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Pierre Ramus, or as his name was more correctly written in French, Pierre de la Rame, was not a Mason, nor did he ever, probably, so much as hear of the Fraternity; among his millions of followers and in his immense and lasting inSuenee, Freemasonry was never an issue, was never discussed; but he and his work come within the purview of Masonic studies because without them there is no key to one of the most puzzling chapters in the early history of Freemasonry in America.
To Thomas Aquinas, author of the Summa, which contains the official theology of the Roman Catholic Church, intellectual dictator of Europe for three centuries, the greatest of the leaders of scholasticism, Aristotle (or what Thomas knew of him) was supreme among secular thinkers; and the whole of Scholasticism was nothing more than an attempted application of Aristotle's Logic to Christian theology. To Dante, also, Aristotle was "the prince of them that know."
Ramus (the Latin form of his name) was to Aristotle's logic what Luther was to the Papacy, a reformer of it, and with a reformation that went to the roots of it. To the Aristotelians, logic was a sort of mechanism, outside the mind; if facts were fed into its hopper the machinery would automatically turn them out in a logical pattern. Ramus denied that such a mechanism is possible. He insisted that each man has from birth the ability to reason, and needs no external verbal machine to do it with.
The leaders of the men who settled New England, and a majority of the settlers themselves, were educated men; and they were disciples not only of Calvin but also of Ramus. For theology they looked to Calvin; for philosophy, logic, and science they looked to Ramus; and they looked to one as much as to the other. Of no other center in the Colonies, then or therea.fter, was this true. If men in the Colonies of the East and of the South found "the New England mind" so Deculiar, that is, so difficult to understand, it was not because of New England Calvinism, for they themselves had Calvin, but it was because they knew nothing of Ramus or of the teaching of Ramus.
In 1798 the Rev. Jedediah Morse preached at Charlestown, Mass., the sermon in which he accused Freemasonry of plotting conspiracies against Christianity and the government, with no more to go on than a copy of Prof. Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy; and launched the Anti-Masonic Movement which for some years became so threatening and reached such proportions that President John Adams was implored to intervene. (See article on ILLUMINATI AND ANTI MASONRY elsewhere in this Supplement.)
During the next three or four years Masons delivered public addresses; Masonic ministers and Grand Chaplains preached sermons; and a large number of "defenses" were contributed to the press. If a present day Mason who is unfamiliar with the mental climate of New England about 1800, even a present-day New England Mason, may chance to read the body of those discourses and defences he will be greatly struck by their peculiarity and greatly struck by their (to him) strange arguments. The Masons brought to bear on Masonry a set of ideas, or used in their explanation of it a set of intellectual categories, that had never been used before, and have never been used since It is at this point that Ramus enters Masonic studies; because it is in his theories of reasoning and in his teachings, as adapted to the New England mind, that is the key to those ideas and those categories. With that key the sermons, defences, and arguments become completely intelligible; they are extraordinarily interesting, and at times are penetrating and profound.
(A detailed history of the Morse-inspired Anti Masonic movement, accompanied by pages of titles of Masonic discourses, sermons, treatises, articles, is in New England and the Bavarian Illuminati, by Vernon Stauffer; Columbia University Press; New York; 1918; Number 191, of Studies in History, Economics and Public Law, Edited by the Faculty of Political Science of Columbia University. For the place of Ramus in the general history of thought see The Medieval Mind, and Thought and Expression in the Sixteenth Century, both by Henry Osborn Taylor; Macmillan; New York; especially page 377 in the latter. Early New England philosophy, logic, and science is as yet almost a dark continent to many, even to professional students, though there is some account of it in any of the standard histories of American thought which treat each section and period in detail. [T. M. Harris, Salem Town, Thomas Smith Webb, and Moses M. Hays belonged to the general periods Possibly no other field open to American Masonic research is so large, so nearly unworked, or so fertile in possible results as a study of New England Masonic thought from 1750 to 1825, and of its inner connections with a number of those powerful New England movements which made themselves felt throughout the nation and inside the Fraternity.)
A term sometimes given to one of the common properties known to all Master Masons.
The great epic of ancient India, deemed a sacred writing by its people, narrating the history of Rama, or Vishnu incarnate, and his wife Siva. It contains about twenty-four thousand verses, in seven books, written in Sanskrit, and is ascribed to Valmiki, who lived about the beginning of the Christian era.
RAMSAY, ANDREW MlCHAEL.
Commonly called the Chevalier Ramsay. He was born at Ayr, in Scotland. There is some uncertainty about the date of his birth, but according to his own account he must have been born in 1680 or 81, because in 1741 he told Herr von Gensau that he was 60 years old. His father was a baker, but being the possessor of considerable property was enabled to give his son a liberal education.
He was accordingly sent to school in his native city, and afterward to the University of Edinburgh, where he was distinguished for his abilities and diligence. In 1709 he was entrusted with the education of the two sons of the Earl of Wemyss. Subsequently, becoming unsettled in his religious opinions, he resigned that employment and went to Holland, residing for some time at Leyden. There he became acquainted with Pierre Poiret, one of the rnost celebrated teachers of the mystic theology which then prevailed on the Continent. From him Ramsay learned the principal tenets of that system; and it was not unreasonable in the opinion of Doctor Mackey to suppose that he was thus indoctrinated with that love of mystical speculation which it has so often been claimed he subsequently developed as the inventor of Masonic Degrees, and as the founder of a Masonic Rite.
In 1710, he visited the celebrated Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambrai, of whose mystical tendencies he had heard, and met with a cordial reception. The Archbishop invited Ramsay to become his guest, and in six months he was converted to the Catholic faith. Fenelon procured for him the preceptorship of the Due de Chateau-Thierry and the Prince de Turenne. As a reward for his services in that capacity, he was made a Knight of the Order of Saint Lazarus, whence he received the title of Chevalier by which he was usually known. He was subsequently selected by James III, the Pretender, as the tutor of his two sons, Charles Edward and IIenry, the former of whom became afterward the Young Pretender, and the latter the Cardinal York. For this purpose he repaired, in 1724, to Rome. But the political and religious intrigues of that court became distasteful to him, and in a short time he obtained permission to return to France.
In 1728, he visited England, and became an inmate of the family of the Duke of Argyle. Chambers says (Biographical Dictionary) that while there he wrote his Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion, and his Travels of Cyrus. This statement is evidently incorrect. The former did not appear until after his death, and was probably one of the last productions of his pen. The latter had already been published at Paris in 1727. But he had already acquired so great a literary reputation, that the University of Oxford conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Civil Law. He then returned to France, and resided for many years at Pointoise, a seat of the Prince of Turenne, where he wrote his Life of Fenelon, and a History of the Viscount Turenne. During the remainder of his life he was Intendant in the Prince's family, and died on May 6, 1743, in the sixtysecond year of his age.
Brother Hawkins says here of Ramsey, he was a Freemason and Grand Chancellor of the Grand Lodge of Paris, but it is not known where and when he became a Freemason; it was probably during his visit to England about 1730.
Doctor Mackey now continues, Ramsay, although born of humble parentage, was by subsequent association an aristocrat in disposition. Hence, in proposing his theory of the origin of Freemasonry, he repudiated its connection with an operative art, and sought to find its birthplace in Palestine, among those kings and knights who had gone forth to battle as Crusaders for the conquest of Jerusalem. In 1737, Ramsay, as Grand Orator, pronounced a discourse before the Grand Lodge of France, in which he set forth his theory in explicit terms.
We here insert the famous address with such other information as has been obtained since the comments by Brothers Mackey and Hawkins were written The address of Ramsay is printed in the Almanack des Cocus, 1741, with the title Discourse delivered at a RecepZ tion of Freemasons by Monsieur de R , Grand Orator of the Order, and was reprinted at Frankfort in 1742 by Brother De la Tierce in a History, Obligations and Laws of the Very Venerable Confraternity of Freemasons, a tranlation of the Constitutions of 1721 with the new articles of 1738. This was in 1745 published in a second edition, and Brother Gould's History (volume iii, page 83) traces the address by Ramsay to publications in French at London, 1757 and 1795, and at The Hague, 1773, in the appendix to the second edition of 1743, and the third edition of 1762, of the first translation into German, at Frankfort, 1741, of Anderson's Constitutions, and elsewhere.
He calls attention also to the circumstance that the Almanack credits the speech to a Mr. R. , but gives no date; that Tierce ascribes the address to the Grand Master of the Freemasons of France, while Klosse Geschichte der Freimaurerei in Frankreicht, History of Freemasonry in France (volume i, page 44), notes that the German translations merely state that the Grand Orator delivered the speech. An earlier appearance of the address in print, at The Hague in 1738, is asserted by A. G. Jouast, Nistory of the Grand Orient of France, published at Paris, 1865 (page 63).
The date of the actual delivery of the address seems to be determined definitely by a couple of letters from Ramsay to Cardinal Fleury, the principal adviser of the King, and then seventy-four years old. The letter of March 20, 1737, reads,
Condeseend, my Lord, to support the Society of Freemasons in the broad views they entertain, and your Excellency will render your name more illustrious by this protection than PSichelieu did of his by founding the Freneh Aeademy. The object of the one is much greater than the other. To encourage a Society which lends only to reunite all nations by a love of truth, and of the fine arts, is an action worthy of a great Minister, of a Father of the Chureh, and of a holy Pontiff. As I am to read my discourse tomorrow in a General Assembly of the Order, and on Monday to hand it to the Examiners (Press Censors) of the Chancellery, I pray your exceliency to return it to me tomorrow before noon by special messenger. You will infinitely oblige a man whose heart is devoted to you.
The second letter is dated March 22, 1737, and is translated thus:
I learn that the Assemblies of Freemasons displease your Excellency. I have never frequented them except with a view of spreading maxims which would render by degrees unbelief ridiculous, vice odious, and ignorance shameful. I am persuaded that if wise men of your Excelleney's choice were introduced to head these Assemblies, they would become very useful to religion, the State, and literature. Of this I hope to convince your Excellency if you will accord me a short interview at Issy. Awaiting that happy moment, I pray you to inform me whether I should return to these Assemblies, and I will conform to your Excellency's wishes with a boundless docility.
But the Cardinal did not agree and he wrote on the margin of the letter in pencil the words, "Le roi ne le veut pas," meaning The King does not wish it.
Several variations of the famous address are in existence but preference is usually given to the one published by Tierce or to direct translations of it such as those prepared under the supervision of Brothers Mackey and Gould, the extension by the latter being added to the former.
The printed address usually has no translation of the quotations from the Latin nor any precise reference to their sources. These are given in the present reprint of the address. The several quotations, following the text generaly of Doctor Gow in the Corpus Poetarum Latinorum, are also Somewhat more full than in the usual reproductions of the address, the one beginning O noctes, cenaeque deum, stops there, skips some five and a half lines, and then picks up the theme at Sermo oritur and after this omits the reference to Lepos. This by the way is from the Satires of Horace (Book II, vi). In the next quotation from the Latin, the address begins the lines at Est et fideli and ends at Solvat phaselon (the Odes of Horace, Book III, ii), but we prefer to start at Virtus and go as far as claudo. Professor Conington's racy metrical rendering has an alluring freedom here that gives all the more point to the Spirited words of Horace.
Whatever we may think of the many claims made and remade about Ramsay's ritualistic labors, this address is the principal source from which the argu ments for the one side or the other draw their au thority. Therefore it is well to give here all that can be found of it and readers are then the better qualified to form their own conclusions. Ramsay, and he wag in all probability led to this course by the blunt notation of the Cardinal upon his letter of March 22' 1737, seems to have done what is really evident he would do if Fleury expressed an unfavorable reply and that is he would not return to the meetings of the Brethren. So much seems clear. Was it but a mere coincidence that a year later the Church should have issued over the signature of Pope Clement XII an attack upon the Masonic Institution? However that may be here is the address in full:
The noble ardor which you, gentlemen, evince to enter into the most noble and very illustrious Order of Freemasons, is a certain proof that you already possess all the qualities necessary to become members, that is humanity, pure morals, inviolable secrecy, and a taste tor the fine arts.
Lyeurgus, Solon, Numa, and all political legislators have failed to make their institutions lasting. However wise their laws may have been, they have not been able to spread through all countries and ages. As they only kept in view victories and conquests, military violence and the elevation of one people at the expense of another they have not had the power to become universal, nor to make themselves acceptable to the taste, spirit, and interest of all nations. Philanthropy was not their basis.
Patriotism badly understood and pushed to excess, often destroyed in these warrior republics love and humanity in general. Mankind is not essentially disting ushed by the tongues spoken, the clothes worn, the lands occupied or the dignities with which it is invested. The world is nothing but a huge republic, of which every nation is a family, and every individual a child. Our Society was at the outset established to revive and spread these essential maxims borrowed from the nature of man. We desire to reunite all men of enlightened minds, gentle manners, and agreeable wit, not only by a love for the fine arts, but much more by the grand principles of virtue, seienee, and religion, where the interests of the Fraternity shall become those of the whole human race, whence all nations shall be enabled to draw useful knowledge, and where the subjects of all kingdoms shall learn to cherish one another without renouncing their own country.
Our ancestors, the Crusaders, gathered together from all parts of Christendom in the Holy Land, desired thus to reunite into one sole Fraternity the individuals of all nations. What obligations do we not owe to these superior men who, without gross selfish interests, without even listening to the inborn tendency to dominate, imagined such an Institution, the sole aim of which is to unite minds and hearts in order to make them better, and form in the course of ages a spiritual empire where, without derogating from the various duties v.hieh different States exact, a new people shall be created, which, composed of many nations, shall in some sort cement them all into one by the ties of virtue and science .
The second requisite of our Society is sound morals. The religious orders were established to make perfect Christians, military orders to inspire a love of true glory, and the Order of Freemasons, to make men lovable, good citizens, good subjects, inviolable in their promises faithful adorers of the God of Love, lovers rather of virtue than of reward.
Nevertheless, we do not confine ourselves to purely aide virtues. We have amongst us three kinds of Brothers: Novices or Apprentices, Fellows or Professed Brothers, Masters or Perfected Brothers. To the first are explained the moral virtues; to the second the heroic virtues; to the last the Christian virtues; so that our Institution embraces the whole philosophy of sentiment and the complete theology of the heart. This is why one of our worshipful Brothers has said:
Freemason, illustrious Grand Masters
Receive my first transports
In my heart the Order has given them birth,
Happy I, if noble efforts cause me to merit
Your esteem by elevating me to the sublime,
The primaeval Truth,
To the Essence pure and divine,
The celestial Origin of the soul
The Source of life and love.
Because a sad, savage, and misanthropic philosophy disgusts virtuous men, our ancestors, the Crusaders, wished to render it lovable by the attractions of innocent pleasures, agreeable music, pure joy, and moderate gaiety. Our festivals are not what the profane world and the ignorant vulgar imagine. All the vices of heart and soul are banished there, and irreligion, libertinage, ineredulityt and debauch are proscribed. Our banquets resemble those virtuous symposia of Horace, where the conversation only touched what could enlighten the soul, discipline the heart, and inspire a taste for the true, the good, and the beautiful.
We have secrets they are figurative signs and sacred words, composing a language sometimes mute, sometimes very eloquent, in order to communicate with one another at greatest distance, and to recognise our Brothers of whatsoever tongue.
These were words of war which the Crusaders gave each other in order to guarantee them from the surprises of the Saracens, who often crept in amongst them to kill them. These signs and words recall the remembrance either of some part of our science, or of some moral virtue, or of some mystery of the faith. That has happened to us which never befell any former Society. Our Lodges have been established, and are spread in all civilized nations, and, nevertheless, among this numerous multitude of men never has a Brother betrayed our secrets.
Those natures most trivial, most indiscreet, least schooled to silence, learn this great art on entering our Society. Such is the power over all natures and the idea of a fraternal bond ! This inviolable secret contributes powerfully to unite the subjects of all nations, and to render the communication of benefits easy and mutual between us. We have many examples in the annals of our Order. Our Brothers, travelling in divers lands, have only needed to make themselves known in our Lodges in order to be their immediately overwhelmed by all kinds of succour, even in time of the most stars, and illustrious prisoners have found Brothers where they only expected to meet enemies.
Should any fail in the solemn promises which bind us you know, gentlemen, that the penalties which we impose upon him are remorse of conscience shame at his perfidy, and exclusion from our Society according to those beautiful lines of Horace,
The fourth quality required in our Order is the taste for useful sciences and the liberal arts. Thus, the Order exacts of each of you to contribute, by his protection liberality, or labor, to a vast work for which no academy can suffice, because all these societies being composed of a very small number of men, their work cannot embrace an object so extended. .All the Grand Masters in Germany, England, Italy, and elsewhere, exhort all the learned men and all the artisans of the Fraternity to unite to furnish the materials for a Universal Dictionary of the liberal arts and useful sciences, excepting only theology and polities.
The work has already been commenced in London and by means of the union of our brothers it may be carried to a conclusion in a few years. Not only are technical words and their etymology explained, but the history of each art and science, its principles and operations, are described. By this means the lights of all nations will be united in one single work, which will be a universal library of all that is beautiful, great, luminous solid, and useful in all the sciences and in all noble arts This work will augment in each century, according to the increase of knowledge, and it will spread everywhere emulation and the taste for things of beauty and utility.
The word Freemacon must therefore not be taken in a literal, gross, and material sense, as if our founders had been simple workers in stone, or merely curious geniuses who wished to perfect the arts. They were not only skilful architects, desirous of consecrating their talents and goods to the construction of material temples, but also religious and warrior princes who designed to enlighten edify and protect the living Temples of the Most High. This I will demonstrate by developing the history or rather the renewal of the Order.
Every family, every Republic, every Empire, of which the origin is lost in obscure antiquity, has its fable and is truth is legend and is history. Some ascribe our institution to Solomon, some to Mose8, Home to Abraham, some to Noah, and some to Enoch, who built the first city, or even to Adam. Without any pretence of denying these origins, I pass on to matters less ancient.
This, then, is a part of what I have gathered in the annals of Great Britain, in the Acts of Parliament, which speak often of our privileges, and in the living traditions of the English people, which has been the centre of our Society since the eleventh century. At the time of the Crusades in Palestine many princes, lords, and citizens associated themselves, and vowed to restore the Temple of the Christians in the Holy Land, and to employ themselves in bringing back their architecture to its first institution. They agreed upon several ancient signs and symbolic words drawn from the well of religion in order to recognize themselves amongst the heathen and Saracens.
These signs and words were only communicated to those who promised solemnly, and even sometimes at the foot of the altar, never to reveal them. This sacred promise was therefore not an execrable oath, as it has been called, but a respectable bond to unite Christians of all nationalities in one confraternity. Sometime afterwards our Order formed an intimate union with the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem. From that time our Lodges took the name of Lodges of Saint John. This union was made after the example set by the Israelites when thev erected the second Temple, who whilst they handled the trowel and mortar with one hand, in the other held the sword and buckler.
Our Order therefore must not be considered a revival of the Bacchanals, votaries of Baeehus, drunken revelers, but as an Order founded in remote antiquity, and renewed in the Holy Land by our ancestors in order to recall the memory of the most sublime truths amidst the pleasures of society. The kings, princes, and lords returned from Palestine to their own lands, and there established dis ers Lodges. At the time of the last Crusades many Lodges were already erected in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and from thence in Scotland, because of the close alliance between the French and the Scoteh. James. Lord Steward of Scotland, was Grand Master of a Lodge established at Kilwinning, in the West of Scotland, MCCLXXXVI, shortly after the death of Alexander III, King of Scotland, and one year before John Baliol mounted the throne. This lord received as Freemasons into his Lodge the Earls of Gloucester and Ulster, the one English, the other Irish.
By degrees our Lodges and our rites were neglected in most places. This is why of so many historians only those of Great Britain speak of our Order. Nevertheless it preserved its splendor among those Scotsmen to whom the Kings of Franee confided during many centuries the safeguard of their royal persons.
After the deplorable mishaps in the Crusades, the perishing of the Christian armies, and the triumph of Bendoodar Sultan of Egypt, during the eighth and last Crusade, that great Prince Edward, son of Henry III, King of England, seeing there was no longer any safety for his Brethren in the Holy Land, from whence the Christian troops were retiring, brought them all back, and this colony of Brothers was established in England. As this prince was endowed with all heroie qualities, he loved the fine arts, declared himself protector of our Order, conceded to it nev. privileges, and then the members of this fraternity took the name of Freemasons, after the example set by their ancestors.
Since that time Great Britain became the seat of our Order, the conservator of our laws, and the depository of our secrets. The fatal religious discords which embarrassed and tore Europe in the sixteenth century caused our Order to degenerate from the nobility of its origin. Many of our rites and usages which were contrary to the prejudices of the times were changed, disguised, suppressed.
Thus it was that many of our Brothers forgot, like the ancient Jews, the spirit of our laws, and only retained the letter and shell. The beginnings of a remedy have already been made. It is only necessary to continue and to at last bring everything back to its original institution. This work cannot be difficult in a State where religion and the Government can only be favourable to our laws.
From the Britlsh Isles the Royal Art is now repassing into France, under the reign of the most aniable of Kings whose humanity animates all his virtues, and under the ministry of a Mentor, who has realised all that could be imagined most fabulous. In this happy age whe love of peace has become the virtue of heroes, this nation (France) one of the most spiritual of Europe, will become the centre of the Order. She will clothe our work our statutes and our customs with grace, delicacy, and good taste, essential qualities of the Order, of which the basis is the wisdom, strength, and beauty of genius It is in future in our Lodges, as it were in public schools, that Frenchmen shall learn, without travelling, the characters of all nations, and that strangers shall experience that France is the home of all peoples. Patria gentis humanae.
Such, continues Doctor Mackey, was the peculiar theory of Ramsay. Rejecting all reference to the Traveling Architects from Como, to the Stone Masons of Germany, and the Operative Freemasons of England, he had sought a noble and chivalric origin for Freemasonry, which with him was not a confraternity founded on a system of architecture, but solely on tide military prowess and religious enthusiasm of knight hood. The theory was as clearly the result of his own inventive genius as was his fable of the travels of Cyrus. He offered no documentary or historical authority to support his assertions, but gave them as if they were already admitted facts. Tho theory was, however, readily accepted by the rich, the fashionable, and the noble, because it elevated the origin and the social position of the Order, and to it we are to attribute the sudden rise of so many high Degrees, w hich speedily overshadowed the humbler pretensions of primitive Craft Masonry.
Brother Hawkins introduces here this paragraph: After the delivery of this speech a number of Chivalric Degrees were invented in France and styled Scottish Freemasonry, and they have been attributed to Ramsay, acting as has been supposed in the interests of the exiled Stuarts; and he has also been considered the inventor of the Royal Arch Degree; but R. F. Gould in his Nistory of Freemasonry has shown that there is no foundation for either of these theories; and that Ramsay's influence on Freemasonry was due to his speech alone.
All writers, continues Doctor Mackey, concur in giving the most favorable opinions of Ramsay's character. Chambers asserts that he was generous and kind to his relatives, and that on his temporary return to Great Britain, although he did not visit them in Scotland, he aent them liberal offers of money, which, however, incensed at his apostasy from the national religion, they indignantly refused to accept. Clavel ( Histoire Pittoresque, page 165) describes him as "a man endowed with an ardent imagination, and a large amount of learning, wit, and urbanity." Robison (Proofs of a Conspiracy, page 39) says he was "as eminent for his piety as he was for his enthusiasm," and speaks of his "eminent learning, his elegant talents, and his amiable character."
His general literary reputation is secured by his Life of Fenelon, his Travels of Cyrus, and the elaborate work, published after his death, entitled The Philosophical Principles of Natural and Revealed Religions Unfolded in a Geometrical Order. He is said to have been the author of an A polopetic and Historical Relation of the Society of Freemasonry, which was published in 1738, and had the honor to be burnt the next year at Rome by the public executioner, by order of the Sacred Congregation of the Inquisitions
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