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Ancient or Ancient or Atholl Freemasons

In 1751 some Irish Freemasons in London established a body which they called the "Grand Lodge of England according to the Old Institutions," and they styled themselves Ancient and the members of the regular Grand Lodge, established in 1717, Moderns. Thus Dermott, in his Ahiman Rezon, divides the Freemasons of England into two classes, as follows: "The Ancient, under the name of Free and Accepted Masons, according to the old Institutions ; the Moderns, under the name of Freemasons of England.

And though a similarity of names, yet they differ exceedingly in makings, ceremonies, knowledge, Masonic language, and installations; so much, that they always have been, and still continue to be, two distinct societies, totally independent of each other" (see the seventh edition, page xxx).

The Ancient maintained that they alone preserved the ancient tenets and practices of Freemasonry, and that the regular Lodges had altered the Landmarks and made innovations, as they undoubtedly had done about the year 1730, when Prichard's book entitled Masonry Dissected appeared.

For a long time it was supposed that the Ancient were a schismatic body of seceders from the Premier Grand Lodge of England, but Brother Heary Sadler, in his Masonic Facts and Fictions, has proved that this view is erroneous, and that they were really Irish Freemasons who settled in London.

In the year 1756, Laurence Dermott, then Grand Secretary, and subsequently the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient, published a Book of Constitutions for the use of the Ancient Freemasons, under the title of Ahiman Rezon, which work went through several editions. This became the code of Masonic law for all who adhered, either in England or America, to the Grand Lodge of the Ancient, while the Grand Lodge of the Moderns, or the regular Grand Lodge of England, and its adherents, were governed by the regulations contained in Anderson's Constitutions, the first edition of which had been published in 1723.

The dissensions between the two Grand Lodges of England lasted until the year 1813, when, as will be hereafter seen, the two Bodies became consolidated under the name and title of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England. Four years afterward a similar and final reconciliation took place in America, by the union of the two Grand Lodges in South Carolina. At this day all distinction between the Ancient and Moderns has ceased, and it lives only in the memory of the Masonic student.

What were the precise differences in the rituals of the Ancient and the Moderns, it is now perhaps impossible to discover, as from their esoteric nature they were only orally communicated. But some shrewd and near approximations to their real nature may be drawn by inference from the casual expressions which have fallen from the advocates of each body in the course of their long and generally bitter controversies.

Already has it been said that the regular Grand Lodge is stated to have made certain changes in the modes of recognition, in consequence of the publication of Samuel Prichard's spurious revelation. These changes were, as we traditionally learn, a simple transposition of certain words, by which that which had originally been the first became the second, and that which had been the second became the first. Hence Doctor Dalcho, the compiler of the original Ahiman Rezon of South Carolina, who was himself made in an Ancient Lodge, but was acquainted with both systems, says, in the edition of 1822 (page193), "The real difference in point of importance was no greater than it would be to dispute whether the glove should be placed first upon the right or on the left. "

A similar testimony as to the character of these changes is furnished by an address to the Duke of Atholl, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, in which it is said: "I would beg leave to ask, whether two persons standing in the Guildhall of London, the one facing the statues of Gog and Magog, and the other with his back turned on them, could, with any degree of propriety, quarrel about their stations ; as Gog must be on the right of one, and Magog on the right of the other. Such then, and far more insignificant, is the disputatious temper of the seceding Brethren, that on no better grounds than the above they choose to usurp a power and to aid in open and direct violation of the regulations they had solemnly engaged to maintain, and by every artifice possible to be devised endeavored to increase their numbers."

It was undoubtedly to the relative situation of the pillars of the porch, and the appropriation of their names in the ritual, that these innuendoes referred. As we have them now, they were made by the change effected by the Grand Lodge of Moderns, which transposed the original order in which they existed before the change, and in which order they are still preserved by the continental Lodges of Europe. Admitted as it is that the Modems did make innovations in the ritual; and although Preston asserts that the changes were made by the regular Grand Lodge to distinguish its members from those made by the Ancient Lodges, it is evident, from the language of the address just quoted, that the innovations were the cause and not the effect of the schism. The inferential evidence is that the changes were made in consequence of, and as a safeguard against, spurious publications, and were intended, as has already been stated, to distinguish impostors from true Freemasons, and not schismatic or irregular Brethren from those who were orthodox and regular.

But outside of and beyond this transposition of words, there was another difference existing between the Ancient and the Moderns. Dalcho, who was acquainted with both systems, says that the Ancient Freemasons were in possession of marks of recognition known only to themselves. His language on this subject is positive.

"The Ancient York Masons," he says, "were certainly in possession of the original, universal marks, as they were known and given in the Lodges they had left, and which had descended through the Lodge of York, and that of England, down to their day. Besides these, we find they had peculiar marks of their own, which were unknown to the Body from which they had separated, and were unknown to the rest of the Masonic world. We have then, the evidence that they had two sets of marks; namely: those which they had brought with them from the original Body, and those which they had, we must suppose, themselves devised" (see page 192 of Doctor Dalcho's Ahiman Rezon).

Dermott, in his Ahiman Rezon, confirms this statement of Dalcho, if, indeed, it needs confirmation. He says that "a modern Mason may with safety communicate all his secrets to an Ancient Mason, but that an Ancient Mason cannot, with like safety, communicate all his secrets to a Modem Mason without further ceremony." He assigns as a reason for this, that "as a science comprehends an art (though an art cannot comprehend a science), even so Ancient Masonry contains everything valuable among the Moderns, as well as many other things that cannot be revealed without additional ceremonies."

Now, what were these "other things" known by the Ancient, and not known by the Moderns? What were these distinctive marks, which precluded the latter from visiting the Lodges of the former? Written history is of course silent as to these esoteric matters. But tradition, confirmed by, and at the same time explaining, the hints and casual intimations of contemporary writers, leads us to the almost irresistible inference that they were to be found in the different constructions of the Third, or Master's Degree, and the introduction into it of the Royal Arch element. For, as Doctor Oliver, in his History of the English Royal Arch ( page 21), says, ''The division of the Third Degree and the fabrication of the English Royal Arch appear, on their own showing, to have been the work of the Ancient." Hence the Grand Secretary' of the regular Grand Lodge, or that of the Moderns, replying to the application of an Ancient Freemason from Ireland for relief, says: "Our society (that is, the Moderns) is neither ,Arch, Royal Arch, nor Ancient, so that you have no right to partake of our charity."

This, then, is the solution of the difficulty. The Ancient, besides preserving the regular order of the words in the First and Second Degrees, which the Moderns had transposed (a transposition which has been retained in the Lodges of Britain and America, but which has never been observed by the continental Lodges of Europe, who continue the usage of the Ancient), also finished the otherwise imperfect Third Degree with its natural complement, the Royal Arch, a complement with which the Moderns were unacquainted, or which they, if they knew it once, had lost. The following is a list of the Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Ancient from its organization to its dissolution: 1753, Robert Turner; 1754-5, Edward Voughan; 1756-9, Earl of Blessington; 1760-5, Earl of Kelly; 1766-70, The Hon. Thomas Matthew; 1771-4, third Duke of Atholl; 1775-81, fourth Duke of Atholl; 1782-90, Earl of Antrim; 1791-1813, fourth Duke of Atholl; 1813, Duke of Kent, under whom the two Grand Lodges were united.

The Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons was, shortly after its organization, recognized by the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland. Through the ability and energy of its officers, but especially Laurence Dermott, at one time its Grand Secretary, and afterward its Deputy Grand Master, and the author of its Ahiman Rezon, or Book of Constitutions, it extended its influence and authority into foreign countries and into the British Colonies of America, where it became exceedingly popular. Here it organized several Provincial Grand Lodges, as, for instance, in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina, where the Lodges working under this authority were generally known as Ancient York Lodges.

In consequence of this, dissensions existed, not only in the mother country, but also in America, for many years, between the Lodges which derived their warrants from the Grand Lodge of Ancient and those which derived theirs from the regular or so-called Grand Lodge of Modems. But the Duke of Kent having been elected, in 1813, the Grand Master of the Ancient, while his brother, the Duke of Sussex, was Grand Master of the Moderns, a permanent reconciliation was effected between the rival Bodies, and by mutual compromises the present United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England was established.

Similar unions were consummated in America, the last being that of the two Grand Lodges of South Carolina, in 1817, and the distinction between the Ancient and the Modems was forever abolished, or remains only as a melancholy page in the history of Masonic controversies. From their connection with the Dukes of Atholl, the Ancient Freemasons are sometimes known as Atholl Freemasons. The word is also spelled Athol and Athole

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