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The Adventures of Timothy Peacock, Esquire; or, Freemasonry Practically Illustrated


Daniel P. Thompson

"For mystic learning wondrous able,
In magic, talismen are cabal;
Whose primitive tradition reaches
As far as Adam's first green breeches."

For several of the following weeks, our hero devoted himself almost wholly to masonry. And considering the great natural aptitude of his genius for this noble study, and considering the unwearied pains taken for his instruction by the brotherhood since his late important services for the craft, and the lively interest they now manifested for his advancement, it is, perhaps, scarcely to be wondered at, that his progress was unrivalled. He attended all the frequent meetings of the Chapter, many of which were holden on his own account, and proceeded with rapid advances through the most prominent degrees of knighthood. We regret that the limits assigned to this work will not permit us to follow him further in his brilliant career in the lodge-room, describing, as we have so far attempted to do, the peculiar excellencies and leading features of each of these important and splendid degrees. But this not being the case, we can only say, that new beauties and wonders, new fountains of light and wisdom, were continually unfolding themselves to his enraptured mind, as he proceeded, step by step, through the august mazes of this stupendous system.

Thus passed the time of our hero till about the middle of winter, when the Grand Chapter of the State of New York assembled at Albany for their annual session. At this session, which lasted about a week, nearly all the great, the high and illustrious of the order in the state, embracing most of its highest civil officers, were present. What a golden opportunity for the young aspirant of masonic honors! Here was the great Clinton—here the Van Rensselaers, the Van Derheighdens, and scores of other proud Vans,

"Who boast their descent from Burgher Patroon, And, like bull-frogs from ditches, now croak to the moon."

Not a little proud was our hero to be admitted into the company, to set beside, and be placed upon an equal with these high titled dignitaries of masonry. And, as he walked in their gorgeous processions, often arm in arm with the most distinguished, and glanced at his own fine form, his elegant dress and the splendid ensignia with which it was surmounted, betokening his own elevated rank in masonry, his heart swelled and expanded with exulting delight, and, in the repletion of his happiness, he sighed, "this it is to be great!"

But the splendor of parade that marked this brilliant assemblage of the wealth, rank and talent of the land, as magnificent and imposing as it was, still yielded in comparison to the richness of the intellectual repast which was here afforded. The wise, the learned and the eloquent, all brought their rich offerings to the mystic shrine. But among all those who contributed to this glorious feast of the mind, the celebrated Salem Town, Grand Chaplain, took, by far, the most conspicuous part on this important occasion. Besides the performance of the customary clerical duties of his station, this profound masonic philosopher favored the Chapter with the fruits of his prodigious researches, in the shape of lectures, or addresses, delivered each day during the session, on the origin, history and principles of Freemasonry. Our hero was an eager and delighted recipient of his learned instruction,and he thought, as he daily sat under the pure droppings of this masonic sanctuary, that he had never heard such wisdom.

In his first lecture, this great and good man gave a suscinct and lucid history of the origin of Freemasonry. After a few general prefatory remarks, and after stating what were the secrets of masonry, such as the signs, pass-words, &c. which might not be told, he proceeded to discuss that which might be told, introducing the main subject of the lecture with the following bold and beautiful antithesis: "But it is no secret that masonry is of divine origin ." With this triumphant assertion, he proceeded to consider the proofs of the proposition, with all that logical accuracy and conclusiveness which so eminently characterize his published productions. He said "the earth was created to unfold the great councils of eternity." That man was created a social being, and it was therefore necessary to form associations for the purpose of carrying into effect the views of heaven, which the energies of civil government were too feeble to accomplish. And that as masonry was the oldest and the most noble of all these associations, it was hence intended to become the repository of the will of heaven, and hence the medium by which that will was to be promulgated to the world. Thus leading the hearer to the irresistible conclusion, not only that masonry was of divine origin, but that the earth itself was in fact created for the use of masonry. It would be just like many pragmatical professors of whys, ergos and wherefores, to carp here and say that the premises in this masterly argument were all assumed. But the out-breakings of spleen and ignorance! who heeds them? The argument, in substance, is here, and will speak for itself,—I have no fears that my intelligent readers will not justly appreciate it. But should any still entertain the least doubts on this subject, let them follow this great reasoner into the succeeding lectures, where the same argument is resumed, with such accumulations of testimony as to convince the most skeptical. I allude more particularly to that masterly parallel which he drew between Masonry and revelation, and which subsequently appeared in his great work on speculative masonry. In this parallel, after enumerating a long array of coincidences, to prove that Masonry and revelation must have been one and the same, co-existent, and of common origin, and reserving, like a skillful logician, the strongest and most striking for the last, he puts all doubts at defiance, and caps the climax with the following:— "And finally, the Scriptures teach us in general terms, all the duties of charity, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, to visit the widow and fatherless,—masonry dwells upon these subjects in every degree, and lays her members under solemn obligations to exercise christian charity and benevolence. The word of God teaches us to love our enemies, and render good for evil. Masonry will feed a brother, though a personal enemy, even at the point of a sword, should his necessities absolutely require it!"

Having thus conclusively settled the question of the divine origin of Masonry, the learned lecturer proceeded to show the existence and continuance of the institution from the creation down to the present time; and, taking the simple, single fact, that Masonry and geometry are synonymous terms for the basis of his argument, he was here again triumphantly successful in establishing this important point. For, as the principles of geometry were involved in the creation of the world, in the construction of Noah's ark, and the ark of the Tabernacles, built by Moses, nothing could be clearer than the conclusion that God, Noah and Moses, were eminent Freemasons. In a manner equally learned and ingenious did he trace the footsteps of Masonry from Moses to Solomon, the well-known Grand Master, and thence to Alexander the Great, Pythagoras, Hypocrates, the Roman Generals, and lastly the Druids and the princes of civilized Europe. After he had thus completed his masterly history of ancient Freemasonry, he then passed on to consider the general tenets and character of the institution. And here the soundness of his moral and political principies, and the powers of his eloquence were no less conspicuous than the learned research and logical acumen which he had displayed in the historical part of his subject. One of his addresses at this stage of his lectures particularly arrested our hero's attention. While treating on the unity and fellowship of Masons in all parts of the world, however they might differ in "things unessential" or indifferent to the order, such as Christianity, Paganism, Mahometanism, piracy and the like, he set forth, with the most glowing eloquence, the privileges and advantages of masonry. "Here is a privilege," said he, "no where else to be found: Do you fall into the merciless hands of the unrelenting Turk? even there the shackles of slavery are broken from your hands through the intercession of a brother: Do you meet an enemy in battle array? the token of a Mason instantly converts him into a guardian angel. Even the bloody flag of a pirate is changed for the olive branch of peace by the mysterious token of a Mason." He then related several interesting anecdotes illustrative of these remarks: One, where an American was captured and imprisoned in Egypt, and escaped by the aid of a Turkish Mason: Another, where an American, imprisoned in Edinburgh, among other prisoners, was liberated by the craft in that city, on his being recognized as a Mason, while all the rest of the prisoners, not being Masons, had to submit to their fate. And yet another, where a whole crew falling into the hands of a pirate, were preserved from death by one of their number being a Mason and giving the token to the piratical leader, who, proving a worthy brother, graciously spared the lives of all his prisoners.

Timothy could scarcely keep his seat for the liveliness of his emotions while these anecdotes were relating. The escape of himself and his friend Jenks from arrest, in the affair of the counterfeit bill, in the Highlands, occurred instantly to his mind in confirmation of the lecturer's remarks. The late recent affair too, of the arrest and escape of his exalted companion from a disgraceful punishment, rushed forcibly to his mind. Never before had he perceived the advantages of Masonry in so strong a light as set forth in these anecdotes. For he at once saw that the lecturer had told but half the story—having left the most important inferences yet to be drawn by the hearer—common sense told him that if a Mason could thus escape the operation of the rigid rules of war, or the despotic laws of a Turkish despot, how easily he might put all other laws at complete defiance. And in the case of the pirate, it was no less manifest that the same sacred token, which saved the innocent crew, must be reciprocally obeyed by snatching that piratical leader from the gallows should he unfortunately fall into the hands of his enemies, those unfeeling ministers of the law, and undergo condemnation. Our hero was lost in admiration of the institution which vouchsafed all these precious immunities to its members; and again and again did he bless the day that enrolled him among that favored number, and made him a recipient of those saving virtues and invaluable privileges.

Such are a few, among a thousand others that might be cited, of the bright specimens of the logic and learning, and wisdom and eloquence, which the illustrious Grand Chaplain displayed in the course of these celebrated lectures. Well may the fraternity be proud of the man whose genius has not only shed such lustre on their institution, but irradiated its kindly light into the minds of the purblind uninitiated, till thousands have been brought to the fold of Masonry. Such minds do not appear in every age, but, like comets, at intervals of centuries, come blazing along, shedding abroad their glorious effulgence, and dispersing the gloom around them. Seven cities, it is said, contended for the honor of the birth-place of Homer. Of the birth-place of the great lecturer, we are not apprised. Should not the public be put in possession of information on this point, without further delay, to prevent such unhappy contests hereafter, as those which vexed the Grecian cities in disputing for the distinguished honor of giving birth to their favorite bard? The literary birth-place of the Grand Chaplain, however, is fortunately established. That high distincton falls to the envied lot of his doating Alma Mater, the Otter-Creek Minerva, who would not long sit demure and unnoticed in her Green-Mountain bower, had she a few more such hopeful sons to brighten her into fame by the light of their reflected honors.

For the remainder of the winter, and most of the spring following, our hero unremittedly devoted himself to the great object he had chosen, on which to concentrate the energies of his mighty genius. And the progress he still continued to make, plainly evinced, that these golden opportunities had fallen to the lot of one who was highly capable of improving them. Besides perfecting himself in the lectures of all the subordinate degrees, he paused not in his onward career till he had taken all the ineffable degrees, and all the degrees of knighthood which the Chapters, Councils or Encampments, to which he could have access, were capable of conferring. And so thoroughly did he study the lessons or lectures of each, that he soon acquired the reputation, even among the expert and accomplished Masons of the cipatal, of being a proficient of no ordinary promise.

Having now arrived at a proud summit in the path of masonic advancement, he began to bethink him of leaving the city, in order to avail himself of his acquirements in some way, to replenish his purse, which his winter's living in the capital, together with expenses incidental to the many degrees he had taken in Masonry, had now reduced to rather alarming dimensions. While revolving these things in his mind, he received a most welcome letter from his old friend, Jenks, giving him an urgent invitation to revisit the Green-Mountains, and deliver an oration before the lodge, which had the honor of making him a Mason, at the approaching anniversary of the birth day of St. John, which they had concluded to celebrate. Highly flattered at the complimentary nature of this invitation, he immediately resolved to accept it, being gratified at the thought of so fine an opportunity of showing his former masonic associates, a specimen of the improvement he had made since he left them. Accordingly he wrote a long letter to Jenks, in which, after detailing his personal adventures since they parted, he announced his willingness to undertake the proposed task of preparing an address for their approaching celebration, and promised to be on the spot in season to deliver it in person. Having done this, and come to the conclusion of remaining several weeks longer in the city, that he might have access to masonic books, while engaged in preparing his oration, he now diligently betook himself to the pleasing task. Night and day, did he labor in this grateful employment, till he had brought his performance to a most satisfactory conclusion. After this he spent several days in committing his oration to memory, speaking it over in his room, and practicing before a large mirror, after the manner of Demosthenes, to get the action, which consisted, in his opinion, in gesticulation and commanding attitudes. Not, however, that he meant to copy the manner of the great Grecian orator, for he had another prototype in view, of a far superior kind, as he believed, in the Grand Chaplain, and him he endeavored to imitate with the most sedulous care, in catching his graceful attitudes and melodious modulations of voice. While engaged in this interesting employment, and in making preparations for his departure, he accidentally one day happened at the post-office, where he most unexpectedly found two letters for him. Hurrying back to his room, he proceeded to examine them. Percieving the superscription of one to be in his father's hand, he tore it open and read it as follows:—

"O, Tim,—I have lately found out a most Jo-fired discovery! You know Tim, about the time you was born, I joined the Masons—at least I thought I did. Now I have lately found out that business was but little better than a damn'd hoe-axe. Bill Botherem, the scamp of tophet, damn him! Well, yer see, he made me believe he could take me in, and so he did, and be damn'd to him! but he had no right to, besides more than half of his jigerations there, initials, I think they call them, were no Masonry at all amost. And all the scorching and drenching, and all that flumydiddle about tin pans and pistols and number ones and number twos—and all that botheration about going over with it again, cause a fellow could'nt help swearing a little, to let off the steam, was nothing but some of Bill's divlish cheatery and whimsification. For I have found out there is nothing in Masonry against swearing in a natural way at all amost. Well, yer see, Bill has at last got found out in his diviltrees. A little while after you went away, one of the fellows who helped Bill in that scurvy business, joined the true lodge, and told on't after he'd kept the secret in his clam shells more than twenty years. So neighbor Gibson, who is a Mason, came to me, and told me all as how I had been Tom fooled, and advised me to join the true lodge, and so I did, and have now got the bony fide Masonry—and by the Lord Harry, how easy 'tis! Bill's Masory could not hold a candle to it! Well, yer see, we now considered what was to be done with Bill. But some thought he did'nt fairly break his oaths, and some said it was so long agone that we'd better let it drop, and so we did, only concluding to let all the brethren and other trusty folks know in a kinder private way, that Bill was a villain. But Bill, yer see, did'nt know as how we'd found him out, and so he lately tried another trick, and really made a young fellow a Mason privately, and told all the true secrets, they say. But what is the drollest is, he's got found out in that too. The fellow, yer see, was courting a gall, and told her all—and you know how things drop through wimen. She told it to a Mason's wife, and so it got to the lodge. We have taken the young fellow in, but they all say something must be done with Bill this time, or he will ruin the whole tote of us. And sure enough. Thunder! must all the world know all the didos we cut up in the lodge-room—wimen and all? A pretty kettle of fish that! I am clear for bringing the perjured scoundrel up to the bull-ring. But we are in a bother how to come at it in a legal kind of a way, as yer may say—and so we want you should come home and insult on the business. So you'd as well ax those great bug-Masons there in York State, their advice, and then pull up stakes for Mug-Wump, in no time. Brother Gibson, says he is agoing to write you too. Your mother has got the extatics to see you, and so I remain your honorable father.


The other letter was in Royal Arch cypher, and from the person mentioned in Mr. Peacock's letter, which, being translated for the benefit of the uninitiated, reads as follows:—

"Dear Brother,—Botherworth has perjured himself. Vengeance must be had—but the manner—come and assist us.

In caution,


Timothy could scarcely restrain his indignation sufficiently to read these letters through. The insult here practiced upon his father alone, called loudly for punishment, but this, despisable as it was, seemed as nothing to the awful guilt of Botherworth, in breaking his obligations and turning the sacred rights of Masonry into mockery! Shuddering at the very thought of the deep damnation that the wretch had brought upon himself, our hero lost no time in laying the case before some of the most experienced and learned of the craft in the city, and finding them unanimous in their opinion on this subject, he took their advice as to the best manner of proceedure when he arrived at the scene of action, and proceeded to make preparations for an immediate departure for the spot to which he felt that a high duty now called him, and to which he was determined to hasten with no other delay than that which might be required on his way to meet his engagement with his Vermont brethren, at their approaching festival.

Accordingly, the next day after a tender parting from his city brethren—one of whom, I scarce need say which, presented him with an elegant gold headed cane on the occasion,—our hero took stage and bid a reluctant farewell to the city, where every thing had conspired to contribute to his happiness and to advance him in the path of mystic greatness.

Nothing worthy of relation occurred on the two first days of his journey—and on the second night, he had the pleasure of grasping the trusty hand of his old friend Jenks, at his home in the Green-Mountains.


[5] See Town's Speculative Mosonry, Chap. I, Edition I, page 37.

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