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Freemasonry and the Leaders of Victorian England

Freemasonry and the Leaders of Victorian England

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Published by: caligula68 on Sep 22, 2012
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byGeorge B. Yeates, P.G.C.
Freemasonry has long been known in Englandand Scotland, some of the earliest records of Masonry in Scotland date from 1390 and inEngland from 1410. The institution wasoriginally a craftsman's organization, howeverfor a craft that was the elite of all those whomust work for a living. Those men were thecathedral, temple, and palace builders. Thearchitects and artisans, who were entrusted withthe construction of an edifice that would takeyears to build and thousands of dollars tofinance, must have been people who knew welltheir trade and how to construct. Training andskill were essential. Engineering problems werediverse, difficult, and complex (they are evenfor today's well educated persons). Thearchitecture was required to be beautiful andsatisfying yet on a scale that would suit both thefinances and the visions of grandeur of thoseauthorizing and paying the cost. It was bothnecessary and essential that those directing thework of the artisans, constructors, and architectsbe in fairly frequent contact with the nobles orhigh officials of the church so as to obtaininstructions and approval as well as to consultabout all the myriad problems that had to beresolved.To protect themselves from any arbitrary andharsh treatment by the nobles and churchofficials as well as to protect the tradeknowledge and skills and to preventproliferation of artisans, the masons organizedthemselves into societies. These societies of operatives were the precursors of the laterFreemason lodges. Inasmuch as the aristocratswere in contact often with the builders, therecame about a desire on the part of both themasons and the aristocrats for an interminglingof men of both classes in the lodges. There wasa bit of mystery about the lodges - secret passwords, ceremonies known only to members, andthe friendship, care, and concern that eachmason appeared to have and practice about hisbrethren. Mystery attracts men of all areas anderas, no one likes to be an outsider. TheDionysian Rites of ancient Greece and Romemost probably won more converts because of the mysterious rites which were known only tothe initiated than because of any desires for trulyreligious experience.The operative masons found it advantageous toadmit the aristocrats and upper middle classmen, the contacts were beneficial from a work contractual basis, and those persons mostcertainly were not going to enter the labormarket in competition for jobs. The aristocratsand upper middle class men found, in thelodges, a readily available source of knowledgeof conditions, wants, needs, and desires of theoperatives and inasmuch as the meetings wereheld behind closed doors, the possibilities of public criticism for their associations with thelower classes were greatly reduced. Those who joined the ledges but who were not operativeswere given the name of "speculative masons,"their participation in the lodges being only at thelevel of friendship and for the study of moralvirtues. Thus it was that Masonic lodges cameto contain a curious admixture of artisans andaristocrats, engineers and merchants, architectsand tradesmen, and churchmen and laymen.Men who were linked together by the ties of sincere friendship and the desire to protect theinterests of each other so long as moral codesand allegiance to country were not violated.This set the stage for Freemasonry in Englandand for its stepson across the Atlantic,Freemasonry in the United States.Freemasonry in the United States was takenlock, stock, and barrel from its Englishantecedents. Ceremonies, titles, andconstitutions followed those of England (andScotland). The same kinds of people joined
lodges in the new country as did in themotherland. Washington, the rich plantationowner, Benjamin Franklin, the poor boy becomerich printer, Paul Revere, the poor apprenticebecome rich silversmith, and Collins Riddock,an unsung townsman from a small settlement inVirginia
were all members of Masonic Lodges.It is well to note that in England public displayof Masonic events and disclosure of Masonicaffiliation is very infrequent. In England, onedoes not see the lapel pins and rings withMasonic emblems that one sees in the UnitedStates. The Englishman very zealously guardshis privacy and considers his club, his lodge, hisprivate life to be his own affair and cares not atall to have a public spectacle made of it.William Hogarth, the 18
century engraver andprint maker, was a well known depictor of English society. His unflattering portrayal of alodge officer in his 1738 engraving entitled"Night", from the series, "The Four Times of theDay,"
struck a sour note among the Masons.There resulted much consternation and internalpolicing of their public activities for there is adearth of publicity, either favorable orunfavorable, following Hogarth's print.Despite the lack of public image, Freemasonryin England did not want for leadership. TheGrand Master is the top level officer of Freemasonry and is its designated leader. Amember of the aristocracy (nobility or royalfamily) was often found occupying this office.Installed as Grand Master in 1813 was HisRoyal Highness, Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, sixth son of King George III. The Dukeserved as Grand Master until his death in 1843.Of interest to Virginians is the Duke of Sussex'sfirst marriage. He married in Rome (Italy) onApril 4, 1793, Lady Augusta Murray, the seconddaughter of Lord Dunmore, who was the JohnMurray, 4
Earl of Dunmore, scourge of Norfolk in 1776 during America's revolutionarywar. Prince Augustus had not had the approvalof his father prior to the marriage and themarriage greatly displeased his father by whatwas reported as a Roman Catholic marriage, apatently illegal union for a member of the royalfamily, a violation of the Royal Family Act of 1782. Although a subsequent marriageceremony was performed in England inDecember 1793, Lady Augusta was neverrecognized by the crown and consequently wasnever given the title of Duchess. The son bornof this union, Sir Augustus D'Este, waspermitted to attend his father's funeral but hiswas the last coach in the procession. Thenewspaper accounts of the funeral do not showthe D'Este was the son of the Duke of Sussex.At the cathedral ceremonies, he was seated withthe peerage in a section reserved for "personalfriends" of the Duke. Included in this group of friends were Alexander Edward Murray, 6
Earlof Dunmore (the grandson of Norfolk'snemesis). Freemasonry was represented in theperson of Thomas Dundas, 2
Earl of Zetland,who was destined to become the next GrandMaster of Masons in England.A reader of the accounts in The Times of London of the death and funeral of the Duke of Sussex had to be diligent to find that he hadbeen a Masonic Official. Near the end of theaccount, on an inside page, is reported: "By thedeath of the Duke several offices becomevacant: his Royal Highness was President of theSociety of Arts, Acting Grand Master of theOrder of the Bath, Ranger of St. James andHyde Parks, High-Steward of Plymouth,Colonel of the Mon. Artillery Company, GrandMaster of Freemasons, Governor and Constableof Windsor Castle, and a Knight of the Garter."
 Thomas Dundas, 2
Earl of Zetland, becameGrand Master in 1844 and served in thatcapacity until 1870. Lord Thomas served asLord Lieutenant of North Riding in Yorkshire.His father had been Lord Lieutenant, Vice-Admiral of Orkney and Zetland, and LordMayor of the city of York. The Masonictradition of the Dundas family carries on intopresent times. Lawrence Alfred MervynDundas, 3
Marquis of Zetland, is currently theJunior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of England and has been a Provincial GrandMaster of North and East Yorkshire since 1956.In line with the traditional low key of Masonicpublicity, The Times of London carried the
following item on page 4 of the March 8, 1844,edition: The Earl of Zetland was on Wednesdaynight elected Grand Master of the Freemasonsfor the year ensuing. The Marquis of Salisburywas also put in nomination."
This was thewhole coverage of an event that lasted severaldays and had several hundreds of Masons inattendance.Though the Masons avoided publicity for themost part, they were not averse to publicity as itrelated to the good words they did. The Times,on January 24, 1844, carried an article about"The Masonic Ball" held to raise funds to aid"aged and deceased masons." The event took place at Freemason's Hall on Great Queen Streetin London. The "attendance was morenumerous than on any previous occasion," therewas dancing for many hours, done with a greatamount of spirit, and the refreshments wereliberal and elegant. "This festival, as a whole,was excellently conducted, and reflects praiseon the stewards and directors of the festivities."
 On June 20, that same year, the Masonsreceived some additional favorable reporting inThe Times. Under the heading, "Asylum forAged and Decayed Masons," the eighthanniversary festival was celebrated in the greathall of Freemason's Tavern. Colonel Anson,Member of Parliament, was chairman for theevent and was supported by a hundred membersof the craft. There were many visitors and thegallery was filled with ladies. The orchestra,under the direction of Mr. C. Horn, provided themusic. Toasts were drunk to Her Majesty theQueen, to Prince Albert, and to the QueenDowager. The funds raised that eveningamounted to £400 which together with fundsalready on hand, the account totaled over£4,000. The building, to be used as a home forold and needy Masons, was to be started in thenear future. "The evening was passed in theenjoyment of harmony and good fellowship, andit was not until a late hour that the companydispersed."
 The Masons, who were pledged to not discusspolitics at their lodges, nevertheless permittedthe use of their facilities for political purposes.The Times reported a meeting of the Anti-League Association at Freemason's Hall Tavernon Great Queen Street. This meeting was of craft and trade union representatives who wereagainst the freedom of action and for theprotection of industry. The Anti-League hadsolicited support of the trades and the unionswere against the Association. The meeting waswell attended.
 But the reporting was not always such as to bebeneficial to the Masons. In April, The Timeshad a short item: "Bishop Philpotts has refusedto allow the Freemasons to go in procession andhave a masonic service in Axminster Church."
 Succeeding the Earl of Zetland as Grand Masterin 1870 was one of Masonry's controversialpolitical figures, George Frederick SamuelRobinson, 3
Earl de Grey. Lord George hadbeen born at 10 Downing Street while his fatherwas Prime Minister. In 1849 at age twenty-two,he was initiated into the Christian Socialistmovement. Among the leaders of thatmovement were Charles Kingsley, F. D.Maurice, and Thomas Hughes. The movementsupported the engineers' strike in 1852 inLancashire and London. Robinson gave £500 tothe Working Men's College in his efforts topromote advanced education for the laboringclasses. He was the author of a plea fordemocracy, "The Duty of the Age," but thePublications Committee of the movementordered the suppression of the manuscript. Hewas a strong supporter of the volunteer armedforces and was appointed honorary colonel of the First Volunteer Battalion of the Prince of Wales' West Yorkshire Regiment. Active inpolitics, he was a Member of Parliament forHull in July 1852 but was unseated on thegrounds of treating. In April 1853 he waselected a Member of Parliament fromHuddersfield and held his seat for four yearsand, in 1857, was returned without opposition.In 1859, upon the death of his father, heassumed the title and occupied his seat in theHouse of Lords.In Palmerston's administration, he was Under-Secretary of War in 1859 and on April 13, 1863,

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