William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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the Masons. This chapter, it is also said, was subsequent-
ly removed to Paris, where it was called Le Chapitre
d! Arras, and is, in fact, the original of our present Royal
Arch chapter. The author of Ahiman Rezon gives the ibrm
of a royal arch prayer, which is, in truth, very pious and
devotional, and speaks of the degree as existing in England,
as far back as 1744, quoting a passage from Dr. Fifield
D'Assigney, as authority. The author himself says he be-
lieves " tiie degree of rbyal arch to be the root, heart and
" marrow of IVIasonry."

Many of the o})ponents of the Masonic institution have
believed, or affected to believe, that in its character and ob-
jects, it partakes largely of the nature of the Holy Vehme —
the secret tribunal of Westphalia, — which figures so advan-


tageously in the wild legends of German romance, and which
has been so effectively introduced in one of the later tales
of the unrivalled novelist of Scotland. Others, again, and
in great numbers, have not hesitated to stigmatise it as en-
tertaining principles in common with the dreaded Illuminism
which is believed to have been so potent an agent in preci-
pitating France into the terrible revolution of 1789 — '93 ;
the influence of which has not, even to this day, ceased to be
felt in Europe. But these suspicions are altogether idle and
groundless. The Abbe Barruel, it is true, cites an anony-
mous German discourse, entitled the " Ultimate Fate of the
" Freemasons," which was pronounced on the breaking up of
a Freemason's lodge, and in which the author gave divers
reasons why the lodges should suspend their labors, " since
" Illuminism had intruded itself into Masonry." But the soci-
ety of the Illuminati was founded by Weishaupt, at Ingol-
stadt, more than thirty years after the Masonic institution
had been transplanted to America ! It was in 1730 that
Freemasonry was brought to the then colonies of America,
and the society of the Illuminati was instituted in 1776. It
is true, as the authors of the Conversations Lexicon state, that
the constitution of the " enlightened,'' and the organization
of the society, "were taken partly from the Jesuits, and
" partly from the Masons." But even the Abbe Barruel him-
self, anxious as he was to bla.st the reputation of Masonry,
does not aver that Illuminism drew its origin from the craft,
" since the fact has been made to appear" — I quote his own
words — " beyond all doubt, that the founder of Illuminism
" only became a Mason in 1777, and was two years after-
'• wards [almost] wholly unacquainted with its mysteries."
The association of the Illuminati was founded upon the high-
est professions of morality and virtue. In its most flourish-
ing condition, it is said to have numbered more than two
thousand members, among whom were individuals of dis-
tinguished talents and high rank. And, however wicked


may have been the intentions of its founder, or to whatever
base uses it may have been prostituted in the course of its
brief existence, I think that Freemasonry cannot justly be
charged w^ith any of its abominations, even though some of
its forms may have been borrowed from its printed rituals,
or then unwritten, though not entirely secret, ceremonies. I
mean to be understood here as speaking more particularly
of ancient Freemasonry of the three first degrees only ; for
the evidence of the existence, at that period, of the subse-
quent degrees is questionable. I have already stated that
the establishment of the first lodge of Masons in this coun-
try, was in 1 730. The first lodge in France, upon the same
system — the English — was instituted five years earlier, and
the first in Germany, five years later, viz : in 1735. The
first royal arch chapter was established in America, by M.
M. Hayes, a Jew, at Boston, in 1764. Hayes had been
appointed inspector general of all Masonic institutions in
America, by Stephen Morin, another Jew, who received
his authority from the Grand Consistory of Paris, in 1761.
The grand commander of the consistory, at that time, was
Pliilip Louis Joseph, then Duke of Chartres, afterwards
Duke of Orleans, and subsequently Mons. Egalite, the fa-
ther of the present king of the French, and one of the most
profligate of princes. This prince was high in the confi-
dence of the French Masons, and was grand master at Ly-
ons. He became a member of the jacobin club in Paris ;
and, after sacrificing Louis XVI. and voting for his death,
in the convention, was himself, within a year, borne to the
scaflx)ld, amidst the scoffs and insults of the populace. The
first grand chapter in the United States, was instituted in
1797. It was two years subsequently to this period, that,
by the act of the British Parliament, mentioned in a former
letter, against the administration of unlawful oaths, all other
than the three ancient degrees, were virtually inhibited in
the three kingdoms. Of these higher degrees, as they are


given in France, Barruel says : — " After the three first de-
" grees, they cast off all restraint, — throw aside all emblems
" and allegorical figures, — and openly act upon the princi-
" pie of war against Christ and his kingdom, and against
" kings and their thrones." It is possible that this repre-
sentation of the alarmed French ecclesiastic, may have cau-
sed the provisions of the English statute referred to. But
no representation could be more unjust and scandalous, as
it respects the royal arch Masons of the United States,
from whatever source their degrees may have been taken.
According to the Abbe's disclosures of Scotch Freema-
sonry, there are several striking coincidences between the
order of the Knights of St. Andrew's, and the degree of the
royal arch, as described in the present letter. Buf his ac-
counts of the lower degrees of ancient Masonry, are so ut-
terly at war with the truth, as the degrees have been con-
ferred in the United States, — such outrageous and unblush-
ing misrepresentations, or rather fictions, — that very little
confidence is to be reposed in any of his assertions. Bo
these things, however, as they may, the scriptural and tra-
ditional history of the degree is equally as fabulous as that
of the master Mason. Even Dr. Dalcho pronounces the
claim that the book of the law was preserved by the
Masons, and discovered by them, as revealed in the legend,
to be unsupported by " any authority, sacred or profane."
Copies of the law, he says, very truly, had been multiplied.
Daniel the prophet had a copy during the captivity, as also
had Ezra ; and there is no doubt that many others had co-
pies likewise.

I am, sir, very truly, yours.



New- York, Dec. 10, 1831.

I have already asserted my own belief, that there are but
three degrees of Masonry, having any possible claims to an-
tiquity — and even those, I shall by and bye show to be of
no very ancient date. — In the minds of all Masons, howev-
er, ancient Masonry closes with the degree of royal arch —
describeti in my last communication. All the subsequent
degrees are admitted to be distinct from Freemasonry pro-
per — of modern date — and of little comparative importance.

I have taken three degrees of knighthood, viz : the Red
Cross, Knight of Malta, and the Templar's degree. I have
likewise taken two intermediate degrees, between the royal
arch and the red cross, viz : the degree of Royal Master, and
that of the Select Master. Both of these are intended as
additions to the masonic traditions respecting the secret
vault, the loss of the master's word, by the death of the wi-
dow's son — the preservation of the book of the law, and the
discovery of the same, together with the long-lost master's
word, as represented in the seventh degree. I will not tres-
pass upon your time and patience by going into the details
of the ceremonies, and baseless legends, of these degrees.
The first is trifling ; — the second very pretty as a spectacle,
and amusing in its action. The lodge is arranged with
great order, and with a view to effect ; and the decorations
are tasteful and imposing. The design of this last mentioned
degree, professedly, is to exemplify the qualities of justice
and MERCY. That both are of very modern origin, there
can be no doubt. Had they been framed cotemporaneousr


[y with the system to which they have been attached as ad-
denda, the royal master's degree would have been interpo-
sed between the second and third ; and that of select mas-
ter between the fifth and sixth.

The ineffable degrees, so called, I never would consent
to take — having always entertained a horror of every thing
approaching the Illuminism of infidel France and Germany.
I had no knowledge of there being any connexion between
them, but having at an early age perused the startling works
of the Abbe Barruel and Robison, upon this subject ; and
having likewise, in once passing through an ineffable lodge-
room, had my " young blood" frozen by the sight of the em-
blems — among which were an automaton head, disfigured
and bloody, and a more substantial " dagger" than that
which the guilty Macbeth, in his distempered imagina-
tion, " saw before him," I had no desire to form a more in-
timate acquaintance with those degrees. Indeed, such was
my caution upon this subject, that I did not venture even
upon the first step of masonry, until I had been satisfied by
the solemn assurances of a gentleman of character and great
moral worth, — a gentleman who was then, and remains yet,
a royal arch Mason — that there was not the remotest con-
nexion between the institutions. The denunciations of
French Masonry and Illuminism, by the Abbe, had well nigh
taught me to beheve, that monsters more terrible than the fa-
bled hydra, or the serpents which destroyed Laocoon, arose
from their altars. In my imagination I had beheld order,
government, and religion, writhing and agonizing in the
accursed folds of these dragons, and expiring by their blast-
ing breath. The Abbe had almost convinced me that the
dreams of Condorcet, the blasphemies of Voltaire, and the
daggers of Robespierre, had all issued from the privacy of
the lodge-room, heaping the tragic horrors of that period
upon the devoted head of revolutionary France. But the
assurances of my friend, a gentleman of education, and of


exemplary conduct in all the relations of society, convinced
me that in Freemasonry simply, I had nothing to apprehend
upon that head. With assurances from such a source, 1 en-
tered the lodge ; and you have my experience, in Masonry
proper, before you, in the preceding letters. A compendious
notice of those degrees of knighthood which I have taken,
will form the subject of the present communication. And
even this brief outline of these degrees, would have been
entirely omitted, as having only a slight bearing upon the
great object of these letters, did I not foresee that some re-
ferences, to at least one of them, will be necessary before my
present labors can be closed.

First in order of these three — and they are of the highest
rank of all the honorary degrees,— that of the Templars being
chiefest — are the Knights of the Red Cross. Why it is so
called I am not able to determine, since it has no relation
whatever to the religion of the cross, and is, in fact, neither
taken from the old testament dispensation, nor from the
new. Nor, indeed, is this chivalrous order mentioned in
any Masonic book of more than fifty years old. Still,
as a pastime, it is one of the most agreeable of the
whole series, and is, perhaps, less objectionable than any
other. It is connected, in its traditions, with the prepara-
tions of the Jews for returmng from the captivity, to rebuild
the temple ; and the whole history may be found, almost
in the terms set down in the formularies, in Josephus,* and
likewise in the Apocrypha.f After the elevation of Darius
Hystaspes to the Persian throne, Zerobabel, who had
been made governor of those Jews already returned
from the captivity, revisited the Persian court, where, hav-
ing been an old friend of Darius, he is preferred to a post of
honor in the palace. Having, on some occasion, made a

♦ Ant: book xii. chap. iii.
t I. Esdras, chap. iii. and iv.


great feast for his princes, his principal courtiers, and other
officers of state, the monarch, on retiring to bed, after a short
slumber, awoke, and was unable again to compose himself
to sleep. Falling into a conversation with the three guards of
his body, he proposed three questions for a disputation on
the following day — promising that the successful orator in
the contest should be clothed in purple and gold ; drink in
golden cups ; ride in all the splendor of oriental magnifi-
cence ; sit by the side of the king ; and be called his cousin.
The questions were : which is the strongest — wine ? kings ?
or women ? and whether Truth was not stronger than
either ? At the appointed time all the princes and wise men
being collected, the questions were discussed. The first
contended for the power of wine ; the second for that of
womeb ; and the third, who was Zerobabel, asserted the
superior power of women ; but, above all, he contended that
TRUTH was far stronger than either — stronger than all
things ; it being immortal, eternal, and co-existent with the
deity. The victory was awarded to Zerobabel by accla-
mation ; and when the king commanded that he should
make some request in addition to the promised reward, the
■Hebrew reminded his majesty of a vow he had formerly
made, that in the event of his ever being called to the throne,
he w^ould rebuild Jerusalem and the temple ; and restore
the holy vessels taken thence by Nebuchadnezzar. The
request is of course granted with alacrity. There is con-
siderable discrepancy in the narrative, as given by Jose-
phus, and the apocryphal writer, particularly in reference
to the manner in which the scene is got up in the Persian-
court. Whiston, in his note upon the passage, prefers the
authority of Josephus, which is followed by the Masons,
while the arguments upon the questions are taken from Es-
dras. The enacting of the scenes, in a dramatic form, main-
ly constitutes the ceremonies of this degree ; and when the



scenery is rich and appropriate, and the officers and mem-
bers understand their parts of the play, it is susceptible bl
affording a pleasant entertainment. The principal interest,
where there are men of intelligence present, capable of ex-
temporaneous speaking, arises from the discussion ; as the
speakers are not confined to the forms, so that the chain of
argument, and the points to be illustrated, are preserved.
The object aimed at in this degree, is the inculcation of the
power and importance of truth.

The order of the Knights of Malta, is usually conferred in
connexion with that of the Templar — the latter being consid-
ered of far the greatest importance. It professes to be
founded principally upon the shipwreck of Paul ; and the
chapter of the Acts relating the particulars of that event, or
the latter portion of it, is read during the ceremonies.
Whether it has in reality any connexion with, or resem-
blance to, the order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jeru-
salem, subsequently known in the history of chivalry, as
Knights of St. John, Knights of Rhodes, and lastly of Malta,
I have no means of determining. As that order, however,
was only extinguished as a military association, during
the war between England and the French Republic, when
the island of Malta, given them by the Emperor Charles V.,
after their defeat and expulsion from Rhodes by Soliman
and his 300,000 Saracens, fell into the hands of the First
Consul, (then on his way to Egypt,) it is possible that re-
semblances in certain rites and ceremonies might exist.
But I must be allowed to doubt whether Raymond de Puy,
were he to descend and visit a modern encampment, would
recognise any of the ceremonies, which were approved and
confirmed to the order by Innocent II., in 11 30. Neverthe-
less, the masonic writers — for. the Masons are, the only her-
alds of these modern institutions of mimic chivalry — attempt
to identify the orders mentioned, as one and the same — so



that, in imagination at least, the grandmaster of one of our
little encampments, ranks with d' Aubresson, holding at bay
the fierce legions of Mahomet 11.

If, then, I am compelled to doubt as to the antiquity of
the knights of Malta, in any thing like their jiresent organ-
ization, how much stronger must be those doubts in respect
o the Templars — an order that has been suppressed for so
many centuries ? The Templars were the oldest military
order in the world. The principal founders of it were
Hugo de Paganis, and Geoffrey, of St. Omer s, and the cre-
ation of the order was patronised by Baldwin IL, king of
Jerusalem, who gave them an apartment in his palace, near
the temple of the holy sepulchre. Hence the name —
Templars. According to their original constitution, they
were obliged to devote themselves to the service of God,
under pledges of living in perpetual chastity, poverty, and
obedience. In the year 1228 of the Christian era, they
had acquired stability, and the order was confirmed by the
Council of Troyes — their grand master residing in Paris,
after the Croises had lost the Holy Land. The order con-
tinued to increase, and by their deeds in arms, acquired
great wealth and power. But as they became rich and
prosperous, they were affirmed to have grown shockingly
arrogant and corrupt — to say nothing of luxuriousness.
Ultimately the order was suppressed, under the most terri-
ble circumstances of infamy and severity, by Philip the
Fair, of France, A. D. 1307. It is very probable that the
accumulation of wealth, and the acquisition of powe;%
brought the usual evil consequences in their train ; but un-
prejudiced historians have well doubted the truth of the
allegations brought against them by their foes. There had
been a quarrel between Philip and Pope Boniface VIIL,
during which the monarch found himself excommunicated,
and his kingdom laid under an interdict. In this contro-
versy, the Templars espoused the cause of the Pope,, while


the Knights of Malta sided with Pliihp. After the death of
the Pope, Philip became reconciled with his successor,
Boniface IX., and also with his successor Clement V. Phil-
ip now meditated revenge upon the Templars, and addres-
sed ll^mself to the Holy See with success. The hapless
knights were hunted and seized throughout Europe, in the
year above mentioned, and those who would not confess
the horrible charges preferred against them, were put to
death by cruel tortures. The accusations against them
were — the holding of a correspondence with the Saracens, —
insulting the majesty of God, — trampling upon all laws hu-
man and divine, — spitting upon the picture of the Saviour,
and bowing in worship to a cat, and a w^ooden head gilded
and crowned, 6z^c., during the ceremonies of initiation.
Many of the knights most solemnly asserted their innocence,
but to no purpose, — for in 1312, the whole order was totally
suppressed by the Council of Vienna, and many innocent
men were put to 'death under the most exquisite tortures
that hum.an ingenuity and cruelty could devise. History,
and romance, have alike labored to exalt, and to defame,
this devoted race af men. The Abbe Barruel, and Profes-
sor Robison, have both given the fullest credence to the
most atrocious of the calumnies propagated against them.
Indeed, in the distempered imagination of the Abbe, no man
who enters a lodge-room, after the first three degrees, can
again come forth, save as a monster of impurity and crime.
My own opinion is, that the Templars were, comparatively
speaking, the innocent victims of the revenge and cupidity
of Philip.

The historical reader will, probably, at first blush, deem
the preceding sketch of the Templars' order, as uncalled for,
if not out of place, in a running narrative like the present.
But it seemed to me necessary to bring into view the char-
acter of the original institution, and the crimes alledged
against it, in order to contrast it with the order of specula-


tive knighthood, professedly derived from it, of which I am
now particularly to speak.

There is not the remotest resemblance, in any one re-
spect, either historical or traditional ; in the design, object,
or intention ; or in the manner of conferring them, between
the Templar's degree, as described by the Abbe Barruel,
and that conferred in the United States. There, we are in-
formed by the credulous Abbe — to whom I refer thus fre-
quently, because it is by him that most of the prejudices
existing against the Masons before the fatal year 1826, and
by the dark deed of that year revived and strengthened,
have been created — there, in France, " they admit into this
" temple with equal indifference, the Christian or the Jew,
" the Turk or the Idolater, in fine, without distinction of
" sect or religion."* And again, farther on, the Abbe says : —
" Many circumstances relating to this degree, made us be-
" lieve, at first sight, that it was connected with Illuminism ;
" but on a farther examination we find it to be only a farther
" explanation of the Masonic allegory. Here, again, the
*' candidate is transformed into an assassin. Here, it is no
".longer the founder of Masonry, Hiram, that is to be aven-
"ged, but it is Molay, the [last] Grand Master of the
" Knights Templars, and the person who is to fall by the
*' assassin's hand, is Philip le Bel, king of France, under
" whose reign the order of the Templars was destroyed."
The Abbe labors throughout to show, that the whole design
of the masonic system, is gradually to undermine the faith
of the candidate in Christianity, — substituting deism in its
place, — until this degree is reached, when all disguise is
cast aside ; and the assassin-candidate is taught, that his
revenge against Philip le Bel, is now to be directed against
all kings and priests. As applicable to this country it
would read — against all government and religion.

+ Anti-monarchical conspiracy, chap, x,


Now, so far from this horribly wicked design being true,
the Templar's degree in the United States, is founded en-
tirely upon the christian religion. Its rites and ceremonies,
deeply and powerfully aftecting, are, in their representa-
tions, intimately connected with the closing scenes of that
glorious plan of redemption, in which the Son of God died
ignominiousiy, as a means, through faith in his atoning
blood, of reconciling fallen man with his offended Crea-
tor. Neither the Jew, Turk, nor Infidel, can take this de-
gree. The candidate, before he can cross the threshhold
of the encampment for that purpose, is obliged, under cir-
cumstances of deep solemnity, to avouch his belief that Je-
sus Christ came into the world to save sinners ; and also, that
he will even wield a sword, should it become necessary, in
defence of the religion taught by him, and to the truth of
which he affixed the seal of his blood. He is also required,
wath equal solemnity, after due time allorded for sober and
secluded reflection, to avouch his innocence of any crime un-
repented of, which w^ould render him unworthy of the de-
gree to w^hich he aspires. Thus much, the substantial truth
of which I solemnly affirm, I trust will be sufficient to re-
pel the charge, first above quoted. As it respects the other
misrepresentation, that the candidate is made to personate
a revengeful assassin, which character, for the attainment of
certain objects, he is required to maintain ever after, it is
equally unfounded and untrue. On the contrary, with us,
the candidate is made to represent a pilgrim, in pilgrim's
weeds, performing a seven years pilgrimage with bread and
water, staff, scrip and sandals ; and while enacting this part,
he is instructed in some of the most benign lessons of hu-
manity and charity, to be found in holy WTit. He, in the
next stage, personates a pilgrim warrior, ready to wield his
sword in defence of the christian religion ; and subsequent-
ly, he represents a pilgrim penitent, visiting the holy sepul-
chre. In the course of the ceremonies, the account of the


apostacy of Judas is read, as recorded in the first of the
Gospels,* by way of an admonition always to persevere in

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 6 of 49)