Chapter 29/1

James Anderson's Constitutions (1723)


The Constitutions of the Free-Masons. Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of that most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity (1); this is the complete title of that small book, around one hundred pages thick – exactly 91 pages –, that Reverend James Anderson (2) (1684-1739) wrote for the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster; its publication was approved in the first month of 1723.

Having become over time the Fundamental Charter of speculative FreeMasonry, the Book of the Constitutions, as it is commonly called, had two editions during Anderson’s lifetime, and three others that were significant for later revisions and supplements to the original text – it is in the Edition of 1738 that the third Masonic degree of Master Mason was mentioned for the first time.

The document - The Book opens with a historical part, which consists of a legendary history of Freemasonry from Adam (!) to the reign of King George I (1660-1727), which began in 1714. 

Then come two sections: the first outlining the obligations or duties of a Freemason, the second setting the general regulations of the Masonic Order. 

Songs of Apprentices and Companions complete the work, which is supposed to be a synthesis of old archives of Lodges of England, Scotland and Ireland. 

There are often cited these few lines of the Constitutions, the true meaning of which is constantly being sought, and commented on: “A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law, and if he understands the Art, he will never be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine”.

Editor’s Note - Anderson’s Constitutions are easily readable by today’s reader; so we present them in their original form and text (see page 234, for abbreviations).

The Original Text


Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. 

of that most Ancient and Right Whorshipful Fraternity.

For the use of the Lodges.

London: Printed by William Hunter, for John Senex at the Globe, and John Hooke at the Flower-de-luce over-against St. Dunstan’s Church, in Fleet-Street.

In the year of Masonry 5723 - Anno Domini 1723.


To his Grace the Duke of Montagu,

My Lord,

BY Order of his Grace the Duke of Wharton, the present Right Worshipful Grand-Master of the Free-Masons; and, as his Deputy, I humbly dedicate this Book of the Constitutions of our ancient Fraternity to your Grace, in Testimony of your honourable, prudent, and vigilant discharge of the Office of our Grand-Master last year.

I need not tell your Grace what pains our learned Author has taken in compiling and disgesting this Book from the old Records, and how accurately he has compar’d and made every thing agreeable to History and Chronology, so as to render these New Constitutions a just and exact Account of Masonry from the Beginning of the World to your Grace’s Mastership, still preserving all that was truly ancient and authentick in the old ones: For every Brother will be pleas’d with the performance, that knows it had your Grace’s perusal and approbation, and that it is now printed for the Use of the Lodges, after it was approv’d by the GrandLodge, when your Grace was Grand-Master.

All the Brotherhood will ever remember the Honour your Grace has done them, and your Care for their Peace, Harmony, and lasting Friendship: Which none is more duly sensible of than, 

My Lord, 

Your Grace’s most oblig’d, and most obedient Servant

And Faithful Brother,


Deputy Grand-Master


History, Laws, Charges, Orders, Regulations, and Usages,

of the Right Worshipful Fraternity of Accepted Free Masons;

collected from their General Records, 

and their Faithful Traditions of many Ages.

To be read at the admission of New Brother, when the Master or

Warden shall begin, or order some other Brother to read as follows:

Adam, our first Parent, created after the Image of God, the great Architect of the Universe, must have had the Liberal Sciences, particularly Geometry, written on his Heart; for even since the Fall, we find the Principles of it in the Hearts of his Offspring, and which, in process of time, have been drawn forth into a convenient Method of Propositions, by observing the Laws of Proportion taken from Mechanism: So that as the Mechanical Arts gave Occasion to the Learned to reduce the Elements of Geometry into Method, this noble Science, thus reduc’d, is the Foundation of all those Arts, (particularly of Masonry and Architecture) and the Rule by which they are conducted and perform’d (Year of the World 4003 before Christ) (3).

No doubt Adam taught his sons Geometry, and the use of it, in the several Arts and Crafts convenient, at least, for those early Times; for Cain, we find, built a City, which he call’d Consecrated, or Dedicated, after the Name of his eldest Son Enoch; and becoming the Prince of the one Half of Mankind, his Posterity would imitate his royal Example in improving both the noble Science and the useful Art.

Nor can we suppose that Seth was less instructed, who being the Prince of the other Half of Mankind, and also the prime Cultivator of Astronomy,  would take equal Care to teach Geometry and Masonry to his Offspring who had also the mighty Advantage of Adam’s living among them.

But without regarding uncertain Accounts, we may safely conclude the old World, that lasted 1656 Years, could not be ignorant of Masonry; and that both the Families of Seth and Cain erected many curious Works, until at length Noah, the ninth from Seth, was commanded and directed of God, to build the great Ark, which, tho’ of Wood, was certainly fabricated by Geometry, and according to the Rules of Masonry.

Noah, and his three Sons, Japhet, Shem, and Ham, all Masons true,  brought with them over the Flood, the Traditions and Arts of the Ante-deluvians, and amply communicated them to their growing Offspring; for about 101 Years after the Flood (Anno Mundi 1757-2247 Ante Christum) (4), we find a vast Number of ’em, if not the whole Race of Noah, in the Vale of Shinar, employ’d in building a City and large Tower, in order to make to themselves a Name, and to prevent their Dispersion. And tho’ they carry’d on the Work to a monstrous Height, and by their Vanity provok’d God to confound their Devices, by confounding their Speech, which occasion’d their Dispersion; yet their Skill in Masonry is not the less to be celebrated, having spent above 53 Years in that prodigious Work (A.M. 1810-2194 A.C.), and upon their Dispersion carry’d the mighty Knowledge with them into distant Parts, where they found the good use of it in the Settlement of their Kingdoms, Commonwealths, and Dynasties. 

And tho’afterwards it was lost in most Parts of the Earth, it was especially preserv’d in Shinar and Assyria where Nimrod, the founder of that Monarchy, after the Dispersion, built many splendid Cities, as Ereck, Accad, and Calneh, in Shinar; from whence afterwards he went forth into Assyria, and built Niniveh, Rehoboth, Caleh, and Rhesin.

In these Parts, upon the Tygris and Euphrates, afterwards flourish’d many learned Priests and Mathematicians, known by the names of Chaldees and Magi, who preserv’d the good Science, Geometry, as the Kings and great Men encourag’d the Royal Art. But it is not expedient to speak more plain of the Premises, except in a formed Lodge.

From hence, therefore, the Science and Art were both transmitted to latter Ages and distant Climes, notwithstanding the Confusion of Languages or Dialects, which, tho’it might help to give rise to the Masons Faculty and ancient universal Practice of conversing without speaking, and of knowing each other at a Distance, yet hinder’d not the Improvement of Masonry in each Colony, and their Communication in their distinct National Dialect.

And, no doubt, the Royal Art was brought down to Egypt by Mitzraim, the second Son of Ham, about six Years after the Confusion at Babel, and after the Flood 160 Years (A.M. 1816-2188 A.C.), when he led thither [there] his Colony; (for Egypt is Mitzraim in Hebrew) because we find the River Nile’s overflowing its Banks, soon caus’d an Improvement in Geometry, which consequently brought Masonry much in request: For the ancient noble Cities, with the other magnificent Edifices of that Country, and particularly the famous Pyramids, demonstrate the early Taste and Genius of that ancient Kingdom. Nay, one of those Egyptian Pyramids is reck­on’d the First of the Seven Wonders of the World, the account of which, by Historians and Travellers, is almost incredible.

The Sacred Records inform us well that the eleven great Sons of Canaan (the youngest son of Ham) soon fortified themselves in strong Holds, and stately walled Cities, and erected most beautiful Temples and Mansions; for when the Israelites, under the great Joshua, invaded their Country, they found it so regularly fenc’d, that without the immediate Intervention of God in behalf of his peculiar People, the Canaanites were impregnable and invincible. Nor can we suppose less of the other Sons of Ham, viz. Chush, his eldest, in South Arabia, and Phut, or Phuts, (now called Fez) in West Africa.

And surely the fair and gallant Posterity of Japhet, (the eldest Son of Noah) even such as travell’d into the Isles of the Gentiles, must have been equally skill’d in Geometry and Masonry; tho’ we know little of their Transactions and mighty Works, until their original Knowledge was almost lost by the Havock of War, and by not maintaining a due Correspondence with the polite and learned Nations; for when that Correspondence was open’d in After-Ages, we find they began to be most curious Architects.

The Posterity of Shem had also equal Opportunities of cultivating the useful Art, even those of ’em that planted their colonies in the South and East of Asia; much more those of ’em, that in the great Assyrian Empire, liv’d in a separate State, or were blended with other families: Nay, that holy branch of Shem (of whom, as concerning the Flesh, Christ came) could not be unskillful in the learned Arts of Assyria; for Abram, after the Confusion at Babel about 268 years, was called out of Ur of the Chaldees (A.M. 2078-1926 A.C.), where he learned Geometry, and the Arts that are perform’d by it, which he would carefully transmit to Ishmael, to Isaac, and to his Sons, by Keturah; and by Isaac, to Esau, and Jacob, and the twelve Patriarchs: Nay, the Jews believe that Abram also instructed the Egyptians in the Assyrian Learning.

Indeed, the select Family long used Military Architecture only, as they were Sojourners among Strangers; but before the 430 Years of their Peregrination were expired, even about 86 Years before their Exodus (A.M. 2427-1577 A.C.), the Kings of Egypt forc’d most of them to lay down their Shepherds Instruments, and Warlike Accoutrements, and train’d them to another sort of Architecture in Stone and Brick, as holy Writ, and other Histories, acquaint us; which God did wisely over-rule, in order to make them good Masons before they possess’d the promis’d Land, then famous for most curious Masonry.

And while marching to Canaan, thro’ Arabia, under Moses, God was pleased to inspire Bezaleel, of the tribe of Judah, and Aholiab, of the tribe of Dan, with Wisdom of Heart for erecting that most glorious Tent, or Tabernacle, wherein the Shechinah resided (A.M. 1514-1490 A.C.); which, tho’ not of Stone or Brick, was framed by Geometry, a most beautiful Piece of Architecture, (and prov’d afterwards the Model of Solomon’s Temple) according to the Pattern that God had shewn to Moses in the Mount; who therefore became the General Master-Mason, as well as King of Jessurum, being well skill’d in all the Egyptian Learning, and divinely inspir’d with more sublime Knowledge in Masonry.

So that the Israelites, at their leaving Egypt, were a whole Kingdom of Masons, well instructed, under the Conduct of their Grand Master Moses, who often marshall’d them into a regular and general Lodge, while in the Wilderness, and gave them wise Charges, Orders, &c., had they been well observ’d! But no more of the Premises must be mention’d. 

And after they were possess’d of Canaan (A.M. 2554-1450 A.C.), the Israelites came not short of the old Inhabitants in Masonry, but rather vastly improv’d it, by the special Direction of Heaven; they fortify’d better, and improv’d their City-Houses and the Palaces of their Chiefs, and only fell short in Sacred Architecture while the Tabernacle stood, but no longer; for the finest sacred Building of the Canaanites was the Temple of Dagon in Gaza of the Philistines, very magnificient, and capacious enough to receive 5,000 People under its Roof, that was artfully supported by two main Columns; and was a wonderful Discovery of their mighty Skill in true Masonry, as must be own’d.

But Dagon’s Temple, and the finest Structures of Tyre and Sidon, could not be compared with the Eternal God’s Temple at Jerusalem, begun and finish’d, to the Amazement of all the World, in the short space of Seven Years and Six Months, by that wisest Man and most glorious King of Israel, the Prince of Peace and Architecture, Solomon (the Son of David, who was refused that Honour for being a Man of Blood) by divine Direction, without the noise of Work-mens Tools, though there were employ’d about it no less than 3,600 Princes, or Master-Masons, to conduct the Work according to Salomon’s directions, with 80,000 Hewers of Stone in the Mountain, or Fellow Craftsmen, and 70,000 Labourers, in all 153,600 besides the Levy under Adoniram to work in the Mountains of Lebanon by turns with the Sidonians, viz. 30,000 being in all 183,600 for which great Number of ingenious Masons, Solomon was much oblig’d to Hiram, or Huram, King of Tyre, who sent his Masons and Carpenters to Jerusalem, and the Firs and Cedars of Lebanon to Joppa, the next Sea-port. But above all, he sent his Namesake Hiram, or Huram, the most accomplish’d Mason upon Earth.

And the prodigious Expence of it also enhaunceth its Excellency; for besides King David’s vast Preparations, his richer Son Solomon, and all the wealthy Israelites, and the Nobles of all the neighbouring Kingdoms, largely contributed towards it in Gold, Silver, and rich Jewels, that amounted to a Sum almost incredible.

Nor do we read of any thing in Canaan so large, the Wall that inclos’d it being 7,700 foot in Compass; far less any holy Structure fit to be nam’d with it, for exactly proportion’d and beautiful Dimensions, from the magnificent Porch on the East, to the glorious and reverend Sanctum Sanctorum on the West, with most lovely and convenient apartments for the Kings and Princes, Priests and Levites, Israelites, and Gentiles also; it being an House of Prayer for all nations, and capable of receiving in the Temple proper, and in all its Courts and Apartments together, no less than 300,000 people, by a modest Calculation, allowing a square Cubit to each person.

And if we consider the 1,453 Columns of Parian Marble, with twice as many Pillasters, both having glorious Capitals of several Orders, and about 2,246 Windows, besides those in the Pavement, with the unspeakable and costly Decorations of it within; (and much more might be said) we must conclude its Prospect to transcend our Imagination; and that it was justly esteem’d by far the finest piece of Masonry upon Earth before or since, and the chief Wonder of the World; and was dedicated, or consecrated, in the most solemn manner, by King Solomon (A.M. 3000-1004 A.C.).

But leaving what must not, and indeed cannot, be communicated by Writing, we may warrantably affirm, that however ambitious the Heathen were in cultivating of the Royal Art, it was never perfected, until God condescended to instruct his peculiar People in rearing the above-mention’d stately Tent, and in building at length this gorgeous House, fit for the special Refulgence of his Glory, where he dwelt between the Cherubims on the Mercy-Seat, and from thence gave them frequent oraculous responses.

This most sumptuous, splendid, beautiful, and glorious Edifice, attracted soon the inquisitive Artists of all nations to spend some time at Jerusalem, and survey its peculiar excellencies, as much as was allow’d to the Gentiles; whereby they soon discover’d, that all the World, with their joint Skill, came far short of the Israelites, in the Wisdom and Dexterity of Architecture, when the wise King Solomon was Grand Master of the Lodge at Jerusalem, and the learned King Hiram was Grand Master of the Lodge at Tyre, and the inspired Hiram Abif was Master of Work, and Masonry was under the immediate Care and Direction of Heaven, when the Noble and the Wise thought it their Honour to be assisting to the ingenious Masters and Craftsmen, and when the Temple of the True God became the Wonder of all Travellers, by which, as by the most perfect Pattern, they corrected the Ar­c­hitecture of their own Country upon their return.

So that after the Erection of Solomon’s Temple, Masonry was improv’d in all the neighbouring Nations; for the many Artists employ’d about it, under Hiram Abif, after it was finish’d, dispers’d themselves into Syria, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Chaldea, Babylonia, Media, Persia, Arabia, Africa, Lesser Asia, Greece, and other Parts of Europe, where they taught this liberal Art to the free born Sons of eminent Persons, by whose Dexterity the Kings, Princes, and Potentates, built many glorious Piles, and became the Grand Masters, each in his own Territory, and were emulous of excelling in this Royal Art; nay, even in India, where the Correspondence was open, we may conclude the same: But none of the Nations, nor all together, could rival the Israelites, far less excel them, in Masonry; and their Temple remain’d the constant Pattern.

Nay, the Grand Monarch Nebuchadnezar could never, with all his unspeakable Advantages, carry up his Masonry to the beautiful Strength and Magnificence of the Temple Work, which he had, in warlike Rage, burnt down, after it had remain’d in Splendor 416 years from its Consecration (A.M. 3416-588 A.C.). For after his Wars were over, and general Peace proclaim’d, he set his Heart on Architecture, and became the Grand Master-Mason; and having before led captive the ingenious Artists of Judea, and other conquer’d Countries, he rais’d indeed the largest Work upon Earth, even the Walls and City, the Palaces and Hanging-Gardens, the Bridge and Temple of Babylon, the third of the Seven Wonders of the World, tho’ vastly inferior, in the sublime Perfection of Masonry, to the holy, charming, lovely Temple of God. But as the Jewish Captives were of special use to Nebuchadnezzar in his glorious buildings, so being thus kept at work, they retain’d their great Skill in Masonry, and continu’d very capable of rebuilding the holy Temple and City of Salem upon its old Foundations, which was order’d by the Edict or Decree of the Grand Cyrus, according to God’s word, that had foretold his Exaltation and this Decree (A.M. 3468-536 A.C.): 

And Cyrus, having constituted Zerubbabel, the Son of Salathiel, (of the Seed of David, by Nathan, the Brother of Solomon, whose Royal Family was now extinct) the Head, or Prince of the Captivity, and the leader of the Jews and Israelites returning to Jerusalem, they began to lay the Foundation of the Second Temple, and would have soon finish’d it, if Cyrus had liv’d; but at length they put on the Cape-Stone, in the 6th year of Darius, the Persian Monarch, when it was dedicated with Joy, and many great Sacrifices (A.M. 1489-515 A.C.), by Zerubbabel, the Prince and General Master-Mason of the Jews, about 20 Years after the Decree of the Grand Cyrus. 

And tho’ this Temple of Zerubbabel came far short of Solomon’s Temple, was not so richly adorn’d with Gold and Diamonds, and all manner of precious Stones, nor had the Shechinah and the holy Relicks of Moses in it, &c., yet being rais’d exactly upon Solomon’s Foundation, and according to his Model, it was still the most regular, symmetrical, and glorious Edifice in the whole World, as the Enemies of the Jews have often testify’d and acknowledg’d.

At length the Royal Art was carry’d into Greece, whose Inhabitants have left us no Evidence of such Improvements in Masonry, prior to Solomon’s Temple; for their most ancient Buildings, as the Cittadel of Athens, with the Parthenion, or Temple of Minerva, the Temples also of Theseus, of Jupiter Olympius, &c., their Porticos also, and Forums, their Theatres and Gymnasiums, their public Halls, curious Bridges, regular Fortifications, stout Ships of War, and stately Palaces, were all erected after the Temple of Solomon, and most of them after the Temple of Zerubbabel.

Nor do we find the Grecians arriv’d to any considerable Knowledge in Geometry, before the great Thales Milesius, the Philosopher, who dy’d in the Reign of Bellshazzar, and the time of the Jewish Captivity (A.M. 3457-547 A.C.). But his Scholar, the Greater Pythagoras, prov’d the Author of the 47th Proposition of Euclid’s first Book, which if duly observ’d, is the Foundation of all Masonry, sacred, civil, and military.

The people of Lesser Asia about this Time gave large Encouragement to Masons for erecting all sorts of sumptuous Buildings, one of which must not be forgot, being usually reckon’d the fourth of the Seven Wonders of the World, viz. the Mausoleum, or Tomb of Mausolus King of Caria, between Lycia and Jonia, at Halicarnassus, on the side of Mount Taurus in that kingdom, at the Command of Artemisia his mournful Widow, as the splendid Testimony of her Love to him, built of the most curious Marble, in Circuit 411 Foot, in Height 25 Cubits, surrounded with 26 Columns of the most famous Sculpture, and the whole open on all Sides, with Arches 73 foot wide, perform’d by the four principal Master-Masons and Engravers of those Times, (A.M. 3652-352 A.C.) viz. the East Side by Scopas, the West by Leochares, the North by Briax, and the South by Timotheus.

But after Pythagoras, Geometry became the darling Study of Greece,  where many learned Philosophers arose, some of whom invented sundry Propositions, or Elements of Geometry, and reduc’d them to the use of the mechanical Arts. Nor need we doubt that Masonry kept pace with Geometry; or rather, always follow’d it in proportion’d gradual Improvements, until the wonderful Euclid of Tyre flourish’d at Alexandria (A.M. 3100-304 A.C.); who gathering up the scatter’d Elements of Geometry, digested them into a Method that was never yet mended, (and for which his Name will be ever celebrated) under the Patronage of Ptolomeus, the Son of Lagus King of Egypt, one of the immediate Successors of Alexander the Great. And as the noble Science came to be more methodically taught, the Royal Art was the more generally esteem’d and improv’d among the Grecians, who at length arriv’d to the same Skill and Magnificence in it with their Teachers the Asiatics and Egyptians.

The next King of Egypt, Ptolomeus Philadelphus, that great Improver of the liberal Arts, and of all useful Knowledge, who gather’d the greatest Library upon Earth, and had the Old Testament (at least the Pentateuch) first translated into Greek, became an excellent Architect, and General Master-Mason, having, among his other great Buildings, erected the famous Tower of Pharos, the fifth of the Seven Wonders of the World (A.M. 3148-256 A.C.).

We may readily believe that the African Nations, even to the Atlantick shore, did soon imitate Egypt in such Improvements, through history fails, and there are no Travellers encourag’d to discover the valuable Remains in Masonry of those once renowned Nations.

Nor should we forget the learned Island of Sicily, where the prodigious Geometrician Archimedes did flourish, and was unhappily slain when Syracuse was taken by Marcellus, the Roman General (A.M. 3792-212 A.C.): For from Sicily, as well as from Greece, Egypt, and Asia, the ancient Romans learnt both the Science and the Art, what they knew before being either mean or irregular; but as they subdu’d the Nations, they made mighty discoveries in both; and, like wise Men, led captive, not the Body of the People, but the Arts and Sciences, with the most eminent Professors and Practitioners, to Rome; which thus became the Center of learning, as well as of imperial Power (A.M. 4004), until they advanc’d to their zenith of Glory, under Augustus Caesar, (in whose Reign was born God’s Messiah, the Great Architect of the Church) who having laid the World quiet, by proclaiming universal Peace, highly encourag’d those dexterous Artists that had been bred in the Roman Liberty, and their learned Scholars and Pupils; but particularly the great Vitruvius, the Father of all true Architects to this Day.

Therefore it is rationally believ’d, that the glorious Augustus became the Grand-Master of the Lodge at Rome, having, besides his patronizing Vitru­vius, much promoted the Welfare of the Fellow-Craftsmen, as appears by the many magnificent Buildings of his reign, the Remains of which are the Pattern and Standard of true Masonry in all future Times, as they are indeed an Epitome of the Asiatic, Egyptian, Grecian, and Sicilian Architecture, which we often express by the Name of the Augustan Stile, and which we are now only endeavouring to imitate, and have not yet arriv’d to its Perfection.

The old Records of Masons afford large Hints of their Lodges, from the beginning of the World, in the polite Nations, especially in Times of Peace, and when the Civil Powers, abhorring Tyranny and Slavery, gave due Scope to the bright and free Genius of their happy Subjects; for then always Masons, above all other Artists, were the Favourites of the Eminent, and became necessary for their grand Undertakings in any sort of Materials, not only in Stone, Brick, Timber, Plaister; but even in Cloth or Skins, or whatever was us’d for Tents, and for the various sorts of Architecture. Nor should it be forgot, that Painters also, and Statuaries, were always reckon’d good Masons, as much as Builders, Stone-cutters, Bricklayers, Carpenters, Joiners, Upholders or Tent-Makers, and a vast many other Craftsmen that could be nam’d, who perform according to Geometry, and the Rules of building; though none since Hiram Habif has been renown’d for Cunning in all parts of Masonry: And of this enough.

But among the Heathen, while the noble Science Geometry was duly cultivated, both before and after the Reign of Augustus, even till the fifth Century of the Christian Æra, Masonry was had in great Esteem and Veneration: And while the Roman Empire continu’d in its glory, the Royal Art was carefully propagated, even to the Ultima Thule, and a Lodge erected in almost every Roman Garrison; whereby they generously communicated their Cunning to the northern and western Parts of Europe, which had grown barbarous before the Roman Conquest, though we know not certainly how long; because some think there are a few Remains of good Masonry before that Period in some Parts of Europe, raised by the original Skill that the first Colonies brought with them, as the Celtic Edifices, erected by the ancient Gauls, and by the ancient Britains too, who were a Colony of the Celtes, long before the Romans invaded this Island.

But when the Goths and Vandals, that had never been conquer’d by the Romans, like a general Deluge, over-ran the Roman Empire, with warlike Rage and gross Ignorance they utterly destroy’d many of the finest edifices, and defac’d others, very few escaping; as the Asiatic and African Nations fell under the same Calamity by the Conquest of the Mahometans, whose grand Design is only to convert the World by Fire and Sword, instead of cultivating the Arts and Sciences.

Thus, upon the Declension of the Roman Empire (A.M. 448), when the British Garrisons were drain’d, the Angles and other lower Saxons, invited by the ancient Britons to come over and help them against the Scots and Picts, at length subdu’d the South Part of this Island, which they call’d England, or Land of the Angles; who being a-kin to the Goths, or rather a sort of Vandals, of the same warlike Disposition, and as ignorant Heathens, encourag’d nothing but War, till they became Christians; and then too late lamented the Ignorance of their Fathers in the great Loss of Roman Masonry, but knew not how to repair it.

Yet becoming a free People (as the old Saxon Laws testify) and having a Disposition for Masonry, they soon began to imitate the Asiatics, Grecians and Romans, in erecting of Lodges and encouraging of Masons; being taught, not only from the faithful Traditions and valuable Remains of the Britons, but even by foreign Princes, in whose Dominions the Royal Art had been preserv’d much from Gothic Ruins, particularly by Charles Martell King of France (A.M. 741 he dy’d), who, according to the old Records of Masons, sent over several expert Crafts-men and learned Architects into England, at the desire of the Saxon Kings: So that during the Heptarchy, the Gothic Architecture was as much encourag’d here, as in other Christian Lands.

And though the many Invasions of the Danes (A.M. 832) occasion’d the Loss of many Records, yet in Times of Truce or Peace they did not hinder much the good Work, though not perform’d according to the Augustan Stile; nay, the vast Expence laid out upon it, with the curious Inventions of the Artists to supply the Roman Skill, doing the best they could, demonstrate their Esteem and Love for the Royal Art, and have render’d the Gothic Buildings venerable, tho’ not imitable by those that relish the ancient Architecture.

And after the Saxons and Danes were conquer’d by the Normans (A.M. 1066), as soon as the Wars ended and Peace was proclaim’d, the Gothic  Masonry was encourag’d, even in the Reign of the Conqueror, and of his son King William Rufus, who built Westminster-Hall, the largest one Room perhaps in the Earth. Nor did the Barons Wars, nor the many bloody Wars of the subsequent Norman Kings, and their contending Branches, much hinder the most sumptuous and lofty Buildings of those Times, rais’d by the great clergy, (who enjoying large revenues, could well bear the expence) and even by the Crown too; for we read King Edward III. had an officer call’d the King’s Free-Mason, or General-Surveyor of his buildings, whose name was Henry Yevele (About A.M. 1362), employ’d by that King to build several abbies, and St. Stephen’s chappel at Westminster, where the House of Commons now sit in Parliament.

But for the further Instruction of Candidates  and younger Brethren, a certain Record of Free-Masons, written in the Reign of King Edward IV. of the Norman Line (About A.M. 1475), gives the following account, viz. 

That though the ancient Records of the Brotherhood in England were many of them destroy’d or lost in the Wars of the Saxons and Danes, yet King Athelstan, (the Grandson of King Alfrede the Great, a mighty Architect) the first  anointed King of England, and who translated the Holy Bible into the Saxon Tongue, when he had brought the Land into Rest and Peace, built many great Works, and encourag’d many Masons from France, who were appointed Overseers thereof, and brought with them the Charges and Regulations of the Lodges preserv’d since the Roman Times, who also prevail’d with the King to improve the Constitution of the English Lodges according to the foreign Model, and to increase the Wages of working Masons.

That the said King’s youngest Son, Prince Edwin, being taught Masonry, and taking upon him the Charges of a Master-Mason, for the Love he had to the said Craft, and the honourable Principles whereon it is grounded, purchased a free Charter of King Athelstan his Father, for the Masons having a correction among themselves, (as it was anciently express’d) or a Freedom and Power to regulate themselves, to amend what might happen amiss, and to hold a yearly Communication and General Assembly.

That accordingly Prince Edwin summoned all the Masons in the Realm to meet him in a Congregation at York, who came and composed a General Lodge, of which he was Grand-Master; and having brought with them all the Writings and Records extant, some in Greek, some in Latin, some in French, and other Languages, from the Contents thereof that Assembly did frame the Constitution and Charges of an English Lodge, made a Law to preserve and observe the same in all time coming, and ordain’d good Pay for working Masons, &c.

That in process of time, when Lodges were more frequent, the Right Worshipful the Master and Fellows, with consent of the Lords of the Realm, (for most great Men were then Masons) ordain’d, that for the future, at the Making or Admission of a Brother, the Constitution should be read, and the Charges hereunto annex’d, by the Master or Warden; and that such as were to be admitted Master-Masons, or Masters of Work, should be examin’d whether they be able of Cunning to serve their respective Lords, as well the Lowest as the Highest, to the Honour and Worship of the aforesaid Art, and to the profit of their Lords; for they be their Lords that employ and pay them for their Service and Travel.

And besides many other things, the said Record adds, that those Charges and Laws of Free-Masons have been seen and perused by our late Sovereign King Henry VI. and by the Lords of his honourable Council, who have allow’d them, and said that they be right good and reasonable to be holden, as they have been drawn out and collected from the Records of ancient Times.

Now though in the third year of the said King Henry VI. while an Infant of about four years old, the Parliament made an Act, that affected only the working Masons, who had, contrary to the Statutes for Labourers, confederated not to work but at their own Price and Wages; and because such agreements were suppos’d to be made at the General Lodges, call’d in the Act Chapters and Congregations of Masons, it was then thought expedient to level the said Act against the said Congregations: Yet when the said King Henry VI. arriv’d to Man’s estate, the Masons laid before him and his Lords the above-mention’d Records and Charges, who, ’tis plain, review’d them, and solemnly approv’d of them as good and reasonable to be holden: Nay, the said King and his Lords must have been incorporated with the Free-Masons, before they could make such review of the Records; and in this Reign, before King Henry’s Troubles, Masons were much encourag’d. Nor is there any Instance of executing that Act in that, or in any other Reign since, and the Masons never neglected their Lodges for it, nor ever thought it worth while to employ their noble and eminent Brethren to have it repeal’d; because the working Masons, that are free of the Lodge, scorn to be guilty of such Combinations; and the other free Masons have no Concern in Trespasses against the Statutes for Labourers.

The Kings of Scotland very much encourag’d the Royal Art, from the earliest Times down to the Union of the Crowns, as appears by the Remains of glorious buildings in that ancient kingdom, and by the Lodges there kept up without interruption many hundred years, the records and traditions of which testify the great respect of those Kings to this honourable Fraternity, who gave always pregnant evidence of their love and loyalty, from whence sprung the old toast among Scots Masons, viz. God bless the King and the Craft!

Nor was the royal Example neglected by the Nobility, Gentry, and Clergy of Scotland, who join’d in every thing for the good of the Craft and Brotherhood, the Kings being often the Grand Masters, until, among other things, the Masons of Scotland were impower’d to have a certain and fix’d Grand Master and Grand-Warden, who had a Salary from the Crown, and also an Acknowledgment from every New Brother in the Kingdom at Entrance, whose Business was not only to regulate what might happen amiss in the Brotherhood, but also to hear and finally determine all Con­troversies between Mason and Lord, to punish the Mason, if he deserv’d it, and to oblige both to equitable terms: 

At which Hearings, if the Grand Master was absent (who was always nobly born), the Grand-Warden presided. This Privilege remain’d till the Civil Wars (1640), but is now obsolete; nor can it well be reviv’d until the King becomes a Mason, because it was not actually exerted at the Union of the Kingdoms (1707). Yet the great care that the Scots took of true Masonry, prov’d afterwards very useful to England; for the learned and magnanimous Queen Elizabeth (5), who encourag’d other Arts, discourag’d this; because, being a Woman, she could not be made a Mason, tho’, as other great Women, she might have much employ’d Masons, like Semiramis and Artemisia.

But upon her Demise, King James VI. of Scotland succeeding to the Crown of England, being a Mason King, reviv’d the English Lodges; and as he was the First  King of Great-Britain, he was also the First Prince in the World that recover’d the Roman Architecture from the Ruins of Gothick Ignorance: For after many dark or illiterate Ages, as soon as all Parts of learning reviv’d, and Geometry recover’d its Ground, the polite Nations began to discover the Confusion and Impropriety of the Gothick buildings; and in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Augustan Stile was rais’d from its Rubbish in Italy, by Bramante, Barbaro, Sansovino, Sangallo, Michael Angelo, Raphael Urbin, Julio Romano, Serglio, Labaco, Scamozi, Vignola, and many other bright Architects; but above all, by the Great Palladio, who has not yet been duly imitated in Italy, though justly rival’d in England by our Great Master-Mason Inigo Jones.

But though all true Masons honour the Memories of those Italian Architects, it must be own’d that the Augustan Stile was not reviv’d by any crown’d Head, before King James the sixth of Scotland and first of England patroniz’d the said glorious Inigo Jones, whom he employ’d to build his Royal Palace of White Hall; and in his Reign over all Great-Britain, the Banqueting-House, as the first piece of it, was only rais’d, which is the finest one Room upon Earth; and the ingenious Mr. Nicholas Stone perform’d as Master-Mason  under the Architect Jones.

Upon his Demise, his Son King Charles I. being also a Mason, patroniz’d Mr. Jones too, and firmly intended to have carried on his Royal Father’s design of White-Hall, according to Mr. Jones’s Stile; but was unhappily diverted by the Civil Wars. After the Wars were over, and the Royal Family restor’d, true Masonry was likewise restor’d; especially upon the unhappy occasion of the Burning of London (Anno 1666); for then the City-Houses were rebuilt more after the Roman Stile, when King Charles II. founded the present St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, (the old Gothick Fabrick being burnt down) much after the Style of St. Peter’s at Rome, conducted by the ingenious Architect, Sir Christopher Wren. That King founded also his royal Palace at Greenwich, according to Mr. Inigo Jone’s Design (which he drew before he dy’d) conducted by his Son-in-Law Mr. Web: It is now turn’d into an Hospital for Seamen. He founded also Chelsea-College, an Hospital for Soldiers; and at Edinburgh he both founded and finish’d his Royal Palace of Haly-Rood-House, by the Design and Conduct of Sir William Bruce, Bart. the Master of the Royal Works in Scotland: So that besides the Tradition of old Masons now alive, which may be rely’d on, we have much reason to believe that King Char­les II. was an Accepted Free-Mason, as every one allows he was a great Encourager of the Craftsmen.

But in the Reign of his Brother King James II. though some Roman Buildings were carried on, the Lodges of Free-Masons in London much dwindled into Ignorance, by not being duly frequented and cultivated. But after the Revolution (Anno 1688), King William, though a warlike Prince, having a good taste of Architecture, carried on the aforesaid two famous Hospitals of Greenwich and Chelsea, built the fine part of his royal Palace of Hampton Court, and founded and finish’d his incomparable Palace at Loo in Holland, &c. And the bright Example of that glorious Prince, (who by most is reck­on’d a Free-Mason) did influence the Nobility, the Gentry, the Wealthy and the Learned of Great Britain, to affect much the Augustan Style; as appears by a vast number of most curious edifices erected since throughout the kingdom: 

For when in the ninth Year of the Reign of our late Sovereign Queen Anne, her Majesty and the Parliament concurr’d in an Act for erecting 50 new Parish-Churches in London, Westminster, and Suburbs; and the Queen had granted a Commission to several of the Ministers of State, the principal Nobility, great Gentry, and eminent Citizens, the two Archbishops, with several other Bishops and dignify’d Clergymen, to put the Act in execution; they order’d the said New Churches to be rais’d according to the ancient Roman Style, as appears by those that are already rais’d; and the present honourable Commissioners having the same good Judgment of Architecture, are carrying on the same laudable grand Design, and are reviving the ancient Style, by the Order, Countenance, and Encouragement of his present Majesty King George, who was also graciously pleas’d to lay the First Stone in the Foundation of his Parish Church of St. Martin’s in Campis, on the South-East Corner (by his Majesty’s Proxy for the time, the present Bishop of Salisbury), which is now rebuilding, strong, large, and beautiful, at the cost of the Parishioners.

In short, it would require many large Volumes to contain the many splendid Instances of the mighty Influence of Masonry from the Creation, in every Age, and in every Nation, as could be collected from Historians and Travellers: But especially in those Parts of the World where the Europeans correspond and trade, such remains of ancient, large, curious, and magnificent Colonading, have been discover’d by the Inquisitive, that they can’t enough lament the general Devastations of the Goths and Mahometans; and must conclude, that no Art was ever so much encourag’d as this; as indeed none other is so extensively useful to mankind. Nay, if it were expe­dient, it could be made appear, that from this ancient Fraternity, the societies or Orders of the Warlike Knights, and of the religious  too, in process of time, did borrow many solemn Usages; for none of them were better instituted, more decently install’d, or did more sacredly observe their Laws and Charges than the Accepted Masons have done, who in all Ages, and in every Nation, have maintain’d and propagated their Concernments in a way peculiar to themselves, which the most Cunning and the most Learned cannot penetrate into, though it has been often attempted; while they know and love one another, even without the Help of Speech, or when of different Languages.

And now the Freeborn British Nations, disintangled from foreign and civil Wars, and enjoying the good Fruits of Peace and Liberty, having of late much indulg’d their happy Genius for Masonry of every sort, and reviv’d the drooping Lodges of London, this fair Metropolis flourisheth, as well as other parts, with several worthy particular Lodges, that have a quarterly Communication, and an annual grand Assembly, wherein the Forms and Usages of the most ancient and worshipful Fraternity are wisely propagated, and the Royal Art duly cultivated, and the Cement of the Brotherhood preserv’d; so that the whole Body resembles a well built Arch; several Noblemen and Gentlemen of the best Rank, with Clergymen and learned Scholars of most Professions and Denominations, having frankly join’d 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 Montague. 

© Guy Chassagnard 2016