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The Adventures of Timothy Peacock, Esquire; or, Freemasonry Practically Illustrated
Daniel P. Thompson
"O what a fall was there, my countrymen!" "Some luckless star, with baleful power And mischief fraught, sure rules the hour."
Once more, gentle reader, must we make a brief pause among the ever-green mountains of that rugged, yet fertile and flourishing state, which, in so many respects, may be termed the Switzerland of America. That fearless and sturdy little sister of the Republic, who has ever stood the unflinching sentinel of the out-post unrelieved, asking no assistance for herself, and eager to meet the first foe that would attempt to encroach on the bright domain of her beautiful, though often unmindful sisterhood. That state, in fine, whose sons are hardy, industrious, healthy, and physically vigorous as the green, rock-grasping forests that clothe their native mountains, patriotic to a proverb, and as ignorant of the vices, as many of their contemptuous Atlantic neighbors are of the virtues, and, at the same time, more intelligent, perhaps, as a mass of people, than those of any other spot on the face of the globe.
The anniversary of the birth-day of St. John happened this memorable year, as it generally does in New-England, I believe, on the 24th day of June, and not in one of the autumnal months, as among the observant brotherhood of the southern states, and some parts of Europe. It was a lovely day, and of that season of the year when the scenery of this part of the country, more especially appears in all its glory. The zephyrs were gently ruffling the deep green foliage that exuberantly covered the mountain sides, or waving the vigorous growth of the rich fields of corn and wheat, in the fertile valley beneath, within which our hero was this day to make his public debut, as the young Boanerges of Masonry.
In an old pasture or common adjoining the road about one hundred rods from the tavern, the identical tavern where Timothy first opened his eyes to the glorious light of Masonry, a platform of new boards had been built up and elevated six or eight feet from the ground, over which was erected a booth of green boughs, and in front was placed a row of small ever-green trees leaning their tops against the stage in a slanting position for the double purpose of ornament and of screening from the view of the audience the unseemly chasm beneath. This was the rostrum prepared for the orator of the day. At the distance of some fifteen or twenty feet in front, and parallel with the stage, were numerous rows of benches, composed by laying boards on short logs or blocks, for the accommodation of the audience. And at the right of these, through an artificial grove of maple saplings, sharpened and set into the ground, ran a long table, with seats on each side, fitted up in a style in good keeping with what we have already described. While baskets of cold baked meats, bread, various kinds of pastry, fried cakes, cut into curious fantastical shapes, but mostly typical of masonic emblems, such as square, compasses, &c., the ingenious devices of the landlord's and other masons' wives, called in to assist in the mighty preparations,—honey, preserves, and nicknacks without number, as well as bottles of beer, cider, and even Malaga wine, with the usual accompaniment of glasses, were already on the ground, and placed, at a short distance from the table in the custody of Susan, the landlord's daughter, and her brothers,—personages to whom the reader was introduced in a former chapter—the former of whom from the gayest and most frolicsome had now become metamorphosed into the demurest of damsels, wearing a checkered apron and beauless bonnet, modes which she adopted at a camp-meeting, soon after receiving the visit of his majesty of the black face and nine-foot tail, as described in the chapter to which we have just alluded. But leaving these, now actively employed in preparing the dinner table for the brotherhood, and such others as might choose to join them on this joyful occasion, let us return to the inn where the company of the day were mostly already assembled.
About eleven o'clock in the forenoon, the drum beat at the door, and the long line of the brethren, issuing from the lodge-room, formed procession in front of the house, and, preceded by martial music, moved on to the place we have described, the master of the lodge and orator first, the subordinate officers next, then the masonic privates, or brethren generally, and lastly, the citizens with their own or mason's wives, sweet-hearts, or partners protempore; for hundreds of both sexes, and all ages, had flocked in from the neighboring country, coming on foot, in gigwaggons, on horse back, like beavers, with their better parts behind them, and even in ox-teams, to witness the novelties of a masonic festival.
When the procession reached the place prepared for the exercises of the day, the orator, master and chaplain for the occasion, ascended the stage, while the audience were seated on the benches prepared for them in front.
Now was a moment of intense and thrilling interest to our hero. Never did he feel a more lively sense of the responsibility which rested on him. He perceived himself the focus of all eyes, and he knew that high expectations were formed of the performance on which he was about to enter; but he felt proud in the consciousness, that as bright as these expectations might be, they were still more brightly to be answered. And as he glanced at his own fine coat, so favorably contrasted with the rustic habiliments of those around him, his flowing ruffles, his snowwhite vest, and above all, the rich crimson sash and other glittering badges of his proud exaltation in Masonry, now displayed over his person in the most tasteful arrangement, he felt a glow of self complacency at the thought of the unparalelled sensation that his appearance was about to make on the hungry expectants of the gaping and wonderstruck multitude. And, in fancy, he already heard the low whispered plaudits of the wise, the suppressless awe and astonishment of the ignorant, and the tender and languishing sighs of the heart smitten fair. But why delay the anxious reader with the anticipated banquet of intellectual luxuries when the bright reality is before him. As soon as the brief clerical exercises were over, our hero gracefully rose, advanced to the front of the stage, and, after saluting the three masonic points of the compass, designating the rising, meridian and setting sun, with as many elegant bows, he looked slowly around on the audience, in imitation of his reverend Albanian prototype in oratory, and, drawing himself up with that dignity so peculiarly his own, addressed the listening crowd as follows—
Illustrious Companions, Right Worshipful Masters and Beloved Brethren, of our ancient, co-existent, honorable and refulgent Institution of Free and accepted Masonry:
With the most profound ebulitions of diffident responsibility, I rise to address you on this stupendous occasion. Assembled as we are to ruminate on the transcendant and ineffable principles of that glorious institution whose existence is co-ordinate with the origin of antiquity, and whose promulgated expansion extends from where the rising sun elucidates the golden portals of the east, to where it sets in the oriental extremities of the west, let us in the first place, promenade back through the mysterious ages of ancestry and exaggerate a short biography of its radient progress from its suppedaneous commencement, down to its present glorious state of splendid redundance. It is agreed by all, that Freemasonry existed among the earliest generations of our posteriors after the general deluge. Learned men of our order, however, have discovered that it begun its origin at a much more antiquated period of the universe even before progenerated man had heard the audible voice of the grand architect of the world, bidding him enter and behold the light of the exhilerating heavens. And I am conclusively of the opinion that it must have commenced its created existence somewhere near the beginning of eternity. From traditional knowledge, known only to the craft, it has been long dogmatically settled, that "masonry is of divine origin." The expulsion of the rambellious angels from Heaven, it may be lucidly argufied, was for unmasonic conduct. Hence it is implicitly proved that there was a grand lodge in that luminous expansion. The first indefinite evidence of the existence of masonry on this subterraneous hemisphere is in the garden of Eden. It is the most conjectural probability that after the Great Almighty Supreme, and Worshipful Grand Master of the mundane Universe, had expelled those unworthy masons from the Grand-lodge of the celestial canopy, he sent forth his trusty wardens to ramify a subordinate lodge among the puerile inhabitants of the earth, that they might pass through a state of reprobation before they were permitted to transmigrate to the great and lofty encampment of Heaven. And it was problematically these who initiated Adam into the secrets of masonry, and clothed him with the apron, that universal expressment of our order, which we read, he wore as he meandered the orchards of Paradise. Eve, I comprehend was not allowed to consolidate in the blessings of masonry, because, as our Book of Constitutions, so clearly explanitates, she turned cowan and attempted in an unlawful way to get at the secrets by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of masonry which Satan, an expelled mason of the most serpentine deviltry, told her would make her like one of the initiated. Hence the orderous name of Eve'sdroppers, whom it has ever since been the original custom of our order to place tylers at the door, with drawn swords, to scarify and extrampate—and hence also the reason why her daughters, those lovely but unfortunate feminine emblements of creation, have never been allowed to mingle in the lodge-room. The next certain information which has been transplanted to us concerning masonry, relates to the terrible apochraphy of the flood, which furnishes the most devastating testimony of the continued existence of our art in the personified character of the thrice illustrious Grand Master Noah. For a proof of this mysterious circumstantiality, we need only concentrate to the ulterior fact, that masonry and geometry are the same, or which is called by learned ventriloquists, synonymous identities. Now as Noah planned and constructified the ark, that expansive battlement of the convoluted waters, and as this could never have been architecturized and developed without, with a literary endowment of geometry, hence it is an evident and obvious manifestation to the most itinerant comprehension, that Noah was a most superabundant mason. And here, beloved brethren, who but must pause, in the most obstreperous admiration, over the great and magnified benefits which our blessed institution has protruded on the terrestial inhabitants of the revolutionary world. There we behold the astonishing veracity, that, but for Masonry, no ark could have been made and digested for the predominant salvation of those who were afterwards devised to multiply the earth, and all mankind in consequential inference, must have been forever extinguished, and found emaciated graves in the watery billows of annihilated eternity!
Thus we see how emphatical and tantamount is the proof that those two illustrious Israelites, Adam and Noah, were free and accepted masons; and it is equally doubtless that there were thousands of others, even in those unfathomable ages, who belonged to the same institution; and, although our records are not particularly translucent on the subject, I have no doubt but Methusalem, Perswasalem and Beelzebub, and all the rest of the old patriarchs, were worthy and accepted brothers of our divine order. But to proceed in mythological order, the next perspicuous mason that we meet with in our accounts is Moses, who was, as we all know that have been exalted to the seventh degree, a Royal Arch Mason. It is a probable coincidence, I think, that this August degree, as it is usually called, (on account, I suppose, of its having been discovered and first conferred in the month of August,) was for the first time developed to this superlative brother and companion from the burning bush amidst the tremendous ambiguity and thunderiferous rockings of Mount Sinai.— For it was here that the omnific word, "I am that I am," which none but the craft will presume to depreciate, was delivered to Moses for the benefit of the order through all exterior ages. From this time to the days of the great and refulgent Solomon, little is irradiated in our historical inventions concerning the state of our artificial institution: But all traditional probabilities unite in concurring that all the superfluous characters of that undiscovered period were engaged in extending the art with the most propagating velocity. Among the most predominant of these, I should place Joshua and Sampson. We peruse, in scriptural dispensations, that Joshua, the great General of the Jewish militia, while monopolized in battle with his obnoxious invaders, being hard run, and wanting more time to disembogue his hostile enemies, commanded the sun and moon to stand still, and they obeyed him. Now I have no questionable doubt but this pathetic achievement, which has so long discomfited the uninitiated to expounderate, was effectualized by the art of masonry: Joshua, we know, was highly identified, and, like Companion Royal Arch Moses, held facial intercourse with the Illustrious Grand Puissant of the World, and I think it the most probable preponderance that he made the grand hailing sign of distress to the great masonic deification enthroned on the circumjacent canopy of heaven, who observed the sign and immediately stopped those great geological luminaries to answer the distressing emergencies of brother Joshua, and deliver him from his extatic difficulty. Thus we again behold, in admirable wonder, the powerful omnipotence of masonic chicanery which can even control the revolving astronomies of heaven! Equally suppositious likewise is the evidence that Sampson, that almighty wrestler of antiquity, was a bright and complicated mason. For proof of this congenial fact we need only perambulate that part of the Bible which treats of his multangular explosions among the interpolling Philistines. There we find it implicitly stated that Sampson had thirty companions with him at his wedding feast. Now is it not highly presumptious that these must have been Companion Royal Arch Masons? I think the evidence most conclusive and testimonial: Sampson therefore was a brother of that glorified degree, and a mason whose prodigious muscular emotion must have made him a most pelucid ornament to the institution through the remotest bounds of posterity. It was not however till that primeval period of triumphal magnificence, the reign of King Solomon, the great Sovereign Commander, and Prince of the Tabernacle, that masonry shone forth in all its glory and concupisence. It was then that the tremendous stupefaction of the temple, the wonder of all cotemporary posterity, uprose to the belligerent heavens in all the pride of monumental aggrandizement wholly by the geometry of masonic instrumentality. From this time, which is termed the Augustine period, in honor of the August, or Royal Arch emblazonments of architecture, that enhanced this emphatic epoch, our divine art soon expanded, with the most epidemic enlargement, over the circumambient territories of the congregated world. It was then that our great patron, St. John, came out of the wilderness, preaching the beauties of masonry, and wearing the sash, or girdle, of a Royal Arch Mason, (thus preposterously proving that he was one of the glorious fellowship, and had arrived to that superlative exaltation,) and established and secreted a day for masonic designment, which he called the Anniversary, and which has always since, from time immemorial, been caricatured by the brotherhood as the glorious anniversary of St. John. The same great and ostentatious day, beloved brethren, which we are triumphantly permitted at this time to celebrate; and a day which all the worthy and accepted will forever coagulate in celebrating till the last hour of time shall evaporate, and mankind be abolished in the deluge of eternity! It was there too that Nebuchadnezzar and Pythagoras, Tubal Cain and Homer, Alexander and Zerubbabel, Hiram and Bachus, Zoraster, Zedekiah and Vulcan, Aristotle, Juno, Plato, and Apollo, Frederick, Pluto and Voltaire— all, all bright and luminous masons, shone along the transcendant galaxy of futurity like the opake meteors that irrigate the conflagrated arches of heaven!
Having now, my beloved and auspicious brethren, disseminated before you a brief historical circumcision of the origin and progressive intensity of our wonderful institution, let us preponder awhile on its momentous beauties, its ambiguous advantages, and its inevitable principles.
Of all the ties that bind and mankind together in this sublunary vale of the the tie of masonry is the most inveterate and powerful. By this, men of all sexes and credentials—men of the most homotonous opinions and incarnate malevolence, are bound together like Sampson's foxes, in municipal consanguinuity and connubial entrenchments. It is this that clothes the morally destitute, and protects the indigent incendiary from prosecuting enemies: It is this that dries the tears of unfathered orphans, and dispenses with charity to the weeping widow. It is masonry which mystifies the arts and sciences, and opens the only true fountains of inanity to the world. It pervades the halls of justice in sinuous counteraction, and snatches the prosecuted from perilous enthralment. It opens the prison to relieve the faithful delinquents, and defies the world in arms to stop it. It also the domestic tenement, and populates society. It exhilarates its members, rubifies their intellectual receptacles, and exalts them above the vulgar mass of credulity. And finally, it concentrates, refines and vitiates all who come within the pale of its Sanctum Pandemonium, whether they be found roaming the burning wastes of arctic sands, or inhabiting the torrid regions of the frozen North.
Such, brethren, is Speculative Freemasonry! And such will it continue till it countermarches all the terraqueous altitudes of the world, when, as my most appropriate and magniloquent friend, the Thrice Illustrious Salem Town supposes, a masonic millenium will come, and usher the whole earth in rapid pervasion. Then will all become one great exasperated family of freemasons, except, perhaps, a few of the most disinvited exclusives, such as idiots and feminine excrescences.
But here let me offer my derogatory consolation to my fair hearers whom I see listening around me in lovely admiration. Let me have the assurance to tell them, that although they may not be allowed to amalgamate in the regular forcipations of the lodge-room, yet they are never so safe as when in the circumventive arms of a free and accepted mason. And we are bound by our obligations in the most inoperative manner to refrain from our indulgent latitudes towards these fair and necessary implements of creation, and particularly so if we know them to enjoy the equivocal honor of being the wives or daughters of our exalted brotherhood. Then let them always seek the gloririous disparagement of monopolizing their connubial paramours from among our amorous fraternity. O! let them come to us for aid and embracing protection; and we will fly forward with our arms wide extended to meet and enrapture them."
At that fated instant, Heu miscrande puer! the luckless orator, in suiting the action to the word by rushing eagerly forward with protruded arms towards the fair and blushing objects of his address, unfortunately pressed too hard against the single board, which composed the only railing in front, for its feeble powers of resistance to withstand. When the faithless barrier suddenly gave way, and, alas! alas! amidst a flourish of his long-studied and most elegant gestures, and with his countenance wreathed with the most inviting smiles, he was precipitated from his lofty stand down headlong on to the bushes which stood bracing against the front of the stage, and, these quickly yielding near their tops to his rearward weight, and giving him a new impulse by way of a counter somerset, he finally landed in broken tumbles, feet downwards on the ground beneath— where, by a most strange and still more luckless concurrence, he struck directly astride an old ram, the leader of a flock, which, unobserved, had taken shelter from the burning rays of the sun, in this cool retreat in which they were now quietly reposing when their strange visitant descended among their affrighted ranks. The horned old patriarch, little dreaming of such a visit from above, and being less appeasable, or less mindful of the honor thus unexpectedly paid him, than Alborak, the ennobled ass of the Turkish prophet, was not slow in manifesting a disposition to depart without waiting particularly to consult his rider as to the course to be taken. And, after one or two desperate and ineffectual lunges to free himself of his load and retreat back under the stage, he suddenly floundered around and made a prodigious bolt through the partial breach, just made in the bushes, appearing in the open space in front of the stage before the astonished multitude with the terrified orator on his back, riding stern foremost, with one hand thrown wildly aloft, still firmly grasping the precious manuscript, and the other despairingly extended for aid, believing in the fright and confusion of the moment, that it could be no other than the devil himself who was thus bearing him off in triumph.
After proceeding a few short, rapid bounds in this manner, the no less frightened animal made a sudden turn, and, tumbling his rider at full length on the ground among the feet of a bevy of screaming damsels, leaped high over heads, benches and every thing opposing his progress, leading the way for his woolly tribe, now issuing in close column from their covert with the speed of the wind, running over the prostrate orator, regardless of his snow white unmentionables, vest and flowing ruffles, and trampling down or upsetting all in their way as they followed at the heels of their determined leader. Forcing their passage in this way through the crowd till they came against the end of the long dinner table, now fully spread for the company, and covered with all that had been prepared for the occasion, the file leaders came to some insurmountable obstacle, and the whole flock were brought to a stand; when, as the very demons of mischief would have it, they suddenly tacked about, mounted the table, which furnished a clear road for escape, and the whole train of forty sheep, enfilading off one after another swift as lightning, raced over its whole length from one end to the other; and, unheeding the scattering fragments of meats, pies, vegetables and nutcakes which flew from beneath their trampling feet in all directions, and the rattling din of knives, forks, broken crockery and glasses which attended their desolating progress, triumphantly escaped, shaking off the very dust of their tails in seeming mockery at the company whom they left behind, some fainting or shrieking, some grappling up clubs and stones in their phrenzy to hurl after the retreating fiends, or calling loudly for dogs to assail them, some cursing and raving at the loss of their dinner, some hallooing or breaking out into shouts of laughter, and all in wild uproar and commotion.—But we drop the curtain, leaving epicures to yearn with compassion, young masonic orators to sympathize, and the brotherhood at large to weep over the scene!
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