Masonic Library

Special thanks to George Helmer FPS

Part I
Transactions of the Manchester Association for Masonic
Research - 1929
THE subject I have selected for my Paper this evening is
one concerning which little or no attention has apparently
been paid by students. Many books have been written in
which the social conditions existing in England in the 18th
century have been passed under review, and we have also
Histories of Freemasonry in England during the same period,
but in neither case has any serious attempt been made to
connect the widespread growth and universality of the latter
with any of the improved conditions of the former. It is, I fear,
quite impossible in the time at my disposal to analyze with
any considerable detail the various facts concerning
Freemasonry, which may have affected the social life of
England as a whole ; but I will endeavor to set before you,
in as brief a manner as possible, the principles and tenets
inculcated in Freemasonry from the early part of the 18th
century, and indicate broadly the lines upon which further
investigation might be undertaken, with the view of
ascertaining, if possible, the effect of these teachings of
Freemasonry upon the social conditions then existing.
 From the 13th century, and probably even earlier, Masons,
when congregated together, appear to have met in Lodges -
then the workroom attached to the building in progress. At
the beginning of the 18th century only a few such groups
remained, such as those at Alnwick and Swalwell - then
meeting in taverns - whose records survive to show that they
existed for the operative purpose of regulating the Masons'
trade. There were also, in London and elsewhere in
England, isolated and independent Lodges of Freemasons,
composed mainly if not entirely of non-operative Masons, in
which speculative or symbolical Masonry was practiced. We
know that Sir Robert Moray, a Founder and first President of
the Royal Society, was made a Freemason at Newcastle in
1641, and also that Elias Ashmole, the celebrated Antiquary,
was made a Freemason at Warrington in 1646. Then again
there is evidence that Charles, first Duke of Richmond, was
a Freemason in 1695, and other names might be mentioned
did time permit. Until 1717 these isolated speculative Lodges
were apparently independent of any central control; but we
know that in each of them certain ceremonial observances
were carried out in connection with the making of a
Freemason, one account telling us that the ceremony was
"very formal."
In 1717 four Lodges meeting in London agreed to form
themselves into a Grand Lodge, and on the 24th June they
elected their first Grand Master, with two Grand Wardens. In
1721, John, second Duke of Montagu, became Grand
Master, and ever since that date this Grand Lodge has been
ruled by nobility or royalty. For the first six years of the life of
this Grand Lodge its activities were confined to London and
the Bills of Mortality. In 1723 Lodges were constituted at
Edgware, Acton and Richmond, and in the following year the
extension to the Provinces was in active operation, Lodges
springing up at Bath and Bristol in the West and Norwich in
the East.
In 1725 there were about 70 Lodges under the central
organization, with some 1,400 Brethren. By 1731 the Lodges
had grown to 83, and included Lodges at Gibraltar, Lisbon
and Calcutta. The number of Brethren had by then risen to
approximately 2,400. Subsequently new Lodges were
founded in steady succession and by the end of 17 40 there
were 187 Lodges under the Grand Lodge of England.
In 1751 the Grand Lodge according to the Old Constitutions
was formed in London by six Lodges, none of which appear
ever to have been under the jurisdiction of the older Grand
Lodge. The Brethren of these six Lodges were mostly Irish
and no doubt many of them learnt their Masonry in Ireland,
where a Grand Lodge had been established for that island,
certainly from 1725 and perhaps even earlier. This rival
Grand Lodge - known familiarly as the Grand Lodge of the
Ancients - progressed rapidly. Its Brethren were drawn from
men of a lower social status than were those in the Lodges
under the premier Grand Lodge, thus widening still further
the avenues through which the teachings of Freemasonry
passed into the world at large.
By 1775 the aggregate number of Lodges under both the
Grand Lodges was 578 and at the close of the century this
number had grown to 768. But throughout the period English
Freemasonry did not confine itself to the British Isles. It was
carried into every nook and cranny of the inhabited world,
particularly where English speaking people dwelt. 271 of the
768 Lodges in 1800 were in places outside England and
Wales. In addition the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland
have constituted many Lodges under their respective
jurisdictions, not only at home but also in various other parts
of the world.
Having glanced at the rapid growth of Freemasonry during
the 18th century, I now come to the main portion of my
subject, which comprehends a consideration of whether the
Members of all these Lodges of Freemasons, either
collectively or individually, had any influence upon the social
conditions of that period.
Trevelyan, in his recent History of England, states:-
"It was the special function of the 18th century to diffuse
common sense and reasonableness of life and thought, to
civilize manners and to Harmonize conduct."
It is not, however, an easy matter to recognise any one of
the many factors which conduced towards this end, for there
were many influences at work, independent of each other, all
tending towards the same object. Was one of these factors
Freemasonry, which, from records commencing from 1722,
is known to have inculcated the principles of Brotherly Love,
Relief and Truth towards each other, besides toleration,
temperance and other social and moral virtues.
 From about 1725 the ceremony of making a Freemason had
developed into a series of three degrees, which were
conferred upon Masons in the Lodges - Entered Apprentice,
Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. Each of these three degrees
had its own special teachings. The Degree of Entered
Apprentice sought to reach the moral and social duties of
Man to God, his Neighbor and Himself; the second Degree
of Fellowcraft - often given at the same time as the first
taught the desirability of searching into the hidden mysteries
of nature and science; while the third, or Master Mason's
Degree carried on the teaching requisite for a good moral
character by inculcating fidelity and trustworthiness with true
fellowship in this life, and finally emphasizing the life after
death, or the immortality of the soul.
 From so-called exposures, which began to make their
appearance in print from 1723 onwards throughout the
century, and also from other contemporary sources, it is
quite certain that the three Degrees gradually developed into
three ceremonies of a very solemn character, well in keeping
with the principles and tenets sought to be inculcated in
those ceremonies. In the 6th of the Charges in the
Constitutions of 1723 it is stated:-
"You are not to behave yourself ludicrously or jestingly while
the Lodge is engaged in what is serious and solemn." In
some early By-Laws of the Maids Head Lodge, Norwich,
recommended to them by Dr. J. T. Desaguliers, there was
one as follows :-
"That no ridiculous trick be played with any person when he is
In 1728, William Oakley, Master of the Lodge at the
Carpenter's Arms, Silver Street, Golden Square, London,
addressed his Brethren. In the course of that speech he
exhorted them that,
"their character and behavior ought to be such as shall not
be liable to bring any Reflection on the Craft."
He concluded this exhortation by wishing that the Brethren
"love, cherish, relieve, and promote the Interest of each
In the Freemason's Pocket Companion, published by William
Smith in 1735, a short charge to new admitted Brethren is
given. This emphasises many of the tenets of Freemasonry.
It is too long to quote in full, but I will give you one or two
"There are three general Heads of Duty which Masons ought
always to inculcate, viz.: to God, our Neighbors, and
our-selves. To God, in never mentioning his Name but with
that Reverential Awe which becomes a Creature to bear to
his Creator, and to look upon him always as the
Summum-Bonum which we came into the world to enjoy ;
and according to that view to regulate all our pursuits.
"To our Neighbours, in acting upon the Square, and doing as
we would be done by.
"To ourselves in avoiding all Intemperances and Excesses,
whereby we may be rendered incapable of following our
work, or led into Behaviour unbecoming our laudable
Profession, and in always keeping within due bounds, and
free from all Pollution. In the State a Mason is to behave as
a peaceable and dutiful Subject conforming cheerfully to the
Government under which he lives."
Then, further on, we are told:-
"He is to be a Man of Benevolence and Charity, not sitting
down contented while his Fellow Creatures, but much more
his Brethren, are in want, when it is in his Power (without
prejudicing himself or Family) to relieve them."
Then, again, there is the following exhortation to the Initiate
"He is to be a Lover of the Arts and Sciences, and to take all
opportunities of improving himself therein."
In the Dedication to the Grand Master, Lord Carysfort,
prefixed to Scott's Freemasons' Pocket Companion,
published in 1754, there is the following :-
"We daily increase both in good and useful Members, and in
that generous Fund of Voluntary Charity, that raises the
admiration of the World, at the Mutual Love and Harmony,
which cements the Brotherhood; and is always ready to give
Relief to those who are worthy and in Distress."
It may further be noted that the Lodges used Prayers in
connection with the opening of the Lodge and the
performance of the Ceremonies. Some of these have been
preserved and show the solemn nature of the blessings
sought. As an example I quote from two used about 1730.
The first appeared in the Irish Constitutions of 1730, and
"Most Holy and Glorious Lord God thou Great Architect of
Heaven and Earth . . . . . . .in thy lame we assemble and
meet together humbly beseeching thee to bless us in all our
undertakings, to give us thy Holy Spirit, to enlighten our
Minds with Wisdom and Understanding; that we may know,
and serve thee aright, that all our Doings may tend to thy
Glory, and the Salvation of our Souls."
The second Prayer is from one of three very similar prayers
found among the Rawlinson MSS. at the Bodleian Library,
Oxford. In it occurs the following :-
Freemasonry is a science of symbols, in which, by their proper
study, a search is instituted after truth, that truth consisting in the
knowledge of the divine and human nature of God and the human
Soul. - DR. A. G. MACKEY.
George Helmer FPS
PM Norwood #90 GRA
PZ Norwood #18 RAM