Clubs, and Freemasonry
The formation of the first Grand Lodge of Speculative Freemasonry in 1717 coincided with a sudden and almost explosive multiplication of clubs. They broke out like a rash over the whole of England. In every village or town was at least one tavern or inn and one or more clubs were sure to meet in it. There was an amazing number of categories of clubs, from clubs for elderly high churchmen to the most outer extravagances of those eccentrics who in France and Italy wonder travelers the soubriquet of "mad Englishmen" : political clubs, scientific clubs (the Royal Society had one), betting clubs, bottle clubs, shooting clubs, music clubs, coffee clubs, odd fellows clubs, clubs for fat men, bald men, dwarfs, hen-pecked men, one-eyed men, insurance clubs, burial clubs, clubs male and female, clubs that were a sort of lay church, and clubs for opium smokers, etc., etc. When the first of the new Lodges of Speculative Freemasonry began to at tract attention the populace took them for a new species of clubs.
More than one attempt has been made to turn that popular impression into an argument, more often by social historians than by Masonic writers; it has never succeeded, because while a Lodge may often have been a clubbable society, few things could be less alike in substance or in purpose than a club and a Lodge. The truth of th at statement is proved by the fact that even in cities with hundreds of Lodges their members form Masonic clubs on the side.
See Club Makers and Club Members, by T. H. S. Escott; Sturgis & Walton Co.1914.
NOTE. Side Orders and Masonic clubs have the same status in the eyes of Masonic law. When Masonic clubs first began to be formed about the beginning of this century their officers and members took the ground that since they were not Lodges, were not, properly speaking, Masonic organizations, and acted independently of Lodges and Grand Lodges, neither Masters nor Grand Masters held any authority over them ; and in the beginning the majority of Grand Masters agreed with this opinion. But after some twenty years of experience with them Grand Masters and Grand Lodges began to hold that while a Masonic officer cannot supervise a club as such, a Lodge or a Grand Lodge can discipline club members in their capacity as Masons. A Grand Master of Masons in Iowa notified the members of a Side Order that if they held a street carnival of a kind as planned he would order them tried for un- Masonic conduct; one or two years later a Grand Master of Masons in Michigan followed a similar course with another Side Order because of the indecent posters with which it was advertising an indoor circus. Grand Lodges uphold that reading of the Question ; if a man is guilty of conduct unbecoming a Mason he is subject to discipline without regard to where he was guilty.
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