The Craft in the 18th Century  The "Moderns," 1717, and the " Antients," 1751


                   


Part I

BY BRO. ARTHUR HEIRON

 

The Builder - May 1926

The present paper was read before the Manchester Association for Masonic Research in May, 1924, and in view of the very valuable information collected therein The Builder has obtained Bro. Heiron's permission to reproduce it for the benefit of American students.
 

IT is common knowledge that prior to 1813 the Craft had for many years been divided into two great sections--the Moderns and the Antients--and for the benefit of those brethren who have had no opportunity to study the matter on their own account, the following rough epitome by way of general information is given. In 1716 four old Lodges in London--the author of Multa Paucis (an anonymous work of about 1764) gives the number as six--"finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren"--with the assistance "of some old Brothers"--met together at the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden, and "constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro Tempore in Due Form"; and on "St. John Baptist's Day, A.D. 1717, the Assembly and Feast of the Free and Accepted Masons was held at the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul's Church- Yard." In this humble fashion--without show or pretense-in a room at a Tavern about 22 feet long by 16 feet wide --the First Grand Lodge of the world was--according to the account given by Dr. Anderson in his "New Book of Constitutions" [1738]-- thus formally "Constituted." Whilst it is now recognized that Dr. Anderson's 'Story of the Craft'--based on mythical tales and legendary traditions--is quite untrustworthy, yet his version of the actual origin of Grand Lodge deserves some credence, for--after all--it is the only one available for our consideration. Anderson was a Doctor of Divinity, a Presbyterian minister, a "dissenting teacher," a man of good standing and character. In 1738 he assures us that having-in 1721--been ordered [by Grand Lodge] to digest the old Gothic Constitutions in a new and better method, . . . "Montagu, Grand Master, at the desire of the Lodge, appointed fourteen learned Brothers to examine Brother Anderson's Manuscript and to make report," . . . which "said Committee of 14" . . . reported [in 1722] that they had perused same "and after some Amendments had approv'd of it: Upon which the Lodge desir'd the Grand Master to order it to be printed." The above refers to his First Book of Constitutions of 1723.--The following extracts from the actual minutes of Grand Lodge relate to his 1738 edition.

1735, Feb. 24. Dr. Anderson reported to Grand Lodge "that he had spent some Thoughts upon some Alterations and Additions" to his First Edition of 1723-- then "all sold off"--and G. L. "appointed a Committee to revise and compare the same &c."

1738, Jan. 25. "Bro. Anderson informed the [Grand] Lodge that he had sometime since Prepared a New Edition of the Book of Constitutions with several Additions and Amendmts which having been perused & (after some alterations made therein) Approved off by several Grand Officers was now ready for the Press and he therefore desired the Grand Master's Commands & the approbation of this Lodge for printing the same, which request was granted him."

His work having been thus checked and revised by his colleagues and contemporaries and approved by Grand Lodge, each student must now therefore form his own conclusions as to the credibility or otherwise that should be given to Dr. Anderson's statements relating to the above mentioned meetings of "the four old Lodges" in 1716 and 1717.

The members of this Grand Lodge of 1717 before long--for reasons hereinafter mentioned--became known as the 'Moderns,' whilst their subsequent rivals -- who described themselves as the 'Antients' did not constitute their Grand Lodge before 1753 (although they first assembled as a Grand Committee in 1751); thus in point of time the 'Moderns' were as a body, thirty-four years older than the 'Antients,' it is therefore quite clear that both these titles are-colloquially speaking--misnomers. It is not very easy to explain in detail the exact reasons for the founding of this opposition Grand Lodge but some of the contributory causes appear to be as follows: 'OPERATIVE MASONS'

Prior to the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717, most of the Lodges were of humble rank, having as members many men of the working classes--including of course real 'Operative' Masons, although there were also some 'Speculatives' in their midst--for in those early days a Lodge almost invariably met at a Tavern or Inn, and was very much like a benefit society, members who were ill or in distress coming 'On the Box' for small payments in cash--pecuniary 'Relief' to brethren in need being then a constant feature. It was also quite usual for members not only to attend at the funeral of a deceased brother, but also to pay for the cost of interment when need required. This presence of the 'Operatives' in Lodges is made manifest from the fact that Grand Lodge in 1722 selected as their Grand Wardens, two working men, viz.:--'Mr. Joshua Timson,' a Blacksmith, and 'Mr. William Hawkins,' a 'Mason,' whilst the following mechanics were also appointed Grand Wardens, viz.:-'Jacob Lamball,' a 'Carpenter' in 1717; 'John Cordwell,' a 'City Carpenter' and 'Thomas Morrice," a 'Stone Cutter' in 1718; and 'Thomas Hobby,' also a 'Stone Cutter' in 1720.

The first Grand Master who was installed in 1717-one Anthony Sayer--was also apparently a man of limited means, for later in life he became Tyler to at least four lodges, and on two occasions applied to Grand Lodge for relief, in 1730 when 15 pounds were voted to him also 2.2.0 in 1741 from the 'General Charity,' whilst he also received assistance from various private Lodges. Bro. J. Walter Hobbs, L.R., in an exhaustive and valued paper read in 1924 before the Quatuor Coronati Lodge (entitled "Mr. Anthony Sayer") attempts to prove that Sayer was not only a "Gentleman" but also a person of some social standing--who might later on have lost his fortune in the "South Sea Bubble"; he however frankly admits that the evidence is not conclusive.

"NOBLEMEN AND GENTLEMEN" [1723]

Before long however a higher status was ruling amongst the so-called 'Moderns,' for Dr. Anderson in his Constitutions of the Freemasons [1723] tells us that "several Noblemen and Gentlemen of the best Rank with Clergymen and learned Scholars of most Professions and Denominations . . . frankly joined and submitted to take the Charges, and to wear the Badges of a Free and Accepted Mason, under our present worthy Grand Master, the most noble Prince, John, Duke of Montagu."

In 1738 Anderson expatiates further by stating "Now Masonry flourished in Harmony, Reputation, and Numbers, many Noblemen and Gentlemen of the first Rank desir'd to be admitted to the Fraternity, besides other Learned Men, Merchants, Clergymen and Tradesmen who found a Lodge to be a safe and pleasant Relaxation from Intense Study or the Hurry of Business, without Politicks or Party."

"UNATTACHED LODGES"

Human nature in 1724 was very like what we find it today and it is not only possible but quite probable that many of the "Operatives" and humbler members of a Lodge felt rather jealous of these richer men and their influence and desire for new methods of working. So glowing out of harmony with this changed condition of affairs they gradually left their Mother Lodges to form others more congenial to themselves. Some would also join Unattached or Independent Lodges which went by the name of St. John's Masons--St. John being the Patron Saint of the Craft--for we find that many visitors to the old Lodges often signed the attendance book or were entered by the Secretary as St. John's Men--they paying generally an extra visiting fee.

"IRISH MASONS"

Now from (a) these groups of poor Masons--discontented with the advent into the Craft of these so called "Noblemen and Gentlemen," also (b) from those brethren who objected to any alteration being made in their ancient Ritual, but more especially (c) from a band of Irish Freemasons who had settled in London -mostly in poor circumstances--came into being a new organization that in 1751 first worked by means of a Grand Committee, and in 1753 blossomed out into a new Grand Lodge whose members soon described themselves as Antient Masons holding out that they alone deserved that title because they practiced Masonry according to the 'Old Constitutions.' The late Bro. Henry Sadler, Librarian to Grand Lodge in his Masonic Facts and Fictions [1887] confirms the statement that the early members of the Lodges of the 'Antients' consisted mostly of Irish Masons, who were chiefly of the working class type. It is therefore obvious that speaking generally--the personnel of the Modern Lodges, was on a higher grade than that of the Antients. Quite apart, however, from the different social status of these brethren there were other important reasons which helped to cause a division of the Craft into two bodies.

ANDERSON'S FIRST CHARGE [1723]

The Old Charges make it clear that prior to 1717 the Craft had definitely accepted the Christian Faith as its first and abiding Land Mark; the constant and repeated 'Invocations to the Trinity' prove this to a certainty.--Perhaps in order to make 'Masonry Universal,' thereby allowing Jews to enter the Order-Anderson's 'First Charge' in his Constitutions of 1723 stated that a Mason, was "now" only required to be of that religion "in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves; that is to be good Men and true, etc." [This subject has been most ably elucidated and explained by Bro. J. E. Shum Tuckett in a paper read before this Society in 1922.] This serious alteration in our creed [as Bro. Vibert tells us in his excellent Story of the Craft] virtually deChristianized the tenets of Freemasonry, thereby making the Craft eligible to a professor of any faith-provided always that the candidate recognized the existence of a Supreme Being. It is clear that this startling innovation became a serious stumbling block to many of the old fashioned Operatives who had been accustomed to hear read in open Lodge the 'Old Charges,' constantly reminding them that the first and chief duty of a Mason was to be a True Man to God and the Holy Church. These men had also lived in the days when a regular and punctual attendance at their parish church was not only a duty, but an absentee--without valid excuse- became liable to fines or other penalties. In 1552 it was enacted by 5 & 6 Edward 6, c. 1., that if anyone without lawful or reasonable excuse absented himself from public worship ( i.e., at the Parish Church) he became liable "on pain of punishment by the censures of the Church." This Act--though now obsolete -is still on the Statute Book, but was repealed --about 1846--as regards 'Dissenters.'

PRICHARD'S 'MASONRY DISSECTED' [1730]

It is also obvious that the authority of the Grand Lodge of 1717 was not recognized universally. Certain old Lodges retained a position of independence and refused to accept what they considered was a new Constitution--keeping to certain ancient customs peculiar to themselves--and certain societies also arose professing to be Masons, but often merely using the name of the Craft as a cloak for political or even less worthy purposes. Enemies were also at work, various exposures of the Ritual being printed, purporting to tell the outside world the real secrets of the Craft--the most important being Masonry Dissected, written by one Samuel Prichard, described as "late member of a Constituted Lodge," which first appeared in 1730.

At length in the same year [viz., 1730], in order to meet these various difficulties and with a laudable desire to prevent 'cowans' and 'impostors' being 'Made Masons,' the Grand Lodge of 1717 allowed--or perhaps even advised--the Lodges under its jurisdiction to make certain variations in the Ritual. The following extracts from the Grand Lodge minutes of 1730 and 1739 refer to this matter:--

1730, Aug. 28. Dr. Desaguliers "recommended several things to the consideration of the Grand Lodge" . . . "for preventing any false Brethren being admitted into regular Lodges and such as call themselves Honorary Masons." "The D.G.M. Nathaniel Blakerby proposed several Rules to the Grand Lodge to be observed in their respective Lodges for their Security against all open and Secret Enemies to the Craft."

1730, Dec. 15. In order "to prevent the Lodges being imposed upon by false Brethren or Impostors," a member had to vouch for a visiting Brother "and the Member's name had to be entered against the Visitor's name in the Lodge Book."

1739, June 30. "The Complaint referred to by the last Committee of Charity concerning the irregular making of Masons was taken into Consideration."

1739, Dec. 12. "Ordered that the Laws be strictly put in Execution against all such Brethren as shall for the future countenance, connive or assist at any such irregular Makings."

It is generally believed that the principal changes effected by the Moderns were that they:--

1 Transposed the Word s in the first and second Degrees. 2 Gave up the use of Deacons, or at any rate did not appoint them. 3 Omitted the Ceremony of Installation; (and later on) 4 Did not officially perform or even recognise the rite of Holy Royal Arch--said to be the completion or perfection of the third Degree. 5 Possibly also changed the steps, and generally curtailed the Ceremonies, relying chiefly on teaching the tenets of the Craft by means of Masonic Lectures, at least in certain old Modern Lodges the latter were always the chief and most essential feature of the work.

Unfortunately hostility soon arose between the Moderns and the Antients and increased as time went on, and for about seventy years they opposed each other bitterly. The dissenting and dissatisfied Lodges-which according to Sadler gradually became known as Irish. Lodges--insisted on retaining the established Ritual in all its details and soon began openly to state that those who had thus varied the ancient forms and ceremonies were scarcely worthy to be regarded as Masons. and so they dubbed them Modern Masons and claimed for themselves the title of Antient Masons, meaning thereby that they--and they alone-- practiced Masonry according to the proper rites.

MODERNS AND ANTIENTS RE-MADE

To such an extent did this spirit prevail that if a Modern desired to visit an Antient Lodge, he had first to be Re-Made so as to become an Antient; similarly the Moderns were quite as strict on their part and would not allow an Antient to visit their Lodge unless he were first Re-Made so as to become a Modern.

Now, although the motive of the Moderns in thus varying the Ritual was perfectly honest and sincere-their desire merely being to prevent irregular Masons being made--yet in time they saw the error of their ways and practically admitted that their rivals--the Antients--had acted more wisely in retaining the Ritual in its fuller and original form. REVERSION TO THE ANCIENT LAND MARKS [1809]

This is made clear from the fact that in 1809 the Grand Lodge of the Moderns officially passed the following resolution, viz.:--

"That the Grand Lodge do agree in opinion with the Committee of Charity that it is not necessary any longer to continue in force those Measures which were resorted to in or about the year 1739 respecting Irregular Masons, and therefore enjoin the Several Lodges to Revert to the Ancient Land Marks of the Society." (1) This clear and important admission on the part of the Moderns that they had omitted to practice certain of the 'Land Marks' was the first serious step taken towards reconciliation. The next naturally was to try and discover what the true 'Land Marks' were and for this purpose a Lodge was formed for the express purpose of "Ascertaining and Promulgating the Ancient Land Marks of the Society," which became known a "The Lodge of Promulgation" [1809-11]. The result of their labors proving quite satisfactory, the Lodge of Reconciliation was then formed in 1813 which definitely agreed in 1816 upon a Ritual satisfactory to both sides. THE "UNITED GRAND LODGE" [ 1813]

All difficulties being now removed, after much discussion and certain mutual concessions--of which it is only fair to state that the most important were mad by the Moderns--a "Glorious Union" of these two sections of the Craft was effected, and on the 27th December, 1813, both Moderns and Antients ceased to exit and there arose instead The United Grand Lodge of Antient Freemasons of England, the Duke of Sussex being elected and enthroned as the first Grand Master. (2)

After this somewhat rambling--and admitted quite incomplete-version of the origin of the Modern and Antients, let us turn our attention to the real purpose of this paper, viz.:--to discuss and inquire into the reasons why the Antients so persistently and continuously--from 1764 to say 1809-vilified an ridiculed the ceremonies and ritual of the Craft a practised by their opponents.

THE MODERNS

In the 2nd Edition (published in 1764) of Ahiman Rezon--which was the official text book of the Antient for half a century,--Bro. Laurence Dermott, the Grand Secretary of that section of the Craft, indulged in some rather severe criticisms when discussing certain items of the Ritual as practiced by the Moderns, and by way of an awful example (to prove some of his stories) actually singled out and especially referred to--though not by name--my own Mother Lodge, the Dunde Lodge, No. 9, at Wapping, London, E., now known as the Old Dundee Lodge, No. 18. It perhaps, therefor is not very unreasonable that the present writer--who has for over thirty years been a member of that Lodge, and is now its second oldest Past Master--should endeavor in a very humble way to investigate such allegations and put in some sort of defense to Dermott's charges, although as these were made 160 years ago, he fully realizes that the case is quite statute barred and the matter now but ancient history. This article is, however, written in the hope that other members of the Craft may derive some useful information on these interesting subjects that were evidently often discussed in the Society of the Antients. We shall commence by first making a few enquiries as to the author of these stories.

LAURENCE DERMOTT [1720--1791]

Dermott was an Irishman, born in 1720; he was made a Mason in Ireland in 1740 and working his way through the various offices was installed as W. M. of Lodge No. 26, in Dublin on 24th June, 1746. Leaving Ireland he came to London about 1747 and for some time was a comparatively poor man, for he told his own Grand Lodge on the 13th July, 1753, that "he was obliged to work 12 hours in the day for the Master Painter who employed him," and that therefore he would have no leisure time for the future in which to deliver the Summonses which up to that date had been his practice. His occupation of a Journeyman Painter betokens a very moderate income, but later on we learn that he improved in social status and carried on the business of a Wine Merchant at King Street, Tower Hill, London, E. He was a man of fairly good education, and his firm and distinctive signature reveals to some extent the bold and determined character which he undoubtedly possessed. He informs us that originally he joined a Modern Lodge in London [in 1748 -unfortunately up to now its identity is unknown,-but he soon threw in his lot (heart and soul) with the Antients and became their chief protagonist and sponsor for over thirty years. In 1752 he was appointed Grand Secretary of that body and retained that exalted position until his resignation in 1770,--in the next year [1771] he was elevated to the rank of Deputy Grand Master, acting in that capacity until 1787 when increasing ill health caused his retirement; a few years later, viz., in June, 1791, he passed to the Grand Lodge above, having devoted forty-seven years of a very active life to the services of the Craft for which he always had a great affection and regard.

His life in London was almost entirely spent in the Eastern portion of the great metropolis, for he reside for some years in King Street, Tower Hill, E., and his will dated 5th June, 1770, commences thus "In the name of God, Amen. I, Laurence Dermott of the Parish of Saint Botolph, Aldgate in the County of Middlesex, Wine Merchant, etc., etc."; he later on removed to Mile End with his wife where he remained until his death in 1791. (3)

HIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH WAPPING

Dermott's residence in the East End of London would make him very familiar with the locality of Wapping--then the busy and active Port of London--where the Dundee Lodge had met from 1739. This Lodge--one of the oldest Modern Lodges in the world, having been Constituted 1722-23--was allotted in 1753, the Number 9 on the Register of the Grand Lodge of England, which number it held right up to the Union in 1813, when in compliance with the compromise then arrived at with the Antients it had to surrender its old number and from 1814 became No. 18 which distinction it still holds in 1924.

( To be continued ) NOTES

(1) The Committee of Charity fulfilled in those days the duties of the present Board of General Purposes of the United Grand Lodge of England. (2) This present article is written from the point of view of the Moderns, but it is only right to at once make the fullest admission as to the great debt the Moderns owe to the Antients for preserving intact--against great opposition--much of the old (and perhaps original) working of the Masonic degree which otherwise might have been entirely lost. (3) This information has been chiefly derived from an excellent pamphlet entitled Notes on Laurence Dermott, G.S., and His Work, written in 1884 by the late Bro. W. M. Bywater, who with Bro. Henry Sadler are the chief exponents of Bro. Dermott's Masonic career.

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