Archive for May, 2008
MASONRY was introduced into Mexico, in the Scottish Rite, some time prior to 1810, by the civil and military officers of Spain, but the exact period of its introduction is unknown.
The first Work Charters were granted for a Lodge at Vera Cruz in 1816, and one at Campeche in 1817, by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, followed by a Charter for a Lodge at Vera Cruz in 1823 by the “City” Grand Lodge of New York, and one in the same city in 1824 from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
On February 10, 1826, five Charters were granted for Lodges in the City of Mexico by the “Country” Grand Lodge of New York, on the recommendation of Joel R. Poinsett, Past Deputy Grand Master of South Carolina, at that time the United States Minister to Mexico, who constituted the Lodges and organized them into a Grand Lodge with Jose Ignacio Esteva as Grand Master.
The Masonic bodies, both York and Scottish Rite, however, soon degenerated into rival, political clubs, and the bitter factionalism became so strong that in 1883 the authority issued an edict suppressing all secret societies.
The bodies met, however, secretly, and about 1834 the National Mexican Rite was organized with nine degrees copied after the Scottish Rite.
In 1843, a Lodge was chartered at Vera Cruz and in 1845 at Mexico by the Grand Orient of France.
In 1859, a Supreme Council 33°, with jurisdiction over the Symbolic degrees, was organized by authority of Albert Pike, and for a time the Supreme Council dominated all bodies.
In 1865, the Grand Lodge Valle de Mexico was organized as a York Rite Grand Lodge, and worked as much until 1911, when a number of the Lodges, under the leadership of Past Grand Masters Levi and Pro, left the Grand Lodge and organized a rival body, under the obedience of the Supreme Council.
FREEMASONRY was introduced into Poland in 1736 by the Grand Lodge of England, but in 1739 the Lodges were closed in consequence of the edict of King Augusts II, who enforced the bull of Pope Clement XII.
From 1742 to 1749, Masonry was revived and several Lodges were erected, which flourished for a time, but afterward fell into decay.
In 1766, Count Mosrynski sought to put it on a better footing, and in 1769 a Grand Lodge was formed, of which he was chosen Grand Master.
The Grand Lodge of England recognized this body as a Provincial Grand Lodge. On the first division of Poland, the labors of the Grand Lodge were suspended, but they were revived in 1773 by Count Bruhl, who introduced the ritual of the Strict Observance, established several new Lodges, and acknowledged the supremacy of the United Lodges of Germany.
There was a Lodge in Warsaw, working in the French Rite, under the authority of the Grand Orient of France, and another under the English System.
These differences of Rites created many dissensions, but in August, 1781, the Lodge Catherine of North Star received a warrant as a Provincial Grand Lodge, and on December 27th of the same year the body was organized, and Ignatius Pococki elected Grand Master of all Polish and Lithuanian Lodges, the English system being provisionally adopted.
In 1794, with the dissolution of the kingdom, the Lodges in the Russian and Austrian portions of the partition were suppressed, and those only in Prussian Poland continued their existence.
Upon the creation, by Napoleon, of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a Grand Orient of Poland was immediately established. This body continued in operation until 1823, with more than forty Lodges under its obedience.
In November of that year, the Order was interdicted in consequence of the ukase of the Emperor Alexander prohibiting all secret societies, and all the Lodges were thereon closed.
During the revolt of 1830 a few Lodges arose, but they lasted only until the insurrection was suppressed.
FREEMASONRY was first introduced into Peru about 1807, during the French invasion and several Lodges worked until the resumption of the Spanish authority and the Papal influence, in 1813, when their existence terminated.
In 1825, when the independence of the republic, declared some years before, was completely achieved, several Scottish Rite Lodges were established, first at Lima and then at other points, by the Grand Orient of Colombia.
A Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Rite was instituted in 1830. In 1831 an independent Grand Lodge, afterward styled the Grand Orient of Peru, was organized by the Symbolic Lodges in the republic.
Political agitations have, from time to time, occasioned a cessation of Masonic labor, but both the Supreme Council and the Grand Orient are now in successful operation.
The Royal Arch Degree was introduced in 1852 by the establishment of a Royal Arch Chapter at Callao, under a Warrant granted by the Supreme Chapter of Scotland.
THE FIRST organized Masonic authority at Brazil, the Grande Oriente do Brazil, was established in Rio de Janeiro, in the year 1821, by the division into three of a Lodge at Rio de Janeiro, which is said to have been established under a French warrant in 1815.
The Emperor, Don Pedro I, was soon after initiated in one of these Lodges, and immediately proclaimed Grand Master.
But finding that the Lodges of that period were nothing but political clubs, he ordered them to be closed in the following year, 1882.
After his abdication in 1831, Masonic meetings again took place, and a new authority, under the title of “Grande Oriente Brazileiro” was established.
Some of the old members of the “Grande Oriente do Brazil” met in November of the same year and reorganized that body, so that two supreme authorities of the French Rite existed in Brazil.
In 1832, the Visconde de Jequitinhonha, having received the necessary powers from the Supreme Council of Belgium, established a Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Rite; making thus a third contending body, to which were soon added a fourth and fifth, by the illegal organizations of the Supreme Councils of their own, by the contending Grand Orientes.
In 1835, disturbances broke out in the legitimate Supreme Council, some of its Lodges having proclaimed the Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Brazil their Grand Commander, and thus formed another Supreme Council.
In 1842, new seeds of dissension were planted by the combination of this revolutionary faction with the Grande Oriente Brazileiro, which body then abandoned the French Rite, and the two formed a new Council, which proclaimed itself the only legitimate authority of the Scottish Rite in Brazil.
But it would be useless as well as painful to continue the record of these dissensions, which like a black cloud, darkened for years the Masonic sky of Brazil.
Thing are now in a better condition, and Freemasonry in Brazil is united under the one head of the Grand Orient.
THIS is one of the most important and significant symbols in Freemasonry. As such, it is proper that its true form should be preserved.
The French Masons have almost universally given it with one leg longer than the other, thus making it a carpenter’s square.
The American Masons, following the incorrect delineations of Jeremy L. Cross, have, while generally preserving the equality of length in the legs, unnecessarily marked its surface with inches; thus, making it an instrument for measuring length and breadth, which it is not.
It is simply the “trying square” of a stonemason, and has a plain surface: the sides or legs embracing an angle of ninety degrees, and is intended only to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone, and to see that its edges subtend the same angle.
In Freemasonry, it is a symbol of morality. This is its general signification and is applied in various ways:
1. It presents itself to the neophyte as one of the three great lights;
2. To the Fellow-Craft as one of his working tools;
3. To the Master Mason as the official emblem of the Master of the Lodge.
Everywhere, however, it inculcates the same lesson of morality, of truthfulness, of honesty. So universally accepted is this symbolism that it has gone outside of the Order, and has been found in colloquial language communicating the same idea.
Square, says Halliwell (Dictionary of Archaisms), means honest, equitable, as in “square dealing.” To “play upon the square” is proverbial for “to play honestly.” In this sense the word is found in the works of the old writers.
As a Masonic symbol, it is of very ancient date, and was familiar to the Operative Masons.
In 1830, the architect, in rebuilding a very ancient bridge called Baal Bridge, near Limerick, in Ireland, found under the foundation-stone an old brass square, much eaten away, containing on its two surfaces the following inscription:
“I WILL STRIVE TO LIVE – WITH LOVE & CARE – UPON THE LEVEL – BY THE SQUARE,” and the date “1517.”
The modern Speculative Mason will recognize the idea of “living on the level and by the square.” This discovery proves, if proof were necessary, that the familiar idea was borrowed from our Operative brethren of former days.
The square, as a symbol in Speculative Masonry, has therefore presented itself from the very beginning of the revival period.
In the very earliest catechism of the last century, in 1725, we find the answer to the question, “How many make a Lodge?” is “God and the Square, with five or seven right or perfect Masons.”
God and the Square, religion and morality, must be present in every Lodge as governing principles. Signs at that early period were to be made by squares, and the furniture of the Lodge was declared to be the Bible, Compasses, and Square.
In all rites and in all languages where Masonry has penetrated, the square has preserved its primitive signification as a symbol of morality.
FREEMASONRY, like every other good and true thing, has been subjected at times to suspicion, to misinterpretation, and to actual persecution.
Like the church, it has had its martyrs, who, by their devotion and their sufferings, have vindicated its truth and its purity.
With the exception of the United States, where the attacks on the Institution can hardly be called persecutions – not because there was not the will, but because the power to persecute was wanting –all the persecutions of Freemasonry have, for the most part, originated with the Roman Church.
“Notwithstanding,” says a writer in the Freemasons’ Quarterly Magazine (1851, p. 141), “the greatest architectural monuments of antiquity were reared by the labors of Masonic gilds, and the Church of Rome owes the structure of her magnificent cathedrals, her exquisite shrines, and her most splendid palaces, to the skill of the wise master-builders of former ages, she has been for four centuries in antagonism to the principles inculcated by the Craft.”
Leaving unnoticed the struggles of the corporations of Freemasons in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, we may begin the record with the persecutions to which the Order has been subjected since the revival in 1717.
One of the first persecutions to which Masonry, in its present organization, was subjected, occurred in October 16, 1735, in Holland.
A crowd of ignorant fanatics, whose zeal had been enkindled by the denunciations of some of the clergy, broke into a house in Amsterdam, where a Lodge was accustomed to be held, and destroyed all the furniture and ornaments of the Lodge.
The States General, yielding to the popular excitement, or rather desirous of giving no occasion for its action, prohibited the future meetings of the Lodges. One, however, continuing, regardless of the edict, to meet at a private house, the members were arrested and brought before the Court of Justice.
Here, in the presence of the whole city, the Masters and Wardens defended themselves with great dexterity; and while acknowledging their inability to prove the innocence of their Institution by a public exposure of their secret doctrines, they freely offered to receive and initiate any person in the confidence of the magistrates, and who could then give them information upon which they might depend, relative to the true designs of the Institutions.
The proposal was acceded to, and the town clerk was chosen. He was immediately initiated, and his report so pleased his superiors, that all the magistrates and principal persons of the city became members and zealous patrons of the Order.
In France, the fear of the authorities that the Freemasons concealed, within the recesses of their Lodges, designs hostile to the government, gave occasion to an attempt, in 1737, on the part of the police, to prohibit the meeting of the Lodges.
But this unfavorable disposition did not long continue, and the last instance of the interference of the government with the proceedings of the Masonic body was in June 1745, when the members of a Lodge, meeting at the Hotel de Soissons, were dispersed, their furniture and jewels seized, and the landlord amerced in a penalty of three thousand livres.
The persecutions in Germany were owing to a singular cause. The malice of a few females had been excited by their disappointed curiosity. A portion of this disposition they succeeded in communicating to the Empress Maria Theresa, who issued an order for apprehending all the Masons in Vienna, when assembled in their Lodges. The measure, was however, frustrated by the good sense of the Emperor, Joseph I., who was himself, a Mason, and exerted his power in protecting his brethren.
The persecutions of the church in Italy, and other Catholic countries, have been the most extensive and most permanent. On April 28, 1738, Pope Clement XII issued the famous bull against Freemasons whose authority is still in existence.
In his bull, the Roman Pontiff says:
“We have learned, and public rumor does not permit us to doubt the truth of the report, that a certain society has been formed, under the name of Freemasons, into which persons of all religions and all sects are indiscriminately admitted, and whose members have established certain laws which bind themselves to each other, and which, in particular, compel their members, under the severest penalties, by virtue of an oath taken on the Holy Scriptures, to preserve an inviolable secrecy in relation to everything that passes in their meetings.”
The bull goes on to declare, that these societies have become suspected by the faithful, and that they are hurtful to the tranquility of the state and to the safety of the soul; and after making use of the now threadbare argument — that if the actions of Freemasons were irreproachable, they would not so carefully conceal them from the light — it proceeds to enjoin all bishops, superiors, and ordinaries to punish the Freemasons “with the penalties which they deserve, as people greatly suspected of heresy, having recourse, if necessary, to the secular arm.”
What this delivery to the secular arm means, we are at no loss to discover, from the interpretation given to the bull by Cardinal Firrao in his edict of publication in the beginning of the following year, namely:
“That no person shall dare to assemble at any Lodge of the said society, nor be present at any of their meetings, under pain of death and confiscation of goods, the said penalty to be without hope or pardon.”
The bull of Clement met in France with no congenial spirits to obey it. On the contrary, it was the subject of universal condemnation as arbitrary and unjust, and the parliament of Paris positively refused to enroll it.
But in other Catholic countries it was better respected. In Tuscany, the persecutions were unremitting. A man named Crudeli was arrested at Florence, thrown into the dungeons of the Inquisition, subjected to torture, and finally sentenced to a long imprisonment, on the charge of having furnished an asylum to a Masonic Lodge.
The Grand Lodge of England, upon learning the circumstances, obtained his enlargement, and sent him pecuniary assistance.
Francis de Lorraine, who had been initiated at the Hague in 1731, soon after ascended the grand ducal throne, and one of the first acts of his reign was to liberate all the Masons who had been incarcerated by the Inquisition; and still further to evince his respect for the Order, he personally assisted in the constitution of several Lodges at Florence, and in other cities of his dominions.
The other sovereigns of Italy were, however, more obedient to the behest of the holy father, and persecutions continued to rage throughout the peninsula. Nevertheless, Masonry continued to flourish, and in 1751, 13 years after the emission of the bull of prohibition, Lodges were openly in existence in Tuscany, at Naples, and even in the “eternal city” itself.
The priesthood, whose vigilance had abated under the influence of time, became once more alarmed, and an edict was issued in 1751 by Benedict XIV, who then occupied the papal chair, renewing and enforcing the bull which had been fulminated by Clement.
This, of course, renewed the spirit of persecution. In Spain, one Tournon, a Frenchman, was convicted of practicing the rites of Masonry, and after a tedious confinement in the dungeons of the Inquisition, he was finally banished from the kingdom.
In Portugal, at Lisbon, John Coustos, a native of Switzerland, was still more severely treated. He was subjected to the torture, and suffered so much that he was unable to move his limbs for three months.
Coustos, with 2 companions of his reputed crime, was sentenced to the galleys, but was finally released by the interposition of the English ambassador.
In 1745, the Council of Berne, in Switzerland, issued a decree prohibiting, under the severest penalties, the assemblages of Freemasons.
In 1757, in Scotland, the synod of Sterling, adopted a resolution debarring all adhering Freemasons from the ordinances of religion. And, as if to prove that fanaticism is everywhere the same, in 1748 the Divan at Constantinople caused a Masonic Lodge to be demolished, its jewels and furniture seized, and its members arrested.
They were discharged upon the interposition of the English minister; but the government prohibited the introduction of the Order in Turkey.
America has not been free from the blighting influence of this demon of fanaticism. But the exciting scenes of anti-Masonry are too recent to be treated by the historians with coolness or impartiality.
The political party to which this spirit of persecution gave birth was the most abject in its principles, and the most unsuccessful in its efforts, of any that our times have seen.
It has passed away; the clouds of anti-Masonry have been, we trust, forever dispersed, and that bright sun of Masonry, once more emerging from its temporary eclipse, is beginning to bless our land with the invigorating heat and light of its meridian rays.