more on ancient landmarks
Published in Masonic Bulletin,
BCY, October 1940
"Ancient Charges, Regulations and Landmarks" are
familiar words. What is called "Anderson's Constitution of 1723" contains both
the "Charges of a Freemason" and "General Regulations". It is noteworthy that
the 39th regulation declares, "Every Annual Grand Lodge has an inherent Power
and Authority to make new Regulations or to alter these, for the real benefit of
this ancient Fraternity; Provided always that the old Landmarks be carefully
In this document we have the first known use of the word "Landmarks" in
connection with Freemasonry. Note that a clear distinction is made between
Regulations and Landmarks. Moreover, the Regulations in Anderson's
"Constitutions" are described as "compiled first by George Payne Anno 1720, when
he was Grand Master and approved by the Grand Lodge on St.John Baptist's Day
Anno 1721." They are styled "General Regulations" and it seems to be the
practice to use this designation for these and all Regulations enacted before
The designation "Local Regulations" is used for all regulations enacted since
1721 by the Grand Lodge of England or other Grand Lodges elsewhere.
Under the name "Ancient Charges" Haywood and Craig include those "curious
documents which are variously known as the Old Charges, the Ancient
Constitutions, The Ancient Manuscripts, the Gothic Manuscripts and the Legend of
the Craft." These documents are of great historical importance and "Illuminate
the state of the Masonic Craft as it was in the operative days revealing what
the ancient brethren believed about their Fraternity, illustrating their customs
and practices and showing forth something of the purposes which animates them."
A total of 98 document of this class has been enumerated by R.H. Baxter in 1918.
In his little book 'Landmarks of Freemasonry," Silas H. Shepherd prints several
of these ancient Manuscript, viz: The Regius Poem generally dated about 1390.
The New Articles of 1663.
The Charges of a Freemason and General Regulations (Anderson's "Book of
Constitutions" of 1723.
Harlein Mss. of 1670.
The Antiquity Mss. of 1686.
Haywood and Craig in their "History of Freemasonry" also give extensive excerpts
of York Roll No. 1, which is said to date about 1600.
When we come to Landmarks we confront the distinction between written and
unwritten laws, between "leges scriptae and leges non scriptae." Charges and
Regulations are written. Landmarks are for the most part unwritten.
The Grand Lodge of England has never attempted to define or enumerate the
Landmarks. In 1859, Brother Albert G. Mackey published a list of twenty-five
Landmarks. Others have followed him in this endeavour. Brother Mackey's list has
been the subject of much discussion. It has proved, however, a most informative
summary land is held in very high regard. Several Grand Jurisdictions have
adopted summaries of the Landmarks.
As comments the following, quoted by Shepherd, are to the point: (1) "We assume
those principles of action to be Landmarks which have existed from time
immemorial, whether in the written or unwritten law; which are identified with
the form and essence of the society; which, the great majority agree, cannot be
changed, and which every Mason is bound to maintain intact, under the most
solemn and inviolable sanction:
-John W. Simson, "Principles of Masonic Jurisprudence"
(2) "The very definition of Landmarks shows that an enumeration of them is
scarcely possible. All we can know is that it is a law or custom that has
existed from time immemorial. If any universal usage exist, and has existed so
long that its origin is unknown, it is a Landmark."
- Josiah Drummond "Maine Masonic Text Book"
It is no detriment to the study of Landmarks that an exact list should never be
adopted. To our minds, the analogy most naturally suggested is that of the
British Constitution. It has never been written.It is fairly safe to say it
never will be. Yet it is very real and its operation is unmistakable.
Our study of the Landmarks will always lead us to a deeper and truer
interpretation of the fundamental principles, the genuine tenets, and the living
spirit of our ancient institution.
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