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INTRODUCTION TO ANDERSON CONSTITUTION OF 1723
by Bro. Lionel Vibert
The Grand Lodge that was brought into existence in 1717 did not find it necessary to possess a Constitution of its own for some years. Exactly what went on between 1717 and 1721 we do not know; almost our only authority being the account given by Anderson in 1738 which is unreliable in many particulars. Indeed it cannot be stated with certainty whether there were any more than the original Four Old Lodges until 1721; it would appear from the Lists and other records we possess that the first lodge to join them did not do so till July of that year; the statements as to the number of new lodges in each year given by Anderson are not capable of verification. It was also in the year 1721 that the Duke of Montagu was made Grand Master on 24th June, having probably joined the Craft just previously. The effect of his becoming Grand Master, a fact advertised in the dally press of the period, was that the Craft leapt into popularity, its numbers increased, and new lodges were rapidly constituted. Even now it was not anticipated that the Grand Lodge would extend the scope of its activities beyond London and Westminster, but Grand Master Payne, possibly anticipating the stimulus that would be provided by the accession to the Craft of the Duke, had got ready a set of General Regulations, and these were read over on the occasion of his installation. Unfortunately we do not possess the original text of them but have only the version as revised and expanded by Anderson. But we can understand that in a very short time it would be found necessary for these regulations to be printed and published to the Craft. Their publication was undertaken by Anderson, who took the opportunity to write a history of the Craft as an introduction, and to prepare a set of Charges; his intention clearly being to give the new body a work which would in every respect replace the Old Manuscript Constitutions. The work consists of a dedication written by Desaguliers and addressed to Montagu as late Grand Master; a Historical introduction; a set of six Charges; Payne's Regulations revised; the manner of constituting a new lodge; and songs for the Master, Wardens, Fellow Craft and Entered Apprentice, of which the last is well known in this country (England) and is still sung today in many lodges. There is also an elaborate frontispiece. The work was published by J. Senex and J. Hooke, on 28th February, 1722-3, that is to say 1722 according to the official or civil reckoning, but 1723 by the so-called New Style, the popular way of reckoning. (It did not become the official style till the reform of the calender in 1752.) The title page bears the date 1723 simply.
Dr. Anderson was born in Aberdeen, and was a Master of Arts of the Marischal College in that city. He was in London in 1710 and was minister of a Presbyterian Chapel in Swallow Street, Piccaldilly, till 1734. He was also chaplain to the Earl of Buchan, and as the Earl was a representative peer for Scotland from 1714-1734, it was probably during these years that he maintained a London establishment. We do not know that the Earl was a Mason, although his sons were. When Anderson was initiated we do not know either; but it may have been in the Aberdeen Lodge. There is a remarkable similarity between his entry in the Constitutions of his name as "Master of a Lodge and Author of this Book," and in entry in the Aberdeen Mark Book, of "James Anderson, Glazier and Mason and Writer of this Book." This was in 1670 and this James Anderson is no doubt another person. It just happens most unfortunately that the minutes for the precise period during which we might expect to find our author are missing. In any case he was familiar with the Scottish terminology which he no doubt had some share in introducing into English Freemasonry.
Nor can it be stated with confidence when he joined the Craft in London. He was Master of a lodge in 1722, a lodge not as yet identified, but there is no record of his having had anything to do with Grand Lodge prior to the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Montagu. He was not even present at the Duke's installation; at all events Stukeley does not name him as being there. He himself, in his version of the minutes, introduces his own name for the first time at the next meeting.
HOW HE CAME TO WRITE THE WORK
His own account of the work, as given in 1738, is that he was ordered to digest the Old Gothic Constitutions in a new and better method by Montagu on 29th September, 1721, that on 27th December, Montagu appointed fourteen learned brothers to examine the MS., and that after they had approved it was ordered to be printed on 25th March, 1722. He goes on to say that it was produced in print for the approval of Grand Lodge on 17th January, 1722-3, when Grand Master Wharton's manner of constituting a lodge was added. In the book itself are printed a formal Approbation by Grand Lodge and the Masters and Wardens of twenty lodges (with the exception of two Masters), which is undated, and also a copy of a resolution of the Quarterly Communication of 17th January, 1722-3, directing the publication and recommending it to the Craft.
With regard to the committee of fourteen learned brethren and the three occasions on which the book is alleged to have been considered in Grand Lodge, the Approbation itself states that the author first submitted his text for the perusal of the late and present Deputy Grand Master's and of other learned brethren and also the Masters of lodges, and then delivered it to Grand Master Montagu, who by the advice of several brethren ordered the same to be handsomely printed, This is not quite the same thing.
And it is to be noted that in 1735 Anderson appeared before Grand Lodge to protest against the doings of one Smith who had pirated the Constitutions which were his sole property. His account of this incident in the 1738 edition suppresses this interesting circumstance. Further it is very clear from the Grand Lodge minutes that the appearance of the book caused a good deal of dissension in Grand Lodge itself, and it brought the Craft into ridicule from outside; in particular Anderson's re-writing of Payne's Regulations was taken exception to. Anderson himself did not appear again in Grand Lodge for nearly eight years.
The true state of the case appears to be that Anderson undertook to write the work as a private venture of his own and that this was sanctioned, since it was desirable that the Regulations at least published, without any very careful examination of his text, or of so much of it as was ready, and that when it was published it was discovered, but too late, that he had taken what were felt by many to be unwarrantable liberties not only with the traditional Charges but also with Payne's Regulations.
THE BOOK IS ANALYZED
In using the term Constitutions he was following the phraseology of several of the versions of the Old Charges, and in fact the word occurs (in Latin) in the Regius, though Anderson never saw that. It was apparently traditional in the Craft. The contents of the work itself indicate that the various portions were put together at different dates and Anderson tells us it was not all in print during Montagu's term of office.
Taking the Approbation first, this is signed by officers of twenty lodges; the Master and both Wardens have all signed in all but two. In those, numbers eight and ten, the place for the Master's signature is blank. Mr. Mathew Birkhead is shown as Master of number five; and he died on the 30th December, 1722. Accordingly the Approbation must be of an earlier date and of the twenty lodges we know that number nineteen was constituted on 25th November, 1722, and number twenty if, as is probable, it is of later date, will have been constituted possibly on the same day but more probably a few days later. Thus we can date the Approbation within narrow limits. In his 1738 edition Anderson gives a series of the numbers of lodges on the roll of Grand Lodge at different dates which cannot be checked from any independent source, and he suggests that on 25th March, 1722, there were already at least twenty-four lodges in existence because he asserts that representatives of twenty-four paid their homage to the Grand Master on that date; and that those of twenty-five did so on 17th January, 1722-3. Because of Anderson's assertion as to twenty-four lodges some writers have speculated as to the lodges the officers of which omitted to sign or which were ignored by the author. But the truth probably is that these lodges - if they existed at all - were simply not represented at the meeting.
The Approbation is signed by Wharton as Grand Master, Desaguliers as Deputy, and Timson and Hawkins as Grand Wardens. According to the story as told by Anderson in 1738 Wharton got himself elected Grand Master irregularly on 24th June, 1722, when he appointed these brethren as his Wardens but omitted to appoint a Deputy. On 17th January, 1722-3, the Duke of Montagu, "to heal the breach," had Wharton proclaimed Grand Master and he then appointed Desaguliers as his Deputy and Timson and Anderson, (not Hawkins,) Wardens and Anderson adds that his appointment was made for Hawkins demitted as always out of town. If this story could be accepted the Approbation was signed by three officers who were never in office simultaneously, since when Desaguliers came in Hawkins had already demitted. This by itself would throw no small doubt on Anderson's later narrative, but in fact we know that his whole story as to Wharton is a tissue of fabrication. The daily papers of the period prove that the Duke of Wharton was in fact installed on 25th June, and he then appointed Desaguliers as his Deput and Timson and Hawkins as his Wardens. It is unfortunate that Anderson overlooked that his very date, 24th June, was impossible as it was a Sunday, a day expressly prohibited by Payne's Regulations for meetings of Grand Lodge. There are indications of some disagreement; apparently some brethren wished Montagu to continue, but in fact Wharton went in the regular course; the list of Grand Lodge officers in the minute book of Grand Lodge shows him as Grand Master in 1722. And that Hawkins demitted is merely Anderson's allegation. In this same list he appears as Grand Warden, but Anderson himself has written the words (which he is careful to reproduce in 1738): "Who demitted and James Anderson A.M. was chosen in his place;" vide the photographic reproduction of the entry at page 196 of Quatuor, Coronatorum Antigrapha Vol. X; while in the very first recorded minute of Grand Lodge, that of 24th June, 1723, the entry as to Grand Wardens originally stood: Joshua Timson and the Reverend Mr. James Anderson who officiated for Mr. William Hawkins. But these last six words have been carefully erased, vide the photo reproduction at page 48 Quatuor Corontorum Antigrapha VOL X, which brings them to light again. Hawkins then was still the Grand Warden in June 1723, and on that occasion Anderson officiated for him at the January meeting. The explanation of the whole business appears to be that Anderson in 1738 was not anxious to emphasize his associated with Wharton, who after his term of office as Grand Master proved a renegade and Jacobite and an enemy to the Craft. He had died in Spain in 1731. For the Book of Constitutions of 1738 there is a new Approbation altogether.
But we have not yet done with this Approbation for the further question arises, At what meeting of Grand Lodge was it drawn up? The license to publish refers to a meeting of 17th January, 1722-23, and that there was such a meeting is implied by the reference to this document in the official minutes of June, when the accuracy of this part of it is not impugned. But this Approbation was as we have seen drawn up between the end of November and the end of December, 1722, and between these limits an earlier date, is more probable than a later. No such meeting is mentioned by Anderson himself in 1738. But the explanation of this no doubt is that he now has his tale of the proclamation of Wharton at that meeting on 17th January, and any references to a meeting of a month or so earlier presided over by that nobleman would stultify the narrative. It is probable that a meeting was in fact held, and that its occurrence was suppressed by Anderson when he came to publish his narrative of the doings of Grand Lodge fifteen years later. The alternative would be that the whole document was unauthorized, but so impudent an imposture could never have escaped contemporary criticism. Truly the ways of the deceiver are hard.
THE FRONTISPIECE IS DESCRIBED
The Frontispiece to the Constitutions of 1723, which was used over again without alteration in 1738, represents a classical arcade in the foreground of which stand two noble personages, each attended by three others of whom one of those on the spectator's left carries cloaks and pairs of gloves. The principal personages can hardly be intended for any others than Montagu and Wharton; and Montagu is wearing the robes of the Garter, and is handing his successor a roll of the Constitutions, not a book. This may be intended for Anderson's as yet unprinted manuscript, or, more likely it indicates that a version of the Old Constitutions was regarded at the time as part of the Grand Master's equipment, which would be a survival of Operative practice. Behind each Grand Master stand their officers, Beal, Villeneau, and Morris on one side, and on the other Desaguliers, Timson, and Hawkins, Desaguliers as a clergyman and the other two in ordinary dress, and evidently an attempt has been made in each case to give actual portraits. It is unnecessary to suppose, as we would have to if we accepted Anderson's story, that this plate was designed, drawn, and printed in the short interval between 17th January and 28th February. It might obviously have been prepared at any time after June 25, 1722. By it Anderson is once more contradicted, because here is Hawkins - or at all events someone in ordinary clothes - as Grand Warden, and not the Reverend James Anderson, as should be the case if Wharton was not Grand Master till January and then replaced the absent Hawkins by the Doctor. The only other plate in the book is an elaborate illustration of the arms of the Duke of Montagu which stands at the head of the first page of the dedication.
We can date the historical portion of the work from the circumstance that it ends with the words: "our present worthy Grand Master, the most noble Prince John, Duke of Montagu." We can be fairly certain that Anderson's emendations of Payne's Regulations were in part made after the incidents of Wharton's election because they contain elaborate provisions for the possible continuance of the Grand Master and the nomination or election of his successor and in the charges again, there is a reference to the Regulations hereunto annexed. But beyond this internal evidence, (and that of the Approbation and sanction to publish already referred to), the only guide we have to the dates of printing the various sections of the work is the manner in which the printers' catch words occur. The absence of a catch word is not proof that the sections were printed at different times because it might be omitted if, e. g., it would spoil the appearance of a tail-piece; but the occurrence of a catch word is a very strong indication that the sections it links were printed together. Now in the Constitution of 1723 they occur as follows: from the dedication to the history, none; from the history to the Charges, catch word; from the Charges to a Postscript 'put in here to fill a page', catch word; from this to the Regulations, none; from the Regulations to the method of constituting a New Lodge, catch word; from this to the Approbation, none; from the Approbation to the final section, the songs, none; and none from here to the license to publish on the last page.
Accordingly we may now date the several portions of the work with some degree of certainty. The times are as follows:
Of these sections the plate and Approbation have already been dealt with. The dedication calls for no special notice; it is an extravagant eulogy of the accuracy and diligence of the author. The songs are of little interest except the familiar Apprentice's Song, and this is now described as by our late Brother Matthew Birkhead.
THE HISTORICAL PORTION
This requires a somewhat extended notice. The legendary history, as it is perhaps not necessary to remind my readers, brought Masonry or Geometry from the children of Lamech to Solomon; then jumped to France and Charles Martel; and then by St. Alban, Athelstan and Edwin, this worthy Craft was established in England. In the Spencer family of MSS. an attempt has been made to fill in the obvious gaps in this narrative by introducing the second and third temples, those of Zerubbabel and Herod, and Auviragus king of Britain as a link with Rome, France and Charles Martel being dropped, while a series of monarchs has also been introduced between St. Alban's paynim king and Atheistan. Anderson's design was wholly different. He was obsessed by the idea of the perfection of the Roman architecture, what he called the Augustan Style, and he took the attitude that the then recent introduction of Renaissance architecture into England as a return to a model from which Gothic had been merely a barbarous lapse. He traces the Art from Cain who built a city, and who was instructed in Geometry by Adam. Here he is no doubt merely bettering his originals which were content with the sons of Lamech. The assertion shows a total want of any sense of humour, but then so do all his contributions to history. But it is worth while pointing out that it suggests more than this; it suggests that he had an entire lack of acquaintance with the polite literature of the period. No well-read person of the day would be unacquainted with the writings of Abraham Cowley, the poet and essayist of the Restoration, and the opening sentence of his Essay of Agriculture is: "The three first men in the world were a gardener, a ploughman and a grazier; and if any man object that the second of these was a murderer, I desire he would consider that as soon as he was so he quitted our profession, and turned builder." It is difficult to imagine that Anderson would have claimed Cain as the first Mason if he had been familiar with this passage.
From this point he develops the history in his own fashion, but he incorporates freely and with an entire disregard for textual accuracy any passages in the Old Charges that suit him and he has actually used the Cooke Text, as also some text closely allied to the William Watson. We know the Cooke was available to him; we learn from Stukeley that it had been produced in Grand Lodge on 24 June, 1721. Anderson, in 1738, omits all reference to this incident, but asserts that in 1718 Payne desired the brethren to bring to Grand Lodge any old writings and records, and that several copies of the Gothic Constitutions (as he calls them) were produced and collated. He also alleges that in 1720 several valuable manuscripts concerning the Craft were too hastily burnt by some scrupulous brethren. The former of these statements we should receive with caution; for the very reason that the 1723 Constitutions show no traces of such texts; the latter may be true and the manuscripts may have been rituals, or they may have been versions of the Old Charges, but there was nothing secret about those. The antiquary Plot had already printed long extracts from them.
Returning to the narrative we are told that Noah and his sons were Masons, which is a statement for which Anderson found no warrant in his originals; but he seems to have had a peculiar fondness for Noah. In 1738 he speaks of Masons as true Noachidae, alleging this to have been their first name according to some old traditions, and it is interesting to observe that the Irish Constitutions of 1858 preserve this fragment of scholarship and assert as a fact that Noachidae was the first name of Masons. Anderson also speaks of the three great articles of Noah, which are not however further elucidated, but it is probable that the reference is to the familiar triad of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. He omits Abraham and introduces Euclid in his proper chronological sequence, so that he has corrected the old histories to that extent; but after Solomon and the second Temple he goes to Greece, Sicily and Rome, where was perfected the glorious Augustan Style. He introduces Charles Martel - as King of France! - as helping England to recover the true art after the Saxon invasion, but ignores Athelstan and Edwin.
He however introduces most of the monarchs after the Conquest and makes a very special reference to Scotland and the Stuarts. In the concluding passage he used the phrase "the whole body resembles a well built Arch" and it has been suggested, not very convincingly perhaps, that this is an allusion to the Royal Arch Degree.
There is an elaborate account of Zerubbabel's temple which may have some such significance, and the Tabernacle of Moses, Aholiab and Bezaleel is also mentioned at some length, Moses indeed being a Grand Master. He also inserts for no apparent reason a long note on the words Hiram Abiff, and in this case the suggestion that there is a motive for his doing so connected with ritual is of more cogency. It is an obvious suggestion that the name was of importance to the Craft at this date, that is to say early in 1722, and that the correctness of treating Abiff as a surname instead of as equivalent to his "father" was a matter the Craft were taking an interest in.
THE SIX CHARGES
The Charges, of which there are six, are alleged to be extracted from ancient records of lodges beyond Sea, and of those in England, Scotland and Ireland. In the Approbation the assertion is that he has examined several copies from Italy and Scotland and sundry parts of England. Were it not that he now omits Ireland altogether we might nave been disposed to attach some importance to the former statement. As yet no Irish version of the Old Charges has come to light but it is barely possible that there were records of Irish Freemasonry at the time which have since passed out of sight, a Freemasonry no doubt derived originally from England. But the discrepancy is fatal; we must conclude that the worthy doctor never saw any Irish record. And we can safely dismiss his lodges in Italy or beyond Sea as equally mythical.
Of the six Charges themselves the first caused trouble immediately on its appearance. It replaced the old invocation of the Trinity and whatever else there may have been of statements of religious and Christian belief in the practice of the lodges by a vague statement that we are only to be obliged to that religion in which all men agree. Complete religious tolerance has in fact become the rule of our Craft, but the Grand Lodge of 1723 was not ready for so sudden a change and it caused much ill feeling and possibly many secessions. It was the basis of a series of attacks on the new Grand Lodge.
CONSTITUTING A NEW LODGE
The manner of constituting a New Lodge is noteworthy for its reference to the "Charges of a Master," and the question, familiar to us today: Do you submit to these charges as Masters have done in all ages? It does not appear that these are the six ancient Charges of a previous section; they were something quite distinct. But not until 1777 are any Charges of the Master known to have been printed. It is also worthy of notice that the officers to be appointed Wardens of the new lodge are Fellow Crafts. There is also a reference to the Charges to the Wardens which are to be given by a Grand Warden. This section appeared in the Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge as late as 1873.
Anderson in 1738 alleges that he was directed to add this section to the work at the meeting of January 17 and he then speaks of it as the ancient manner of constituting a lodge. This is also the title of the corresponding section in the 1738 Constitutions, which is only this enlarged. But its title in 1723 is: Here follows the Manner of constituting a NEW LODGE, as practised by His Grace the Duke of Wharton, the present Right Worshipful Grand Master, according to the ancient Usages of Masons. We once more see Anderson suppressing references to the Duke of Wharton where he can in 1738, and yet obliged to assert that the section was added after January 17th in order to be consistent in his story. It is not in the least likely that this is what was done. It was to all appearance printed at one and the same time with the Regulations, which he himself tells us were in print on 17th January, and since Wharton constituted four lodges if not more in 1722 he will not have waited six months to settle his method. We may be pretty certain that this section was in print before the Approbation to which it is not linked by a catch-word.
The Regulations, as I have already mentioned, have come down to us only as rewritten by Anderson. The official minutes of Grand Lodge throw considerable light on the matter. The first of all relates to the appointment of the Secretary, and the very next one is as follows:
The Order of the 17th January 1722-3 printed at the end of the Constitutions page 91 for the publishing the said Constitutions as read purporting, that they had been before approved in Manuscript by the Grand Lodge and were then (viz) 17th January aforesaid produced in print and approved by the Society.
Then the Question was moved, that the said General Regulations be confirmed, so far as they are consistent with the Ancient Rules of Masonry. The previous question was moved and put, whether the words "so far as they are consistent with the Ancient Rules of Masonry" be part of the Question. Resolved in the affirmative, But the main Question was not put.
And the Question was moved that it is not in the Power of any person, or Body of men, to make any alteration, or Innovation in the Body of Masonry without the consent first obtained of the Annual Grand Lodge. And the Question being put accordingly Resolved in the Affirmative.
We would record these proceedings today in somewhat different form, perhaps as follows:
It was proposed (and seconded) that the said General Regulations be confirmed so far as they are consistent with the Ancient Rules of Masonry. An amendment to omit the words "so far ... Masonry" was negatived. But in place of the original proposition the following resolution was adopted by a majority: That it is not, etc.
The effect of this is that it indicates pretty clearly that there was a strong feeling in Grand Lodge that Anderson's version of the Regulations had never been confirmed; that there was a difference of opinion as to now confirming them, even partially; and that in fact this was not done, but a resolution was adopted instead condemning alterations made without the consent of Grand Lodge at its annual meeting first obtained. I should perhaps say that the word "purporting" does not here have the meaning we would today attach to it; it has no sense of misrepresentation. Anderson was present at this meeting, but naturally not a word of all this appears in the account he gives of it in 1738.
Regulation XIII, or one sentence in it rather, "Apprentices must be admitted Masters and Fellow Craft only here, (i.e. in Grand Lodge) unless by a Dispensation," was at one time the battle ground of the Two Degree versus Three Degree schools; but it is generally admitted now, I believe, that only two degrees are referred to, namely the admission and the Master's Part.
The order of the words is significant. In the Regulation they read "Masters and Fellow Craft." In the resolution of 27 November, 1725 by which the rule was annulled, the wording is "Master" in the official minutes, which is a strong indication that the original Regulation only referred to one degree. In 1738 Anderson deliberately alters what is set out as the original wording and makes it read "Fellow Crafts and Masters," while in the new Regulation printed alongside of it the alteration of 27 November, 1725, is quoted as "Masters and Fellows" both being inaccurate; and he even gives the date wrongly.
The second Regulation enacts that the Master of a particular lodge has the right of congregating the members of his lodge into a chapter upon any emergency as well as to appoint the time and place of their usual forming. But it would be quite unsafe to assume that this is another reference to the Royal Arch; it appears to deal with what we would now call an emergent meeting.
Payne's, or rather Anderson's, Regulations were the foundation on which the law of the Craft was based, it being developed by a continual process of emendation and addition, and their phraseology can still be traced in our English Constitutions today.
In America Franklin reprinted this work in 1734 apparently verbatim. In 1738 Anderson brought out a second addition which was intended to replace the earlier one altogether, but it was a slovenly performance and the Regulations were printed in so confused a manner, being all mixed up with notes and amendments (many inaccurately stated), that it was difficult to make head or tail of them and to ascertain what was the law of the Craft. He also re-wrote the history entirely and greatly expanded it, introducing so many absurdities that Gould has suggested that he was deliberately fooling the Grand Lodge, or in the alternative that he was himself in his dotage. He died very shortly after. But this same ridiculous history has done duty in all seriousness till comparatively recent years, being brought up to date by Preston and others who were apparently quite unconscious of its true value. Unfortunately that portion of the history which professed to give an account of the proceedings of Grand Lodge and for which the official minutes were at Anderson's disposal is full of what one must consider wilful inaccuracies and misstatements.
In the next edition of the Constitutions, 1754, the Regulations were rewritten by Entick, but the history was preserved. Entick also reverted to the Charges as drawn up in 1723 into which, especially the first, Anderson had introduced various modifications in 1738, and those Charges are the basis of the Ancient Charges to be found today in the Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England, the only differences, except as regards the first Charge, not amounting to more than verbal modifications.
OUR DEBT TO ANDERSON
While as students we are bound to receive any statement that Anderson makes with the utmost caution unless it can be tested from other sources, we must not be too ready to abuse the worthy Doctor on that account. Our standards of historical and literary accuracy are higher than those of 1723, and his object was to glorify Montagu and the Craft and the new style of architecture introduced by Inigo Jones and others of his school; and this he did wholeheartedly, and if in the process he twisted a text or two or supplied suitable events to fill gaps in his narrative for which mere history as such had failed to record facts, no one at the time would think any the worse of him for that. It was a far more serious matter that he was instrumental in removing from the literature of the Craft all definite religious allusions; but as we now see, the Craft in fact owes its universality today to its wide undenominationalism and in this respect he builded better than he knew. The Constitutions of 1723 remains one of our most important texts and only awaits publication in full facsimile with suitable notes and introduction at the hands of some Society with the requisite funds.
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