Perhaps the most romantic story of Freemasonry, the fuel which the alleged abduction and murder of William Morgan supplied to the anti-Masonic hysteria of a hundred years ago, and the gradual emergence of the Ancient Craft from the cloud which threatened to extinguish it, is a tale which all Freemasons may ponder to their enlightenment.
William Morgan, a brickmason, lived in Batavia, New York, from I824 to 1826. Accounts of him differ widely, as they do of any notorious person. Few are so wicked as to be without friends; few are so good they have not their detractors. from the estimates of both enemies and friends, the years have brought an evaluation of Morgan which shows him as a shiftless rolling stone; uneducated but shrewd; careless of financial obligations: often arrested for debt; idle and improvident; frequently the beneficiary of Masonic charity.
That he was really a Mason is doubtful; no record of his raising or Lodge membership exists, but it is certain he received the Royal Arch in Western Star Chapter R. A. M. No. 33 of LeRoy, New York;. It is supposed that he was an “eavesdropper” and lied his way into a Lodge in Rochester by imposing on a friend and employer, who was led to vouch for him in Wells Lodge No. 282 at Batavia. Judge Ebenzer Mix, of Batavia, a Mason of unquestioned reputation, wrote of this alleged Masonic membership: “There must have been a most reprehensible laxity among the Masons both of Rochester and LeRoy; for there was no evidence educed, then or afterwards, that he ever received any Masonic degree save the Royal Arch, on May 31, 1825, at LeRoy.” At any rate, he visited Lodges, was willing to assist, made Masonic speeches, took part in degrees. When Companions of Batavia asked for a Royal Arch Chapter, he was among those who signed the petition. But suspicion of his regularity began to grow, and his name was omitted as a member when the Charter was granted.
Just how much this incident inspired the enmity he developed for the Fraternity is only a guess; doubtless it had much to do with it. Enemy he became, and it became known that he had applied for a copyright on a book which was to “expose’ Masonic ritual, secrets and procedure. In spite of the deep resentment which this proposed expose created, Morgan entered into a contract (March 13, 1826) with three men for the publication of this work. These were: David C. Miller, an Entered Apprentice of twenty years standing, stopped from advancement for cause, who thus held a grudge against the Fraternity; John Davids, Morgan’s landlord; and Russel Dyer, of whom little is known. These three entered into a penal bond of half a million dollars to pay Morgan one fourth of the profits of the book. Morgan boasted in bars and on the street of his progress in writing this book. The more he bragged, the higher the feeling against him ran, and the greater the determination engendered that the expose should never appear. Brethren were deeply angered. fearful that were the “secrets” of Freemasonry “exposed”, the Order would die out. Feeling ran high.
Matters came to a head in September, 1826. Morgan was arrested for the theft of a shirt and tie. Of this he was acquitted, but immediately rearrested for failure to pay a debt of $2.68, and jailed. After one day behind bars, some one paid the debt. When he was released he left in a coach with several men, apparently not of his own free will. He was taken to Ft. Niagara and there confined in an unused magazine. Then Morgan disappeared!
What happened to William Morgan? Enemies of the Craft said Freemasons had kidnapped and murdered him, to prevent the publication of his expose. Freemasons, of course, indignantly denied the charge. As time went on and Morgan was not found, members of the Craft disavowed any approval of any such act, if it had been committed. Governor Clinton, Past Grand Master, issued proclamation after proclamation, the last one offering two thousand dollars reward “that, if living, Morgan might be returned to his family; if murdered, that the perpetrators might be brought to con dign punishment.”
It was not too difficult to discover that Masons were concerned in Morgan’s hundred and twenty five mile journey to Ft. Niagara. Three members of the Craft—Chesebro, Lawson and Sawyer—pleaded guilty to conspiracy to “seize and secrete” Morgan, and, together with Eli Bruce, Sheriff, and one John Whitney, all served terms in prison for the offense.
But murder could not be proved for no body was found.
In October, 1827, a body was washed ashore forty miles below Ft. Niagara. Morgan’s widow “identified” the body, although it was dressed in other clothes than her husband had worn alive; was bearded, although Morgan was clean shaven; had a full head of hair, although Morgan was bald ! Thurlow Weed, Rochester Editor, was accused of having the corpse shaved and of adding long white hairs to ears and nostrils, to simulate the appearance of Morgan. The first inquest decided that this was, indeed, the body of William Morgan.
Three inquests were held in all. The third decided, on the unimpeachable evidence of Mrs. Sara Monroe, who minutely described the body, its marks, and the clothes it wore, that the corpse was not William Morgan, but Timothy Monroe, of Clark, Canada, her husband. Commonplace and unexciting truth seldom catches up with scandalous, electrifying, remarkable falsehood! William Morgan had disappeared. Freemasons had been convicted of abducting him. A body had been found and identified as Morgan. That better evidence and a less excited jury had later reversed this identification was anti-climatic. The stories of Morgan’s “murder” persisted. Thurlow Weed, whom history shows as an unscrupulous opportunist, no matter what the exact truth of his activities with the body may have been, added fuel to the flames.
Weed died in 1882, On his death bed he stated that in 1860 (twenty- two years before) John Whitney, who had been convicted in the conspiracy charge, confessed to him the full details of the murder of Morgan. According to this alleged confession, Whitney and four others carried the abducted Morgan in a boat to the center of the river, bound him with chains, and dumped him overboard. Weed stated—and here his memory failed him—that Whitney had promised to dictate and sign this confession, but died before he could do so.
But Whitney died in 1869 nine years after!
Whitney did indeed tell a story—not to Thurlow Weed, who was his accuser in the conspiracy case and whom he hated—but to Robert Morris. This story is both the most probable and the best attested of any we have, as to the true fate of William Morgan.
Whitney told Morris that he had consulted with Governor Clinton at Albany, relative to what could be done to prevent Morgan executing his plans to print the expose. Clinton sternly forbade any illegal moves, but suggested the purchase of the Morgan manuscript, for enough money to enable Morgan to move beyond the reach of the influence and probable enmity of his associates in the publishing enterprise. From some source (Masons? Governor Clinton ?) Whitney was assured of any amount needed, up to a thousand dollars, which was a great sum in those days.
In Batavia Whitney summoned Morgan to a conference in which the bribe was temptingly held forth. On the one hand, the enmity of all, persecution, continual danger—it is not improbable that threats were mingled with the bribe! On the other hand, money, safety, freedom from a plan to publish which held much of danger. If Morgan would take five hundred dollars, go to Canada, “disappear”, his family would be provided for, and later sent to him!
Morgan agreed. He was to be arrested and “kidnapped”, to make it easy to get away from Miller and his associates. Whitney feared that without some such spectacular escape, Morgan might at the last moment decline to go through with the plan, fearing reprisals from his friends in the publishing venture.
Whitney told Morris that two Canadian Masons received Morgan from the hands of his “kidnappers” at Ft. Niagara, traveled with him a day and a night to a place near Hamilton, Ontario, where they paid him the five hundred dollars, receiving his receipt and signed agreement never to return without permission of Captain William King, Sheriff Bruce, or Whitney.
Later there were two other “confessions” of complicity in the “murder” of Morgan—neither consistent with the facts. Doubtless they were of the same hysterical origin which leads so many notoriety seekers to confess crimes which by no possibility they could have committed.
Did William Morgan choose the easier way, disappear with five hundred dollars from a dangerous situation, eliminating from his responsibilities a wife and family suddenly burdensome, and, in a new freedom, ship on a vessel from Montreal and out into the world, there to come to an unknown end ?
Or was he basely murdered by Masons who thought the crime less than the evil results to follow on the publication of Morgan’s Book. No man knows. No incontestable evidence can be adduced—or was ever adduced—definitely to prove either solution. All that is undoubted is that William Morgan was apparently kidnapped and did disappear.
It is difficult, a hundred years after, to understand the extent and power of the widespread excitement and passions this incident created. For the fame and infamy of the Morgan affair spread over an immense territory. It was the beginning of an anti-Masonic sentiment which grew and spread like wild fire. meetings were held, the Order was denounced by press and pulpit. An anti-Masonic paper was started— with Thurlow Weed as Editor—soon joined by the Anti-Masonic Review, in New York City. The many groups in Pennsylvania, already opposed to any oath bound society (Quakers, Lutherans, Mennonites, Dunkards, Moravians, Schwenkfelders, German Reformed Church) were aroused to a high pitch of feeling against the alleged “murderers” and “kidnappers”—the Freemasons.
The anti-Masonic excitement spread—and fast and far. Gould, in his History of Free-Masonry, thus epitomizes the spirit of that time:
“This country has seen fierce and bitter political contests, but no other has approached the bitterness of this campaign against the Masons. No society, civil, military or religious, escaped its influence. No relation of family or friends was a barrier to it. The hatred of Masonry was carried everywhere, and there was no retreat so sacred that it did not enter. Not only were teachers and pastors driven from their stations, but the children of Masons were excluded from the schools, and members from their churches. The Sacrament was refused to Masons by formal vote of the Church, for no other offense than their Masonic connection. Families were divided. Brother was arrayed against brother, father against son, and even wives against their husbands. Desperate efforts were made to take away chartered rights from Masonic Corporations and to pass laws that would prevent Masons from holding their meetings and performing their ceremonies.”
Reverend Brother John C. Palmer, Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, says in his little classic of the Craft, Morgan and anti-Masonry (Volume 7 of The Little Masonic Library, published by The MASONIC SERVICE ASSOCIATION in 1925):
“The pressure was so strong that withdrawals by individuals and bodies were numerous. In 1827, two hundred and twenty-seven lodges were represented in the Grand Lodge of New York. In 1835, the number had dwindled to forty-one. Every Lodge in the State of Vermont surrendered its Charter or became dormant; and the Grand Lodge, for several years, ceased to hold its sessions. As in Vermont, so also in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut; and in lesser degrees in several other states. The Masonic Temple was cleft in twain; its brotherhood scattered, its trestleboard without work; its working tools shattered. Thus Masonry endured the penalty of the mistaken zeal of those fearful brethren who thought that the revealing of the ritual to profane eyes would destroy the Order and who hoped to save it by removing the traitor within the camp.”
Space here is not sufficient to retell the interesting, often exciting, and always varied story of the political campaigns which were predicated on, and took much of their ammunition from, the anti- Masonic excitement which followed the Morgan affair. It is not to be supposed that the abduction and alleged—never proved—murder of Morgan was the sole cause of this outburst, any more than was the assassination in 1914 the sole cause of the World War. Both were triggers which set off guns which, in turn, caused other explosions.
Suffice it here that a wave of hysteria was seized upon by able politicians, fanned by demagogues, increased by the righteous indignation of good men and true who saw not beneath the surface, helped onward by press and pulpit with the best of intentions but little understanding, until the whole east flamed with passion and Freemasons were spit upon in the streets, lodges threw away their charters, and Freemasonry bowed its head to a storm as unjust and undeserved as all religious persecutions have always been.
Like any other hysteria, this passed. Passions wore themselves away.
A few sturdy and brave men stood staunchly by, a few Grand Lodges with high courage and the strength of the right never ceased to proclaim their allegiance to the principles of the Order. Little by little, Freemasonry raised its head; one by one, lodges took heart; brother by brother, Craftsmen returned to their Altars.
After a period following almost twenty years of more or less complete eclipse, the sun of Freemasonry shone again, and the world was treated to a spectacle that has been a heartening lesson to millions and will be to counted millions yet to be born anew at the sacred Altar of Freemasonry—the strange sight of an Order many had thought dead, suffering from uncounted thousands of stabs to the heart, coming again to life to grow and thrive and attract to it then. as it had in the historic past, men of the highest character.
It is for this that the Craft of today can offer thanks to the Great Architect for the Morgan affair. Dreadful as it was to the men who lived through it, terrible in its consequences to the brethren who suffered, it demonstrated again—and it may be hoped and believed, once for all—that the underlying faith of Freemasonry, its Ancient Landmarks, its foundation upon Deity and the Great Light. together are stronger than any evil, more lasting than any calumny, more enduring than any human passions.
Forever and forever, So mote it be !
Short Talk Bulletin Vol. II
Before the door of all lodges stands a Tiler (Tyler) “with a drawn sword in his hand.”
Customarily it is a straight blade; such a shining shaft of steel as was carried by Knights of olden times. According to Mackey it should have a snake-like shape. Formerly such swords were the badge of office of the Tiler, so made in allusion to the “Flaming Sword which was placed at the East of the Garden of Eden which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.”
Properly no Tiler’s sword is ever carried in a scabbard; it’s symbolism requires it to be ever ready at hand to “keep off cowans and eavesdroppers.”
Our lectures refer to the sword but twice; we are taught of “the Book of Constitutions Guarded by the Tiler’s Sword,” and we learn also of the “Sword Pointing to a Naked Heart.”
“The Book of Constitutions, Guarded by the Tiler’s Sword,” is a comparatively modern symbol; its introduction has been traced to Webb, about 1800. Its symbolism is rather obscure, the more so that it seems so obvious.
We are told that it “Admonishes us to be ever watchful and guarded in our words and actions, particularly before the enemies of Masonry, ever bearing in remembrance those truly Masonic virtues, silence and circumspection.” But the Book of Constitutions is not, in any sense of the word, a secret work. It was first ordered printed by the Mother Grand Lodge, and a few original copies as well as uncounted reprints of the Old Charges and the General Regulations of 1723 are in existence, to be seen by Mason and profane alike.
Obviously, then, it is not the secrecy of the Book of Constitutions which the Tiler’s sword guards; neither silence nor circumspection regarding that particular Masonic volume is necessary.
Some have read into Webb’s symbol the thought that it was intended to express the guardianship of civil liberties (a constitutional government) by the Masonic Fraternity, but this seems rather far fetched. It is a principle of science never to formulate a difficult hypothesis when a simple one explains the facts. Surely it is easier to think that the Tiler’s sword admonishes us to brook no changes in our Ancient Landmarks, to be guarded lest our words and actions bring the foundation book of Masonic law into disrepute before the enemies of Masonry, applying the Book of Constitutions as well as to the secrets of Freemasonry “those truly Masonic virtues, silence and circumspection.
“The sword pointing to the naked heart” is a symbolical adaptation of an old ceremony not peculiar to Masonry, but used by many orders and secret societies, in which the initiate taking his vows is surrounded by swords with their points resting against his body, ready to pierce him upon the instant if he refuses obedience. The sword is so used at the present time in some of the “higher Degrees” of freemasonry and contemporary engravings of the eighteenth century show swords were once used in some English and many Continental lodges. How this comparatively modern symbol became associated with the “All-Seeing Eye” - which is one of the most ancient symbols know to man, and borrowed by Freemasonry from ancient Egyptian ceremonies - is too long and difficult a study for any but the Masonic student with plenty of time and Masonic sources at hand.
The sword appears in the Grand Lodge as the implement of the Grand Sword Bearer, an officer found in most, if not all Grand Lodges. It comes, undoubtedly from the ancient “Sword of State,” which seems to have begun in Rome when the lictor carried - as a symbol of authority and power to punish the evil doer - his bundle of rods with an axe inserted. In the middle ages the rods and axe metamorphosed into the naked sword, carried in ceremonial processions before the sovereign as a symbol of his authority and his power over life and death; and his dispensation of swift justice. The custom in England was known at least as early as 1236 when a pointless sword (emblematical of mercy) was carried at the coronation of Henry III.
The second edition of Anderson’s Constitutions sets forth, that in 1731 the Grand Master, the Duke of Norfolk, presented to the Grand Lodge of England “The Old Trusty Sword of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, that was worn next by his successor in war, the brave Bernard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, with both their names on the blade, which the Grand Master had ordered Brother George Moody (The King’s sword cutler) to adorn richly with the arms of Norfolk in silver on the scabbard, in order to be the Grand Master’s sword of state in the future.”
Brother Moody was later appointed Grand Sword Bearer, so the office has the respectability of an antiquity almost coincident with the formation of the Mother Grand Lodge.
The idea the Grand Sword Bearer carries his implement to protect the Grand Master from enemies seems entirely fanciful; the sword is merely the emblem of his power, the evidence that he is supreme within the Masonic state over which he rules.
Early prints of lodge meetings on the Continent show the sword in use in the ceremonies; in this country the sword was never brought into the lodge room even during that era when a sword was as much a necessary article of a gentleman’s dress as shoes or gloves. It was then deemed, as now, incompatible with that “Meeting Upon the Level” which is so integral a part of all lodge communications; the sword, either as a weapon, which made its possessor stronger than he who was unarmed, or as a badge of rank or distinction; was held to have no place in the lodge. From this development the almost universal custom of the Tiler requesting all military men in uniform to leave their swords without the lodge before entering.
This rule, or custom, comparatively little known in this country because few military men in times of peace go to lodge in full uniform, was often broken during the recent war when soldiers clanked up and down lodge rooms with the arms of their profession at their sides. But it is as Masonically inconsistent to wear a sword in lodge as to appear therein without an Apron.
It goes without saying that the Tiler’s Sword is wholly symbolic; whether it was always so or not is a matter lost in the mists which shroud ancient history. In the operative days of Masonry the workmen upon a Cathedral held meetings in the house erected for their convenience - the lodge. Operative Masons possessed secrets of real value to the craftsmen; the Master knew the geometrical method of “trying the square;” all those who had submitted their Master’s Pieces and satisfied the Master’s of the Craft as to their proficiency received the “Mason’s Word,” which enabled them to satisfy others, in “foreign countries” (which might be the next town as well as the adjacent nation) of their proficiency as builders. When the beginnings of Speculative Masonry made their appearance, they added, those secrets which only Masons possessed.
Naturally, many desired to obtain those secrets. These were divided into two classes; the “eavesdropper,” who listened under the eaves of a building and therefore received the droppings from the roof, and the “cowan,” or, partially instructed Mason. As early as 1589 (Schaw Manuscript) appears this passage: “That no Master or Fellow of the Craft shall receive any cowans to work in his society or company. nor send none of his servants to work with cowans.”
Mackey traces the word to Scotland. In Scott’s Rob Roy, Allan Inverach says: “She does not value a Cawmil mair as a cowan.” Scottish usage of “cowan,’ a term of contempt, an uninstructed Mason; a Mason who builds dry walls, without mortar, a “dry-diker.” But there are other possible derivations of the word; for instance, it may have come from an old Swedish word “kujon” meaning a silly fellow, or the French, “conyon,” meaning a coward, a base man. The Tiler of the operative lodge may well have been armed with a sword for actual defense of himself, or the lodge in which his fellows were meeting, from the encroachment of the cowans who wanted the word and the secret of the square without the necessity of serving a long period as an apprentice and of laboring to produce a satisfactory Master’s Piece.
The modern tiler keeps off the cowan and eavesdropper by the simple process of refusing to admit those he does not know; if they still desire to enter the tiled door, they must either be vouched form or request a committee. The Tiler’s sword is but the emblem of his authority, as the Gavel is the symbol of that possessed by the Master.
Occasionally a lodge member is a little hurt, perhaps offended, if the Tiler does not know him and demands that some one vouch for him before he is permitted to enter.
“Why, I’ve been a member of this lodge for fifteen years!” he may say. “Here’s my good standing card. You ought to know me!” It is possible that the Tiler “ought to know him.” But Tilers - even the very best and most experienced Tilers - are just human beings with all the faults of memory which beset us all. Many of us are sure that we know a face and are yet unable to say that we have seen it in a lodge. How much more true this may be of the Tiler, who must see and memorize so many faces!
To be offended or hurt because a Tiler does his duty is merely to say, in effect, “Id rather you didn’t do what you are supposed to than hurt my vanity by failing to remember me!”
Not very long ago a Grand Master paid a surprise visit, all unaccompanied, to a small lodge. Their Tiler did not know him. The Master, sent for, to vouch for the distinguished visitor, was highly mortified and said so in lodge. The Grand Master stopped him. “You must not be mortified, my brother,” he said. “You are to be congratulated on having a Tiler who knows his duty and does it so well. I commend him to the brethren.”
All of which was a graceful little speech, which carried a wholesome lesson on the reality of the authority and the duty represented by the shining blade which no Tiler is supposed to put down while on duty.
No symbol in all Freemasonry but is less than the idea symbolized. The Volume of the Sacred Law, the letter “G,” the Square, the Compasses; all symbolize ideas infinitely great than paper and ink, a letter formed of electric lights, or carved from wood, a working tool of metal. Consequently the Tiler’s sword (like the sword of state of the Grand Sword Bearer) has a much greater significance, not only to the Tiler but to all Masons, than its use as a tool of defense against an invasion of privacy.
As not all cowans which may beset a lodge come through the Tiler’s door, every Master Mason should be, to some extent, a Tiler of his lodge and wear a symbolic Tiler’s Sword when on the important task assigned to the committee on petitions.
Some “cowans” slip through the West Gate, are duly and truly prepared, properly initiated, passed and raised; yet, never become real Master Masons. This happens when members of the committee have not heeded the symbolism of the Tiler’s sword. All of us know of some members who might better have been left among the profane. They represent the mistaken judgment, first of the committee, then the lodge. Had all used their symbolic Tiler’s sword - made as accurate an investigation of the petitioner as the Tiler makes of the would-be entrant through his door - these real “cowans” would not be a drag upon the lodge and the Fraternity.
The “eavesdropper” from without is longer feared. Our lodge rooms are seldom so built that any one may listen to what goes on within. The real “eavesdropper” is the innocent profane who is told more than he should hear, by the too enthusiastic Mason. In the monitorial charge to the entered Apprentice we hear: “Neither are you to suffer your zeal for the institution to lead you into argument with those who, through ignorance, may ridicule it.” The admonition of the emblem of the “Book of Constitutions Guarded by the Tiler’s Sword” applies here - we must “be ever watchful and guarded of our words and actions, particularly before the enemies of Masonry.”
Constructively, if not actively, every profane who learns more than he should of esoteric Masonic work is a possible enemy. Let us all wear a Tiler’s sword in our hearts; let us set the zeal of silence and circumspection upon our tongues; let us guard the West Gate from the cowan as loyally as the Tiler guards his door.
Only by doing so may the integrity of our beloved Order be preserved, and “the honor, glory and reputation of the Fraternity may be firmly established and the world at large convinced of its good effects.” For only by such use of the sword do we carry out its Masonic symbolism. To Masonry the sword is an emblem of power and authority, never of blood or wounds or battle or death. Only when thought of in this way is it consistent with the rest of the symbols of our gentle Craft and wins obedience to the mandates of the Tiler by brotherly love, an infinitely stronger power than strength of arm, point of weapon or bright and glittering steel!
Short Talk Bulliten 1930 Vol. 8
Let each brother who hears the question answer it for himself. But let him answer it carefully and with slow thought; not hastily and carelessly.
Most brethren will make an answer somewhat as follows:
"Freemasonry has given me sweetness in my life; the sweetness of brotherhood, the feeling of one-ness with my fellows. In its shelter I have made many friends; friends I would not, to could not have made otherwise. I have taken from them that cheery smile, that helpful word, which has made the rough places in the path of life smooth; I have received from them the encouragement, the heartening, the courage, which have made the battle easier to win.
"Freemasonry has given me the Mystic Tie; the tie which no man may put into words, yet which binds the closer that it is intangible. Bonds of silk are Freemasonry's chains; yet none of steel could hold as tightly or wear as softly. In the Mystic Tie, which I am privileged to renew about the Holy Altar of my Lodge as often as I will, I find the perfume of life, the lovely colors of the love of man for man, and the gentle touch of a friendly hand, than which there is nothing softer in all existence.
"Freemasonry has given me education; it has taught me that there is a greater reward for unselfishness than for self-seeking, that there is a high wage to be earned for good work, true work, square work done for love of the labor and not love of the wage. It has given me the opportunity to know of high aim, of lofty aspiration, of patriotism, of struggle upward through the mire of discouragement with eyes fixed always on the star; it has given me an inspiration."
Many a brother can speak of what Freemasonry has done for him in terms of the practical workaday world; of the note endorsed; the fund given; the trip arranged; the sick visited; the flowers received; the loved ones comforted in grief. But for every man who has had the material help, a thousand have had the spiritual gifts of Freemasonry, and most of us, let us thank God, have not had to ask for, or receive, even the beautiful charity of brotherhood. All of this being so . . . and let him who finds it untrue arise now in his place and deny if he can that Masonry has so benefited him . . . it is but fair and honest that as true an answer be given to the, "What have I done for Masonry?"
There will be some who reply to themselves, :I have served as an officer. I have conferred degrees. I have borne the heat and burden of the day." They are the lucky ones, for they have received the more as they have given the more. But the great majority of us cannot so answer, since there are but few officers in proportion to the number of Craftsmen.
So ask again, my brother, you who have never served in an official capacity, "What have I done for the Freemasonry which has done so much for me?"
Nay, my brother, you need not be ashamed if the catalog of your services is short and small. For there must always be those who are but the background; who take without giving; who receive without effort the largess of their brethren who have learned the great lesson that to give is to receive; that to put forth is to have returned, aye, an hundred-fold.
Yet there will be many who hear the question and answer it to themselves, and are ashamed; and these will want to know: "What can I do for Freemasonry? I would pay my debt; I would also be in the ranks of those who give, as well as receive."
Freemasonry is not a thing; it is not an organization, a system of men and officers; of lodges and Grand Lodges. The organization, the system, the men, the officers, the Grand Lodges are but the vehicle through which Freemasonry expresses itself. A man might be the sole inhabitant of a lonely land, where there was no brother, no lodge, no Grand Lodge, no dues, no Masonic Work to do and yet carry Freemasonry in his heart. And if there were two in that lonely land, Freemasonry could find away to express itself. For Freemasonry is coin of the heart, and therefore can only be paid to the heart. What you can for Freemasonry then is largely what you can do for your own and your brother's heart.
It is agreed between us that he who serves the vehicle also serves the spirit of Freemasonry; that the brother who labors on her material Temple, who serves his lodge, who acts upon committees, who provides entertainment, who tiles, sweeps, makes the fire and fills the lamps serves truly and serves well. But when all the physical labor is done there is still much to do; and, when all who may have done the toil there is still a design upon the Trestleboard. Therefore my brother, answer in terms of the heart, not of the muscles, the pocketbook, the voice or the time spent in attending lodge; "What have I done for Freemasonry?"
If all of Freemasonry was in the hearts of ten brethren; and ninety- one per cent of it was in one heart, and each of the other nine had but one percent; would the ten be happy, successful and well-paid Freemasons? They would not. But as each one of the nine rose in knowledge and in the practice of Freemasonry, he would benefit not only himself but all rest as well. And when all ten knew all and practiced all of the gentle arts of Freemasonry, surely those ten would make a happy lodge!
This homely little illustration is intended to bring home to him who hears it with the ears of his mind, the fact that Freemasonry is better, as each of us who profess it, practices it. No man may make of "Himself" a better Freemason and not benefit his brethren. So to him who asks in all humility, "I have not done much, show me how I may do more," the is answer, "First, by making yourself a better Freemason."
To be "a better Freemason" means, first of all, to know something about Freemasonry. There will be those who hear this message who know a great deal of Freemasonry. Let them answer for themselves, if they think they know enough! But the great majority of us are content to know that there is a wonderful story to be read "Sometime." Who would truly be able to do something for Freemasonry if they will make that time "Now."
Where did Freemasonry come from? How did it come to a weary world? What has been its history? What are its accomplishments? What has it done to justify itself? What are its laws, its Old Charges, its Landmarks? What did Freemasonry do in the making of this government of ours? What had Freemasonry to do with the Stars and Stripes, and the white stars in the heaven blue? What do the symbols of Freemasonry teach? Why do we have three degrees, and how did they come to be? How was the Word Lost, and will That Which Was Lost ever be found?
Answer, you who ask, "What shall I do for Freemasonry," and if you cannot, then inform yourself so that Masonry may have one more recruit who knows something of her glorious history, her purpose and her mysteries.
But it is not enough to know something of Freemasonry. Those who would really help Freemasonry must not only know it, but "Live" it. Ask yourself once more, my brother, and answer, though only you will hear it: "What do I do everyday that is Masonic; how do I use my Freemasonry in my daily life?"
For there is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of Freemasonry; the most wonderful of philosophies, the most Divine of truths, the most sublime of conceptions, the most learned of teachings which are as ineffective as a summer shower to quell a raging fire, "If They Not Be Lived!"
All of us are human, and all of us, therefore struggle against the same enemies. All of us have within us a Something to subdue as well as a Something which subdues. As Freemasons we are taught that we came here to subdue our passions and improve ourselves in Masonry; we accomplish the former only as we succeed in the latter. "Passions," my brother, does not mean merely anger or lust. The passion of selfishness, the passion of self interest, the passion of avarice, of deceit, of unneighborliness, of cruelty, of carelessness; these, as well as all the other enemies against which man's spirit struggles are to be subdued and conquered; the more easily as we bring the fighting ranks of Freemasonry's militant teachings to engage them. This is not intended as preaching, my brother; this is but a humble attempt to answer the question you are to ask yourself, as to how may you help Freemasonry. You may help her by helping yourself; by helping your family, by helping your neighbor and your friends; and all these you may do by making Freemasonry the rule and guide of your daily life just as you make the Book upon the Altar the Rule and Guide of your Faith and Life.
It is not enough merely to be honest. A Freemason's honesty is never questioned. Like the sunshine it is to be taken for granted. It is not enough to be just. Justice is a conception of man. Mercy is God, and Freemasonry teaches it. It is not enough to have friends. A good Freemason must be a better friend than he ever expects any man to do to him. For it is written, "Give, and it shall be given unto you."
There is room for Freemasonry in every business deal, in every act of every day. There is a place for Freemasonry's smile in every greeting and in every kiss. There is a chance for Freemasonry's gentle heart in every touch of hand to a child, or word spoken to the weak and helpless. There is a blessing of Freemasonry to be given to the ill and unfortunate, and a benediction of Freemasonry to be offered the sinful and the erring.
Freemasonry is the most glorious heritage; the most sublime of conceptions of the heart . . . and they ask, these brethren, what they can do for her! They can take her to their souls; they can live her in their lives, they can express her in their every act, and make of her not a cry of man's voice to Deity, but a song of his heart . . . to God!
Short Talk Bulliten May 1925 Vol. 3
Two aprons of a Masonic and historic character were owned by General George Washington. One of these was brought to this country by our Masonic Brother, the Marquis de Lafayette, in 1784.
An object of his visit was to present to General Washington a beautiful white satin apron bearing the National colors, red, white and blue, and embroidered elaborately with Masonic emblems, the whole being the handiwork of Madame la Marquise de Lafayette.
This apron, according to Brother Julius F. Sachse in his book, History of Brother General Lafayette's Fraternal Connections with the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (page 5), was enclosed in a handsome rosewood box when presented to Brother George Washington.
Another apron was presented to General Washington. This gift was also made in France and the similarity of purpose and of origin has caused some confusion as to the identity of the two aprons that happily were preserved and proudly cherished by their later owners after the death of Brother Washington.
The gift of the second apron was due to the fraternal generosity of Brother Elkanah Watson and his partner, M. Cassoul, of Nantes, France. The name Cassoul in the old records is also spelled Cossouland Cosson. Watson and Cassoulacted as confidential agents abroad for the American Government during the revolutionary period, the former being also a bearer of dispatches to Dr. Benjamin Franklin.
Brother Sachse, in the above-mentioned work, quotes Brother Watson from a book Men and Times of the Revolution, or Memoirs of Elkanah Watson, (New York, 1856, pages 135-6), as follows: "Wishing to pay some mark of respect to our beloved Washington, I employed, in conjunction with my friend M. Cossoul, nuns in one of the convents at Nantes to prepare some elegant Masonic ornaments and gave them a plan for combining the American and French flags on the apron designed for this use. They were executed in a superior and expensive style. We transmitted them to America, accompanied by an appropriate address."
An autograph reply to the address was written by Brother Washington and this letter was purchased from the Watson family and thus came into the possession of the Grand Lodge of New York.
The Washington apron owned by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was first given by the legatees of Brother George Washington to the Washington Benevolent Society on October 26, 1816, and was presented to the Grand Lodge on July 3, 1829.
The other Washington apron and sash came into the possession of Alexandria Washington Lodge No. 22, at Alexandria, Virginia, on June 3, 1812, and as recorded in the Lodge of Washington (page 90), were presented, with the box made in France which contained them, by Major Lawrence Lewis, a nephew of Washington, on behalf of his son, Master Lorenzo Lewis. The pamphlet, George Washington the Man and the Mason, prepared by the Research Committee, Brother C. C. Hunt, Chairman, of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, 1921, raises the question as to the number of degrees conferred upon Brother Washington.
Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4, Fredericksburg, Virginia, where Brother Washington received his Masonic Degrees, conferred the Royal Arch Degree under the authority of its Lodge Warrant. In fact, the first known record of this degree being conferred anywhere is in the Minutes of this Lodge under date of December 22, 1753.
There is a reference to the degree by the Grand Committee of the Ancient, September 2, 1752, and the books of Vernon Lodge, No. 123, Coleraine in Ireland, show that "a Master and Royal Arch Mason" was proposed for membership, April 16, 1752, and also that a Royal Archreception was held on March 11, 1745 (see Miscellanea Latomorum, volume ix, page 138). On the flap of the apron presented to Washington are the familiar letters H T W S S T K S arranged in the usual circular form. Within the circle is a beehive which may indicate the Mark selected by the wearer.
The above pamphlet points out that as this apron was made especially for Washington it is probable that he was a Mark Master Mason at least, and that it is not likely that this emblem would have been placed on the apron had the facts been otherwise. Certainly the beehive as an emblem of industry was an appropriate Mark for Washington to select.
Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
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