grand Chancellor of The Grand Lodge of All England, at York.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Statement at York

"York being the established Place of Masonic Government, the whole fraternity successively paid Allegiance to its Authority, and whereas the Sacred Art flourished so much, that masonry in the South came to require some Nominal Patron to Superintend its Government. A person under the Title of Grand Master for the South was appointed, with the Approbation of the Grand Lodge at York, to which the whole fraternity at large were still bound, as they were before, to pay Tribute and acknowledge Subjection. And thus Masonry flourished for many years in the South, as well as in the North, but afterwards became again at so low a Ebb in the South that in the year 1717, only four Lodges remained extant in those parts, but those Lodges ever glorified in Originating from the Ancient York Masons, which they constantly testified. And whereas those very lodges cemented under a new Grand Master for the South, and hence arose what is now called the Nominal Grand Lodge in London, whose meetings have been by some considered as General Meetings, but without any Constitutional Authority to give such Meetings a Sanction to that Title.

"And whereas the Grand Lodge of All England, still existing at York, is the Supreme Legislature of Masonry in this kingdom. And hath, with Lamentations. beheld that the Nominal Grand Lodge, in London, have not only forgotten the Allegiance due to this Parent State of Masonry in England, but have proceeded to insult its Dignity, and depart from every ancient Landmark of the Order, assuming such arbitrary and unmasonic Measures, as ought not to be found among Maceons.

"Besides, which, many Masters and Lodges under their Sanction have been struck off their Books on trifling occasions, and particularly on Pecuniary ones, Motives which Masons ought to blush at, and, in fine, they have adopted Measures altogether arbitrary and repugnant to the principles of the Masonic Institution, whereby the true Spirit of Free Masonry in the South of England hath been subverted, and if not timely supported by the Masonic Legislature might become totally destroyed.

"Hence however, the Grand Lodge in London, from its Situation, being encouraged by some of the Principal Nobility of the Nation, arose at Great Power, and began to despise the origin from whence it sprang. In an unbrotherly manner, wishing the Gr. Lodge at York annihilated, which appears by one of their Almanacks, insinuating, that although there are some Brethren remaining, who act under the Old Constitution of York, yet that they are few in number, and will soon be annihilated.

"Upon the whole, let every dispassionate Mason but weigh impartially the several Facts here stated, and he must spurn at the daring Innovation offered by the Nominal Grand Lodge in London, to so sacred and Institution.

"If he wishes to partake of Masonry in its Original Purity, he will turn his attention to that source, where it hath been Inviolably maintained and continued for Successive Ages to this Day, and where the Legislature of Masonry for this Kingdom stands fixed by its true Title 'The Grand Lodge of All England, Established at the City of York.' "

YORK 1779

Thursday, 7 February 2008

The Oxford Poem

"The mason poor that builds the lordly halls,

Dwells not in them; they are for high degree;

His cottage is compact in paper walls,

And not with brick or stone, as others be."

Edward DeVere
17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604)

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Prince Edwin of York is Found

The Grand Lodge at York formally announces that it has traced the final resting place of King Athelstan's brother, Prince Edwin of York, the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of All England (AD926).

King Athelstan

Prince Edwin of York is chronicled in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People where it is recorded that he ordered the construction of a church on the former Roman fortress site of Eboracum (York).

Prince Edwin is also chronicled immediately after "Exemptus" King Athelstan in the Rosicrucian Chronology for the year AD925.

In one of Symeon of Durham's Northumbrian Annals dated AD933, which he used as material for his Historia regum Anglorum et Dacorum, he states that: "King Ethelstan ordered his brother Edwin to be drowned in the sea".

William of Malmesbury expressed grave doubt about this story "on account of the extraordinary affection he [Athelstan] manifested towards the rest of his brothers".

Records of the Abbey of St Bertin in Flandres, a few miles from Ushant, make note of King Athelstan's expressions of gratitude for their burial of Edwin, who had drowned in a storm escaping from England during a period of turmoil (AD933).

In the Cartulaire de l'abbaye de S. Bertin it records the favour Athelstan heaped on the monastery "because the king's brother, King [sic] Edwin, had been buried in the monastery of St. Bertin."

The cartulary version dates the incident to 932, "In the year of the Incarnate Word". It describes how the same King [sic] Edwin, when, because of some perturbation in his kingdom, got into a ship and tried to reach this side of the sea, but the winds rose and the ship foundered in the storms and he was "swallowed down" in the midst of the waves. When his body was brought to the shore Count Adalolf received it with honour because he was a close kinsman and brought it to Saint Bertin for burial. Adalolf was also the Abbot of Saint Bertin and a cousin to both Athelstan and Edwin.

The William of Malmesbury version in his Gesta regum suggests ingenuity and perseverance in an armour-bearer who found and fished out his master's body and swam a ship to land.

This incident is confirmed by the entry in the Anglo-Saxon chronicles for the year 933: "This year died Bishop Frithestan; and Edwin the atheling was drowned in the sea".

Milton Abbey in Blandford Forum, Dorset, England was founded by King Athelstan to commemorate the death at sea of his brother Edwin.

Representations have been made to the relevant authorities and a further statement will be released after a formal visit to l'Abbeye Saint-Bertin by representatives of the Grand Lodge at York.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Anderson's Constitutions of 1723

Past Master, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, United Grand Lodge of England


Bro. Lionel Vibert, of Marline, Lansdowne, Bath, England, is author of "Freemasonry Before the Existence of Grand Lodges" and "The Story of the Craft" and is editor of "Miscellanea Latomorum". He has contributed papers to the Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, notably one on "The French Compagnonnage," a critical and exhaustive treatise that is bound to replace Gould's famous chapter among the sources available to the rank and file of students of that important theme. After having devoted his attention for several years to pre-Grand Lodge Masonry, Bro. Vibert is now specializing on the Grand Lodge era the records of which are still so confused or incomplete that, in spite of the great amount of work accomplished by scholars in the past, a work "great as the Twelve Labours of Hercules" remains yet to be done. The paper below is one of the author's first published studies of the Grand Lodge era. To us American Masons, who live under forty-nine Grand Jurisdictions and to whom Masonic jurisprudence is an almost necessary preoccupation, any new light on that formative and critical period, and especially on Dr. Anderson whose Constitutions is the groundwork of our laws, is not only interesting but useful.

THE GRAND LODGE THAT WAS brought into existence in 1717 did not find it necessary to possess a Constitution of its own for some years. Exactly what went on between 1717 and 1721 we do not know; almost our only authority being the account given by Anderson in 1738 which is unreliable in many particulars. Indeed it cannot be stated with certainty whether there were any more than the original Four Old Lodges until 1721; it would appear from the Lists and other records we possess that the first lodge to join them did not do so till July of that year; the statements as to the number of new lodges in each year given by Anderson are not capable of verification. It was also in the year 1721 that the Duke of Montagu was made Grand Master on 24th June, having probably joined the Craft just previously. The effect of his becoming Grand Master, a fact advertised in the dally press of the period, was that the Craft leapt into popularity, its numbers increased, and new lodges were rapidly constituted. Even now it was not anticipated that the Grand Lodge would extend the scope of its activities beyond London and Westminster, but Grand Master Payne, possibly anticipating the stimulus that would be provided by the accession to the Craft of the Duke, had got ready a set of General Regulations, and these were read over on the occasion of his installation. Unfortunately we do not possess the original text of them but have only the version as revised and expanded by Anderson. But we can understand that in a very short time it would be found necessary for these regulations to be printed and published to the Craft. Their publication was undertaken by Anderson, who took the opportunity to write a history of the Craft as an introduction, and to prepare a set of Charges; his intention clearly being to give the new body a work which would in every respect replace the Old Manuscript Constitutions. The work consists of a dedication written by Desaguliers and addressed to Montagu as late Grand Master; a Historical introduction; a set of six Charges; Payne's Regulations revised; the manner of constituting a new lodge; and songs for the Master, Wardens, Fellow Craft and Entered Apprentice, of which the last is well known in this country (England) and is still sung today in many lodges. There is also an elaborate frontispiece. The work was published by J. Senex and J. Hooke, on 28th February, 1722-3, that is to say 1722 according to the official or civil reckoning, but 1723 by the so-called New Style, the popular way of reckoning. (It did not become the official style till the reform of the calender in 1752.) The title page bears the date 1723 simply.

Dr James Anderson

Dr. Anderson was born in Aberdeen, and was a Master of Arts of the Marischal College in that city. He was in London in 1710 and was minister of a Presbyterian Chapel in Swallow Street, Piccadilly, till 1734. He was also chaplain to the Earl of Buchan, and as the Earl was a representative peer for Scotland from 1714-1734, it was probably during these years that he maintained a London establishment. We do not know that the Earl was a Mason, although his sons were. When Anderson was initiated we do not know either; but it may have been in the Aberdeen Lodge. There is a remarkable similarity between his entry in the Constitutions of his name as "Master of a Lodge and Author of this Book," and in entry in the Aberdeen Mark Book, of "James Anderson, Glazier and Mason and Writer of this Book." This was in 1670 and this James Anderson is no doubt another person. It just happens most unfortunately that the minutes for the precise period during which we might expect to find our author are missing. In any case he was familiar with the Scottish terminology which he no doubt had some share in introducing into English Freemasonry.

Nor can it be stated with confidence when he joined the Craft in London. He was Master of a lodge in 1722, a lodge not as yet identified, but there is no record of his having had anything to do with Grand Lodge prior to the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Montagu. He was not even present at the Duke's installation; at all events Stukeley does not name him as being there. He himself, in his version of the minutes, introduces his own name for the first time at the next meeting.


His own account of the work, as given in 1738, is that he was ordered to digest the Old Gothic Constitutions in a new and better method by Montagu on 29th September, 1721, that on 27th December, Montagu appointed fourteen learned brothers to examine the MS., and that after they had approved it was ordered to be printed on 25th March, 1722. He goes on to say that it was produced in print for the approval of Grand Lodge on 17th January, 1722-3, when Grand Master Wharton's manner of constituting a lodge was added. In the book itself are printed a formal Approbation by Grand Lodge and the Masters and Wardens of twenty lodges (with the exception of two Masters), which is undated, and also a copy of a resolution of the Quarterly Communication of 17th January, 1722-3, directing the publication and recommending it to the Craft.

With regard to the committee of fourteen learned brethren and the three occasions on which the book is alleged to have been considered in Grand Lodge, the Approbation itself states that the author first submitted his text for the perusal of the late and present Deputy Grand Master's and of other learned brethren and also the Masters of lodges, and then delivered it to Grand Master Montagu, who by the advice of several brethren ordered the same to be handsomely printed. This is not quite the same thing. And it is to be noted that in 1735 Anderson appeared before Grand Lodge to protest against the doings of one Smith who had pirated the Constitutions which were his sole property. His account of this incident in the 1738 edition suppresses this interesting circumstance. Further it is very clear from the Grand Lodge minutes that the appearance of the book caused a good deal of dissension in Grand Lodge itself, and it brought the Craft into ridicule from outside; in particular Anderson's re-writing of Payne's Regulations was taken exception to. Anderson himself did not appear again in Grand Lodge for nearly eight years.

The true state of the case appears to be that Anderson undertook to write the work as a private venture of his own and that this was sanctioned, since it was desirable that the Regulations at least published, without any very careful examination of his text, or of so much of it as was ready, and that when it was published it was discovered, but too late, that he had taken what were felt by many to be unwarrantable liberties not only with the traditional Charges but also with Payne's Regulations.


In using the term Constitutions he was following the phraseology of several of the versions of the Old Charges, and in fact the word occurs (in Latin) in the Regius, though Anderson never saw that. It was apparently traditional in the Craft. The contents of the work itself indicate that the various portions were put together at different dates and Anderson tells us it was not all in print during Montagu's term of office.

Taking the Approbation first, this is signed by officers of twenty lodges; the Master and both Wardens have all signed in all but two. In those, numbers eight and ten, the place for the Master's signature is blank. Mr. Mathew Birkhead is shown as Master of number five; and he died on the 30th December, 1722. Accordingly the Approbation must be of an earlier date and of the twenty lodges we know that number nineteen was constituted on 25th November, 1722, and number twenty if, as is probable, it is of later date, will have been constituted possibly on the same day but more probably a few days later. Thus we can date the Approbation within narrow limits. In his 1738 edition Anderson gives a series of the numbers of lodges on the roll of Grand Lodge at different dates which cannot be checked from any independent source, and he suggests that on 25th March, 1722, there were already at least twenty-four lodges in existence because he asserts that representatives of twenty-four paid their homage to the Grand Master on that date; and that those of twenty-five did so on 17th January, 1722-3. Because of Anderson's assertion as to twenty-four lodges some writers have speculated as to the lodges the officers of which omitted to sign or which were ignored by the author. But the truth probably is that these lodges - if they existed at all - were simply not represented at the meeting.

Philip Duke of Wharton

The Approbation is signed by Wharton as Grand Master, Desaguliers as Deputy, and Timson and Hawkins as Grand Wardens. According to the story as told by Anderson in 1738 Wharton got himself elected Grand Master irregularly on 24th June, 1722, when he appointed these brethren as his Wardens but omitted to appoint a Deputy. On 17th January, 1722-3, the Duke of Montagu, "to heal the breach," had Wharton proclaimed Grand Master and he then appointed Desaguliers as his Deputy and Timson and Anderson, (not Hawkins,) Wardens and Anderson adds that his appointment was made for Hawkins demitted as always out of town. If this story could be accepted the Approbation was signed by three officers who were never in office simultaneously, since when Desaguliers came in Hawkins had already demitted. This by itself would throw no small doubt on Anderson's later narrative, but in fact we know that his whole story as to Wharton is a tissue of fabrication. The daily papers of the period prove that the Duke of Wharton was in fact installed on 25th June, and he then appointed Desaguliers as his Deputy and Timson and Hawkins as his Wardens. It is unfortunate that Anderson overlooked that his very date, 24th June, was impossible as it was a Sunday, a day expressly prohibited by Payne's Regulations for meetings of Grand Lodge. There are indications of some disagreement; apparently some brethren wished Montagu to continue, but in fact Wharton went in the regular course; the list of Grand Lodge officers in the minute book of Grand Lodge shows him as Grand Master in 1722. And that Hawkins demitted is merely Anderson's allegation. In this same list he appears as Grand Warden, but Anderson himself has written the words (which he is careful to reproduce in 1738): "Who demitted and James Anderson A.M. was chosen in his place;" vide the photographic reproduction of the entry at page 196 of Quatuor, Coronatorum Antigrapha Vol. X; while in the very first recorded minute of Grand Lodge, that of 24th June, 1723, the entry as to Grand Wardens originally stood: Joshua Timson and the Reverend Mr. James Anderson who officiated for Mr. William Hawkins. But these last six words have been carefully erased, vide the photo reproduction at page 48 Quatuor Corontorum Antigrapha VOL X, which brings them to light again. Hawkins then was still the Grand Warden in June 1723, and on that occasion Anderson officiated for him at the January meeting. The explanation of the whole business appears to be that Anderson in 1738 was not anxious to emphasize his associated with Wharton, who after his term of office as Grand Master proved a renegade and Jacobite and an enemy to the Craft. He had died in Spain in 1731. For the Book of Constitutions of 1738 there is a new Approbation altogether.

But we have not yet done with this Approbation for the further question arises, At what meeting of Grand Lodge was it drawn up? The license to publish refers to a meeting of 17th January, 1722-23, and that there was such a meeting is implied by the reference to this document in the official minutes of June, when the accuracy of this part of it is not impugned. But this Approbation was as we have seen drawn up between the end of November and the end of December, 1722, and between these limits an earlier date, is more probable than a later. No such meeting is mentioned by Anderson himself in 1738. But the explanation of this no doubt is that he now has his tale of the proclamation of Wharton at that meeting on 17th January, and any references to a meeting of a month or so earlier presided over by that nobleman would stultify the narrative. It is probable that a meeting was in fact held, and that its occurrence was suppressed by Anderson when he came to publish his narrative of the doings of Grand Lodge fifteen years later. The alternative would be that the whole document was unauthorized, but so impudent an imposture could never have escaped contemporary criticism. Truly the ways of the deceiver are hard.


The Frontispiece to the Constitutions of 1723, which was used over again without alteration in 1738, represents a classical arcade in the foreground of which stand two noble personages, each attended by three others of whom one of those on the spectator's left carries cloaks and pairs of gloves. The principal personages can hardly be intended for any others than Montagu and Wharton; and Montagu is wearing the robes of the Garter, and is handing his successor a roll of the Constitutions, not a book. This may be intended for Anderson's as yet unprinted manuscript, or, more likely it indicates that a version of the Old Constitutions was regarded at the time as part of the Grand Master's equipment, which would be a survival of Operative practice. Behind each Grand Master stand their officers, Beal, Villeneau, and Morris on one side, and on the other Desaguliers, Timson, and Hawkins, Desaguliers as a clergyman and the other two in ordinary dress, and evidently an attempt has been made in each case to give actual portraits. It is unnecessary to suppose, as we would have to if we accepted Anderson's story, that this plate was designed, drawn, and printed in the short interval between 17th January and 28th February. It might obviously have been prepared at any time after June 25, 1722. By it Anderson is once more contradicted, because here is Hawkins - or at all events someone in ordinary clothes - as Grand Warden, and not the Reverend James Anderson, as should be the case if Wharton was not Grand Master till January and then replaced the absent Hawkins by the Doctor. The only other plate in the book is an elaborate illustration of the arms of the Duke of Montagu which stands at the head of the first page of the dedication.

We can date the historical portion of the work from the circumstance that it ends with the words: "our present worthy Grand Master, the most noble Prince John, Duke of Montagu." We can be fairly certain that Anderson's amendations of Payne's Regulations were in part made after the incidents of Wharton's election because they contain elaborate provisions for the possible continuance of the Grand Master and the nomination or election of his successor and in the charges again, there is a reference to the Regulations hereunto annexed. But beyond this internal evidence, (and that of the Approbation and sanction to publish already referred to), the only guide we have to the dates of printing the various sections of the work is the manner in which the printers' catch words occur. The absence of a catch word is not proof that the sections were printed at different times because it might be omitted if, e.g., it would spoil the appearance of a tail-piece; but the occurrence of a catch word is a very strong indication that the sections it links were printed together. Now in the Constitution of 1723 they occur as follows: from the dedication to the history, none; from the history to the Charges, catch word; from the Charges to a Postscript 'put in here to fill a page', catch word; from this to the Regulations, none; from the Regulations to the method of constituting a New Lodge, catch word; from this to the Approbation, none; from the Approbation to the final section, the songs, none; and none from here to the license to publish on the last page.

Accordingly we may now date the several portions of the work with some degree of certainty. The times are as follows:

The plate; at any time after June 25th, 1722.
The dedication, id., but probably written immediately before publication.
The historical portion; prior to 25th June, 1722.
The charges printed with the preceding section, but drafted conjointly with the Regulations.
The postscript; the same.
The General Regulations, after Wharton's installation
The method of constituting a new Lodge; printed with the preceding section.
The Approbation; between 25th November and end of December, 1722.
The songs and sanction to publish; after January 17th, 1722-3, and probably at the last moment.

Of these sections the plate and Approbation have already been dealt with. The dedication calls for no special notice; it is an extravagant eulogy of the accuracy and diligence of the author. The songs are of little interest except the familiar Apprentice's Song, and this is now described as by our late Brother Matthew Birkhead.


This requires a somewhat extended notice. The legendary history, as it is perhaps not necessary to remind my readers, brought Masonry or Geometry from the children of Lamech to Solomon; then jumped to France and Charles Martel; and then by St. Alban, Athelstan and Edwin, this worthy Craft was established in England. In the Spencer family of MSS. an attempt has been made to fill in the obvious gaps in this narrative by introducing the second and third temples, those of Zerubbabel and Herod, and Auviragus king of Britain as a link with Rome, France and Charles Martel being dropped, while a series of monarchs has also been introduced between St. Alban's paynim king and Atheistan [sic]. Anderson's design was wholly different. He was obsessed by the idea of the perfection of the Roman architecture, what he called the Augustan Style, and he took the attitude that the then recent introduction of Renaissance architecture into England as a return to a model from which Gothic had been merely a barbarous lapse. He traces the Art from Cain who built a city, and who was instructed in Geometry by Adam. Here he is no doubt merely bettering his originals which were content with the sons of Lamech. The assertion shows a total want of any sense of humour, but then so do all his contributions to history. But it is worth while pointing out that it suggests more than this; it suggests that he had an entire lack of acquaintance with the polite literature of the period. No well-read person of the day would be unacquainted with the writings of Abraham Cowley, the poet and essayist of the Restoration, and the opening sentence of his Essay of Agriculture is:

"The three first men in the world were a gardener, a ploughman and a grazier; and if any man object that the second of these was a murderer, I desire he would consider that as soon as he was so he quitted our profession, and turned builder." It is difficult to imagine that Anderson would have claimed Cain as the first Mason if he had been familiar with this passage.

From this point he develops the history in his own fashion, but he incorporates freely and with an entire disregard for textual accuracy any passages in the Old Charges that suit him and he has actually used the Cooke Text, as also some text closely allied to the William Watson. We know the Cooke was available to him; we learn from Stukeley that it had been produced in Grand Lodge on 24 June, 1721. Anderson, in 1738, omits all reference to this incident, but asserts that in 1718 Payne desired the brethren to bring to Grand Lodge any old writings and records, and that several copies of the Gothic Constitutions (as he calls them) were produced and collated. He also alleges that in 1720 several valuable manuscripts concerning the Craft were too hastily burnt by some scrupulous brethren.

The former of these statements we should receive with caution; for the very reason that the 1723 Constitutions show no traces of such texts; the latter may be true and the manuscripts may have been rituals, or they may have been versions of the Old Charges, but there was nothing secret about those. The antiquary Plot had already printed long extracts from them.

Returning to the narrative we are told that Noah and his sons were Masons, which is a statement for which Anderson found no warrant in his originals; but he seems to have had a peculiar fondness for Noah. In 1738 he speaks of Masons as true Noachidae, alleging this to have been their first name according to some old traditions, and it is interesting to observe that the Irish Constitutions of 1858 preserve this fragment of scholarship and assert as a fact that Noachidae was the first name of Masons. Anderson also speaks of the three great articles of Noah, which are not however further elucidated, but it is probable that the reference is to the familiar triad of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. He omits Abraham and introduces Euclid in his proper chronological sequence, so that he has corrected the old histories to that extent; but after Solomon and the second Temple he goes to Greece, Sicily and Rome, where was perfected the glorious Augustan Style. He introduces Charles Martel - as King of France! - as helping England to recover the true art after the Saxon invasion, but ignores Athelstan and Edwin. He however introduces most of the monarchs after the Conquest and makes a very special reference to Scotland and the Stuarts. In the concluding passage he used the phrase "the whole body resembles a well built Arch" and it has been suggested, not very convincingly perhaps, that this is an allusion to the Royal Arch Degree.

There is an elaborate account of Zerubbabel's temple which may have some such significance, and the Tabernacle of Moses, Aholiab and Bezaleel is also mentioned at some length, Moses indeed being a Grand Master. He also inserts for no apparent reason a long note on the words Hiram Abiff, and in this case the suggestion that there is a motive for his doing so connected with ritual is of more cogency. It is an obvious suggestion that the name was of importance to the Craft at this date, that is to say early in 1722, and that the correctness of treating Abiff as a surname instead of as equivalent to his "father" was a matter the Craft were taking an interest in.


The Charges, of which there are six, are alleged to be extracted from ancient records of lodges beyond Sea, and of those in England, Scotland and Ireland. In the Approbation the assertion is that he has examined several copies from Italy and Scotland and sundry parts of England. Were it not that he now omits Ireland altogether we might nave been disposed to attach some importance to the former statement. As yet no Irish version of the Old Charges has come to light but it is barely possible that there were records of Irish Freemasonry at the time which have since passed out of sight, a Freemasonry no doubt derived originally from England. But the discrepancy is fatal; we must conclude that the worthy doctor never saw any Irish record. And we can safely dismiss his lodges in Italy or beyond Sea as equally mythical.

Of the six Charges themselves the first caused trouble immediately on its appearance. It replaced the old invocation of the Trinity and whatever else there may have been of statements of religious and Christian belief in the practice of the lodges by a vague statement that we are only to be obliged to that religion in which all men agree. Complete religious tolerance has in fact become the rule of our Craft, but the Grand Lodge of 1723 was not ready for so sudden a change and it caused much ill feeling and possibly many secessions. It was the basis of a series of attacks on the new Grand Lodge.


The manner of constituting a New Lodge is noteworthy for its reference to the "Charges of a Master," and the question, familiar to us today: Do you submit to these charges as Masters have done in all ages? It does not appear that these are the six ancient Charges of a previous section; they were something quite distinct. But not until 1777 are any Charges of the Master known to have been printed. It is also worthy of notice that the officers to be appointed Wardens of the new lodge are Fellow Crafts. There is also a reference to the Charges to the Wardens which are to be given by a Grand Warden. This section appeared in the Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge as late as 1873.

Anderson in 1738 alleges that he was directed to add this section to the work at the meeting of January 17 and he then speaks of it as the ancient manner of constituting a lodge. This is also the title of the corresponding section in the 1738 Constitutions, which is only this enlarged. But its title in 1723 is: Here follows the Manner of constituting a NEW LODGE, as practiced by His Grace the Duke of Wharton, the present Right Worshipful Grand Master, according to the ancient Usages of Masons. We once more see Anderson suppressing references to the Duke of Wharton where he can in 1738, and yet obliged to assert that the section was added after January 17th in order to be consistent in his story. It is not in the least likely that this is what was done. It was to all appearance printed at one and the same time with the Regulations, which he himself tells us were in print on 17th January, and since Wharton constituted four lodges if not more in 1722 he will not have waited six months to settle his method. We may be pretty certain that this section was in print before the Approbation to which it is not linked by a catch-word.


The Regulations, as I have already mentioned, have come down to us only as rewritten by Anderson. The official minutes of Grand Lodge throw considerable light on the matter. The first of all relates to the appointment of the Secretary, and the very next one is as follows:

The Order of the 17th January 1722-3 printed at the end of the Constitutions page 91 for the publishing the said Constitutions as read purporting, that they had been before approved in Manuscript by the Grand Lodge and were then (viz) 17th January aforesaid produced in print and approved by the Society.

Then the Question was moved, that the said General Regulations be confirmed, so far as they are consistent with the Ancient Rules of Masonry. The previous question was moved and put, whether the words "so far as they are consistent with the Ancient Rules of Masonry" be part of the Question. Resolved in the affirmative, But the main Question was not put. And the Question was moved that it is not in the Power of any person, or Body of men, to make any alteration, or Innovation in the Body of Masonry without the consent first obtained of the Annual Grand Lodge. And the Question being put accordingly Resolved in the Affirmative. We would record these proceedings today in somewhat different form, perhaps as follows:

It was proposed (and seconded) that the said General Regulations be confirmed so far as they are consistent with the Ancient Rules of Masonry. An amendment to omit the words "so far ... Masonry" was negatived. But in place of the original proposition the following resolution was adopted by a majority: That it is not, etc.

The effect of this is that it indicates pretty clearly that there was a strong feeling in Grand Lodge that Anderson's version of the Regulations had never been confirmed; that there was a difference of opinion as to now confirming them, even partially; and that in fact this was not done, but a resolution was adopted instead condemning alterations made without the consent of Grand Lodge at its annual meeting first obtained. I should perhaps say that the word "purporting" does not here have the meaning we would today attach to it; it has no sense of misrepresentation. Anderson was present at this meeting, but naturally not a word of all this appears in the account he gives of it in 1738.

Regulation XIII, or one sentence in it rather, "Apprentices must be admitted Masters and Fellow Craft only here, (i.e. in Grand Lodge) unless by a Dispensation," was at one time the battle ground of the Two Degree versus Three Degree schools; but it is generally admitted now, I believe, that only two degrees are referred to, namely the admission and the Master's Part.

The order of the words is significant. In the Regulation they read "Masters and Fellow Craft." In the resolution of 27 November, 1725 by which the rule was annulled, the wording is "Master" in the official minutes, which is a strong indication that the original Regulation only referred to one degree. In 1738 Anderson deliberately alters what is set out as the original wording and makes it read "Fellow Crafts and Masters," while in the new Regulation printed alongside of it the alteration of 27 November, 1725, is quoted as "Masters and Fellows" both being inaccurate; and he even gives the date wrongly.

The second Regulation enacts that the Master of a particular lodge has the right of congregating the members of his lodge into a chapter upon any emergency as well as to appoint the time and place of their usual forming. But it would be quite unsafe to assume that this is another reference to the Royal Arch; it appears to deal with what we would now call an emergent meeting.

Payne's, or rather Anderson's, Regulations were the foundation on which the law of the Craft was based, it being developed by a continual process of emendation and addition, and their phraseology can still be traced in our English Constitutions today.


In America Franklin reprinted this work in 1734 apparently verbatim. In 1738 Anderson brought out a second addition which was intended to replace the earlier one altogether, but it was a slovenly performance and the Regulations were printed in so confused a manner, being all mixed up with notes and amendments (many inaccurately stated), that it was difficult to make head or tail of them and to ascertain what was the law of the Craft. He also re-wrote the history entirely and greatly expanded it, introducing so many absurdities that Gould has suggested that he was deliberately fooling the Grand Lodge, or in the alternative that he was himself in his dotage. He died very shortly after. But this same ridiculous history has done duty in all seriousness till comparatively recent years, being brought up to date by Preston and others who were apparently quite unconscious of its true value. Unfortunately that portion of the history which professed to give an account of the proceedings of Grand Lodge and for which the official minutes were at Anderson's disposal is full of what one must consider wilful inaccuracies and misstatements.

In the next edition of the Constitutions, 1754, the Regulations were rewritten by Entick, but the history was preserved. Entick also reverted to the Charges as drawn up in 1723 into which, especially the first, Anderson had introduced various modifications in 1738, and those Charges are the basis of the Ancient Charges to be found today in the Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England, the only differences, except as regards the first Charge, not amounting to more than verbal modifications.


While as students we are bound to receive any statement that Anderson makes with the utmost caution unless it can be tested from other sources, we must not be too ready to abuse the worthy Doctor on that account. Our standards of historical and literary accuracy are higher than those of 1723, and his object was to glorify Montagu and the Craft and the new style of architecture introduced by Inigo Jones and others of his school; and this he did wholeheartedly, and if in the process he twisted a text or two or supplied suitable events to fill gaps in his narrative for which mere history as such had failed to record facts, no one at the time would think any the worse of him for that. It was a far more serious matter that he was instrumental in removing from the literature of the Craft all definite religious allusions; but as we now see, the Craft in fact owes its universality today to its wide undenominationalism and in this respect he builded better than he knew. The Constitutions of 1723 remains one of our most important texts and only awaits publication in full facsimile with suitable notes and introduction at the hands of some Society with the requisite funds.

NOTE: The Grand Lodge of All England is governed by the authority of the Old York Constitutions of A.D. 1600 (referred to in the article above as "Old Manuscript Constitutions" and "Old Gothic Constitutions") and rejects the innovations contained in the Moderns version of the Craft brought about by the activities detailed in the article written by Vibert. The Grand Lodge at York has published this article as an aid to understanding at this time when the vital issues of authenticity of origin and regularity are being re-visited and evaluated by serious students of genuine Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry.

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