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Candid Disquisition

A Wellins Calcott (see page 172) saw in Freemasonry something more than a museum of Medieval relics, and more than a set of convivial clubs, and undertook to write a rational, or philosophy, on the Craft, becoming thereby the first of a line of greatly distinguished Craftsmen, in which were to stand Hutchinson, Preston, Oliver, Mackey. He was born at a date not discoverable in available books; in the Minutes of one Lodge he is described as "a native of Shrewsbury, county of Salop," in another as from "Salop in Cheshire." At some date in probably the late 1750's he published A Collection of Thoughts, a volume half of quotations and half of his own meditations, a type of book dear to readers in that period. He had 1600 subscriptions for it before printing; and it went through five editions. In 1769 (and with 1200 subscribers) he published A Candid Disquisition of the Principles and Practices of the Most Honorable society of Free and Accepted Masons, etc. Oliver described this book, so simple, so gentle in spirit, and with few obvious displays of the classical learning behind it, "the gem of the period." Kenning describes Calcott: "Indeed he may fully be called the father of the Masonic philosophical and didactic school." Hughan characteristically valued it because it contained a list of Boston Lodges, as follows : under the Provincial Grand Lodge headed by John Rowe: Master's, First, Second, Rising Sun; and under the Scottish Provincial Grand Lodge under Joseph Warren: St. Andrew's, Lodge No. 2: and under an Ancient Grand Lodge Warrant: Ancient York, No. 169. Calcott was twice in America, both times in the Carolinas, possibly in New York or Boston. He must have been a wandering man, perhaps one of those impracticable, learned men ungifted with the sense of trade or of money, for we can track him in Scotland and England from Lodge to Lodge, going about like a colporteur to distribute his Candid Disquisitions. He was three times in St. David Lodge, No. 30, and became member by affiliation, during 1761 and 1762. Was Worshipful Master of Holywell Lodge, in England. He visited Lodge St. John Kilwinning, Haddington, No. 57, in 1761. He was in Phoenix Lodge, No. 94, in Sunderland, in 1779, when the Minutes describe him as "from Carolina," and gave a Third Degree Lecture. In his Preston Lecture for 1928, John Stokes says: "Many of the words and phrases used in his lectures were adopted by Hemming and made part of the Ritual which we use today." It is a romantic fact (and Freemasonry is fuII of them) that words written down in 1750 or 1760 by this only half-known, gentle, much wandering man, two or three times described in Lodge Minutes as "in unfortunate circumstances," should afterwards be on the tongues of millions of men who have never so much as heard his name !

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