1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Freemasonry
FREEMASONRY. According to an old “Charge” delivered to initiates, Freemasonry is declared to be an “ancient and honourable institution: ancient no doubt it is, as having subsisted from time immemorial; and honourable it must be acknowledged to be, as by a natural tendency it conduces to make those so who are obedient to its precepts ... to so high an eminence has its credit been advanced that in every age Monarchs themselves have been promoters of the art, have not thought it derogatory from their dignity to exchange the sceptre for the trowel, have patronised our mysteries and joined in our Assemblies.” For many years the craft has been conducted without respect to clime, colour, caste or creed.
History.—The precise origin of the society has yet to be ascertained, but is not likely to be, as the early records are lost; there is, however, ample evidence remaining to justify the claim for its antiquity and its honourable character. Much has been written as to its eventful past, based upon actual records, but still more which has served only to amuse or repel inquirers, and led not a few to believe that the fraternity has no trustworthy history. An unfavourable opinion of the historians of the craft generally may fairly have been held during the 18th and early in the 19th centuries, but happily since the middle of the latter century quite a different principle has animated those brethren who have sought to make the facts of masonic history known to the brotherhood, as well as worth the study of students in general. The idea that it would require an investigator to be a member of the “mystic tie” in order to qualify as a reader of masonic history has been exploded. The evidences collected concerning the institution during the last five hundred years, or more, may now be examined and tested in the most severe manner by literary and critical experts (whether opposed or favourable to the body), who cannot fail to accept the claims made as to its great antiquity and continuity, as the lineal descendant of those craftsmen who raised the cathedrals and other great English buildings during the middle ages.
It is only needful to refer to the old works on freemasonry, and to compare them with the accepted histories of the present time, to be assured that such strictures as above are more than justified. The premier work on the subject was published in London in 1723, the Rev. James Anderson being the author of the historical portion, introductory to the first “Book of Constitutions” of the original Grand Lodge of England. Dr Anderson gravely states that “Grand Master Moses often marshalled the Israelites into a regular and general lodge, whilst in the wilderness.... King Solomon was Grand Master of the lodge at Jerusalem.... Nebuchadnezzar became the Grand Master Mason,” &c., devoting many more pages to similar absurdities, but dismisses the important modern innovation (1716–1717) of a Grand Lodge with a few lines noteworthy for their brief and indefinite character.
In 1738 a second edition was issued, dedicated to the prince of Wales (“a Master Mason and master of a lodge”), and was the work of the same brother (as respects the historical part), the additions being mainly on the same lines as the former volume, only, if possible, still more ridiculous and extravagant; e.g. Cyrus constituted Jerubbabel “provincial grand master in Judah”; Charles Martel was “the Right Worshipful Grand Master of France, and Edward I. being deeply engaged in wars left the craft to the care of several successive grand masters” (duly enumerated). Such loose statements may now pass unheeded, but unfortunately they do not exhaust the objections to Dr Anderson’s method of writing history. The excerpt concerning St Alban (apparently made from Coles’s Ancient Constitutions, 1728–1729) has the unwarranted additional title of Grand Master conferred on that saint, and the extract concerning King Æthelstan and Prince Edwin from the “Old MS. Charges” (given in the first edition) contains still more unauthorized modern terms, with the year added of 926; thus misleading most seriously those who accept the volume as trustworthy, because written by the accredited historian of the Grand Lodge, Junior Grand Warden in 1723. These examples hardly increase our confidence in the author’s accuracy when Dr Anderson comes to treat of the origin of the premier Grand Lodge; but he is our only informant as to that important event, and if his version of the occurrence is declined, we are absolutely without any information.
In considering the early history of Freemasonry, from a purely matter-of-fact standpoint, it will be well to settle as a necessary preliminary what the term did and does now include or mean, and how far back the inquiry should be conducted, as well as on what lines. If the view of the subject herein taken be correct, it will be useless to load the investigation by devoting considerable space to a consideration of the laws and customs of still older societies which may have been utilized and imitated by the fraternity, but which in no sense can be accepted as the actual forbears of the present society of Free and Accepted Masons. They were predecessors, or possibly prototypes, but not near relatives or progenitors of the Freemasons.
The Mother Grand Lodge of the world is that of England, which was inaugurated in the metropolis on St John Baptist’s day 1717 by four or more old lodges, three of which still flourish. There were other lodges also in London and the country at the time, but whether they were invited to the meeting is not now known. Probably not, as existing records of the period preserve a sphinx-like silence thereon. Likewise there were many scores of lodges at work in Scotland, and undoubtedly in Ireland the craft was widely patronized. Whatever the ceremonies may have been which were then known as Freemasonry in Great Britain and Ireland, they were practically alike, and the venerable Old Charges or MS. constitutions, dating back several centuries, were rightly held by them as the title-deeds of their masonic inheritance.
It was a bold thing to do, thus to start a governing body for the fraternity quite different in many respects to all preceding organizations, and to brand as irregular all lodges which declined to accept such authority; but the very originality and audacity of its promoters appears to have led to its success, and it was not long before most of the lodges of the pre-Grand-Lodge era joined and accepted “constitution” by warrant of the Grand Master. Not only so, but Ireland quickly followed the lead, so early as 1725 there being a Grand Lodge for that country which must have been formed even still earlier, and probably by lodges started before any were authorized in the English counties. In Scotland the change was not made until 1736, many lodges even then holding aloof from such an organization. Indeed, out of some hundred lodges known to have been active then, only thirty-three responded and agreed to fall into line, though several joined later; some, however, kept separate down to the end of the 19th century, while others never united. Many of these lodges have records of the 17th century though not then newly formed; one in particular, the oldest (the Lodge of Edinburgh, No. 1), possesses minutes so far back as the year 1599.
It is important to bear in mind that all the regular lodges throughout the world, and likewise all the Grand Lodges, directly or indirectly, have sprung from one or other of the three governing bodies named; Ireland and Scotland following the example set by their masonic mother of England in having Grand Lodges of their own. It is not proved how the latter two became acquainted with Freemasonry as a secret society, guided more or less by the operative MS. Constitutions or Charges common to the three bodies, not met with elsewhere; but the credit of a Grand Lodge being established to control the lodges belongs to England.
It may be a startling declaration, but it is well authenticated, that there is no other Freemasonry, as the term is now understood, than what which has been so derived. In other words, the lodges and Grand Lodges in both hemispheres trace their origin and authority back to England for working what are known as the Three Degrees, controlled by regular Grand Lodges. That being so, a history of modern Freemasonry, the direct offspring of the British parents aforesaid, should first of all establish the descent of the three Grand Lodges from the Freemasonry of earlier days; such continuity, of five centuries or more, being a sine qua non of antiquity and regularity.
It will be found that from the early part of the 18th century back to the 16th century existing records testify to the assemblies of lodges, mainly operative, but partly speculative, in Great Britain, whose guiding stars and common heritage were the Old Charges, and that when their actual minutes and transactions cease to be traced by reason of their loss, these same MS. Constitutions furnish testimony of the still older working of such combinations of freemasons or masons, without the assistance, countenance or authority of any other masonic body; consequently such documents still preserved, of the 14th and later centuries (numbering about seventy, mostly in form of rolls), with the existing lodge minutes referred to of the 16th century, down to the establishment of the premier Grand Lodge in 1717, prove the continuity of the society. Indeed so universally has this claim been admitted, that in popular usage the term Free-mason is only now applied to those who belong to this particular fraternity, that of mason being applicable to one who follows that trade, or honourable calling, as a builder.
There is no evidence that during this long period any other organization of any kind, religious, philosophical, mystical or otherwise, materially or even slightly influenced the customs of the fraternity, though they may have done so; but so far as is known the lodges were of much the same character throughout, and consisted really of operatives (who enjoyed practically a monopoly for some time of the trade as masons or freemasons), and, in part, of “speculatives,” i.e. noblemen, gentlemen and men of other trades, who were admitted as honorary members.
Assuming then that the freemasons of the present day are the sole inheritors of the system arranged at the so-called “Revival of 1717,” which was a development from an operative body to one partly speculative, and that, so far back as the MS. Records extend and furnish any light, they must have worked in Lodges in secret throughout the period noted, a history of Freemasonry should be mainly devoted to giving particulars, as far as possible, of the lodges, their traditions, customs and laws, based upon actual documents which can be tested and verified by members and non-members alike.
It has been the rule to treat, more or less fully, of the influence exerted on the fraternity by the Ancient Mysteries, the Essenes, Roman Colleges, Culdees, Hermeticism, Fehm-Gerichte et hoc genus omne, especially the Steinmetzen, the Craft Gilds and the Companionage of France, &c.; but in view of the separate and independent character of the freemasons, it appears to be quite unnecessary, and the time so employed would be better devoted to a more thorough search after additional evidences of the activity of the craft, especially during the crucial period overlapping the second decade of the 18th century, so as to discover information as to the transmitted secrets of the medieval masons, which, after all, may simply have been what Gaspard Monge felicitously entitles “Descriptive Geometry, or the Art and Science of Masonic Symbolism.”
The rules and regulations of the masons were embodied in what are known as the Old Charges; the senior known copy being the Regius MS. (British Museum Bibl. Reg. 17 A, i.), which, however, is not so exclusively devoted to masonry as the later copies. David Casley, in his catalogue of the MSS. in the King’s Library (1734), unfortunately styled the little gem A Poem of Moral Duties; and owing to this misdescription its true character was not recognized until the year 1839, and then by a non-mason (Mr Halliwell-Phillipps), who had it reproduced in 1840 and brought out an improved edition in 1844. Its date has been approximately fixed at 1390 by Casley and other authorities.
The curious legend of the craft, therein made known, deals first of all with the number of unemployed in early days and the necessity of finding work, “that they myght gete here lyvynge therby.” Euclid was consulted, and recommended the “onest craft of good masonry,” and the genesis of the society is found “yn Egypte lande.” By a rapid transition, but “mony erys afterwarde,” we are told that the “Craft com ynto England yn tyme of good kynge Adelstonus (Æthelstan) day,” who called an assembly of the masons, when fifteen articles and as many more points were agreed to for the government of the craft, each being duly described. Each brother was instructed that—
“He must love wel God, and holy Churche algate
The rules generally, besides referring to trade regulations, are as a whole suggestive of the Ten Commandments in an extended form, winding up with the legend of the Ars quatuor coronatorum, as an incentive to a faithful discharge of the numerous obligations. A second part introduces a more lengthy account of the origin of masonry, in which Noah’s flood and the Tower of Babylon are mentioned as well as the great skill of Euclid, who—
“Through hye grace of Crist yn heven,
The “seven sciences” are duly named and explained. The compiler apparently was a priest, line 629 reading “And, when ye gospel me rede schal,” thus also accounting for the many religious injunctions in the MS.; the last hundred lines are evidently based upon Urbanitatis (Cott. MS. Caligula A 11, fol. 88) and Instructions for a Parish Priest (Cott. MS. Claudius A 11, fol. 27), instructions such as lads and even men would need who were ignorant of the customs of polite society, correct deportment at church and in the presence of their social superiors.
The recital of the legend of the Quatuor Coronati has been held by Herr Findel in his History of Freemasonry (Allgemeine Geschichte der Freimaurerei, 1862; English editions, 1866–1869) to prove that British Freemasonry was derived from Germany, but without any justification, the legend being met with in England centuries prior to the date of the Regius MS., and long prior to its incorporation in masonic legends on the Continent.
The next MS., in order, is known as the “Cooke” (Ad. MS. 23,198, British Museum), because Matthew Cooke published a fair reproduction of the document in 1861; and it is deemed by competent paleographers to date from the first part of the 15th century. There are two versions of the Old Charges in this little book, purchased for the British Museum in 1859. The compiler was probably a mason and familiar with several copies of these MS. Constitutions, two of which he utilizes and comments upon; he quotes from a MS. copy of the Policronicon the manner in which a written account of the sciences was preserved in the two historic stones at the time of the Flood, and generally makes known the traditions of the society as well as the laws which were to govern the members.
Its introduction into England through Egypt is noted (where the Children of Israel “lernyd ye craft of Masonry”), also the “lande of behest” (Jerusalem) and the Temple of Solomon (who “confirmed ye chargys yt David his Fadir” had made). Then masonry in France is interestingly described; and St Alban and “Æthelstane with his yongest sone” (the Edwin of the later MSS.) became the chosen mediums subsequently, as with the other Charges, portions of the Old Testament are often cited in order to convey a correct idea to the neophyte, who is to hear the document read, as to these sciences which are declared to be free in themselves (fre in hem selfe). Of all crafts followed by man in this world “Masonry hathe the moste notabilite,” as confirmed by “Elders that were bi for us of masons [who] had these chargys wryten,” and “as is write and taught in ye boke of our charges.”
Until quite recently no representative or survival of this particular version had been traced, but in 1890 one was discovered of 1687 (since known as the William Watson MS.). Of some seventy copies of these old scrolls which have been unearthed, by far the greater proportion have been made public since 1860. They have all much in common, though often curious differences are to be detected; are of English origin, no matter where used; and when complete, as they mostly are, whether of the 16th or subsequent centuries, are noteworthy for an invocation or prayer which begins the recital:—
“The mighte of the ffather of heaven
They are chiefly of the 17th century and nearly all located in England; particulars may be found in Hughan’s Old Charges of the British Freemasons (1872, 1895 and supplement 1906). The chief scrolls, with some others, have been reproduced in facsimile in six volumes of the Quatuor Coronatorum Antigrapha; and the collection in Yorkshire has been published separately, either in the West Yorkshire Reprints or the Ancient York Masonic Rolls. Several have been transcribed and issued in other works.
These scrolls give considerable information as to the traditions and customs of the craft, together with the regulations for its government, and were required to be read to apprentices long after the peculiar rules ceased to be acted upon, each lodge apparently having one or more copies kept for the purpose. The old Lodge of Aberdeen ordered in 1670 that the Charge was to be “read at ye entering of everie entered prenteise”; another at Alnwick in 1701 provided—
“Noe Mason shall take any apprentice [but he must]
and still another at Swallwell (now No. 48 Gateshead) demanded that “the Apprentices shall have their Charge given at the time of Registering, or within thirty days after”; the minutes inserting such entries accordingly even so late as 1754, nearly twenty years after the lodge had cast in its lot with the Grand Lodge of England.
Their Christian character is further emphasized by the “First Charge that you shall be true men to God and the holy Church”; the York MS. No. 6 beseeches the brethren “at every meeting and assembly they pray heartily for all Christians”; the Melrose MS. No. 2 (1674) mentions “Merchants and all other Christian men,” and the Aberdeen MS. (1670) terms the invocation “A Prayer before the Meeting.” Until the Grand Lodge era, Freemasonry was thus wholly Christian. The York MS. No. 4 of 1693 contains a singular error in the admonitory lines:—
“The [n] one of the elders takeing the Booke and that
This particular reading was cited by Hughan in 1871, but was considered doubtful; Findel, however, confirmed it, on his visit to York under the guidance of the celebrated masonic student the late Rev. A. F. A. Woodford. The mistake was due possibly to the transcriber, who had an older roll before him, confusing “they,” sometimes written “the,” with “she,” or reading that portion, which is often in Latin, as ille vel illa, instead of ille vel illi.
In some of the Codices, about the middle of the 17th century and later, New Articles are inserted, such as would be suitable for an organization similar to the Masons’ Company of London, which had one, at least, of the Old Charges in its possession according to inventories of 1665 and 1676; and likewise in 1722, termed The Book of the Constitutions of the Accepted Masons. Save its mention (“Book wrote on parchment”) by Sir Francis Palgrave in the Edinburgh Review (April 1839) as being in existence “not long since,” this valuable document has been lost sight of for many years.
That there were signs and other secrets preserved and used by the brethren throughout this mainly operative period may be gathered from discreet references in these old MSS. The Institutions in parchment (22nd of November 1696) of the Dumfries Kilwinning Lodge (No. 53, Scotland) contain a copy of the oath taken “when any man should be made”:—
“These Charges which we now reherse to you and all others ye secrets and misterys belonging to free masons you shall faithfully and truly keep, together with ye Counsell of ye assembly or lodge, or any other lodge, or brother, or fellow.”
“Then after ye oath taken and the book kissed” (i.e. the Bible) the “precepts” are read, the first being:—
“You shall be true men to God and his holy Church, and that you do not countenance or maintaine any eror, faction, schism or herisey, in ye church to ye best of your understanding.” (History of No. 53, by James Smith.)
The Grand Lodge MS. No. 2 provides that “You shall keepe secret ye obscure and intricate pts. of ye science, not disclosinge them to any but such as study and use ye same.”
The Harleian MS. No. 2054 (Brit. Mus.) is still more explicit, termed The ffree Masons Orders and Constitutions, and is in the handwriting of Randle Holme (author of the Academie of Armory, 1688), who was a member of a lodge in Cheshire. Following the MS. Constitutions, in the same handwriting, about 1650, is a scrap of paper with the obligation:—
“There is sevrall words and signes of a free Mason to be revailed to yu wch as yu will answr. before God at the Great and terrible day of judgmt. yu keep secret and not to revaile the same to any in the heares of any p’son, but to the Mrs and fellows of the Society of Free Masons, so helpe me God, &c.” (W. H. Rylands, Mas. Mag., 1882.)
It is not yet settled who were the actual designers or architects of the grand old English cathedrals. Credit has been claimed for church dignitaries, to the exclusion more or less of the master masons, to whom presumably of right the distinction belonged. In early days the title “architect” is not met with, unless the term “Ingenator” had that meaning, which is doubtful. As to this interesting question, and as to the subject of building generally, an historical account of Master and Free Masons (Discourses upon Architecture in England, by the Rev. James Dallaway, 1833), and Notes on the Superintendents of English Buildings in the Middle Ages (by Wyatt Papworth, 1887), should be consulted. Both writers were non-masons. The former observes: “The honour due to the original founders of these edifices is almost invariably transferred to the ecclesiastics under whose patronage they rose, rather than to the skill and design of the master mason, or professional architect, because the only historians were monks.... They were probably not so well versed in geometrical science as the master masons, for mathematics formed a part of monastic learning in a very limited degree.” In the Journal of Proceedings R.I.B.A. vol. iv. (1887), a skilful critic (W. H. White) declares that Papworth, in that valuable collection of facts, has contrived to annihilate all the professional idols of the century, setting up in their place nothing except the master mason. The brotherhood of Bridge-builders, that travelled far and wide to build bridges, and the travelling bodies of Freemasons, he believes never existed; nor was William of Wykeham the designer of the colleges attributed to him. It seems well-nigh impossible to disprove the statements made by Papworth, because they are all so well grounded on attested facts; and the attempt to connect the Abbey of Cluny, or men trained at Cluny, with the original or preliminary designs of the great buildings erected during the middle ages, at least during the 12th and 13th centuries, is also a failure. The whole question is ably and fully treated in the History of Freemasonry by Robert Freke Gould (1886–1887), particularly in chapter vi. on “Medieval Operative Masonry,” and in his Concise History (1903).
The lodge is often met with, either as the tabulatum domicialem (1200, at St Alban’s Abbey) or actually so named in the Fabric Rolls of York Minster (1370), ye loge being situated close to the fane in course of erection; it was used as a place in which the stones were prepared in private for the structure, as well as occupied at meal-time, &c. Each mason was required to “swere upon ye boke yt he sall trewly ande bysyli at his power hold and kepe holy all ye poyntes of yis forsayde ordinance” (Ordinacio Cementanorum).
As to the term free-mason, from the 14th century, it is held by some authorities that it described simply those men who worked “freestone,” but there is abundant evidence to prove that, whatever may have been intended at first, free-mason soon had a much wider signification, the prefix free being also employed by carpenters (1666), sewers (15th century, tailors at Exeter) and others, presumably to indicate they were free to follow their trades in certain localities. On this point Mr Gould well observes: “The class of persons from whom the Freemasons of Warrington (1646), Staffordshire (1686), Chester, York, London and their congeners in the 17th century derived the descriptive title, which became the inheritance of the Grand Lodge of England, were free men, and masons of Gilds or Companies” (History, vol. ii. p. 160). Dr Brentano may also be cited: “Wherever the Craft Guilds were legally acknowledged, we find foremost, that the right to exercise their craft, and sell their manufactures, depended upon the freedom of their city” (Development of Guilds, &c., p. 65). In like manner, the privilege of working as a mason was not conferred before candidates had been “made free.” The regular free-masons would not work with men, even if they had a knowledge of their trade, “if unfree,” but styled them “Cowans,” a course justified by the king’s “Maister of Work,” William Schaw, whose Statutis and Ordinanceis (28th December 1598) required that “Na maister or fellow of craft ressaue any cowanis to wirk in his societie or companye, nor send nane of his servants to wirk wt. cowanis, under the pane of twentie pounds.” Gradually, however, the rule was relaxed, in time such monopoly practically ceased, and the word “cowan” is only known in connexion with speculative Freemasonry. Sir Walter Scott, as a member of Lodge St David (No. 36), was familiar with the word and used it in Rob Roy. In 1707 a cowan was described in the minutes of Mother Lodge Kilwinning, as a mason “without the word,” thus one who was not a free mason (History of the Lodge of Edinburgh No. 1, by D. Murray Lyon, 1900).
In the New English Dictionary (Oxford, vol. iv., 1897) under “Freemason” it is noted that three views have been propounded:—(1) “The suggestion that free-mason stands for free-stone-mason would appear unworthy of attention, but for the curious fact that the earliest known instances of any similar appellation are mestre mason de franche peer (Act 25 Edw. III., 1350), and sculptores lapidum liberorum, alleged to occur in a document of 1217; the coincidence, however, seems to be merely accidental. (2) The view most generally held is that freemasons were those who were free of the masons’ guild. Against this explanation many forcible objections have been brought by Mr G. W. Speth, who suggests (3) that the itinerant masons were called free because they claimed exemption from the control of the local guilds of the towns in which they temporarily settled. (4) Perhaps the best hypothesis is that the term refers to the medieval practice of emancipating skilled artisans, in order that they might be able to travel and render their services wherever any great building was in process of construction.” The late secretary of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge (No. 2076, London) has thus had his view sanctioned by “the highest tribunal in the Republic of Letters so far as Philology is concerned” (Dr W. J. Chetwode Crawley in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, 1898). Still it cannot be denied that members of lodges in the 16th and following centuries exercised the privilege of making free masons and denied the freedom of working to cowans (also called un-freemen) who had not been so made free; “the Masownys of the luge” being the only ones recognized as freemasons. As to the prefix being derived from the word frere, a sufficient answer is the fact that frequent reference is made to “Brother freemasons,” so that no ground for that supposition exists (cf. articles by Mr Gould in the Freemason for September 1898 on “Free and Freemasonry”).
There are numerous indications of masonic activity in the British lodges of the 17th century, especially in Scotland; the existing records, however, of the southern part of the United Kingdom, though few, are of importance, some only having been made known in recent years. These concern the Masons’ Company of London, whose valuable minutes and other documents are ably described and commented upon by Edward Conder, jr., in his Hole Crafte and Fellowship of Masons (1894), the author then being the Master of that ancient company. It was incorporated in 1677 by Charles II., who graciously met the wishes of the members, but as a company the information “that is to be found in the Corporation Records at Guildhall proves very clearly that in 1376 the Masons’ Company existed and was represented in the court of common council.” The title then favoured was “Masons,” the entry of the term “Freemasons” being crossed out. Herbert erroneously overlooked the correction, and stated in his History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies (vol. i.) that the Freemasons returned two, and the Masons four members, but subsequently amalgamated; whereas the revised entry was for the “Masons” only. The Company obtained a grant of arms in 1472 (12th year Hen. VIII.), one of the first of the kind, being thus described:—“A feld of Sablys A Cheveron silver grailed thre Castellis of the same garnysshed wt. dores and wyndows of the feld in the Cheveron or Cumpas of Black of Blak”; it is the authority (if any) for all later armorial bearings having a chevron and castles, assumed by other masonic organizations. This precious document was only discovered in 1871, having been missing for a long time, thus doubtless accounting for the erroneous representations met with, not having the correct blazon to follow. The oldest masonic motto known is “God is our Guide” on Kerwin’s tomb in St Helen’s church, Bishopgate, of 1594; that of “In the Lord is all our trust” not being traced until the next century. Supporters consisting of two doric columns are mentioned in 1688 by Randle Holme, but the Grand Lodge of England in the following century used Beavers as operative builders. Its first motto was “In the beginning was the Word” (in Greek), exchanged a few years onward for “Relief and Truth,” the rival Grand Lodge (Atholl Masons) selecting “Holiness to the Lord” (in Hebrew), and the final selection at the “Union of December 1813” being Audi Vide Tace.
Mr Conder’s discovery of a lodge of “Accepted Masons” being held under the wing of the Company was a great surprise, dating as the records do from 1620 to 1621 (the earliest of the kind yet traced in England), when seven were made masons, all of whom were free of the Company before, three being of the Livery; the entry commencing “Att the making masons.” The meetings were entitled the “Acception,” and the members of the lodge were called Accepted Masons, being those so accepted and initiated, the term never otherwise being met with in the Records. An additional fee had to be paid by a member of the Company to join the “Acception,” and any not belonging thereto were mulct in twice the sum; though even then such “acceptance” did not qualify for membership of the superior body; the fees for the “Acception” being £1 and £2 respectively. In 1638–1639, when Nicholas Stone entered the lodge (he was Master of the Company 1632–1633) the banquet cost a considerable sum, showing that the number of brethren present must have been large.
Elias Ashmole (who according to his diary was “made a Free Mason of Warrington with Colonel Henry Mainwaring,” sevenbeing named as in attendance at the lodge, 16th of October 1646) states that he “received a summons to appear at a Lodge to be held next day at Masons’ Hall, London.” Accordingly on the 11th of March 1682 he attended and saw six gentlemen “admitted into the Fellowship of Free Masons,” of whom three only belonged to the Company; the Master, however, Mr Thomas Wise, the two wardens and six others being present on the occasion as members in their dual capacity. Ashmole adds: “We all dyned at the Halfe Moone Tavern in Cheapside at a noble dinner prepaired at the charge of the new-accepted Masons.”
It is almost certain that there was not an operative mason present at the Lodge held in 1646, and at the one which met in 1682 there was a strong representation of the speculative branch. Before the year 1654 the Company was known as that of the Freemasons for some time, but after then the old title of Masons was reverted to, the terms “Acception” and “Accepted” belonging to the speculative Lodge, which, however, in all probability either became independent or ceased to work soon after 1682. It is very interesting to note that subsequently (but never before) the longer designation is met with of “Free and Accepted Masons,” and is thus a combination of operative and speculative usage.
Mr Conder is of opinion that in the Records “there is no evidence of any particular ceremony attending the position of Master Mason, possibly it consisted of administering a different oath from the one taken by the apprentices on being entered.” There is much to favour this supposition, and it may provide the key to the vexata quaestio as to the plurality of degrees prior to the Grand Lodge era. The fellow-crafts were recruited from those apprentices who had served their time and had their essay (or sufficient trial of their skill) duly passed; they and the Masters, by the Schaw Statutes of 1598, being only admitted in the presence of “sex Maisteris and twa enterit prenteissis.” As a rule a master mason meant one who was master of his trade, i.e. duly qualified; but it sometimes described employers as distinct from journeymen Freemasons; being also a compliment conferred on honorary members during the 17th century in particular.
In Dr Plot’s History of Staffordshire (1686) is a remarkable account of the “Society of Freemasons,” which, being by an unfriendly critic, is all the more valuable. He states that the custom had spread “more or less all over the nation”; persons of the most eminent quality did not disdain to enter the Fellowship; they had “a large parchment volum containing the History and Rules of the Craft of Masonry”; St Amphibal, St Alban, King Athelstan and Edwin are mentioned, and these “charges and manners” were “after perusal approved by King Hen. 6 and his council, both as to Masters and Fellows of this right Worshipfull craft.” It is but fair to add that notwithstanding the service he rendered the Society by his lengthy description, that credulous historian remarks of its history that there is nothing he ever “met with more false or incoherent.”
The author of the Academie of Armory, previously noted, knew better what he was writing about in that work of 1688 in which he declares: “I cannot but Honor the Fellowship of the Masons because of its Antiquity; and the more, as being a member of that Society, called Free Masons” Mr Rylands states that in Harl. MS. 5955 is a collection of the engraved plates for a second volume of this important work, one being devoted to the Arms of the Society, the columns, as supporters, having globes thereon, from which possibly are derived the two pillars, with such ornaments or additions seen in lodge rooms at a later period.
In the same year “A Tripos or Speech delivered at a commencement in the University of Dublin held there July 11, 1688, by John Jones, then A.B., afterwards D.D.,” contained “notable evidence concerning Freemasonry in Dublin.” The Tripos was included in Sir Walter Scott’s edition of Dean Swift’s works (1814), but as Dr Chetwode Crawley points out, though noticed by the Rev. Dr George Oliver (the voluminous Masonic author), he failed to realize its historical importance. The satirical and withal amusing speech was partly translated from the Latin by Dr Crawley for his scholarly introduction to the Masonic Reprints, &c., by Henry Sadler. “The point seems to be that Ridley (reputed to have been an informer against priests under the barbarous penal laws) was, or ought to have been, hanged; that his carcase, anatomized and stuffed, stood in the library; and that frath scoundrellus discovered on his remains the Freemasons’ Mark.” The importance of the references to the craft in Ireland is simply owing to the year in which they were made, as illustrative of the influence of the Society at that time, of which records are lacking.
It is primarily to Scotland, however, that we have to look for such numerous particulars of the activity of the fraternity from 1599 to the establishment of its Grand Lodge in 1736, for an excellent account of which we are indebted to Lyon, the Scottish masonic historian. As early as 1600 (8th of June) the attendance of John Boswell, Esq., the laird of Auchinleck, is entered in the minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh; he attested the record and added his mark, as did the other members; so it was not his first appearance. Many noblemen and other gentlemen joined this ancient atelier, notably Lord Alexander, Sir Anthony Alexander and Sir Alexander Strachan in 1634, the king’s Master of Work (Herrie Alexander) in 1638, General Alexander Hamilton in 1640, Dr Hamilton in 1647, and many other prominent and distinguished men later; “James Neilsone, Master Sklaitter to His Majestie,” who was “entered and past in the Lodge of Linlithgow, being elected a joining member,” 2nd March 1654. Quarter-Master General Robert Moray (or Murray) was initiated by members of the Lodge of Edinburgh, at Newcastle on the 20th of May 1641, while the Scottish army was in occupation. On due report to their Alma Mater such reception was allowed, the occurrence having been considered the first of its kind in England until the ancient Records of the Masons’ Company were published.
The minute-books of a number of Scottish Lodges, which are still on the register, go back to the 17th century, and abundantly confirm the frequent admission of speculatives as members and officers, especially those of the venerable “Mother Lodge Kilwinning,” of which the earl of Cassillis was the deacon in 1672, who was succeeded by Sir Alexander Cunningham, and the earl of Eglinton, who like the first of the trio was but an apprentice. There were three Head Lodges according to the Scottish Code of 1599, Edinburgh being “the first and principall,” Kilwinning “the secund,” and Stirling “the third ludge.”
The Aberdeen Lodge (No. 1 tris) has records preserved from 1670, in which year what is known as the Mark Book begins, containing the oldest existing roll of members, numbering 49, all of whom have their marks registered, save two, though only ten were operatives. The names of the earls of Finlater, Erroll and Dunfermline, Lord Forbes, several ministers and professional men are on the list, which was written by a glazier, all of whom had been enlightened as to the “benefit of the measson word,” and inserted in order as they “were made fellow craft.” The Charter (Old Charges) had to be read at the “entering of everie prenteise,” and the officers included a master and two wardens.
The lodge at Melrose (No. 1 bis) with records back to 1674 did not join the Grand Lodge until 1891, and was the last of those working (possibly centuries before that body was formed) to accept the modern system of government. Of the many noteworthy lodges mention should be made of that of “Canongate Kilwinning No. 2,” Edinburgh, the first of the numerous pendicles of “Mother Lodge Kilwinning, No. 0,” Ayrshire, started in 1677; and of the Journeymen No 8, formed in 1707, which was a secession from the Lodge of Edinburgh; the Fellow Crafts or Journeymen not being satisfied with their treatment by the Freemen Masters of the Incorporation of Masons, &c. This action led to a trial before the Lords of Council and Session, when finally a “Decreet Arbitral” was subscribed to by both parties, and the junior organization was permitted “to give the mason word as it is called” in a separate lodge. The presbytery of Kelso< in 1652 sustained the action of the Rev. James Ainslie in becoming a Freemason, declaring that “there is neither sinne nor scandale in that word” (i.e. the “Mason Word”), which is often alluded to but never revealed in the old records already referred to. One Scottish family may be cited in illustration of the continuous working of Freemasonry, whose membership is enshrined in the records of the ancient Lodge of “Scoon and Perth No. 3” and others. A venerable document, lovingly cared for by No. 3, bears date 1658, and recites how John Mylne came to Perth from the “North Countrie,” and was the king’s Master Mason and W.M. of the Lodge, his successor being his son, who entered “King James the sixt as ffreman measone and fellow craft”; his third son John was a member of Lodge No. 1 and Master Mason to Charles I., 1631–1636, and his eldest son was a deacon of No. 1 eleven times during thirty years. To him was apprenticed his nephew, who was warden in 1663–1664 and deacon several times. William Mylne was a warden in 1695, Thomas (eldest son) was Master in 1735, and took part in the formation of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Others of the family continued to join the Lodge No. 1, until Robert, the last of the Mylnes as Freemasons, was initiated in 1754, died in 1811, and “was buried in St Paul’s cathedral, having been Surveyor to that Edifice for fifty years,” and the last of the masonic Mylnes for five generations. The “St John’s Lodge,” Glasgow (No. 3 bis), has some valuable old records and a “Charter Chest” with the words carved thereon “God save the King and Masons Craft, 1684.” Loyalty and Charity are the watchwords of the Society.
The Craft Gilds (Corps d’État) of France, and their progeny the Companionage, have been fully described by Mr Gould, and the Steinmetzen of Germany would require too detailed notice if we were to particularize its rules, customs and general character, from about the 12th century onward. Much as there was in common between the Stonemasons of Germany and the Freemasons of Great Britain and Ireland, it must be conceded that the two societies never united and were all through this long period wholly separate and independent; a knowledge of Freemasonry and authority to hold lodges in Germany being derived from the Grand Lodge of England during the first half of the 18th century. The theory of the derivation of the Freemasons from the Steinmetzen was first propounded in 1779 by the abbé Grandidier, and has been maintained by more modern writers, such as Fallou, Heideloff and Schneider, but a thorough examination of their statements has resulted in such an origin being generally discredited. Whether the Steinmetzen had secret signs of recognition or not, is not quite clear, but that the Freemasons had, for centuries, cannot be doubted, though precisely what they were may be open to question, and also what portions of the existing ceremonies are reminiscent of the craft anterior to the Revival of 1717. Messrs Speth and Gould favour the notion that there were two distinct and separate degrees prior to the third decade of the 18th century (Ars Q.C., 1898 and 1903), while other authorities have either supported the One degree theory, or consider there is not sufficient evidence to warrant a decision. Recent discoveries, however, tend in favour of the first view noted, such as the Trinity College MS., Dublin (“Free Masonry, Feb. 1711”), and the invaluable< Chetwode Crawley MS. (Grand Lodge Library, Dublin); the second being read in connexion with the Haughfoot Lodge Records, beginning 1702 (Hist. of Freemasonry, by W. F. Vernon, 1893).
Two of the most remarkable lodges at work during the period of transition (1717–1723), out of the many then existing in England, assembled at Alnwick and at York. The origin of the first noted is not known, but there are minutes of the meetings from 1703, the Rules are of 1701, signed by quite a number of members, and a transcript of the Old Charges begins the volume. In 1708–1709 a minute provided for a masonic procession, at which the brethren were to walk “with their aprons on and Comon Square.” The Lodge consisted mainly of operative “free Brothers,” and continued for many years, a code of by-laws being published in 1763, but it never united with the Grand Lodge, giving up the struggle for existence a few years further on.
The other lodge, the most noteworthy of all the English predecessors of the Grand Lodge of England, was long held at York, the Mecca of English Freemasons. Its origin is unknown, but there are traces of its existence at an early date, and possibly it was a survival of the Minster Lodge of the 14th century. Assuming that the York MS. No. 4 of 1693 was the property of the lodge in that year (which Roll was presented by George Walker of Wetherby in 1777), the entry which concludes that Scroll is most suggestive, as it gives “The names of the Lodge” (members) and the “Lodge Ward(en).” Its influence most probably may be also noted at Scarborough, where “A private Lodge” was held on the 10th of July 1705, at which the president “William Thompson, Esq., and severall others brethren ffree Masons” were present, and six gentlemen (named) “were then admitted into the said ffraternity.” These particulars are endorsed on the Scarborough MS. of the Old Charges, now owned by the Grand Lodge of Canada at Toronto. “A narrow folio manuscript Book beginning 7th March 1705–1706,” which was quoted from in 1778, has long been missing, which is much to be regretted, as possibly it gave particulars of the lodge which assembled at Bradford, Yorkshire, “when 18 Gentlemen of the first families in that neighbourhood were made Masons.” There is, however, another roll of records from 1712 to 1730 happily preserved of this “Ancient Honble. Society and Fraternity of Free Masons,” sometimes styled “Company” or “Society of Free and Accepted Masons.”
Not to be behind the London fratres, the York brethren formed a Grand Lodge on the 27th of December 1725 (the “Grand Lodge of all England” was its modest title), and was flourishing for years, receiving into their company many county men of great influence. Some twenty years later there was a brief period of somnolence, but in 1761 a revival took place, with Francis Drake, the historian, as Grand Master, ten lodges being chartered in Yorkshire, Cheshire and Lancashire, 1762–1790, and a Grand Lodge of England, south of the Trent, in 1779, at London, which warranted two lodges. Before the century ended all these collapsed or joined the Grand Lodge of England, so there was not a single representative of “York Masonry” left on the advent of the next century.
The premier Grand Lodge of England soon began to constitute new Lodges in the metropolis, and to reconstitute old ones that applied for recognition, one of the earliest of 1720–1721 being still on the Roll as No. 6, thus having kept company ever since with the three “time immemorial Lodges,” Nos. 2, 4 and 12. Applications for constitution kept coming in, the provinces being represented from 1723 to 1724, before which time it is likely the Grand Lodge of Ireland had been started, about which the most valuable Caementaria Hibernica by Dr Chetwode Crawley may be consulted with absolute confidence. Provincial Grand Lodges were formed to ease the authorities at headquarters, and, as the society spread, also for the Continent, and gradually throughout the civilized globe. Owing to the custom prevailing before the 18th century, a few brethren were competent to form lodges on their own initiative anywhere, and hence the registers of the British Grand Lodges are not always indicative of the first appearance of the craft abroad. In North America lodges were held before what is known as the first “regular” lodge was formed at Boston, Mass., in 1733, and probably in Canada likewise. The same remark applies to Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden and other countries. Of the many scores of military lodges, the first warrant was granted by Ireland in 1732. To no other body of Freemasons has the craft been so indebted for its prosperity in early days as to their military brethren. There were rivals to the Grand Lodge of England during the 18th century, one of considerable magnitude being known as the Ancients or Atholl Masons, formed in 1751, but in December 1813 a junction was effected, and from that time the prosperity of the United Grand Lodge of England, with few exceptions, has been extraordinary.
Nothing but a volume to itself could possibly describe the main features of the English Craft from 1717, when Anthony Sayer was elected the first Grand Master of a brilliant galaxy of rulers. The first nobleman to undertake that office was the duke of Montagu in 1721, the natural philosopher J. T. Desaguliers being his immediate predecessor, who has been credited (and also the Rev. James Anderson) with the honour of starting the premier Grand Lodge; but like the fable of Sir Christopher Wren having been Grand Master, evidence is entirely lacking. Irish and Scottish peers share with those of England the distinction of presiding over the Grand Lodge, and from 1782 to 1813 their Royal Highnesses the duke of Cumberland, the prince of Wales, or the duke of Sussex occupied the masonic throne. From 1753 to 1813 the rival Grand Lodge had been busy, but ultimately a desire for a united body prevailed, and under the “ancient” Grand Master, H.R.H. the duke of Kent, it was decided to amalgamate with the original ruling organization, H.R.H. the duke of Sussex becoming the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge. On the decease of the prince in 1843 the earl of Zetland succeeded, followed by the marquess of Ripon in 1874, on whose resignation H.R.H. the prince of Wales became the Grand Master. Soon after succeeding to the throne, King Edward VII. ceased to govern the English craft, and was succeeded by H.R.H. the duke of Connaught. From 1737 to 1907 some sixteen English princes of the royal blood joined the brotherhood.
From 1723 to 1813 the number of lodges enrolled in England amounted to 1626, and from 1814 to the end of December 1909 as many as 3352 were warranted, making a grand total of 4978, of which the last then granted was numbered 3185. There were in 1909 still 2876 on the register, notwithstanding the many vacancies created by the foundation of new Grand Lodges in the colonies and elsewhere.
Distribution and Organization.—The advantage of the cosmopolitan basis of the fraternity generally (though some Grand Lodges still preserve the original Christian foundation) has been conspicuously manifested and appreciated in India and other countries where the votaries of numerous religious systems congregate; but the unalterable basis of a belief in the Great Architect of the Universe remains, for without such a recognition there can be no Freemasonry, and it is now, as it always has been, entirely free from party politics. The charities of the Society in England, Ireland and Scotland are extensive and well organized, their united cost per day not being less than £500, and with those of other Grand Lodges throughout the world must amount to a very large sum, there being over two millions of Freemasons. The vast increase of late years, both of lodges and members, however, calls for renewed vigilance and extra care in selecting candidates, that numbers may not be a source of weakness instead of strength.
In its internal organization, the working of Freemasonry involves an elaborate system of symbolic ritual, as carried out at meetings of the various lodges, uniformity as to essentials being the rule. The members are classified in numerous degrees, of which the first three are “Entered Apprentice,” “Fellow Craft” and “Master Mason,” each class of which, after initiation, can only be attained after passing a prescribed ordeal or examination, as a test of proficiency, corresponding to the “essays” of the operative period.
The lodges have their own by-laws for guidance, subject to the Book of Constitutions of their Grand Lodge, and the regulations of the provincial or district Grand Lodge if located in counties or held abroad.
It is to be regretted that on the continent of Europe Freemasonry has sometimes developed on different lines from that of the “Mother Grand Lodge” and Anglo-Saxon Grand Lodges generally, and through its political and anti-religious tendencies has come into contact or conflict with the state authorities or the Roman Catholic church. The “Grand Orient of France” (but not the Supreme Council 33o, and its Grand Lodge) is an example of this retrograde movement, by its elimination of the paragraph referring to a belief in the “Great Architect of the Universe” from its Statuts et réglements généraux. This deplorable action has led to the withdrawal of all regular Grand Lodges from association with that body, and such separation must continue until a return is made to the ancient and inviolable landmark of the society, which makes it impossible for an atheist either to join or continue a member of the fraternity.
The Grand Lodge of England constituted its first lodge in Paris in the year 1732, but one was formed still earlier on the continent at Gibraltar 1728–1729. Others were also opened in Germany 1733, Portugal 1735, Holland 1735, Switzerland 1740, Denmark 1745, Italy 1763, Belgium 1765, Russia 1771, and Sweden 1773. In most of these countries Grand Lodges were subsequently created and continue to this date, save that in Austria (not Hungary) and Russia no masonic lodges have for some time been permitted to assemble. There is a union of Grand Lodges of Germany, and an annual Diet is held for the transaction of business affecting the several masonic organizations in that country, which works well. H.R.H. Prince Frederick Leopold was in 1909 Protector, or the “Wisest Master” (Vicarius Salomonis). King Gustav V. was the Grand Master ☩ of the freemasons in Sweden, and the sovereign of the “Order of Charles XIII.,” the only one of the kind confined to members of the fraternity.
Lodges were constituted in India from 1730 (Calcutta), 1752 (Madras), and 1758 (Bombay); in Jamaica 1742, Antigua 1738, and St Christopher 1739; soon after which period the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland had representatives at work throughout the civilized world.
In no part, however, outside Great Britain has the craft flourished so much as in the United States of America, where the first “regular” lodge (i.e. according to the new regime) was opened in 1733 at Boston, Mass. Undoubtedly lodges had been meeting still earlier, one of which was held at Philadelphia, Penna., with records from 1731, which blossomed into a Grand Lodge, but no authority has yet been traced for its proceedings, save that which may be termed “time immemorial right,” which was enjoyed by all lodges and brethren who were at work prior to the Grand Lodge era (1716–1717) or who declined to recognize the autocratic proceedings of the premier Grand Lodge of England, just as the brethren did in the city of York. A “deputation” was granted to Daniel Coxe, Esq. of New Jersey, by the duke of Norfolk, Grand Master, 5th of June 1730, as Prov. Grand Master of the “Provinces of New York, New Jersey and Pensilvania,” but there is no evidence that he ever constituted any lodges or exercised any masonic authority in virtue thereof. Henry Price as Prov. Grand Master of New England, and his lodge, which was opened on the 31st of August 1733, in the city of Boston, so far as is known, began “regular” Freemasonry in the United States, and the older and independent organization was soon afterwards “regularized.” Benjamin Franklin (an Initiate of the lodge of Philadelphia) printed and published the Book of Constitutions, 1723 (of London, England), in the “City of Brotherly Love” in 1734, being the oldest masonic work in America. English and Scottish Grand Lodges were soon after petitioned to grant warrants to hold lodges, and by the end of the 18th century several Grand Lodges were formed, the Craft becoming very popular, partly no doubt by reason of so many prominent men joining the fraternity, of whom the chief was George Washington, initiated in a Scottish lodge at Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1752–1753. In 1907 there were fifty Grand Lodges assembling in the United States, with considerably over a million members.
In Canada in 1909 there were eight Grand Lodges, having about 64,000 members. Freemasonry in the Dominion is believed to date from 1740. The Grand Lodges are all of comparatively recent organization, the oldest and largest, with 40,000 members, being for Ontario; those of Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Quebec numbering about 5000 each. There are some seven Grand Lodges in Australia; South Australia coming first as a “sovereign body,” followed closely by New South Wales and Victoria (of 1884–1889 constitution), the whole of the lodges in the Commonwealth probably having fully 50,000 members on the registers.
There are many additional degrees which may be taken or not (being quite optional), and dependent on a favourable ballot; the difficulty, however, of obtaining admission increases as progress is made, the numbers accepted decreasing rapidly with each advancement. The chief of these are arranged in separate classes and are governed either by the “Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch,” the “Mark Grand Lodge,” the “Great Priory of Knights Templars” or the “Ancient and Accepted Rite,” these being mutually complementary and intimately connected as respects England, and more or less so in Ireland, Scotland, North America and wherever worked on a similar basis; the countries of the continent of Europe have also their own Hautes Grades. (W. J. H. *)
If history be no ancient Fable
Free Masons came from Tower of Babel.
(“The Freemasons; an Hudibrastic poem,” London, 1723.)
- The Early History and Antiquities of Freemasonry and Medieval Builders, by Mr G. F. Fort (U.S.A.), and the Cathedral Builders: The Magestri Comacini, by “Leader Scott” (the late Mrs Baxter), take rather a different view on this point and ably present their arguments. The Rev. C. Kingsley in Roman and Teuton writes of the Comacini, “Perhaps the original germ of the great society of Freemasons.”
- The service rendered by Dr W. Begemann (Germany) in his “Attempt to Classify the Old Charges of the British Masons” (vol. 1 Trans. of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, London) has been very great, and the researches of the Rev. A. F. A. Woodford and G. W. Speth have also been of the utmost consequence.
- Findel claims that his Treatise on the society was the cause which “first impelled England to the study of masonic history and ushered in the intellectual movement which resulted in the writings of Bros. Hughan, Lyon, Gould and others.” Great credit was due to the late German author for his important work, but before its advent the Rev. A. F. A. Woodford, D. Murray Lyon and others in Great Britain were diligent masonic students on similar lines.
- It is not considered necessary to refer at length to the Fratres Pontis, or other imaginary bodies of freemasons, as such questions may well be left to the curious and interested student.
- “No distinct trace of the general employment of large migratory bands of masons, going from place to place as a guild, or company, or brotherhood” (Prof. T. Hayter-Lewis, Brit. Arch. Assoc., 1889).
- The Associate Synod which met at Edinburgh, March 1755, just a century later, took quite an opposite view, deciding to depose from office any of their brethren who would not give up their masonic membership (Scots Mag., 1755, p. 158). Papal Bulls have also been issued against the craft, the first being in 1738; but neither interdicts nor anathemata have any influence with the fraternity, and fall quite harmless.
“We have the Mason Word and second sight,
Things for to come we can fortell aright.”
(The Muses Threnodie, by H. Adamson, Edin., 1638.)
- The Chetwode Crawley MS., by W. J. Hughan (Ars. Q.C., 1904).
- The York Grand Lodge, by Messrs. Hughan and Whytehead (Ars Q.C., 1900), and Masonic Sketches and Reprints (1871), by the former.
- The celebrated “Lady Freemason,” the Hon. Mrs Aldworth (née Miss St Leger, daughter of Lord Doneraile), was initiated in Ireland, but at a much earlier date than popularly supposed; certainly not later than 1713, when the venturesome lady was twenty. All early accounts of the occurrence must be received with caution, as there are no contemporary records of the event.
- History of Freemasonry, by Dr A. G. Mackey (New York, 1898), and the History of the Fraternity Publishing Company, Boston, Mass., give very full particulars as to the United States.
- See History of Freemasonry in Canada (Toronto, 1899), by J. Ross Robertson.
- The Masonic Records 1717–1894, by John Lane, and the excellent Masonic Yearbook, published annually by the Grand Lodge of England, are the two standard works on Lodge enumeration, localization and nomenclature. For particulars of the Grand Lodges, and especially that of England, Gould’s History is most useful and trustworthy; and for an original contribution to the history of the rival Grand Lodge or Atholl Masons, Sadler’s Masonic Facts and Fictions.
- “A peculiar system of Morality, veiled in Allegory and illustrated by Symbols” (old definition of Freemasonry).
- The British House of Commons in 1799 and 1817, in acts of parliament, specifically recognized the laudable character of the society and provided for its continuance on definite lines.