Chapter 27

On St John the Baptist's Day (1717)


It is the day of Saint John, the Baptist, in the year 1717... 

To be precise: Thursday, June 24. Two days ago (but no one knows it yet in London), Prince Eugene of Savoy, had crushed the army of the Ottoman Vizier Halil Pasha in Belgrade; in four weeks, the naval forces of Venice, of the Papal States, of Malta and of Portugal will win another victory over the Ottomans, off Cape Matapan in Greece.

In London, peace and tranquility prevail, which allows a group of Free and Accepted Masons to come together to celebrate and feast; as men of good birth and good morals do. One has to remember that Freemasonry was not born in 1717; but got a new start, led by Accepted Masons who cherished mutual love and fraternity.

The document - The facts which are reported here, do not come from The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of that most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity (1) printed in 1723, but from their second edition published in 1738 with a new title: 

The New Book of Constitutions of the Antient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, containing their History, Charges, Regulations, &c. collected and digested by order of the Grand Lodge from their old Records, faithful Traditions and Lodges-Books, for the use of the Lodges. (2).

The author of the book is a certain Reverend James Anderson (3), who relates the events leading Masons of four London Lodges to assemble, and to appoint a Grand Master, as the first link of an Institution which will later be called speculative. 

Details are also reported of the Grand Lodge meetings, and annual appointments of Grand Masters, under the auspices of John the Baptist.

Editor’s Note - Anderson’s Constitutions are easily readable and understandable by today’s reader; so we present here the original text.

The Original Text

Queen Anne (4) died at Kensington without issue on 1 Aug. 1714. She was the last of the Race of King Charles I. upon the Throne of Britain; for the Others, being Romans, are excluded by the Act of Parliament for settling the Crown upon the Protestant Heirs of his Sister Elizabeth Stewart Queen of Bohemia above, viz. on her Daughter the Princess Sophia Electress Dowager of Brunswig-Lunebur; and the dying a little before Queen Anne, her Son the Elector succeeded on the said 1 Aug. 1714.

King George I. (5) enter’d London most magnificently on 20 Sept. 1714. and after the Rebellion was over A.D. 1716. the few Lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren (7), thought fit to cement under a Grand Master as the Center of Union and Harmony, viz. the Lodges that met,

• At the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul’s Church-Yard.

• At the Crown Ale-house in Parker’s-Lane near Drury-Lane.

• At the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles-Street, Covent-Garden.

• At the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel-Row, Westminster.

They and some old Brothers met at the said Apple-Tree, and having put into the Chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro Tempore in Due Form (8), and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication (9) of the Officers of Lodges (call’d the Grand Lodge) resolv’d to hold the Annual Assembly and Feast, and then to chuse a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head. 

• Accordingly, on St. John Baptist’s Day, in 3d Year of King George I. A.D. 1717. the Assembly and Feast of the Free and accepted Masons was held at the foresaid Goose and Gridiron Ale-house. 

Before Dinner, the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) in the Chair, proposed a List of proper Candidates; and the Brethren by a Majority of Hands elected.

Mr. Antony Sayer Gentleman, Grand Master of Masons, who being forthwith invested, with the Badges of Office and Power by the said oldest Master, and install’d, was duly congratulated by the Assembly who pay’d him the Homage. (Cap. Joseph Elliot, Mr. Jacob Lamball, [being] Grand Wardens). 

Sayer Grand Master commanded the Masters and Wardens of Lodges to meet the Grand Officers every Quarter in Communication, at the Place that he should appoint in his Summons sent by the Tyler.

• Assembly and Feast at the said Place 24 June 1718. Brother Sayer having gather’d the Votes, after Dinner proclaim’d aloud our Brother George Payne Esq; Grand Master of Masons who being duly invested, install’d, congratulated and homaged, recommended the strict Observance of the Quarterly Communication; and desired any Brethren to bring to the Grand Lodge any old Writings and Records concerning Masons and Masonry in order to shew the Usages of antient Times: And this Year several old Copies of the Gothic Constitutions were produced and collated. (Mr. John Corwell, City Carpenter, Mr. Thomas Morrice, Stone Cutter, [being] Grand Wardens).

• Assembly and Feast at the said Place, 24 June 1719. Brother Payne having gather’d the Votes, after Dinner proclaim’d aloud our Reverend Brother John Theophilus Desaguliers (10), L.L.D. and F.R.S. Grand Master of Masons, and being duly invested, install’d, congratulated and homaged, forthwith reviv’d the old regular and peculiar Toasts or Healths of the Free Masons. (Mr. Antony Sayer foresaid, Mr. Tho. Morrice foresaid, [being] Grand Wardens). Now several old Brothers, that had neglected the Craft, visited the Lodges; some Noblemen were also made Brothers, and more new Lodges were constituted.

• Assembly and Feast at the foresaid Place 24 June 1720. Brother Desaguliers having gather’d the Votes, after Dinner proclaim’d aloud George Payne Esq; again Grand Master of Masons; who being duly invested, install’d, congratulated and homag’d, began the usual Demonstrations of Joy, Love and Harmony. (Mr. Thomas Hobby, Stone-Cutter, Mr. Rich. Ware, Mathematician, [being] Grand Wardens).

This Year, at some private Lodges, several very valuable Manuscripts (for they had nothing yet in Print) concerning the Fraternity, their Lodges, Regulations, Charges, Secrets, and Usages (particularly one writ by Mr. Nicholas Stone the Warden of Inigo Jones) were too hastily burnt by some scrupulous Brothers; that those Papers might not fall into stange Hands.

At the Quaterly Communication or Grand Lodge, in ample Form, on St. John Evangelist’s Day 1720, at the said Place It was agreed, in order to avoid Disputes on the Annual Feast-Day, that the new Grand Master for the future shall be named and proposed to the Grand Lodge some time before the Feast, by the present or old Grand Master; and if approv’d, that the Brother proposed, if present, shall be kindly saluted; or even if absent, his Health shall be toasted as Grand Master Elect.

Also agreed, that for the future the New Grand Master, as soon as he is install’d, shall have the sole Power of appointing, both his Grand Wardens and a Deputy Grand Master (now found as necessary as formerly) according to antient Custom, when Noble Brothers were Grand Masters.

• Accordingly, At the Grand Lodge in ample Form on Lady-Day 1721. at the said Place Grand Master Payne proposed for his Successor our most Noble Brother John Duke of Montagu (11), Master of a Lodge; who being present, was forthwith saluted Grand Master Elect, and his Health drank in due Form; when they all express’d great Joy at the happy Prospect of being again patronized by noble Grand Masters, as in the prosperous Times of Free Masonry.

Payne Grand Master observing the Number of Lodges to encrease, and that the General Assembly requir’d more Room, proposed the next Assembly and Feast to be held at Stationers-Hall (12) Ludgate-Street; which was agreed to.

Then the Grand Wardens were order’d, as usual, to prepare the Feast, and to take some Stewards to their Assistance, Brothers of Ability and Capacity, and to appoint some Brethren to attend the Tables; for that no Strangers must be there. But the Grand Officers not finding a proper Number of Stewards, our Brother Mr. Josiah Villeneau, Upholder in the Burrough Southwark, generously undertook the whole himself, attended by some Waiters, Thomas Morrice, Francis Bailey, &c.

• Assembly and Feast at Stationers-Hall, 24 June 1721. In the 7th Year of King George I. Payne Grand Master with his Wardens, the former Grand Officers, and the Masters and Wardens of 12 Lodges, met the Grand Master Elect in a Grand Lodge at the King’s-Arms Tavern St. Paul’s Church-yard, in the Morning; and having forthwith recognized their Choice of Brother Montagu, they made some new Brothers, particularly the noble Philip Lord Stanhope, now Earl of Chesterfield.

And from thence they marched on Foot to the Hall in proper Clothing and due Form; where they were joyfully receiv’d by about 150 true and faithful, all clothed.

After Grace said, they sat down in the antient Manner of Masons to a very elegant Feast, and dined with Joy and Gladness. After Dinner and Grace said Brother Payne the old Grand Master made the first Procession round the Hall and when return’d, he proclaim’d aloud the most noble Prince and our Brother John Montagu Duke of Montagu Grand Master of Masons, and Brother Payne having invested his Grace’s Worship with the Ensigns and Badges of his Office and Authority, install’d him in Solomon’s Chair and sat down on his Right Hand; while the Assembly own’d the Duke’s Authority with due Homage and joyful Congratulations, upon this Revival of the Prosperity of Masonry.

Montagu G. Master, immediately call’d forth (without naming him before) as it were carelesly, John Beal, M.D. as his Deputy Grand Master, whom Brother Payne invested, and install’d him in Hiram Abbiff’s Chair on the Grand Master’s Left Hand.

In like Manner his Worship call’d forth and appointed M. Josiah Villeneau & Mr. Thomas Morrice Grand Wardens, who were invested and install’d by the last Grand Wardens. Upon which the Deputy and Wardens were saluted and congratulated as usual.

Then Montagu G. Master, with his Officers and the old Officers, having made the 2d Procession round the Hall, Brother Desaguliers made an eloquent Oration about Masons and Masonry: And after Great Harmony, the Effect of brotherly Love, the Grand Master thank’d Brother Villeneau for his Care of the Feast, and order’d him as Warden to close the Lodge in good Time.

• The Grand Lodge in ample Form on 29 Sept. 1721. at King’s-Arms foresaid, with the former Grand Officers and those of 16 Lodges. His Grace’s Worship and the Lodge finding Fault with all the Copies of the old Gothic Constitutions, order’d Brother James Anderson, A.M. to digest the same in a new and better Method.

• The Grand Lodge in ample Form on St; John’s Day 27 Dec. 1721. at the said King’s-Arms, with former Grand Officers and those of 20 Lodges.

Montagu Grand Master, at the Desire of the Lodge, appointed 14 learned Brothers to examine Brother Anderson’s Manusvcript, and to make Report. This Communication was made very entertaining by the Lectures of some old Masons.

• Grand Lodge at the Fountain Strand, in ample Form 25 March 1722. with former Grand Officers and those of 24 Lodges. The said Committee of 14 reported that they had perused Brother Anderson’s Manuscript, viz. the History, Charges, Regulations and Master’s Song, and after some Amendments had approv’d of it: Upon which the Lodge desir’d the Grand Master to order it to be printed.

Mean while Ingenious Men of all Faculties and Stations being convinced that the Cement of the Lodge was Love and Frienship, earnestly requested to be made Masons, affecting this amicable Fraternity more than other Societies then often disturbed by war Disputes.

Grand Master Montagu’s good Government inclin’d the better Sort to continue him in the Chair another Year; and therefore they delay’d to prepare the Feast.

But Philip Duke of Wharton (13) lately made a Brother, tho’ not the Master of a Lodge, being ambitious of the Chair, got a Number of Others to meet him at Stationers-Hall 24 June 1722. and having no Grand Officers, they put in the Chair the oldest Master Mason (who wa not the present Master of a Lodge, also irregular) and without the usual decent Ceremonials, the said old Mason proclaim’d aloud Philip Wharton Duke of Wharton Grand Master of Masons, and Mr. Joshua Timson, Blacksmith, Mr. William Hawkins, Mason, Grand Wardens, but his Grace appointed no Deputy, nor was the Lodge opened and closed in due Form.

Therefore the noble Brothers and all those that would not countenance Irregularities, disown’d Wharton’s Authority, by summoning The Grand Lodge to meet 17 January 1723, at the King’s-Arms foresaid, where the Duke of Wharton promising to be True and Faithful, Deputy Grand Master Beal proclaim’d aloud the most noble Prince and our Brother Philip Wharton Duke of Wharton Grand Master of Masons, who appointed Dr. Desaguliers the Deputy Grand Master, Joshua Timson, foresaid, James Anderson, A.M., Grand Wardens, for Hawkins demitted as always out of Town.

When former Grand Officers, with those of 25 Loges paid their homage, Grand Warden Anderson produced the new Book of Constitutions now in print, which was again approv’d, with the Addition of the antient Manner of Constituting a Lodge.

Now Masonry flourish’d in Harmony, Reputation and Numbers; many Noblemen and Gentlemen of the first Rank desir’d to be admitted into 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. 

Therefore the Grand Master was obliged to constitute more new Lodges, and was very assiduous in visiting the Lodges every Week with his Deputy and Wardens; and his Worship was well pleas’d with their kind and respectful Manner of receiving him, as they were with his affable and clever Conversation.

• Grand Lodge in ample Form, 25 April 1723, at the White-Lion Cornhill, with former Grand Officers and those of 30 Lodges call’d over by Grand Warden Anderson, for no Secretary was yet appointed.

When Wharton Grand Master proposed for his Successor the Earl of Dalkeith (now Duke of Buckleugh) Master of a Lodge, who was unanismouly approv’d and duly saluted as Grand Master Elect.

• Assembly and Feast on Monday 24 June 1723. at Merchant-Taylors-Hall, &c.


1. - Title of the book published in 1723: The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of that most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity. It has 92 pages.

2. - Title of the book in 1738: The New Book of Constitutions of the Antient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, Containing Their History, Charges, Regulations, &c. The book contains 232 pages.

3. - James Anderson - Master of Arts and pastor of the Presbyterian Church (1684-1739), From Scottish origin, he was commissioned in 1721 to establish the first Laws and Articles of what would later became the Grand Lodge of England’s Constitutions, which were published in 1723. 

A second edition, revised, was published in 1738, with some innovations including one on the rank of Master. It is generally believed that if Anderson was the editor of the Constitutions, he was not, primarily, its real author, the authorship being attributed to John-Theophilus Desaguliers.

4. - Anne Stuart (1665-1714), daughter of James II of England (1633-1701), reigned from 1702 to her death, on the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland. She succeeded William III of Orange (1650-1702) and Mary II of England (1662-1694).

5. - George I of Great Britain (1660-1727), who reigned from 1714 until his death, was the great-grandson of James I. Stuart (1566-1625), and the son of Sophia of Bohemia.

6. - This is the Jacobite rebellion which aimed to place on the throne of Great Britain James Francis Edward Stuart (1688-1766), called The Pretender, son of the former King James II, overthrown in 1688.

7. - Christopher Wren (1632-1723), renowned English architect who was responsible for building St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and rebuilding some 51 churches destroyed by the great fire of 1666.

 According to James Anderson Christopher Wren was at the time Grand Master of the Masons in London.

8. - In due form (in the usual form) - The formula suggests that the procedure used by the Grand Lodge was not new, but properly established.

9. - In a note placed next to the text, Anderson indicates that the Quarterly Communication is so called because it is held four times a year; when it occurs in the presence of the Grand Master it becomes Lodge in ample form (Special Lodge), otherwise it is only a Lodge in due form (plain).

10. - John Theophilus Desaguliers - The son of a Protestant pastor of La Rochelle (1683-1744), professor of philosophy, and friend of Newton, he played a key role in the development of speculative Freemasonry; he held the office of Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of London in 1719. In lodge meegtings, he was said to be jovial, and good natured; in good company he did not hesitate to break into song.

11. - Since 1606, Stationers Hall is the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers.

12. - John Montagu (1690-1749) - Second Duke of Montagu, was Master of the Great Wardrobe of the King, M.D., cavalry General and, especially, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of London - to which he directed many members of the nobility. In 1721, when it was decided to draft new Constitutions of the Order, he entrusted the task to Brother James Anderson. 

13. - Philip Wharton (1698-1731) - Son of a prominent statesman, as a young man he led the easy life of wealthy aristocrats. As a Freemason, he naturally became the second titled Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of London in 1722. Sidelined from Masonic affairs, perhaps because of his frivolity, he went to the Continent, where he found himself elected Grand Master of the new Grand Lodge of Paris, before ending his life in Spain.

© Guy Chassagnard 2016