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by Bro. Roscoe Pound
By landmarks in Freemasonry we are generally supposed to mean certain universal, unalterable and unrepealable fundamentals which have existed from time immemorial and are so thoroughly a part of Masonry that no Masonic authority may derogate from them or do aught but maintain them. Using constitution in the American political sense, as I said in the first lecture, they may be said to be the prescriptive constitution of Freemasonry.
Not long ago it was a general article of Masonic belief that there were such landmarks. The charge to the Master Mason taken by our American monitors from Preston's Illustrations, seemed to say so. The first and second charges to the master in the installation service (numbered 10 and 11 in Webb's version) — also taken from Preston's Illustrations — seemed to say so. The books on Masonic jurisprudence in ordinary use and Masonic cyclopedias told us not only that there were landmarks but exactly what the landmarks were in great detail. Probably any master of an American lodge of a generation ago, who was reasonably well posted, would have acquiesced in the confident dogmatism of Kipling's Junior Deacon, who "knowed the ancient landmarks" and "kep' 'em to a hair." Hence it may well shock many even now, to tell them that it is by no means certain that there are any landmarks at all—at least in the sense above defined.
For myself, I think there are such landmarks. But I must confess the question is not so clear as to go without argument in view of the case which has been made to the contrary. Accordingly I conceive that there are two questions which the student of Masonic jurisprudence must investigate and determine: (1) Are there landmarks at all; (2) if so, what are the landmarks of the Craft? And in this investigation, as I conceive, he will find his path made more straight if he attends carefully to the distinction between the landmarks and the common law of Masonry, which I attempted to explain in my former lecture.
It is well to approach the question whether there are landmarks historically. The first use of the term appears to have been in Payne's "General Regulations," published with Anderson's Constitutions of 1723. Payne was the second Grand Master after the revival of 1717. If entirely authentic, these regulations, coming from one who took a prominent part in the revival would be entitled to the very highest weight. But many believe that Anderson took some liberties with them, and if he did, of course to that extent the weight of the evidence is impaired. There is no proof of such interpolation or tampering—only a suspicion of it. Hence in accord with what seem to me valid principles of criticism, I must decline to follow those who will never accept a statement of Anderson's, credible in itself, without some corroboration, and shall accept Anderson's Constitutions on this point at their face value.
How then does Payne (or Anderson) use the term "landmark"? He says: "The Grand Lodge may make or alter regulations, provided the old landmarks be carefully preserved." It must be confessed this is not clear. Nearly all who have commented on the use of the term in Payne's Regulations, as reported by Anderson, have succeeded in so interpreting the text as to sustain their own views. Perhaps there could be no better proof that the text is thoroughly ambiguous. Three views as to what is meant seem to have support from the text.
One view is that Payne used the word landmark in the sense in which we now commonly understand it. This is consistent with the text and has in its favor the uniform belief of Masons of the last generation, the Prestonian charge to the Master Mason and the Prestonian installation ceremony. I should have added tradition, were I sure that the tradition could be shown to antedate the end of the eighteenth century, or indeed to be more than a result of the writings of Dr. Mackey, in combination with the charges just referred to. A second view is that Payne used the word landmark in the sense of the old traditional secrets of the operative Craft and hence that for use today the term can mean no more than a fundamental idea of secrecy. This interpretation is urged very plausibly by Bro. Hextall, P. Prov. G. M. of Derbyshire, in an excellent paper on the landmarks-entitled The Old Landmarks of the Craft-in the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, vol. 25, p. 91.
A third view is that Anderson, finding the term in Payne's Regulations, where the word was used in an operative sense-for Payne undoubtedly used operative manuscripts-used it without inquiry into its exact meaning, and without troubling himself as to how far it had a concrete meaning, and so made it available as a convenient and euphonious term to which others might attach a meaning subsequently as Masonic law developed. This last view, which eminent authorities now urge, is a fair specimen of the uncharitable manner in which it is fashionable among Masonic scholars to treat the father of Masonic history. But it should be said that such a phenomenon would have an exact counterpart in the law of the land under which we live. Historians are now telling us of the "myth of Magna Charta," and it is undoubtedly true that the immemorial rights and privileges of Englishmen which our fathers asserted at the Revolution were at least chiefly the work of Sir Edward Coke in the seventeenth century and that he succeeded in finding warrant therefor in what we have since regarded as the charters of civil liberty. Nevertheless Coke was right in finding in these charters the basis for a fundamental scheme of individual rights. And may we not say that Mackey was equally right in insisting upon a scheme of Masonic jural fundamentals and finding warrant therefor in his books in the references to the landmarks, even if Payne and Anderson were not very clear what they meant? Next we may inquire how the term has been used since Anderson's Constitutions.
In 1775 Preston, in his Illustrations of Masonry, clearly uses the word landmarks as synonymous with established usages and customs of the Craft-in other words as meaning what I have called Masonic common law. This is indicated by the context in several places. But it is shown conclusively by two passages in which he expressly brackets "ancient landmarks" with "established usages and customs of the order" as being synonymous. He does this in referring to the ritual of the Master Mason's degree, which in each case he says preserves these ancient landmarks. Preston's Illustrations of Masonry was expressly sanctioned by the Grand Lodge of England. Hence we have eighteenth- century warrant for contending that every thing which is enjoined in the Master Mason's obligation is a landmark. But, if this means landmark in the sense of merely an established custom, we are no better off. Perhaps one might argue that the Grand Lodge of England was more concerned with sanctioning the proposition that the Master's degree preserved ancient landmarks than with Preston's definition of a landmark! However this may be, it is manifest that here, as in the case of Anderson, there is very little basis for satisfactory argument.
Some further light is thrown on Preston's views by the charge to the Master Mason and the charges propounded to the Master at installation, as set forth in the Illustrations of Masonry. The former may well refer to the landmarks contained in the Master Mason's obligation. The proposition in the latter, however, suggests the idea of an unalterable prescriptive fundamental law. The Master-elect is required to promise to "strictly conform to every edict of the Grand Lodge or General Assembly of Masons that is not subversive of the principles and groundwork of Masonry." Also he is required to testify "that it is not in the power of any man or body of men to make alterations or innovations in the body of Masonry." These principles, this groundwork, this body of Masonry, whether we use the term landmarks or not, convey the very idea which has become familiar to us by that name.
The next mention of landmarks is in Ashe's Masonic Manual, published in 1813. But Ashe simply copies from Preston.
In 1819 the Duke of Suffolk, G. M. of England, issued a circular in which he said: "It was his opinion that so long as the Master of the lodge observed exactly the landmarks of the Craft he was at liberty to give the lectures in the language best suited to the character of the lodge over which he presided." The context here indicates clearly that he meant simply the authorized ritual.
Next we find the term used by Dr. George Oliver in a sermon before the Provincial Grand Lodge of Lincolnshire in 1820. In. this sermon Oliver tells us that our "ancient landmarks" have been handed down by oral tradition. But he does not suggest what they are nor does he tell us the nature of a landmark. Afterwards in 1846 Oliver published his well-known work in two large volumes entitled "Historical Landmarks of Freemasonry." One will look in vain to this book, however, for any suggestion of Dr. Oliver's views on the matter we are now discussing. The book is an account of the history of the Craft, and the word landmark in the title is obviously used only in the figurative sense of important occurrences-as the phrase "beaconlight," for example, is used in Lord's "Beacon Lights of History." Oliver does not use the term again till his Symbol of Glory, in 1850. In that book he asks the question: "What are the landmarks of Masonry, and to what do they refer"- in other words, the very thing we are now discussing. His answer is most disappointing. He begins by telling us that what landmarks are and what are landmarks "has never been clearly defined." He then explains that in his book, "Historical Landmarks," just spoken of, he is speaking only of "the landmarks of the lectures," and adds-obviously referring to the sense in which we are now using the term-that there are other landmarks in the ancient institution of Freemasonry which have remained untouched in that publication, and it is not unanimously agreed to what they may be confined.
Next (1856) occurred the publication of Dr. Mackey's epoch-making exposition of the term and his well- known formulation of twenty-five landmarks. I shall return to these in another connection. But it is interesting to see the effect of this upon Oliver. In 1863, in his Freemason's Treasury, Oliver classifies the "Genuine Landmarks of Freemasonry" into twelve classes, of which he enumerates some forty existing, and about a dozen others as obsolete (nota bene) or as spurious. But he admits that we "are grovelling in darkness" on the whole subject, and that "we have no actual criterion by which we may determine what is a landmark and what not." Nevertheless, Oliver's ideas were beginning to be fixed, as a result of Mackey's exposition, and it is significant that in 1862, Stephen Barton Wilson, a well-known English Masonic preceptor of that time, published an article in the Freemason's Magazine entitled "The Necessity of Maintaining the Ancient Landmarks of the Order" in which he takes landmarks to mean those laws of the Craft which are universal and irrevocable-the very sense which Mackey had adopted. After this, Mackey's definition of a landmark, his criteria of a landmark, and his exposition of the twenty-five landmarks obtained for a time universal acceptance. The whole was reprinted without comment in England in 1877 in Mackenzie's Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia. In 1878, Rev. Bro. Woodford, one of the best of the Masonic scholars of the time, questioned the details of Mackey's list, but without questioning his definition or his criteria. In the same way Lockwood. accepting the definition and the criteria, reduced Mackey's list of twenty-five to nineteen.
Presently Masonic scholars reopened the whole subject. Today three radically different views obtain. The first I should call the legal theory, the second the historical, theory, the third the philosophical theory. The legal theory accepts Mackey's idea of a body of universal unalterable fundamental principles which are at the foundation of all Masonic law. But the tendency has been to reduce Mackey's list very considerably, although two of our jurisdictions greatly extend it. Nine American Grand Lodges tell us that the old charges contain the ancient landmarks. Seven Grand Lodges have adopted statements of their own, varying from the seven of West Virginia and the noteworthy ten of New Jersey to the thirty-nine of Nevada and fifty-four of Kentucky. These declaratory enactments-exactly analogous to attempts to reduce the fundamental rights of man to chapter and verse in the bills of rights in American constitutions-are highly significant for the study of Masonic common law, and deserve to be examined critically by one who would know the received doctrines of the traditional element in the Masonic legal system. But since the admirable report in New Jersey in 1903 and the careful examination of Mackey's list by Bro. George F. Moore in his papers in the New Age in 1910-12, it is quite futile to contend for the elaborate formulations which are still so common. If, however, we distinguish between the landmarks and the common law, we may still believe that there are landmarks in Mackey's sense and may hope to formulate them so far as fundamental principles may be formulated in any organic institution.
The historical theory, proceeding upon the use of the word landmark in our books, denies that there is such a thing as the legal theory assumes. The skeptic says, first, that down to the appearance of Mackey's Masonic Jurisprudence "landmark" was a term floating about in Masonic writing without any definite meaning. It had come down from the operative Craft where it had meant trade secrets, and had been used loosely for "traditions" or for "authorized ritual" or for "significant historical occurrences," and Oliver had even talked of "obsolete landmarks." Second, he says, the definition of a landmark, the criteria of a landmark, and the fixed landmarks generally received in England and America from 1860 on, come from Mackey.
Granting the force of the skeptic's argument, however, it does not seem to me that the essential achievement of Mackey's book is overthrown. I have already shown that a notion of unalterable, fundamental principles and groundwork and of a "body of Masonry" beyond the reach of innovation can be traced from the revival to the present. This is the important point. To seize upon the term landmark, floating about in Masonic literature, and apply it to this fundamental law was a happy stroke. Even if landmark had meant many other things, there was warrant for this use in Payne's Regulations, the name was an apt one, and the institution was a reality in Masonry, whatever its name. The second theory seems to me to go too much upon the use of the word landmark and not enough upon the thing itself.
Under the influence of the second theory, and in a laudable desire to save a useful word, a philosophical theory has been urged which applies the term to a few fundamental ethical or philosophical or religious tenets which may he put at the basis of the Masonic institution. Thus, Bro. Newton in a note to the valuable paper of Bro. Shepherd in volume one of THE BUILDER, proposes as a statement of the landmarks: "The fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, the moral law, the Golden Rule, and the hope of a life everlasting." This is admirable of its kind. The Masonic lawyer, however, must call for some legal propositions. Either we have a fundamental law or we have not. If we have, whether it be called the landmarks or something else is no great matter. But the settled usage of England and America since Mackey wrote ought to be decisive so long as no other meaning of the term can make a better title.
Next then, let us take up Mackey's theory of the landmarks, and first his definition. He says the landmarks are "those ancient and universal customs of the order, which either gradually grew into operation as rules of action, or if at once enacted by any competent authority, were enacted at a period so remote that no account of their origin is to be found in the records of history. Both the enactors and the time of the enactment have passed away from the record, and the landmarks are therefore of higher authority than memory or history can reach." In reading this we must bear in mind that it was written in 1856, before the rise of modern Masonic history and before the rise of modern ideas in legal science in the United States. Hence it is influenced by certain uncritical ideas of Masonic history and by some ideas as to the making of customary law reminiscent of Hale's History of the Common Law, to which some lawyer may have directly or indirectly referred him. But we may reject these incidental points and the essential theory will remain unaffected -the theory of a body of immemorially recognized fundamentals which give to the Masonic order, if one may say so, its Masonic character, and may not be altered without taking away that character. It is true Mackey's list of landmarks goes beyond this. But it goes beyond his definition as he puts it; and the reason is to be found in his failure to distinguish between the landmarks and the common law.
Next Mackey lays down three requisites or characteristics of a landmark - (1) immemorial antiquity; (2) universality; (3) absolute irrevocability and immutability. He says; "It must have existed from time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. Its antiquity is an essential element. Were it possible for all the Masonic authorities at the present day to unite in one universal congress and with the most perfect unanimity to adopt any new regulation, although such regulation would while it remained unrepealed be obligatory on the whole Craft, yet it would not be a landmark. It would have the character of universality, it is true, but it would be wanting in that of antiquity." As to the third point, he says: "As the congress to which I have just alluded would not have the power to enact a landmark, so neither would it have the prerogative of abolishing one. The landmarks of the order, like the laws of the Medes and the Persians, can suffer no change. What they were centuries ago, they still remain and must so continue in force till Masonry itself shall cease to exist."
Let me pause here to suggest a point to the skeptics - for though I am not one of them, I think we must recognize the full force of their case. The point as to the regulation unanimously adopted by the universal Masonic congress is palpably taken from one of the stock illustrations of American law books. The legal futility of a petition of all the electors unanimously praying for a law counter to the constitution or of a resolution of a meeting of all the electors unanimously proclaiming such a law is a familiar proposition to the American constitutional lawyer. One cannot doubt that Mackey had in mind the analogy of our American legal and political institutions. Yet to show this by no means refutes Mackey's theory of a fundamental Masonic law. The idea of an unwritten fundamental law existing from time immemorial is characteristic of the Middle Ages and in another form prevailed in English thought at the time of the Masonic revival. To the Germanic peoples who came into western Europe and founded our modern states, the Roman idea of law as the will of the sovereign was wholly alien. They thought of law as something above human control, and of law-making as a search for the justice and truth of the Creator. In the words of Bracton, the king ruled under God and the law. To Coke in the seventeenth century even Parliament was under the law so that if it were to enact a statute "against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed" the common law would hold that statute void. In the reign of Henry VII the English Court of Common Pleas actually did hold a statute void which attempted to make the king a parson without the consent of the head of the church and thus interfered with the fundamental distinction between the spiritual and the temporal. In 1701, Lord Holt, Lord Chief Justice of England, repeated Coke's doctrine and asserted that there were limitations upon the power of Parliament founded on natural principles of right and justice. This idea took form in America in our bills of rights and our constitutional law. But it is not at all distinctively American. On the contrary the accidents of legal history preserved and developed the English medieval idea with us although it died in the eighteenth century at home. In the whole period of Masonry in England prior to the revival and in the formative period after the revival, this idea of an unwritten, immemorial fundamental law would have been accepted in any connection in which men spoke or thought of law at all.
When presently I come to the subject of Masonic common law I shall have to take up Mackey's twenty-five landmarks in detail. For I take it his list may still stand in its main lines as an exposition of our common law. But are there any of his twenty-five which we may fairly accept as landmarks? Perhaps it is presumptuous, after the labors of Lockwood, of Robbins, of the New Jersey committee, and of Moore to venture a formulation of the landmarks simply on my own authority. But the matter is too important to be allowed to rest in its present condition without some attempt to set off what is fundamental on the one hand and what is but established custom on the other hand. Moreover there is less disagreement at bottom than appears upon the surface. To a large extent the difficulties besetting this subject are due to reluctance on the one hand to reject established usages and on the other hand to admit those usages to the position of universality and unalterability involved in putting them in the category of landmarks. When, therefore, we recognize an important category of established customary law, not indeed wholly unalterable, but entitled to the highest respect and standing for the traditional element of our Masonic legal system, we are able at once to dispose of many subjects of controversy and to reduce the matter to a footing that eliminates the most serious features of disagreement.
For myself, I should recognize seven landmarks, which might be put summarily as follows: (1) Belief in God; (2) belief in the persistence of personality; (3) a "book of the law" as an indispensable part of the furniture of every lodge; (4) the legend of the third degree; (5) secrecy; (6) the symbolism of the operative art; and (7) that a Mason must be a man, free born, and of age. Two more might be added, namely, the government of the lodge by master and wardens and the right of a Mason in good standing to visit. But these seem doubtful to me, and doubt is a sufficient warrant for referring them to the category of common law.
"Belief in God, the G. A. 0. T. U.," says Bro. Moore, "is the first landmark of Freemasonry." Doubtless Mackey would have agreed, though in his list it bears the number nineteen. For this landmark we may vouch:
(1) The testimony of the old charges in which invariably and from the very beginning there is the injunction to be true to God and holy church. Anderson's change, which produced so much dispute, was directed to the latter clause. As the medieval church was taken to be universal, the addition was natural. In eighteenth-century England there was a manifest difficulty. But the idea of God is universal and there seems no warrant for rejecting the whole of the ancient injunction.
(2) The resolution of the Grand Lodge of England that the Master Mason's obligation contains the ancient landmarks.
(3) The religious character of primitive secret societies and all societies and fraternities founded thereon.
(4) The consensus of Masonic philosophers as to the objects and purposes of the fraternity.
(5) The consensus of Anglo-American Masons, in the wake of the Grand Lodge of England, in ceasing to recognize the Grand Orient of France after the change in its constitutions made in 1877.
The second landmark, as I have put them, is number twenty in Mackey's list. He says: "Subsidiary to this belief in God, as a landmark of the order, is the belief in a resurrection to a future life. This landmark is not so positively impressed in the candidate by exact words as the preceding; but the doctrine is taught by very plain implication, and runs through the whole symbolism of the order. To believe in Masonry and not to believe in a resurrection would be an absurd anomaly, which could only be excused by the reflection that he who thus confounded his skepticism was so ignorant of the meaning of both theories as to have no foundation for his knowledge of either."
Perhaps Mackey's meaning here is less dogmatic than his words. Perhaps any religious doctrine of persistence of personality after death would satisfy his true meaning, so that the Buddhist doctrine of transmigration and ultimate Nirvana would meet Masonic requirements. Certainly it is true that our whole symbolism from the entrance naked and defenseless to the legend of the third degree is based on this idea of persistence of personality. Moreover this same symbolism is universal in ancient rites and primitive secret societies. True in the most primitive ones it signifies only the passing of the child and the birth of the man. Yet even here the symbolism is significant. I see no reason to reject this landmark.
We come now to an alleged landmark about which a great controversy still rages. I have put it third. In Mackey's list it is number twenty-one. I will first give Mackey's own words: "It is a landmark that a 'book of the law' shall constitute an indispensable part of the furniture of every lodge. I say advisedly book of the law because it is not absolutely required that everywhere the old and new testament shall be used. The book of the law is that volume which, by the religion of the country, is believed to contain the revealed will of the Grand Architect of the Universe. Hence in all lodges in Christian countries, the book of the law is composed of the old and new testaments. In a country where Judaism was the prevailing faith, the old testament alone would be sufficient; and in Mohammedan countries and among Mohammedan Masons, the Koran might be substituted."
Perhaps the point most open to criticism here is that it must be the book accepted as the word of God by the religion of the country. For example, in India, lodges in which Englishmen sit with Hindus and Mohammedans, keep the Bible, the Koran and the Shasters among the lodge furniture, and obligate the initiate upon the book of his faith.
The essential idea here seems to be that Masonry is, if not a religious institution, at least an institution which recognizes religion and seeks to be a co-worker with it toward moral progress of mankind. Hence it keeps as a part of its furniture the book of the law which is the visible and tangible evidence of the Mason's adherence to religion. In so doing we are confirmed by the evidence of primitive secret societies; for religion, morals, law, church, public opinion, government were all united in these societies at first and gradually differentiated. The relation of Masonry with religion, in its origin, in its whole history, and in its purposes, is so close that there is a heavy burden of proof on those who seek to reject this tangible sign of the relation, which stood unchallenged in universal Masonic usage till the Grand Orient of France in 1877 substituted the book of Masonic constitutions. In view of the universal protest which that action brought forth, of the manifest impossibility of accepting the French resolution as fixing the ends of the order, of the uniform practice of obligating Masons on the book of the law, as far back as we know Masonry, and as shown uniformly in the old charges, it seems impossible not to accept Mackey's twenty-first landmark in the sense of having a recognized book or books of religion among the furniture of the lodge and obligating candidates thereon. Indeed the English Grand-Lodge resolution that the Master Mason's obligation includes the landmarks of Masonry, seems fairly to include the taking of that obligation upon the book of the law, as it was then taken.
Fourth I have put the legend of the third degree. This is Mackey's third landmark. "Any rite," he says, "which should exclude it or materially alter it, would at once by that exclusion or alteration cease to be a Masonic rite." Here certainly we have something that meets the criteria of immemorial antiquity and of universality. The symbolism of resurrection is to be found in all primitive secret rites and in all the rites of antiquity, and the ceremony of death and re-birth is one of the oldest of human institutions.
Fifth I have put secrecy. Mackey develops this in his eleventh and twenty-third landmarks. The exact limits must be discussed in another connection. But if anything in Masonry is immemorial and universal and if the testimony of ancient and primitive rites counts for anything at all, we may at least set up the requirement of secrecy as an unquestioned landmark.
Sixth I should recognize as a landmark employment of the symbolism of the operative art. This is Mackey's twenty-fourth landmark. Perhaps one might say that it is a fundamental tenet of Masonry that we are Masons. But it is worthy of notice that this symbolism is significantly general in ancient and primitive teaching through secret rites.
Finally I should put it as a landmark that the Mason must be a man, free born, and of full age according to the law or custom of the time and place. This is in part Mackey's eighteenth landmark, though he goes further and requires that the man be whole. I shall discuss the latter requirements in connection with Masonic common law. As to the form for which I contend, perhaps I need only vouch (1) the vote of the Grand Lodge of England that the Master Mason's obligation contains the landmarks; (2) universal, immemorial and unquestioned usage; and (3) the men's house of primitive society and its derivatives.
A special question may possibly arise in connection with the proposition that it is a landmark that no woman shall be made a Mason. No doubt all of you have heard of the famous case of Miss St. Leger, or as she afterwards became, the Hon. Mrs. Aldworth, the so-called woman Mason. Pictures of this eminent sister in Masonic costume, labelled "The Woman Mason" are not uncommon in our books. The initiating of Mrs. Aldworth is alleged to have taken place in 1735 in lodge No. 44 at Doneraile in Ireland. She was the sister of Viscount Doneraile who was Master, and as the lodge met usually at his residence, Doneraile House, the story is she made a hole in the brick wall of the room with scissors and so watched the first and second degrees from an adjoining room. At this point she fell from her perch and so was discovered. After much debate, so the story goes, the Entered Apprentice and Fellowcraft obligations were given her. This transaction was first made known in a memoir published in 1807 - seventy-two years afterwards. Modern English Masonic historians have examined the story critically and have proved beyond question that it must be put among the Masonic apocrypha. The proof is too long to go into here, where in any event it is a digression. But I may refer you to Gould's larger work where you will find it in full.
Of course the action of a single lodge in 1735 would not be conclusive-against (1) the terms of the Master Mason's obligation; (2) the resolution of the Grand Lodge of England in the eighteenth century; (3) the weighty circumstances that all secret societies of primitive man and the societies among all peoples in all times that continue the tradition of the men's house were exclusively societies of men. But it is after all a relief in these days of militant feminism, to know that we are not embarrassed by any precedent.
Such are the landmarks as I conceive them. But much remains to be said about other institutions or doctrines which have some claim to stand in this category when we come next to consider Masonic common law.
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