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Chapters of Masonic History

The Builder Magazine, June 1924 - Volume X - Number 6


Chapters of Masonic History | Index:

PART V - THE OLD CHARGES OF FREEMASONRY and What They Mean to Us oldcharg.html

THE present chapter brings this series of Study Club articles to a close. No attempt has been made to publish an exhaustive and critical history of the Craft but rather the purpose has been to prepare such a rapid outline sketch of the more important phases of the history as beginners might find useful. According to custom the Study Club will be discontinued during July and August, to be resumed in September with a new series on the Story of American Freemasonry, unless circumstances make necessary a change in plans as to the theme.

In the chapter of last month brief sketches were given of Freemasonry in Ireland and Scotland and of two Grand Lodges in England; it is now in order to treat in like fashion other countries, the first of which to be considered is


The earliest protagonists of the Craft in France are almost mythical figures, and move about in a fog of rumor and conjecture, so that it is exceedingly difficult to find one's way among them with any assurance of certainty. Conditions were not as favorable to the Institution as in the United Kingdom; the political state of affairs constantly interfered with the development of lodges; and the French themselves, with their Latin minds, did. not have for Craft Masonry the same instinct as their English brethren. Like all men of their blood they were more passionate and more logical, and therefore more given to going to extremes; moreover the aristocratic spirit was strong among them, especially during the eighteenth century, so that many of them were impatient with the simple Craft ceremonies of the Three Degrees, and they soon set to work to fabricate one system after another of degrees more congenial to their aristocratic leanings.

Some writers, Bro. Robert I. Clegg among them, believe that as early as 1721 lodges of a Time Immemorial character, without warrant from England, were organized in France; Bro. Clegg names one at Mons and one at Dunkirk. But the main stream of tradition has it that the first lodge was founded at Paris in 1725 by the Earl of Derwentwater and his fellow Jacobites, who had fled from England upon the fall of the Stuart dynasty. There is much uncertainty about this. Gould quotes a "German publication" to the effect that in 1736 the Earl of Derwentwater was chosen Grand Master by the French lodges to "succeed James Hector Maclean, a previous Grand Master." Lalande, the astronomer, was responsible for the 1725 account in his Franche-Maconnerie, published in 1773; Rebold followed Lalande in this, and so did Dr. Oliver. The Abbe Robin, one of the founders of the Lodge of the Nine Sisters (of which Voltaire was a member), published in 1776 Researches on the Ancient and Modern Initiations in which he says that French Masonry originated in 1720. Clavel says that the first lodge on French soil was Friendship and Fraternity, at Dunkirk, founded by the Grand Lodge of England, 1721. Hughan, who made patient researches in this subject, said that the first historical record of the founding of a French lodge was the one mentioned in Pine's Engraved List for 1734 as having been founded April 3, 1732, and held at the Louis d'Argent in the Rue des Boucheries, Paris.

Whenever, however, and by whomever established the earliest French lodges did not find smooth sailings, either in the country or among themselves; there was general lack of agreement and many quarrels. Thory, who was a careful student of documents, gives one a picture of this in his Historie de la Fondation du Grand Orient:

"Freemasonry was then in such a discorded condition that we have no register or official report of its Assemblies. There did not exist any bodies organized in the fashion of Grand Lodges, such as were known in England and Scotland. Each lodge in Paris or in the kingdom was the property of an individual called the Master of the lodge. He governed the body over which he presided according to his own will and pleasure. These Masters of lodges were independent of each other. Each body recognized no other authority than their owner. They granted to all applicants the power to hold lodges, and thus added new Masters to the old ones. In fact, it may be said that up to 1743 Freemasonry presented in France under the Grand Masterships of Derwentwater, Lord Harnouester, and the Duke d'Antin a spectacle of the most revolting anarchy."

According to Thory the beginnings of the first legal Grand Lodge in France began on Dec. 11, 1743, when a number of the Masters of lodges met in assembly and elected the Count of Clermont Grand Master; this body adopted the title, The English Grand Lodge of France, which in 1756 was changed to the National Grand Lodge of France. This new body fell into many difficulties at the very beginning. For one thing, Masters held office for life, and lodges were so organized that each was virtually the private property of its Master, as quoted above; this made general- supervision of Craft activities very difficult; for another thing, as a result of Chevalier Ramsay’s celebrated oration in 1737, new degrees started up on all sides, and this entailed an endless amount of confusion.

The Count of Clermont, after having lost his interest, appointed as Deputy to act in his stead in 1744 a certain Baure, who was neglectful of his duties, and during IN hose regime irregular and spurious Masonry flourished. A more famous Deputy was one Lacorne, a dancing master, appointed in 1761. Upon his accepting office worse confusion followed until at last affairs were in such a state of anarchy that in 1767 the government forbade further assemblies of Grand Lodge. By Clermont's death in 1771 Grand Lodge was split in two, with the Lacorne faction making a deal of trouble. The Duke of Chartres - a name of ill omen in the history of French Masonry - was made Grand Master, largely through the action of the Lacorne faction.

It is impossible in short space to furnish an account of the confusion that existed for a few years; it is sufficient to say that out of it all the old Grand Lodge became moribund and on its ruins was erected the Grand Orient, a name invented at the time, apparently, and since used in many lands. The Grand Orient undertook to secure control of all the "higher degrees." It held its first meeting March 5, 1773, and its Constitutions were adopted on the following June 24. The original Grand Lodge held on to existence but fought a losing battle. The Duke of Chartres, its Grand Master, became also the head of the rival body, the Grand Orient, a thing that tied the hands of the older Grand Body, so that it grew weaker with each year and at last expired in 1792.

After the Revolution had come the Duke of Chartres assumed the name Philippe Egalite. On May 15, 1793, in an insulting letter to the Grand Orient, he renounced Masonry altogether. His disreputable career came to a bloody end on the guillotine during the Terror.

Meanwhile, in 1782, the Grand Orient had organized its Chamber of Degrees upon the recommendation of which there were added to the original Craft ceremonies the degrees of Elect Freemason, Scottish Freemason, Knight of the East, and Knight of the Rose Croix, with a view to bringing under the control of the Grand Orient all "higher degrees."

During the Revolution the Craft became somnolent, so that in 1796 only eighteen lodges were active in the whole of France; but a revival came afterwards, and with it interest continued to increase in higher degrees. Many of these were brought under one obedience when, in 1804, and acting under a Constitution granted by the Mother Supreme Council, Charleston, S. C., Count de Grasse Tilly organized the Supreme Council, a Grand Body that has ever since remained independent of the Grand Orient. In after years there was organized under its auspices a Grand Lodge of France, to have charge of the Craft degrees.

In 1871 the Grand Orient abolished the office of Grand Master, since which time the duties of that office have been performed by the President of the Council of the Order. On Sept. 14, 1877, it took the yet more extraordinary step of amending Artilce I of the Constitutions of Masonry. The paragraph originally read:

"Freemasonry has for its principles the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the solidarity of mankind."

After a year or so of deliberation, this was at last amended to read:

"WHEREAS, Freemasonry is not a religion, and has therefore no doctrine or dogma to affirm in its Constitution, the Assembly adopting the Vaeu IX., has decided and decreed that the second paragraph of Article I. of the Constitution shall be erased, and that for the words of the said article the following shall be substituted: I. Being an institution essentially philanthropic, philosophic and progressive, Freemasonry has for its object, search after truth, study of universal morality, science and arts and the practice of benevolence. It has for its principles, absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity, it excludes no person on account of his belief and its motto is Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity."

Immediately upon this (in the December following) the United Grand Lodge of England appointed a committee to consider this innovation; after two months the committee reported it as having been a departure from all the Landmarks of the Craft, whereupon England withdrew fraternal recognition; since then the great majority of Grand Lodges among English speaking peoples have taken the same action.

A new Grand Body, known as The National Grand Lodge, was organized in 1914 to erect lodges practicing Ancient Craft Masonry on the same principles as those adhered to by English speaking Grand Bodies; to date it remains small in size and influence.


In his Report on Correspondence made to the Grand Lodge of Alabama at its Annual Communication in 1922, a volume of 376 pages containing the most comprehensive account of foreign Grand Bodies published in many years in this country, Bro. Oliver Day Street gives a list of the various Masonic bodies in Germany as follows:

"1. The Grand Lodge of Hamburg, founded Feb. 11, 1811, with seat at Hamburg.
"2. The Mother Grand Lodge of the Eclectic Union, founded March 27, 1823, with seat at Frankfort on the Maine.
"3. The Grand National Mother Lodge of the Prussian States, called 'of the Three Globes,' founded in 1744, with seat at Berlin.
"4. The National Grand Lodge of All German Freemasons, or Grand Lodge of the Country, or Grand Countries Lodge, founded in 1770, with seat at Berlin.
"5. The Grand Lodge of Prussia, called Royal York of Friendship, founded in 1760, with seat at Berlin.
"6. The Grand Lodge 'Sun,' or 'Zur Sonne,' founded in 1741, with seat at Bayreuth.
"7. The National Grand Lodge of Saxony, founded in 1811, with seat at Dresden.
"8. The Grand Lodge 'Concord', founded in 1846, with seat at Darmstadt.
"9. The five Independent Lodges, (1) Minerva of the Three Palms, at Leipsic; (2) Baldwin of the Linden, at Leipsic; (3) Archimedes of the Three Tracing Boards, in Altenburg; (4) Archimedes of Eternal Union, at Gera; (5) Karl of the Wreath of Rue, at Hildburgshausen."

The five independent lodges named by Bro. Street, formed, in 1833, what they called a Free Association, which functions very much as a Grand Lodge, and is generally acknowledged as regular.

The existence of so many Grand Bodies in one country immediately suggests that Freemasonry in Germany has undergone many transformations, a fact that is borne out by its history. The first German lodge to be constituted was established at Hamburg, Dec. 6, 1737. In August of the following year it initiated the Crown Prince of Prussia, who afterwards became Frederick the Great. Frederick in turn established a private lodge of his own at Rheinsberg, and later permitted the forming of a lodge at Berlin, Sept. 13, 1740, which took the name "Of the Three Globes." This lodge, after erecting a number of lodges at other points, transformed itself into a Grand Lodge under the title Grand Royal Mother Lodge, which in 1772 was changed to Grand National Mother Lodge, number three in Bro. Street's list.

The National Grand Lodge of all German Freemasons was founded Dec. 27, 1770, by Johann Wilhelm von Zinnendorf, one of the most arresting and dramatic figures in the annals of German Masonry. He was made a Mason at Halle, Aug. 10, 1731, and afterwards joined the Lodge of the Three Globes. When that lodge embraced the Rite of Strict Observance, Zinnendorf became Master of the Scotch Lodge. He quarreled with the Rite of Strict Observance, which excommunicated him and which he in turn condemned. Immediately he secured through a friend of his a copy of the Swedish rituals and used them as a basis for a new Rite, which he set up in opposition to the Strict Observance. A sufficient number of Masons followed his lead to enable him on June 24, 1770, to set up a new Grand Lodge, in which twelve lodges participated. For seven years this Grand Lodge enjoyed the recognition of the Grand Lodge of England, and later the protectorship of the King of Prussia. Zinnendorf remained Grand Master from 1774 until his death in 1782. In spite of all manner of obstacles - he was denounced by the Grand Lodge of Sweden and became hated by many lodges in Germany - he had so much zeal and so many of the qualities of leadership that he was able to triumph over his enemies.

A still greater name in the history of German Masonry is that of Friedrich Ludwig Schroeder, who was born at Schwerin, Nov. 3, 1744. Schroeder was one of the greatest actors Germany has even known and possessed of fine character and a powerful personality. Soon after his initiation in 1774 he established a lodge under the system of Zinnendorf, but it did not last long. In 1814, when he was seventy years of age, he became Grand Master of the English Provincial Grand Lodge of Lower Saxony. This honor came to him as a result of the work he had done in the years just previous by way of reorganizing the ritual. According to his view, Freemasonry in Germany had become corrupted by the luxuriant growth of higher and side degrees; believing that Masonry in its purest form was that which had been developed in England, he translated a form of the English ritual into German and set up what came to be known as Schroeder’s Rite, which consisted of only three degrees. This was adopted by the Provincial Grand Lodge in 1801.

Partly as a result of Schroeder's influence and partly owing to other forces at work, other Grand Lodges followed suit, so that of the eight Grand Lodges now in existence, five practice only three degrees. The National Grand Lodge uses ten degrees; the Grand National Mother Lodge uses seven; the Grand Lodge of Prussia uses a fourth degree, confined to a select few. 


Among the most distinctive of all degree systems is that employed by Sweden and generally known as the Swedish Rite. The Grand Lodge National of Sweden was founded in 1759, twenty-four years after the first lodge had been founded at Stockholm. The Swedish Rite as it now exists was established in 1775, or thereabouts, and is compounded of Craft Masonry, the Strict Observance, and Scottish Rite Degrees, with a trace of the influence of Swedenborgianism. Of this the first three degrees correspond to those practiced in our Blue Lodges; the fourth to sixth degrees, inclusive, are so much like the Scottish Rite in character that members of Scottish Rite bodies are permitted to visit; the last four degrees are peculiar to the Rite.

The Grand Lodge of Norway was set up as a Grand Lodge independent of Sweden, Nov. 24, 1891. The Mother Lodge of Norway was founded in 1749 and was in 1818 united with the Grand Lodge of Sweden. The Provincial Grand Lodge of Norway was founded in 1870, and this, as already stated, became independent in 1891. The Norway Grand Lodge controls eleven degrees, the first three of which are Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master of St. John; the others belong to the Swedish Rite.

Freemasonry was established in Denmark at Copenhagen, Nov. 11, 1743, under a German charter. Lodges were subsequently warranted by the Grand Lodge of England, and in 1749 Count Laurvig was granted a patent as Provincial Grand Master by Lord Byron, Grand Master of England. The Grand Lodge of Denmark was constituted in 1792, at which time Prince Charles became the ruling head of Danish Lodges. Frederick VII rearranged the Danish degrees according to the Swedish system when he became Grand Master in 1848.

Freemasonry took root in Italy in 1735. From that time until 1820, when all Masonic lodges were suppressed, the story of Freemasonry in Italy is one of sudden change and confusion. Italian Freemasonry revived in the 1850's, but since that time, owing to constant changes in Italian ecclesiastical and political affairs, Italian Masonry has developed such a variety of forms that it is exceedingly difficult for an American Mason to find his way amid the maze of conflicting testimony and bewildering facts. The Masonic movement culminating in the Grand Orient of Italy began in 1859 at Turin. In 1861 twenty-two lodges assembled at Turin and formed a Grand body, which, on Jan. 1, 1862, became the Grand Orient of Italy at Turin, recognizing only three degrees. This Grand Orient came under the influence of higher degrees during the first decade of its existence; it emerged from this struggle in 1873 when all the rival ractions united in the present Grand Orient. In 1875 a number of lodges, lead by Saverio Fera, seceded from the Grand Orient and organized themselves into the Grand Lodge of Italy for the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. In 1919 the Blue Lodges adhering to this Supreme Council severed their relations with it and, with its express consent, became independent of the Scottish Rite. These lodges then held an assembly and formed themselves into the Most Serene National Italian Grand Lodge. It exacts of its members a belief in Deity and displays the Bible upon its altars. Of the two Supreme Councils in Italy, one is connected with the Grand Orient, the other works with the Serene National Grand Lodge. There is also in existence in Italy the Grand Lodge of Florence.

Freemasonry in Spain has always existed in a state of considerable confusion. When Bro. R. F. Gould wrote his History of Freemasonry, he listed five Spanish Grand bodies. According to Bro. Street's Report, already cited, there are now in existence at least four Grand bodies, two Spanish Grand Orients at Madrid, Spanish Grand Lodge at Barcelona, and the Supreme Council of the Spanish Grand Orient.

In Portugal the most important Grand body is the United Lusitanian Grand Orient founded in 1872. The Grand Orient of the Netherlands was formed in 1757. The Grand Orient of Belgium dates from 1832. Egypt has a Grand Lodge, organized in 1872. Swiss Freemasonry is under the Grand Lodge "Alpine," formed July 24, 1844.

A Grand Lodge for the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia was formed at Prague under a patent from the German Grand Lodge "Zur Sonne." Jugoslavia came into possession of a Grand Lodge, June 9, 1919, under the title "Grand Lodge of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Jugoslavia," with headquarters at Belgrade. Freemasonry was introduced into Greece by the Grand Orient of France in 1809. In 1860 a Provincial Grand Lodge was established in Greece, under the Grand Orient of Italy. The present Grand Orient of Greece was organized in 1868; the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite July 12, 1872.

In Canada each province has an independent Grand Lodge of its own. The Grand Lodge of Canada (Ontario) was formed in 1855; Nova Scotia, 1866; New Brunswick, 1867; Quebec, 1869; British Columbia, 1871; Prince Edward's Island, 1875; Manitoba, 1875; Alberta, 1905; Saskatchewan, 1906.

Freemasonry on the continent of Africa is a world in itself, with many Grand Lodges and Provincial Grand Lodges working under English, Scotch, Irish, French, Italian, etc., constitutions.

In Central America and South America, Masonry has for the most part been formed under Scottish Rite influences; it is impossible in a paragraph or two to convey any impression of the great number of Grand bodies in existence or of the complexity with which the Craft is there organized.

In Mexico Bro. Street lists some thirty-two Grand bodies. The key to the` history of Mexican Masonry has been politics and also a certain amount of friction between Scottish Rite and Craft lodges.


Mackey's Encyclopedia (Revised Edition):
Acta Latomorum, 13, Africa, 34, Antient and Primitive Rite of Masonry, 62; Austria, 86; Belgium, 102; Buhle, 122; Canada, 131; Clermont, Count of, 156, Cologne, Charter of, 159; Compagnonage, 171, Darmstadt, Grand Lodge of, 197, Derwentwater 206, Des Etangs, Nicholas Charles, 208, Emperors of the East and West, 241; Fessler, Ignaz Aurelius, 262; France, 276; Frederick the Great, 279, French Rite, 285, Germany, 295, Grasse, Tilly, 309; Hamburg, 316; High Degrees, 324; Hund, Baron von, 339; Illuminati of Bavaria, 346; Italy, 358; Jacobins, 359; Krause, 417; Memphis, Rite of, 479; Mexico, 482; Mizraim, Rite of, 487; Morin, Stephen, 492, Naples 507, Netherlands, 509, Nova Scotia 509, Ontario, 530, Orient, 53i Orleans, Duke of, 538 Persia, 558 Peru, 559; Philosophic Scottish Rite, 562; Poland, 5i4; Portugal, 576; Primitive Rite, 584; Prussia, 595; Ramsay, Andrew Michael, 607; Rite, 626; Rose Croix, Prince of, 636, Saxony, 664 Schroeder, 669, Scottish Rite, 671, Spain, 703, Starck, 712 Strasburg, Constitutions of, 729; Stuart Masonry, 730; Supreme Councils, 741; Sweden, 744; Swedenborg, 745; Swedish Rite, 747; Switzerland, 747; Thory, 783, Titles of Grand Lodges, 787; Torgau, Constitutions of, 790; Tschoudy, 805; Turkey, 809, Venezuela, 826; Weishaupt, Adam, 842; Zinnendorf, 876.


Acta Latomorum Thory. Allgemeines Handbuch der Freimaurerei (2 Vol.), A.Q.C. (France), XVI, 181; XX, 15; XXIV, 107; XXVII, 22, 63, 96. A.Q.C. (Germany), I, 17, 161, II 159; V, 192; VIII, 240; IX, 55, 113, 146, 160, XIV, 83. Concise History of Freemasonry, Gould. Early History and Antiquities of Freemasonry, Fort. Four Old Lodges, Gould. Histoire des Trois Grandes Loges, Rebold. Histoire Pittoresque Clavel. Historical Landmarks, Oliver. History of Freemasonry Findel. History of Freemasonry, Gould. History of Freemasonry, Laurie. Mackey's Revised History of Freemasonry Clegg. Origin of the Royal Arch, Hughan. Proceedings Grand Lodge of Alabama, 1922. Proofs of a Conspiracy, Robison. Things a Freemason Should Know, Crowe.

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