Plot, Robert, M.d.
Born in 1651, and died in 1696. He was a Professor of Chemistry at Oxford, and Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, to which position he had been appointed by Elias Ashmole, to whom, however, he showed but little gratitude. Doctor Plot published, in 1686, the Natural History of Staffordshire, a work in which he went out of his way to attack the Masonic institution. An able defense against this attack will be found in the third volume of Oliver's Golden Remairls of the Early Masonic Writers.
The work of Doctor Plot is both interesting and valuable to the Masonic student, as it exhibits the condition of Freemasonry in the latter part of the seventeenth century, certainly, if not at a somewhat earlier period, and is an anticipated answer to the assertions of the iconoclasts who would give Freemasonry its birth in 1717. For this purpose, we insert so much of his account (from the Natural History of Staffordshire, chapter viii, page 316) ans refers to the customs of the Society in 1686.
85. To these add the Customs relating to the County, whereof they have one, of admitting Men into the Society of Freemasons, that in the Moorelands of this County seems to be of greater request than any where else, though I find the Custom spread more or less all over the Nation; for here I found persons of the most eminent quality, that did not disdain to he of this Fellowship. Nor indeed need they were it of that Antiquity and honor, that it pretended in a large parchment volume they have amongst them, containing the History and Rules of the craft of masonry. Which is there deduced not only for sacred writ, but profane story, particularly that it was brought into England by Saint Amphibal, and first communicated to Saint Alban, who set down the Charges of masonry, and was made paymaster and Governor of the Kings works, and gave them charges and manners as Saint Amphibal had taught him. Which were after confirmed by King Athelstan, whose youngest son Edwyn loved well masonry, took upon him the charges and learned the manners, and obtained for them of his Father a free-Charter. Whereupon he caused them to assemble at York, and to bring all the old Books of their craft and our of them ordained such chargers and manners, as they then thought fit: which charges in the said Schrole or parchment volume, are in part declared: and thus was the craft of masonry grounded and confirmed in England. It is also there declared that these charges and manners were after perused and approved by King Hen. 6. and his council, both as to Masters and Fellows of this right Worshipful craft.
86. Into which Society when any are admitted, they call a meeting or Lodge as they term it in some places which must consist at lest of 5 or 6 of the ancients of the Order, whom the candidates present with gloves, and so likewise to their wives, and entertain with a collation according to the Custom of the place:
This ended they proceed to the admission of them which chiefly consists in the communication of certain Secret Signs, whereby they are known to one another all over the Nation, by which means they have maintenance whither ever they travel; for if any man appear though altogether unknown that can shew any of these scenes to a Fellow of the Society, whom they otherwise call an accepted mason, he is obliged presently to come to him from what company or place soever he be in, nav tho' from the top of a Steeple, what hazard or inconvenience soever he run to know his pleasure and assist him; viz., if he want work he is bound to find him some, or if he cannot doe that, to give him money, or otherwise support him till work can be had; which is one of their articles; and it is another, that they advise the Masters they work for. according to the best of their skill, acquainting them with the goodness or badness of their materials; and if they be any way out in the contrivance of their buildings modestly to rectify them in it; that masonry be not dishonored: and many such like that are commonly known: but some others they have (to which they are sworn after their fashion) that none know but themselves. which I have reason to suspect are much worse than these, perhaps as bad as this History of the craft itself; than which there is nothing I ever met with, more false or incoherent.
87. For not to mention that Saint Amphibalus by judicious persons, is thought rather to be the cloak than master of Saint Alban, or how unlikely it is that Saint Alban himself in such a barbarous Age, and in times of persecution should be supervisor of any works- it is plain that King Athelstan was never married, or ever had so much as any natural issue; (unless we give way to the fabulous History or Guy Earl of Warwick, whose eldest son Reynburn is said indeed to have been married to Leoneat the supposed daughter of Athelstan, which will not serve the turn neither) much less ever had he a lawful son Edwyn, of whom I find not the least umbrage in History. He had indeed a Brother of that name, of w horn he was so jealous though very young when he came to the crown, that he sent him to Sea in a pinnace Without tackle or oar, only in company with a page, that lsis death might be imputed to the teases and not to him whence the Young Prince (not able to master his passions) east himself headlong into the Sea and there dyed. Who how unlikely to learn their manners; to get them a Charter; or call them together at York; let the Reader judge
88. Yet more improbable is it still. that Hen. the G. and his Council, should ever peruse or approve their charges and manners, and so confirm these right Worshipful Masters and Fellows as they are called in the Scroll: for in the third of his reign when he could not be 4 years old I find an act of Parliament quite abolishing this Society. It being therein ordained, that no Congregations and Confederacies should be made by masons, in their general Chapters and Assemblies, whereby the good course and effect of the Statutes of Laborers; were violated and broken in subversion of Law: and that those who caused Such Chapters or Congregations to be holden, should be adjudged Felons; and those masons that came to them should be punished by imprisonment, and make fine and ransom at the Kinas will. So very much out was the Compiler of this History of the craft of masonry, and so little skill had he in our Chronicles and Laws. Which Statute though repealed by a subsequent act in the 5 of Elize. whereby Servants and Laborers are compellable to serve, and their wages limited; and all masters made punishable for giving more wages than what is taxed by the Justices, and the servants if they take it &c. Yet this act too being but little observed, tis still to be feared these Chapters of Free-masons do as much mischief as before, which if one may estimate by the penalty was anciently so great, that perhaps it might be useful to examine them now.
An instrument used by Operative Masons to erect perpendicular lines, and adopted in Speculative Freemasonry as one of the Working tools of a Fellow Craft. It is a symbol of rectitude of conduct, and inculcates that integrity of life and undeviating course of moral uprightness which can alone distinguish the good and just man. As the operative workman erects his temporal building with strict observance of that plumb-line, which will not permit him to deviate a hair's breadth to the right or to the left, so the Speculative Freemason, guided by the unerring principles of right and truth inculcated in the symbolic teachings of the same implement, is steadfast in the pursuit of truth, neither bending beneath the frowns of adversity nor yielding to the seductions of prosperity.
To the man thus just and upright, the Scriptures attribute, as necessary parts of his character, kindness and liberality, temperance and moderation, truth and wisdom; and the pagan poet Horace (Book III, Ode 3) pays, in one of his most admired odes, an eloquent tribute to the stern immutability of the man who is upright and tenacious of purpose.
Iustum et tenacem propositi virum non civium ardor prava iubentium, non voltus instantis tyranni mente quatit solida neque Auster dux inquieti turbidus Hadriae nec fulminantis magna manus Iovis; si fractus inlabatur orbis, inpavidum Serient ruinae.
The man of firm and righteous will, No rabble, clamorous for the wrong, No tyrant's brow, whose frown may kill, Can shake the strength that makes him strong: Not winds that chafe the sea they sway, Nor Jovews right hand with lightning red: Should Nature's pillar'd frame give way, That wreck would strike one fearless head. --Professor John Conington.
It is worthy of notice that, in most languages, the word which is used in a direct sense to indicate straightness of course or perpendicularity of position, is also employed in a figurative sense to express uprightness of conduct. Such are the Latm rectum, which signifies at the same time a right line and honesty or integrity; the Greek, Ap6s, which means straight, standing upright, and also equitable, just, true; and the Hebrew tsedek, which in a physical sense denotes rightness, straightness, and in a moral, what is right and just. Our own word Right partakes of this peculiarity, right being not wrong, as well as not crooked.
As to the name, it may be remarked that plumb is the word used in Speculative Freemasonry. Webster says that as a noun the word is seldom used except in composition. Its constant use, therefore, in Freemasonry, is a peculiarity.
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