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FAMILY feuds are more bitter than other civil wars are fought with greater passion and stubbornness than are other wars. So it was with the strife which for the greater part of a century divided English Freemasonry into two hostile camps. But time itself is a great assuager of animosities and so it proved in this case. One generation of belligerents died away, to pass an inheritance of fratricidal struggle to the second one. Meanwhile the original issues had become so confused it was not always possible for the heirs to know just why and for what they were fighting. Gradually the senselessness of the controversy began to take hold of the minds of younger leaders, and thus by imperceptible degrees a way was opened for peace.
The echoes of that conflict have now, after another hundred years, died away into an indistinct murmur. As the average schoolboy remembers in a vague way that in the War of the Roses the House of York wore a rose of one color and the House of Lancaster one of another, but is unable to say with assurance which wore the red and which the white, so now the average member of a Masonic Lodge is rarely sure whether it is of Modern or of Antient origin, and cares even less about the matter. Questions once so violently debated have for modern times but academic interest. Undoubtedly there was right and wrong on both sides of that quarrel, and but little good can be served in trying to measure the respective shares of merit and of blame. Historians have lavished a good deal of expensive white paper and printer's ink defending this side and assaulting that one. Literary heads have been broken with such hard words as "Schismatics," "Seceders," "Dissenters," "Rebels." But the treaty of peace which ended the breach was a fair and honorable one, entered into in good faith by both sides. The fact that each retained much of what it had contended for and made reasonable concessions to the other may properly be taken as evidence that neither bad a monopoly upon the justice of the causes at issue. The cement of love and affection has united both branches of Freemasonry into one band of friends and brethren among whom no further contention should arise, save that noble emulation who best can serve the common good of all mankind. In the present work it has been deemed wise to regard the cleavage as a division of English Freemasonry. In simple candor it should be said, however, that it has been ably and learnedly reasoned that it was in fact a schism, with the Antients as secessionists from the body of Modern Freemasonry. With ability and learning also it has been argued that the Antients were in truth a separate branch, springing from a body of independents who never at any time accepted the hegemony of the first Grand Lodge of Moderns. Mackey's History of Freemasonry strongly supports the one theory. Henry Sadler in Masonic Facts and Fictions, on the other hand, so brilliantly made out a case for the hypothesis that the Antient Grand Lodge was a growth from independent origins and therefore not illegal that the weight of modern criticism inclines very largely to that view. It is not a matter that can be determined with mathematical precision. Whether they were separate streams or whether one diverged from the other is of less consequence than the undeniable fact that in time they became merged into one majestic current.
The division was attended by inconveniences for both factions. Friends and neighbors who were Freemasons nevertheless found themselves estranged from one another, without always knowing precisely why. Among the rank and file of members it was not always possible to keep fires of resentment burning. Now and then brethren of Modern and Antient persuasions were unable to realize they might be incurring severe penalties by fraternizing in Masonic intercourse. Each Grand Lodge had to admonish its adherents from time to time that such complacency was unlawful.
As early as 1764 Dermott in the Ahiman Rezon observed that he cherished no animosity against the Moderns and in 1778 he expressed a wish that he might in his lifetime see a union of the two. At that time, however, the Antients were on the crest of prosperity. They were gaining accessions far more rapidly than were the Moderns, and had outmaneuvered their rivals so skillfully in the department of foreign relations that they were recognized in many parts of the English-speaking world as wielding a dominant influence in English Masonry. The peculiar genius of Dermott had done much to put them into that advantageous situation. He was far and away the best propagandist of his times, and in a period of intense controversy, his Was an art not to be despised.
Although they must have been disturbed by the progress their rivals were making, the Moderns were not as yet ready to make pacific overtures to the aggressive Antients. In 1777 their Grand Lodge issued a stern edict forbidding its supporters to have Masonic intercourse with Antients under pain of expulsion, and decreeing that no Antient should be admitted to a Modern Lodge until he had been "re-made." Some twenty years later, however, the rivals were forced to make common cause to escape the provisions of legislation intended to drive all secret societies out of the country.
By this time, moreover, the balance of authority had begun to slip toward the Moderns. Dermott having paid the usual human score and departed from this life, the Antients soon began to miss his capable leadership. Meanwhile several persons of exceptional ability had begun to make their influence felt among the Moderns, notably the Earl of Moira, an avowed protagonist of peace and reconciliation. But while Lord Moira was an ardent advocate of union, he lost no opportunity to strengthen the position of his own Grand Lodge and he managed to do this in ways that proved him capable of statesmanship of the highest order.
In 1801, Preston relates in his Illustrations, several brethren of the Modernist group were summoned before Grand Lodge to answer a charge they had served as officers in an Antient lodge. They were found guilty and were ordered forthwith to cease a practice which was declared to be highly irregular. They wished to be at peace with their own grand body, but they were reluctant to give up their new connections. They asked that operation of the sentence be suspended for three months, during which time they promised to do what they could to bring about an adjustment of the differences between the Modern and Antient lodges. This was agreed to, and Lord Moira was made member of a committee to take the thing in hand and do everything possible to further the enterprise. In effect this amounted to a rather definite proposal for union and it was of all the greater significance because it emanated from the supreme governing power of the Moderns.
The three months dragged out into two years before the committee found so many obstacles in the way of a successful prosecution of its task that it concluded to give it up for the time being. Thereupon the Modern Grand Lodge punished its recalcitrant brethren and issued a stiffer decree than ever against all Moderns who should hold Masonic intercourse with Antient Masons. Defeated in this direction, Lord Moira had by no means exhausted his resources. Indeed, in that same year, 1803, he turned the defeat to such account that he was able to begin a series of diplomatic maneuvers which was completely to reverse the existing situation in regard to foreign relations.
In November of that year, as it is related in Laurie's History of Freemasonry, Moira visited the Grand Lodge of Scotland and in a moving and tactful address reviewed the story of the Modernist - Antient dispute. He said that the Grand Lodge of England had opened its arms and its heart to the seceding brethren, but these had obstinately refused to accept reconciliation. The speech made a profound impression upon the Scottish brethren, and although at the time it was delivered the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Antient Grand Lodge were in fraternal relations with each other, the former speedily opened correspondence with the Moderns. Presently it granted formal recognition to them as constituting the sovereign Grand Jurisdiction of England. This action was emphasized in the strongest possible manner in 1805, when the Scottish Grand Lodge elected the Prince of Wales as Grand Master and the Earl of Moira as Acting Grand Master, the positions which those distinguished Masons were then holding under the Modern Grand Lodge.
That was turning the tables upon the Antients with a vengeance, but Moira was still far from the end of his resources. In 1808 he was largely instrumental in bringing about a correspondence with the Grand Lodge of Ireland. These negotiations ended with complete recognition of the Moderns by the Irish body and thus the last important diplomatic connection of the Antients with another Grand Lodge in the British Isles was irrevocably severed. The Antients found themselves where, only a few years before, the Moderns had been - cut off from Masonic intercourse with the great body of British Freemasonry. Their position was all the more imperilled when, the Prince of Wales having ascended the throne of England, the Duke of Sussex became Grand Master of the Moderns. Sussex was a strong advocate of union and so was his brother the Duke of Kent, who was Grand Master of the Antient Grand Lodge of Canada.
Meanwhile Moira had kept patiently at his appointed task. He and the Duke of Atholl engaged in a series of friendly conversations in which it was reciprocally agreed that some way should be found to bring the two bodies together. On October 26, 1809, Moira issued a warrant constituting a special lodge which should undertake to bring about a means of union. This body met on November 21 and resolved to call itself "The Special Lodge of Promulgation." In the spring of 1810 Moira was able to report to the Modern Grand Lodge that he and the Grand Master of the Antients "were both fully of opinion that it would be an event truly desirable to consolidate under one head the two Societies of Masons that existed in this country." This report was transmitted in due form to the Antient Grand Lodge, where it was favorably received. After further discussions it was agreed to try to find a way to reconciliation. Each Grand Lodge thereupon appointed a special committee on union and on July 21, 1810, the two committees met in joint session under the presidency of Lord Moira.
Many and intricate were the problems which had to be solved, but perhaps the most important was the one which related to the Royal Arch Degree. The Antients, it will be remembered, had a system of four degrees, of which the Royal Arch was the fourth. The Moderns had a system of three degrees, but the Royal Arch had been worked by many Modern lodges as a continuation of the Third Degree. Originally this had been without official sanction of the Modern Grand Lodge, but it had grown into a sort of supplementary department, branching out into a Royal Arch Chapter and ultimately a Grand Chapter.
The Four Degree System had been of inestimable advantage to the Antients. Naturally, all other things being equal, the average candidate for Freemasonry would rather join a lodge which had four degrees than one which had only three, and no small part of the astonishing growth of the Antients can be attributed to this understandable human preference. Each organization for the better part of a century had been insisting with much heat that its system was the only true Craft Masonry, and each was still reluctant to give up its own practice for that of the other.
Then, too, there were numerous other details of procedure, which had to be adjusted. There were differences in ritual, in symbols and signs, in methods of listing lodges, in colors. It was early felt that the only feasible path to union was the way of compromise and accommodation. The leaders were wise enough, however, not to insist that all of these problems be finally solved as a condition precedent to union, preferring to hasten union as rapidly as possible and trust to mutual good will to make the necessary adjustments afterwards.
Before the end of the year 1813 conditions were highly propitious for the great change. At the head of the Modern Grand Lodge were Sussex and Moira. At the head of the Antients was Atholl, good friend of Sussex, and the Duke of Kent, brother to Sussex as well as Antient Grand Master of Canada. On November 8, 1813, Atholl resigned his Grand Mastership in favor of Kent, thereby further simplifying the situation, since one of the royal brothers was now Grand Master of the Antients and the other of the Moderns. The installation took place on December 1. The Modern Grand Master and his staff attended the ceremonies, giving further evidence of their zeal for union by consenting to be "made" Antients in a lodge especially convened for that purpose.
During all this time the Lodge of Promulgation, consisting of nine Master Masons or Past Masters from each Grand Lodge had been keeping steadily at its work of drafting a basis for agreement. It was ready to make its report, which consisted of the now famous Masonic document known as the "Articles of Union Between the Two Grand Lodges of Freemasons in England." It was signed and scaled in duplicate and at a December meeting of each body it was formally ratified. December 27 was set as the day when the union should be completed at a "Grand Assembly of Freemasons for the Union of the Two Grand Lodges of England." The important items of the agreement were to the following effect:
It will be seen from the foregoing that the Articles of Union merely outlined the general terms of agreement without attempting to go into innumerable details remaining to be perfected. The original Lodge of Promulgation continued its work until 1816, harmonizing differences between the two rituals. The task of preparing a code of regulations was assigned to a Board of General Purposes. An International Commission was formed to bring into essential unison various points of Mystery and Craft. This Commission drafted a compact consisting of eight resolutions which ultimately was accepted by the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland and which effectually completed the consolidation of Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry.
And so the story of trials and tribulations had a pleasant ending after all. The two Grand Lodges were married and lived happily ever after. The formal ceremony of wedding took place with the pomp and circumstance worthy of an affair so important. Preston's sprightly pen has left an account from which it appears that on a day previously determined - December 27, 1813 - Freemasons' Hall had the honor of receiving both bodies. In adjoining rooms they opened their respective Grand Lodges according to the peculiar customs of each. Meanwhile in the principal assembly room Masters, Wardens and Past Masters of the various lodges had been seated in such manner that Moderns and Antients intermingled.
At a signal the Grand Procession marched into the room in double line, each Modern dignitary being accompanied by his Antient contemporary, the Grand Masters, Kent and Sussex, bringing up the rear. As the procession approached the Grand Master's throne its individuals faced inward and then opened up a lane down which the royal brothers marched arm in arm. They took seats on each side of the throne, being flanked by their respective staffs and distinguished visitors. In the Grand West and the Grand South similar arrangements were carried out, the respective Grand Wardens sitting to right and left of each Warden's station. After an invocation by the Rev. Dr. Barry, Grand Chaplain of the Antients, the Act of Union was read by the Grand Director of Ceremonies, Sir George Naylor. Then the Rev. Dr. Coghlan, Grand Chaplain of the Moderns, addressed the assembly in these words:
"Hear ye: This is the Act of Union engrossed in confirmation of Articles solemnly concluded between the two Grand Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons of England, signed, sealed and ratified by the two Grand Lodges respectively: by which they are hereafter and forever to be known and acknowledged by the style and title of The United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England. How say you, Brothers, Representatives of the two Fraternities? Do you accept of, ratify and confirm the same?"
As with one voice the assemblage replied, "We do accept, ratify and confirm the same."
"And may the Great Architect of the Universe make the union perpetual!" cried Dr. Coghlan.
"So mote it be!" the assemblage replied.
Dr. Barry then made formal proclamation that the union had been ratified, with a second prayer that it might be perpetual, to which there was another chorus of amens. After a symphony played by the Grand Organist, Samuel Wesley, the two Grand Masters arose and, followed by their staffs, approached an Ark of the Covenant which had been placed before the throne. The square, level, plumb and gavel were presented to them in turn. After making symbolic trial of the ark with these implements, they proclaimed it a symbol of a union which, they prayed, might endure forever.
"So mote it be! " chanted the brethren in chorus.
The ark was then consecrated by the ancient rite of Corn, Wine and Oil. When that had been done, a recess was called, when the Masters and Past Masters composing the Lodge of Reconciliation retired to another room. There, under the presidency of Count Lagardje, Past Grand Master of Masons in Sweden, they ratified the forms and ceremonies previously agreed upon. This action was formally reported to the Grand Lodge. The accepted form of obligation was read to the assembly, and the brethren, with hands joined, vowed faithfully to keep and perform it.
Officers of the old Grand Lodges then divested themselves of their insignia of office. The Duke of Kent obtained the floor and, observing that the task which had induced him to assume the Antient Grand Mastership had been accomplished, he nominated the Duke of Sussex for Grand Master. The election was by unanimous voice and Sussex was escorted to the throne by his brother and Count Lagardje. After the transaction of routine business, the communication was closed in proper form.
A great deal of work remained to be done, but there was a wholesome desire throughout the united Craft to forget old grudges and promote peace and harmony. How this generous spirit operated to smooth away difficulties of ritual and practice was admirably expressed by W. B. Hextall in his article in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (Volume XXIII, page 304) when he said:
"A conclusion to which I personally come is that for many years after the Union - speaking approximately until about 1825 - a good deal of 'give and take' concerning ritual went on unofficially, in London as well as in the Provinces, and that our Craft ceremonies, as practiced from 1830 and earlier, considerably deviated from those which were ascertained in the Lodge of Promulgation, 1809 - 11; worked in the Lodge of Reconciliation, 1813-16; and approved by Grand Lodge on 5th June, 1816. The material from which we have to draw inference is slight, but at the same time cogent; and when (to name a few points only) we find duties originally assigned to the Senior Deacon transferred to his junior colleague; the entrusting with the means of satisfactory proof leading to the second degree otherwise performed; and the admission of a member or visitor by proof of his having ascertained the degree in which the Lodge is opened from an inspection of the three great lights at the entrance (Lodge of Promulgation minutes, January 5th, 1810) fallen into complete disuse; it is difficult to avoid recalling that, to a large extent, the subject of Craft working must have been placed in the melting pot, and that quite apart from the means of instruction officially provided in 1813."
Several Lodges of Instruction did in fact come into existence and some of them became permanent. As they differed slightly from one another they are probably accountable for certain variations in "workings" which later came into use.
Precisely how strong the old Grand Lodges were at the moment of union it is impossible to ascertain with a degree of certainty. A Modern roll of 1812 mentioned 620 lodges and an Antient record of 1813 listed 354. It is certain, however, that some on both lists had become extinct or had passed under the control of foreign or colonial Grand Lodges. Hughan in Memorials of the Union observes that the United Grand Lodge started out with 636 lodges, of which 385 were of Modern and 251 of Antient origin.
The union of 1813 completed the evolutionary phase by which Speculative Masonry had developed from Operative Masonry in a period of slightly less than a century. It is impossible to exaggerate the Masonic importance of this event. Henceforth a strong, solidified, progressive Fraternity should be able to extend its influence, preserve its discipline and establish its authority throughout the world. It is still divided into numerous Grand jurisdictions, each sovereign in its own sphere, all working harmoniously together and each giving full faith and credit to the official acts of any other. Freemasonry in 1927 numbered its adherents by millions and of these approximately 97 per cent. were under the control of regular Anglo-Saxon Grand Lodges or of other Grand Lodges recognized by them as regular. It is possible that the future may lead to an even more perfect union. Who can say?
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