William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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was not known among the brethren in this quarter, until
long after the Morgan outrage began to be looked upon as
a reahty. Still, the circumstance that this one obligation
has been so essentially altered — how much you can readily
perceive, on comparing the form of which I am speaking,
with the old manuscript form, to which I have already re-
ferred you — is a very strong argument against the longer
existence of the institution. Nor am I certain that other
alterations may not have been made at the west, which are
yet undisclosed ; for I have been informed since the com-
mencement of the present series of letters, that some time
prior to the Morgan outrage, a western Mason came to
this city, and lingered about the lodge-rooms several weeks,
with sundry additions to the whole series of obligations,
which he stated it to be the wish of the western brethren
to have introduced into the system. The professed object
was, to bind the Masons together with a stronger tie, and
also to render a disclosure of the secrets a more difficult — if
iiot a more dangerous, matter. His propositions were
promptly rejected, and he returned somewhat dissatisfied.
Whether the measure with which he came charged hither,
was one of precaution, or of preparation, in anticipation of
what subsequently took place, I have no means of detei;'*
mining. My own conclusion is that it was.



76 LETTER VII.

The clause respecting the inviolability of secrets, repeated
in the passage above quoted, and also in the two preceding
obligations, having already been discussed, it only remains
that I note the explanation respecting the obi igation to help
a brother out of difficulty, whether right or wrong. The
allegation respecting this feature of the obligation, is, that Ma-
sons are bound by it to rescac one another from the officers
and ministers of the law ; that if a Mason is involved even
in legal difficulties, his brethren are bound by their solemn
oaths, to help him out — " right or wrong. ^^ If he is in the
custody of an officer, he is to be rescued — if arraigned at the
bar, he is to be acquitted. It is not so — nor is there even
the semblance of truth in the charge. The interpretation
invariably given to the candidate upon this point, is simply
this : — That if you find a companion Royal Arch Mason in
difficulty, or in such danger as to peril his life, you are to
rush to his assistance, without stopping to inquire as to who
was first in the wrong, lest while you are making the inqui-
ry, the man might be killed. But in all cases where you
attempt to rescue a brother, the effort is to be directed solely
to his personal safety for the time being — as in case of his
having been set upon by a mob ; and it is expressly charged,
that whenever officers are in pursuit, or the companion
who may have commanded assistance by the sign of dis-
tress, is charged with any offence, in all cases, he is to be
hanjied over in safety to the custody of the civil authorities.
Such, I repeat, is the charge invariably given in every pro-
perly regulated chapter, upon this feature of the obligation ;
and it would require a degree of stupidity not often found,
so far to misunderstand such an explanation, as to warrant
the construction that has been given to the passage.

But, sir, I do not desire to leave the fact resting upon my
own individual assertion, that a Mason is bound, in all ca-
ses, to yield a full, unqualified, and implicit obedience to the
laws. This truth is explicitly asserted and maintained in



LETTER VII. 77

the established formularies. I have already mentioned that,
on taking the first obligation, the candidate is so instructed
by the master ; and that instruction, or explanation, is en-
joined upon him with each successive degree as he advan-
ces, until it would seem impossible that he should forget it.
In the charge, moreover, on the first degree, the candidate
is told : — " In the state, you are to he a quiet and peaceful

" subject, TRUE TO YOUR GOVERNMENT, and JUST TO YOUR
" COUNTRY ; YOU ARE NOT TO COUNTENANCE DISLOYALTY OR

" REBELLION, but patient!?/ submit to legal authority,
*^ and confoj^m with chee>^fubiess to the government op
" the country in which you live. In your outw ard de-
" meanor be particularly careful to avoid censure or re-
" proach. Let not interest, favor, or prejudice, bias your
*' integrity, or influence you to be guilty of a dishonorable
^* action." But even this is not all. When the master-elect
of a lodge, is installed into his ofiice, he receives a solemn
charge from the Grand Master, of^which the folloAving are
the first four items : — " 1st. You agree to be a good man
*' and true, and strictly to obey the moral law. 2d.
" You agree to be a peaceable subject, and cheerfully to

" CONFOR3I TO THE LAWS OF THE COUNTRY l?^ W HICH YOU

*' RESIDE. 3d. You promise not to he concerned in plots and
" conspiracies against government, but patiently submit

« TO THE DECISIONS OF THE SUPREME LEGISLATURE. 4th.

*' You agree to pay a proper respect to the civil magistrate,
" to work diligently, live creditably, and act honorably by
" all men."

Upon these facts and e^^planations, I confidently rest the
case, v/ith respect to the points discussed in the present let-
ter. And I do appeal, with some confidence, to you, sir,
and all others v/ho may chance to look upon these sheets,
to admit, v/hether I have not successfully repelled the pre-
vailing idea, that because a man has taken the masonic ob-
ligations, he is necessarily bound by those fearful oaths, in



78 LETTER VII.

certain emergencies, to resist the laws, to conceal the most
guilty secrets, to shield evil-doers from justice, — nay, more,
to participate in the foulest crimes himself ! I am not dis-
posed to deny — and if I should do so, the truth would not
sustain me — that the Masons have taken a series of oaths —
more or less, according to the progress they have made —
of appalling and startling import to those who hear or read
them unexplained ; but I do solemnly affirm, that, with the
explanations and reservations with which they have been
taken by intelligent and virtuous men, so far as my observa-
tion has extended, they contain nothing which needs lie op-
pressively on the conscience of any man. Whatever may
be the cumbrous phraseology with which they have descend-
ed to us, they are taken as being in strict subordination to the
government and the laws, both of God and man. The Holy
Bible is solemnly received as the rule and guide of the
Mason's faith and practice — and he pledges himself to
obey the moral law, v/hich is summarily comprehended in
the ten commandments. Are we, then, to be told, that obli-
gations taken subordinately to these pledges, require us to
bear false-witness, and to commit murder ? The candidate
is solemnly charged to discountenance disloyalty and re-
bellion — not to be concerned in plots and conspiracies —
but cheerfully to conform to the laws, and the govern-
ment, wherever he may reside, and in all cases to submit
to the civil authorities ;^ — and are we yet to be told that we
arc to KEEP the secrets of murderers and traitors, and
rescue prisoners from those very civil authorities ?
And yet the public has been over and over again assured,
by certain fanatical prints — for fanaticism, and prejudice,
and obstinacy, in this matter, unfortunately exist on both
sides — that the culprits who have undergone the penalty of
the law, or who are yet in durance vile, for their concern
in the Morgan business, are merely undergoing the penalty
of the civil, for their obedience to the masonic law ! I



LETTER VII. 79

trust I need waste no more words in repelling the odious
imputation.

Upon the subject of the masonic obligations generally,
the same candor which shall govern, throughout, these dis-
sertations, obliges me to confess, that I do not consider them
by any means free from objections, even were they never to
be imposed upon any person incapable of correctly under-
standing them. Aside from the sound objections which ex-
ist against all extra-judicial oaths, they are unnecessarily
prolix, and indefensibly puerile. Indeed, long before the
Morgan affair, I have more than once held conversations
with some of the high masonic officers, in regard to the
propriety and expediency of a thorough revision of those
obligations, with a view of expurgating them of their un-
seemly verbiage, and unmeaning penalties.* And but for
the consideration that these proposed innovations would so
far have removed the landmarks of the order as to destroy
the universality of the language of the craft, and thereby
render the institution useless to those brethren travelling
abroad, or to those, who, by sickness, or other misfortunes,
might find it necessary to appeal, when from home, to dis-
tant lodges, for assistance, 1 believe the proposition would
have been favorably entertained.

The penalties mentioned in the several obligations, I have
pronounced " unmeaning." So they must always have
been ; for it is not pretended that the duty of inflicting them
is any where prescribed to any officer or member of the
fraternity ; and certainly the candidate could never inffict
the whole of any one penalty upon himself. Any one, moreo-
ver, who should attempt the execution of the sentence, would
alike violate the laws of God and man, to observe which he
is under a yet stronger pledge than the masonic obligation.

* In the year 1730, when Pritchard made the first disclosure of the se-
crets of Masonry, there were but three degrees, and but one obHgation for
the whole three, which was short, and comparatively inoffensive. Vide Ap-
pendix O,



80 LETTER VIU

The truth is, that a simple expulsion from a lodge, or chap-
ter, with a public advertisement of the fact, is the only pen-
alty, for any oflence, which the Masons, previously to the
Morgan outrage, have ever, to my knowledge, considered
themselves authorized to inflict. As an illustration of
this assertion, 1 may perhaps be excused for stating a case
in point. No longer ago than the year 1824, — only two
years before the Morgan outrage — I myself introduced a
resolution into the Grand Chapter, requiring the High
Priest of a subordinate chapter to show cause why he should
not be expelled. The accusation w^as the same as that for
which Morgan died, viz : the writing and revealing of ma-
sonic secrets. The charge was investigated, and he was
expelled. He is yet a living witness that his throat was not
cut across, nor liis tongue torn out by the roots, nor his body
buried in the rough sands of the sea. I am warranted,
therefore, in predicating of the penalty, that it is as unmean-
ing as it certainly is ridiculous.

But these oaths are all wrong. Whatever miglit have
been the fact at the time of their origin, they are now in
exceedingly bad taste. The time may possibly have been,
when some strong bond of union was necessary for the safe
enjoyment of free political and social intercourse. But
such is not the case now — especially in these United States.
In like manner, the time may have been, in the ruder ages
of man, when oaths were necessary for compelling the ob-
servance of the moral duties. But it is not now the fact.
Perhaps, also, oaths may once have been necessary to en-
force the exercise of the charities of life— ^although charities
thus extorted, would indeed be a frigid bounty. But chari-
ty, in the present day, requires no such enforcement. There
is, however, a still higher reason why these oaths should be
discarded and abjured : it is the divine injunction already
quoted— SWEAR NOT AT ALL.

I am, sir, your obedient servant.



XiETTER VIII. 81

LETTER VIII.

New- York, Dec. 20, 1831.
Sir,

In no one particular, probably, have the votaries of spe-
culative Masonry been more actively assailed, or with great-
er justice, in the estimation of the world, than in regard to
the high antiquity which they claim for the order. The
ridicule which the institution has been obliged to encounter
in this respect, more frequently just than unjust, has arisen
from various causes. Of these, the love of antiquity may
be cited as first. Notwithstanding the frequent boasts of
republicanism, that its citizens are free from the pride of an-
cestry, and that no man can "borrow merit from the dead —
" himself an undeserver" — and consequently that every man
must be the architect of his own character and fortunes ;
still, the mind delights in looking back through the dim and
mellow light of antiquity, for examples of w^isdom and know-
ledge, and valor. And I honestly believe that the sturdiest
republican amongst us, would not think more meanly of
himself, should he be told of the existence of proofs in the
herald's office, that he was lineally descended from the Tal^
bots, or the Howards ; from the Black Prince, or John of
Gaunt. So with the Masons ; their institution becomes
more hallowed in their eyes, in proportion to the fancied
remoteness of its origin. Another, and perhaps a still more
efficient cause of the idle and preposterous claims to anti-
quity, put forth by the Masons, is found in the ignorance
and credulity of a large portion of the brotherhood, who
have mistaken the assertions of masonic lecturers, touching
the. immemorial existence of what they choose to call the

11



82 LETTER VIII.

principles of Mas6nry, for the institution of Masonry itself
as at present organized into lodges and chapters ! I cannot
but confess, moreover, that the manner in which the writers
of the masonic rituals have spoken of their claims to very
remote antiquity, has been peculiarly well calculated to fos-
ter and strengthen the delusion, among uneducated men,
possessing neither the time, nor the means, for adequate
investigation.

, Of all books to try the patience, and excite the disgust,
of a sensible and intelligent reader, I would prescribe the
earlier masonic historians. The wretched absurdities, and
the clumsy misrepresentations, 'with which they abound,^
would scarcely be credited by a person who has never ex-
amined them, were the half to be told. The first of these
writers, was James Anderson, D. D., whose book of Mason-
ic Constitutions, prefaced by a history of Masonry, " col-
" lected and digested by order of the Grand Lodge in Lon-
" don, from the old records, faithful traditions, and lodge
" books," was published in 1723. It was revised, continued,
and enlarged, by John Entick, M. A., and published under
the sanction of a committee of the Grand Lodge, in 1756.
I have a copy of that edition now before me ; and, by your
permission, will illustrate the justness of the character be-
stowed above upon these histories. It is proper here to
premise, that, in its ancient history, Masonry is used in a
sense equivalent to the liberal sciences, but particularly
OEOMETHY — and vice versa. Upon this assumption, the
early masonic history dates the commencement of the mason-
ic institution, with the beginning of time, and begins its
liistory with the work of creation. With these explanations,
I proceed to cite a few passages fiom Anderson and En-
tick :—

" All things necessary for man's felicity were perfected
•' by the Architect and Grand Master of the Universes
*' according to geometry. &:c."



LETTER VIII. 83

" How Adam exercised himself in that noble science, in
^ his paradisaical state, does not certainly appear," but, "we
" cannot in any wise suppose him to have been ignorant of
" the liberal sciences, much less of geometry."

" Adam instructed his descendants in geometry, and the
" application of it to whatsoever crafts were convenient for
" those early times."

" Cain, with his family and adherents, being expelled
" from Adam's altars, and pre-instructed in the principles
" of geometry and architecture, forthwith built a strong
" city, &c. ; and called it Dedicate, or Consecrate, after the
" name of his eldest son Enoch ; whose race, following his
" example, improved themselves, not only in geometry and
^^ Masonry, but made discoveries of several other useful
^* arts," &c.*

" The descendants of Seth came nothing behind those of
*' Cain, in the cultivation of geometry and Masonry : this
*' patriarch greatly profited in those noble sciences, under
" the continual tuition of Adam, with whom he lived till the
" year of the world 930, and succeeded him then in the
*^ grand direction of the craft ; who, as a monument of his
" superior abilities, and love to posterity, foreseeing the uni-
" versal desolation which would happen by fire and water,
" and deprive mankind of those arts and sciences already
*' improved, raised two huge pillars, one of brick, the other
" of stone, and inscribed thereon an abridgement of the arts
" and sciences, particularly geometry and Masonry, that if
" the pillar of brick happened to be overthrown by the flood,
" that of stone might remain ; which Josephus tells us was

* The readiness to receive Cain into the masonic brotherhood, certainly
fihows a catholic fcehnjT amongst them. If it were not in all respects too
grave and solemn a subject for a jest, we might question Cain's title to the
distinction, unless it were on account of having Morganised his brother
Abel J



84 , LETTER Vm.

" to be seen in his time, in the land of Siriad, by the name-
" of Seth's, or Enoch's pillars."*

The world becoming wicked — " Methuselah, with his son
"Lamech, and grandson Noah, retired from the corrupt
"world, and in their own peculiar family preserved the
" good old religion of the promised Messiah pure, and also
" the royal art [of Masonry,] till the flood."

The ark is built, according to the principles of Masonry,
and Noah, his family and the cargo are housed therein, when
we learn that — " From these Masons, or four grand officers,
" (Noah and his sons,) the whole present race of mankind
"are descended."

" Being all of one language and speech, it came to pass
" as they journied from the east towards the west^ they
" found a plain in the land of Shinaar, and dwelt there to-
" gether, as Noachidce, or sons of Noah— the first name of
''Masons"

The tower of Babel is built ; an observatory on the top
of it ; the language of the builders is confounded ; — and the
people dispersed — " All which shows, that, after the disper-
" sion, they still carried with them the knowledge of Ma-
" sonry, and improved it to a great degree of perfection."

" Nimrod, or Belus, the son of Cush, the eldest son of
" Ham, and founder of the Babylonian monarchy, kept pos-
" session of the plain, and founded the first great empire, at
" Babylon, and became Grand Master of all Masons, after
" the general migration."

* This legend of the^asonic writers, continues to bo cherished to this
day, by all the faithful. But in citing Josephus, Anderson, and his long
train of followers, forget to quote the comment of Dr. Whiston, the learned
translator of the Jewish historian, upon the passage respecting the pillars in
question, wherein, to say nothing of the absurdity of the supposition, that
the fabled pillars could have been discovered after the fountains of the great
deep had been so effectually broken up, it very satisfactorily appears that
Josephus mistook Seth or Sesostris, kmg of Egypt, who is supposed to have
erected the pillars referred to, for Seth the son of Adam.



LETTER VIII. 85

" From Shinaar, the science and the art were carried to
" distant parts of the earth, notwithstanding the confusion
" of dialects, which gave rise to the MasorCs faculty, and
" universal practice of conversing without speaking, and of
" knowing each other by signs and tokens."

" Mizraim, or Menes, the second son of Ham, carried to,
" and preserved in, Egypt, their original skill, and much cul-
" tivatcd the ar^." And — " The successors of Mizraim,
" who styled themselves the sons of ancient kings, encoura-
*' ged the royal art, down to the last of their race, the learned
"king Amasis."

" The history fails in the south and west of Africa !" and
the posterity of Japhet, scattering off' to Scythia, Norway,
Gaul, Britain, and America, lost the art — careless fellows that
they were !

But — " The offspring of Shem propagated the science and
" the art, as far as China and Japan."

^' Abraham, born two years after the death of Noah, had
" learned well the science and the art, before the God of Glory
" called him to travel from Ur, of the Chaldees," and " He
" communicated his great skill to the Canaanites, for which
"they honored him as a prince."

Isaac, Ishmael and Jacob, of course, were taught the sci-
ence by their fathers. Joseph was so well instructed by his
father, " that he excelled the Egyptian Masons in knowledge,
" and was installed their Grand Master, by the command of
" Pharaoh."

" Ancient Masonry recognises Melchizedeck, as one of
" its most venerable patrons !"*

~ * If any thing could add to the folly of this pretension, it might be found
in the fact, that it is not known by mortal man who Melchizedeck was.
Some believe him to have been Christ, or the Holy Ghost. Moses and
Paul speak of him as a man ; but all we are told of him is, that he was king
of Salem, and priest of the Most High God. The Jews and Samaritans
will have liim to be Shem, their ancestor. The Arabians insist that he was
a grand-son of Shem. Jurieu says he was Ham; and Dr Owen claims him
a^ a descendant of J apbeth. He was a Mason, no doubt !



86 LETTER VIH.

The Israelites practised but little Masonry in Egypt,
until " they were trained up" to the building of two cities
with stone and hrick, for the Egyptians, " in order to make
" them expert Masons, before they possessed the promised
« land."

" In their peregrination through Arabia to Canaan, God
" was pleased to inspire their Grand Master, Moses, Joshua,
"his Deputy G. M., and Aholiab, and Bezaleel, Grand
" Wardens, with wisdom of heart," &c. to build the taber-
nacle, &c.

" Moses excelled all Grand Masters before him." He
" ordered the more skillful to meet him, as in a grand
" lodge, near the tabernacle, in the passover week, and
" gave them wise charges, regulations, (fee, though the tra-
" dition thereof has not been transmitted down to us so
" perfect as might have been wished."

" Joshua succeeded in the direction, with Kaleb, his De-
^^puty, and Eleazer, the High Priest, and Phineas his son,
" as Grand Wardens"

After the conquest and settlement of the promised land —
" The Israelites made a prodigious progress in the study of
" geometry and architecture, having many expert artists, in
** every tribe that met in lodges, or societies for that pur-
" pose," &:c.

" The city of Tyre, Sor, or Tsor, was built by a great
" body of Sidonian Masons, from Gabala, under their Grand
" Master, and proper princes," (fee.

" The Phoenicians built, in a grand and sumptuous man-
" ner, under the direction of Sanconiathon, Grand Master
" of Masons in that province, the famous temple of Da-
" gon, at Gaza, and artfully supported it by two slender
" columns, not too big to be grasped in the arms of Sam-
" son," &c.

" In after times Ahibal, king of Tyre, repaired and beau-
" tified that city ; and so did his son Hiram. Being himself



LETTER VIII. 87

" a Mason y he took the direction of the craft upon himself,
" and became a sumptuous Grand Master," &c.

" During all this period, the Israelites, by their vicinity to
" the artists of Tyre and Sidon, had great opportunity of
" cultivating the royal art, v^^hich they failed not diligently
" to pursue, and at last attained to a very high perfection,
" as well in operative Masonry, as in the regularity and
" discipline of their well-formed lodges, which, through
"all succeeding ages, have hitherto suffered no

" CHANGE !"

These quotations have been extended farther than was
really necessary for the mere exhibition of the most absurd
and ridiculous specimens of the history of the order. But hav-
ing commenced them, it occurred to me that it might per-
haps contribute to the amusement of the reader to be fur-
nished with a brief but genuine history of the order, from
the moment when " the fiat of light was given," to the time
of the building of Solomon's temple — comprising the first
grand division of the masonic annals. That portion of the
history, as above given, may be considered complete, ex-
cepting only the particular details of the works of the dis-
tinguished Masons mentioned, such as the building of cities,
towns, towers, &c. ; for every work of architecture and



Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 8 of 49)