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Ancients and Moderns

The article which begins at page 75 was written before the publication of some 200 or so Histories and Minute Books of old British and American Lodges, and before the special researches inspired by Henry Sadler's Masonic Facts and Fictions bad uncovered the detailed history of the Ancient Grand Lodge.

In London, 1717, the first Grand Lodge of Speculative Freemasonry was formed by four old Lodges, and possibly with the support or consent of a number of unrepresented Lodges. It was tentative, experimental, had no precedent to guide it ; at the beginning it consisted of little more than a Grand Master with two Wardens to assist him, and claimed jurisdiction only over such Lodges as might unite with it in an area covering a radius of ten miles from the center of London. As it prospered it warranted (officially approved) Lodges outside of that area and in other countries, and in about twenty years set up a system of Provincial Grand Lodges throughout England

There was at the time no doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction. A small Grand Lodge at York was not challenged. A Grand Lodge was formed by Lodges in Ireland in 1725; and in Scotland in 1736. If self-constituted Lodges of regular Masons did not unite with the Grand Lodge at London, it did not outlaw them (they were called St. John's Lodges) but permitted visitation between them and its own Lodges.

Freemasonry had been very popular in Ireland, even before its Grand Lodge of 1725; after 1725 Lodges sprang up in almost every Irish village. Many Englishmen lived in Dublin ("Dublin was almost an English city") and many families of English origin lived here and there in the Island, especially in North Ireland. It was commonplace for Irish, and for Anglo-Irish, to move to England, to enter business and the professions there, to attend school, etc. ; during the food famines this number was greatly increased.

Among these (and the Irish were not "foreigners" but British!) were a large number of Masons ; among these latter a majority were in retail business, or were carpenters, plumbers, painters, brick-layers, machinists, and in other so-called "trades." But when these Irish residents or citizens of London who were members in regular Irish Lodges came to visit Lodges in London or to dimit to them, they were turned away, were snubbed, were looked down on because by that time (in the 1730's) the Grand Lodge had become a fief of the Nobility, and its Lodges had become exclusive and snobbish. A carpenter or a mason or a house painter might be a member in good standing in a regular Irish Lodge, but he was not deemed worthy to sit among English "gentlemen." the Irish Masons held meetings among themselves, consulted the Grand Lodge of Ireland, set up a Grand Committee in the 1740's, and in 1751 turned this Committee into a regular Grand Lodge. This action was strictly in accordance with the Ancient Landmarks.

In the meantime many exposs had been published in London, and clandestine "Masons" pestered regular Lodges; and a certain amount of Anti-Masonry became active. To circumvent these clandestines the Grand Lodge shifted the Modes of Recognition from one Degree to another, and made other changes about which little is known in detail. It also discontinued the Ceremony of Installation of the Master, thereby reducing him to the status of a mere presiding officer with no inherent powers. These alterations in things that ought not to be altered aroused resentment among a large number of Lodges. As time progressed, and as Lodge Histories make clear, an increasing number of Lodges ceased to be Lodges and became convivial clubs-some of them very expensive clubs. By 1750 the Grand Lodge had thus departed a long way from the original design. In the cant language of the time it had "modernized" itself ; and it came to be for that reason dubbed "the Modern Grand Lodge." the members of the new Grand Lodge of 1751 on the other band insisted on retaining the work and customs of the beginning, and because they did so declared themselves a Grand Lodge according to "the Ancient Institutions," and hence were called "Ancient Masons."

Because of this, a number of Modern Lodges took out Ancient Charters, a number of St. John Lodges took out Charters for the first time, and many new Lodges were warranted by it. Also, the new Grand Lodge conferred the Royal Arch, issued Ambulatory warrants to army Lodges, and it had the good fortune to have Laurence Dermott for Grand Secretary, of whom Gould was to say that "without erring on the side of panegyric" "he was the most remarkable Mason of that time." There was in reality no need for this new Grand Lodge; had the Modern Grand Lodge been a genuinely representative Body instead of a governing club of aristocrats, had , its Grand Master been accessible to the Lodges, and had both "parties" sat down in friendly discussion as they were to do after 1800, the whole Craft could have been made as strong and as united in 1750 as it was to become in 1850; but since it was not thus done, any Masonic historian must admit that the Ancient Grand Lodge was the salvation of the Craft, and (comparatively speaking) a great blessing to Freemasonry everywhere.

Mackey in his seven-volume history, and writing before Sadler and Crawley, was inclined to believe that the Ancient grew out of discontent, and a mood of rebellion. Gould, Hughan, Lane, etc., went farther : they condemned it in toto. In his History and in his concise History Gould blasted the whole of Ancient Masonry, and throughout his life insisted on calling them "Schismatics" ; as also did a line of Masonic writers who followed him.

1. If a number of the Officers and members of the Grand Lodge of 1717 had quarreled with the rest, had seceded, and then had set up a rival Grand Body claiming to possess the original authority, such a Grand Body would have been schismatic. (Preston's second Lodge of Antiquity, three or four Grand Lodges in the State of New York a century later, and the Wigan Grand Lodge, etc., these were in a true sense schismatic.) This did not occur; what did occur was not only unlike a schism but in principle was the opposite of one ; the regular Masons, Irish and English, who erected their 1751 Grand Lodge were seeking to have a Masonic home, and were doing so because the 1717 Grand Lodge had, violated the first great Landmark when it refused them a home.

2. Since the Doctrine of Grand Lodge Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction was not yet adopted, the new Grand Lodge did not violate the law. the 1717 Grand Lodge itself had made no claim t.o exclusive jurisdiction, but had fraternized with the Grand Lodge of All England at York.

3. The new Grand Lodge of 1751 was guilty of no innovations of the ancient secrets, or of Ritual, or of practice ; on the contrary it was the 1717 Grand Lodge that was guilty (and self- confessedly so) of innovations.

4. The 1717 Grand Lodge was distressed to have a rival in the field, and a vigorous one, but even it, except sporadically, did not condemn Ancient Lodges as clandestine. Members under both Grand Lodges visited and shifted back and forth, often with no more ceremony than to take a second OB ; no court action was taken ; nobody accused the Ancient of using a spurious Ritual; in Canada and America both Lodges worked side by side.

5. The Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland, who were in a position to know the Ancient at first hand, and could speak with more authority than could. Gould, Hughan, or Mackey a century later, both recognized the Ancient, and for some years neither recognized the Moderns; in their eyes it was the Modern, not the Ancient Body, that was "schismatic." Of Ireland Crawley wrote (in A.Q.C.; VIII; p. 81). "Indeed, the Grand Lodge of Ireland, all modern assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, seems never to have been in fraternal intercourse with the Grand Lodge of the Moderns, after the rival organization of the Ancient had been established." Even before Sadler and Crawley had discovered and published the documents in the case the action taken by these two Grand Lodges was of itself sufficient to prove that the Ancient had never been "schismatic"--or irregular, or clandestine, or spurious.

6. For at least five centuries Freemasonry consisted wholly of working men. When they began to accept "gentlemen" into membership, the latter met upon the level to masons, smiths, carpenters, farmers. To meet upon To meet upon the level, to leave aristocratic privilege, prerogatives, titles, and snobbishness outside, was of the essence of Masonry, and ever was unanimously accepted as being such - the name "freemasonry" was almost anonymous with meeting upon the level. The 1717 Grand Lodge destroyed that ancient design Its Lodges could if they wished, shut the door on "the lower orders."The Earls of Moira. Grand Masters of the Ancient, were twitted by Modern Grand Officers because his Grand Secretary had been a house-painter.

This un-Masonic snobbishness, this denial of brotherliness, was the one great sin of the Moderns, and the one great justification of the Ancient; in comparison with that innovation, irregularities in ceremony were of secondary importance, for where there is no meeting on the level there is no Freemasonry. This social cleavage inside of the Fraternity came to the surface and stood out in bold relief on this side of the Atlantic during the American Revolutionary period, and explains why so many Modern Lodges failed or shifted allegiance, and why the Ancient (especially in New York and Pennsylvania) swept the field ; Modern Lodges here were on the whole Tory, Royalist, Loyalist, aristocratic, pro-British ;Ancient Lodges were democratic, pro-Patriotic, as open to blacksmiths as to Royal Governors.

7. Until a recent period Masons found their knowledge of Masonic history in the general histories, the majority of which were chiefly histories of Grand Lodges, and therefore were long generalizations of nation-wide or world-wide events as seen from a Grand Lodge point of view; with the publication of some 200 or so Minutes and Histories of the oldest British, American, Canadian, and West Indian Lodges it has become possible to know what Freemasonry was in actual practice, locality by locality, month by month, from 1751 to 1813.

NOTE. Since "Ancient" was at the time, and by both Grand Lodges, adopted as technically correct that spelling is here used. Bro. Clegg used "Ancient" on page 75; but see paragraph at top of the left-hand column on page 83. - The Earl who was Grand Master of the Ancient in 1760-5 is spelled Blessington on page 77; Blesinton on page 140. The family itself spelled the name in a dozen forms but in a document still extant, and signed by him in a bold hand, the Earl himself spelled it Blesinton. Gould's History of Freemasonry spells it Blesington.

In addition to being called "Ancient" the Grand Lodge of I751 was often called "Atholl"-Gould's book on the Ancient Lodges is entitled Atholl Lodges.

This name came into use because a Duke of Atholl was Grand Master over so many years: John, third Duke of Atholl, from 1771 to 1775 ; John fourth Duke of Atholl from 1775 to 1782 and again from 179I to 1813. In Canada, and, later, often in the American Colonies, the Ancient Body was called York Masonry.

In the 1903 edition of his A Consise History of Freemasonry [Gale & Polden; London], Robert Freke Gould heads his Chapter VII "The Great Schism in English Masonry" ; on page 343 he describes Ancient Masons as "the seceders"; the whole burden of the chapter is that the 1751 Grand Body was born of a rebellion against the lawful authority of the Grand Lodge of 1717, and was therefore irregular and schismatic. After Gould had written his long History of Freemasonry Satdler and Crawley made their discoveries of written records, etc., which showed for the first time what the facts had been, and which proved that the Ancient had been neither Seceders nor Schismatics ; Gould had access to these facts but when be came to write his Concise History he ignored them, and did so against the urgent protestations of his friends and colleagues. In the 1920's Fred J. M. Crowe issued a new and revised Edition of the Concise History, and in it deleted Gould's chapter on the Ancient and replaced it by one written by himself.

In a private letter he wrote that he had performed this labor of love not so much because a new edition of the book was demanded, as that English Masonic scholars felt themselves misrepresented by the position taken by their "premier historian."

It was therefore naturally expected that when he came to revise Gould's History of Freemasonry(in six volumes ; Scribners; 1936) Bro. Dudley Wright would, like Crowe, make sure to revise completely Gould's chapter on the Ancient; for some reason which has not been explained he did not do so. Chapter IV, Vol. II, page 145, begins : "The Minutes of that Schismatic body," etc. This failure in revision is regrettable to American readers because the Revised History elsewhere makes it clear that more than half of early American Masonry (before 1781) was derived from Ancient sources.

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