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About a year ago, I wrote a paper on secRECY, which was printed in No. 8, of Tue MORALIST. My argument was, that there was scarcely an exception in which secrecy was not a vice. In that paper, I made the following allusion to Freemasonry:“ In sects and among parties, there is a sort of fundamental sce crecy, that forms their stamina. There is an object concealed, which does not resemble that which is preached as the cause of associating as a sect or party. There is some advantage to be gained over other sects, as a monopoly of power, profit, or interest, with the few of the leading persons, who associate as a sect. In Freemasonry, for instance, there is a great cry of some profound secret among them; but the GRAND SECRET is, that they have NO SECRET, There might be idle forms and ceremonies, as there are with most other sects; and there might be rules and regulations, for giving peculiar aid, in peculiar cases, to each other, as there are in most other sects; but, beyond this, there cannot possibly be a secret worth knowing to the whole of mankind; for, had there been such, it would certainly have been divulged; no oath, no tie, would have kept it from the general knowledge. There is a supposition of a secret, which occasions an apparent myse tery, that it has never been divulged to the public, the whole of which has its foundation in the fact, that there is no secret that can excite enough of interest to occasion its being divulged. The fidelity of a Freemason consists in the absence of all ground to make a breach of faith. It is possible, that the junior members of the society might be led on step by step, under the supposition, that by and by, they are to know some grand secret; but it is a delusion; the time never comes, and habit becomes the stimulant to perseverance, and to the practice of similar delusions upon others.
Masonry originated in a very dark age, when there was, in fact, no knowledge among mankind, whereupon to-found an important or valuable secret; and had it been the invention of some scientific accomplislıment, the progress of science, since that day, would have left it a matter of insignificance. But, it is evident, that Masonry does not consist in any thing useful to mankind as a whole, or even to the members as a sect, or we should see them possessing superior advantages, which we do not see; we should: see them superior to others in knowledge and manners, which we do not see. The writer has seen Masons as ignorant and as base as the most ignorant and base of mankind; but he does not know, that he has ever known any thing pre-eminent in the knowledge or character of a Mason. The truth is-chey are neither better non worse for being Masons, and are on a level with the rest of mans kind. It is evident, that Masonry communicates no kind of useful knowledge; or it would be visible. Masons would be distinguished from others, which is not now the case. Signs, forms, and ceremonies, peculiar to themselves, they might have; but this is not worthy of being called a secret; every class of children
is distinguished from ever other class by such signs, forms, and ceremonies. It must con of one of two things--an idle and nseless association, or a mi holy of interest among its members. It is said, that Masonry alcates benevolence, humanity, brotherhood, and all the virtues; but all these virtues ought to be iuculcated, in a more enlarged manner, and not under the denomi. nation of Masonry. If Masonry has benefits which are witbheld from the mass of mankind, that withholding constitutes inhumanity, malevolence, and vice. If it has no such benefits, it is an idle and mischievous association.
“As we are considering Masonry, more with reference to its much boasted secret, than in any other sense, it may be observed, in the first place, that Masons are but men; that men are only distinguished in superiority one over another by the amount of their knowledge, by the distance at which their knowledge removes thein from other animals; lhat any secret of any importance could only exist in a matter of superior knowledge; that Masonry originated in a very ignorant age; and that, therefore, there can be no secret worthy of the consideration of mankind at this time. We repeat the apparent contradiction, but the fact, as applying to Masonry, that, the grand secret is, that there is no secrel. Nothing but this could have withstood the curiosity, the fickleness, and the characteristic inconstancy of mankind. Cry up any thing as a mystery, and the ignorant, ever delighted or excited with the marvellous, will make this a marvellous matter, whilst it either has no meaning, or is a thing of the most common occurrence, when stripped of the names and strange qualities that have been given to it. Morality requires thai there should be done of this deception upon the senses of the less discerning, that there should be no secrecy, that knowledge is an advantage which should be open and free to all, and that no one should deceive any other one upon any pretences whatever.”
When I wrote this paper, I had not seen any description of Freemasonry, beyond Mr. Paine's Essay upon that subject, which I have since learnt to be erroneous in all its inferences as to the secret or origin of masonry. And now, that the whole arcana of Masonry bas been unfolded to me, I find, that I was correct in my deductions, and I pronounce the above extract to be a complete epitome of Masonry.
The publication of this paper in “ The Moralist" excited an interest among some Materialists who had beeh Masons, and they began to express a wish that I should, by their assistance, expose the whole abuse. To this end I have been furnished with jøformation from many persons, inhabiting very distant parts of England, and I find that the various information agrees so well, as to justify me in concluding, that I am master of all the Masonic signs, words, tokens, purposes and ceremonies.
I reasoned the matter with myself, upon the known relations of man to the things about him, and being free from superstition, I could not fail to come to a correct conclusion. Mr. Paine erred, in
giving the Masons a religious origin, and in inferring, that they were a sect which worshipped the sun or practised a secret religion. I saw, instinctively, that they could have no secret of any value to themselves or to others; and, as to a religion, I was sure, that nothing on that head, in this age of sects and superstitions, could require private association.
The truth is, that Masonry, as it now exists, is a modern association. It is not that sort of Freemasonry which existed prior to the change from the Roman Catholic to the Protestant Religion. Something of the new association was visible on the coming of the Stuarts to power in this country; but the civil war of the seventeenth century nearly annihilated it, by splitring it into royal, republican, and religious associations, and it can scarcely be said to have had a real existence, or a continuous existence, until the expulsion of the Stuarts, and the introduction of the present Guelph Family from Hanover. No printed documents appeared concerning the association, until the year 1722 or 3, and prior to the seventeenth century, none but practical Masons belonged to the association, with the exception of a compliment paid io a few distinguished individuals, a king or his minister, or persons of that class. No Mason of this day can give the least particular account of Masonry, as it existed prior to the eighteenth century. No authentic printed or manuscript documents, save one", exist upon the subject. It is now a corrupted association, as it is well known, that money is the end and aim of proselytizing! Any ruffian, the trade is now out of the question, that can raise a few pounds, can be made a Mason : and if he can pay for it, he may go through all the degrees in one night. It may not be the case with every lodge, some may be more strict and respectable than others; but it is generally the case. It is now conducted upon the principle, that one fool makes many, and as you pay before you know what' for, each fool has no benefit in retracing his steps; he sees, that he may as well continue in the association to eai and drink at the expence of other fools to come.
The name of the association, undoubtedly originated with the associations of real Masons before the Reformation. Prior to that time, Masonry, or Architecture, may be considered to have been the only science that was studied or encouraged; as all men in power were interested in encouraging it. Kings were fond of splendid palaces: the aristocracy of strong and splendid castles: and the Priests of splendid churches and religious houses. The Roman Catholics of this day renounce the epithet of dark age, as applied to the times of the predominance of their sect, and point to the splendid buildings which marked that era. The answer to this is, that the science of masonry was encouraged, and that science only, from whence we may infer, that every
* This is a manuscript obtained by Mr. Locke from the Bodleian Library, and shall be subsequently copied and commentod upon.
thing of genius that existed was thrown into the furtherance of that science, as it dared not to shew itself in any other. When the Alchymists began to make their experiments, they were prosecuted as sorcerers; and to evade that persecution, they formed themselves into the secret association of the Rosicrucians. An association, which now seems to have been so changed or corrupted, as to be identified with modern Masonry, with a useless association, that encourages no one science, teaches no one useful thing, ibat communicates no one useful idea, but what may be gleaned from every book of morals. Real Masons have no connection with those now called Free Masons; the association is an idle mockery of their craft: and the Chemists of this day, the real descendants, in respect of science, of the Alchymists of old, have no identification with the association of Rosicrucians. It shews, clearly, low habits of sect or association attach themselves to successive generations of mankind after the original object for associating is gone out of date. And this sectarianism is perpetuated ; because a few can profit by it. They feel a vested right in it, as you and fellow legislators so often talk about, and rather than relinguish it, they will inflict, or continue, any amount of injnry upon the commuoity at large, or on that portion which is affected by their conduct.
The splendid ruins, the masonic remnants, of Asia, of Africa and of Europe, are enough 10 assure us, that Masonry has long been a distinguished craft. With its filial craft, sculpture, it seems to have predominated over all others. But what connection has ibis distinguished craft with the royal and ragamuffin mummery now called Freemasonry ? None whatever. No morc connection than exists between a child's toy boat of paper or wood and the highest state of ship-building. The one is a mere child's play imitation of the other; and as Masons are children of the largest growth, their ceremonies deserve no better denomination than that of fools' play, or, with reference to the trick of getting money from the uninitiated, rogues' play. The present legislature, in its war upon all other associations, that might have been in some degree useful, is morally bound to put down this association of Freemasons, which has even been improperly, though specially, exempted in different acts of parliament. A more mischievous association never existed in this nor in any other country, as I shall prove, as I proceed in this exposure.
When the Roman Catholic Religion became predominant in Europe, it is known, that there existed associations of Masons. These associations were of different kinds. Some consisted of seligious associations, and were a sort of moveable monastic sect, which went about in companies to build churches, chapels or other religious houses, without any other charge than that of maintenance for their labour. This will, in a great measure, account for the extent, solidity and splendour of some of these buildings. Tlie religious houses had the materials for building in their own hands, and labour they obtained for the mere distribution of that food in charity which they were employed to distribute. It was altogether a corporation concern, and not done, as: now, by rates upon householders. This will account, too, for the size of some of the churches in parishes, where now, there is not a tithe of inhabitants enough to fill them. Almost every church had some tutelary saint, some relic and some peculiar festivals, on which, as is now the case in Roman Catholic countries, the people flock from surrounding parishes, not only to fill the church, but to form a mass of twenty or thirty deep around it. Here, then, is a reason for the existence of those large churches in smallparishes, for which Mr. Cobbett cannot otherwise account, than by supposing that they were once more thickly peopled.
It is very probable, that these associations of Masous are as as old as Masonry itself, and that Masonry was the first known science. We know nothing in human civilization, that can be put upon a level with the advanced state of Masonry that is evinced in the ruins of Palmyra, of Thebes, and of many other places in Asia. and Africa. But it is preposterous, in modern Freemasons, in mco of all trades, or without trades, to connect themselves, as a perpetuated association, with the artists, who raised those splendid monuments of Masonry, of which we have not even a history, not even a tradition.
Other associations of Masons existed in England, and in Europe generally, as soon as the Christian Religion became powerful and raised stately houses for worship and for religious associations. These were chiefly for the regulation of the trade in general, and of wages in particular. These form the original of what are now called Freemasons. But these were really a trade society, such as those of various trades now existing: and as Masonry then formed the principal trade, the Masons became a formidable body: at one time menaced by acts of parliament, even with death, for their combinations; at another, caressed and receiving charters from the Monarch. It is very probable, though we have no confirmation of the fact recorded, that the existence of the Masons, as a secret association, followed the Acts of parliament, which forbad them to refuse to work for stated wages, and which made the refusal, and any combination to raise their wages, a capital offence. Here was a stimulus for secret association. Here was reason sufficient for all that secrecy of proceeding which now forms but a disgraceful mummery with those called Freemasons. It is known, that these secret associations of Masons triumphed over the laws which were enacted against them, and that triumph might have stimulated the perpetuity of the secret associations of free and accepted Masons. But there is nothing to justify the existence of the foolery of modern masonic associations.