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Ramsay appears to have been a plagiarist – which wasn’t considered a capital sin along the 18th Century – which explains why many ideas from both versions of the Discours originated in the writings of others and were not the result of his imagination.

In the first part - the three required qualities to enter the Order : philanthropy, ability to keep a secret and a taste for the fine arts – we find at first ideas from Fénelon :

q       The false love of a few men... for their country destroyed... the love for human mankind was a Fénelon sentence quoted by Ramsay : « I love my famly better than myself ; I love my country better than my family ; but I love human mankind still more than my country. » [1]

q       The whole world is but a large republic of which each nation is a family and each individual a child comes from that same work : « All nations on earth are but various families of a same Republic of which God is the common father. »[2]

as well as ideas culled in English masonic literature :

q       Thus did the Orientals, Egyptians, Greeks and the wise men of all nations conceal their dogmas behind figures, symbols and hieroglyphics was probably inspired by : « ... the old Egyptians, who concealed the chief Mysteries of their Religion under Signs and Symbols, called Hieroglyphicks » in A Defence of Masonry. [3]

q       The grand lodge said to have been established in Rome by Augustus likely originated in Anderson’s 1723 The Constitutions of the Freemasons : « the glorious Augustus became the Grand-Master of the Lodge at Rome... ».[4]


In the second part which is more than 800 words long, the ancient traditions of the Order’s history also rely heavily on Anderson :

q       It was God himself who taught the restorer of mankind the proportions of the floating vessel which was to keep alive the animals of every species during the Flood... Consequently Noah must be regarded... as the first grand master of our Order [Anderson, p. 3 : « Noah... was commanded and directed of God to build the great Ark, which, tho’ of Wood, was certainly fabricated by Geometry, and according to the Rules of Masonry. »]

q       The arcane science was handed by oral tradition from him [Noah] down to Abraham and the patriarchs, the last of whom carried our sublime art into Egypt. [possibly Anderson, page 5 : « the Royal Art was brought down to Egypt by Mitzraim, the second son of Ham... » - Anderson, p. 7 : « Nay, the Jews believed that Abram also instructed the Egyptians in the Assyrian Learning. » Or, more likely, A Letter from the Grand Mistress (Dublin 1724, reprinted 1730) : « The Egyptians probably had it immediately from Abraham as the Scripture Plainly hints in the Life of that Patriarch »]

q       Moses, inspired by the Most High, had a mobile temple erected in the desert in conformity with the model he had seen in a heavenly vision... this ambulant tabernacle... became the model of the famous Temple of Solomon... [Anderson, p. 8 : « that most glorious tent, or Tablernacle, ... (prov’d afterwards the Model of Solomon’s Temple) according to the Pattern that God had shewn to Moses in the Mount... »]

q       ... built by over three thousand princes or master masons, whose chief was Hiram Abif, grand master of the lodge in Tyre whom Solomon entrusted with all our mysteries. [Anderson, p. 14 : « the learned King Hiram was Grand Master of the Lodge at Tyre, and the inspired Hiram Abif was Master of Work... »]

q       After the destruction of the first temple ... the great Cyrus ... appointed Zorobabel grand master of the lodge at Jerusalem and ordered him to lay the foundations of the second temple [Anderson, p. 19 : « ... the Grand Cyrus ... having constituted Zerubbabel... the Head, or Prince of the Captivity ... they began to lay the Foundation of the Second Temple... it was dedicated ... by Zerubbabel the Prince and General Master-Mason of the Jews... »]


In this last paragraph appears a remarkable new idea which has no equivalent in Anderson and was not invented by Ramsay either :

After his [Hiram’s] death, King Solomon wrote down our statutes, maxims and mysteries in hieroglyphic figures, and this ancient book is the original code of our Order. After the destruction of the first temple, the great Cyrus, who was initiated in all our mysteries instituted Zorobabel grand master of the lodge [5] in Jerusalem and ordered him to lay the foundations of the second temple wherein the mysterious book of Solomon was deposited. This book was preserved for twelve centuries in the temple of the Israelites, but after the destruction of this second temple under emperor Titus and the dispersion of this people, this authentic record was lost until the time of the crusades when it was party recovered after the taking of Jerusalem. This sacred code was decyphered and although the sublime spirit of all the hieroglyphic figures it contained were not fully understood, our ancient Order was revived... 

Ramsay mingled here two different sources together :

q       The Bible :

And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.[6]

The book found in King Solomon’s Temple (about 622-621 B.C.) is that of the law of the Lord (Iahve) written down by Moses.


q       The Ecclesiastical History by Claude Fleury, a priest and historian befriended with Fénelon.[7]

In Fleury’s History, a book, the Gospel of St John, is found in the foundations (not in the Temple itself) of King Solomon’s Temple and the event takes place during the 4th Century A.D. at the time of the Roman Emperor Julian, commonly called the Apostate (c. 331-363).


This legend was by no means an invention of Fleury : when he wrote his Ecclesiastical History he merely recopied it in a work by Philostorgius [8] bearing the same title. The comparison between both texts set in parallel columns on next page shows unmistakenly that Fleury recopied Philostorgius.


Ramsay’s innovations consisted in turning the Gospel of St. John into the original code of the masonic Order written by Solomon and setting the time of its recovery after the taking of Jerusalem (1099). Which was the time when Godfrey de Bouillon, the celebrated namesake of the children he tutored from 1730 to 1741, became King of Jerusalem ! [9]




Claude Fleury



When Julian bade the city of Jerusalem to be rebuilt in order to refute openly the predictions of our Lord concerning it ...

Julian, called the Apostate, ... having formed a plan to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem, to refute the prophecy of Daniel, & that of J. C.

... during the preparation of the foundations, one of the stones which was placed at the lowest part of the base, suddenly started from its place and opened the door of a certain cave hollowed out in the rock.

While working on the foundations, a stone from the first row became dislodged & uncovered the opening of a cavern hewn in the rock.

... persons were appointed to investigate the matter, who ... let down one of their workmen by means of a rope. On being lowered down

A Workman was lowered, attached to a cord ;

he found stagnant water reaching up to his knees;

& when he was in the Cavern, he felt water half-way up to his legs.

and, having gone round the place and felt the walls on every side...

He explored with his hands in all directions,

... he struck his foot against a column which stood slightly rising upon the water...

& upon a column which rose just above the water,

he found lying upon it a book wrapped up in a very fine and thin linen cloth.

he found a Book wrapped in a very fine linen.

... he gave a signal to his companions to draw him up again.

He took it & gave the signal to be drawn up.

... he showed them the book, which struck them all with astonishment, especially because it appeared so new and fresh, considering the place where it had been found.

All who saw the Book were surprised that it had not been spoilt.

This book, which appeared such a mighty prodigy in the eyes of both heathens and Jews,

But the astonishment was even greater, particularly among the Pagans & Jews,

as soon as it was opened shows the following words in large letters : “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God...

when having opened it, they read, first of all, in large Letters, the words, In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God :

In fact, that volume contained that entire Gospel.

& the rest, because this was the complete Gospel of St. John.





Comparison between Philostorgius’ and Claude Fleury’s Ecclesiastical Histories


Remarkably, the above words of Claude Fleury – not those of Ramsay ! - were fully quoted ten years later in two French exposures : La désolation des entrepreneurs modernes and Nouveau Catéchisme des Francs-Maçons with an accurate reference to the source, namely ‘Hist. Eccle. de M. de Fleury. T. quatrième, L. quinzième, pag. 90’.[10]



Now begins the last part of the Discours :

in the times of the holy wars in Palestina, several princes, lords and artists associated,[11] swore to reestablish the temples of the christians in the Holy Land and to use their science and their goods to bring back architecture to its pristine institution, they recalled all the ancient signs and mysterious words of Solomon in order to distinguish themselves from the Infidels and make themselves known to each other.

[...] united closely with [...] [12]

Ever since then, our Lodges in all countries were called of St John. This union was accomplished after the example set by the Israelites when they rebuilt the second temple. While some handled trowel and compasses, others defended them with sword and buckler.[13] ...

Prince Edward [14] brought back all his masonic brethren and this colony of adepts settled in England. Having ascended the throne, he declared himself grand master of the Order [...] and from that time our brotherhood took the name francs masons. Since then, Great Britain became the seat of the secret science, the keeper of our dogmas and the depositary of all our secrets. From the British Isles, the ancient science begins to pass into France. The wittiest [15] nation in Europe will become the centre of the Order ... the basis of which is wisdom, strength and the beauty of genius. It is in our lodges in the future that without travelling, the French will be able to see, as in a miniature, the distinctive marks of all nations ; and it is here that Foreigners will experience that France is the true native country of all mankind.

Because some words are unreadable in the manuscript, the contents of these paragraphs are commented below together with their counterpart of the printed version.




The general plan remains identical in both versions though with considerable difference in length of the three parts and many modifications.

Changes in the first part are as follows :

q       The requested qualities to enter the Order are four instead of three, a pure moral is added.

q       Introduction of the famous words, our ancestors, the Crusaders, and of the three classes : Novices or Apprentices, Fellow Crafts or Professant,[16] Masters or Perfect.

q       Mysteries are now termed secrets and described as mots de guerre (watch words) which the Crusaders gave one another to protect themselves from the surprises of the Saracens [17] who often crept in to cut their throats.

q       The feasts celebrated in Eleusis, Greece and Egypt, formerly described as none other than lodges of our initiated members, are now said to be only related to our own feasts. They degenerated into debauchery, not because wise principles were abandoned (ms version) but for the reason that persons of both sexes were therein admitted, which explains why women are [nowadays] banned from our Order.

q       Mathematics are not mentioned any more in the paragraph devoted to the liberal arts. They are replaced with the statement that Grand Masters in Germany, England, Italy and elsewhere [...] exhort all learned men to unite in order to supply the material for a Universal Dictionary, a work already begun in London.

q       Accordingly, the name Franc-maçon must not be taken in a material, literal sense as if our Founders had been mere craftsmen in stone... They were not only clever Architects building outdoor Temples, but religious and martial Princes as well who intended to enlighten, erect and shelter the living Temples of the Most High.


The 800 words of the second part (the ancient traditions of the Order’s history and the recovery of the original code of the masonic Order written by Solomon) have disappeared entirely. Those who ascribe the origins of our institution to Solomon, Noah, Enoch or even Adam are discarded in a single sentence : Though not claiming to deny such origins, I shall pass on to matters less ancient.


Now begins the third part, the history of the Order, allegedly found among other sources by Ramsay in the living tradition of the English nation.

In the times of the Crusades in Palestina, several Princes, Lords and citizens associated and swore to reestablish the Temples of the Christians in the Holy land and to devote themselves to bring architecture back to its pristine institution. They agreed upon several ancient signs and symbolical words drawn from the fund of religion in order make themselves known to each other when amongst the Infidels and the Saracens. [...]

Some time later, our Order united intimately with the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. Ever since then, our Lodges in all countries were called of St John. This union was accomplished after the example set by the Israelites when they erected the second Temple. While they handled the trowel and mortar in one hand, they carried the sword and buckler in the other.

Words unreadable In the manuscript version prevented us to ascertain if the Knights of St John of Jerusalem were already introduced there or if they come now in the printed one as a novelty – which I do not believe –, but in any case the idea was by no means an invention of Ramsay !


St. John of Jerusalem used as another name of King Solomon’s Temple and for that of a Knight’s Order stays in A Letter from the Grand Mistress of the Female Free-Masons to Mr. Harding the Printer, [18] a masonic pamphlet, originally printed in 1724 in Dublin where it was reprinted in 1730 :


The Branch of the Lodge of Solomon’s Temple, afterwards call’d the Lodge of St. John of Jerusalem on which our Guardian [19] fortunately hit, is as I can easily prove, the Antientest and Purest now on Earth : The famous old Scotish Lodge of Killwinin of which all the Kings of Scotland have been from Time to Time Grand Masters without Interruption, down from the Days of Fergus, who Reign’d there more than 2000 Years ago, long before the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem or the Knights of Maltha, to which two Lodges I must nevertheless allow the Honour of having adorn’d the Antient Jewish and Pagan Masonry with many Religious and Christian Rules.


Scotland, a word not mentioned once in the manuscript version, appears four times in the next paragraph and becomes the seat of the secret science. Ramsay introduces here as well – and why shouldn’t he ? - the Kilwinning lodge of the Irish pamphlet :

At the time of the last Crusades, several lodges were already erected in Germany, Italy, Spain, France and from thence, in Scotland, because of the close alliance between the French and the Scots. James, Lord Steward of Scotland, was Grand Master of a Lodge established in Kilwin in the West of Scotland in the year 1286, shortly after the demise of Alexander III., King of Scotland, and one year before John Baliol ascended the throne. This Lord made the Earls of Gloucester and Ulster Masons in his Lodge, the one English, the other Irish.[20]

Little by little, our Lodges and solemnities were neglected in most places. Which is the reasons why, out of so many historians, those of Great Britain are the only ones who speak about our Order. It was however preserved in its splendour among the Scots entrusted by the Kings (of France) with the safeguard or their sacred persons during many centuries.


After Prince Edward declared himself Protector – not Grand Master as in the ms version – of the Order, comes a new paragraph devoted to

The fatal religious discords which set Europe afire [21] and tore it apart in the sixteenth century caused our Order to degenerate from the nobility of its origin. Many of our rites were changed, disguised, suppressed... Several of our Brethren, like the ancient Jews, forgot the spirit of our Laws and retained but its Letter and its bark. Some remedies have been started of late. What now matters is to keep on and bring the whole at last back to its original condition.


The Discours ends on lines similar to those of the ms version with the addition of a couple flattering sentences for the King and his State Minister, Cardinal Fleury.



[1]           In Histoire... (see note 9), p. 152.

[2]           Ibid. p. 168.

[3]           An anonymous pamphlet printed as a reply to Prichard’s Masonry Dissected. Advertised for sale in the Daily Post, London, December 15, 1730. Transcribed in Knoop, Jones & Hamer, Early Masonic Catechisms : 210-225 (the sentence quoted here stays p. 216).

[4]           Page 25.

[5]           The transcription of the ms issued by Chandon de Briailles in the 1900s (Lamoine, AQC 114 : 226) reads loi (law) instead of loge (lodge). Batham’s translation (following Chevallier’s transcription) has lodge, Lamoine’s has law.

[6]           II Kings 22 : 8 and II Chronicles 34 : 18.

[7]           Claude Fleury (1640-1723), like Ramsay, was tutor of children of the highest nobility. First a tutor of the Princes of Conti, he was appointed in 1689 sub-preceptor of the dukes of Burgundy, of Anjou and of Berry, thus becoming intimately associated with Fénelon, their chief tutor. Member of the Académie Française, 1696, succeeding to La Bruyère. His Histoire Ecclésiastique was issued 1690-1720. He should not be mistaken for André Hercule, Cardinal de Fleury (1653-1743), former tutor of King Louis XV and his State Minister since 1726.

[8]    Philostorgius was born about 368 at Borissus in Cappadocia Secunda but went at the age of twenty to Constantinople where he spent most of his life (Additional notice to the 2002 electronic edition  of Philostorgius, taken from J. Quasten Patrology, vol. 3, p. 532). The Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius was translated in English by Edward Walford in 1855 (Jones 1957-1972 : 126-127).

[9]           Saint-Simon narrated with a touch of sadism and in great detail problems of the Bouillon family twenty years earlier as they tried without success to prove their ties with the Godfrey de Bouillon of the Crusades (Mémoires, vol. II, chapter 43 and vol. III, chapter 40, ed. Pléiade, 1949-1950).

[10]          About these two exposures, see Bernheim 1994. The Fleury quote stays pp. 31-32 of La désolation des entrepreneurs modernes (1747) and of the Nouveau Catéchisme (1749) as a foot-note.  (English translation in Carr 1971 : 332).

[11]          I am unable to render in English the idea convened by the French words entrèrent en société. The expression entrer en is mostly used in entrer en religion, entering a religious order.

[12]          Words unreadable in the ms.

[13]          A variation of Nehemiah IV : 17-18 ?

[14]          Prince Edward actually attempted to take part in the eighth and last Crusade but arrived somewhat late in Acre, May 1271. See the remark by Chetwode Crawley (AQC 23 : 61, note 2) : « Ramsay’s reference to St. John’s Lodges and King Edward III. [sic ! read : Edward I.] of England recalls the Collection... of the Daily Journal... London, Second Edition, 1731. »

[15]          Spirituel, translated as spiritual by both Batham and Lamoine.

[16]          Since the XIIth C. the original meaning of the French word Profès is someone who takes vows in a religious Order. Batham translated : Professed Brothers, Lamoine : Professed ones. I found Professant in the Webster. The three classes are identical with those of l’Ordre de la Cognée  whose degrees were the following : « the novice (termed once apprentice), the professant [in French : le profès, the same word as that used by Ramsay] and the perfect » (Robert Amadou, Renaissance Traditionnelle 57, 1984, p. 3. See ibid, p. 13, Amadou’s comments about the word Profès). The oldest attested manifestation of this little-known and most interesting Order is 1743.

[17]          A name given to the Muslims in the Middle Ages.

[18]          Facsimile in Lepper and Crossle 1925 : 449, 451-462. Lantoine already noticed in 1927 that ‘the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem’ were mentioned in the pamphlet but thought it was printed in 1731 (Lantoine 1927 : 127). Batham wrote¨« There is, in fact [!], an even earlier reference as Kloss quotes a document of 1718... of which Baron de Tschoudy was probably the author, in which not only is the theory of the Crusader origin advanced, but also the claim that Richard Coeur de Lion was the founder » (Batham 1968 : 289). Batham fully misquoted exact indications given in Chevallier 1964 : 15, and besides was not aware that Tschoudy was born in 1724. About the text quoted in Kloss I : 72-74, see Schröder 1806, I : 182 ff., Schiffmann 1882 : 151 & 158 and Begemann 1906 : 50 ff.

[19]          Described at the beginning of the pamphlet as « A Gentleman... who has... form’d us into a Lodge, and whom we therefore call our Guardian ».

[20]          Words quoted and commented upon as « inadmissible as a historical fact » in Murray Lyon 52.

[21]          The word embarassèrent (embarrassed) of the earliest printed version is a very old misprint for embrasèrent (set afire) which was overtaken in all later ones. In the letter from April 16, 1737, quoted below : embrazerent.