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Constitutions of 1786

These have been generally regarded by the members of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite as the fundamental law of their Rite. They are said to have been established by Frederick II, of Prussia, in the last year of his life ; a statement, however, that has been denied by some writers (see Mackey's revised History of Freemasonry under Early History of the Scottish Rite; Findel's History of Freemasonry under Declaration of the Grand Lodge of the Three Globes at Berlin; also Gould's History of Freemasonry under The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite). The controversies as to their authenticity have made them a subject of interest to all Masonic scholars. Brother Albert Pike, the Grand Commander of the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, published them, in 1872, in Latin, French, and English; and his exhaustive annotations are valuable because he has devoted to the investigation of their origin and their authenticity more elaborate care than any other writer. Of these Constitutions, there are two exemplars, one in French and one in Latin, between which there are, however, some material differences. For a long time the French exemplar only was known in this country. It is supposed by Brother Pike that it was brought to Charleston by Count de Grasse, and that under its provisions he organized the Supreme Council in that place. They were accepted by the Southern Supreme Council, and have been regard... by the Northern Supreme Council as the only authentic Constitutions. But there is abundant internal evidence of the incompleteness and incorrectness of the French Constitutions, of whose authenticity there is no proof, nor is it likely that they were made at Berlin and approved by Frederick, as they profess. The Latin Constitutions were probably not known in France until after the Revolution. In 1834, they were accepted as authentic by the Supreme Council of France, and published there in the same year. A copy of this was published in America, in 1859, by Brother Pike. These Latin Constitutions of 1786 have been accepted by the Supreme Council of the Southern jurisdiction in preference to the French version. Most of the other Supreme Councils-those, namely, of England and Wales, of Italy, and of South America have adopted them as the law of the Rite, repudiating the French version as of no authority. The definite and well-authorized conclusions to which Brother Pike has arrived on the subject of these Constitutions have been expressed by that eminent Freemason in the following language : "We think we may safely say, that the charge that the Grand Constitutions were forged at Charleston is completely disproved, and that it will be contemptible hereafter to repeat it. No set of speculating Jews constituted the Supreme Council established there; and those who care for the reputations of Colonel Mitchell, and Doctors Dalcho, Auld, and Moultrie, may well afford to despise the scurrilous libels of the Ragons, Clavels, and Folgers. "And, secondly, that it is not by any means proven or certain that the Constitutions were not really made at Berlin, as they purport to have been, and approved by Frederick. We think that 'the preponderance of evidence, internal and external, is on the side of their authenticity, apart from the positive evidence of the certificate of 1832. "And, thirdly, that the Supreme Council at Charleston had a perfect right to adopt them as the law of the new Order; no matter where, when, or by whom they were made, as Anderson's Constitutions were adopted in Symbolic Masonry; that they are and always have been the law of the Rite, because they were so adopted ; and because no man has ever lawfully received the degrees of the Rite without swearing to maintain them as its supreme law; for as to the articles themselves, there is no substantial difference between the French and Latin copies. "And, fourthly, that there is not one particle of proof of any sort, circumstantial or historical, or by argument from improbability, that they are not genuine and authentic. In law, documents of great age, found in the possession of those interested under them, to whom they rightfully belong, and with whom they might naturally be expected to be found, are admitted in evidence without proof, to establish title or facts. They prove themselves, and to be avoided must be disproved by evidence. There is no evidence against the genuineness of these Grand Constitutions.'' We have alluded to the controversies aroused by the historical concepts formed of these documents. But we must warn the readers against assuming that this was ever understood by the leading disputants as any argument against the legality of them. That was quite another thing. Both Brothers Pike and Carson, differing widely as they did upon the source of the Constitutions in 1786, were agreed upon the legal aspect. Brother Enoch Terry Carson, then Deputy of the Scottish Rite for Ohio, says, "We shall not enter into a discussion of the question as to whether these Constitutions had the origin claimed for them or not, it is sufficient to say that they were recognized, and that under and by authority of them the Southern Supreme Council, at Charleston, the first in the world, was organized and until 1813, possessed exclusive jurisdiction over the United States; and all other regular Supreme Councils from that day down to the present have, and still recognize them. If they, the Constitutions of1786, ever were irregular, they ceased to be so to any and every Supreme Council the very moment they recognized and adopted them. Without , them there can be no Thirty-third Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.'' Brother Albert Pike is equally direct to the point where he says very plainly, "But the validity and effect of these Constitutions did not depend on their emanating from Frederick. On the contrary, he had no power to make any such laws. Their force and effect as law depended on their adoption as such by the first Body of the Rite" (see Mackey's revised History of Freemasonry, pages 1836-7).

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CONSTITUTIONS, OLD

See Records, Old

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