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In an article contributed to the New York Masonic Outlook, in 1931, Brotber Sir Alfred Robbins, President of the Board of General Purposes of the Grand Lodge of England, and present in America at the time as personal representative of the Grand Master of Masons in England, the Duke of Connaught, commented on certain "Americanisms" wbich he had observed in his visits to Lodges and Grand Lodges.
He singled out the Ancient Land- marks, which he said the English Craft seldom mentioned ; and the Doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction. He could bave included the "Due guard," the Weeping Virgin symbol, the Working Tool of the Third Degree, etc. In discussing these points Bro. Robbins was carrying on what had come to be almost a tradition among Englisb Brotbers of animadverting upon what they have called "Americanisms,'' a tradition as old as the Rev. George Oliver's works. Usually, by an Americanism bas been meant some symbol, rite, rule, etc., invented here in this country, and in the majority of instances, in British eyes, a corruption of the original design of Masonry.
When making his comments Bro. Robbins apparently had not familiarized himself with the researches made in that particular subject by a large number of Masonic scholars in America over a quarter of a century. Those findings connect themselves with a carefully-considered statement which Sir Alfred made in a conversation with the writer during the two or three days be spent at the headquarters of the Nationa1 Masonic Research Society; and, considering Sir Alfred's own great Masonic experience, and his authorship of a history of English-speaking Masonry, is of an importance which calls for its being permanently recorded in print: not in his owrl words but with the following unambiguous meaning, Sir Alfred said that after witnessing the conferring of Degrees in Lodges and Grand Lodges be was both surprised and gratified to discover that we in the United States are still using the original Ritual practiced by English Lodges in the middle of the Eighteenth Century; and that if American ceremonies differ from those used in present-day English Lodges the diflerence is not because we bave altered the old Working, but because we bave not altered it.
The majority of those elements of American Lodge practice and ceremonies which so many English writers have called, and often (vide Hughan !) have stigmatized, as "Americanisms," turn out to be a continuation of sound Lodge working in England as it was a half century or so before the Union of 1813. Interest in the Ancient Landmarks is not peculiar to America ; the Minutes of the oldest English Lodges refer to them a large number of times, they were the whole point at issue in the controversy between the Antient and the Modern Grand Lodges, and English Lodges give as much attention to them as do American Lodges but not by name. the Doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction is not peculiar to us ; the Grand Lodges of England, Scotland, and Ireland practice it.
The now obsolescent " York'' as a name for the Craft and Royal Arch Degrees came into use here from Britain via Canada. the Weeping Virgin symbol, which a few Grand Lodges retain as a relic in memory of Jeremy Cross, was not invented in America. Cross may have found it in some old French engravings which he took to be of English origin. "Due guard" appears to be Peculiar to American working but certainly is not an "Americanism"; it also is very possibly of French origin. In many early Eighteenth Century English and Irish engravings and portraits the Trowel is a jewel hung round the neck, and appears in a majority of old Tracing Boards; its prominence in the Third Degree is not modern but old, is not American but is British.
Our English colleagues, having what they have taken to be Americanisms in the forefront of their minds, refer again and again to "American" Masonry as if it differed from their Masonry. Tey speakof French Masonry, because the French altered Masonry, because the French altered Masonry (and War hatreds was one of the reasons for their unwisely doing so) and of Swedish Masonry, because the Swedes altered Masonry. In that sense rhere is no "American " Masonry; there is Freemasonry in America and it is the same, unaltered Freemasonry that it was in England about 1750.
Apropos of the subject of so-called "Americanisms'' as a whole and in principle, as it is referred to, and somewhat frequently, by British Brotbers in their Masonic magazines and Research Lodge Transactions, it may be recalled to them that they continually overlook the fact that the Grand Lodge of Ireland and the Antient Grand Lodge of England togetber, both directly and indirectly, bad a larger part in shaping pre-Revolutionary American Masonry than did the Modern Grand Lodge of England. And not only because Modern Lodges in the Colonies were filled with members on the Tory side for years before 1775, but more largely because the Antients and Ireland sent over so many military and naval Lodges; and because so many of the Masons among the immigrants between 1760 and 1775 were members of Antient and Irish Lodges. What often may appear as an "Americanism" or an innovation to an English student whose mind is saturated with the history of the Modern Grand Lodge, is neither an Americanism nor an innovation but is a continuation of the standard Working in the Antient and Irish Lodges of that period; and which at that time differed so essentially from Modern Workings that it took nearly twenty years to bring Moderns and Antients into Union.
The true basis for an understanding of the history of Freemasonry in America is not in the history of the Modern Grand Lodge, for Masonry in America from 1760 on diflered from Modern practices fundamentally ; it is in the history of Ireland, and of the Antient Grand Lodge which was Irish in origin. Bro. Melvin M. Johnson spoke truly when in his Foreword to Gould's History of Freemasonry (Scribners'; New York) he wrote: "Gould was the Thucydides of Masonic history" ; but the true Thucydides for the student specializing in American Masonic history is not Gould but is a double-headed Thucydides in the persons of Chetwode Crawley and Henry Sadler. Gould suffered from fundarnental misunderstandings of Freemasonry in Colonial and Revolutionary America because be hated the Antients, and against the pleas of his own colleagues stubbornly insisted on calling them Schismatics; and because be left out of account the role of Ireland in the establisbment of American Lodges and practices, so that it is necessary for American students of Masonic history to keep revising Gould in the act of reading him whenever what be is writing bears on the American Craft.
AMERICAN MERCURY ARTICLE.
In its issue for February, 1941 (page 184), the American Mercury, a national monthly magazine specializing in non-fiction articles for the well educated, publisbed "The Annihilation of Freemasonry,'' by Sven Lunden.
The article in itself was sound, competent, unexceptionable, but is here placed on record among the memorabilia of the Fraternity not for its content but because it marks a mile-stone in the history of American Freemasonry. For the whole length of the period between World War I and World War II Freemasonry was publicly and freely discussed in Europe in books, newspapers, magazines, and from the platform by Masons and non-Masons alike, and in the same manner as any other subject important to the public; but during the same period in the United States Masonry almost never appeared in the public prints except incidentally, and in what journalists call "spot news''; certainly its principles were not discussed nor was there any public awareness of its role in American ways of life. The American Mercury article was the first of its kind; it is possible that it may be one of very few; it is more prohable that by 1950 it will be proved to have been the first of innumerable instances.
One of the indications of this latter probability is the rapidly increasing number of books in which Freemasonry is discussed (most of them by anti-masons) that are appearing on the shelves of public libraries.
Mr. H. L. Mencken, the founder-editor of The American Mercury, once undertook a campaign of derision against those whom he described as "joiners," but his campaign recoiled upon bis own head because be discovered that more than thirty million American men and women held membersbip in at least one fraternity, and be was unable even to convince himself that almost one-third of the population could be "playing at Indian" or belonged to "the booboisie."
AMERICAN PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION.
European and American Roman Catholic writers link the American Protective Association with Freemasonry, and classify it as either a camouflaged "political arm" of the Craft or as a Side Order. This is not true. It is a matter of known history, of which the records are preserved, that the A.P.A, was never in any manner either connected with Masonry or encouraged by it. The A.P.A, was founded in Clinton, Iowa (a small town in an agricultural district), by seven men "to combat Roman Catholic influence in public schools and in politics.'' Its founders announced that they did not oppose Roman Catholicism as a religion; nor Roman Catholics as foreigners; they denied that theirs was a "nativistic" movement, or that it was based on racial issues like the Ku. Klux Klan; and insisted that they were only opposed to church interference in politics and the schools. The founder, H. F. Bowers, a Clinton attorney and a Methodist, was Supreme President until 1893, when he was succeeded by W. J. H. Traynor. The A.P.A. was an active force in politics throughout the 1890's, and established branches in Canada, England, and Mexico. It was at one period closely connected with the Junior Order of United American Mechanics.
Though not one of the "nativistic'' crusades it nevertheless followed the same curve as tbey of rapid early development followed by a general decline, of which the typical case was the once famous Know-Nothing Party. Historians recognize four well-established reasons for the general lack of success of patriotic secret societies: their field is too narrow to keep members interested; they are captured by professional politicians; tbey tend to split up; and Americans, like English-speaking peoples everywhere, dislike secret political or patriotic organizations and prefer to keep their politics in the public forum of open discussion.
AMERICAN SYSTEM, THE.
the once universally established custom of describing the branches of Freemasonry as the York Rite and the Scottish Rite is falling into a disuse which an increasing number of Grand Bodies are hoping will become complete.
The two names have always been anomalous, ambiguous, confusing, and mistaken in fact. Knight Templarism was never in one "Rite'' with the Royal Arch, and of itself had never been associated with York; neither the Royal Arch itself nor the Craft Degrees to which it once belonged had originated in York---or, if a Mason prefers to accept the Prince Edwin tradition, they had had no connection with it for centuries.
The Scottish Rite had not originated in Scotland; moreover a number of its Degrees are themselves Royal Arch or Knight Templar in character. To add to the confusion, the Lodges under the Antient Grand Lodge of England (1751) called themselves York Masonry, and the name as thus used is still incorporated in the titles of two or three American Grand Lodges. In the process of taking on so many meanings the name "York" lost any meaning that may ever have properly belonged to it. There was once a Grand Lodge of All England at York, but it did not last many years, and Chartered no Lodges in America ; a second Grand Lodge sponsored by it, and called the Grand Lodge of England South of the River Trent, lasted for an even shorter time. If the tradition about Prince Edwin which is enshrined in the Old Charges is accepted as historical (as is seldom done) it gives no peculiar precedence to Freemasonry in York, because the City of York was merely the place where a General Assembly was held, and the Fraternity said to bave been Chartered there had no more connection with Freemasonry in York than with Freemasonry in London.
The phrases "York Rite" and "Scottish Rite" are giving way to the more descriptive and historically correct phrase of The American Masonic System.
This System consists of a set of five Rites in which each maintains undivided its own independence and its own sovereignty, and yet are bound togetber by the rules of comity; these rules rest on the authority of honor, general agreement, and common consent.
These five are: Ancient Craft (or Symbolic-"Blue Lodge" is slang) Masonry; Royal Arch Masonry; Cryptic Masonry; Knight Templarism; the Scottish Rite (with 29 Degrees, not including the 33o ).
Each of the latter four Rites requires that any one of its own members must be also a member in good standing in a Regular Lodge of Ancient Craft Masonry, thereby guaranteeing that American Freemasonry shall not split into a number of separate Freemasonries as has occurred in European countries. The Ancient Craft Rite is organized under forty-nine Grand Lodges, each one independent and sovereign.
The Royal Arch and Cryptic Rites and the Knight Templar Orders are organized under State and National Grand Bodies; the Scottish Rite is organized under Consistories which belong to either of two Jurisdictions: the Nortbern with its seat at Boston, Mass.; the Southern with its seat at Washington, D.C. Of the "Side Orders" the largest are the Shrine, the Order of the Eastern Star, and the Grotto ; no one of these belongs to the American System but each and every one, and of its own volition, has made it a qualification that each of its own members shall have some connection, by membership or by family relationship, with one or more of the five Rites in The American System.
No satisfactory adjectival phrase for distinguishing the Degrees after the Third from Ancient Craft Masonry bas as yet been found; at least, none has been officially adopted. They are called "Concordant Orders," "High Degrees," etc.; according to the canons of historical usage "High Grades" would be most nearly correct; but the "high" has a special sense and does not mean that other Degrees are higher than the Master Mason Degree, except as 32 is a ,,higher" number than three. In two respects Ancient Craft Masonry is in a unique position by comparison with the other four Rites : it guards the doors to Freemasonry as a whole, so that no Mason can be in any Rite unless be is a member in it; and its own Ritual was that out of which the otber Rituals were formed, or which they elaborated and expanded, or served as their point of departure: and in addition it bolds a great primacy in antiquity, for while there are existing records of Craft Lodges at least as early as the Fourteenth Century the oldest known record of any High Grade is of the 1740's.
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