The Background of Masonic History.
Before we consider the history of Freemasonry in Maine, it is desirable that we refresh our memories as to the background of general Masonic history.
Modern speculative Freemasonry is a direct continuation of the great operative Masonic Guild of the Middle Ages. This Guild, in turn, was an off-shoot of those Comacine Masters who flourished in Italy under the Lombard kings, and who were themselves descended from the ancient Roman Colleges of Builders.
The golden age of the operative Craft extended from the tenth century to the sixteenth. During this period the Masonic Fraternity designed and constructed all of those magnificent specimens of Gothic architecture which have been variously described as " the frozen music of the Middle Ages " and as " prayers in stone." At this time, the real secret of the Craft was nothing less than the knowledge of those principles of higher mathematics underlying Gothic architecture.
When the cathedral building era drew to a close, the need for the services of a highly specialized guild of architects and builders ceased. Operative Freemasonry in the British Kingdoms would have died a natural death, as it did on the continent of Europe, had not the old British Lodges contained within themselves a certain number of honorary members or Accepted Masons. These " speculative " members were men unconnected with the building trade, and attracted to the Lodges only by the sublime moral and philosophical principles which Masonry had inherited from a remote antiquity. These Accepted Masons were frequently men of the highest consideration, peers of the realm, generals in the army, university professors, lawyers, and clergymen. When the Operative Craft declined, these speculative members perpetuated the institution in its present form. This change was gradual. Fewer and fewer operative members were admitted to the Lodges and more and more speculative members, until the change was complete, and Masonry emerged in its present form, as a polite society of gentlemen, whose only building activity is that concerned with the building of human character.
Our principal knowledge of Masonic history during the operative and transition periods is derived from " The Old Charges of British Free Masons," from public and ecclesiastical records, and from the actual minutes of the old Lodges themselves.
The Old Charges is the name given to some eighty-one ancient manuscripts, many of them written on parchment rolls and in antique black letter Gothic script, now scattered throughout the world in the custody of various governments, museums, and Grand Lodges. These ancient manuscripts are all copies of still earlier documents, now lost, and are similar in subject-matter, showing a common origin. All recite the Masonic legend, and then give the existing constitution or general regulations for the Craft. They purport to be the constitutions adopted by the General Assembly of Masons, held at York, England, in the year 926 A. D. The most ancient copy of the Old Charges is the Regius or Halliwell Manuscript, dating from the year 1390, and now in the custody of the British Museum. Other famous Old Charges are the Cooke Manuscript (1450), Lansdowne (1500), Melrose (1581), and Grand Lodge (1583). Modern Masonic research is continually bringing to light new copies of these ancient charges. Much of our modern Masonic law, much of our peculiar phraseology, and no small part of our Ritual are directly derived from these venerable manuscripts.
Several existing Lodges have continuous histories reaching back into the operative and transition periods. Mother Kilwinning Lodge, No. 0, on the Register of Scotland, claims to date from the construction of Kilwinning Abbey, commenced in 1140 A. D. It was certainly one of the principal head Lodges or Masonic Courts of Scotland in 1598, sharing this honor with the Lodges of Edinburgh and Stirling. Its minutes are intact from the year 1642.
The venerable Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel), now No. 1 on the roster of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, certainly existed in the twelfth century. It is mentioned in the Burgh Records of Edinburgh in 1387, 1491, and 1500. It was chartered by Seal of Cause in the year 1475, and thus has a corporate existence of more than four hundred and fifty years. It was recognized by the Schaw Statutes of 1598 as " the first and principal Lodge in Scotland." Its minutes antedate those of any other Lodge, and are in unbroken continuity from 1599 to the present day.
According to tradition the old Lodge of Aberdeen, now No. 1 ter, was founded by a Master Mason named Scott, who was employed by the Bishop in building St. Machar's Cathedral in 1165 The Lodge is frequently mentioned, as such, in the Burgh Records of Aberdeen, under the years 1319, 1399, 1483, 1484, 1493, 1496, 1531, 1555, 1541. It was chartered by Seal of Cause in 1527 and the charter was renewed and extended in 1541. It was one of the Lodges participating in the Coipland Grant of James VI in 1590. This old Lodge possesses a valuable copy of the Old Charges and has its minutes intact from the year 1670. These old records are very full, and give the best picture of the life of a Scottish Lodge during the transition period which has come down to us.
Other ancient Scottish Lodges, with records reaching back into the Operative period, include Melrose Lodge, No. 1 bis; Cannongate Kilwinning, No. 2; Scoon and Perth Lodge, No. 3; Lodge of Glasgow St. John, No. 3 bis; and the Lodge of Dunblane, No. 9.
In England, the Worshipful Company of Masons of London was granted a coat-of-arms by Clarencieux King at Arms, in 1472, and flourished as one of the prosperous livery corporations of the city of London. Its minute-book is extant from the year 1620. It is highly probable that the present Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2, is a speculative heir to the old Mason's Company.
During the operative era, the Craft was governed by Acts of Parliament and by General Assemblies of Masons held at stated intervals. Its chief executive officer was a Grand Master Mason, Master of the Work, or Warden-General of the Masons, appointed by the Crown.
This form of government, adapted to the needs of a working guild, was manifestly unsuited to the government of a social fraternity. Accordingly, after the transition was completed at the beginning of the eighteenth century, a change was made.
" In the year 1717, four Lodges Meeting in London, viz:
(1) That at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St. Paul's Churchyard, (now Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2);
(2) That at the Crown Ale House in Parker's Lane near Drury Lane, (dormant since 1740);
(3) That at the Apple Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden, (now Fortitude and Old Cumberland Lodge, No. 12);
(4) That at the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster, (now Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge, No. 4);
together with some old brethren, met at the said Apple Tree and resolved to revive the Quarterly Communications of Officers of Lodges (called Grand Lodge).
Accordingly, on St. John Baptist's Day, 1717, an assembly was held at the Goose and Gridiron, and Mr. Anthony Sayer, Gentleman, was duly elected Grand Master of Masons."
This Grand Lodge of England, the premier Grand Lodge of the world, at first exercised authority only over the Lodges in London and Westminster. Shortly, however, its rule was extended over the whole of England. A vigorous schismatic body existed from 1751 to 1813, in which year the present United Grand Lodge of England resulted from its union with the premier Grand Lodge.
The success of the Grand Lodge of England led to the formation of similar bodies in the other British kingdoms. The year 1725 found an Irish Grand Lodge fully established at Dublin, with six subordinate Lodges, and with the Earl of Ross as its Grand Master. In 1726, a Grand Lodge of Munster was meeting at Cork, presided over by a son of the Earl of Inchiquin. These two bodies united in 1731 to form the present Grand Lodge of Ireland.
There were over one hundred active Lodges in the Kingdom of Scotland. The initiative in organizing a Grand Lodge was taken by Canongate Kilwinning Lodge, of Edinburgh, now No. 2 on the Grand Lodge roll. William St. Clair, of Roslin, a member of this Lodge and the descendant of the grantees named in the St. Clair Charters, voluntarily resigned any hereditary powers resulting therefrom. This paved the way for the organization of the Grand Lodge, which was effected in 1736. Thirty-three Lodges joined in establishing the new Grand Lodge, and St. Clair was elected the first Grand Master.
All legitimate Freemasonry in the world today is derived from these original British Grand Lodges.
We do not known when Masonry first came to America. The leaders of the early Scottish colony in Nova Scotia were active in the affairs of the Lodge of Edinburgh. John Skene, Deputy Governor of New Jersey from 1685 to 1690, was a member of the old Lodge of Aberdeen. In 1704, Johathan Belcher, later Governor of Massachusetts, was made a Freemason in London. We have reason to believe that Masons were meeting in Boston, Philadelphia, and Portsmouth, N. H., prior to 1730, but these meetings were purely voluntary and without Grand Lodge authority.
In 1730 Col. Daniel Coxe of New Jersey received a deputation from the Duke of Norfolk, Grand Master of England, as Provincial Grand Master for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for a period of two years. This is the first constitutional Masonic date in the New World. There is no evidence to show that Col. Coxe ever performed any Masonic functions under this commission, but the very fact of his appointment would seem to indicate the presence of a considerable number of Masons in the provinces concerned.
Three years later, in 1733, Lord Viscount Montague, Grand Master, issued his commission to Major Henry Price, appointing him Provincial Grand Master for New England. The following year, this commission was extended to include the whole continent of North America. Major Price at once entered upon his duties, organized his Provincial Grand Lodge under the style and title of St. John's Grand Lodge, and constituted the Masonic brethren of Boston a duly warranted Lodge under the English Constitution, known as First Lodge in Boston. From this Provincial Grand Lodge the first Lodge in Maine, now Portland Lodge, No. 1, derives its charter.
In 1756 the venerable Lodge of St. Andrew in Boston was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. In 1769, the military Lodges attached to several British Regiments in Boston joined with this Lodge in petitioning the Grand Lodge of Scotland for a Provincial Grand Warrant. This was granted, and Dr. Joseph Warren was appointed Grand Master. From this Grand Lodge, known as the Massachusetts Grand Lodge, the second Lodge in Maine, Warren, No. 2, received its charter.
With this review of general Masonic History we can now turn to the story of Freemasonry in Maine.
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