William L. (William Leete) Stone.

Letters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams online

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Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 4 of 49)
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The ceremonies of this degree, exclusive of the mere
forms of proceeding in imposing the obligation, and giving the
moral instructions already noticed,, are dramatic, and there
is an enactment of a tragedy — not a real c«ie, however, like
that of Niagara — but a representation intended ta exempli-
fy a singular instance of virtue, fortitude, and integrity.
In the course of the lecture, the history of the building
of Solomon's temple is adverted to, and if the lodge-room is
well furnished, a drawing of the edifice is exhibited — suck
as we all have seen, though upon a larger scale, drafted,
of course, from the unscientific and altogether unsatisfactory
account of that splendid monument af the wealth of the
wisest of kings, as contauied in the books of Kings
and Chronicles. Explanations are attempted of the size of
the temple, the number of columns, pilasters^ &c., and a
variety of architectural details, which it is quite unnecessa-
ry for me to enumerate. The account of the scriptures^
eorroborated by Josephus, is given, of the number of work-
men employed in the preparation of materials, and in rear-
ing this wonderful structure. The 70,000 porters of bur-
dens, of the scriptures, are masonically called entered ap-


prentices ; and in like manner, the 80,000 hewers of stone,
are denominated fellow-crafts. The sacred historian in-
forms us that "Besides the chief of Solomon's officers that
" were over the work, there were three thousand and three
" hundred which ruled over the people that wrought in the
** work." The Masonic tradition assures us that these 3300
were masters ; and over the whole number, three grand mas-
ters presided. These t-hree grand masters were Solomon,
king of Israel -, Hiram, king of Tyre ; and Hiram AbifF, the
chief artist, and the widow's son, mentioned in 1 Kings, vii,
14, and again, 2 Chron., ii. 13. These three grand -officers
had systematized the orders of Masonry — they alone pos-
sessing the master Mason's word. It was intended, of
course, by the numerous entered apprentices and fellow-
crafts, that when the temple was completed, and they should
go forth upon the wide world for employment, the bond of
union formed while building the temple, should be preserv-
ed ; while it was believed that the reputation acquired by
having been engaged upon such an edifice as the mighty
temple of the Hebrew Deity, would give them advantages
over all other Masons, wherever they might go. The
master Mason's word, in the possession only of the three
grand masters, it was understood, was to be given at the
completion of the temple, to such of the fellow-crafts, &c«
as should be found worthy — but it could only be given by
the three. However, three ruffians, named Jubeia, Jubelo,
and Jubelum, jealous lest they should at last be turned
away ignorant of the inestimable secret, finally way-laid
the grand master artizan, in the sanctum sanctorum of the
temple, where he was wont, daily, to go to worship God and
draw his designs, with the intention of extorting the secret
from him, or taking his life. Faithful to his trust, the wi-
dow's son retained the secret, and the ruffians murdered him.
They buried him secretly, and fled. Pursuers were sent in
:all directions — the villains were he^rd of on the way to


Joppa — some of the fellow crafts, in pursuit, overheard them
bewailing their conduct from the cleft of a rock in which
they had secreted themselves ; — and, to make a long story
short, they were arrested, and taken back to king Solomon,
by whose order they were masonically executed. The
murdered body of Hiram was afterwards found, by a mere
accident, where it had been buried, in a hill-side. In deposit-
ing it, the ruffians had planted over the grave a shrub of
cassia ; some person, when ascending the hill, taking casual-
ly hold of the bush for support, it came up, and the loosen-
ed earth beneath it, created a suspicion which led to the dis-
covery. Solomon, with a lodge of fellow-crafts, went out
to raise the corpse. With the death of Hiram, the master's
word was lost, because it could only be given in the pre-
sence, and by the assistance, of three — and at that time only
three persons possessed it, viz : Solomon and the two Hi-
rams. In this dilemma it was agreed that on raising the
body, the first word spoken should be and remain a substi-
tute for the lost master's word.

Such is an outline of the story represented in the pro-
cess of conferring the " sublime degree of a master Ma-
*'son;" — $ind it is clearly as clumsy an absurdity, — as gross
a fiction — as ever was palmed upon the credulity of man, —
violating alike history, probability, and common eense. Nor
is it only recently that the imposture has been confessed.
It was so admitted twenty-nine years ago, by the Rev. Dr.
Dalcho, a distinguished member of the craft, then grand
master of South Carolina, in a masonic oration delivered
by him in 1803. " I candidly confess," says the Rev.
grand master, " that I feel a very great degree of embar-
•< rassment while I am relating to ministers of Gbd's holy
" word, or to any other gentleman, a story founded on the
"grossest errors of accumulated ages ; errors which they
" can prove to me to be such from the sacred pages of holy
*^ writ, and from profane history, written by men of integ;rir


»•' ty and talents, and that, too, in a minute after I have
^ solemnly pronounced them to be undeniable truths ; even
*' by that very bible on which I have received their obliga-
" tion." Professor Stuart, of Andover, one of the most skill-
ful linguists, and learned men in our country, has also shov^n,
from the internal evidences of our own books, that the whole
story of these assassins, as narrated in the legend, is an im-
posture, since, most unfortunately for the authenticity of our
tradition, the names of the ruffians, Jubcla, Jubelo, and Ju-
belum, have been clumsily formed from the Latin language,
and not from the Hebrew, to which they have no affinity
whatever. All Hebrew names are significant, and have a
Hebrew shape — a fact of itself conclusive upon this ques-
tion. Yet, grossly improbable as the tradition is, in a well-
instructed lodge, where the officers and members are expert,
and thoroughly understand their duties, I have repeatedly
seen the whole tragedy of the death, burial, and resurrec-
tion of the unfortunate Hiram, represented with no small
share of dramatic effect. But, sir, I fancy you will be rea-
dy to exclaim — " How could men of sense ever submit to
" have such absurdities palmed upon their understandings,
" or how listen for a moment to such self-evident and puerile
" fictions 1" Perhaps a reply to this query may be found in
that trait of the human character which delights in scenic
representations. Statesmen and philosophers attend thea-
trical exhibitions, where the most absurd and preposterous
spenes are enacted — scenes founded on fiction, and attended
with the grossest improbabihties of time, place and circum-
stance. What can be more absurd than the courtship of
Anne by the murderer of her husband, in Richard HI ?
What more unlikely than the espousal of a swarthy Moor
by the fair Desdemona, in Othello ? What more preposte-
rous than the character of Caliban, in the Tempest ? And
yet these dramas are not only attended by philosophers,
^ but those philosophers often enter into all the pseudo-phrenzy


of the actor, and sympathetically weep over distress which
they know to be feigned. The fact I take to be this. Meia
of information must, in all instances, know that the tradition
is idle, and the tale, with all its attending circumstances, an
•imposture. But still, they find themselves involved in the
institution, " of their own free will and accord," — at every
step they have been exhorted to works of philanthropy and
benevolence, — they have been told much respecting the
glory of science, the beauty of virtue, and the value of truth ;
— they find themselves in the midst of an agi'eeable social
circle, and even the sham-tragedy itself, though ludicrous on
sober reflection, is yet evidently intended merely to incul-
cate a strong lesson of fidelity ; — the whole ceremonies,
moreover, instead of exhibiting the frantic riotings of bac-
channals, as many have represented, being often chastened
with solemn religious associations, in a manner remarkably
pleasing and picturesque. It is this aspect of the case, as I
have reason to believe, that has induced thousands and tens
of thousands of infellectual and virtuous men, to adhere to
Masonry, notwithstanding its frivolities, and its fictions.
They have found nothing hurtful in it ; — if there be trifling in
some portions of the ceremonies, it takes place only amongst
themselves ; and they concur in the sentiment of Horace,
that " dulcc est desipere in loco." It is agreeable, moreover,
as a social institution — and of great use on account of ita

Still, on reflection, I am free to declare my later convic-
tions, that this degree has not been altogether harmless.
There are no doubt many thousands of weak and igno-
rant men, who have taken the story of Hiram Abiff* for
solemn verity, in all its details. Such men would not stop
to reflect that the 70,000 entered apprentices, and 80,000
iellow craftsmen, of whom they had been told in the lecture,
w-ere in fact not Israelites, but the slaves of the Canaanitish
race, vvdth whom, of course, Solomon and his officers held

LETTiER Hi* 3t

no more communication than a southern planter does witk
his negroes ; — nor would they think of the absurdity of kil-
ling Hiram Abiff in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple,
before the temple itself was built, and where, even when it
was built, king Solomon could not enter, but only the high
priest once a year. Nor would they stop to reconcile all
the other difficulties which stamp fiction on every point of
the relation. When, therefore, Morgan was murdered — if
such were his fate, — men thus blinded, or thus ignorant,
, may have supposed that they were only acting as Solomon
did in respect to the imaginary Jubela, Jubelo and Jube-
lum,and as he would have done had he then been present, and
had Morgan been in his custody. And yet, on the other hand
— (for I propose to hold the balance impartially) — candor
requires us to admit the application of the rule, that we
ought not to argue against the use of a thing from its aintse,
Addison has been universally deemed not only a moral wri-
ter, but a pious man. Yet, even from his writings, abuses
have sprung. The anecdote is familiar, of a young man in
London, who, not long after the publication of the tragedy
of Cato, committed suicide, leaving that work, his pistol, and
the following sentiment in justification of the act, upon his
table : — " What Plato said — what Cato did — and what Ad-
liison approved, cannot he wi^ong."

It is this degree in which the grand hailing sign of distress
is conferred — a sign which has been represented as being of
such a potent, irresistable, and dangerous nature. Some of
the Masons have inferred, that when Alexander of Macedon,
according to Judas Maccabeus and Josephus, on approach-
ing the holy city with his victorious legions, was so suddenly
disarmed, on tlie approach of the high priest in his robes,
accompanied by his pontifical retinue, to meet him, the
change was . wrought by the influence of Masonry — tlie
grand hailing sign. According to the legend, the high priest
and the conqueror mutually and simultaneously recognised


each other as brethren of the mystic tie. Hence, it has been
argued, the sudden change of the conqueror from the belh-
gerent to the pacific and friendly temperament. While
there is no just foundation for this supposition, it is, never-
'theless, a well attested fact, that numbers of American offi-
cers, during the war of our revolution, were rescued from
the blazing faggots of the savages in alliance with England,
by the talismanic influence of that signal. That it was ever
perverted to a bad use, I have no knowledge, nor any suffi-
cient reason to suppose.

The final charge in the master s degree, contains nothing
requiring particular note. It is shorter than the charges of
the preceding degrees, and directs the new made brother to
inculcate universal benevolence in precept and by example ;
to preserve the ancient land-marks of the order ; to correct
the errors and irregularities of uninformed brethren ; to be
faithful to his vows ; to recommend obedience and submis-
sion to superiors ; courtesy and affability to equals ; kind-
ness and condescension to inferiors ; and in all respects to
sustain a reputation of virtue and honor.

With great respect, I am, &r.


New- York, Nov. 30, 1831.

The degree of speculative Masonry next to be consid-
ered, is that of Mark Master. It was incidentally mention-
ed in my last communication, that, properly speaking, there
were but three degrees of ancient Masonry, although mo-
dern innovators, in this and various other countries, have
increased the number to seven. But three degrees only are
now allowed by law in England. In the year 1799, an act


was passed by the British parHament, entitled " An act for
" the suppression of societies for seditious and treasonable
" purposes," which prohibited the meetings, or administering
the oaths, of any masonic bodies, excepting the lodges of
ancient York Masons, then in existence, and comprising
only three degrees. By the provisions of that act, the for-
mation of new lodges was in effect prohibited, and those
already in operation, were to be suppressed, unless they
were registered under oath, and complied with certain strict
legal provisions, intended to prevent their becoming dan-
gerous to the state. On receiving this act, the Grand Lodge
of Scotland issued an address to the fraternity under its
jurisdiction, directing the several lodges to take eflectual
steps for enforcing its observance. Every lodge so observ-
ing and enforcing the law, was within six months to apply
for a renewal of power to hold their meetings ; and every
lodge not so complying with the law, and affording evidence
thereof to the grand lodge, was to be expunged from the
grand roll.

The first masonic work ever printed, was that of Dr.
Anderson, which I have now before me. It was published
in London, in 1723, and treats of only three degrees. As
this work was an authorised collection of masonic consti-
tutions, in connexion with a fabulous and very pompous
history of the institution, the profound silence observed as
to all degrees above the third, or master Mason's, is very
strong evidence that, one hundred and nine years ago, no
other degree was in existence. The first lodge authorised
in America, was in New- Jersey, in 1730, and the next in
Boston, in 1733, — both under the constitutions of Ander-
son. In Lawrie's History of Freemasonry, and of the
Grand Lodge of Scotland, an official authority, published
at Edinburgh, in 1804, I find an instruction to the provin-
cial grand master, " to inquire into the orders and degrees
" of Masonry practised," and " prohibiting the practising of


« any other than St. John's Masonry, consisting of appren-
** tice, fellow-craft, and master mason, the only three de-
" grees sanctioned by the Grand Lodge of Scotland." And
the united Grand Lodges of ancient and modern Masons, in
London, declared, in 1813, " that all ancient Freemasonry
"is yet contained in the first three degrees"

It is certain, therefore, that but three degrees can be law-
fully practised in the United Kingdonfi, although I have an
impression that others are clandestinely conferred. The
mark-master's degree, however, of which I am now about
to speak, has ever been given in England, in connexion with,
and as a part of, the second, or fellow-craft's degree. Such
it in fact must have been ; and I can divine no reason for
the separation, unless it was supposed that by this multipli-
cation of degrees, the resources of the society would be
increased in a corresponding ratio. Another reason, per-
haps, may also be found, applying in some instances, in the
fact, that by multiplying the number of degrees, persons
who valued their character, and wished their association to
be select, could exclude from their intercourse in the lodge,
all such persons as had been improvidently or improperly
introduced into the inferior degrees. But even in this view
of the case, I can perceive no cause for interposing the third
degree between what were evidently,, at first, two consecu-
tive sections of the same chapter in the science. Never-
theless, it is so laid down in the books, and in the practice ;
and I shall "govern myself accordingly."

TIk) charge at the opening of the lodge in this degree, is
as follows: — ^'* Wherefore, brethren, lay aside all malice,
^* and guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speak-
•* ings, if so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gra-
" cious, to whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed
•• indeed, of men, but chosen of God, and precious ; ye also,
"as living stones, be ye built up a spiritual house, an holy
^priesthood, to ofibr up sacrifices acceptable to God.


*- Wherefore, also, it is contained in the scriptures, Behold,
^ I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious
'" corner stone, a sure foundation ; he that believeth shall
^'not make haste to pass it over. Unto you, therefore,
'" which believe, it is an honor ; and even to those which be
" disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the
** same is made the head of the corner. Brethren, this is
>« the will of God, that with well-doing ye put to silence the
*' ignorance of foolish men. As free, and not using your
■*' liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of
-** God. Honor all men : love the brotherhood : fear God."*

No fault can be found with the spirit of this exhortation,
although it must be confessed, that, where the writer of the
formulary, in adapting the lesson to his purpose, has devia-
ted from the sacred text, he has not improved upon the
language of the apostle. In sober earnest, however, I can-
not refrain from expressing, in this place, the strong dislike
I feel at any alteration or modification of the pure words of
inspiration, for whatever purpose, even when such alteration
may have been made from the best possible motives. There
is danger in every innovation upon the sacred text

In conferring the degree, the aid of another tradition is
-called forth. The story is, that tlie degree was instituted
to enable the overseers of the work to detect impostors, on
paying the wages of the fellow-craftsmen, — for which pur-
pose every craftsman had a sign, and a mark of his own,
known by the proper officer. The penalty for a detected
impostor, was amputation of the right hand. It happened,
on one occasion, that a young fellow-craftsman discovered
in the quarries, a peculiar stone, of singular form, and beau-
tifully wrought. Throwing away his own work, he brought
this specimen up for inspection, which, being neither a
square, nor an oblong square, was rejected hj the overseers,

* Vide i. Peter, chap. 2^


and thrown away among the rubbish ; the young man con-
fessed very frankly his offence, — that of substituting another's
work for his own, — but stated that he had been induced to
bring up the stone only in consequence of its peculiar form
and beauty. He was readily pardoned. Subsequently,
when in the act of completing one of the arches of the foun-
dation of the temple, the key-stone was found to be want-
ing. It had been wrought in the quarries by our grand mas-
ter Hiram Abiff himself, and designated by his own mark.
Search was made for the stone ; the circumstance of the
young fellow-craftsman was recalled ; and the key to the
arch was found where it had been cast away as worthless.
In the progress of the ceremonies, all of which are enacted
in a dramatic form, the master again descants upon the archi-
tectural knowledge and taste of Solomon's time, and reca-
pitulates the history of the building the temple ; the number
of workmen engaged upon it ; and the modes adopted for
punishing the guilty, and rewarding the virtuous. Various
passages of scripture are cited during the ceremonies, which
it would be quite unnecessary to quote at length.* They
all, excepting the two last, refer to the repeated figurative,
or symbolical references of the scriptures, both in the pro-
phecies and the gospels, to the Saviour of men, as a stone, a
chief corner stone, a precious stone, an elect stone, &c., —
used by the inspired writers to signify his perfection, his
firmness and perpetuity, as the foundation and supporter of
the whole christian church, and the work of man's redemp-
tion. The passage from Ezekiel seems only to have been
introdiiced because of certain words analagous to the name
of the degree.

The kej'^-stone above mentioned, a pattern of which with
no little inconvenience, is carried about in the moving cere-

♦ Vide Rev. ii. 17. ; 2. Chron. ii. 16. ; Psalms cxviii. 22. ; Matt. xxi. 42. ;
Mark xii. 10. ; Luke xx. J7. ; Acts iv. 11. ; Rev. iii. 13. ; and Ezekiel
yliv. 1, 3 &. 5.


inouies by the candidate, contains, as I have before observ-
ed, a mark. This mark is a circle formed of certain letters —
but though cabahstical, their secret meamng is not of the
least use or importance to the public, and is withal entirely-
harmless. Every mark-master has a right to procure an
engraving of these letters, upon a piece of plate, or a medal ;
he is to choose hi,^ ow^n peculiar mark, which is to be en-
graved within the circle of letters, and never to be changed.
This mark may be of use in cases of pecuniary extremity.
A brother mark-master wishing to borrow a sum of money,
can pledge his mark for the faithful payment thereof ; and
it would be disgraceful, and cost his expulsion, not to re-
deem it. Whenever a mark-master Mason sends his mark
to a brother requesting a loan, the latter cannot return it
even though it be inconvenient to make the loan ; (or, even
though the brother thus applied to should entertain a dis-
trust as to the re-payment of the money,) without accompa-
nying it wdth the sum of twenty-five cents, or a half shekel
of silver. The reason for this last regulation is this : — The
person sending for the loan, might be in distress even for
food, and the small sum of twenty-five cents would always
afford temporary relief — or at least a meal of victuals to the
hungry. The practical illustrations which accompany this
portion of the lecture, are peculiarly striking and effective.
The candidate is taught how poor and needy, destitute and
helpless, he may become ; and in his own person he feels the
dependence, which, in the hour of misfortune, may one day
overtake us all ; and he feels, also, the necessity of relying
upon the hand of friendship and charity in the hour of trial.
The representation may be pronounced puerile by those who
witness the counterfeit presentments of the show-men ; but
I am free to confess that it impressed a lesson upon my mind,
which I hope will never be effaced.

The working tools of a mark-master, are, the mallet and
chisel, the explanations of which are not important. In the


brief charge to the candidate in this degree, he is exhorted
to lead a pure Hfe, that in the end he may not, like unfinish-
ed and imperfect work, be rejected and thrown aside, as un-
fit for that spiritual building, " that house not made with
*' hands, eternal in the heavens." Before closing the lodge,
the parable of the laborers of the vineyard, who murmured
at the good man of the house because ihose who came at
the eleventh hour received as much wages as those who had
toiled through the heat and burden of the day, is read by
the master. There is a practical illustration of the parable,
which imparts interest to the degree, and instruction in the

The fifth degree, being that of Past Master, is next in or-
der ; but as it does not profess to advance the candidate
much farther in his journey in search of the grand arcanum
of the order, it can be very speedily disposed of. It is cal-
led the Past Master's Degree, from the circumstance that
every man must pass the chair of the master, before he can

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 4 of 49)