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This paper was originally printed in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 104 (1992).



The 1760s and the early 1770s form an intricate period of French Freemasonry’s history about which a pamphlet printed in March 1773, the Mémoire Justificatif of Brest de la Chaussée, gave such sensitive information that all copies were suppressed by French masonic authorities in the year of its publication. Not one single copy was thought to exist until a first discovery was made in 1976, following the death of Bro. Jean Baylot who bequeathed his collection of masonic documents to the Bibliothèque Nationale. An inventory was made by Mme Florence de Lussy and M. Pierre Chevallier who found a typewritten copy of the Mémoire.[i] It was published in September 1977 with some notes and comments by the latter.[ii]


By an extraordinary coincidence a copy of the original edition of the Mémoire was discovered in August 1977 in the archives of Lodge Modestia cum Libertate in Zürich and another one in September 1979 by Bro. A.C.F. Jackson in the library of Quatuor Coronati Lodge. Bro. Jackson compared the text of the 1773 pamphlet with that of the 1977 edition and found in the latter some 180 inaccuracies and misprints of varying importance.


Although two facsimile reprints of the original Mémoire were published in 1979, and 1981, herewith letting this much sought-after text become available to masonic students, no comments were published ever since.


The French word Mémoire has the same meaning as the English word memoir: a record of events, often of an historical nature, written from personal knowledge. 'Justificatif', that is, justificatory, underlines the intention of La Chaussée to prove his innocence of charges levelled against him by the Grand Lodge of France on 9 October 1772.


The Mémoire Justificatif was written at the end of the reign of Louis XV, during a period of strained internal politics, and less than two years after the death of the Comte de Clermont, a prince of the blood royal, who reigned nearly thirty years as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of France. Under Clermont the administration of French Freemasonry had become chaotic and was exclusively in the hands of the irremovable Masters of Parisian lodges. One of these, Henri-Joseph Brest de la Chaussée, was born 21 April 1733. His lodge, L’Exactitude, was founded in May 1761. From 1762 to 1771 La Chaussée was Grand Keeper of the Seals and Archives of the Grand Lodge of France.


The thirty-five pages of his Mémoire are divided into forty-three paragraphs which are neither sub-titled, nor separated by line-spaces. Instead of recording a chronological sequence of events, La Chaussée deals in succession with various themes. If given at aIl, the year rather than the date of important occurrences merely adds to the reader's confusion as to the rival parties, the elections of Grand Officers and the appointments of various committees and Commissioners.[iii] The pamphlet as a whole resembles a jigsaw puzzle, but once the pieces are fitted together the importance of La Chaussée's testimony becomes evident.


La Chaussée was, no doubt, a good man to work with, reliable, obedient and with a strong sense of discipline and rectitude. But he becomes emotional as he recounts his own involvement and the questioning of his honesty. His style attains the heights of impenetrability in the closing pages of his Mémoire. I doubt whether his contemporary readers could disentangle his complicated justification. Which may explain why no attempt at a critical study of the Mémoire was made since the original text reappeared a few years ago.


His description of the main actors of that period shows the influence of their social positions within the masonic sphere. It was difficult for such a sensitive man to write about a period in which he was involved, but when he decided that there was no alternative to producing his Mémoire, he was confronted with the problem of dealing with the part played by the Duc de Luxembourg. For almost two years this eminent brother had been at the head of French Freemasonry, his social standing was formidable, he was one of the richest men in France and ranked high in the aristocracy. The Duke seems to have turned a blind eye to masonic proceedings which La Chaussée found more than dubious but, for obvious reasons, it was scarcely possible to question the Duke's behaviour in the matter. This explains why parts of the Mémoire need decoding before they make sense,


The Mémoire provides masonic students with essential information about the respective roles of the Councils of the Emperors of the East and West and of the Knights of the East. Most of all, it shows why the Minutes of the meeting of the Grand Lodge of France on 21 June 1771, five days after Clermont's death, were hardly understandable. The explanation is a simple one : the spurious record was designed to regularize questionable actions of an earlier date, applied to a meeting which had not taken place and was fabricated in October 1771. Evidence derived from masonic Minutes must not always be taken at their face value.


Manuscript Sources


The present paper will quote from two Minute Books, both embracing most of the period covered by La Chaussée’s Mémoire, and from one set of Minutes which relate to a few months.


The earliest-known French Grand Lodge Minute Book, Registre du Président de la Grande Loge, extends from 19 May 1760 to 4 February 1767. It is extant in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris [FM1 96] and was rediscovered for some thirty years only. It is hereafter referred to as the Paris Register.


The second Minute Book is in the possession of the Supreme Council 33° for England and Wales in London. It will be quoted as the ‘London Register’. In 1989, I may well have been the first to examine it in detail. Its title-page carries the inscription, here translated from the French:

Register of the Deliberations of the Grand Lodge of France from the month of June 1763 until the month of June 1771 - copied from the original for the archives of the Mother-Lodge of the Philosophical Rite under the denomination of St Alexandre d'Ecosse et le Contrat Social Réunis, 1815.

The third source is a set of Minutes most of which are not included in the Paris and London Registers. It was discovered in the Municipal Archives of Strasbourg (Fonds Gerschel13/32) by René Desaguliers in 1987 and will be referred to as the Strasbourg Record. The Minutes make use of a dating-code discussed later. The period they cover is described as from ‘the 3rd day of the 3rd week of the 2nd month’ to ‘the 2nd day of the 5th week of the 4th month of the masonic year 5763’. The manuscript bears at the end a note to the effect that, on 17 June 1771, it was certified to be a correct copy of the original by Brother Fleury, Master of La Loge d'Heredon de Ste Geneviève at Strasbourg.


Printed Sources


No Grand Lodge Minutes exist for the period from June 1771 to March 1773. Contemporary printed circular letters, some of which purport to reproduce extracts from the official records, can sometimes fill the gap.


The Minutes of the nineteen meetings of the Grande Loge Nationale de France from 5 March to 1 September 1773, together with other records of the year, were transcribed and published in 1931 by Arthur Groussier under the title of Constitution du Grand Orient de France par la Grande Loge Nationale 1773.


Among documents drawn up or issued in the same year as the Mémoire, a printed one, sent to all French lodges at the end of 1773 by order of French masonic authorities, is especially relevant to this paper. Its lengthy title is:

Extracts from the Registers of the Committee appointed 9 March 1773, and confirmed the following 14 April, by the National [Grand] Lodge, to give final judgement upon the controversy which has arisen between Brothers De La Chaussée and Labady.

It is sixteen pages long and is divided into two parts. The first one is headed Précis. It describes the circumstances under which the committee was appointed, defines its powers and sums up its hearings. The second part reproduces the full text of the committee's ‘Definitive and Final Judgement’ of 13 August 1773. There is no direct mention in the Précis of a controversy (différend) between La Chaussée and Labady although it was indeed an important element of the Mémoire. According to the Précis, the specific reason for the appointment of the committee was

to examine and judge of all the facts included in the Mémoire, and at the same time proceed to re-examine the judgement rendered by the Grand Lodge of France on 9 October 1772... then to arrive at a judgement, against which there will be no appeal and will finally be promulgated to all lodges in France.

The re-examination of the Grand Lodge's 1772 judgement arose because La Chaussée had argued in the Mémoire that the charges preferred against him were without foundation and that his condemnation was a mere act of revenge. La Chaussée found necessary to disclose certain details, hitherto concealed, of masonic proceedings in Paris from the early 1760s and of the part more recently played in them by Labady. Since this was strictly a Parisian affair, the members of the committee were drawn exclusively from among brethren of the provinces in order to avoid any suspicion of bias.


On 28 July 1773, after many hearings, the committee first conclusions were that

in spite of its strong desire to have no culprits to judge and to denounce to the Order, [it had become] persuaded that the controversies could not be terminated by reconciliation. It felt itself compelled to continue its inquiries in order to be able to reach a definitive judgement (Précis, p.8).

The deifinitve judgement was rendered on 13 August 1773. La Chaussée was acquitted of the main charges under which he had been previously condemned and was reinstated on 1 September when the judgement was read in Grand Lodge. He complied with the provision requiring him ‘to appear... and declare... that he regretted having printed and published his Mémoire. Labady was suspended for a period of nine months, after which he was to appear before Grand Lodge and promise to behave better in future. This he failed to do.


The composition and work of the committee demonstrate conclusively that its judgement was a fair one. Thus the following words from the 'Definitive Judgement' (p. 13), showing that the Mémoire had to be suppressed, and why, are highly important in assessing the reliability of La Chaussée:

we have declared daring and indiscreet [téméraires et indiscrètes] comments made by him [La Chaussée] on the judgement rendered on 9 October 1772 and on the judges who delivered it. Likewise we declare daring and indiscreet statements included in the said Mémoire about events which occurred within the former Grand Lodge and about the members thereof; for which reason we order that the said Mémoire shall be and shall remain suppressed.

The committee did rebuke La Chaussée for his choice of words and for having revealed sensitive and confidential information. It did not suggest that his account of ‘events which occured’ was in the least inaccurate.


Freemasonry in Paris until 1773


The beginnings[iv]


Little is known of the first fifteen years of the Grand Mastership of the Comte de Clermont who was installed on 11 December 1743, two days after the death of his predecessor, the Duc d’Antin. Clermont was both a friend and a blood relation of Louis XV. His mother, Mademoiselle de Nantes, was a daughter of Louis XIV by Madame de Montespan. The bastard children of Louis XIV were legitimized shortly before the king's death, from which act was derived Clermont's royal status. He was often away from Paris, either with the army or leading and even acting with his own theatrical group at his house at Berny.


La Chaussée's Mémoire does not give much information about what he terms ‘the beginnings of Freemasonry in France’. It opens with the description of a somewhat idyllic situation (‘... freemasons chosen for their personal merit... Grand Officers of high rank and birth... Grand Lodge formed an elite’) but admits that this is what ‘tradition teaches us’. He explains the decay of Grand Lodge with the statement that Clermont ‘did not show much interest in the Craft’, that, soon after he became Grand Master, ‘Grand Officers who belonged to the nobility handed over their offices to substitutes’, and that Brother Baur, a banker appointed a substitute by Clermont, ceased to convene Grand Lodge. Lodge warrants were no longer issued by Grand Lodge and ‘anarchy gave birth to the maxim that Masters of three lodges were empowered to charter a new one’. Some innkeepers became Masters and since they were more interested in quantity rather than quality ‘they warranted a multitude of lodges’ (pp. 2-3). One of the ‘worst practices’ mentioned by La Chaussée was the purchase of personal and perpetuaI warrants. Thory asserts this was ‘a custom sanctioned in England and Scotland which was retained by the Grand Lodge of the Kingdom of France after it had discarded the title of ‘Grande Loge Anglaise de France.[v]


Since words such as ‘Masonic Provincial Grand Lodge of France’ and ‘Grande Loge Anglaise de France have sometimes appeared in the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge,[vi] it may be helpful to explain that the former expression was never used in France and that the latter applied to a small masonic body formed by the Chevalier de Beauchaîne which was never recognized by the Grand Lodge of France.


As to the purchase of lodge warrants, the likely explanation is that such a custom arose in imitation of the sale of royal offices, a characteristic of the ancien régime.[vii] Once introduced, it proved difficult to suppress the system of irremovability of the Masters of Parisian lodges. A circular letter from the National Grand Lodge, issued in June 1773, explained that

we thought it was our duty to bring back all lodges to the strict principles of masonic law and to cancel the irremovability introduced in a few lodges, especially in those of Paris, although no regulation ever authorized that custom.

The Parisian Masters then drew up a protest, accusing the Grand Lodge of having ‘ignored the true principles to such an extent as to cancel our original warrants and deprive us of the most sacred right acknowledged by civilized societies’, that is, the right of ownership.


In 1737 Paris lodges were headed by a prince (Conti), two dukes (Aumont and Villeroy) and Count Schapsky, a cousin of Maria Leszczynska, then Queen of France. Police reports of March 1744 reveal a social change. They list a dozen Masters of lodges with professions such as wine merchant and candle maker. It is hard to imagine brethren from both groups meeting on equal terms in Grand Lodge assemblies. The Duc de Lauraguais, husband of one of Louis XV's mistresses, was Senior Grand Warden in December 1748, is the last-known Grand Officer of that period who belonged to the nobility.


Contemporary lodge warrants are almost the only information available about Grand Lodge activities. Lacorne's name, without a title, appears first on a warrant of 1757 but he signed another one on 1 August 1758 as ‘Substitute of the Grand Master’. La Chaussée writes of Lacorne that he was ‘socially a pleasant man’ who happened to meet Clermont on casual masonic occasions and took that opportunity ‘of availing himself of the title of Substitut particulier. Much that has been written against Lacorne is derived from Thory who seems to have invented it aIl because Lacorne was a dancing-master. Clermont was famous for his young mistresses, mostly ballet-dancers, which might explain why he and Lacorne happened to meet. La Chaussée mentions Lacorne with some reservations rather on social grounds than for questionable behaviour. He writes further (p. 3) that as Substitut particulier Lacorne

summoned that multitude of Masters of lodges over which he presided. That body assumed the name of Grand Lodge although it included no [Grand] Officers of the former one (l'ancienne). Educated members were too few in that numerous body for harmony to prevail; it soon split into two factions principally concerned with tearing each other to pieces; that schism resulted in the discredit of Grand Lodge, since the provinces were unable to distinguish one faction from the other, both claiming the title and functions of a Grand Lodge.


The Schism


The schism likely began on 19 May 1760. The Paris Register bears that date (as ‘7760’) on its title page, it opens with a set of new Statutes and Regulations approved ‘at the General Assembly of 19 May 1760’ (f° 2). The first Minutes of the same date (again dated ‘7760’), mention ‘the election of nine officers’ (f° 8), a feather-merchant named Peny being Président.


Peny's Grand Lodge included twenty-seven lodges in Paris and four at Versailles. They are recorded with their respective dates of seniority in the ‘List of Masters who compose our Grand Lodge since the division of Bro. Lacorne and company’ (f° 19). Lacorne's name appears in the Paris Register in the Minutes of 5 April 1762, which report a decision to hold a church service ‘for the peace of his soul’ and for those of two other brethren, to which ‘all the Masters of our Grand Lodge and that of the lodge of Bro. Lacorne should be invited’ (f° 23).


New [Grand] Officers were elected on ‘28 May 7762’. Bacquet replaced Peny as President. The rather unusual Minutes of the General Assembly held on ‘25 June of the masonic year 5762’ (f° 29) include a list of the names of thirty-four Masters and Wardens present, followed by the sign ‘.//.’, and by sixteen words borrowed from the legal jargon of the time to the effect that the present Minutes were drawn up ‘to show cause if necessary’. They record neither proceedings nor resolutions. AlI present belonged to the Peny-Bacquet Grand Lodge except one, Puisieux, who was the Master of one of the two most senior lodges in Paris (Les Arts Ste Marguerite, 1729) and is shown as Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge under Chaillon de Jonville in the ‘List of Lodges’ drawn up by Bro. Journal in June 1762.[viii]


The General Assembly of 6 September 1762 (f° 31) resolved to send a deputation to Grand Master Clermont ‘to enquire whether it is true that Worshipful Master de Jonville is directly deputized by SAR [Son Altesse Royale, His Serene Highness] to be his Substitute’. A note in the margin states that ‘the said deputation has not taken place’. It is difficult to understand why the enquiry was made at such a late date. Jonville signed warrants as General Substitute since August 1761 while Lacorne was still Substitut particulier but there is no record of his appointment.


The undated draft of a Grand Lodge letter,[ix] answering one written by J.-B. Willermoz on 12 August 1762, states that

W. Bro. Comte de Clermont has not held his lodge for a long time. He was however present at a meeting of Lodge Saint-Antoine presided over by W. Bro. Chaillon de Jonville... It is there that our Bro. Grand Master appointed him to be his General Substitute... We were surprised to see that you ignored that our W. Bro. Chaillon de Jonville was General Substitute at the time when W. Bro. De La Corne [sic] was Substitut particulier, that is to say subordinate to the General Substitute.

This disposes of another of Thory's legends:

The Comte de Clermont... revokes Lacorne and appoints M. Chaillou [sic] de Jonville to be his General Substitute.[x]

La Chaussée was certainly a direct witness of what happened in 1762 as he writes: ‘since 1762 my signature was always affixed on all documents issued by Grand Lodge’ (p. 25),[xi] but is regrettably brief about the events of that year, merely recording (p. 3) that

a few zeaIous brethren intervened in order to carry out the reunion. Parties came together and appointed Commissioners who in 1762 decided in favour of the reunion under the lead of Bro. Chaillon de Jonville, appointed by the Grand Master to be his General Substitute.


The ‘reunion’


On two further occasions La Chaussée refers to ‘the reunion achieved in 1762’ (p. 10) and ‘the two factions which subsisted before the union of 1762’ (p. 18), but mentions no specific date.


In the Paris Register, ‘the reunion’ is mentioned for the first time within the Minutes of an ‘Extraordinary Committee of Officers’ on Tuesday, 14 December 1762 (f° 35): ‘a petition in favour of the reunion, signed by several Masters’ was exhibited by Peny. It was decided to hold a General Assembly and to appoint seven Commissioners ‘who would meet with seven named by the petitioners and together conciliate and take means proper to attain it [the reunion]’. Next come Minutes of an Extraordinary General Assembly held in December 1762 (f° 35 vo), for which no precise date is given. The petition was read and Commissioners elected by ballot were ‘pledged to report to the General Assembly’ after having met with those appointed by the other Grand Lodge.


The Paris Register makes no further mention of the reunion. This would be hardly credible if it had been an original Grand Lodge Minute Book, which seems doubtful from the middle of 1762 until the elections of 27 December 1765. The records for these three years consist in extracts from actual Minutes mixed together with entries which were either ‘revised’ or fabricated. Parts must have been copied from another register, according to a marginal note on f° 38: ‘f° 16 ancien registre (old register). Following the last mention of the reunion, two folios are blank and at least one appears to have been torn out.


The Minutes on f° 38 are of exceptional interest. They are dated ‘2nd day of the 2nd week of the 4th month of the masonic year 5763’, a dating code used only once, on this occasion, in the Paris Register. Against the entry, in the margin, ‘June 1762’ is written in the same handwriting. These Minutes are the only ones whose text is identical with the Strasbourg Record and the London Register:

After having reported a personal matter which, as he was informed, had been discussed in his absence, the W. Bro. General Substitute asked G. L. to deliberate upon it and then retired, leaving Bro. Bacquet, his first representative, to preside. After he retired the matter was discussed in open Grand Lodge. It was unanimously resolved that Bros. Bacquet, de Briqueville and Puisieux, as deputies of the G. L., will go and visit the W. Bro. General Substitute, thank him for his kindness in having reported on the subject from which aIl suspicion has been removed, and beg him accordingly to resume his chair and preside over the meetings of the G. L., and have signed... [the signatures are not in the Paris Register].

The Minutes which begin at the bottom of f° 38 are dated 25 July 1763 and make no reference to that incident.


The Strasbourg Record begins with the Minutes of five meetings which report the steps which led to the reunion. These Minutes, and their included references to previous or future meetings, are aIl dated with the code used once in the Paris Register. The first meeting is dated ‘the masonic year 5763, the 3rd day of the 3rd week of the 2nd month’. Such dates are hereafter abbreviated as 3/3/2/5763 (day/week/month/year).


1.             3/3/2/5763

Chaillon de Jonville and the Masters present agree that many irregularities have crept into recent proceedings and into the delivery of lodge warrants. They decide to correct the situation and reach two important decisions: all present Grand Officers resign from their respective offices on that day of their own free will; fourteen Commissioners are chosen by ballot and are appointed ‘general and special Grand Lodge Commissioners’. They are to meet under the orders of Jonville whom they acknowledge as the general substitute of the Grand Master and as his representative; to decide upon the number of Grand Officers and the names of their respective offices; to draw up regulations; to appoint new Grand Officers, chosen from among those who have just resigned and from the Masters of regular lodges, provided that the latter are possessed of the necessary qualities and regardless of age or seniority; to summon the new Grand Officers, install them and have them sanction the work done by the Commissioners. A Grand Lodge Assembly will be convened thereafter to ratify the previous proceedings.


2.             5/4/2/5763

The fourteen Commissioners meet under Jonville. They resolve that Grand Lodge will have twenty-seven Grand Officers and specify the names of their offices.


3.         2 & 3/1/3

The Commissioners approve the text of new Statutes for the Grand Lodge (33 articles) and for the private lodges (44 articles). They nominate Grand Officers.


4.         2/3/3

The Commissioners and the newly-appointed Grand Officers meet under Jonville. Méry d'Arcy, one of the Commissioners, reads the Minutes of the previous meetings and the text of the new Statutes. The Grand Officers accept their nominations and are installed. A temporary Grande Loge de Conseil is formed by those present and opened by Jonville. It ratifies what the Commissioners have done, their Minutes being delivered to La Chaussée, Grand Keeper of the Seals and Archives. It is decided to summon a Grand Lodge Assembly comprising all the Masters of lodges on 7/2/4.


5.             7/2/4/5763

The members of the Grande Loge de Conseil and Masters of the regular lodges of Paris meet under Jonville as a Grand Lodge’s Quarterly Communication. The Minutes of all the previous proceedings (nominations, new Statutes, installation of Grand Officers) are read and sanctioned, confirmed and signed by twenty-eight Masters. (After the list of their names the copyist has inserted a mark ‘./.’.) Thereafter the Minutes of this meeting report the incident concerning the general substitute which has already been quoted from the Paris Register under the date of 2/2/4/5763, and in almost the same words.


6.             7/4/4/5763

The next Minutes report the friendly outcome of the deputation's visit to the general substitute and the proceedings of the Loge de Conseil on that day. (Such Minutes are not included in the Paris Register.)


7.             2/5/4/5763

Final Minutes of the Strasbourg Record. They mention the feast of the Patron Saint of the Order and the speeches made on that occasion. They also record a decision about punctual attendance at Loges de Conseil. The Paris Register includes only the latter report, under the date of 25 July 1763.


The London Register begins by minuting the affair of the General Substitute in wording identical with that of the Paris Register, but under the date given for the same item in the Strasbourg Record, 7/2/4/5763. There follow those Minutes which were in the Paris Register for 25 July 1763 (here dated 25 June 1763) and 15 November 1763 (here 16 November).


Although the dates of the Paris Register convey the impression that the union occurred in the first half of 1763, this appears doubtful. By a contemporary dating code, the masonic year 5763 actually began in the Year of Our Lord 1762. There are, furthermore, the references made by La Chaussée to the union of 1762, and his statement: 'The three years stipulated for the tenure of the Officers appointed at the reunion having expired, new ones were nominated by ballot at a General Assembly (p. 4)... on St. John's Day in Winter 1765 (p. 11). Then there is a letter of 7 March 1765 from Estienne Morin (St-Claudius No.21, Compte rendu [Transactions], 1927-8), in which he mentioned ‘the new Statutes and Regulations decided upon by the fourteen Commissioners on 25 November 1762’.


The Emperors and the Knights


The Strasbourg Record states that the Commissioners were free to choose whom they wanted as Grand Officers. La Chaussée does not quite agree:

the necessity of selecting them equally from both parties did not permit a very high standard; people (des gens) whose social position and level of education were insufficient to qualify them for high offices in Grand Lodge were nevertheless entrusted with them (p. 3).

The descriptions which he gives of certain former members of the Peny Grand Lodge (he gives them the nickname of 'the Penitians', p. 10) are quite explicit:

Bro. Peny, who terms himself President, is a feather and cork dealer... to tell the truth a nice man but not meant to lead freemasons... Bro. Duret, from a very honest family, is himself a very honest man indeed, but his faculties are most limited; he can hardly sign his own name and lets furnished lodgings (tient un Hôtel garni)... Bro. l'Éveillé makes snuff-boxes, Bro. Poupart is a joiner: both are no doubt full of probity but with no ability for such a noble and delicate task as that of a ruler of Freemasonry' (p. 5).

AlI this would seem to explain why

the reunion achieved in 1762... could neither satisfy aIl the minds nor meet with all the pretensions... Among the supporters of Bro. Peny one could still identify those who attempted to rekindle the fuel of discord [since] their expectations had not been realized by appointment as officers. The workers of Grand Lodge, those who with intelligence superintended the operations and carried the burden, were of the opposite persuasion. They found themselves fiercely envied by the malcontents, and this envy was extended to the whole of Bro. de Jonville's party (p. 10).

The Mémoire now gives important information:

The Penitians were rescued by a third party, which should never have exerted influence over Grand Lodge's affairs... A body of a superior degree, assuming the title of ‘Council of the Emperors of the East and West, Sovereign Écossais Mother Lodge’. I know the degree although I never received it; in my opinion it has little analogy with Freemasonry, and I therefore refuse to recognize the importance with which, in various ways, people have successfully managed to invest it. Bro. Pirlet, a master-tailor, and the Master of a lodge, has erected that Council and endeavoured at aIl times to exert its power over the Grand Lodge. To this purpose... he brought into it a vast number of Masters of lodges so as to secure sufficient votes in Grand Lodge to ensure the success of his plot (pp. 10-11).

La Chaussée's first illustration of the mischievous deeds of Pirlet and his Emperors is designed to put into context the complaint against Jonville, previously mentioned more than once in this paper:

Bro. Pirlet once attended a Grand Lodge meeting, accompanied not only by aIl the lodge Masters who were members of his Council, but also by others who were not and accordingly should not have been allowed to attend... A complaint was lodged against Bro. de Jonville in his absence; it was proposed to judge him without a hearing, without letting him know what he was accused of, without even verifying the grounds of the indictment. The scheme was to condemn him, dismiss him from his office of general substitute, and appoint in his stead a Master who was a member of Pirlet's Council. Bros. Moët, le Roy and myself opposed a proceeding so contrary to the rules and to the spirit of Freemasonry... It was resolved to verify the points of the indictment against de Jonville; they proved to be false (p. 11).

A further matter is interesting for a different reason:

Bro. Pirlet insisted on having recorded in the Grand Lodge registers that Grand Lodge had declared itself incompetent to rule on high degree affairs, so that it could later be inferred that it had thereby acknowledged the competence of high degree councils (p. 11).

There is no entry to that effect in the Minutes of the Paris Register but there is one in the London Register for 22 January 1765:

Concerning the controversies which have arisen between the worshipful lodges of the Orient of Lyons about the superior degrees, also termed Écossais, and others, the Very Worshipful Grand Lodge has declared that it cannot take cognizance of present or future controversies concerning the pre-eminence and validity of the said degrees, resolves that a copy of the present decision should be forwarded to the said lodges at Lyons, and another sealed copy delivered to W. Bro. Pirlet, stamped and sealed by W. Bro. Gillet, one of the Secretaries of the said Grand Lodge of France.

La Chaussée describes later in the Mémoire the aims of the Council of the Knights of the East (Conseil d'Orient or Conseil des Chevaliers d'Orient), of which he was Grand Keeper of the Seals and Archives ad vitam:

Its members... do not intend to exert a specific influence over the administration of Grand Lodge, which they attend when required; there are few, but among them some brethren are aware of the principles of our Order, feel themselves bound thereby, and would immediately oppose the slightest departure from the rules... These few Masters of lodges declined to espouse the cause of any party (pp. 18-19).

On ‘the 19th day of the 6th moon of the year 2299 of the rebuilding of the second Temple of the Great Architect of the Universe (vulgar era, 25 September 1763)... Jean-Pierre Moët... General Secretary and Grand Orator of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of France’ was elected Sovereign of the Conseil d'Orient, and a certificate to that effect was delivered to him.[xii] Among the signatories thereto a few names are noteworthy: Puisieux père (who signed as ‘gennal, probably implying ‘Général, the third officer of the Council, after the Sovereign and the Grand Keeper of the Seals), Méry d'Arcy, La Chaussée, Pingré (orator) and Richard. Le Roy joined the Council later.


According to the Mémoire, such was then the masonic situation in Paris. It was a comparatively simple one, but Thory managed to render it incomprehensible by three fictitious assertions. Firstly, the alleged dissatisfaction of Lacorne, said to have been dismissed when Jonville was appointed General Substitute, and the ensuing fight between, on the one hand, Lacorne and his supporters (the so-called Lacornards) and on the other a party styled, not surprisingly, the anti-Lacornards. Secondly, Thory named Pirlet as the founder of the Knights of the East either in 1766 (Histoire de la Fondation du Grand Orient de France, 1812, pp. 16-17) or in 1762 (Acta Latomorum, 1815, vol. I, p. 79). Lastly he ascribed the delivery of Estienne Morin's well-known Patent of 1761 (said to have been signed by Jonville, Lacorne and La Chaussée, among others) to the Emperors of the East and West.


The elections of 27 december 1765 and the brethren expelled in 1766


ln accordance with the Statutes, elections of new Grand Officers were held on St. John's Day in Winter 1765 (pp. 4 & 10). Thirty-nine brethren were present. Seven Grand Officers, aIl of whom had been members of the Peny Grand Lodge, were not re-elected. The London Register specifies the results of the ballot for each office. Bro. Zambault, acting Grand Secretary since April 1765, was elected to that office by thirty-eight votes to one. The other candidate were a Bro. Labady, whose lodge Salomon in Paris was warranted two months before, on 2 October. Labady was elected Substitute to the Secretary for the Provinces by twenty-two votes to seventeen, there having been eight other nominations for this office. The Minutes were signed by thirty-six brethren only, Choiseul and Lenoncourt ‘having gone out before the signature’ and Lacan ‘having said that he could not sign because of a sore thumb’ !


Additional elections were held on 21 March 1766. Three brethren (Peny, Duret and Hardy) declined to vote. Towards the end of the proceedings, ‘the last eight lines of an anonymous and insulting libel’ were read. Mention was made of a second document, signed by eighteen brethren, the discussion of which was deferred until the next Assembly, when it proved to be a procès-verbal, dated 20 March. This was read on 5 April, when La Chaussée describes it as a protest issued by the ‘malcontents’ who had not been chosen and ‘whose pride was wounded’ (p. 4). It was resolved to hold a ballot upon each signatory and decide whether each of them should be expelled immediately or given an opportunity to retract before 14 May. Before the ballot, a letter from Le Boucher de Lenoncourt (one of the signatories) was read, asking for his name to be removed from the procès-verbal, which was done. According to the London Register, the outcome of the ballot and the subsequent action was as follows:







may retract

20 to 1

did not retract, expelled



13 to 8



may retract

12 to 9

did not retract, expelled


may retract

15 to 6

did not retract, expelled



19 to 2




17 to 4



may retract

13 to 8




11 to 10



may retract

20 to 1



may retract

21 to 0




17 to 4




19 to 2




19 to 2









reinstated, 3 June 1766


may retract

19 to 2



may retract

13 to 8




The Votes on 5 April 1766 


ln aIl, therefore, eleven brethren were expelled and Zambault notified the relevant decrees to the provinces (p. 4). La Chaussée mentions further that the expelled brethren formed a second Grand Lodge and that some of them belonged to the Emperors (p. 11). But he comments that some of the signatures to the procès-verbal had been acquired by surprise’, among them that of Daubertin, whom he praises for his manners and his intelligence (p. 4).


Labady was said by Thory to have been one of the expelled brethren, but he was not.[xiii] La Chaussée describes Labady as a ‘bookseller in Valenciennes who followed the French army to Germany, first as a hawker of books and then as a fictitious forage warehouse-keeper’ who became unemployed in peacetime and then came back to Paris.

ln 1766 a disgraceful memorandum against Bro. Labady was submitted to Grand Lodge. Commissioners were appointed but declined to investigate because of the enormity of the facts... A note found in the late Bro. Zambault's papers suggests that he was arrested on 1 December... for holding illegal masonic assemblies at his house' (p. 9).

On 14 August 1766, Grand Lodge decided to send a circular letter to all lodges in the kingdom, signed by Moët, the President, and sixteen other members. It announced the decision to suppress the Provincial Mother-Lodges which had been created on 3 June 1765. It also forbade any lodge to assume the title of ‘Grand’ or ‘Mother-Lodge’ or to refer questions about doctrine or ritual (Craft) to ‘any college, whether Écossais, Knight of the East or of any other kind, the jurisdiction of which is not officially recognized’, but added that the Grand Lodge did not thereby intend ‘to destroy the consideration that Craft masons (maçons symboliques) owe to superior degrees’.


A similar communication was circulated, a few weeks later on 21 September, by the Council of Knights of the East. Addressed to ‘aIl Masons in France’, it was also signed by Moët, here as Sovereign of the Council, and by thirteen others. The circular declared that the Council, after studying for many years ‘the vast number of degrees which existed in France’ had come to the conclusion that the Royal Art was ‘one and indivisible’. For this reason, every degree incompatible with that general unity must be

set aside as a product of ambition, of enthusiasm or of the lowest kind of greed... Hitherto, busy with our work and maintaining a modest silence - a proper attitude for those who study wisdom, our one concern has been to observe discreetly the activities of the Grand Lodge of France. This has been achieved through some from our Council who are also members of that Grand Lodge... Confronted, however, with the manifold problems of today, we draw aside the veil which has covered us... Having carefully examined the Grand Lodge's decree of 14 August last... we unrestrictedly approve and ratify the said decree... and require all Knights of the East... to support it.

The last part of the Council's circular expressly condemned the degree of Knight Kadosh. ln conclusion the Knights were requested to make contact ‘with the centre which the [present] circumstances have obliged us to identify’.


On 2 October, another attempt was made by Pirlet to bring the Grand Lodge under the control of the Emperors of the East and West. Bro. Gaillard, their Orator, made a speech in Grand Lodge at the end of which he proposed that there should be ratified that day a union between the Grand Lodge and his Council. The Minutes report rather tersely:

Bro. Gaillard read an instructive memorandum about the authority of the Grand Lodge of France. Resolved that Bro. Gaillard will forward its text... to the General Secretary, who will transmit it to Bros. Moët and Le Roy so that it can be answered, brought before the general assembly and have justice done to it.

La Chaussée mentions that it was somewhat difficult to prevent an immediate vote on such a fallacious motion (‘since it is unnecessary to be aware of any superior degree to be eligible for mastership of a lodge’). The taking of the vote was postponed, with the help of ‘Bros. Moët, Le Roy, myself and a few others’ (p. 12).


The early part of 1767 must have been somewhat difficult. Zambault died; Moët resigned and was replaced by Bacquet at the Quarterly Communication of 4 February. The Minutes make no mention of it but something must have happened. The Précis (p. 14) quotes a reply coolly (froidement) given to the Committee by Labady: asked whether he was at the time in Paris, he said that ‘he was at the General Assembly of the 4th during which an argument occurred between himself and Bro. le D. [Ledin], against whom he lodged a complaint on the following day, 5 February, at the Châtelet (the then headquarters of the royal jurisdiction in Paris). The Minutes of 4 February are the last ones of the Paris Register.


The London Register includes the Minutes of a later meeting, on 21 February, headed

General Assembly summoned by superior orders: ... We, the undersigned, in pursuance of government orders communicated to us by our beloved brethren De La Chaussée... and Ledin..., have resolved that the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of France will suspend its meetings until more auspicious times.

A committee of six was nominated to settle the accounts. Twenty-three brethren were present. The suspension was to last for more than four years, until the death of the Grand Master, the Duc de Clermont.


The suspension


The Mémoire ascribes the government's orders to Le Boucher de Lenoncourt's ‘vile and deceitful denunciations’ (pp. 4 & 24) and states he was also likely responsible for the arrest of Labady (p. 9). La Chaussée suggests that Lenoncourt was in collusion with the police and describes him as a ‘degree-monger who was obliged to decamp to the Austrian Netherlands’, where the Marquis de Gages seized his lodge's warrant and sent it back to La Chaussée with a covering letter addressed to Jonville (p. 24).


The suspension was announced to all French lodges by La Chaussée. The Council of the Emperors and the expelled brethren seized the opportunity to issue lodge warrants. Prompted by this action, Jonville despatched in October 1769 a circular letter to lodges in the French provinces (p. 5). Jonville announces herein his resignation from the office of General Substitute on the grounds that his professional activities take too much of his time. He warns against ‘the danger of the schism which is developing everywhere’. He has always placed his trust in three brethren: Moët, Le Roy and La Chaussée. Any document which does not bear at least one of their signatures cannot be issued by Grand Lodge. He was informed that a circular letter signed by Poupart claims that Grand Lodge resumed its activities under the presidency of Peny and that he, Jonville, transmitted his authority to Peny, assisted by Duret and Léveillé. Jonville strongly denies this, saying that ‘masonic brotherly love’ prevents him from further comments. But he suggests that the lodges compare the names of these three brethren with the list of brethren expelled in April and May 1766. The circular letter ends with the words:

Though I find myself compelled to resign as General Substitute, I watch none the less over the dépôt of Freemasonry in France [presumably here conveying the meaning of Grand Lodge seals and records deposited pro tempore in a safe place (Editor)]. I entrust Bro. La Chaussée with its custody and forbid him to surrender it until he can do so to the body of Grand Lodge itself.

A second letter signed by La Chaussée accompanied that of Jonville. It reported that he had been deputed by Jonville to issue temporary warrants which would be regularized when Grand Lodge reconvenes. La Chaussée warned against Peny, Duret and ‘a few other private persons (particuliers)’ from Paris who falsely asserted that Grand Lodge had resumed its activities. Referring to copies of the decrees of expulsion a copy of which he enclosed, he added: ‘You will see ... that some of those who dare to announce themselves under the name of the Grand Lodge have themselves been declared by Grand Lodge itself to be unworthy of mastership of a lodge and of the title of freemason’. Whenever Grand Lodge is allowed to meet again, he will himself announce it immediately.[xiv]


The Mémoire summarized both circular letters and explains why La Chaussée was then acting as General Secretary: Zambault died in office shortly before the suspension and the name of his successor, Bourgeois, was not yet known in the provinces while that of La Chaussée was known ‘universally’ (p. 5). There may have been a further reason for Jonville's ordering La Chaussée to sign the second circular. A lodge warrant issued on 17 July 1768 by the Council of Emperors has Bourgeois and five others, including Labady and Poupart as signatories !


The Mémoire mentions several unauthorized meetings of the Masters of Parisian lodges, neither summoned by Jonville nor overseen by La Chaussée (pp. 6 & 13), and attempts made to ensure that the government's orders would be repealed (p. 21). At one of the meetings, Labady spoke in support of Pirlet's plan for a union between the Council of the Emperors and the Grand Lodge. ‘The scheme again miscarried’ (p. 15).


After the death of the Comte de Clermont


Act I. June-September 1771


The situation after the death of the Grand Master, on 16 June 1771, must be examined first from a political point of view. The King supported the fundamental reform of the judiciary, elaborated by Chancellor Maupeou, which included abolishing the sale of judicial offices. AlI but one of the royal princes opposed the changes. A letter of protest they wrote on 4 April 1771 was thrown in the fire by Louis XV. Eight days later he banned the princes from his Court and forbade them to approach him anywhere. Clermont was close to death but the King withheld any message of enquiry. His interdict against them all was rescinded only at the end of the following year.


This explains the difficulties of the Grand Lodge as described by La Chaussée:

The Grand Mastership became vacant... had the circumstances been normal the choice of his successor would have been proceeded with. The standing of the Order seemed to require that he should be chosen among the princes of the blood royal. The members of Grand Lodge believed, however, that the state of public affairs was a hindrance to the resumption of the Assemblies and also to the acceptance of office by the prince to whom an invitation might be extended... Experience proved that their fears were not unfounded; they chose not to expose themselves and to wait until circumstances were more auspicious (p. 6).

The expelled brethren reacted differently:

[They] managed to approach W. Bro. the Duc de Luxembourg... Deluded by the status of Grand Lodge which they assumed, he was good enough to agree to submit their request to His Most Serene Highness the Duc de Chartres, to the effect that His Highness should be pleased to consent to be promoted to the Grand Mastership. Their application was crowned with success; the Duc de Chartres assented and added the favour of appointing the Duc de Luxembourg to be his Substitute, or General Administrator of aIl the lodges in France... [The expelled brethren] summoned the Assembly of Masters [who were] dazzled.

They forgot that they had been called together by brethren who had been thrown out of Grand Lodge and that no formal annulment of the decrees concerned had been issued. There had been no authoritative resolution to resume the Assemblies of Grand Lodge. Nevertheless, ‘Minutes of the nomination of the Grand Master were drawn up’ (pp. 6 & 7) on 24 June 1771 (p. 15).

A charge of slander for sending copies of the decrees of expulsion with his circular letter of October 1769 (pp. 7 & 13), and one of embezzlement (p. 13) were lodged against La Chaussée.


Labady immediately joined the party of the expelled brethren (‘alone responsible for the nomination’ of both Dukes, pp. 13 & 18) because he foresaw that its influence would surpass that of the Grand Lodge of Jonville and La Chaussée (p. 10). Pirlet's Council of Emperors did the same (p. 13).

At last, in June or July 1771, they summoned the members of the former Grand Lodge, [which here means the Grand Officers who had not been invited to, or had chosen not to attend, the meeting of 24 June]. Neither Le Roy, who was indisposed, nor Moët, who was out of Paris, were present. [La Chaussée refused to hand over the seals and archives]. Labady assumed that my resistance stemmed from the complaint lodged against me... He only had to propose it and it was withdrawn. This was not enough for me; I was not guilty; I wanted no suspicion to remain (p. 13).

From this point on, La Chaussée describes Labady as orchestrating aIl the activities of the Grand Lodge. New Statutes and Regulations were approved on 14 August. Article 5 stipulated that ‘since Grand Lodge cannot remain without officers until the next St. John's Day in Winter, they will, exceptionally, be elected on the present day’ and remain in office until December 1774. According to La Chaussée, they were ‘chosen at a secret meeting of the brethren who had erected the false Grand Lodge’ (p. 7). The list of new Grand Officers was sanctioned by the signature (‘obtained by surprise’, p. 8) of the Duc de Luxembourg. Daubertin was appointed General Secretary (‘he was too busy to attend to his duties’), which allowed Labady, who was to be Secretary for the Provinces, ‘to invade’ Daubertin's office (pp. 8 & 14). Under Article 48, new fees for ‘the brethren, the lodges and the new members’ (p. 8) were imposed. All lodges were invited to have their warrants renewed (a decision passed on 10 September).


Act II. October 1771-January 1772


The Labady faction had not yet succeeded in obtaining the seals which had to be impressed upon a Grand Lodge document and, presumably, it was for this reason that the former Grand Officers were invited to attend a meeting on 7 October. La Chaussée and Le Roy were present.


La Chaussée again refused to deliver up the seals and archives

until the regularity of the proceedings allowed him to do so... Bro. Le Roy spoke and argued that aIl that had been done up to this day was irregular. How dangerous it would be to report to the provinces without first correcting it. It would be necessary to have the familiar signatures of the former Grand Lodge Officers upon any notification that Grand Lodge had resumed its meetings (p.14).

A Committee was appointed ‘to examine the means of reconciling the former operations with the new ones’ (p. 14). Among its members La Chaussée mentions the names of Daubertin, Labady and Le Roy, as weIl as his own. Daubertin accepted the points which had been made by Le Roy ; Labady opposed them but was outvoted.


A proposal then made by Le Roy was adopted first by the Committee and then by Grand Lodge on 17 October 1771. La Chaussée sums it up in twenty-six words (p. 15) : it consisted in drawing up Minutes of an imaginary meeting of Grand Lodge, deemed to have taken place on 21 June 1771 ‘in order to bear a date prior to that of the nomination of the Grand Master and of his General Substitute on 24 June’ at which the formal motions of resuming Grand Lodge Assemblies and of rescinding the decrees of expulsion would have been adopted. Such an ingenious and simple plan shows the qualities of a legally-trained mind, and Le Roy was a lawyer !


It was expanded into Minutes some four thousand words long which fill up the last ten folios of the London Register and sound so genuine that no historian has hitherto questioned their authenticity.


To appear regular, the imaginary meeting of 21 June 1771 was described as having convened by order of La Chaussée and Puisieux, the most senior Master of a lodge. According to the fictitious Minutes, the participants were first reminded of the decrees of expulsion, the expelled brethren were then admitted to the meeting which declined to examine the proofs of their declared innocence and accepted the theory that Bro. Zambault - who had conveniently died - was likely responsible for the entire affair. The decrees were then rescinded and a formal decision was recorded to forbid for ever any kind of inquiry, reproach or complaint in relation to them. Duret (one of the expelled) was said to have given the assurance that, if invited, the Duc de Chartres and the Duc de Luxembourg would accept the offices of Grand Master and General Substitute. The Assembly would have decided to postpone their election until 24 June as there was unfortunately insufficient time to summon the brethren from the Provinces, whose right to confirm the election at a later date was fully acknowledged. La Chaussée submitted his resignation from office but reserved his right to sign the first announcement of the present and subsequent proceedings. Only then would he be prepared to surrender the seals and archives. He further requested the appointment of a committee to verify his accounts for the period of the suspension of Grand Lodge. Lastly he wished to receive a patent of Honorary Grand Officer. A committee of eleven was appointed to audit his accounts and to draw up an inventory of the archives.


The first circulaire from the Grand Lodge since Clermont's death was issued towards the end of October 1771. It included the full text of the spurious Minutes dated 21 June and the somewhat more authentic ones from 24 June, together with a list of the Grand Officers appointed on 14 August. The covering letter reported, rather ingenuously, that ‘the most perfect harmony [presently reigning] has dissolved the very recollection of the reasons for our discord’.


La Chaussée received the patent which he had sought; it was signed by the Duc de Luxembourg (p. 15). He handed over his accounts and the archives on 28 January 1772 (Précis, p. 6) on which day he was suffering from a severe infection (pp. 20, 22 & 27). Labady managed to pilfer some of the documents surrendered by La Chaussée and destroyed others. He then tried to rid himself, once and for ever, of his arch-enemy, La Chaussée. Harmony had prevailed for but six months.


Act III.


The Duc de Montmorency-Luxembourg installed himself formally at the Grand Lodge meeting on 18 April 1772. ln his opening address he declared that he intended to maintain the spirit of the Order and lift Grand Lodge from the state of anarchy into which it had descended. To assure the brethren present that the Duc de Chartres was beyond question devoted to Freemasonry, the General Administrator asked Labady to read the draft of the Grand Master's act of acceptance. La Chaussée explains (p. 15) that this had been drafted by Labady himself.


Pirlet's dream had at last come true. Chartres accepted the Grand Mastership in accordance with the proclamation of 24 June 1771 and, in addition, the title of ‘Sovereign Grand Master of all the Councils, Chapters and Écossois Lodges of France’. This had been accorded to him by the Emperors of the East and West on ‘the twenty sixth day of the moon of Elul 7771... in order to concentrate aIl masonic activities under a single authority’. No objection was raised to this comprehensive power, ‘either because the majority of those present did not realize the danger of the union so implied... or because the presence of the Duc de Luxembourg reduced aIl to silence’ (p. 16).


The text of the acceptance by the Duc de Chartres is reproduced, after the Minutes of 18 April 1772, in the letter of 18 May which was sent to aIl French lodges. Also in that circular is the formaI declaration which had been made by the Duc de Luxembourg on 1 May stating that the late Grand Master, Clermont, had invested him ‘not only with the power to rule and administer the entire masonic Order, but also with that of initiating the Duc de Chartres’. (No corroboration exists for either of these assertions.) Once the draft of that document was approved, the Duke proposed that aIl thirty members of the Grand Master's Lodge (which was in fact Luxembourg's) become members of Grand Lodge, ensuring herewith a safe majority for aIl subsequent votes. The proposal was agreeed unanimously.



‘Bro. Labady... made an historical summary (un précis historique) of what had occurred in Grand Lodge between December 1765 and the present day. Whereupon the nullity of the decrees... of 1766... pronounced in the deliberation of 21 June 1771... was ratified... As to the remainder, Commissioners were appointed’.

Why Labady's précis required Commissioners to consider it is not explained in the Minutes but La Chaussée's Mémoire does enlighten us. Labady, now believing himself to be in a sufficiently strong position to disregard the truce of October 1771, had launched a final attack on La Chaussée and the Knights of the East. They were accused of trying to impair Grand Lodge's authority (pp. 19-20). La Chaussée himself was charged with ‘inventing’ the government orders communicated by him in February 1767, with retaining archives of Grand Lodge and with criticizing its recent proceedings, with deleting on false grounds Lenoncourt's name from the list of Masters and with embezzlement during the period of the suspension (pp. 20-25).


The committee read its report in Grand Lodge on 9 October 1772 (p. 28). La Chaussée was absent. Le Roy, detailed by Luxembourg to defend La Chaussée, was frequently interrupted (p. 29). Thereafter Grand Lodge delivered its judgement (reproduced in pages 10-11 of the ‘Definitive Judgement’ which was issued in 1773). Its text reflects the malice of its authors.


La Chaussée was required, ‘in accordance with his offer’, to remit to the [Grand] Treasurer a sum of 336 livres which could not be accounted for. This despite the fact that La Chaussée had made the offer ‘under the specific condition that no mention of it would ever be made’ (p. 29). The offer and the condition attached to it had been made because, on Jonville's instructions, La Chaussée had advanced 319 livres to a needy brother and, for reasons of confidentiality, had kept the receipt apart from the accounts. Unwisely in the event, La Chaussée had ‘adjusted’ the matter by recording in his accounts the fees for only twenty-five warrants instead of the thirty-one which had been issued (p. 27). Those who drafted the judgement were sufficiently ill-disposed to take advantage of the amateurish but well-meant falsification and wrote that ‘the deficiency in [his] accounts originated in his want of order and that no other interpretation could be given to it’. Unfortunately, Jonville was out of town; he would otherwise have been able to testify in La Chaussée's defence. His letter of 21 October ('Definitive Judgement', p. 12; quoted in full on pp.33-34 of the Mémoire) to that effect reached La Chaussée only after the Grand Lodge judgement had been delivered. La Chaussée sought leave to appeal against it but no meeting of Grand Lodge was convened because of the unforeseen turn taken in both the political and the masonic situations.


Since the Duc de Chartres had signed the act of acceptance approved on 18 April 1772, it was now possible to complete the union between the Grand Lodge and the Emperors. Luxembourg wrote to Grand Lodge, expressing his ‘wish’ to see the union effected, and this gave La Chaussée a further opportunity to claim that the Duke had been ‘insufficiently and wrongly informed by Labady’ (p. 17). At a meeting under Luxembourg's presidency on 26 July 1772, the Emperors appointed four Commissioners to renew before Grand Lodge the offer of union which had been made as long ago as on 2 October 1766. With the Commissioners whom Grand Lodge was to select, they were further empowered to draft the necessarily revised Regulations. On 9 August the Grand Lodge met under Puisieux, and Gaillard spoke for the Emperors, whereupon Bruneteau, on behalf of the Grand Lodge, declared its unanimous and irrevocable agreement to the unification. Its four Commissioners were chosen to work with those of the Emperors. The Minutes of the meetings of both bodies, signed respectively by Labady and Daubertin and with a covering letter, were distributed by the joint Commissioners on 17 September to every lodge in France.


On the instructions of Luxembourg, Grand Lodge had announced in a circular of 12 September that Chartres would be solemnly installed on 8 December. Provincial lodges were invited to attend and were informed that new Regulations would be submitted for approval at a General Assembly. If a provincial Master was unable to attend, he could empower any brother from Paris to present proposals on his behalf for the good of the Order.


The notice of this meeting proved to be premature as Louis XV had not yet reconciled himself with the royal princes ! The Duc de la Vrillière, his State Secretary, wrote to Luxembourg on 7 November to the effect that he had been told, but could not believe, that Luxembourg had invited all the Masters in the kingdom to be present at the installation of Chartres. Luxembourg ‘must be aware that such an assembly could only displease the King... Chartres cannot have been informed... The news must be false. He [la Vrillière] would appreciate receiving a denial from Luxembourg’ (letter discovered by Pierre Chevallier, quoted in his Histoire de la Franc-Maçonnerie Française (1974), vol. I, p. 160). The invitation had, therefore, to be cancelled by a circular of 16/17 November.


This is probably why La Chaussée was unable to present his appeal before a Grand Lodge Assembly, but he may not have been correctly informed. He suggests that the eight Commissioners feared that Grand Lodge might ‘revoke the powers they had abused’ (p. 35). He rather dryly names these brethren the Octovirat (the term Triumvirat had been coined by members of the opposition for Louis XV's three ministers who had been in charge of the reforms). The only surviving evidence of the Commissioners' proceedings seems to be the mention of an early draft of the first two chapters for the new Regulations, mentioned in Gould's History of Freemasonry (1882-7), vo1. 3, p. 152. Gould's source was, presumably, Georg Kloss Geschichte der Freimaurerei in Frankreich, 1852-3, who drew upon G.I.G.E. ou Chevalier Kados, a pamphlet issued by Labady in 1781. ln this the last-named had claimed that the Commissioners ‘had held more than twenty meetings’. Their draft of the two chapters was approved by Luxembourg on 12 February 1773.


On 5 March, sixty-one brethren - including the Commissioners and a score of delegates from the provinces - were ‘regularly and extraordinarily convened by verbal summons of the Sovereign Administrator of the regular lodges of France’. This meeting was styled ‘the first Assembly of the National Grand Lodge of France’. Only fourteen of those present approved the draft. The brethren deputed from the provinces insisted that their rights should be fully recognized and they met separately on 8 March. This recognition granted, on the following day Luxembourg presided over a meeting which he proclaimed to be ‘the sole Tribunal of the Order under the title of Sovereign National Grand Lodge of France, which from this moment exerted the full powers of the Order’. What occurred at subsequent meetings, at which the present Grand Orient of France was born, is not relevant to this paper.


The Précis begins:

Brother de la Chaussée has sent a letter dated 9 March 1773 to the Most Illustrious Brother the Duc de Luxembourg, General Administrator of the Masonic Order in France, in which, after having complained that he is compelled to do justice to himself because justice is denied to him, he gives him notice that he is about to send off, and sends off that very day, a printed Memorandum signed by himself, entitled Mémoire Justificatif of the Most Worshipful Brother de la Chaussée, Honorary Grand Keeper of the Seals and Archives of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of France, Master of the Écossais Loge de l'Exactitude.

That same day, 9 March, the National Grand Lodge being summoned and assembled, the said Mémoire was officially brought to its notice, and the National Grand Lodge, made aware of its contents, took it into account, deliberated, and enacted to appoint a Committee to judge of the said Mémoire and of the facts included in it...




Labady became, for a short time, a member of the opposition to the newly-named Grand Orient but was judged by his own friends on 26 July 1775 and expelled. One of the charges was ‘so criminal and reprehensible an offence as that of having torn up all the Minutes of the Register’ (Jugement rendu en l'Assemblée Générale, le 26 juillet 1775, contre le Sieur L[aba]dy, ci-devant Maître de Loge, Jérusalem... 1775).


La Chaussée, fully reinstated in September 1773, was one of the happy few (in fact, fifty-nine) invited to the banquet which followed the installation of the Grand Master one month later. The Grand Orient elected him an Honorary Officer. Circulars record that he served on several committees up to 1776.


Sadly, we know nothing of his friendship thereafter with Le Roy and Moët. The activities of the three Knights of the East had illuminated a period of French Freemasonry which ought not to be forgotten, even though that period encompassed the 1760s in which so many unworthy incidents are recorded. Jean-Pierre Moët, the most senior in age of the three (he had been born in 1721), had been Secretary General of the Grand Lodge as early as in 1757. He was also Secretary to the State Minister (Brother) Comte de Saint Florentin (later to be the Duc de la Vrillière), He was also the translator from Latin into French of the Works of Swedenborg, published after his death.


Peny, Duret and Labady must not be allowed to obscure, in French masonic history, the names of Moët, Le Roy and La Chaussée, ‘the true workers of Grand Lodge’. Similarly, the early misdeeds of the Emperors of the East and West should not eclipse the aims of the Knights of the East.


My thanks are due firstly to Bro. J. W. Daniel, Grand Secretary General, Supreme Council 33° for England and Wales, for allowing me to study and quote from the London Register; to René Desaguliers, Director of Renaissance Traditionnelle, for permission to quote from the Strasbourg Record; to the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris for granting facilities to examine and quote from various manuscript documents; to the late Bro. Etienne Gout for valuable information given in his correspondence; and to Bro. A.C.F. Jackson for sending to me his paper about the Mémoire (published in French in the Transactions of Research Lodge Villard de Honnecourt No. 81 (GLNF), No.5, 1982. 1 am grateful to him also, and to Bro. Cyril Batham and to the Editor, Bro. Frederick Smyth, for assistance in revising my text to a more idiomatic style.

Bro. C. N. Batham, Acting Master, in proposing a vote of thanks, said:


I commend Bro. Alain Bernheim for his paper on the Mémoire Justificatif and for his courage in presenting it in Quatuor Coronati Lodge.

That may seem a strange thing to say but I know, just as he knows, that inevitably there will be brethren who will say they can see little value in it, that they cannot understand why he wrote it.

Brethren, it is they who are on trial, not the paper. It may not be one of popular appeal, but if Quatuor Coronati Lodge was ever to confine itself to papers of popular appeal, it would be betraying the trust handed down by those pioneers of 1884 who founded the first, now universally acknowledged as the premier, lodge of masonic research.

I weIl remember Bro. Jackson's excitement when he found a copy of the Mémoire in our library. It was then thought to be the only one to have survived, though it was afterwards learned that another copy had been found two years earlier in Switzerland.

Without waiting for the permission of the lodge members, I handed it to Bro. Hamill for safe keeping in Grand Lodge library. I retained a photocopy for ourselves and sent one to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, as I felt that a copy of such a valuable document should be available there for the use of masonic researchers.

That will show you, brethren, how much we value La Chausée's document and how much we are indebted to Bro. Bernheim for the work he has done on it and on other little-known contemporary records.

His paper most certainly deserves a place in our archives for the benefit of future researchers into the very involved and confusing state of Freemasonry in France in the latter part of the eighteenth century which amounted, as the Duc de Montmorency-Luxembourg remarked, to a state of anarchy.

I say that with feeling, as I have tried to thread my way through the complicated maze of half-truths, misstatements and inventions of French masonic writers, even those apparently as knowledgeable, though regrettably only on the surface, as Thory who was responsible for more masonic fabrications than anyone.

You may say, brethren, that I am not commenting on the paper that has been read this evening. It is difficult to comment on a commentary, especially one that has been done as thoroughly as has this by Bro. Bernheim and the more so where I agree with everything he has said and written.

Perhaps therefore I should content myself with acknowledging my personal debt to three people. To La Chaussée for publishing so valuable a document, to the unknown brother who managed to secure a copy for Quatuor Coronati Lodge library although the Grand Lodge of France had endeavoured to destroy every copy, and to Bro. Bernheim for the work he has done on it.


[i]    A short article by Mme de Lussy about the discovery appeared in Travaux de Villard de Honnecourt, vol. 12 (1976).

[ii]   Pierre Chevallier. Mémoire Justificatif du F\ De La Chaussée 1773. Lauzeray International, Paris 1977.

[iii]  In French Commissaires, a word found more than fifty times in the Mémoire.

[iv]  Page references for which no source is specified refer to the original printed copy of the Mémoire. Facsimilé reprint with an Introduction-Avertissement by Alain Bernheim, Editions Slatine, Genève, 1992.

[v]    Thory. Acta Latomorum, vol. 1, p. 70. The author was given to imagination !

[vi]    Recent examples: AQC 83 (1970), p. 251, and AQC 100 (1987), p. 2.

[vii]   The system of sale, and with it irremovability, was extended to aIl official functions, even to financial posts’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica. 14th ed., vol. 9, p. 769.

[viii]  Alain Bernheim, AQC 101 (1988), p. 40.

[ix]   Bibliothèque Nationale, FM1 111 bis, f° 57.

[x]    Thory. Acta Latomorum, vol. 1, p. 79.

[xi]   ‘He succeeded Desvaux Dumorier as « Keeper of the Seals and Archives of the Very Illustrious Grand Master » and his signature as Keeper of Seals and Archives appears since August 1761. It is found on most Grand Lodge documents between 1761 and 1771’ (Alain Le Bihan. Francs-Maçons et Ateliers parisiens de la Grande Loge de France au XVIIIe siècle (1760-1795). [Éditions] Bibliothèque Nationale 1973, p. 233).

[xii]    Bibliothèque Nationale, FM5 37.

[xiii]   Thory. Acta Latomorum, vol. I, p. 90.

[xiv]   Copies of both letters in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.