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GUEST,josepp BS: A concise history of Freemasonry (18) RE: BS: A concise history of Freemasonry 04 Jul 12


A major change was affected in Freemasonry in the eighteenth century by four London lodges. There was nothing particularly special about these four lodges. There were older lodges in London and York and others in New York but their idea was a good one. The four lodges were Lodge No. 1 who assembled at the Goose and Gridiron alehouse in St. Paul's Churchyard; Lodge No. 2 who assembled at the Crown alehouse in Parker's Lane; Lodge No.3 who assembled at the Apple Tree tavern on Charles Street, Covent Garden; and Lodge No. 4 who assembled at the Rummer and Grapes tavern in Channel Row, Westminster. Lodge No. 4 was the largest of them, having about 70 members (the others having about 15 members each) and was composed mostly of gentlemen and a few noblemen and hence were, we assume, Speculative Masons. The other three lodges were composed mainly of Operative Masons—carpenters. The members of all four lodges assembled at the Apple Tree tavern in February of 1717 and decided to form a Grand Lodge. On June 24, St. John the Baptist's Day, they assembled at the Goose and Gridiron alehouse and elected Anthony Sayer as Grand Master.

To ensure the smooth operation of the Grand Lodge and its capacity to grant charters to new lodges, a set of rules, regulations and procedures were drawn up so as to accomplish all business without unnecessary delays or unauthorized transactions. The Grand Lodge set about drawing up a new constitution and appointed Rev. James Anderson of Aberdeen to oversee the project. Using the Old Charges as his model, Anderson produced The Book of Constitutions in 1723 and a more extensive version in 1738. A committee of fourteen men amended the constitutions as necessary. As a result, modern Masonry often speaks of "the Anderson Constitutions." The Book of Constitutions contains the first mention of God as the "the Great Architect of the Universe" or GAOTU, a phrase lifted from Pythagoras.

One of the Masons involved in the formation of the Grand Lodge was Jean Théophile Desaguliers, an ordained minister in the Anglican Church. He did something that would change Freemasonry's membership forever. He went among his friends in the English aristocracy and began persuading them to become Freemasons. Noblemen, military officers and even members of the Royal Family began joining in droves. On June 24, 1719, Desaguliers was elected Grand Master. But thanks to his efforts, two years later, the Duke of Montagu was elected as Grand Master and for the next 278 years only noblemen and member of the Royal Family would serve as Grand Masters. Freemasonry had become a rich man's club.

Not that Freemasonry was ever a poor man's club. The existence of the Regius MS. and the Cooke MS. would certainly demonstrate that Masons were men that were well educated because not many commoners were literate in those days and vellum was both rare and expensive. The author of the Cooke MS. refers to the Old Testament enough times that he obviously had a copy and few people of that time did. The Church forbade the laity to own bibles and few of the laity could have read them if they did own them. Fewer still could have afforded a bible. Whoever wrote those old manuscripts were very well educated for their time and, like Anderson and Desaguliers, were clergymen. There is the belief that King James I was a Freemason so there may have been a precedent for royalty to join such groups but this would only demonstrate why Desaguliers had little trouble getting the aristocrats to join in such large numbers to the extent where they took over the Masonic system as their own.

Other conditions were added: Catholics were allowed to join even though the Church condemned Freemasonry. Jews were allowed to join and were definitely within Freemasonry's rank by 1732 and possibly as early as 1724.

Freemason lodges quickly spread throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and then throughout France, Germany, and other European nations. Freemasonry also came to the American colonies rather early, before 1717. The two earliest Masons in America were John Skene from the Aberdeen Lodge in Scotland and Jonathan Belcher, the governor of Massachusetts at the turn of the century. However, the oldest American lodge record comes from Philadelphia in 1729, St. John's Lodge. Benjamin Franklin drew up St. John's book of constitutions in 1734 and was elected Grand Master of the lodge that year.
Any lodge of that time period that could elect a Grand Master must be a "Grand Lodge." A Grand Lodge, by definition in the Anderson Constitutions, is a lodge that does not have individual Masons for members as local lodges do, but rather a Grand Lodge has other lodges as members. Initially, only the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge rather than the Grand Lodge itself could authorize the formation of a new local lodge, which he did by issuing a Warrant to that lodge. To prevent a Grand Master from having too much undue influence, the Constitutions were amended to state that the Grand Lodge as a body must decide on the issue of new local lodges. When Grand Lodges were given the authority to form local lodges, they did so by issuing Charters.

Grand Lodge's are not bosses over local lodges but rather exist for the purpose of rendering service to local lodges as may require those services and authorizing the formation of new local lodges. If, for example, a lodge officer is being installed at a local lodge that the majority of Masons of that lodge disapprove of, they may appeal to the Grand Lodge to intercede. The Grand Lodge will then decide on the matter based upon what it perceives to be in the best interests of that lodge rather than to any individual Mason. If, for example, a new lodge is being started by a Mason thrown out of another lodge for bad conduct, the Grand Lodge can prevent that Mason from starting a new local lodge of his own if they justly fear he may do a disservice to the name of Freemasonry.
While a local lodge exists as a building where the Masons who are its members meet to conduct "lodge business," a Grand Lodge does not exist as a building where its officers meet. A Grand Lodge has a certain jurisdiction just as, say, the police have precincts. A certain amount of territory is overseen by a Grand Lodge and any Mason wishing to start a local lodge in that area must apply to that Grand Lodge for a charter. But even the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge cannot necessarily be said to be where that Grand Lodge resides because some Grand Lodges are not even in the countries where they hold jurisdiction. In the American colonies, for example, New York fell under the jurisdiction of the Mother Grand Lodge in England. When Fort Detroit was taken over by the Americans in 1794, its first lodge, Union Lodge #1, fell under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of New York. When a Grand Lodge was later established in Quebec, the Detroit lodge fell under its jurisdiction to relieve New York of undue burden. All Grand Lodges fall under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England as it is the mother of all Grand Lodges. Where does the Grand Lodge of England reside? As a building, nowhere.

Each local lodge has its own officers, which we'll go over in more detail later on, and the head officer of a local lodge is called the Most Worshipful Master but is usually simply called a Master (but should not be confused with the grades of Master Mason or Mark Master, which are different animals altogether and we'll go over that in depth later as well). Other local lodge officers include Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Junior Deacon, Steward, Tyler, etc. The Grand Lodge officers are similarly composed. One will be elected Grand Master and the others will fill the offices of Grand Senior Warden, Grand Junior Warden and so on. Moreover, that Grand Master does not represent himself in the Grand Lodge but rather he represents his lodge.

We are going over the duties of Grand Lodges and their differences with local lodges for a reason: the establishment of the Mother Grand Lodge in England in 1717 was the first Grand Lodge ever established. Freemasonry did not have them before. The establishment of the Grand Lodge is what makes Freemasonry today a more or less eighteenth century development. We should also note the office of Most Worshipful Master is no more ancient than the office of Grand Master. Both were preceded by a single office called Master of Masons (again, not to be confused with the grade of Master Mason) who functioned more like a head of a union than like a modern-day Master or Grand Master.

Why did Grand Lodges come about at all? Quite simply, Freemasonry, Speculative Masonry at any rate, requires them. When quarrels between lodges or within lodges develop, the lodges need to act as a body to resolve the situation and so the Grand Lodge fills this need. Before the formation of Grand Lodges, Speculative Masonry was failing which was why the four London lodges met in the first place. Moreover, if a crook poses as a Mason and sets up a lodge to attract members in hopes of fleecing them, the name of Masonry could be ruined through no real fault of its own. Again, a Grand Lodge could take action against such a crook and prevent him from founding a lodge within its jurisdiction and warn other jurisdictions to beware of this individual.


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