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masonic matters

Ancients Grand Lodge

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

“To me the ceremonies of Freemasonry in this state of ours, especially these later ones I have taken part in, make me wish that more Americans, in every part of the land, could become connected with our Fraternity.” President and Brother Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“I shall always feel pleasure when it may be in my power to render service to Lodge no. 39, and in every act of brotherly kindness to the members of it.” President and Brother George Washington

“It is possible for each of us to go into the world trying to apply in his dealings with his fellows the lessons of Masonry as they are taught in the Lodge, and as they are applied in the Brotherhood.” President and Brother Theodore Roosevelt

Here, within the Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota, our Education Committee has what is called the ‘Masonic Monday Question’, which asks interesting questions for Masonic Students to research, for their own enjoyment, and then to submit their findings as an answer to the question. This is a lot of fun for Masons and non-Masons alike who enjoy masonic research and study.

Just this week a question was asked about the ‘Ancients Grand lodge.’ This question prompted some to respond and to also ask some questions, which sent me to my library to do more of my own research. What seemed at first to be a simple question and answer has become something that is very enjoyable to learn more about. Reading all the information relating to the two rival Grand Lodges in England from 1751 to 1813 is extremely interesting for anyone who has an interest in history, freemasonry, and in masonic history in particular.

My research has not been exhaustive on the subject; there has been so much written on this subject I think one could spend months searching out all the books and articles relating to this period in masonic history, not to mention reading and understanding all of it. However, my library, like many lodge libraries, contains quite a few books with information on this subject which is sometimes called a schism. The word ‘schism’ is controversial to use because while some masonic scholars will call it that others say there really was no schism at all. A schism would imply that masons under one jurisdiction were seceders who broke away to form new lodges and a new grand lodge, while those who say that there was no schism point out that the masons who formed the “Grand Lodge of the Old Institution” in 1751 were “Irish Freemasons who settled in London.[i]” Brother Henry Sadler who has been referred to as “A most painstaking, patient and persevering investigator,” while he was the Grand Tyler of the United Grand Lodge of England, wrote a book called ‘Masonic Facts and Fiction’ (1889), in which he disposed of the theory that the founders of the Ancient’s [sometimes spelled Antient’s] Grand Lodge had seceded from that of the Moderns, because “they had, in fact, been initiated under the Irish Constitution.[ii]

My purpose with this article is to merely report on and about what I have learned from the reading, study, and the understanding I have of this period; from the formation of the Ancients Grand Lodge in 1751 to the union with the Grand Lodge of England to form the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813. By the use of endnotes, which will include my sources and additional information, my hope is that the information and the references will serve as a source for other masonic students to be able to find more information and consequently improve their own enjoyment in freemasonry through masonic study.

The first Grand Secretary of the ‘Ancients’ was Brother John Morgan: He said that the title used by his Grand Lodge in 1751 was; “The Most Ancient and Honorable society of Free and Accepted Masons.[iii]” Mackey[iv] begins his article on the ‘Ancients’ with the origin date of 1753, which can cause some confusion because other writers say it was in 1751. Mackey’s contention is that with the records he had available it was not possible to “determine the exact year in which the Grand Lodge of Ancients assumed a positive existence.” In explaining the why of this he says that prior to its actual organization the brethren of various lodges formed a Grand Committee[v], (1751,) which became the Grand Lodge of the Ancients.

The earliest transaction of this committee was on July 17, 1751 at the Turk’s Head Tavern, in Greek Street, Soho. There the Masters of seven Lodges, namely; “Nos. [Numbers] 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 were authorized, (as and by the Grand Committee,) to grant dispensations and Warrants and to act as a Grand Master:” This is the date given by some Masonic scholars for the origin of the Grand Lodge. The first result of the committee’s actions was the first Warrant issued to a Lodge by the Ancients to the lodge which met at the “Temple and Sun” Shire Lane, Temple Bar, and which became #8 of the Grand Lodge of the Ancients. Evidence of this Grand Committee having the authority of a Grand Master was that the Warrant was signed by the Master’s of Lodges numbered; 3, 4, 5, and 6. As Mackey says; “This would imply that the authority and prerogatives of a Grand Master were conferred not upon each Master, individually, but upon the whole of them collectively or at least upon a majority of them.”[vi]

In all the reading I have done on this subject I have not found where the lodges that formed the Ancients Grand Lodge we referred to in any other way than as numbers. Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia says Brother Gould listed the Lodges who were a part of the formation, however in reading Gould’s History of Freemasonry he, when quoting the minutes from the Grand Committee and the Grand lodge, listed them only by number not by name or even by location.

You will notice that in the list of lodge numbers, which formed the Grand Committee there was no Lodge #1. An explanation for this can be found in Brother Sadler’s book “Masonic Facts and Fiction,” in it he says: “At the outset the ‘Antients’[vii] had not a No. 1 Lodge on their list, that number being probably reserved for a ‘Grand Master’s Lodge,’ when they should arrive at the dignity of having an official of that calibre to preside over them. This from our present standpoint may seem a rather strange proceeding, but as a matter of fact they were in a manner copying the example of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, wherein the following order had been made on the 3rd of January 1749, the Grand Officers having recently formed a Lodge for themselves.”[viii]

The dissention that led up to the formation of the Ancient Grand Lodge began in 1739 during the Grand Mastership of Lord Raymond, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England, when there were considerable complaints made about the irregular making of Masons. It has been reported that during this period the Grand Lodge of England made a few changes in the ritual by transposing certain significant words in the first two degrees and inventing a new one for the third degree; this was said to have been done to exclude independent freemasons from their lodges.[ix] However, while there was some dissention all this did not cause a schism at that time[x]; over the years more problems would arise, which finally in 1751 led to the formation of a competing grand lodge.

Whatever the progression was to the formation of the Ancients Grand Lodge, it was slow to come about. However, Brother Clegg observes that over the years some so-called unruly brethren continued to hold their lodges independently of any supreme authority; he mentions that Brother Preston said that brethren who defied authority “held meetings in various places for the purpose of initiating persons into Freemasonry contrary to the laws of the Grand Lodge.”[xi]

From 1738 on there were many, now historical and important, events that happened which would impact Masonry, and not all of them were positive. For instance, in 1738 Pope Clement XII issued his Bull, (In Eminenti,) against the Freemasons. Possibly some of the changes in making masons and in the ritual that followed the next year might have been viewed by some as changing masonry because of outside pressures: In any event 1738, 1739, and the years that followed were trying times for freemasons in England. 1738 was also the year our Brother Dr. Anderson published his Constitutions of 1738 of which, as Brother Coil says, the most important part was the reconstructed minutes of the Grand Lodge for the years 1717 through 1723.[xii] The year 1747 was the time when the Scald Miserable Masons held their mock masonic processions through the streets of London; this event caused the Grand Lodge of England to order the discontinuance of the custom of masons having processions on the days of the grand feasts.

Whether the Grand Committee was in fact the organization of the Grand Lodge of the ‘Ancients’ or not - the ‘Ancients’ did have a Grand Secretary, in Brother John Morgan; he served for one year (1751), but resigned because he went back to sea.[xiii] In 1752 Brother Laurence Dermott became the Grand Secretary. Worshipful Brother Dermott was at the time a journeyman painter.[xiv]

Many times, in today’s freemasonry, it is said there is rapid advancement in many lodges, actually some will say ‘too rapid;’ sadly when this is said it is directed against some very well qualified brethren when they are elected master of their lodge, and/or appointed to a grand lodge position. Many of our well known and sometimes revered Masons were those who were rapidly advanced; Worshipful Brother Laurence Dermott, for example: He was born in Ireland in 1720; he was initiated into Freemasonry, (in Ireland,) in 1740; he was installed as Master of his Lodge, Lodge #26 in Dublin, on June 24, 1746, (During those years he served his lodge as secretary, and warden, as well as other positions;) that same year he became a Royal Arch Mason. Rapid advancement, but he evidently was worthy of it.

In Ireland[xv] the first records of established lodges are well after 1717, but even so there is evidence that freemasonry was known in Ireland as early as 1688, and the square found at Baal’s-Bridge near Limerick is curios - it has the inscription; “I will strive to live with love and care upon the level and by the square, 1507.”[xvi] If this is to be taken seriously, and it is, it indicates freemasonry in Ireland at a very early period. Anyway, after his degrees and mastership under the Irish constitution Brother Dermott relocated to England, (thought to be 1747 or 1748,) and in 1748 affiliated with a lodge there, which was a part of the Grand Lodge of England. Later he shifted his allegiance from the Grand Lodge of England and became a member of lodge #9, of the Ancients, which he soon left and joined Lodge #10, Even in these years there were Lodges who were known as, and called themselves, Ancients. While it is commonly held that Brother Dermott coined what are called ‘epithets,’[xvii] Brother Bernard Jones in his book says “We must be careful not to father too much on Laurence Dermott, for we learn from an advertisement in 1726 relating to ‘ante-diluvian Masonry’ that even in those days a distinction was being drawn between ‘Ancient Masonry’ and ‘the Moderns.” After Brother Dermott became a member of Lodge #10 he immediately began working on a set of by-laws for private Lodges, which came to be called in 1756 ‘Ahiman Rezon.’[xviii]

There were many charges or accusations made against the Grand Lodge of England,[xix] however, one that was not a charge but a feeling among some Masons was that the ‘Moderns,’ in their lodges and grand lodge, had become a place where working men were not welcome. Possibly this had as much to do with forming a new grand lodge as any of the other reasons.

Definitely there was a feud that was brewing for quite some time between the ‘Moderns’ and the ‘Ancients:’ “Notwithstanding [this], on the whole bitter feud between the rival Grand Lodges of England, the lodges on the two rolls worked together, with greater love and harmony than might have been expected. Sometimes in a so-called ancient lodge the business was modern and oftener still, lodges under the older system, followed the method of working in vogue among the ‘ancients.’[xx] While there may have been harmony among the Masons and their individual Lodges the Grand Lodge of England took a dim view of a lodge of theirs working as ‘Ancients.’ In 1754, while James, the Marquis of Carnarvon was Grand Master, there were 21 ‘country lodges’ erased from the rolls because they were in violation of Grand Lodge Regulation #94, which prohibited a lodge meeting as ‘Ancient Masons.’[xxi]

Eventually the name of the ‘Ancients’ became officially: “The Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, According to the Old Institutions.” The ‘Moderns’ in the second half of the 1700’s was known as: “The Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, Under the Constitution of England.” [xxii] It is interesting to note that the names of these two rival grand lodges indicated that one was a fraternity and the other was a society.

The most well know Grand Masters of the Ancients were the Dukes of Atholl; they were grand masters who were so well liked the grand lodges was sometimes referred to, and still is today at times, as the Atholl Grand Lodge. However, the first Grand Master of the Ancients was Worshipful Brother Robert Tucker, Master of Lodge #13 – he was installed December 05, 1753[xxiii] The 3rd Duke of Atholl became Grand Master in 1771, and his son the 4th Duke of Atholl followed him to the Grand East in 1775; he served in the office until 1781, and then was elected again to the office of Grand Master in 1791 and served until the Duke of Kent became Grand Master in December 1813; 28 years in all.

What followed seems to be a well known part of masonic history: the Dukes of Atholl were followed by others, and over the years negotiations, (which the 4th Duke of Atholl was a part,) began that resulted in the union of the two Grand Lodges in December of 1813. The Duke of Kent, who was the 4th Duke of Atholl’s Deputy Grand Master, was installed as Grand Master of the Ancients on December 1, 1813, which was some days after the Articles of Union were signed. His brother, and Masonic brother, the Duke of Sussex, who was the Grand Master of the Moderns was made an Ancient Mason, in an adjoining room, so he could be present at the installation of his brother as Grand Master. On December 27, 1813 the two brothers, both Grand Masters, were in Freemason’s Hall to consummate the union of the two Grand Lodges. The two Grand Masters proceeded to the East; the Duke of Kent then nominated the Duke of Sussex[xxiv] for election as Grand Master of the new United Grand Lodge of England; the Duke of Sussex was unanimously elected: he served as grand Master of the moderns and the united grand Lodge for 31 years.

“If it has pleased the supreme architect of the universe to make me an humble instrument to promote the welfare and happiness of my fellowmen, my exertions have been abundantly recompensed by the kind partiality with which they have been received; and the assurance that you give me of your belief that I have acted upon the square in my public capacity, will be among my principle enjoyments in this Terrestrial Lodge.” President and Brother George Washington

From the Great light of Masonry = “The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"! And the head cannot say to the feet, "I have no need of you!" On the contrary, those parts of body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable, we treat with special honor; all the parts that are un-presentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
1st Corinthians 12:21-26 NIV

[i] Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Vol. 1 page 76 Brother R. I. Clegg Editor and author 1929 Edition
[ii] A Reference Book for Freemasons by Brother Frederick Smyth; published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle 1998 edition. Page 261
[iii] Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium, by Brother Bernard E. Jones: 2006 Edition by Cumberland House. Page 197
[iv] Mackey’s History of Masonry Vol. 4 page 1106 – 1906 edition
[v] Mackey’s footnote #1: From Robert Freke Gould in his work on “The Atholl Lodges page 2. Gould thinks that this “Grand Committee,” which subsequently was developed into a Grand Lodge, was no doubt originally the senior private lodge of the Ancients.
[vi] Mackey’s History of Masonry Vol. 4 page 1110 – 1906 edition
[vii] This word is proper to spell either way. The masons of the time spelled it both ways including brethren who were members of that Grand Lodge. On page 238 of Coil’s it says that the question of spelling the word ‘Ancients’ or ‘Antients’ was settled by Brother Ivor Grantham in AQC on pages 76-78 for the year 1953 in which he wrote that the Ancient Grand Lodge and Grand Secretary Laurence Dermott almost always spelled the word ‘Ancient,’ and that the Moderns used the spelling ‘Antient’ more than their rivals.
[viii] Mackey’s Revised History of Freemasonry by Robert Ingram Clegg vol. 4 page 1188 – 1921 edition
[ix] Ibid 1183
[x] Ibid page 1181 Brother Clegg says that Brother Northouck, (a chronicler of the events that led up to the formation of the Grand Lodge of the Ancients,) evidently confused the ‘irregular makings’ by private lodges, which began about the year 1739 with the establishment of the Grand Lodge of the Ancients.
[xi] Ibid – page 1182
[xii] Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia 1995 edition page 235
[xiii] Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium, by Brother Bernard E. Jones: 2006 Edition by Cumberland House. Page 197
[xiv] Ibid page 198
[xv] Irish Freemasonry is interesting to read about. See Coils Masonic Encyclopedia page 331. “There is a Freemason’s Stone in Dublin, which presumably dates from 1602.
[xvi] Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia 1995 edition page 332
[xvii] Ancients and Moderns
[xviii] Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium, by Brother Bernard E. Jones: 2006 Edition by Cumberland House. Page 198
[xix] To see a list of them view pages 201 & 202 of Freemason’s Guide and compendium
[xx] History of Freemasonry, by Robert Freke Gould-4 volume set-volume 3 page 214
[xxi] Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia 1995 edition page 236
[xxii] Ibid page 238
[xxiii] Ibid
[xxiv] If I follow the family tree of the Royals correctly, (the House of Hanover,) the Duke of Kent was Edward Duke of Kent (1767-1820) he was the father of Queen Victoria. The Duke of Sussex was Augustus Frederick (1773-1843.) It appears he served as Grand Master until his death in 1843, and then the Earl of Zetland was elected as Grand Master.

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