Early History of Freemasonry
Carl H. Claudy*
A history of Freemasonry can begin in remote antiquity, but here it will suffice to begin with the Roman Collegia; orders or associations of men engaged in similar pursuits.
These Collegia speedily became so prominent and powerful that Roman emperors attempted to abolish the right of free association. In spite of edicts and persecutions, some of the Collegia continued to exist.
The Colleges of Architects,
however, were sanctioned for a time even after others were forbidden. They
were too valuable to the state to be abolished or made to work and meet in
secret. They were not at this time called
they were free—and it is the fact and not the name which is here important.
Without architects and builders
Then, as now, three were necessary to form a College (no Masonic lodge can meet with less than three) ; the College had a Magister or Master, and two Wardens. There were three orders or degrees in the College which, to a large extent, used emblems which are a part of Freemasonry. , Roman sarcophagi show carvings of a square, compasses, plumb, level, and sometimes columns.
Of the ceremonies of the Collegia we know little or nothing. Of their work we know
much, and of their history, enough to trace their decline and fall. The Emperor
Diocletian attempted to destroy the new religion, Christianity, which
threatened so much which seemed to the Romans to make
Persecution, vengeance, cruelty
followed; this is not the place to go into the story of the four Masons and the
apprentice who were tortured to death, only to become the four crowned martyrs
and patron saints of later builders and the Masons of the Middle Ages. Suffice
it that the Colleges of Architects were broken up and fled from
Comes a gap which is not yet
bridged. Between the downfall of
During the Middle Ages and the rise of Gothic architecture we find two distinct classes of Masons; the Guild Masons, who, like the Guild carpenters or weavers or merchants, were local in character and strictly regulated by law, and the Freemasons, who traveled about from city to city as their services were needed to design and erect those marvelous churches and cathedrals which stand today inimitable in beauty. It may not be affirmed as a proved fact that the Freemasons of the Middle Ages were the direct descendants through the Comacine Masters of the Colleges of Architects of Rome, but there is too much evidence of a similar structure, ideal, and purpose, and too many similarities of symbol, tool, and custom, to dismiss the idea merely because we have no written record covering the period between the expulsion from Rome and the 'beginning of the cathedral-building age.
may be, the operative builders and designers of the cathedrals of
The history of the Freemasons through the cathedral-building
ages up to the Reformation and the gradual decline of the building art needs
volumes ' where here are but pages. But it must be emphasized that the
Freemasons were far more than architects and builders; they were the artists,
the leaders, the religion, Christianity, which threatened so much which seemed
to the Romans to make
Persecution, vengeance, cruelty
followed; this is not the place to go into the story of the four Masons and the
apprentice who were tortured to death, only to become the four crowned martyrs
and patron saints of later builders and the Masons of the Middle Ages. Suffice
it that the Colleges of Architects were broken . up and fled from
Comes a gap which is not yet bridged. Between the downfall
During the Middle Ages and the rise of Gothic architecture we find two distinct classes of Masons; the Guild Masons, who, like the Guild carpenters or weavers or merchants, were local in character and strictly regulated by law, and the Freemasons, who traveled about from city to city as their services were needed to design and erect those marvelous churches and cathedrals which stand today inimitable in beauty. It may not be affirmed as a proved fact that the Freemasons of the Middle Ages were the direct descendants through the Comacine Masters of the Colleges of Architects of Rome, but there is too much evidence of a similar structure, ideal, and purpose, and too many similarities of symbol, tool, and custom, to dismiss the idea merely because we have no written record covering the period between the expulsion from Rome and the beginning of the cathedral-building age.
However this may be, the operative
builders and designers of the cathedrals of
The history of the Freemasons through the cathedral-building ages up to the Reformation and the gradual decline of the building art needs volumes where here are but pages. But it must be emphasized that the Freemasons were far more than architects and builders; they were the artists, the leaders, the teachers, the mathematicians and the poets of their time. In their lodges Speculative Masonry grew side by side with their operative art. They were jealous of their Order and strict in their acceptance of Apprentices; strict in admitting Apprentices to be Fellows of the Craft, requiring seven years of labor of an Apprentice before he might make his "Master's Piece" to submit to the Master and Wardens of his lodge, when, haply, he might become a Fellow and receive "the Mason Word."
In an age when learning was difficult to get and association with the educated hardly to be had outside of the church, it was but natural that thoughtful and scholarly men should desire membership among the Freemasons. Such men, however, would not want to practice operative masonry, or serve a seven years' apprenticeship. Therefore a place was made for them by taking them in as accepted Masons; that is, accepted as members having something to offer and desiring to receive something from the lodge, but distinguished from the operative Freemasons by the title accepted.
It is not possible to say when this practice began. The Regius Poem, the oldest document of Freemasonry (1390), speaks of Prince Edward (Tenth Century) as:
Of speculatyfe he was a master.
Desiring to become architects and builders, ecclesiasts joined the order. Lovers of liberty were naturally attracted to a fellowship in which members enjoyed unusual freedom.
Through the years, particularly those which saw the decline of great building and the coming of the Reformation, more and more became the Accepted Masons and less and less the operative building Freemasons. Of forty-nine names on the roll of the Lodge of Aberdeen in the year 1670, thirty-nine were those of Accepted Masons.
Hence our title—Free and Accepted Masons, abbreviated F. & A. M. There are variations in certain jurisdictions, such as F. and A. M. (Free and Accepted Masons), A. F. & A'. M. (Ancient Free and Accepted Masons), etc., the origin of which the student may find in the history of Freemasonry of the Grand Lodge era. (See footnote, page 117.)
THE GRAND LODGE PERIOD
The formation of the Mother Grand
The Freemasons of those far-off days could have had no idea of the tremendous issues which hung upon their actions nor dreamed of the effect of their union. Had they even imagined it, doubtless they would have left us more records, and we would not now have to speculate on matters of history the very causes of which are—in all probability—never fully to be known to us.
Brethren of two hundred and more years ago considered as secret much which to us today is thought to be of a more open character; had they written as much of their Craft as have we, doubtless we would have been the richer.
One of the causes which led to the sudden coming to life of the old and diminishing Fraternity was the Reformation. During its operative period Free-masonry had been if not a child of the Church at least its servant, working hand in hand with it. Our oldest document—the Halliwell Manuscript or Regius Poem, dated 1390—invokes the Virgin Mary, speaks of the Trinity and gives instructions for observing Mass! But the same influences which produced the Reformation worked in Freemasonry and by 1600, according to the Harleian Manuscript, the Order had largely severed its dependence upon the Church and become a refuge for those who wished to be free in thought as well as for Freemasons. It was still Christian—almost aggressively Christian—in its teachings. Not for another hundred years or more and then only partially did it rid itself of any sectarian character whatever and become what it is today, a meeting ground for "men of every country, sect and opinion," united in a common belief in the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the hope of immortality.
Seventeen hundred and seventeen is the dividing line between before and after; between the old Free-masonry and the new; between a Craft which was slowly expiring and one which began to grow with a new vitality; between the last lingering remains of operative Masonry and a Craft wholly Speculative.
Just what were the causes of the events which led up to the formation of the first Grand Lodge we do not know. We can only guess. No minutes of the Mother Grand Lodge were kept during its first six years. The Constitutions and Old Charges, first published in 1723, were republished fifteen years after. In this second edition of 1738 is a meager record of the first meetings of the Grand Lodge, so brief and so skeletonized that there is space for it in such a little book as this. In the yellowed pages of this old and precious book of which a few copies still remain we read (letters modernized)
King George I entered London most magnificently on 20 Sept., 1714, and after the Rebellion was over 1716 A.D., the few Lodges atLondon finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren, thought fit to cement under a Grand Master as the Center of Union and Harmony, viz., the Lodges that met,
1. At the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse at St. Pauls Churchyard.
2. At the Crown Alehouse in Parker's-Lane, near Drury-Lane.
3. At the Apple-Tree Tavern in
4. At the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in
They and some old Brothers met at the said Apple-Tree, and having put in the chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro Tempore in due form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication of the Officers of Lodges (called the Grand Lodge) resolved to hoId the Annual Assembly and Feast and then to chuse a Grand Master from among them-selves, till they should have the Honor of a Noble Brother at their Head.
Accordingly on St. John Baptist's Day, in the 3d year of King George I. A.D. 1717 the Assembly and Feast of the Free and accepted Masons was held at the foresaid Goose and Gridiron Ale-house.
Before Dinner, the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) in the Chair, proposed a List of proper Candidates; and the Brethren by a Majority of Hands elected Mr. Anthony Sayer Gentleman, Grand Master of Masons—Capt. Joseph Elliot, Mr. Jacob Lamball, Carpenter, Grand Wardens—who being forthwith invested with the Badges of Office and power by the said oldest Master, and installed, was duly congratulated by the Assembly who paid him the Homage.
Sayer Grand Master commanded the Masters and Wardens of Lodges to meet
the Grand Officers every Quarter in Communication at the place he should
appoint in his Summons sent by the
N. B. It is called the Quarterly Communication, because it should meet Quarterly according to ancient Usage. And when the Grand Master is present it is a Lodge in Ample Form; otherwise, only in Due Form, yet having the same authority with Ample Form.
Probably other lodges
Lodge number two of the original four lodges, which met at the Crown, Parker's-Lane, was struck from the roll in 1740. The first Grand Master of this Mother Grand Lodge, Anthony Sayer, Gentle-man, came from lodge number three—the Apple-Tree Tavern Lodge; we know little more of it. These three lodges were small, and at least as much operative as Speculative. But the fourth lodge, which met at the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster, was not only the largest (seventy members) but the most Speculative and with the highest type of membership. It mothered not only men of high social rank, lords, counts and knights, but also Dr. Desaguliers and James Anderson, two brethren who had a great deal to do with the revival, especially Anderson, to whom we are indebted for much.
In our perspective a Grand Lodge is as much a necessary part of the existing order of things as a State or Federal Government. In 1717 it was a new idea, accompanied by many other new ideas. Some brother or brethren saw that if the ancient Order were not to die, it must be given new life through a new organization. Doubtless they were influenced by Mother Kilwinning Lodge of Scotland which had assumed and exercised certain motherly functions in regard to her daughter lodges, all of which had Kilwinning as a part of their name and, apparently, of their obedience.
The newly formed Grand
Lodge went the whole way. It proposed to, and did, take command of its lodges.
It branched out beyond the jurisdiction originally proposed "within
ten miles of
ridicule. Luckily for us all, ridicule, powerful weapon though it is, never' in the long run prevails against reality. The Gormogons, like other and later organizations, such as the Scald Miserable Masons, had its brief day and died—and Freemasonry throve and grew.
Finally the Grand
Lodge erased the ancient Charge "to be true to God and
This was of unparalleled importance; it was one of the factors which led to the formation of other Grand Lodges and dissension in Freemasonry, but as it was distinctly right and founded modern speculative Freemasonry on the rock of non-sectarianism and the brotherhood of all men who believe in a common Father regardless of His name, His church, or the way in which He is worshiped, it won out in the end and became what it is to-day, a fundamental of the Craft.
Between 1717 and 1751 the Craft spread rapidly, not only .in England, but on the Continent, and in the Colonies, especially Colonial America, where time and people, conditions and social life provided fallow ground for the seeds of Freemasonry. But in spite of a new life, and wise counsels of brethren who restricted the acts if not the power of the new Grand Lodge, all was not plain sailing. Dissensions appeared. Causes of friction, if not numerous, were important and went deep. The religious issue was vital; doubtless it seemed to the older Masons then as radical a step as it seemed to us when the Grand Orient of France took the V.S.L. from the altar. In the 1738 edition of the Constitutions we find the article "Concerning God and religion" altered to read, "In ancient times the Christian Masons were charged to comply with the Christian usages of each country where they traveled and worked."
Another cause for dissension was the Grand Lodge's strong hand regarding the making of Masons. Too many lodges were careless; too many private groups of Masons assumed the right to assemble as a lodge and make Masons of their friends; too much laxity existed as to fees and dues and the payment of charity to the Grand Lodge. To check these practices the Grand Lodge changed some words in the degrees—doubtless our "spurious Mason" clauses come from this—and this caused the same reaction then as an attempt by modern brethren to change or rearrange our present ritual would produce.
Probably the religious issue did not cause a major part of the trouble, but it provided a constant source of irritation. Then as now many clergymen were Speculative Masons. To-day enlightened clergymen do not see in the absence of mention of the Carpenter of Nazareth in a lodge any denial of Him, any more than a Jewish Rabbi sees in the absence of mention of Jehovah, or a Buddhist sees in the absence of mention of Buddha, a denial of those deities. Then, however, many clergymen insisted upon a Christian tinge to the Masonic ceremonies, and while the schism would hardly have come from this alone, it was a contributing cause.
In 1738 the Grand Lodge sanctioned the making of the "Master's Part" into what we know as the Third Degree. This had been going on for years —no one knows how many—but not by permission of Grand Lodge. Sanctioning it was to many brethren an "alteration of established usage" and the customs of "time immemorial." It proved another blow struck at unity.
All these and other matters fomented dissension which came to a head in 1751 when a rival Grand Lodge was formed. It came into being with a brilliant stroke, for it chose the name "The Most Antient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons."
Calling itself "Antient" and the older body "Modern" at once enlisted the support of hundreds of brethren who did not look beneath the surface to learn which was really which. So we have this peculiar and confusing terminology; the original, the older, the more ancient Grand Lodge was calledthe "Modern" Grand Lodge, and the newer, schismatic, rebellious body was called "Antient".
The curious story of the rise of this Antient Grand Lodge should be read by every Freemason, for it has had a tremendous effect upon the Craft. We can afford to be charitable to those who believed they were engaged in a revolution, not a rebellion. This country was born out of what we call the Revolution, which to the Royalists of 1776 was the Rebellion.
The Antients were extremely fortunate in having one Laurence Dermott secede from the Moderns with them. Dermott was a fighting Irishman, a brother heart and soul in the Fraternity, and if some of his actions seem a little questionable to us, he has to his credit the success of the movement. In 1771 when the Duke of Atholl became Grand Master the Antients had almost two hundred lodges on the roll.
Dermott kept the religious issue alive; by implication he made the Moderns seem anti-religious. He kept the Antients a Christian body and wrote distinctively Christian sentiments and references into its Constitutions and its documents whenever he could get them adopted.
Meanwhile other Grand Lodges arose; they were not very important and never grew very large, but they belong in the story of Freemasonry; the "Grand Lodge of All England," "The Grand Lodge of England South of the River Trent," "The Supreme Grand Lodge" all made their bids for recognition, lived their little day and passed on, each leaving its trace, its influence, but unable to contend against the Antients and the Moderns.
The benefits which came from the schism seem to-day to be greater than the evils. Then Freemasons saw only harm in the rivalry which split the Fraternity. Now we can see that where one Grand Lodge established lodges on war-ships, the other retaliated with Army lodges which carried Free-masonry to far places; where one body started a school for girls, the other retorted with a school for boys—both still in existence, by the way-where one Grand Lodge reached out to the provinces, the other cultivated Scotland and Ireland. Both worked indefatigably in the American Colonies.
The heart burnings, the jealousies, the sorrows and the contests between Antients and Moderns, if they exhibited less of brotherly love than the Fraternity taught, were actually spurs to action. Without some such urge Freemasonry could hardly have spread so fast or so far. As the United States became a much stronger and more closely welded union after the cleavage of 1861-65, so Freemasonry was to unite at last in a far greater, stronger and more harmonious body when the two rival Grand Lodges came together, composed their differences, forgot their rivalries, and clasped hands across the altar of the United Grand Lodge.
The reconciliation is as astonishing and mysterious as the schism. We can see that the death of Dermott, who was gathered to his fathers in 1791, fighting for the Antients to the last, removed one cause of difference between the two Grand Lodges; we can understand that as the Antients had grown in power and prestige not only in England but in the Colonies until they outnumbered the Moderns in both lodges and brethren, the Moderns might well have thought that union would be a life saver; we can comprehend that time heals all differences and that what had seemed important in 1751 in fifty years had dwindled in vitality.
But -what is amazing to this day is that after the difficult period, when overtures were made, refusals recorded, committees appointed and differences finally composed, the Antient Grand Lodge, in accepting the idea of reconciliation, receded from almost all the positions for which it had fought so long! It was as if the spirit of combat, so alien to the gentle genius of Freemasonry, had worn itself out and brethren became as eager to forgive and for-get and compromise as they had previously been strong to resist and to struggle.
Whatever the spirit which caused it, the final
reconciliation took place in Freemasons' Hall in Lon-don, on
Two matters must be stressed: the second of the Articles of Union reads: "It is declared and pronounced that pure ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more; viz., those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft and the Master Mason (including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch)."
In 1815 a new Book of Constitutions proclaimed to all the world forever the non-sectarian character of Freemasonry in this Charge concerning God and religion:
"Let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the Order, provided he believes in the glorious Architect of heaven and earth and practice the sacred duties of morality."
Surely that is broad enough, high enough; and we ought to join with it the famous proclamation issued by the Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, from Kensington Palace, in 1842, declaring that Masonry is not identified with any one religion to the exclusion of others, and men in India who were otherwise eligible and could make a sincere profession of faith in one living God, be they Hindus or Mohammedans, might petition for membership in the Craft. Such in our own day is the spirit and practice of Ma-sonic universality, and from that position, we may be very sure, the Craft will never recede.
CRAFT MASONRY IN
In 1733, Viscount Montague, Grand Master of
the Grand Lodge of England, issued a deputation to Henry Price appointing him
Provincial Grand Master for New England, later extended to cover
In 1800, Most Worshipful Samuel Dunn established the District Deputy Grand Master system, an entirely new departure in the Masonic world.
In 1820, the
The Masonic Home was opened in 1911. Two additions have been made to the original building,
providing accommodations for about 175 guests. The fine estate of R. W. Matthew
John Whittall was presented to the Grand Lodge by his-widow in 1929,
to be used as a hospital. A large addition was made and is now in operation
with accommodations for about 60 patients. The Hospital is used for chronic and
incurable cases for which no proper accommodation is elsewhere provided, and
does a wonderful work for these particularly difficult patients. It has never
been the policy of this Grand Lodge to have an orphanage. We have in our care
more than 125 children, provided for either in their own homes or in others
under Masonic supervision. In addition, the Grand Lodge assists Lodges when
their funds are insufficient, in caring for brethren and their dependents who
are in need, at the annual cost of $35,000. Massachusetts Masonry has always
been active in time of war. In the Seven Years' War, commonly known
At present the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts enjoys a very high degree of prosperity, with the most perfect and smoothly running organization which it has ever known.
* Extracted from Introduction to Freemasonry II: Fellowcraft, 1931, pp. 103–124
 Halliwell Manuscript, the oldest of the written Constitutions, transcribed in 1390, probably from an earlier version. Called Halliwell because first published in 1840 by James 0. Halliwell, who first discovered its Masonic character. Prior to that date it was catalogued in the Royal Library as A Poem of Moral Duties. Called the Regius Poem partly because it formed part of Henry VIII's Royal Library and partly because it is the first and therefore the kingly or royal document of the Craft.
 Jurisdiction: the
territory and the Craft in it over which a Grand Lodge is sovereign. In the
United States are forty-nine; one for each state and the
The complete independence and supremacy within its own territory of every Grand Lodge is now a settled Masonic principle, and no intentional "invasion of jurisdiction" is ever heard of.
The word also means the territorial boundaries to which the right of a lodge to accept petitions extends.
 Harleian Manuscript: dated about the middle of the Seventeenth Century and originally the property of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford.
 John Theophilus Desaguliers, LL.D. F.R.S., born 1683, die 1744, sometimes called the Father of Modern
Speculative Masonry. He was the third Grand Master of the first Grand Lodge
and thrice afterwards Deputy Grand Master. He is credited with having been the
 James Anderson, Father of the first printed Constitutions, 1723, which contains the Old Charges, the General Regulations, and a fanciful, fascinating, but wholly erroneous history of Freemasonry.
 Kilwinning: a
small town in Scotland which tradition states is the birthplace of Freemasonry
in the land of heather, as is York the seat of the first General Assembly of
Freemasons in England. Kilwinning Lodge—Mother Kilwinning by affection and
common consent—at one time seceded from the Mother Grand Lodge, during which
period she chartered various lodges as of "inherent right," including
sometimes called General Assembly, or Yearly Assembly. The word seems to denote
a meeting of Masons in the ancient operative days equivalent to a modern lodge.
The York Manuscript No. 1, dated approximately 1600, says: "Edwin procured
of ye King his father a charter and eons-mission to holde every yeare an
assembly wheresoever they would within ye realm of
 Scald Miserables:
mock Masons who paraded in
 Grand Orient of
United States Grand Lodges style themselves under several different abbreviations: F. and A. M.; A. F. and A. M., and variations using the Ampersand (&) in place of the word "and." The District of Columbia still uses F. A. A. M., meaning Free and Accepted Masons, in spite of the possible confusion as to whether the first A stands for "and'' or ''ancient." The variations are accounted for by differences in origins, some Grand Lodges coming into being with lodges which held under the "Ancients," and some from the "Moderns," and by variations due to the errors which are seemingly ineradicable in "mouth-to-ear" instruction. Whether Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Free, Ancient and Accepted Masons; Ancient Free Masons, or any other combination of the words, all United States Grand Lodges are "regular," tracing descent either mediately or immediately to the United Grand Lodge, and recognized by her.