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Sailors, and Freemasonry

Much of the United States and Canada as well as Britain has been for a long time at sea. It is not difficult for Englishmen to think of themselves as a people partly afloat, nor the Norwegians, and still less the Japanese; but America also is partly afloat, and ever has been, though it is hard for Americans to believe it. The Navy itself has more duties in peacetime than in war, and of equal importance, for it is our government abroad, without which consuls, ministers, ambassadors and diplomats in general would carry little weight. Wherever the Navy goes, America goes. The Navy, moreover, is one of America's proudest achievements, if Americans knew it, and has given to the land it serves a long succession of dedicated men whose intellectual, literary, and scholarly achievements stand second only after the colleges and universities. As for Britain, its fleet has been its alter ego. Freemasonry also, ever since as a world-wide Speculative Fraternity it escaped out of the cocoon of the Time Immemorial Lodges, has been afloat on the merchant ships and with the navies, and has with its Lodges followed them, or has waited for them in more than 3 thousand ports.

Moreover the sea is one of the oldest of callings, millennia older than Homer who celebrated it, for the first ships appeared at the same time as the first houses and the most ancient cities. Also, like the arts and crafts on land, they have from a long time ago had their own gilds and fraternities; the Greek mariners, who went everywhere, had their associations.

the Roman sailors had their collegia, and for many centuries both of them had mithraea to visit on shore. After the gild system arose early in Medieval times seamen had gilds of their own; they took apprentices; had a Patron Saint; had part in pageants with a float depicting Noah; and from the beginning of the theater were favorite stage characters.

If ever a truly complete history of Freemasonry is written, omitting nothing important enough to have a chapter of its own, it will tell the story of how seamen of Britain, America, and the maritime countries of Europe carried Masonry around the world; so that if they had no share in its antiquity they had a large share in that other Landmark, its universality. (For Mariners in the period of the gilds and pageants see The British Tar in Fact and Fiction, by Charles Napier Robinson; Harper & Bros.; London and New York; 1911. The first novel about the sea was written by an American, James Fenimore Cooper; also, it is believed by many; its greatest, Moby Dtck, by Herman Melville; Shakespeare's last play was "The Tempest," a poemcomedy-drama of the sea, with a setting off our own Atlantic coast; and the fact is a reminder of the "Odyssey," attributed to Homer, the greatest sea yarn ever written. See also NAVAL LODGES in this Supplement.)

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