William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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sculpture, during the long range of centuries, from the city
of Cain, to the temple of Solomon, including the ark, the
tower of Babel, the pyramids and the Sphinx, are claimed
as the fruits of regular masonic organization !

Such, sir, is the early history of Freemasonry, as written
m our books ; for although I have in these citations, follow-
ed Anderson and Entick, yet, with unessential variations of
language, the substance is much the same, with very few
exceptions, among all the masonic historians with whose
works I am acquainted, down even to the lectures of the
Rev. Salem Town, late Grand Chaplain to the Royal Arch
Chapter of this state. Among the exceptions to which I


refer, are Lawrence Demott, author of the original Ahimafl
Rezon, who very happily ridicules these ancient pretensions ;
and Dr. Dalcho, of whom I have already spoken in a pre-
ceding letter.

Nor does this description of history close with the erec-
tion of Solomon's temple. The same veracious writers,
with all possible gravity and candor, discourse to us of the
Masonry of all the principal oriental nations that rose,
flourished and fell, from the days of Solomon, to the decline
and fall of the Roman empire. David, we are assured,
was the last distinguished patron of the ancient masonic
principle, previously to the regular reorganization of the
institution at the building of the temple. Solomon's Ma-
sons rapidly dispersed themselves over the whole civilized
world, carrying with them, in all directions, the lights and
blessings of the order : and from this period, to the advent
of the Messiah, and indeed long afterwards, the kings and
priests, the nobles, and mighty men of the earth, are spoken
of as Masons and Grand Masters, with as much familiarity,
and with as little doubt or hesitancy, as we refer to the
events of cotemporaneous history. We are told that all
the Jewish kings of David's lineage, were Grand Masters ;
all the High Priests were Masons ; " Zerubbabel, and
" Joshua the High Priest, and Haggai, the prophet, were
** skilled in ancient Masonry, and very distinguished patrons
^ of the craft." We are told of Grand Master Nebuchad-
nezzar, and Grand Master Seleucus Nicanor ; Grand Master
Cyrus and Grand Master Cambyses ; Grand Master Ptolo-
my Philadclphus, (whose son was the last grand officer in
Egypt ;) Grand Master Julius Coesar, and Grand Mas-
ter Constantinc. Alexander, of Macedon, was expelled
from the order ; but it is a well established fact, that Ho-
mer, Zoroaster, Simonides, Socrates, Lycurgus, Solon, Py,
thagoras and Plato, were, all very expert Masons — they
having visited Egypt, where the lodges were (Irst organic


zed by Abraham, and were admitted into the sublime mys-
teries by the Egyptian priests. In short, it is difficuh to
conceive of pretensions more absurd, or of assertions more
preposterous, than those which comprise the whole matter
of masonic history, until within the last two centuries ; and
it is no cause of marvel, that the uninitiated, when they hear
these pretensions put gravely forth as facts, should treat
them as vain, idle, and ridiculous.

These absurdities, however, are not believed by all the
initiated. Many there are who have never heard of them ;
others treat them with becoming contempt ; w4iile others
again, who would claim Adam and Noah, Job, Solomon
and Daniel, as Masons, if pressed upon the subject, would
explain their meaning to be, that these ancient gentlemen
" were Masons in their hearts," and that all good men are
Masons. With many Masons, however, nothing more is
intended to be conveyed by speaking of particular indivi-
duals as having been Masons antecedently to the building
of Solomon's temple, and the heathen philosophers subse-
quently, than that they possessed a knowledge of the being
and existence of the one only true God.

The most sensible writer upon this subject, whom I have
consulted, is Alexander Lawrie, whose history of Freema-
sonry was published in Edinburgh, in 1S04. This work is
written in an attractive style, and bears evidence of exten-
sive research. It was published, in part, as an answer to
the works of Barruel and Robison. Rejecting the antedilu-
vian nonsense of his predecessors, and much that is post-
diluvian likewise, Lawrie nevertheless falls into the com-
mon error of confounding the operative stone masonry of
all ages, with the speculative Freemasonry of modern times.
He believes that its formation was gradual, with the pro-
gress of civilization among the ancients, as the study of
architecture advanced, and men associated together for im-
provement ; but he admits that the first, and the only object


90 LETTER Vlll.

of the Masons, was the mutual communication of know-
ledge connected with their profession ; and that those only
could gain admittance into the order, whose labors were
subsidiary to those of the architect. In process of time,
the ambition of the Egyptian priests prompted them to seek
and procure admission into the society. " When they had
" accomplished this purpose, they connected the mythology
*' of their country, and the metaphysical speculations con-
** cerning the nature of God, and the condition of man, with
" an association formed for the exclusive purpose of scienti-
" fie improvement, and produced that combination of science
" and theology, which, in after ages, formed such a conspi-
" cuous part of the principles of Freemasonry." Lawrie, in
fact, supposes Masonry to have originated in Egypt; to
have been transplanted thence into Greece ; thence into
Asia Minor, by the Ionian architects ; and thence into
Palestine, prior to the building of the temple. He of
course reads Freemasonry in those dark mysteries of the
Egyptian priests, from whom Moore has borrowed his
beautiful, but impossible fiction of the Epicurean. He also
discovers evidences of the order, in the rites and ceremo-
nies, of the Eleusinian mysteries of the Greeks, and also in
the organization and ceremonies of the Dyonisian architects.
The idea of teaching moral and religious truths by sym-
bols, and affecting to have high mysteries in charge, may
very likely have been borrowed by the Masons, from a
vague knowledge of those ancient mystic associations.
Thus, it is asserted, that there are masonic hieroglyphics
and emblems etched upon the Egyptian obelisks. The ig-
norant and credulous Mason, raises his eyes in wonder at
the intelligence ; but the scholar, and the man of science,
would reply, that if there were indeed any such emblems —
of which, however, Champollion has given us no informa-
tion — the Masons have doubtless adopted them from the
obelisk, and not the sculptor from the Masons. Much cu-


rious information respecting these ancient mysteries, might
be brought within a small compass, without travelling far-
ther in the search than the introduction of Rollin — probably
the ultima Thule of masonic investigation upon this point ;
but the transcript would only encumber these desultory
speculations. So far as my own researches have extended,
I find nothing to sustain the masonic pretension, that these
ancient mystics were, in any manner or form, to be viewed
as cognate institutions. Pliny does indeed relate an instance
in which it is said that Anaxarchus, being apprehended by
somebody, in order to extort his secrets, bit his ow^n tongue
in the midst, and spit it in the tyranf s face ; choosing rather,
as the legend goes, to lose that organ than to discover those
secrets, which he had promised to conceal. Possibly the
hint of one of our unmeaning masonic penalties, may have
been borrowed from this questionable incident.

Equally difficult, in my apprehension, would be the task
of finding any verisimilitude between Freemasonry and the
mysteries of Ceres and Proserpine, which were borrow-
ed from Egypt, and celebrated with so much strictness in
several of the Grecian states, particularly in Attica. These
mysteries were held so highly sacred, that it was believed
the neglect of them would call down the divine vengeance
upon the offender, who vyas therefore ignominiously put to
death. Indeed the neglect of these mysteries was one of
the charges Vv^hich hastened the death of Socrates. Accord-
ing to the masonic writers, the christian fathers, some of
them, at least, have labored to prove that the knowledge of
the true God had been preserved by these mysteries ; and
Warburton, after a laborious investigation, has arrived at a
similar conclusion. His theory is, that those mysteries
consisted of scenic representations, inculcating a belief in
the Deity, and a future state of immortality. Among their
emblems were those of mortal life ; of death ; and of
IMMORTAL LIFE ; and the exhibitions of these mysteries, Aris-


tides declared to be " the most shocking and most ravishing
" representations." In the same way, then, that Abraham
and Melchizedeck were Masons — that is to say, inasmuch
as they possessed a knowledge of the Deity, if Warburton's
hypothesis be correct, — in so far, and no farther, were the
priests of Egypt, and the Eleusinians, Masons. The only
other coincidence between these mysteries and any thing
connected with Masonry, exists in reference to the Tem-
plars. With the Eleusinian initiates, as the candidates
entered the temple, they purified themselves by washing
their hands in holy water, and received as an admonition,
that they were to come with a mind pure and undefiled,
without which the cleanliness of the body would be unac-
ceptable. Certain questions w^ere likewise propounded to
the candidates, strange sights and noises were seen and
heard, vivid flashes of lightning blazed upon the eye-balls,.
and deafening peals of thunder broke upon the startled ear.
The modern Templars do not practise the latter experi-
ments upon the nerves of the candidates. But in the gloomy
chamber of reflection ; in the solemn questions indicated in a
former letter ; and in the ablution in pure water, as a testimo-
ny of sincerity and innocence ; we have a coincidence which
could scarcely have been the result of accident. Still, the
similarity of course proves no ancient connexion between
the insatutions, since nothing could have been easier than
to adjust the latter in some respects to the facts related of
the former ; while the designing pretender might very easily
flatter himself; that the existence of a strong resemblance in
the ceremonies reported of the one, and practised by the
other, might, by the ignorant, be greedily received as proof
of regular succession, and the common origin of both.

Comparisons have been instituted by Lawrie, and other
masonic writers, between the Kasidean and Pythagorean
fraternities, and the Freemasons ; and very strenuous etTorts
"have been made to connect the order with the christian era.


by strong supposed resemblances between the rites and ce-
remonies of Masons and the Essenes — a sect among the
Jews, the origin of which is unknown, as well as the etymo-
logy of their name. They are first mentioned in the book
of Maccabees, about B. C. 150 years. They lived in soli-
tude, and had all their possessions in common. Certain
examinations preceded the admission of candidates to their
society. If his life had been exemplary, and if, during his
noviciate, he appeared capable of curbing his conduct, and
regulating his life according to the virtuous and austere
maxims of their order, he w^as presented with a white gar-
ment, as an emblem of the purity of his heart. A solemn
oath was then administered to him, that he would never
divulge the secrets of the order ; that he would make no
innovations on the doctrines of the society ; and that he
would continue that honorable course of purity and virtue
which he had commenced. They admitted no women into
the order, and they had particular signs for recognizing each
other. So great was the reserve of the members of these
people, who dwelt along the western coast of the Dead Sea,
like hermits, that nothing of their secrets ever escaped
them, for which reason the most learned have been unable
to say in what those secrets consisted. Philo says they
sacrificed no Hving creature, and that they shunned cities.
Josephus says they sent presents to the temple, but offered
no sacrifices there. They had purer ideas of God than the
Jews commonly entertained, a strict code of morals, and a
Pythagorean manner of life. Instead of performing exter-
nal rites, they devoted themselves to prayer and silent
devotion, scrupulously observed the sabbath, were extreme-
ly abstinent, and liealed diseases of every kind by roots and
herbs. They rejected the subtleties of the Pharisees and
Sadducees.* I have spoken of this sect with greater mi-
nuteness than I should otherwise have done, because of the

* Vide Ency. Americana, Josephus, Reinhard, Lawrie.


efforts that have been made by writers upon the subject of
secret societies, especially of the German schools, to identify
Freemasonry with the Essenes, and not only this, but to
})rove that Christ and his apostles were members of the Es-
sene mystics, and that it was by means of secret associa-
tions that Christianity was first propagated — a supposition
which finds no warrant in history, sacred or profane. Some
of these writers have contended, that Jesus Christ himself
was connected with the Essenes, and others that he was the
founder of a secret society of his own, and that the Gnos-
tics, the Ophites, the Basilidians, and other sects of mystics,
were branches of the society thus founded by the Saviour.
Among the most conspicuous of these writers, are Carl
Leonhard, Reinhold, Bahrdt, and August Kestner. It is
affirmed " that the whole Mosaic religion was an initiation
'• into mysteries, the principal forms and ceremonies of
'• which were borrowed by Moses from the secrets of the
" Egyptians." This is the system of Reinhold, in his work
upon Hebrew mysteries, and religious Freemasonry. It is
Bahrdt, who more particularly attributes to the Saviour the
plan of christianizing the world by means of a secret socie-
ty ; while Kestner alledges it in respect to the apostles and
the christian fathers of the first century. He gives a mi-
nute account of the organization of a secret and powerful
confederacy, by Clement, after the fall of Jerusalem, and
the death of his instructors, Peter and Paul, which extended
throughout the Roman empire. The design was to advance
the sacred cause of Christianity, by means of the society,
the members of which were carried through the degrees
of a symbolical and mystical system of instruction. In aid of
the project, some of the Clementinian confederates are said,
by their cunning, to have " purloined the records, and pri-
" vate books of the so called secret society of theologians,
*' established by John the Evangelist ; and the founder of
" the confederacy connected the consecrating ritual of John's


** mysteries, with Jewish and heathen ceremonies and mys-
" tical symbols of a masonical character, and thus, after
" estabUshing a christian priesthood, ordained a mysterious
*' worship of God, which was introduced by its missiona-
" ries and abettors into all parts of the then civilized world.'*
On the martyrdom of Clement, his society had been ex-
tended into almost every region, and numbered a million of
adherents. Domitian was aware of its existence, but could
not touch it. Trajan persecuted and put many thousands
of them to death. But Hadrian, being fond of the mechanic
arts, the members continued to mask their societies under
the guise of operative mechanics, and thus secwred his fa-
vor. Antoninus Pius guarded the confederacy with great
strictness, politically, but favored them in other respects.
Marcus Aurelius caused himself to be initiated into their
mysteries, and became their protector; Polycarp was one
of the spreaders of the society ; — and Kestner pretends to
trace it down, noting the opposition it was from time to
time fated to encounter, to the Montanistic rebellion, when
it obtained a decided victory.

Reinhold's work was published in 1788. It was answer-
ed by Eichhorn, and several others, of the orthodox Ger-
man schools. Among these, was the celebrated F. V. Rein-
hard, who, in his last enlarged edition of the " Plan of the
*' Founder of Christianity," published in 1798, refuted the
skeptic most decisively. An edition of this admirable work,
has lately been published in this country, from the revised
edition of Dr. Heubner, professor of theology at Wittem-
burg. A reply of much critical skill and learning, and of
equal conclusiveness, to the work of Bahrdt, above mention-
ed, has also been written by professor H., and inserted in
the appendix to Dr. Reinhard's " Plan." As this valuable
work is now before the public, in an English dress, it would
be a waste of time to add a synopsis of the facts and argu-
ments, by which these skeptics have all been triumphantly


96 LETTER Vlir.

refuted. Nothing, indeed, can be more absurd, than the
allegation both in respect to Moses, and Christ, with his
apostles, and their successors. Those arguments were, in
a great degree, cabalistic ; and a hidden mystery was
sought in the language of the Saviour, and the writers of
various sacred books and epistles, which would destroy
their simplicity and beauty, and indeed their whole charac-
ter as a revelation of the simple word of the Creator to his
creatures. Notliing could have been more foreign to the
plan of Christ, than the idea of putting the hidden springs of
a secret society into operation, for the execution of the pur-
poses of his glorious mission. The Essenes were the only
secret cotemporancous society among the Jews ; but we
no where read of his visiting the district of country where
these hermits lived ; while, on the contrary, his whole life
was one of unrestrained frankness, and his labors were of
the most public character. Wherever he went, he was
thronged by thousands ; he was continually an object of the
most jealous watclifulness on the part of the elders and
rulers of the land ; and he was only able occasionally to
steal away, under cover of the mantle of night, into the
fields, for his hours of solitary devotion. But it is idle to
pursue the subject. Those who believe with the skeptics
who thus audaciously attempt to connect the Saviour with
societies of a masonic character, or with any secret society
whatever, must, at the same time, strip him of his divinity ;
for, like the infidel writers who have attributed the mira-
des of Moses to necromancy, so in regard to Christ — his
miracles have, also, by those who would invest him with the
habiliments of Masonry, been declared to partake of the
same nature — to have been wrought by virtue of arts and
enchantments, the knowledge of which w^as acquired hy
him during his residence with his parents in Egypt, and
perfected in the secret societies, after his return to Judea !.


If every writer upon Masonry had exercised the candor
Hnd good sense of Dr. Dalcho, the late Grand Master of
South Carohna, of whom I have spoken before, we should
not have so much cause of chagrin, as must be experienced
in wading through the wretched absurdities which are to
be encountered in such investigations as the present. In
the notes to an edition of the Ahiman Rezon, published by
him, he very candidly says — " Neither Adam, nor Nimrod,
" nor Moses, nor Joshua, nor David, nor Solomon, nor Hi-
*' ram, nor St* John the Evangelist, nor St. John the Baptist,
"belonged to the masonic order. It is unwise to assert
" more than we can prove, and to argue against probability.
" There is no record, sacred or profane, to induce us to be-
" lieve that these holy and distinguished men were Freema-
" sons, and our traditions do not go back to their days. To
" assert that they were Freemasons, may make tiie vulgar
'^ stare, but will rather excite the contempt than the admira-
" tion of the wise. Let Freemasons, then, give up their vain
" boastings, which ignorance has foisted into the order, and
" relinquish a fabulous antiquity, rather than sacrifice com-
"mon sense." In another place, the same reverend and
judicious Grand Master, speaking of the festival days of the
two St. Johns, remarks : — ^" Why either of them should liave
" been chosen in preference to any other day, is, perhaps,
" difficult to explain. I know of no connexion between
*' these eminent servants of God, and the Freemasons. I
" now write as a minister of the God, to whose honor and
" glory my life is devoted, and to whom I must, ere long,
*^ give an account of my stewardship. I tliink I run no haz-
" ard of contradiction, in saying, that if these most holy men
" were now permitted to revisit the earth, they would great-
" ly wonder at finding their names enrolled as patrons of
" an institution of which they had never heard ; and ther^
** can be no question of the fact, that if they were now to

'• apply for admission into any of our lodges, thev would b6



« Utterly incapable of working their way in." 'lliese are
plain truths, to which every enlightened Mason, if he speaks
truly, will respond " Amen."

With liigh consideration, I am, &c.


New- York, Jan. 8, 183^.

In regard to the antiquity of Freemasonry proper, — I
mean as it has descended to us from the English, for I deny
that it has any affinity or relationship with the infidel asso-
ciations of France, of any degree, whatever agency the
Duke of Orleans may have had in commissioning a messen-
ger to bring it hither, — it is exceedingly difficult to arrive at
any satisfactory result. All its histories are, comparatively,
of modern date, although they plunge deep into the twilight
of antiquity, with as much boldness as though they had the
whole Alexandrian library to cite as authorities. This ab-
sence of unwritten early history, is ascribed to an irrepara-
ble loss sustained by the lodges in 1720, by the burning of
the ancient records of the order, together with a learned
and elaborate historical treatise by Nicholas Stone, a curi-
ous sculptor of tliat day. These records were burnt by the
over scrupulous members of the order, who, alarmed by the
publication of constitutions, and the formularies of the craft,
feared that other disclosures, jeoparding the existence of the
society, might follow. In more modern times, as will by
and bye appear, it might have been my unhappy name-
sake, and not the manuscripts, that would have been con-
demned to the flames.

It was not, sir, my design, when I commenced this branch
of the discussion, in my last letter, to draw very largely


from the books upon the subject, — aware, as I very well
am, that few persons could hope to call your attention to
any historical information, with which your mind is not al-
ready stored. Yet, as this question, the antiquity of Ma-
sonry, has been much debated, and as these sheets must ne-
cessarily fall under the eyes of others than yourself, I have
thought it might not be altogether a waste of time to collect
and throw into this popular form, such items of general in-
formation, respecting it, as I could conveniently bring to-
gether within a reasonable space. I trust that you will
therefore pardon me, while I dwell somewhat longer upon
this point, even though I should find it necessary to go yet
further into detail.

All the encyclopasdists whom I have found leisure to con-
sult, have noticed the institution more or less at large, and
several have appropriated considerable space to the subject.
Dr. Rees cites Preston, a masonic historian, and Past Mas-
ter of the lodge of Antiquities, largely, and with approbation.
This writer supposes the introduction of Masonry into
England to have been prior to the Roman invasion — that the
Druids were in possession of the masonic secrets, and prac-
tised their customs, and that Cccsar and his generals were
its ardent friends and supporters. After the Romans left
England, the labors of the order were obstructed by the
irruptions of the Picts and Scots ; but the institution revived
again with the introduction of Christianity, by St. Austin^
who was its zealous patron. So says Preston; but Dr.
Dalcho declares the idea of Austin's coming over from
Rome, as the minister of Freemasonry, to be as great an
absurdity as the supposition that the book of the law owes
its preservation to the Masons. The Bishop came over to

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 9 of 49)