A note from the author:
Please take your time reading and understanding this important article. I do not make my claims lightly, and I hope this article will lead others into researching this important topic further. I personally believe a hoax has occurred upon Freemasonry by revisionist pundits. I think it might have started out innocently enough, but it has gone on so long now that the 1717-1723 narrative claim has become fact within the minds of many within Freemasonry. In short, the document they claim proves the 1717 narrative does not support their positions. This article tells a different story than the one most Masons unjustifiably believe. To date, I believe this is the most important discovery I have made in my personal journey and research about Masonic history. I hope you enjoy reading this article, as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it ~/G|~
I have heard it time and time again that Freemasonry began with the formation of the first Grand Lodge of England in 1717; and the adoption of its Constitution in 1723. This is an all too easy statement to make, but it’s not a supportable narrative when honestly investigated. When Freemasonry actually began will perhaps always be debated, but let’s not create false narratives in order to satisfy immediately wanted answers; like the 1717-1723 narrative.
Pundits of the 1717-1723 narrative often refer to the 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons as the document that proves their theory. And to be honest, since I was not familiar with the document, and had to rely on other writings and opinions, I had no response to the claim. That was until I was given an opportunity to buy a copy from Brother Michael Doxsee, who also sells other out-of-print Masonic books for those who might be interested in such things.
I took several weeks to read the book, and wrote notes along the way. The most obvious clue was found on the cover, which had two dates, “In the Year of Masonry-5723” and “Anno Domini-1723,” (Anno Domini stands for A.D.). You see, as I will prove with words from the document, the authors of the 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons held the position that they were upholding the ancient traditions passed down to them through Masonic history, its documents and traditions. The dates listed above prove they believed they held a lineage of some four thousand years. Now, I am not here to debate the validity of such a claim; rather, I hold the position that they only intended to continue with the traditions of the craft from the time period.
Also, notice how I used the word “they” above; rather than the commonly understood author’s name of James Anderson. I did this for a reason. Yes, on page 74, the name of James Anderson was written, with a note underneath that appears to read (my copy is a little blurry), “The author of this Book.” Nevertheless, after reading the publication, it became evident that Anderson was essentially the compiler of the work, not its sole author, as so many pundits have proclaimed. This belief is confirmed by David Stevenson, who wrote, “There was a good deal in it that was new in detail, but Anderson’s work of compilation did not involve any major innovation or attempt to take Freemasonry in fresh directions” (Stevenson, David, James Anderson: Man and Mason, p. 121).
To further make my point, please consider the header page, which reads, “Printed by William Hunter, for John Senex at the Globe, and John Hooke at the Flower-deluce over against St. Dunstan’s Church, in fifth street.” So I beg the question, if John Hunter was the printer, who were John Senex and John Hooke in relationship to this book; and why do their names appear on the cover page and not James Anderson, who was mentioned way back on page 74, along with 60 other named individuals? These 61 names, including Anderson, are from the section entitled “Approbation.” The names listed, I assume, are in order of Masonic importance, only because they are not in alphabetical order, as one might presume. The word Approbation can be defined as, “an act of approving formally or officially.” Therefore, this was the final approval committee, which included Anderson.
Most interestingly, Anderson’s name was listed near the end of the page with the Roman Numeral XVII (17th out of 20 subsections that were listed) next to it. This ranking could lead to several speculations, of which that Anderson was simply a compiler, and performed some writings tasks, but was beholding to the views of other Masons; unlike his 1738 second edition, where he was much more involved, which would account for the major differences between the two Constitutions. This belief is confirmed by MasonicDictionary.com and The Builder (1923):
“His own account of the work, as given in 1738, is that he was ordered to digest the Old Gothic Constitutions in a new and better method by Montagu on 29th September, 1721, that on 27th December, Montagu appointed fourteen learned brothers to examine the MS., and that after they had approved it was ordered to be printed…“
Therefore, we can presume that at least 60 other Masons approved this document and had a hand in its formation. And more specifically, the committee of fourteen had an even greater hand in its development, “…they are part of the committee of fourteen’s revision of the text…” (Stevenson, David, James Anderson: Man and Mason, p. 117-118).
Interestingly, unlike today, where some reviewers of the document argue it is nothing but unsubstantiated historical errors, the biggest claim after its publication was that it did not go far enough; that the history section had been watered down from the origins of true Masonic history, “A masonic reviewer took exception to parts of the History… tended to rebuke him for not making even larger historical claims for Masonry” (Stevenson, David, James Anderson: Man and Mason, p. 120-121).
After the header, a dedication section followed, which dedicated the book to the Right Worshipful Grand-Master, the Duke of Montagu, who served the previous year. The importance of the section, written by Deputy Grand-Master J.T. Desaguliers (not Anderson), was that great pains had been taken to make sure the document aligned with old Records, History and Chronology:
“I need not tell your GRACE what Pains our learned AUTHOR has taken in compiling and digesting this Book from the old Records, and how accurately he has compar’d and made every thing agreeable to History and Chronology so as to render these New CONSTITUTIONS a just and exact Account of Masonry from the Beginning of the World to your Grace’s MASTERSHIP still preserving all that was truly ancient and authentic in the old ones.”
Following the Dedication sectional, “The Constitution” section was displayed, which essentially started the History of Freemasonry; portions of which were presumably compiled and written by Anderson, and edited and approved by the committee of fourteen. On the very first page, it was written, “Collected from their general RECORDS, and their faithful TRADITIONS of many ages” (p. 1). Notice the two words RECORDS and TRADITIONS were capitalized; so what exactly were these early 18th century Masons trying to tell the brethren? Simply stated, that they painstakingly gathered the old Records and combined them with their ancient traditions when they formed the historical section of the Constitutions. Again, I must stress, as I will stress throughout the writing of this article, they did not believe they were forming anything new; rather, they believed they were upholding ancient traditions.
Furthermore, how important was this history to these early Masons? Well, lets take a look at what they had to say on the matter, “At the admission of a NEW BROTHER, when the Master or Warden shall begin, or order some other Brother to read as follows…” (p. 1). Therefore, every new Mason was read this particular history. Again, I know some Masons have written negatively about this historical section; however, I must remind every Mason reading this post, our Masonic history should not always be taken literally, which sadly some pundits of the 1723 Constitutions had sorely forgotten or neglected on purpose? Case in point, if a Mason still thinks the story of Hiram Abiff is an accurate tale than he or she has never been instructed in the use of Masonic allegory; or as Albert Pike wrote about Hiram Abiff:
“Whatever Hiram really was, he is the type, perhaps an imaginary type, to us, of humanity in its highest phase; an exemplar of what man may and should become, in the course of ages, in his progress toward the realization of his destiny; an individual gifted with a glorious intellect, a noble soul, a fine organization, and a perfectly balanced moral being; an earnest of what humanity may be, and what we believe it will hereafter be in God’s good time; the possibility of the race made real” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 225).
As such, much of Masonic history is allegorical lessons based on historical events and people, which means these lessons have a deeper meaning, as Pike confirmed when he wrote about the ancient belief of using allegory to teach the mysteries:
“Nothing excites men’s curiosity so much as Mystery, concealing things which they desire to know: and nothing so much increases curiosity as obstacles that interpose to prevent them from indulging in the gratification of their desires… In this spirit of mystery they professed to imitate the Deity, who hides Himself from our senses, and conceals from us the springs by which He moves the Universe. They admitted that they concealed the highest truths under the veil of allegory, the more to excite the curiosity of men, and to urge them to investigation. The secrecy in which they buried their Mysteries, had that end. Those to whom they were confided, bound themselves, by the most fearful oaths, never to reveal them. They were not allowed even to speak of these important secrets with any others than the initiated; and the penalty of death was pronounced against any one indiscreet enough to reveal them, or found in the Temple without being an Initiate; and any one who had betrayed those secrets, was avoided by all, as excommunicated” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 384).
So when it was written, “No doubt Adam taught his Sons Geometry, and the use of it, in the several Arts and Crafts convenient, at least, for those early Times…” (p. 2), what did this mean? The story of Adam and Eve is nothing but a metaphor for men and women in the beginning of creation by God. Yet, some have gone out of their way to claim Anderson and the committee of fourteen did not know what they were writing about when they began the history of Masonry with Adam. REALLY? David Stevenson surmised the issue of starting the document with Adam, when he wrote:
“Thus, whatever faults later generations have found, the book satisfied those who had commissioned it. Over half of it, the History, describes the Craft’s ancient and exalted past. Taken as history as judged by modern scholarly standards, Anderson’s account is clearly absurd, but in some respects the abuse heaped on it, and therefore on Anderson himself, is unjustified. There is little point in raging against him for starting with Adam and then wending his way through the Old Testament, for in his time that was the conventional mainstream of the past, not a bizarre aberration. Moreover beginning the story of Masonry with Adam was to be expected. Everything started with the Creation, so a history naturally started there. To do otherwise would have been unsatisfactory, a starting in the middle of a subject. Masonry should be traced back to Adam, just as dynastic history traced royal families and national histories their origins to Adam” (Stevenson, David, James Anderson: Man and Mason, p. 110-111).
I will not go into the details from this particular section, but I will state that Anderson and the committee of fourteen gave a basic understanding of Masonry from a biblical perspective, which included Adam, Noah, Moses, etc; and added to it by mentioning Mitzraim and the Magi (p. 5). There was also an emphasis on King Solomon and the building of his Temple, which would be expected.
Nevertheless, what I found most interesting was discovered on pages 11 and 12; which was the fact that the name Hiram was written, “But above all, he sent his namesake Hiram, or Huram, the most accomplish’d Mason on Earth*.” I mentioned this particular point, only because some have stated that the Legend of Hiram Abiif did not start until after 1717, or after the 1723 Constitution was written; again, to which I had no answer until reading the document itself. Well, one only had to follow the footnotes at the bottom of the pages to see that Anderson and the committee of fourteen were writing about both Hiram, the King of Tyre, and Hiram Abiff, which, by the way, tells an entirely different account than the one I was taught in Blue Lodge Masonry:
“*We read (2 Chron. ii. 13.) Hiram, King of Tyre, (called there Huram) in his letter to King SOLOMON, Says, I have sent a cunning Man, le Huram Abhi, not to be translated according to the vulgar Greek and Latin, Huram my Father, as if this Architect was King HIRAM”S father; for his discrition, ver. 14. refutes it, and the Original plainly imports, Huram of my Father’s, viz. the Chief Master-Mason of my father, King ABIBALUS; (who enlarg’d and beautify’d the City of Tyre, as ancient Histories inform us, whereby the Tyrians at this time were most expert in Masonry) tho’ some think HIRAM the king might call Hiram the Architect Father, as learned and skillful Men were wont to be call’d of the old Times, or as Joseph was call’d the Father of PHARAOH; and as the same Hiram is called Solomon’s FATHER, (2 Chron. iv. 16.) where tis said
Shelomoh lammelech Abhif Churam ghnafah,
Did Huram, his Father, make a King Solomon.
But the Difficulty is over at once, by allowing the Word Abif to be the Surname of Hiram the Mason, called also (Chap. ii. 13.) Hiram Abi, as here Hiram Abif; for being so amply describ’d, (Chap. ii. 14.) we may easily support his Surname would not be conceal’d: And this Reading makes the sense plain and compleat, viz. that HIRAM, King of Tyre, sent to King Solomon his Namesake HIRAM ABIF, the Prince of Architects, describ’d (1 Kings vii. 14.) to be a Widow’s Son of the Tribe of Naphtbali; and in (Chron: ii. 14.) the said King of Tyre calls him the Son of a Woman of the Daughters of Dan; and in both places, that his Father was a man of Tyre: which Difficulty is remov’d by supporting his Mother was either of the Tribe of Dan, or of the Daughters of the City called Dan in the Tribe of Naphthali, and his deceased Father had been Naphthalite, whence his mother was call’d a Widow of Naphthali; for his father is not call’d a Tyrian by Descent, but a Man of Tyre by Habitation; or Obed Edom the Levite is call’d a Gittite by living among the Gittites, and the Apostle Paul a Man of Tarsus. But supporting a Mistake in Transcribers, and that his Father was really a Tyrian by Blood, and his Mother only of the Tribe either of Dan or of Naphthali, that can be no Bar against allowing of his vast Capacity; for as his father was a Worker in Brass, so be himself was fill’d with Wisdom and Understanding, and Cunning to work all works of Brass: And as King SOLOMON sent for him, so King HIRAM, in his letter to Solomon, says, And now I have sent a cunning Man endued with Understanding, skillful to work in Gold, Silver, Brass, Iron, Stone, Timber, Purple, Blue, fine Linnen and Crimson; also to grave any manner of Graving, and to find out every Device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning Men, and with the cunning Men of my Lord David thy Father. This divinely inspired Workmen maintain’d this Character in erecting the Temple, and working the Utensils thereof, far beyond the Performances of Aholiab and Bezaleel, being Also universally capable of all sorts of Masonry.”
So what can be learned by reading the above footnote? Well first off, there were a few spelling mistakes, which Masonic historians continually gripe about. My response is, “get over it!” As I have stated before in other writings on this blog, history is replete with examples of spelling errors, many of which had nothing to do with the author, but rather the printer of the publication. Printing a document was far more difficult to perform some 300 years ago than it is today; and any comparisons between the two are simply disingenuous, and not worthy of a Mason seeking a high moral character. Furthermore, many Masons have incorrectly claimed that the legend of Hiram Abiff did not occur prior to the modern era; however, after reading the above footnote, which covered almost two pages within the 1723 Constitutions, it is obvious Anderson and the committee of fourteen felt differently. Sadly, no degree ritual was included in the Constitutions, which would aid us greatly today in understanding this important legend. Nevertheless, it is obvious the writers of this document understood its importance and included, at length, the history of the legend and its importance to Masonry during this period. Also, their version of Hiram Abiff had several twists and turns of which I was not familiar with, some of which left me puzzled. Like, what was the actual relationship between King Hiram and Hiram Abiff; especially when they used the words “namesake” and “Prince,” which would lead me to believe Hiram Abiff was of Royal Blood and a member of King Hiram’s family? I will not delve into this query any further, other than to say, the above footnote left more questions than answers.
It should also be mentioned that the historical section included countless references, which I considered unusual for the time period. I have read many Masonic documents and books that had been written over the last two to three hundred years; most of which included either no referencing material, or very few at all. This point should be greatly considered when discussing the validity of the document and the true intent of its authors. Here is a general list of references, with some notes included, particularly its length:
Page 1: One side date reference.
Page 2: One bottom reference, three lines long; referencing metal working of Tubal Cain, music of Jubal, etc.
Page 3: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, eight lines long. It made references to the Vestiges of Antiquity, Enoch, Vespasian the Emperor, etc.
Page 4: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, six lines long. It referenced Nimrod, Moses, Bacchus, etc.
Page 5: One side date reference.
Page 6: One bottom reference, seven lines long. References to the Quarries of Arabia, and the building of ancient Egyptian monuments to honor the Empire.
Page 7: Two side date references.
Page 8: One side date reference.
Page 9: Two side date references; and one bottom reference, six lines long. It referenced Sampson, the Philistines, Secrets to his wife, honour (honor) among Masons, etc.
Page 10: One bottom reference, fourteen lines long, or about a third of the page. Referenced King Solomon, number of workers building the Temple, Hiram, etc.
Page 11: One bottom reference, twenty-six lines long, or 80% of the page. referenced the relationship between King Hiram and Hiram Abiff.
Page 12: One bottom reference, twenty-one lines long, or about 60% of the page. This reference was a continuation of the relationship between King Hiram and Hiram Abiff.
Page 13: One side date reference.
Page 15: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, seventeen lines long, or about 50% of the page. Referenced the Temple of Diana, Dresiphon and Archiphrom, and other Temples in Greece, etc.
Page 16: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, seventeen lines long, or 50% of the page. Referenced the architecture of Grand Monarch Nebuchadnezzar, his gardens, palaces, etc.
Page 17: One bottom reference, twenty-three lines long, or 70% of the page. This is a continuation of page 16 reference, with additions on the tower of Babel, etc.
Page 18: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, twenty-two lines long, or 75% of the page. This is yet another continuation of pages 16 and 17, with additions of Solomon’s Temple, Great Babylon, Grand Cyrus in Persia, etc.
Page 19: One side date reference.
Page 20: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, seven lines long. Referenced the Grecians and their barbarism.
Page 21: Three side date references; and one bottom reference, ten lines long. Referenced Pythagoras traveling into Egypt, the Magi, Cambyles~King of Persia, etc.
Page 22: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, nine lines long. Referenced Anaxagoras, Oenopides, Beiso and many others.
Page 23: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, fourteen lines long, or 45% of the page. Referenced Alexandria, Julius Caesar, Siege of Troy, etc.
Page 24: Two side date references: and one bottom reference, five lines long. Referenced Eratosthenes, Conon, Apollonius, etc.
Page 26: One bottom reference, eighteen lines long, or 50% of the page. Referenced Phidias, Nemefis, Minerva at Athens, etc.
Page 27: One bottom reference, eight lines long. Referenced Menelaus, Claudius, Ptolomeus, etc.
Page 28: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, eleven lines long, or 40% of the page. Referenced Roman Colonies, Citadels, Bridges, Art, etc.
Page 29: One bottom reference, fifteen lines long, or 50% of the page. Referenced Saxon and Scottish Kings, and Grand Masters of earlier Lodges, Laws, Charges, Regulations, etc.
Page 30: Three side date references. Also, it was claimed that King Athelstan was “…prevail’d… to improve the CONSTITUTION of the English Lodges.”
Page 31: Two side date references; and one bottom reference, six lines long. Referenced William the Conqueror, Roger de Montgomery, Nobility and Clergy, etc.
Page 32: One side date reference.
Page 34: One bottom reference, twenty-two lines long, or 70% of the page. Referenced ancient manuscripts, Lodges and Masonry, etc.
Page 35: One bottom reference, seventeen lines long, or 50% of the page. Referenced “Tertio Henrici Sexti, Cap. 1. An. Dom. 1425.”
Page 36: One bottom reference, sixteen lines long, or 50% of the page. Referenced the battle between the clergy and the ancient brethren of Masonry.
Page 38: Two side date references; and one bottom reference, ten lines long. Referenced Queen Elizabeth and her jealousies with Masonry.
Page 40: One side date reference; and one bottom reference, seventeen lines long, or 50% of the page. Referenced Henricus Comes Danby, 1632.
Page 41: One bottom reference, five lines long. Referenced an ancient Royal Palace, Judges, etc.
Page 42: One bottom reference, thirty-four lines long, or 85% of the page. Referenced King Charles the II. Mr. Grinlin Gibbons, etc.
Page 43: One bottom reference, nineteen lines long, or 60% of the page. Referenced Archbishop Sheldon, Sir Christopher Wren, King Henry VII, etc.
Page 44: One bottom reference, five lines long. Referenced the Bishop of Salisbury, three knocks, etc.
Page 45: One bottom reference, seventeen lines long, or 60% of the page. This reference is a continuation of the earlier page.
Page 46: One bottom reference, twenty-even lines long, or 70% of the page. Referenced Roman influence on Great Britain, Inigo Jones, Sir Charles Hotham, etc.
Page 47: One bottom reference, twenty-one lines long, or 45% of the page. This reference is a continuation from the previous page.
Page 48: One bottom reference, twenty-three lines long or 70% of the page. This reference is a continuation from the two previous pages.
So what can be learned from this basic reference overview of the historical section? Well, first off, it’s obvious the authors took much more care in presenting their case than pundits of the book led me to believe. Again, I am not here to prove or disprove the accuracy of the historical claim; nevertheless, I now believe that Anderson and the committee of fourteen, as well as the 60 other signers of the document, attempted to back up their claim, and used hundreds of references to prove it, which I believe was unusual for the period. In many cases, the authors used more than half a page to back up their claim; how these obvious references were missed by earlier writers is beyond me. In fact, almost every page included some type of reference.
I highlighted several references above that stood out. Like on pages 29 and 30, which mentioned the fact that there were earlier Constitutions, Grand Masters, Lodges, Laws, Charges and Regulations. Simply stated, how can pundits make the claim that the 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons proved that the first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717, when the document itself claimed there were other Grand Lodges; and how can these pundits also claim that this document formed the first Constitution when the document claimed there were other Constitutions, and that they simply compiled from other ancient Constitutions, Documents, Laws, Charges and Regulations. In your author’s mind, any claims made about the date 1717 and the 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons being the “first” is nothing but revisionism; it is an out and outright lie by revisionists with an agenda to disprove Masonic lineage!
The references listed also help support Anderson and the committee of fourteen’s assertion that Masonry started with the first records of recorded history; and evolved and immersed itself into and through many great cultures from the past. Most notably the Egyptians, Israelites, Greeks and in particularly the Romans, who left their mark on British culture before their departure from the island. This history has been well documented by other authors, including Joseph Newton, the author of The Builders (1914), which is a topic I wrote about previously on this blog.
Of particular interest, here are a few quotes, with my comments following, which further make my point:
Page 29: “No doubt several Saxon and Scottish Kings, with many of the Nobility, great Gentry, and Eminant Clergy, become Grand Masters of those early Lodges… which would also prompt them to enquire after the Laws, Charges, Regulations, Customs, and Usages, of the ancient Lodges… “
Comment: Here is a quote from the referenced section that mentioned other Grand Masters and previous Laws, Charges, Regulations, etc.
Page 30: “particularly by Charles Martell King of France, who according to the Old Records of Masons sent over several expert Crafts-men and learned Architects into England…”
Comment: Here is a quote that mentioned Charles Martell from the 8th century. This is a topic that I have discussed previously on this blog. I find it most interesting that the 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons would make a note of this important historical figure.
Page 31: “for we read King EDWARD III. had an officer call’d the King’s Free-Masons…”
Comment: I have heard it time and time again that the term Freemason or Freemasonry began with the 1717 date and the writing of the 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons; yet, the above quote proved the term was used much earlier. This again is proof of revisionism. The term itself may in fact have to do with a Mason being free to travel; and has nothing to do with the speculative overtones many pundits have proclaimed. Therefore, when someone tells you that there is a destination between the terms Masonry and Freemasonry based on the 1717-1723 dates, they are simply continuing and espousing a revisionist tale propagated to divide the Craft under a cover of lies.
Page 32: “yet King ATHELSTAN, (the Grandson of King ALFREDE the Great, a mighty Architect) the first anointed King of England… encourag’d many Masons from France… brought with them the Charges and Regulations of the Lodges preserved since the Roman times, who also prevail’d with the King to improve the CONSTITUTION of the English Lodges according to the Foreign model…”
Comment: And yet again, King Athelstan is a topic I have written about previously on this blog; however, also notice how the authors of the document mentioned that some Charges and Regulations came from France, and that other ones came from the time of the Roman empire. My question is, how would they know these were the same Charges and Regulations that came from Rome? They wouldn’t unless they had something to compare them with, like the ones in England. Also, notice the word CONSTITUTION was used with all capital letters! Do you think they were trying to say something? Like perhaps there was a previous Constitution. Yes!!! You see, according to Anderson and the committee of fourteen, the King only wanted to improve the Constitution, not create a new one.
Page 33: “and having brought with them all the writings and Records extant, some in Greek, some in Latin, some in French, and other languages, from the contents thereof that assembly did frame the CONSTITUTION and Charges of an English Lodge…”
Comment: Anderson and the committee of fourteen were writing about the period revolving around King Athelstan, who, according to the 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons, used records that were compiled from other languages, notably Greek, Latin and French, to form a better or new Constitution. You want proof of Masonic lineage, here it is. A new Constitution was formed in Britain during the reign of King Athelstan using documents from Greece, Rome (Latin) and France. That would mean earlier Constitutions, Charges, Regulations and Customs were easily traced back to Greece; and since Greek was the primary scholarly language prior to the rise of Rome (Latin), this maybe further anecdotal proof that Masonic lineage goes back to Egypt or before? Although it was not mentioned by the authors, they were probably referencing the Ancient Collegia system.”
Page 38: “King James VI of Scotland… being a Mason King, reviv’d the English Lodges…”
Comment: First off, how could or would a King be a common Mason? You see, he would never be a member of a Masons guild; however, in a system of Operative and Speculative Masonry, a King could easily be a Mason King, but not the other way around. Therefore, any claim that modern Masonry simply copied the ancient traditions of workman guilds, is another false claim made by revisionists. Throughout the 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons, Anderson and the committee of fourteen made no distinction about Masonry being nothing but an ancient science of both Operative and Speculative Masonry; just like our traditions teach us today.
This exercise could go on and on and on, but for the sake of time and space, I will simply conclude the historical section; and now proceed to the next section, “The Charges of a Free-Mason, Extracted from the Ancient Record of Lodges…,” which also holds several clues into the thinking of these early 18th century Freemasons.
Page 49: “The ancient Records of Lodges beyond Sea, and of those in England, Scotland, and Ireland, for the Use of the Lodges in London: TO BE READ At the Making of NEW BRETHREN, or when the MASTER shall order it.”
Comment: This quote is supported by an earlier quote on page 33, which dealt with the old Records from France, Rome (Latin) and Greece; and the Records from England, Scotland and Ireland, as well as the Records beyond the sea. Also, notice how it was a requirement to read these Charges to new brethren, just like in the historical section.
Page 50: “1. Concerning God and Religion… But thought in ancient Times Masons were charg’d in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves…”
Comment: A big distinction can be made at this point. The authors readily admit that the old Charges required a Mason to be a member of the faith of the particular country he resided in; however, they declared that it was now thought more expedient to simply remain silent about religion when residing in a country. This maybe one of the more progressive changes made in the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons; one in which they readily admitted to changing.
Page 50: “II. Of the CIVIL MAGISTRATE Supreme and Subordinate… A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers… for as Masonry hath been always injured by War, Bloodshed, and Confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much disposed to encourage the Craftsmen, because of their Peaceableness and Loyalty, whereby they practically answer’d the Cavils of their Adversaries, and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity…”
Comment: We see the authors mentioned the “ancient Kings and Princes” in reference to civil authority; and that Masonry had always been injured because of war, despite being loyal to civil authority. My thoughts immediately hypothesized this to mean the enemies of the state, who thought that Masons were loyal only to the state, would consider them to be their enemies as well. This uneasy relationship between warring parties maybe the link to the rise and fall of Masonry throughout the history of man. Nevertheless, the most important point made is that the authors did not simply make this rule up; rather, they gathered it from the ancient records.
Page 51-52: “IV. Of MASTERS, WARDENS, Fellows, and Apprentices… These Rules and Governors, supreme and subordinate, of the ancient Lodge, are to be obey’d in their respective Stations by all the Brethren, according to the old Charges and Regulations…”
Comment: Again, we see the authors referring to the “ancient Lodge” and “old Charges and Regulations.” I have to say it again, Masons during this period were only adhering to the traditions from the old Charges ~ for the most part, they did not create new Charges, unless otherwise specified.
Page 57: “POSTSCRIPT. A worthy brother, learned in the law, has communicated to the Author (while this sheet was printing) the opinion of the great Judge Coke upon the act against Masons, 3 Hen. VI. Chap. 1. which is printed in this Book, page, 35, and which quotation the Author has compared with the original, Yiz:
COKE S INSTITUTES, 3D PART, FOL. 99.
The cause wherefore this offence was made felony, is for that the good course and effect of the statutes of laborers were thereby violated and broken. Now, (says my Lord Coke) all the statutes concerning laborers, before this act, and whereunto this act doth refer, are repealed by the statute of 5. Eliz. Cap. 4. whereby the cause and end of the making of this act, is taken away; and consequently this act is become of no force or effect: for cessante ratione Legis, cessat i’psa Lex: And the indictment of felony upon this statute must contain, that those Chapters and Congregations were to the violating and breaking of the good course and effect of the statutes of laborers; which now cannot be so alleged, because the statutes be repealed. Therefore, this would be put out of the charge of justices of peace, written by Master Lambert, p. 227.
This quotation confirms the tradition of old Masons, that this most learned Judge really belonged to the ancient Lodge, and was a faithful brother.”
Comment: The above post-scripted quote referred to the Sir Edward Coke ~ [Cook] ( 1 February 1552 – 3 September 1634) who they believed was a Free-Mason; and who also adhered to the traditions of old Masons and the ancient Lodge.
The General Regulations Constitution:
Page 58: “GENERAL REGULATIONS… And now, by the Command of our said Right Worshipful GRAND-MASTER MONTAGU, the Author of this book has compar’d them with, and reduc’d them to the ancient Records and immemorial Usages of the Fraternity, and digested them into this new method, with several proper Explications, for the Use of the Lodges in and about London and Westminster.”
Comment: Here we see Anderson and the committee of fourteen commenting on the General Regulations, not their History or their Charges, just the General regulations, which was a separate Constitution. This too dealt with the old Records, but they did take certain liberties with regard to a “new method” regarding General Regulations. I do hope the reader of this article can see the difference between each of these sections or Constitutions. No where in the history section or Constitution was this claim made.
Page 72: “Upon this the Deputy shall rehearse the Charges of a Master, and the GRAND-MASTER shall ask the candidate, saying, Do you submit to the Charges, as Masters have done in all ages?”
Comment: Take note of the highlighted section above, which referred to Masters in all ages; again I write, Masons during this period were only following the traditions from earlier periods.
Page 73: “APPROBATION… And WHEREAS the old Constitutions in England have been much interpolated, mangled and miserably corrupted, not only with false Spelling, but even with many false Facts and gross Errors in History and Chronology, through Length of Time, and Ignorance of Transcribers, in the dark illiterate Ages…”
Comment: Here we see the reason for the compilation of the new Constitutions, which was because the old Constitutions had become corrupted. I have heard the term new Constitutions used several times in the book; therefore, they referred to their work as a new Constitution not the “first” Constitutions, as many pundits of Masonic history have misapplied.
History of Masonry Songs:
Page 75-90: “THE MASTER’S SONG, OR THE HISTORY OF MASONRY… THE WARDEN’S SONG: OR ANOTHER HISTORY of MASONRY. COMPOS’D Since the most noble Prince PHILIP Duke of WHARTON was Chosen GRANDMASTER… THE FELLOW-CRAFTS SONG: By our Brother CHARLES DELAFAYE Esg;… THE Enter’d PRENTICES SONG. By our late BROTHER Mr. MATTHEW BIRKHEAD, deceas’d…”
Comment: For the sake of time and space, I combined the last music section into one segment. Needless to say, I could easily go on and on to make my point; but let me just write that the music within the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons only confirms what was written in earlier sections and by myself in this analysis. Which is, Anderson, the committee of fourteen and the other signers of this work felt deeply about maintaining the Masonic tradition of adhering to the old doctrine. In no way did they believe they were starting anything new, other than those issues explicitly written about; like in the General Regulations. These songs were written by a variety of Masons, which are listed above, including Anderson, who wrote “The Master’s Song.”
So what did I learn by dissecting the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons? Well, first and foremost, I learned that an improper revisionist agenda has been propagated against Masonry for decades, if not longer. When the 1717 fairy tale began is not certain? Yet, by dissecting the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons, the document these revisionist pundits claim proved their point that Freemasonry began in 1717, I learned their allegation is unsupportable. Throughout the document, the authors repeatedly wrote that they were simply compiling a new Constitutions, which was based on old Constitutions, and old Records; some of which came from France, Rome (Latin) and Greece. It can be easily assumed that the authors of the 1717 Constitutions of Free-Masons took great care in researching their historical roots. And during the discovery process they discovered many historical errors, which they readily admitted to and did their best to correct. In no way did these men take their work lightly; rather, they understood the gravity of the task and sought out all available information to help create a new, not a “first,” beginning for Masonry in England.
I learned that James Anderson was not the exclusive author of the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons; rather, he was simply the principle compiler of the document, who was accountable to a committee of fourteen other prominent Masons. And that the document was ultimately approved by at least 61 Masons total, including Anderson. Therefore, any abhorrent claims against Anderson must now be rethought. You see, pundits continually argue that Anderson, who by the way was a prominent minister, had an agenda of rewriting Masonic history and making money off of the book. Claims I believe have been falsely and disingenuously applied. In fact, it has never been proven that he personally benefited from his work regarding the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons, which took about fifteen years to sell out of all first printed copies before another printing was conducted in 1738. Needless to say, very little money could have been earned between these printing dates.
Furthermore, I learned that the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons was an adulterated version of the old Constitutions and other related documents. In fact, the most profound claim against the book was made shortly after its initial publication, which claimed that it did not go far enough in supporting previously viewed Masonic history. This belief stands in stark contrast to contemporary claims that say the document is nothing but unsupportable falsehoods, which were made by the authors to glorify Masonry in England that had been previously struggling for recognition.
Moreover, I learned that the document used the age-old instruction of allegory, like when it applied the Biblical account of Adam to start Masonic history; a point pundits claim proved the inaccuracy of the document. To strike out against this claim simply shows a lack of knowledge regarding the use of Masonic allegory; like the story of Hiram Abiff, which is simply a metaphor for a variety of lessons.
I also learned that the story of Hiram Abiff was actually included in the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons; an issue pundits claim was not added to Masonry until about 1730 or so. Now, I will readily admit it was not included in the general writings; however, it was included in the detailed reference for Hiram on pages 11 and 12, which could have been easily found by simply reading the references on both pages.
The 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons also detailed countless references, which I believe was unusual for the period, and a topic pundits neglected to credit. In truth, nearly every page from the historical section showed a reference; and in many cases showed several references that often took up more than half a page. The sad fact is, pundits of the document either showed outright scholarly neglect, or an outward bias, by forgetting to follow these important references. In short, the historical section clearly proved that the committee of fourteen and the 61 signers, including Anderson, of the document attempted to back up their claim with unusual scholarly references for the time. By following these references, I discovered that earlier Constitutions, Grand Masters, Lodges, Laws, Charges and Regulations existed. This is important, for you see, pundits continually claim there is simply no proof of earlier Constitutions, Grand Masters, Lodges, Laws, Charges and Regulations. Really? That is not what the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons continually wrote about and referenced. Simply stated, how can pundits make the claim that the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons proved the first Grand Lodge began in 1717, when the document itself wrote that there were other Grand Lodges; and how can these pundits also claim that this document formed the first Constitution when the document claimed they simply compiled from another (other) Constitutions and other ancient Documents, Laws, Charges and Regulations. In your author’s mind, any claims made about the 1717 date and the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons being the “first” is nothing but revisionism. In actual fact, such claims are an out and outright lie by revisionists with an agenda at disproving Masonic lineage!
The document also supports the works of other Masonic writers, like Joseph Newton, the author of The Builders (1914), who I wrote about previously on this blog. It also made mention of Masonic legends like Charles Martell, King of France and King Athelstan, King of England, and their efforts at promoting Masonry. I have heard it time and time again, that there is simply no proof that these two men were affiliated with Masonry. Really? Well, we now have the supreme document from the period that say’s otherwise. And one of the biggest discoveries came from page 33, which demonstrated that King Athelstan used records that came from France, Rome (Latin) and Greece to rewrite the Masonic Constitution during his reign.
Needless to say, I could add to this discussion at length; however, I think I have written enough to make my point in this article. But let it be said here, if you don’t believe my research, please purchase the book yourself and do your own research. And if you do, you will find the same findings I did, which stand in stark contrast to many of the revisionist fairy tales that have been propagated against Freemasonry for decades, if not for at least a century now. Thank you for reading ~/G\~
So Mote It Be!!!
P.S. Here is a great video; however, sadly it revolves around the myth that Freemasonry started in 1717. Just one of countless misunderstandings propagated by Masonic revisionism.