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History Of Masonry In The South Of England From The Accession Of George III, To The End Of The Year 1779

SECTION x

BOOK Iv - The History of Masonry in England

illustrations of masonry
william preston


On the 6th of October 1760, his present majesty George III was proclaimed. No prince ever ascended the Throne, whose private virtues and amiable character had so justly endeared him to his people. To see a native of England the sovereign of these realms, afforded the most glorious prospect of fixing our happy constitution in church and state on the firmest base. Under such a patron the polite arts could not fail of meeting with every encouragement; and to the honour his majesty it is to be observed, that, since his accession to the throne, by his royal munificence no pains have been spared to explore distant regions in pursuit of useful knowledge, and to diffuse science throughout every part of his dominions.

Masonry now flourished at home and aboard under the English Constitution and lord Aberdour continued at the head of the fraternity five years, during which time the public festivals and quarterly communications were regularly held. his lordship equaled any of his predecessors in the number of appointments to the office of Provincial Grand Master, having granted the following deputations:

1. for Antigua and the Leeward Caribbee Islands;
2. for the town of Norwich and county of Norfolk;
3. for the Bahama Islands, in the room of the governor deceased;
4. for Hamburgh and Lower Saxony;
5. for Guadaloupe;
6. for Lancaster;
7. for the province of Georgia;
8. for Canada;
9. for Andalusia, and places adjacent;
10. for Bermuda;
11. for Carolina;
12. for Musquito Shore;
and
13. for East India.

The second of these appointments, viz. for Norwich, is that by which the Society has been most benefited. By the diligence and attention of the late Edward Bacon esq. to whom the patent was first granted, the lodges in Norwich and Norfolk considerably increased, and masonry was regularly conducted in that province under his inspection for many years.

Lord Aberdour held the office of Grand Master till the 3d of May 1762, when he was succeeded by earl Ferrers, during whose presidency nothing remarkable occurred. The Society seems at this time to have lost much of its consequence; the general assemblies and communications not having been honoured with the presence of the nobility as formerly, and many lodges erased out of the lift for non-attendance on the duties of the Grand Lodge. By the diligence and attention, however, of the late general John Salter, then Deputy Grand Master, the business of the Society was carried on with regularity, and the fund of charity considerably increased. Provincial patents were made out during earl Ferrers's presidency;

1. for Jamaica;
2. for East India, where no particular provincial was before appointed;
3. for Cornwall;
4. for Armenia;
5. for Westphalia;
6. for Bombay;
7. for the Dukedom of Brunswick;
8. for the Grenades, St. Vincent, Dominica, Tobago, &c.;
and
9. for Canada.

From these appointments no considerable emoluments have resulted to the Society, excepting from the third and sixth; George Bell for Cornwall; and James Todd for Bombay. Both these gentlemen were particularly attentive to the duties of their respective offices, especially the former, to whom the Society is in a great measure indebted for the flourishing state of masonry in Cornwall.

On the 8th of May 1764, at an assembly and feast at Vintners'-hall, lord Blaney was elected Grand Master. Lord Ferrers invested John Revis esq. late Deputy Grand Master, as proxy for his lordship, who continued in office two years, during which time, being chiefly in Ireland, the business of the Society was faithfully executed by his deputy, general Salter, an active and a vigilant officer. The scheme of opening a subscription for the purchase of furniture for the Grand Lodge was agitated about this time, and some money collected; but the design dropped for want of encouragement. A new edition of the Book of Constitutions was ordered to be printed under the inspection of a committee, with a continuation of the proceedings of the Society since the publication of the last edition.

During lord Blaney's presidency, the dukes of Gloucester and Cumberland were initiated into the Order; the former, at an occasional lodge assembled at the Horn tavern Westminster, on the 16th of February 1766, at which his lordship resided in person; the latter, at an occasional lodge assembled at the Thatched House tavern in St. James's-street, under the direction of general Salter.

The following deputations for the office of Provincial Grand Master were granted by lord Blaney;

1. for Barbadoes;
2. for Upper Saxony;
3 for Stockholm:
4. for Virginia;
5. for Bengal;
6. for Italy;
7. for the Upper and Lower Rhine, and the Circle of Franconia;
8. for Antigua;
9. for the Electorate of Saxony;
10. for Madras, and its dependencies;
11. for Hampshire;
and
12. for Montserrat.

The fifth, tenth, and eleventh of these appointments have been faithfully executed. By the indefatigable assiduity of that truly masonic luminary, Thomas Dunckerley esq. in whose favour the appointment for Hampshire was first made out, masonry has made considerable progress in that province, as well as in many other counties in England. Since his appointment to this office, he has accepted the superintendence of the lodges in Dorsetshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Somersetshire, and Herefordshire. The revival of the Bengal and Madras appointments have been also attended with success, as the late liberal remittances from the East Indies amply shew.

Among several regulations respecting the fees of constitutions, and other matters which passed during lord Blaney's administration, was the following; That as the Grand Lodge entertained the highest sense of the honour conferred on the Society by the initiation of the dukes of Gloucester, and Cumberland; it was resolved, that each of their royal highnesses should be presented with an apron, lined with blue silk; and that, in all future processions, they should rank as Past Grand Masters, next to the Grand Officers for the time being. The same compliment was also paid to their royal brother the late duke of York, who had been initiated into masonry while on his travels.

The duke of Beaufort succeeded lord Blaney, and was installed by proxy at Merchant Taylors'-hall on the 27th of April 1767. Under the patronage of his grace the Society flourished.

In the beginning of 1768, two letters were received from the Grand Lodge of France, expressing a desire of opening a regular correspondence with the Grand Lodge of England. This was cheerfully agreed to; and a Book of Constitutions, a list of the lodges under the constitution of England, with the form of a deputation, elegantly bound, were ordered to be sent as a present to the Grand Lodge of France.

Several regulations for the future government of the Society were made about this time, particularly one respecting the office of Provincial Grand Master. At a Grand Lodge held at the Crown and Anchor tavern in the Strand, on the 29th of April 1768, it was resolved that ten guineas should be paid to the fund of charity on the appointment of every Provincial Grand Master who had not served the office of Grand Steward.

The most remarkable occurrence during the administration of the duke of Beaufort, was the plan of an incorporation by royal charter. At a Grand Lodge held at the Crown and Anchor tavern on the 28th of October 1768, a report was made from the Committee of Charity held on the 21st of that month at the Horn tavern in Fleet-street, on the Grand Master's intentions to have the Society incorporated, if it met with the approbation of the brethren; the advantages of such a measure were fully explained, and a plan for the purpose was submitted to the consideration of the Committee. The plan being approved, the thanks of the Grand Lodge were voted to the Grand Master, for his attention to the interests and prosperity of the Society. The hon. Charles Dillon, then Deputy Grand Master, informed the brethren, that he had submitted to the Committee a plan for raising a fund to build a hall, and purchase jewels, furniture, &c. for the Grand Lodge, independent of the general fund of charity; the carrying of which into execution, he apprehended, would be a proper prelude to an Incorporation, should it be the wish of the Society to obtain a charter. The plan being laid before the Communication, several amendments were made, and the whole referred to the next Grand Lodge for confirmation. In the mean time it was resolved, that the said plan should be printed, and transmitted to all the lodges on record. The duke of Beaufort finding that the Society approved of Incorporation, contributed his best endeavours to carry the design into immediate execution: though at first he was opposed by a few brethren, who misconceived his good intentions, he persevered in promoting every measure that might facilitate the plan; and a copy of the intended charter was soon after printed, and dispersed among the lodges. Before the Society, however, had come to any determined resolution on the business, the members of a respectable lodge, then held at the Half Moon tavern Cheapside, entered a caveat in the attorney-general's office, against the Incorporation; and this circumstance being reported to the Grand Lodge, an impeachment was laid against that lodge, for unwarrantably exposing the private resolutions of the Grand Lodge; and it being determined that the members of the said lodge had been guilty of a great offence, in presuming to oppose the resolutions of the Grand Lodge, and endeavouring to frustrate the intentions of the Society, a motion was made, That it should be erased from the list of lodges; but, on the Master of the lodge acknowledging the fault, and, in the name of himself and his brethren, making a proper apology, the motion was withdrawn, and the offence forgiven. From the return of the different lodges it appeared, that one hundred and sixty-eight had voted for the Incorporation, and only forty-three against it; upon which a motion was made in Grand Lodge, on the 28th of April 1769, that the Society should be incorporated; which was carried in the affirmative by a great majority.

At a Grand Lodge held at the Crown and Anchor tavern on the 27th of October 1769, it was resolved, that the sum of 1300l. then standing in the names of Rowland Berkeley esq. the Grand Treasurer, and Mr. Arthur Beardmore and Mr. Richard Nevison his sureties, in the three per cent. bank consolidated annuities, in trust for the Society, be transferred into the names of the present Grand Officers; and at an extra-ordinary Grand Lodge on the 29th of November following, the Society was informed that Mr. Beardmore had refused to join in the transfer; upon which it was resolved that letters should be sent, in the name of the Society, signed by the acting Grand Officers, to lord Blarney the Past Grand Master, and to his Deputy and Wardens, to whom the Grand Treasurer and his sureties had given bond, requesting their concurrence in the resolutions of the Grand Lodge of the 29th of October last. Mr. Beardmore, however, dying soon after, the desire of the Grand Lodge was complied with by Mr. Nevison, and the transfer regularly made.

At a Grand Lodge held at the Crown and Anchor tavern on the 25th of April 1770, the Provincial Grand Master for foreign lodges acquainted the Society, that he had lately received a letter from Charles baron de Boetzelaer, Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of the United Provinces of Holland and their dependencies, requesting to be acknowledged as such by the Grand Lodge of England, whose superiority he confessed; and promising, that if the Grand Lodge of England would agree in future not to constitute any new lodge within his jurisdiction, the Grand Lodge of Holland would observe the same restriction with respect to all parts of the world where lodges were already established under the patronage of England. Upon these terms he requested that a firm and friendly alliance might be established between the Officers of both Grand Lodges, an annual correspondence carried on, and each Grand Lodge regularly made acquainted once in every year with the most material transactions of the other. On this report being made, the Grand Lodge agreed, that such an alliance or compact should be immediately entered into, and executed, agreeably to baron de Boetzelaer's request.

In 1771, a bill was brought into parliament by the hon. Charles Dillon, then Deputy Grand Master, for incorporating the Society by act of parliament; but on the second reading of the bill, it having been opposed by Mr. Onslow, at the desire of several brethren, who had petitioned the house against it, Mr. Dillon moved to postpone the consideration of it fine die; and thus the design of an Incorporation fell to the ground.

The duke of Beaufort constituted several new lodges, and granted the following provincial deputations, during his presidency:

1. for South Carolina;
2. Jamaica;
3. Barbadoes;
4. Naples and Sicily:
5. the Empire of Russia;
and
6. the Austrian Netherlands.

The increase of foreign lodges occasioned the institution of a new officer, a Provincial Grand Master for foreign lodges in general; and his grace accordingly nominated a gentleman for that office. He also appointed Provincial Grand Masters for Kent, Suffolk, Lancashire, and Cumberland. Another new appointment likewise took place during his grace's administration, viz. the office of General Inspectors or Provincial Grand Masters for lodges within the bills of mortality; but the majority of the lodges in London disapproving the appointment, the authority was soon after withdrawn.

Lord Petre succeeded the duke of Beaufort on the 4th of May 1772, when several regulations were made for better securing the property belonging to the Society. A considerable sum having been subscribed for the purpose of building a hall, a committee was appointed to superintend the management of that business. Every measure was adopted to enforce the laws for raising a new fund to carry the designs of the Society into execution, and no pains were spared by the committee to complete the purpose of their appointment. By their report to the Grand Lodge on 27th April 1774, it appeared that they had contracted for the purchase of a plot of ground and premises, consisting of tow large commodious dwelling houses, and a large garden, situated in Great Queen-street, Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, late in the possession Phillip Carteret Webb esq. deceased, the particulars of which were specified in a plan then delivered; that the real value appeared to be 3,205 at the least, but that 3,180 was the sum contracted to to be paid for the premises; that the front house might produce 90 per annum, and the back house would furnish commodious committee-rooms, offices, kitchens, etc and that the garden was sufficiently large to contain a complete hall for the use of the Society, the expense of the which was calculated not to exceed 3,000. This report met with general approbation. Lord Petre, the dukes of Beaufort and Chandos, earl Ferrers, and lord viscount Dudley and Ward, were appointed trustees for the Society, and the conveyance of the premises purchased was made in their names.

On the 22nd of February 1775, the hall-committee reported to the Grand Lodge, that a plan had been proposed and approved for raising 5,000 to complete the designs of the Society, and granting annuities for lives, with benefit of survivorship; a plan now known under the name of Tontine. It was accordingly resolved, that there should be one hundred lives at a 50 each; that the whole premises belonging to the Society in Great Queen-street, with the hall to be built thereon, should be vested in trustees, as a security to the subscribers, who should be paid 5 per cent. for their money advanced amounting to 250 per annum; that this interest should be divided among the subscribers, and the survivors or survivor of them; and, upon the death of the last survivor, the whole to determine for the benefit of the Society. The Grand Lodge approving of the plan, the subscription immediately commenced, and in less than three months was complete; upon which the trustees of the Society conveyed the estate to the trustees of the tontine, in pursuance of a resolution of the Grand Lodge for that purpose. 

On 1st May 1775, the foundation-stone of the new hall was laid in solemn form in the presence of a numerous company of the brethren. After the ceremony, the company proceeded in carriages to Leathersellers'-hall, where an elegant entertainment was provided on the occasion; and at the meeting the office of Grand-Chaplain was first instituted.

The building of the hall went on so rapidly that it was finished in little more than twelve months. On the 23rd of May 1776, it was opened, and dedicated, in solemn form to MASONRY, VIRTUE and UNIVERSAL CHARITY and BENEVOLENCE, in the presence of a brilliant assembly of the brethren. A new Ode, was written and set to music on the occasion and was performed, before a number of ladies, who honoured the Society with their company on that day. An exordium on masonry, not less elegant than instructive, was given by the Grand Secretary, and an excellent oration delivered by the Grand Chaplain. In commemoration of an event so pleasing to the Society , it was agreed, that the anniversary of this ceremony should be ever after regularly kept.

Thus was completed, under the auspices of a nobleman, whose amiable character as a man, and zeal as a mason may be equaled, but cannot be surpassed, that elegant and highly finished room on Great Queen-street, in which the annual assembly and quarterly communications of the fraternity are held; and to the accomplishment of which many lodges, as well as private individuals, have liberally subscribed. It is to be regretted, that the finances of the Society will not admit of its being solely reserved for masonic purposes.

The brethren of St John's Lodge in Newcastle, animated by the example set then in the metropolis, opened a subscription for the purpose of building, in the Low Friar Chair in that town, a new hall for their meetings; and on the 23rd of September 1776, the foundation stone of that building was laid by Mr Francis Peacock, then Master of the lodge. This edifice was speedily completed, furnished and dedicated; but se since learn, that it has been sold, and appropriated to other purposes.

The flourishing state of the Society in England attracted the attention of the masons in Germany, who solicited our friendship and alliance. The Grand Lodge at Berlin, under the patronage of the prince of Hess-Darmstatd, requested  a friendly union and correspondence with their brethren in England, which was agreed to, on the Grand Lodge of Germany engaging to remit an annual donation to the fund of charity.

The business of the Society having been now considerably increased, it was resolved, that the Grand Secretary should be permitted in future to employ a deputy or assistant, at an annual salary proportioned to his labour.

On the 14th February 1776, the Grand Lodge resolved, that in future all Past Grand Officers should be permitted to wear a particular gold jewel, the ground enameled in blue,; and each officer to be distinguished by the jewel which he wore while in office; with this difference, that such honorary jewel should be fixed with a circle of oval; on the borders of which were to be inscribed his name, and the year in which he served the office. This jewel to be worn in Grand Lodge pendant to a broad blue riband, and on other occasions, to be fixed to the breast by a narrow blue riband.

Many regulations respecting the government of the fraternity were established during lord Petre's administration. The meetings of irregular masons again attracted notice, and, on the 10th April 1777, the following law was enacted "That the persons who assemble in London, and elsewhere, in the character of masons, calling themselves Ancient Masons, and at present said to be under the patronage of the duke of Athol, are not to be countenanced, or acknowledged, by any regular lodge, or mason, under the constitution of England: nor shall any regular mason be present  be present at any of their proceedings, under the penalty of forfeiting the privileges of the Society: nor shall any person initiated at any of the irregular meetings, be admitted into any lodge, without being re-made. That this censure shall not extend to any lodge, or mason made in Scotland or Ireland, under the constitution of either of these kingdoms; or to any lodge, or mason made abroad, under the patronage of any foreign Grand Lodge in alliance with the Grand Lodge of England; but that such lodge and masons shall be deemed to be regular and constitutional."

An Appendix to the Book of Constitutions, containing all the principal proceedings of the Society since the publication of the last edition, was ordered to be printed; also a new annual publication, entitled THE FREE-MASONS CALENDAR; and the profits arising from the sale of both, were to be regularly brought to account in the charity fund. To preserve the consequence of the Society, the following law was enacted at this time: "That the fees for constitutions, initiations, etc should be advanced, and no person be initiated into masonry in any lodge in England for less sum that two guineas; and that the name, age profession, and place of residence of every person so initiated, and of every admitted member of a regular lodge since the 29th October 1768, should be registered, under the penalty of such mason made, or member admitted, being deprived of the privileges of the Society.

Lord Petre granted provincial deputations for Madras and Virginia, also for Hants, Sussex and Surrey. though, during this presidency, some lodges were erased out of the list, for non-conformity to the laws, many new ones were added, so that under his lordship's banner, the Society became truly respectable.

On hte 1st of May 1777, lord Petre was succeed by the duke of Manchester; during whose administration the tranquility of the Society was interrupted by private dissensions. an unfortunate dispute having arisen among the members of the lodge of Antiquity, on account fo some proceedings of the brethren of that lodge on the festival of St John the Evangelist after his grace's election, the complaint was introduced into Grand Lodge, where it occupied the attention of every committee and communication for twelve months. It originated from the Master, Wardens and some of the members, having, in consequence of a resolution of the lodge, attended divine service at St Dunstan's Church in Fleet-street, in the clothing of the Order; and walked back to the Mitre-tavern in their regalia without having obtained a dispensation for the purpose. The Grand Lodge determined the measure to be a violation of the general regulations respecting public processions. Various opinions were formed on the subject, and several brethren highly disgusted. another circumstance tended still farther to widen the breach. This lodge, having expelled three members for misbehaviour, the Grand Lodge interfered and, without proper investigation, ordered them to be reinstated. With this order the lodge refused to comply, conceiving themselves competent judges in the choice of their members. The privileges of the the lodge of Antiquity were then set up, in opposition to the supposed uncontrollable authority of the Grand Lodge; and in the investigation of this important point, the original case of dispute was totally forgotten. Matters were agitated to the extreme on both sides. Resolutions were precipitately entered into, and edicts inadvertently issued. memorial and remonstrances were presented; at last a rupture ensued. the lodge of Antiquity supported its immemorial privileges; applied to the old lodge in York city, and to the lodges in Scotland and Ireland, for advice,; entered a protest against, and peremptorily refused to comply with, the resolutions of the Grand Lodge, discontinued the attendance of its master and wardens at the committees of charity and quarterly communications as its representatives; published a manifesto in its vindication; notified its separation from the Grand Lodge; avowed an alliance with the Grand Lodge of all England, held in the city of York, and every lodge and mason who wished to act in conformity to the original constitutions. The Grand Lodge enforced its edicts, and extended protection to the brethren whose cause it had espoused. Anathemas were issued, several worthy men in their absence expelled from the Society, for refusing to surrender the property of the lodge to three persons who had been regularly expelled from it; and printed letters were circulated, with the Grand Treasurer's accounts, highly derogatory to the dignity of the Society. This produced a schism, which subsisted for the space of ten years.

To justify the proceeding of the Grand Lodge, the following resolution of the Committee of Charity held in February 1779, was printed and dispersed among the lodges:

"Resolved, That every private lodge derives its authority from the Grand Lodge, and that no authority but the Grand Lodge can withdraw or take away that power. that thought the majority of a lodge may determine to quite the Society, the constitution, or power of assembling, remains with and is vested in, the rest of the members who may be desirous of continuing their allegiance; and that if all the members withdraw themselves, the constitution is extinct and the authority reverts to Grand Lodge."

This resolution, it was argued, might operate with respect to a lodge with derived its constitution from the Grand Lodge, but could not apply to one which derived its authority form another channel. long before the establishment of the Grand Lodge, and which authority had been repeatedly admitted and acknowledged. Had it appeared upon record, that after the establishment of the Grand Lodge, and original authority had had been surrendered, forfeited, or exchanged for a warrant from the Grand Lodge, the lodge of Antiquity must have admitted the resolution of the Grand Lodge its full force. But as no such circumstance appeared on record, the members of the lodge of Antiquity were justified in considering their immemorial constitution sacred, while, they chose to exist as a lodge and act in obedience to its ancient constitutions. 

Considering the subject in this point of view, it evidently appears that the resolution of the Grand Lodge could have no effect on the lodge of Antiquity;  especially after the publication of the manifesto avowing its separation. The members of the that lodge continued to meet regularly as heretofore, and to promote the laudable purposes of masonry on their old independent foundation. The lodge of Antiquity it was asserted could not be dissolved, while the majority of its members kept together, and acted in conformity to the original constitutions; and no edict of the Grand Lodge, or its committees could deprive the members of that lodge of a right which had been admitted to be vested in themselves collectively from time immemorial; a right which had never been derived from, or ceded to, any Grand Lodge whatever.

To understand more clearly the nature of that constitution by which the lodge of Antiquity is upheld, we must have recourse to the usages and customs which prevailed among masons, at the end of the last, and the beginning of the present century. The fraternity then had a discretionary power to meet as masons, in certain numbers, according to their degrees, with the approbation of the master of the work where any public building was carrying on, as often as they found it necessary so to do; and when so met, to receive into the Order brothers and fellows and practice the rites  of masonry. the idea of investing Masters and Wardens of lodges in Grand Lodge assembled, or the Grand Master himself, with a power to grant warrants of constitution to certain brethren to meet as masons on the observance of certain conditions, at certain hours, had no existence. The fraternity were under no such restrictions. the ancient charges were the only standard for the regulation of conduct, and no law was known in the Society which those charges did not inculcate. To the award of the fraternity at large, in general meeting assembled, once of twice in a year, all brethren were subject, and the authority of  the Grand Master never extended beyond the bounds of that general meeting. When a lodge was fixed at any particular place for a certain time, an attestation from the brethren present entered on record, was a sufficient proof of its regular constitution; and this practice prevailed for many years after the revival of masonry in the South of England. By this authority, which never proceeded from the Grand Lodge, unfettered by any other restrictions than the constitutions of masonry, the lodge of Antiquity has always been, and still continues to be governed.

While I have endeavoured to explain the subject of the unfortunate dispute, I rejoice in the opportunity which the proceedings of the grand feast in 1790 have afforded, of promoting harmony, by restoring to the privileges of the Society, all the brethren of the lodge of Antiquity who had been falsely and unjustly expelled in 1779. By the operation of our professed principles, and through the mediation of that true friend to genuine masonry, William Birch esq. unanimity has been happily restored; the manifesto published by that lodge in 1779, revoked; and the Master and Wardens of that truly ancient association, the first lodge under the English constitution, have resumed their seats in Grand Lodge as heretofore; while the brethren who had received the sanction of the Society, as nominal members of the lodge of Antiquity, during the separation, have been reunited with the original members of the real lodge, and all privileges of that venerable body now center in one channel.

I have considerably abridged my observations on this subject in the last as well as the present edition, but think it proper still to record my sentiments, in justice to the gentlemen with whom I have long associated; and to convince my brethren, that our re-union with the Society has not induced me to vary a well-grounded opinion or deviated from the strict line of consistency which I have hitherto pursued.

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