CRAFT, TRADE OR MYSTERY:
Part One - Britain from Gothic Cathedrals to the Tolpuddle Conspirators
By Dr Bob James
Revised May 2002
Freemasons, Friendly Societies and Trade Unions Index
Hosted by Takver's Initiatives
We have seen that many of the assumptions underpinning LH and the tradition of the labour movement's 'true believer' rest upon the work of the Webbs. We have seen that they and their followers have suggested, but have not explored, 'modern, ie real trade unions' and 'real trade unionism' were only possible when 'rites of association', which 'probably' derived from Freemasonry, were jettisoned as industrialisation took hold. The larger context of these assumptions is the mass of self-serving assertions about the shaping influence of 'trade unions' and the labour movement on 20th century western democracies.
We have noted a second set of claims about the huge importance of 'Friendly Societies' to the welfare of the whole of British and British-derived society. 'Official' historians of the Affiliated Orders of such societies have similarly sourced them in 'the ritualism, ceremonialism, symbolism, and degrees of the Ancient Fraternity of Freemasons.'204
For their part, in-house historians of Freemasonry have no doubt about the long term positive influences of 'the mystic tie.' In the case of Australia:
Like the mighty Amazon (the Masonic movement) began in a series of small trickles and has since broadened into a wide, deep, and imposing stream that means so much to the character of the nation fertilised by its beneficent influence.205
The few academic historians who have looked seriously at Freemasonry, none of them in Australia, have come away impressed:
Masonry played an important role in shaping the momentous changes that first introduced and then transformed the eighteenth-century enlightenment in America, helping to create the nineteenth-century culture of democracy, individualism and sentimentalism.206
If any of these claims is true, all students of Australian society should have access to relevant, supportive material and encouraged to fundamentally change their view of white Australian society. If all three are separately true, the originating heritage of Freemasonry, should be compulsory reading.
Unfortunately, major problems begin immediately with attempts to assess any of the claims regarding Freemasonry, since in-house SF historians themselves do not agree about the circumstances of SF's own 'creation.'
The most usual origin claims connect the mediaeval stonemasons with Speculative Freemasonry [SF] but there are many variations on this one theme, including many highly imaginative interpretations. Certain Freemasons have sought an organic connection between the symbolic and the historical elements, and have sourced SF's historical evolution in the Old Testament story of Solomon's Temple which features heavily in their ritual. The 'biblical' claims no longer concern the average SF, but a minority continue to argue for or spend a great deal of time searching for convincing connections with the earliest of Middle Eastern rites and sites.
Outsiders, and many insiders, totally dismiss any connection with a heritage older or further distant from London than mediaeval England. Here I note only that 'modernists' have no trouble accepting that the origins of Western art, literature, philosophy, religion and democratic practice are to be found in the Mediterranean, so why so much trouble sourcing the guilds and/or Western fraternalism there?
A further layer of historiographical dismissal has had 'the modern' requiring no input from even the mediaeval. Norman Davies' The Isles recently provided a succinct description and by implication the significance of a 'systematic propoganda' which has, not only fed into SF 'histories' but led, more broadly to 'the English myth.' Set running by Thomas Cromwell, clothed in golden words by Shakespeare, reinforced by the Protestant Establishment of the 17th and 18th centuries, and set in stone by the 'Whig Interpretation', the 'spin' had 3 themes:
one is the denigration of the late mediaeval period...the second is the deification of the English monarchy as a focus for the founding of English Protestantism and of modern English patriotism. The third involves the exclusion of all non-English elements in descriptions of the roots of later British greatness.207
Historiographical problems similar to those occuring with 'trade union' creation stories occur with the SF 'evidence', including gaps in key parts of the record, and leaps of logic bordering on the bizarre. And as with LH, correcting these 'problems', where it is possible, does not require a denial of the importance of SF but a re-formulation bringing SF and the lives of ordinary working people into sustained contact with 'the pillars' of real-time history.
The Substance of SF and the Realities of History
There are only three 'official' qualifications required for membership of the United Grand Lodge [UGL], and therefore Australian 'Freemasonry' - to be an adult male, willing to swear belief in a Supreme Creator. Today, however, SF continues to be seen by many non-Masons as elitist, secretive, white, Christian and conservative as well as a male bastion. They may be surprised to know it has, at various times, also been attacked as everything evil, perverse and anti-Christian, as being a religion in its own right, as being the home for political revolutionaries and for being the power base of fascists and right wing extremists.
Insiders insist SF adheres only to its stated principles. But they admit that providing clear, historically accurate answers to questions asked and accusations made is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Even determining what is being talked about is a complicated exercise.
This study is focused on that 'Speculative Freemasonry' practised by the 'United Grand Lodge of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales' which its advocates would argue has been a more-or-less natural progression from the formation by 4 apparently autonomous London lodges in 1717 of a Grand Lodge, which then proceeded to either invent or formalise a series of rituals, beliefs and organisational practices. These proved increasingly popular until today:
Freemasonry is unquestionably the largest, oldest and most influential of all secret societies.208
The same author has, however, struck a cautionary note:
Just about everything concerning Freemasonry is shrouded in mystery or in the even more impenetrable Nacht und Nebel of Masonic pietism. (Author's emphasis)
The essential story contained within all SF ritual is a search for knowledge, at once secret, and possibly unknowable. Sought for practical reasons as much as for reasons to do with spiritual enlightenment, 'the knowledge' takes on the characteristics a searcher projects on to it. As ineffable as a comforting 'light' or as theoretically substantial as the alchemist's gold, 'the knowledge' has, in practice, been measured more often in terms of a comradeship, a confidence in public speaking or in delivering ritual, and in 'knowing' that one's peers value one's contribution. The very flexibility, even ambiguity of the search and its goal - the Holy Grail/Enlightenment/Divine Grace - have proven sufficient to justify the continuing need for an administration tasked to do little more than to not-hinder the searchers. This complacency at the centre has, of course, proven double-edged.
Taking the SF ritual at face value can be a source of disillusion for the initiate. From the first undertakings made by an 'Entered Apprentice', secrets are revealed - a grip, a token and a word. In the third Craft Degree, 'he' is told that what secrets have been revealed thus far are not the real or 'genuine' secrets. Thus, he presses on into the Royal Arch, where he finally receives what has been construed as the lost word, the secret name of God, a termination which only deepens the mystery surrounding the unknowable-ness of 'the Supreme Architect' and invites the 21st century whinge, can this really be what all the fuss has been about?
One might expect the secrets to be about building - but while there is much talk of building in general, there is precious little mention of building practices. Rather, while the many interpretations of SF's origins and its need for this degree or that to be complete do not move SF far from the historically-real procedures of building, their intention is rather to place 'the builders' in close personal contact with profound human fears and possible experiential resolutions. For example, to get into the Royal Arch rite, as put by one author, one must be 'prepared' ie, one must have 'passed through the veils' between life and death.
This connection with a spiritual context does not weaken the 'operative origins' arguement, indeed if the operatives can be shown to have been seeking 'light' in their work, the conditions for SF are satisfied. Such an interpretation does add further levels of potential distraction. It does seem to this searcher that the rites and artefacts created by the mediaeval operatives in context demonstrate concern with the inevitably ineffable implications of their daily, physical work. It seems reasonable to conclude on the evidence that they spun allegories and developed ceremonial to give substance to what we might call an 'extra dimension', but which to them was nothing more than a set of lodge practices designed on the one hand to educate and on the other to ensure loyalty and solidarity.
It has been easy for the moral fables and symbolic allusions associated with operative masons to be trivialised as the unsophisticated expression of a perjoratively simple faith, or made part of an irrational and therefore ultimately historically useless tangle, involving the worlds of alchemy, magic and the occult. Some supporters of the 'spiritual operatives' approach, however, have argued that what SF took up in the 17th and 18th centuries was not a basis for expansion but rather a poor imitation of a genuine 'freemasonry' lost as the guilds and Companies declined, were suppressed or were turned to other purposes, and that since 1717 the grasp by even the most serious brethren of the 'real secrets' has been minimal.
Problems With SF Literature:
Books claiming to 'expose' SF were in circulation even before 1717 and the first inklings of an industry were apparent almost as soon as the 1717 Grand Lodge was established. A further wave of publications appeared in the last years of the 20th century, once more claiming to 'finally' reveal the truth about 'masonic secrets.' Modestly, the authors of The Hiram Key, for example, claim to have 'located the secret scrolls of Jesus and his followers' and that their findings are of major importance 'not only to Freemasons, but to the world in general.'209
Both initiated Freemasons, these authors say their research began when they concluded from 'the inside' that 'modern' Freemasonry was a waste of time. They dismiss in a single sentence the approach being explored here without, apparently, having looked at any of the detailed research material which preceded them:
We had easily decided that the stonemason theory of the origin of Freemasonry does not hold up under close examination for the simple reason that guilds of stonemasons did not exist in Britain.210
We will see that this claim is one of the more unfortunate 'leaps of logic'. The Knights Templar are a popular, replacement 'source' for such crusading authors. A later work by the same authors, The Second Messiah,211 claims to connect the Shroud of Turin, the Knights Templar and Scottish Freemasonry with the death of James, brother of Jesus, via the core symbolic ritual of Freemasonry, that of the murder and discovery of Hiram Abiff. Another effort, The Templar Revelation purports to connect Mary Magdalene, John the Apostle and the Knights Templar to Leonardo da Vinci.212 Robinson, another Freemason, in building his case for the Knights and 'the Lost Secrets of Freemasonry' argued that before 1717 Freemasonry was secret, and that the Knights were outlaws and refugees from Church and State. His evidence? One sample:
An Old Charge of Masonry says that if a brother comes to you, give him 'work' for two weeks, then give him some money and direct him to the next lodge. Why the assumption that he will need money? Because he is running and hiding.213
The tramping networks, whereby as a result of being 'impressed' or 'called' by the King, stone masons were perhaps the first to be paid travelling allowances, are apparently quite unknown to this author, a common but significant weakness in the SF literature.214
Across the range of 'expose' literature, which has concentrated on the 'phenomenology' of Freemasonry and why 'Masons irritate or alarm people', the many very real ways in which 'the Craft' has continuously affected and been affected by real history have been obscured - such as the presence of 'lodges' in British Public Schools and their role in the production of the men who then used their schoolday ritualism in taming and Britishing 'the colonies'.215
Northern hemisphere Freemasons have a long record of research into their own 'myths and legends', but have kept much of it to themselves. Their historiography has suffered modish fashions, too, and Freemasonry as a whole has sometimes queered its own pitch by 'encouraging' notions of a higher and grander status for itself than that of a mere 'benefit society'. Attempting to do this while not being able to provide a convincing historical context has proved life-threatening. Its opponents have built arguments on the elitist elements, but even concern for their recordable history has been turned against Freemasons by apparently sympathetic scholars:
The second paradox is this: Freemasonry has existed almost unchanged since the beginning of the eighteenth century, quietly defying history and the march of time, while simultaneously being more obsessed with its own history than any other institution in the world. From the start, the Craft ... has assiduously recorded its existence year by year, month by month, day by day, constantly defining its own past, while remaining almost unaffected by the history of mankind in general.216
Continued mis-interpretation and ill-founded attacks from frustrated but fascinated outsiders has gradually worn down the resolve and the insularity of the administrators of SF, who now find themselves forced to react because of declining numbers and influence. SF's decision-makers are today dealing more publically with at least the better-founded criticism than they once did.
For this observer, however, the persistent impression is that 'official' English-speaking SF has constructed an in-house version of its own 'true believer' and has attempted to contain issues within 'the Craft.' Akin to LH's central definitional problem, the major SF problem is one of identity and identification. Very simply, a collision of logic and ideology has made what distinguishes 'operative freemasonry' from 'Speculative Freemasonry' extremely difficult to determine. And while it is not acknowledged publically, evidence shows the amount of conflict within 'the Craft' over fundamental beliefs has been enormous.
Much of the difficulty stems from SF's failure to resolve its central dilemma - how and whether to choose between its apparently plebeian origins and its politically-useful patrician sensibilities. SF literature often gives the impression that the organisation is committed to the belief that it derived from operative stonemasons, but just as often directly undermines that committment or allows it to be undermined.
In the meantime, Yates, a keen-sighted 'outsider' researching the links between 'the Craft', the equally-misunderstood 'Order of the Rosy Cross' or Rosicrucians, and the Royal Society of Isaac Newton, et al, has concluded:
The origin of Freemasonry is one of the most debated, and debatable, subjects in the whole realm of historical enquiry.217
Another historian not usually quoted by Masonic researchers, Margaret Jacob, has asserted:
Much of what has been written on Freemasonry is worthless and every library is filled with non-scholarly literature on the subject.
There is simply no adequate account, in English, of the origins of European Freemasonry.218
The very well regarded 19th century SF scholar Gould, author of the muti-volumed History of Freemasonry asserted in 1890 to the London Research Lodge
that the Symbolism we possess has come down to us, in all its main features, from very early times, and that it originated during the splendour of Mediaeval Operative Masonry, and not in its decline.219
Elsewhere he wrote:
(The) direct...line of Masonic descent is traceable to the lodges of operative masons who flourished towards the close of the mediaeval period...220
By 'Symbolism' he meant the rites of association and their 'speculative' meanings. Perhaps this contribution has slipped into disuse because, rather than cultivate a vibrant, newly-emergent image of SF, it argues that speculative freemasonry was actually in decline in 1717 and that many elements of the artisinal ritual which were taken up by Grand Lodge were accepted in ignorance and that from that time understanding amongst the brethren of their own heritage has slipped even further.
Gould was a painstaking researcher, accustomed as a barrister to sift and weigh evidence. He considered masses of minor and obscure as well as public and highly significant documents, many of which most of us will never access. He was most carful in his analysis and not at all obsequious to SF tradition. He was aware of the social, economic and political contexts surrounding the events of which he was writing and aware, too, of the frailties and vanities of the human players. SF scholars today could do worse than return to his work and that of his contemporaries, and begin their debates anew.
Gould does not claim to have answered every question and neither do I regard his account as without major flaw. I am not in a position to argue out here the issues involved, and I make no claim to 'be on top of' all the relevant details but I make two points, both of which I would make about many of the authors who have come after him.
Firstly, Gould assumes that when 'gentry' and non-operative artisans began to enter the operative lodges and were 'made' speculative freemasons, they received the same secrets, practical or esoteric, that a contemporaneous operative mason would have received as he/she entered the lodge for the first time. From this assumption flows a second significant but equally erroneous assumption, that the ceremonial used by 'speculatives' in lodges they came to control was all of the ceremonial known to contemporaneous operatives.
Phrasing my initial doubts this way, of course, leads to the realisation that operative rites may well have altered in many respects at different places and/or times. Much of the debate within SF circles has been very simplistic: whether (all and every) operatives had one, two or three degrees and of what they consisted.
For the operative apprentice entering lodge as a novice, the Speculative concensus has been that the 'service' was very simple, probably only an oath, a reading to the candidate and a brief, catechetic examination. A second more practical examination, when the apprentice was out of 'his' time tested his suitability to become a 'fellow', has been agreed as likely, but strong argument has ensued over the liklihoood of a third, to make 'him' a Master of the trade. In SF after 1717, a third degree ritual was allegedly composed, in keeping with the embellished first and second degrees now known as 'Entered Apprentice' and 'Fellow Craft'.
I see no reason why operatives would necessarily disclose all, even much of their practical secrets or their esoteric secrets to 'strangers'. There would be no need for them to do so, and disclosure of any secrets would, as we shall see, be against the oath they had taken.
Much play has also been made of what's called the 'Old Charges' and other operative documents not providing information about ceremonial rites and 'secrets', again the concensus being that this proves the operatives had no such rites at the time the document was created. This seems very unsound reasoning.
Secondly, Gould had access to operative stonemasons as he was writing but appears to have made no attempt to approach or to appraise their activities. He does say that his concern was only with 'speculative' masonry, and that this distinction excused him from following certain lines of enquiry. This seems especially specious for a lawyer.
A school of SF researchers known as 'the Authentics' held sway within the ambit of the London-based UGL for most of the 20th century. They were committed, they said, to rigorous examination of documents and to a need to accept no more and no less than those documents provided. Heresay, romantic conjecture and fantasy were put aside, the need was for hard evidence. Even so, their debate has been, shall we say, studiously unproductive. Some have had absolutely no doubts that:
The trade secrets of the operative masons became the esoteric secrets of the speculative masons.221 (My emphasis)
Others have made crystal clear their belief that it was absurd on a number of levels to think that artisans had originated 'their' rituals:
The problem is one of credible history, a believable basis for thinking that an organisation of dusty stonecutters with scraped hands and knees, backs aching from struggling with heavy blocks of stone in all weather conditions, somehow turned into a noble company led by kings and princes, dukes and earls - not to mention that the entire process was accomplished in total secrecy.222
Such a vigorous dismissal almost hides the fact that Robinson and others like him evince no interest in understanding the world of 'dusty stonecutters'. The harsh conclusion intrudes that an approach to that material not only requires intellectual rigour and an overturning of personal, snobbish assumptions, but is less likely than wild speculations about the Knights Templar, the Shroud of Turin and some well-known personage such as Leonardo da Vinci, to produce a runaway best seller among the (mostly) ill-educated masses.223
Less extreme dismissals of the operatives have claimed that after 1717, the operatives' few basic notions, a simple rite or two, were embellished and extended into a grand, new creation. The very influential SF researcher, Professor of Economics Douglas Knoop, wrote in 1941 to the effect that 'fundamental changes in masonic working' were introduced after 1717 which ultimately transformed the whole chain of ceremonies.224 In 1978, he capped an extensive research and publishing program by issuing with his collaborator, GP Jones, incidentally another academic economist, The Genesis of Freemasonry, to oppose the lingering effects of 'mythical or imaginative' histories of SF with their own 'comparative and analytical' account. They argued that only towards the end of the 18th century did a major concern for symbolism appear within SF:
So long as lodges were mainly convivial societies, or institutions for discussing architecture and geometry, there could be little scope for symbolism. That would not arise until freemasonry had become primarily a system of morality.225
This belief is derived from, and used to strengthen their circular conclusion that operative masons never treated their working tools as allegorical.226 I believe this is unsound and note that in the face of their apparent certitude, Knoop and Jones insisted their conclusions were no more than 'tentative' working hypotheses and that even a 'comprehensive and universally true definition' of SF was not available to them.227
Carr and 'the Transition':
For the 1967 publication, Grand Lodge, 1717-1967, the United Grand Lodge of England assembled as 'official' an array of 'in-house' historians as was possible. The first section, 'Freemasonry Before Grand Lodge' by Harry Carr drew upon Unwin's Gilds and Companies of London, Trevelyan's English Social History and much in-house research to establish a schema for 'the transition', ie, the process whereby the speculative 'Craft' of Freemasonry evolved out of the operative 'craft' of (stone)masonry.[Note the use of caps]228
In his concluding paragraph Carr said:
Officially the story begins in 1717, but the seeds were sown in 1356 with the first code of mason regulations promulgated at Guildhall in London.229
But elsewhere he asserted: 'the Freemasonry of today bears no resemblance to the craft as it was in the 1300's', in effect that 'the Craft' bears no resemblance to 'the craft' which preceded it and gave it its essentials.
So, again we have problems of logic and problems of, what shall we call it, 'hubris', associated with an as-yet-unexplained, and certainly ambiguous distinction being asserted through the presence or the absence of capitalisation - eg, 'craft' vs 'Craft'; 'masonry' vs 'Masonry'.
The 'whole story in detail' is impossible to tell, says Carr, indeed what scholars have is little more than a collection of jigsaw pieces:
The essential foundations of the Craft are to be found, nevertheless, in England where its history actually begins with a study of the conditions...which led first to the evolution of mason trade organisation, and later gave rise to the early 'operative lodges.'(p.3)
Carr relates the development of gild organisation, initially the religious gilds, then the 'Gild Merchants' (Note the capitals again), then 'craft gilds' which, despite their lack of capitalisation achieved dominance over the others by 'the end of the fourteenth century':
Craft regulations were usually based on ancient customs that had long been in use in the trades and they were imposed by consent of the municipal authorities, whose sanction gave them the force of law. (p.5)
A 'craft gild' is defined by Carr as - '(an association) of men engaged in a particular craft or trade, for the protection of their mutual interests and for rights of self-government.'(p.4) 'Lodge' turns out to be far harder to define. In Carr's hands, the 'lodge' is first a workshop, a place to store tools and to rest. Then it becomes a term for the association of workers using this site. To be an 'operative lodge' it is required that the association of masons, bound together for their common good, 'share a secret mode of recognition to which they are sworn on admission.' (p.13) This level of organisation, he claims, was not achieved until the 16th century and at that stage the rites probably consisted only of 'an oath of fidelity and a reading of the Charges.'
Later, 'secret words and signes' were added, and perhaps by the end of the 17th century, when operative masonry was well into its decline and operative lodges were admitting more and more 'non-operatives', two degrees only were being 'worked' - that of the 'entered apprentice' and 'fellow craft or master'. Carr asserts that at this stage the ceremonies 'contain nothing that might be described as "speculative masonry"', thus implying that the bulk of what now distinguishes SF ritually and allegorically was developed by non-operatives after 1717. However, at the same time:
It is certain that the original ceremonies, however brief, had begun in the gilds and companies even before the advent of lodge organisation,...
It is probable that (a) nucleus of catechism and secrets was the basis of our masonic ritual throughout all the stages of operative, non-operative, and 'accepted' Masonry.
Although his account can be seen in the overall context of SF publications as moderate and probably an attempted compromise, Carr remains caught in a trap of his own making. Similarly to the Webbs, he wants the object towards which he is working to be the most finished form of an historically-legitimate evolutionary process, and to have benefitted from but to have shucked off all the unnecessary, 'primitive' beginings. His major problem is, as it is with SF as a whole, that there is sufficient evidence to show that the gilds were neither 'primitive' nor totally without 'speculative' beliefs. And as already pointed out there is no necessary connection between SF and operative freemasonry - any claimed, or dismissed connection, equally requiring proof.
It needs to be made clear here that the documents which supposedly provided operative rites to the non-operatives in the London Grand Lodge soon after 1717 were allegedly destroyed even before their 'adaptations' were made public.
In London in 1356, Carr says, 'twelve skilled masters' representing the two branches of stonemasonry, the 'hewers' and the 'layers or setters', were brought together by the municipal authorities to approve a code of regulations for the trade. Further evidence shows just 20 years later, the trade of mason is in the list of 47 'sufficient misteries' of the City, whereby 4 of their number served as delegates on the Common Council, 'sworn to give counsel for the common weal and "preserving for each mistery its reasonable customs."' He assays evidence of the functions carried out by this body and concludes that by 1481 its organisation included regulations for a distinct livery or uniform, annual assemblies, election of Wardens with power of search for false work, restrictions against outsiders, payment of quarterly contributions and the maintenance of a 'Common Box' - 'in fact all the machinery of management for an established craft gild.' Since he doesn't actually explore the options, there would appear to be an ideological perspective to his key distinction:
(There) is no evidence at this time of any kind of secrets, or degrees, or lodge, in connexion with the London Masons' Company.(p.7)
It would seem strange to Carr and his colleagues to find me commenting at this stage that no direct evidence, which is the sort of evidence he is referring to, exists of degrees, secret work or lodges 'in connexion with' any trade. My point is that operative stonemasonry was not different in kind so why expect that its practitioners would act differently to those of other occupations. But the point has also to do with the nature of secrecy. In a non-paper era especially, why would one expect secrets to be written down, let alone made available to the authorities? Carr agrees that craft gilds were already recognisably fraternal, and I therefore suggest it is hard to imagine them without trade secrets and/or without ranks of achievement. Carr would appear to have assumed the nature of 'masonic' secrecy from his understanding of SF not from an understanding of the stonemason's occupation.
In addition to secrecy, SF, like LH, has a need to see itself as democratic in the modern sense, there is therefore a need to massage real-time history with regard to governance. Carr went on:
Apart from London, far the best evidence in Britain for mason gild organisation comes from Edinburgh, and the records there are doubly important because they also furnish valuable confirmation as to the manner in which the operative lodges arose.(p.8)
It seems the gild system in Edinburgh began in the 1400's when the craft organisations called 'Incorporations' were granted powers of self-government under 'Seals of Cause'. The 'Masons and Wrights' petitioning together received such a document in 1475. Carr comments:
As in London, the authorities encouraged this type of organisation, and by the end of the fifteenth century practically all the Edinburgh crafts were similarly incorporated...These regulations, like the London Masons' ordnances of 1356 which they closely resemble in several points, were drawn up by the crafts themselves and they indicate...the condition of the mason craft in Edinburgh at that time. (p.9)
According to our author 'the lodge' appears in the city after this point:
It is certain [!] that at some time between 1475 and 1598 the passing of EA's [Entered Apprentices] to the grade of FC [Fellow Craftsman] was transferred from the Incorporation to the Lodge.
So, 'operative lodges' appeared in the towns and cities by the end of the 16th century, their functions including - regulating the entry of apprentices, the passing of fellows, the settlement of disputes, the prevention of enticement, the punishment of offenders, and the protection of the trades from the intrusion of untrained or itinerant labour, ie all 'internal arrangements.'
He then has to admit that evidence exists for 'some sort of lodge development long before that time'. This takes us outside the city limits. Documents from the 13th century refer to a 'lodge' as the common space for masons on a building site, eg a cathedral, where, again I interpolate, it would seem difficult to imagine a totally non-speculative climate:
At York Minster in 1370 a strict code of ordinances for masons was drawn up by the Chapter, regulating times and hours of work and refreshment;...(penalties for breaches)..The men were forbidden to go more than a mile from the 'lodge' in their free time; new men were to work a week a more on trial and if they were found 'sufficient' by the Master of Works and the Master Mason they were sworn 'upon the book' to adhere to the rules. Throughout this document the word 'lodge' refers primarily to the masons' workshop, but it was also their home, refectory and 'clubroom'. [My emphasis]
Carr has used capitalisation to build a sense of uniqueness for SF. Now, we find that the lodges occupied by these groups of 'attached masons' on building sites outside city limits were 'ephemeral' and the brethren were 'wholly under the control of the authorities whom they served'. They are therefore not proper 'operative lodges':
...the 'operative lodge' in its third and highest stage of development was a permanent institution and the word 'lodge' in this case is used to describe the working masons of a particular town or district organised to regulate the affairs of their trade...We call them 'operative lodges' because their activities were concerned only with men who earned their livlihood in some branch of the mason craft, or building trade.(p.12)
All of which makes me wonder if Carr has been reading the Webbs. It also seems he believes that social, religious or benevolent activities do not mark 'proper' lodges because where those exist no evidence has been found indicating concern with trade regulation matters. This would seem an inadequate reading of the evidence, but in general terms, Carr, like many SF authors, assumes that any absence of evidence for some point is proof for its opposite, at least as long as that assumption helps in his vigorous pursuit of the conclusion he had in mind before he began.
In the case of the 'Old Charges', manuscripts, often fragmentary, which date from 1390, he is dismissive of any suggestion of mediaeval mason assemblies because that would undermine Grand Lodge's claim that 1717 was the first. And so on. He says that 'no internal records' of the lodges of the apparently non-gild 'attached masons' have survived but he can still make the jump from documents setting out their conditions of employment - 'where the industrial life of the masons was fully controlled in the interests of the employers', which is of course arguable in itself - to:
there was a noticeable absence of organisation among themselves, both in trade matters and in social or benevolent activities...(p.11)
So, the gilds of 'town' masons had no degrees, secrets, etc, and the lodges of 'attached masons', outside the town, had no municipal organisation or control and no social or benevolent activities, and both were therefore incomplete.
His analysis of what are called the 'Old Charges' seems to this reader to contain arbitrary and a-historical distinctions, all in the name of setting up a highly-fanciful image of 'something-that-is-to-come.'230 The 'Old Charges' are a series of 120 documents which, in Carr's words are '(a) major source of evidence on the development of mason craft organisation in England.' Carr says that 'their general pattern...is the same' and that each consists of two parts - firstly, a 'largely traditional history of the mason craft' and secondly, 'a code of regulations for masters, fellows, (ie qualified craftsmen) and apprentices.' The texts usually contain, he says, vague arrangements for 'large-scale assemblies' of masons 'implying a widespread territorial organisation', arrangements he dismisses by going on to say there is no evidence to show that any assemblies ever took place.
This is of course where he ought to have begun, with a close analysis of these documents, allowing them to lead him rather than the other way around, particularly in the light of an amazing admission buried in description of the 'largely traditional history':
It is probable that this 'history' was compiled in order to provide a kind of traditional background for long-standing craft customs that were embodied in these texts.
Any 'long-standing craft customs' written about, fancifully or not from 1390 on, are exactly the sorts of evidence required to make sense of this 'transition' experience. His unnecessarily restricted conclusion is the correct one, but he makes nothing of it:
(there) was one peculiarity which distinguished the lodges from the craft gilds or companies. The masons of the lodge shared a secret mode of 'recognition', which was communicated to them in the course of some sort of brief admission ceremony, under an oath of secrecy...From now on, unless there is some special qualifying note in the text, the word 'lodge' will be defined as an association of masons (operative or otherwise) who are bound together for their common good, and who share a secret mode of recognition to which they are sworn on admission. [Carr's emphasis]
The regulations contained in the Charges were addressed separately to 'masters' and 'fellows', he agrees, and many are normal craft regulations. Where they relate to apprentices they are usually identical with other indenture statements:
Despite these similarities, however, it is important to stress that the regulations in the MS Constitutions [the 'Old Charges'] are not gild ordnances, because they lack certain features which were an essential feature of all such codes...(evidence of elections of officers, annual assemblies and municipal sanction)..One other (distinguishing) feature is the inclusion of a number of items which were not trade matters..but designed to preserve and elevate the moral character of the craftsmen. It is this extraordinary combination of 'history', trade and moral regulations which makes these early masonic manuscripts unique among contemporary craft documents. (p.14) [My emphasis]
Carr has made no reference to, let alone done any analysis of other craft regulations, and he has repeatedly admitted the partial nature of his 'pieces of jig-saw'. Yet he makes statements of ringing certainty. His attitude has been helped by his predecessors having arbitrarily removed from the pile of relevant evidence hard facts difficult to massage in the necessary direction.
One such example concerns the records of a guild of stonemasons at Lincoln founded on the Feast of Pentecost, 1319. Knoop and Jones insisted that it 'had become [!] merely [!] a social [!] and religious fraternity' by 1389 while another SF scholar Vibert 'refers to it as a religious fraternity among the masons', all of which is about refusing it status as a 'craft' or trade-based guild, whereby its obvious possession of both a trade-orientation and symbolic sensitivities can be disregarded. A second intention is a discounting of this guild's insistence on referring in its documents to both 'fratres' ['brother'] and 'sorores' ['sister'].231 As in:
Every brother or sister on entering the gild shall pay four shillings or one quarter of best barley at the three terms of the year, and four pence, namely one to the deacon, one to the clerk and two to the ale.
All cementarii [stonemasons] of this gild shall agree that any cementarius who takes an apprentice shall give 40 pence to the maintaining of the candle, and if he be unwilling to give, the amount shall be doubled.232
Carr's selectivity catches him out eventually when he makes the statement that 'most important of all' the points which are 'the strongest possible evidence' showing that these MS Constitutions were 'not designed for the craftsmen in the towns' is their common:
injunction to cherish travelling masons and 'refresh them with money to the next lodge',(p.16)
in other words the existence of 'tramping networks'. He sees these only as 'a kind of hostel and "labour exchange" for workers outside the city limits. We will see that in context they are a key, positive part of the fraternal 'jig-saw', in or outside the city walls.
Sufficient evidence exists to also counter the arguement that the cathedral-building masons did not stay long enough in one place in mediaeval times to have equally strong 'trade' organisation to those in other occupations. The Fabric Rolls of York Minster, Chapter Act Books of the Cathedral Chapter and the city's Freemen Rolls have convinced at least some SF researchers that
from the middle of the fourteenth century, if not earlier, there is evidence of a well-established system or order amongst the masons at the Minster, most of whom were employed by the Chapter year after year if not permanently...(It) is possible to see...a well-developed system of Master, Wardens and Master Masons, but even more significantly something which may surely be regarded as approaching an initiation ceremony.
The Statute of Labourers in 1360 distinguished 'Master masons of freestone, or Masons called Freemasons' from 'masons called layers' and Exchequer Accounts for Westminster of 1532 show gradations in the ranks of masons from those working with stone, below them those working at setting of stone, then successively roughlayers and wallers, then hardhewers, who worked chiefly at the quarries, and lowest of all, entaylers, who were more assistants or guardians.233
Carr used the internal lodge records of St Mary's Chapel Lodge, Edinburgh which run from 1539, to illustrate that subsequent, important changes in 'masonry' resulted from economic pressures. After 1671 when disastrous fires made it necessary for as many 'masters' to be available as possible, certain 'entered apprentices' who were reluctant for financial reasons to move to the next level, were heavily pressured by the municipal authorities into 'passing'. This totally broke with the custom of 'passing' or 'making' being dependent on a candidate being able to prove his or her competence by completing a set task:
>From this time, the 1680's, we date a gradual change in the character of the Lodge from a 'closed-shop' association of skilled craftsmen to a trade association of 'members', ie a society in which actual numbers and Lodge income were to become more important than technical skill. (p.37)
Migrant or 'forrin' labour was able to get work more easily, and new Lodges were opened within the area where previously St Mary's Chapel had been the controlling authority, Carr commenting - 'No operative lodge could function properly if it had a rival on its own doorstep.'
From this time Lodge interests were less trade-oriented and more benevolent and financial, in Carr's terms - 'The Lodge was acquiring some of the characteristics of a benefit society.' An interesting admission but another major error. Again he seems to have misjudged the nature of the earlier forms of organisation.
After 1700 St Mary's could not even control its own journeymen, some using the courts to win the right to form their own Lodge, and to confer 'the Mason Word', the ultimate secret. In 1726, several members won an internal dispute to force the admission of several non-masons who wished to join and to contribute funds. What then quickly became a totally 'speculative' Lodge, ie non-operative, issued its first By-laws in 1736 containing not one regulation concerned with the trade. (p.38)
A complementary address Carr made to the major SF Research Lodge AQC 234 continued this vein. Although central to his research Carr, like Gould, seems totally uninterested in the function of ritual in operative lodges, the involvement of secrecy or of status marks in such ritual or the purpose of the surviving moral tales and legends.
Facing Up At Last?
The 1991 edition of a popular history of SF, first published in 1953 and since then revised and re-published many times maintained:
Up to the present time, no even plausible theory of the 'origin' of the freemasons has been put forward.235
This is a remarkable statement and stretches the whole organisations' credibility to breaking point. The two authors, both well-respected Masons, don't improve the situation by following the above sentence with:
The reason for this is probably that the Craft, as we know it, originated among the operative masons of Britain.
They proceed to bury on page 246, two brief paragraphs on 'The Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisterers and Bricklayers' in whose history one imagines a 'plausible theory' could be sought. Indeed, Pick and Knight begin these two paragraphs with the bald statement:
This society is popularly known as 'The Operatives' because it preserves the old operative rituals in its ceremonies.
Not, notice, 'because it is believed that' or 'its members believe that' but simply 'because it preserves the old operative rituals.' Perhaps I'm missing something, not being an SF but I would have thought that possession of 'the old operative rituals' would, in itself, be sufficient evidence to resolve the major issue once and for all. Any doubts that exist could be addressed very easily through seriously conducted comparative tests.236 I return to this shortly.
Some mainstream Freemason researchers moved in the 1990's to break out of the impasse. Markham, author of the prestigious 1997 Prestonian Lecture, 'Some Problems of English Masonic History' joined brethren urging that 'the Craft' engage with outside historians for 'despite its very interesting historical character, Freemasonry has never been understood by non-masonic historians as part of general history.'237 He was most concerned with the damage done by anti-Masonry attacks published and circulated over the years, but he acknowledged that not all Masonic 'histories' had been useful:
There have been many theories of (the) origin of Freemasonry (some logically argued, and others eccentric in the extreme). A general approach has been to take a preconceived theory and try to make it fit with the various surviving divergent fragments of evidence of early masonic history; and there has been a general lack of success.238
In sadness, not anger, I note that in 1890 Gould had made plain to his colleagues in SF research his opinion that:
(The) domain of Ancient, as distinguished from that of Modern Masonry, has been very strangely neglected, and that if we really wish to enlist the sympathy and interest of scholars and men of intelligence, in the special labours of the [Research] Lodge, we must make a least a resolute attempt to partially lift the veil, by which the earlier history of our Art or Science is obscured.239
In order that his meaning would be totally clear to all, he spelt out that:
(By) the expression 'Ancient Masonry' is to be understood the history of the Craft before, and by that of 'Modern Masonry' the history of the Craft after the era of Grand Lodges. The line of demarcation between them being drawn at the year 1717.
Apparently making a break, academic and SF Prescott announced in 2000 the establishment of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at Sheffield University, to 'encourage and undertake objective scholarly research into the social and cultural impact of freemasonry' [NB lack of a capital - emphasis mine] Prescott said he and his colleagues at the Centre took as their intellectual manifesto an article by Oxford historian Roberts published in 1969 where could be found:
It is surprising that in the country which gave freemasonry [no cap] to the world it has attracted hardly any interest from the professional historian...The result has been at best faithful reproduction of traditional hagiography and at worst lunatic speculation. 240
Markham acknowledged the use of secrecy by lodges was a contributor to the situation he was addressing and that in Ireland especially, ritual and rules were simply not committed to paper until late in the 18th century.241 He made clear that the later the ritual the more likely it was to occupy a greater number of words, but that on a number of significant occasions attempts were made to get back to an earlier, simpler version, what was known in continental Europe as the 'English' rite:
(the) French were not content with limiting the movement to the supposed moral customs, secrets and ritual of stonemasons, and soon related it also to ideals of knighthood...When, in the late 18th century, particularly in Germany, excesses arose in the attempted development of Masonry and its rituals, including attempts to use them for commercial gain, it was to the pure ideals of 'English Masonry' that a return was sought.242
Curiously, this 'English' rite almost certainly owed its survival to the committment of Irish masons who were responsible for what is now called the 'Antient' form, which Markham believed research has shown, was of mediaeval origin.243 Whether this made these 'masons' both speculative and operative at the same time is the $64 question, and one I can't answer at the moment.
The 'Antients' were a group of lodges, whose 'history' is not clear, unhappy with changes introduced after 1717, on the basis of their claimed knowledge of the earlier rites. Many of them aligned with a Grand Lodge at York until 'the Union' of 1813, when what I would call a 'revised' SF incorporated sufficient 'Antient' material for that 'faction' to agree to a merger with the London-based Grand Lodge, the 'Moderns.'
Although it is likely, therefore, that basic, 'Craft' SF ritual today is closer to that of the mediaeval operative stonemasons than it was for the period 1723 to 1813, an outcome impacting on the Webbs' interpretation of labour history, this is not the whole story.
The Mediaeval Gilds, Tramping Networks and Operative Trades:
'Operative' derives from the latin 'operarii' for 'handicraftsman', while the original 'lodges', first referred to in England around AD1200, were site buildings for workmen to eat in, keep their tools in and for the conduct of their fraternal business.244 There is little doubt that the name 'free-mason' existed for a particular kind of operative stonemason, viz, one who worked with 'free stone' said to be favoured for figure carving, while others worked with 'rough' stone and were 'rough masons'.245 But the notion of a 'free' man able to practice a craft only because 'he' had attained 'his' free status was also common.
In general, it is believed that an artisan became 'free' to the trade when 'he' (usually but not always male) achieved 'master' status, which meant 'he' had passed through the intermediate 'degrees' and had completed a 'master piece.' The craft gild commonly comprised three classes of members - the masters, the journeymen and the apprentices, matching exactly the 3 'Craft' degrees of 'evolved' SF. The levels or degrees were not arbitrary. Cipola has observed:
Class and group conflicts played a fundamental part in determining who could and who could not form a guild...Within the guilds, a definite order of precedence faithfully reflected the distribution of power.
This Italian scholar acknowledged the range of functions guilds carried out but had no illusions about their political role:
All these functions should not be underestimated. But neither should one underestimate the fact that one of the fundamental aims of all guilds was to regulate and reduce competition among their own members...(In) any study of the level and structure of employment and wages in centuries preceding the eighteenth, guilds' actions must of necessity occupy a position of the first importance.246
Lipson came to the same conclusion:
Although wages and prices were often regulated by the municipality and subsequently by the state, the assessment of wages and the fixing of prices were also a common feature of gild activity.247
The SF 'in-house' literature seems most at error when it diminishes the 'benefit society' functions of mediaeval fraternalism. Lipson used these functions of the craft gild's natural enemy, the trading class, to make the observation:
Apart from its control of trade, the merchant gild served other functions which exhibit in a strong light the core of fraternalism inherent in the gild system.248
Lipson noted, as just one craft example among many, that after 1487 poor members of the Carpenters' Brotherhood were to have weekly: 'A reward of the common box of the craft after the discretion of the masters and wardens.' Earlier, in 1333, the carpenters had instituted a provision that
if any brother or sister fall into poverty by God's hand or in sickness...so that he may not keep himself, then shall he have of the brotherhood each week fourteenpence during this poverty, after he hath lain sick a fortnight.249
During his poverty the unfortunate brother was also to receive the livery clothing at the common cost, in order that he might not be put to shame in the presence of the guild assembly. Lipson quotes similar arrangements amongst the 'Taylors', the grocers, the white tawyers, the barber surgeons, the tanners, goldsmiths, weavers, etc, etc. This was no system of welfare without strings:
It was a common stipulation, therefore, that any one admitted to the gild should take oath to keep the ordnances of the craft, and disobedience would thus expose the offender to penalties in spiritual courts.250 [My emphasis]
(In) the effort to provide a fair remuneration for the worker and to reconcile the conflicting claims of producer and consumer,...principles of industrial control and conceptions of wages and prices (were developed by the mediaeval craft gilds) to which we may perhaps one day return.251
Where argumentation between scholars continues over, for example, whether the qualifier 'craft' in front of 'gild' is necessary, at what date it becomes necessary to distinguish artisinal from 'merchant' guilds, and what qualification it actually introduces, differences often seem semantically-based. When it is possible to bring a range of resources to bear, some long-standing positions would seem untenable. The distinctions drawn earlier between town craft organisation and lodges outside town limits would appear to be unrealistic, as would the treatment of stonemasonry, or 'the building trades' as unique.
Ladders of 'degrees' have been dated to before the 10th century eg, seven ecclesiastical degrees from 'ostiary' up to that of bishop.252 In addition to acknowledgement as a 'made' apprentice, and as being 'free' on the trade, specific 'degrees' of skill and status were needed for attainment of the rank of 'master carpenter', 'master fishmonger', 'master felt-maker', and so on.253 SF researcher Speth has studied guilds or Companies of Free Carmen, Free Fishermen, Free Dredgers, Free Fishers, Free Watermen, Free Vintners, etc,254 and SF author (Bernard) Jones has commented:
many a craft that had been a 'mistery' to start with had become...a code or a system of mysteries and secrets, which everybody seeking to join it had solemnly to swear to keep inviolate...fraternities besides the masons had Deacons and Masters and Box Masters..And the Mason's mystery was not alone in veiling its moralisings in allegory and illustrating them with symbols drawn from its own craft.255
Gould noted that 'master-pieces' were required from 'Framework Knitters' as well as from masons256 Nevertheless, he, in particular, was anxious to deprecate suggestions that other crafts than the masons had their secret modes of recognition. It seems to me that one term he uses, 'squaremen', was obviously intended to cover trades which had the square as a working tool, and as later scholars have concluded, he seems wrong to deny that such craftsmen were on the same trajectory as stonemasons.257
Involvement of 'gentry' directly in a lodge or group of lodges, whatever the person's interest in or knowledge of building with stone, was likely at different times for different reasons.258 In other words, it's easy to see that the SF 'transition' involving 'speculatives' was no new or unique organisational device. After Edward III reconstituted and legitimated the trading fraternities by recognising their distinctive liveries259 and providing them with charters or letters patent, the King himself led a rush of non-operatives to join. Presumably meaning he was initiated in a mock-up manner, and given access to some ersatz secrets, it is recorded that he 'became' a Linen-Armourer. His successor Richard II became a brother of the same company and
the great, both clergy and laity, as well as principal citizens, dazzled with the splendour of such associates, hastened in both reigns to be enrolled as tradesmen in the fraternities.260
The records also remind us that a 'writer, politician or solicitor was (often) a member of the Needleworkers Company',
Daniel Defoe was a Butcher, Samuel Pepys a Clothworker, Dick Whittington a Mercer and William 111 a Grocer... while Her Majesty the (current) Queen is associated with the Drapers Company, and HRH the Prince of Wales with the Fishmongers.261
We are told that the Lodge of Free Gardeners at Haddington in Scotland had, from their Incorporation in 1676, accepted the admission of non-gardeners 'at a premium.'262
Haddington, for example, was a Scottish rural town with representatives of all the usual trades and crafts, nine of which, during the 16th and 17th centuries, sought, 'in common with their counterparts in other towns', official recognition as Incorporations from the Haddington Burgh Council in the form of a 'Seal of Cause' or 'Charter':
For such a relatively small Burgh it is perhaps surprising that no less than nine trades and crafts obtained Incorporation status...85%-95% of Scotland's population lived outside of the Burgh's at this time. The Gardeners, therefore, (who lived outside the Burgh) organised themselves as best they could and their ('Interjunctions for ye Fraternitie of the Gairdners of East Lothian') of 1676 suggests that they modelled their organisation on similar lines to other trades.263
Exploring even less usual territory, Le Roy Ladurie wrote of the nomadic sheep herders of (French) Montaillou:
Sometimes for a few seasons, when favoured by good fortune and well rewarded for his labours, Pierre Maury managed to be his own boss. He would then use various techniques: fraternal mutual aid, the hiring of paid shepherds or association with another employer...264
Elsewhere he referred to the 'total brotherhood between friends unlinked by blood' which was central to Occitan culture and which was 'institutionalized in the ritual forms of fraternity' recorded from the beginning of the 14th century.265
The idea of a fraternally-organised nomadic occupation is most intriguing, as the combination of travelling and brotherhood appears in a number of guises in this story. Already referred to is 'the search' at the heart of the chivalric tradition:
The legends of chivalry are the veiled alllegories of the eternal search for spiritual truth in a world of natural realities.
Brydon collected up the worlds of 'bards, troubadors, meistersingers and strolling gypsy players' to spread the net of his generalisation to cover townspeople who might never have left their walled security:
Having spent many years in the study of the old Artisan Guilds, Fraternities and Mystical Associations of Europe, it has always appeared to me that at the heart of these institutions, there lay a ritual symbolism involving a search for something remote, hidden or lost.266
The place of symbolic searching is clear enough in the SF rituals, while actual tramping networks would appear to provide a map of the links between the 'ancient craft organisation' and both speculative freemasonry and the 'modern' labour movement.267 The Webbs observed 'the inevitable passage of (a) far-extending tramping society into a national Trade Union', but gave the phenomenon only limited significance,268 as did Hobsbawm.269
Beginning his corrective, Leeson quoted a 14th century rule of the fullers of Lincoln:
If a stranger to the city comes in, he may upon giving a penny to the wax, work among the bretheren and sisteren and his name shall be written on their roll.270
The 'wax' was for a candle to be lit to the trade's saint. A century and a half later, among the shoemakers of Norwich, the 'stranger' was still charged a penny. A 'stranger' was someone not born within the town or village; he might also be called a 'forren', someone 'from outside', an 'uplander' or an 'alien.' Rules for the entertainment of the stranger varied according to trade, place and circumstances. Tilers who came to Lincoln were told simply: 'Join the gild or leave the city.' Hatters coming to London were quizzed about any debts they might have left in their last employ and coppersmiths admitted strangers who promised to abide by the rules, which included paying into the common fund to care for the 'poor' or unemployed of the craft.
Leeson drew the links between the tramping networks and the constant struggles within trades for control over hours and conditions of employment, including the 'right to search', ie, to look for and confiscate unauthorised work, and over the number of 'masters'.271 The tramping system was more than just an ever-present safety-valve. It was a defining part of the context whether the movement of tradespeople around the country resulted from a need for work, for relief from poverty or to escape unwelcome attentions from the authorities. Linking 'inns of call' where the lodge brothers welcomed, checked and sent on if necessary the tramping 'stranger', the network ultimately became the basis of 'modern' benefit society organisation. Prior to that the 'tramp' card or 'ticket' and the benefits it provided were integral parts of an evolving code of mutuality based on working people's living circumstances.
In 1995 an SF scholar advanced an 'origins' theory based on later versions of these same networks:
In 17th century England, where political and religious factors, as well as outright villainy, might spell danger for a traveller in a strange place, anything which could guarantee him a safe lodging and freedom from betrayal to enemies or rogues would be a great boon. That was precisely what the operative masons could offer to (non-operatives) possessed of their recognition secrets..272
What in mediaeval times were known as 'pilgrims' were a major reason for the English mediaeval 'hospice' being established in certain towns and in certain locations within those towns.273 Ludlow, categorisable as an historian of 'friendly societies' and arguing in 1872 that sufficient vestiges of the 'thousands of fraternities' existing in the 14th century survived to provide a transition to modern 'friendly societies'274, agreed the 'charity' of these 'mutual aid societies' during this 'first European industrial revolution' helped to finance hospitals and chapels as well as the splendid cathedrals.275 The Crusaders were 'wandering brothers', their routes to Jerusalem and back home 'tramping networks'. This material provides much-argued connections between the Crusade's Templar Orders and 'modern' SF, while less controversially, one historian has emphasised the fraternal societies' pageants and banquets along with their charity work:
Among the latter were almshouses, free schools, hospitals, scholarships, lectureships, (and) fellowships.276
'Tramping' was not an exception, an aberration. It was part of an integrated world of gild-activities. Howell summarised the objects of 11th century guilds as 'the support and nursing of the infirm guild-brothers, the burial of the dead, the performance of religious services and the saying of prayers for their souls.' The requirements of a common meal before the annual celebration of 'their' patron saint and alms for the poor were set out, along with 'mutual care of the brothers...by money contributions in case of death, in support of those who went on a journey and of those who suffered loss by fire.' An oath sworn on 'their' saint's relics affirmed 'faithful brotherhood towards each other, not only in religious matters but in secular matters also.' Howell concluded:
To effect these objects a complete organisation existed, and a system of regulations was framed for the purpose of carrying them out...The essence of the manifold regulations in these three guild-statutes appears to have been the brotherly banding together, into close unions, of man and man, sometimes even established on and fortified by an oath, for the purpose of mutual help and support. This essential characteristic is found in all the guilds of every age from those first known to us...to their descendants of the present day, the modern trade unions.277 [My emphasis]
As towns grew in size, new trades and increasing numbers of 'foreigners' threatened to overwhelm the local men, a situation which had to be regulated, most obviously through the numbers allowed to work each craft. Thus, over time, what I will generalise as 'lodge' processes, integrating religious ceremonial with business affairs, had to be made increasingly formal and concerned with disciplined adherence to custom:
The life and soul of the craft-guild was its meetings, which brought all the guild-brothers together every week, month or quarter. For the sake of greater solemnity, these were opened with certain ceremonies; the craft-box, containing the charters of the guild, the statutes, the money, and other valuable articles, having several locks, the keys of which were kept by different officers, was opened on such occasions with much solemnity, all present having to uncover their heads.278
Howell, as did Brentano279, took the time to look at the results provided by a range of specialist researchers. Beside others already referred to, such as Unwin280, serious guild historians whose work rarely appears in SF or LH writing include Eden, Herbert281, Thrupp282, and William Kahl283. Howell might have gone on paraphrasing Brentano's account:
These meetings possessed all the rights which they themselves had not chosen to delegate. They elected the Presidents (originally called Aldermen, afterwards Masters and Wardens).284
Regular, periodic payments were a late development but the moral character of an artisan was a paramount consideration at all times:
The admission of an apprentice was an act of special solemnity corresponding to the important legal consequences it involved. As it was the begining of a kind of Novitiate to citizenship, it generally took place in the Town Hall, in the presence of town authorities, or in solemn meeting of the Craft-Gild...At the expiration of his apprenticeship the lad (then a man) was received into the Gild again with special forms and solemnities, and became thereby a citizen of the town.
Brentano's perspective, as did Cipolla's, encompassed mainland European countries such as France and Germany, information from which sources have been almost entirely dismissed by British SF scholars on what appear to be unreasonable grounds.
In particular, Brentano's approach included much useful detail on the role of inns and innkeepers, of 'travelling payments' and 'travelling networks':
Every Gild and every journeyman's fraternity kept a 'black list'. In this, as well as in the testimonials of travelling journeymen, the names of the reviled were entered, so that the warning against them spread throughout the whole country.285
Disputes when they occurred, were rarely about wages as such, they were about status, privileges and customs, as these embodied payments, demarcation markers, and the like. It was not surprising that when machinery, cross-border trade and entrepreneurial negotiations began to appear that workmen and many employers fought their own trade's Company to have 'the old ways' upheld and sought assistance from municipal authorities, in the first instance, then the law courts.
A number of authors refer to the work of yet-another comparatively unknown author, Toulmin Smith, who collected and annotated over 500 gild-statutes produced in the English Parliament in the years 1388-9 in response to two writs - one addresed to 'The Masters and Wardens of all Gilds and Brotherhoods', the other to 'The Masters and Wardens and Overlookers of all the Mysteries and Crafts.' Ludlow's conclusion was that the available evidence showed conclusively that the gilds of the 14th century 'under forms to a great extent religious' could fulfil the purposes
on the one hand of a modern friendly society, in providing for sickness, old age and burial; on the other hand of a modern trade society, by rules tending to fix the hours of labour and to regulate competition, combined with such friendly purposes as before mentioned.286 (My emphasis)
No doubt there were many deviations from the principle but in theory oaths of secrecy about anything that occurred in 'lodge' were required of apprentices, and master masons are known to have sworn not to pass on 'trade secrets' to their assistants. In 1355 in York the 'Orders for Masons and Workmen' began with:
The first and second masons of the same, and the carpenters, shall make oath that they cause the ancient customs underwritten to be faithfully observed.287
Magic, Technology and Class War
Keith Thomas has charted some of the street level reasons for the 'declining appeal of the magical solution' from the 16th century in northern Europe, such as rising levels of health and material welfare, the beginnings of newspapers, advertisements, fire fighting, deposit banking and trade or life insurance, in other words practical and this-worldly provisions against hazards and misfortune. In doing so he observed:
We are therefore forced to the conclusion that men emancipated themselves from these magical beliefs without necessarily having devised any effective technology with which to replace them...But the ultimate origins of this faith in unaided human capacity remain mysterious...The most plausible explanation seems to be that their (the Lollards, 'early heretics') spirit of sturdy self-help reflected that of their occupations...In the fifteenth century most of them were artisans - carpenters, blacksmiths, cobblers, and, above all textile workers...Their trades made them aware that success or failure depended upon their unaided efforts, and they despised the substitute consolations of magic.288
The 'spirit of sturdy self-help' would not appear to be sufficient explanation. Islamic scholars 500 years and more before had sought the 'ancient wisdom' of Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras, had copied and distributed texts Christendom still regarded as heathenish outpourings. Generations of Muslims had then argued over the ideas and had innovated pragmatic solutions to their more local problems, setting in train the rationalist revolution which ultimately penetrated Western Europe. Did the guilds 'begin' in the 'Middle East'? Probably not, but Gothic Cathedrals and stonemasonry did. Why would the symbolic and the ritual context of what became 'The Craft', the building and destruction of Solomon's Temple, the loss, the search for and the location of the secret knowledge, not arrive with the practical skills of stone building?
The erosion of European mediaeval magical beliefs was seen to be necessary in practice precisely because of the prevalence of dangerous or impractical 'charms and magical observances' in a range of crafts and manufacturing techniques, for instance, the spinning and weaving of cloth:
In the early industrial period the mining industry generated a host of semi-magical practices..(such as 'knockers', taboos against whistling underground, and divining rods)..The building industry similarly gave rise to a mystic fraternity...non-operative Freemasonry..
The shift in emphasis was not swift nor ever comprehensive and the assistance of God became more valuable rather than less in the new religion. But a greater space for individual expression was opening up, where, ultimately, even the most devoted practitioners of mutual aid would lose sight of the need for mutual responsibility.
The efficient, ruthless or astute master craftsmen, rising in the social scale, took 'their' organisation with them, since they were the most powerful. This left a gap for renewed 'industrial' organisation and militance by those left behind, the small masters and journeymen.289 Protection of the trade Court was sought by older members of Companies from the inevitable worker combinations:
By (their) judgments, unruly apprentices were whipped, journeymen on strike were imprisoned and masters offending against regulations were fined. Members were forbidden to carry trade disputes before any other court, unless the court of their Companies had first been appealed to in vain.290
Increasing conflict between the parties was bound to flow into struggle for an impartial 'umpire.' The records show working people insisting over and over again that long-established custom and procedure, codified in legislation, be followed, their opponents insisting that changed times required changed, 'modern' procedures. The location of decision-making power over work and its context was in fact slowly shifting into the hands of increasingly powerful, law-oriented elites opposed to the idea that control of the product of a work unit be in the hands of that unit.
Unwin's broad and detailed consideration of guilds291 sought to understand the evolution, not of magic, but of organisation and 'the transformation of social forces into political forces.' He believed there was nothing new about the 'modern.'292 His analysis of the fraternal associations led him to believe they constituted the driving force behind centuries of political change293:
The political liberty of Western Europe has been secured by the building up of a system of voluntary organisations, strong enough to control the State, and yet flexible enough to be constantly remoulded by the free forces of change. It is hardly too much to say that the foundations of this system were laid in the gild.294
During Edward III's reign a special Statute was passed to solve a labour shortage but it proved a failure and savagely repressive laws prohibiting the movement of artisans provoked the Peasants' Rebellion of 1361. Subsequently, wages and conditions drifted, for a time, in favour of the employee. The 1568 Elizabethan 'Statute of Apprentices' (5 Eliz c.4) transferred jurisdiction over apprentices and journeymen to Justices of the Peace.295 We can agree with Howell's argument about 19th century labour-capital conflicts that this legislation was not a break but the key link between the previous 500 years and the subsequent 300 years:
The regulations in the statute of apprentices...codified the orders or ordinances existing for centuries among the craft-guilds, and applied them to all the trades of the time.296
Here the key shift was to make magistrates the arbitrators in disputes, particularly with regard to the quality and quantity of wages and of apprentices. Under 5 Eliz c.4:
(No-one) could lawfully exercise, either as master or journeyman, any art, mystery or manual occupation, except he had been brought up therein, for seven years at least, as an apprentice.
Whoever had three apprentices must keep one journeyman, and for every other apprentice above three, one other journeyman.
Wages were to be assessed yearly by the justices of the peace, or by the town-magistrates, at every general sessions first to be holden after Easter. The same authorities were to settle all disputes between masters and apprentices, and to protect the latter.
The later Act of James 1. c.6, expressly extended the power under 5 Eliz c.4 for justices and town-magistrates to fix wages for all labourers and workmen. Unwin has explained how what was a second wave of Company Charters and legitimations in the 17th century was inevitably caught up in the great political and religious struggles of the time and was part of the mechanism changing the nature of the major economic cleavage between mercantile and industrial capital into one between wage labourers and employers of labour. As the Stuart protectionist policies were defeated by Parliament's intransigence, it was, again, the small master, 'whose class constituted the industrial democracy of the time', and the journeymen who were forced into defensive alliances.297
Policies intended to protect the more local small master and journeyman from the competition of 'forrins' were incompatible with the interests of the larger manufacturer and exporter who wished to service markets further afield. As the Civil War broke out, the journeymen and the small master were in the throes of adapting while conserving as much of past practice as possible.298
The Long Parliament of 1640-1, appealed to by the rank-and-file 'in its most revolutionary period', could not turn a deaf ear, but results were slight and after the Restoration in 1660 of Charles II the older, 'gentry' influences resumed complete control. New charters were sought, in vain. Indeed the idea of an incorporation of craftsmen now took on a dangerous, sinister aspect for those already in power. Unwin refers to opposition by the Carpenters, Joiners and Shipwrights Companies to the attempt by the sawyers, whom they employed, to obtain independent status by charter:
If they are incorporated, the smallest combination amongst them will bring the building trades to a standstill, as experience has sufficiently shown in the past even without incorporation. Moreover their main object is to exclude
"all those sorts of Labourers who daily resort to the city of London and parts adjacent, and by that means keepe the wages and prizes of these sorts of labourers att an equal and indifferent rate"
and their success would be
"an evil president, all other Labourers, to Masons, Bricklayers, Plaisterers, etc, having the same reason to alledge for incorporation."299
Unwin concluded that failure along these traditional lines drove the wage-earning class into secret combinations 'from the obscurity of which the trade union did not emerge till the nineteenth century.' This interpretation is interesting as it is from this time of 'diving down' that observers begin to speak of fraternities and benefit societies as 'secret societies.' On Unwin's part it seems to be an attempt to link his material to that of the Webbs, upon whom he relies entirely for post-1700 detail. He draws on their contrast of 'the unsteady, isolated and impermanent character of journeymen's combinations in the fifteenth century' with 'the increasingly coherent, continuous and influential activity of trade unions'.300
What it seems to me we have is an ideological shift occasioning selective blindness. 'Trade unions' could be officially sanctioned while they were called 'craft gilds' and controlled by the issue of charters. Recourse to magic might occur behind closed doors, but charms and spells were not about to be used in official documents or public ceremonies. 'The word' was being replaced by words, but what some called 'magic' others would see as part of the era's religious faith. 'Travelling networks' were OK while they aided pilgrims and labour shortages but not if 'the State' decided that a) they were causing a drain on funds, or b) they were helping subversion, or c) they were part of an oppositional 'labour movement' bent on the destruction of capitalist enterprise.
As power shifted and ideology was fashioned to suit, language shifted. By the 17th century, mediaeval terms for worker combinations were replaced with 'club' and 'tavern society'. SF scholars could here assist students of British post-Stuart industrial relations to explore the parallel and not entirely separate worlds of sanctioned and non-sanctioned trade combinations. The non-sanctioned kind were illegal since 2-3 of Edward VI, c 15, and 5 of Elizabeth, c 4. Up to 1795 a worker could not legally travel in search of employment out of 'his' own parish, but of course 'he' often had no alternative.
Thus, we have a transition but not a break or a replacement. Mediaeval trades had 'degrees of skill and status', and had developed fraternal 'lodges' with formal internal structure including oath-taking ritual, for sociability, religious observance and mutual defence purposes. Some or all of a search or journey, certainly represented in the perambulation of the SF lodge room, an oath-taking, a symbolic death, quartering the year with meeting-feasts which emphasised the Saint's Day of St John, and levels of status or 'degrees', appear on both sides of the 'transition'. It is probable therefore that operative guilds provided the essential ideas and the basic ritual structure to more than SF.
Unwin's account ends with a story of an extended conflict in the last decades of the 17th century between the Feltmakers Company and journeymen hatters. He appears to be arguing that the lack of known records of a hatters' combination alongside instances of their court appearances, indicating such an organisation operating, supports his assertion that the operatives had suddenly decided to go underground. Court evidence actually asserts the men had "Clubs" 'where they entered into unlawful combination' and "raised several sums of money for the abetting and supporting such of them who should desert their masters' service" - ie, a system of unemployment or strike benefits. Unwin commented in Webberian terms that, of course, a combination of journeymen was no new thing, but that the important question was:
How far did it resemble a modern trade union? or to put the question in another form, how far did it possess the conditions essential to continuous existence and successful activity?301 [My emphasis]
Lipson whose analysis in the main supports that of Unwin responds to this key question by giving two answers - firstly, in reference to the 'craft guilds' and secondly to the journeymen guilds:
At first (the craft guilds) appear to have been private and voluntary associations which struggled into existence in the face of vigorous opposition on the part of the municipal authorities...Subsequently, however, the authorities... actively encouraged the formation of crafts and the...gild system, in order to tighten their hold over those engaged in trade and more effectively to exact a satisfactory standard of workmanship....The craft gilds now became public bodies invested with semi-legal authority, an organic but strictly subordinate department of civil administration..302
Lipson argues these guilds were quite different to 'modern trade unions' on 6 Webberian grounds which remain unconvincing: that is, they comprised only skilled artisans; they were urban not rural; membership was compulsory; they included all grades of producers, including entrepreneurs; they were not selfish but were concerned for public welfare; and they were semi-public bodies, 'integral parts of municipal administration'.
He argued that the later, 15th century 'journeymen gilds' bore a 'very striking similarity' to 'trade unions':
Unlike the craft gilds, (they) comprised only the class of wage-earners banded together in defiance of their employers, and their efforts to secure an improvement of their economic position make the parallel to trade unionism still more evident.303
However, he knocked them out on the grounds that they 'failed [!] to establish a stable and permanent organisation' and they 'failed', repressive legislation apart, because the more gifted and energetic leaders kept rising up and out of journeymen ranks - again, a less-than-convincing argument. A continuing, perceived need for secrecy, and for secrets, from guild times to 'modern' times among the artisans renders Unwin's thesis about a sudden 'diving down' into 'secret societies' untenable and strengthens the liklihood of linkages between the mediaeval benefit societies and the 19th and 20th centuries.
Interestingly, SF authors rarely discuss a break in the flow of fraternal transmission, either in the short-term, at the confiscations of monastic lands and wealth by Henry VIII in particular, or in the longer-term, during the bureaucratic-transition of guild/Company decision-making structures to State institutions. Ludlow quoted the relevant legislation including a key qualification to support his belief that no significant break occurred:
The religious gilds were first struck at in 1545, by the 37 Henry VIII; c.4, which enabled the king to grant a commission to certain persons to enter upon the lands of all colleges, charities, hospitals, fraternities, brotherhoods, gilds, and stipendiary priests, and to seize them to the king's use. Two years later (1547), the Act 1 Edw. VI, c. 14,...absolutely confiscated to the Crown..."all fraternities, brotherhoods and gilds, within the realm of England and Wales...and all manors, lands, tenements, and other hereditaments belonging to them or to any of them" other than "corporations, gilds, fraternities, companies and fellowships of mysteries or crafts..." 304 (My emphasis)
James II used sometimes contradictory policies regarding the London Companies305 in seeking control of Parliament. His replacement of original Charters with new ones worded more to his liking, was accompanied with the statement that he
designed not to intermeddle or take away...the rights, propertyes or priviledges of any company nor to destroy or injure their ancient usages or franchises of their corporations...306
Other evidence, such as the 'lodge books' of the Coventry Silk Weavers of the 1650's, indicates that from English guilds to Companies in format and in 'rites of association', very little had changed.307
A Scottish example from a later period is further illustrative. It appears that on 4 January 1690 William and Mary of Orange signed a Charter, validating and confirming all former charters 'in favor of the gild-brethren, tradesmen, or any society, or deaconry' within Glasgow at least, said Charter being further confirmed by act of parliament on 14 June, 1690. These Corporations, 'the only considerable body in that community' and still governing that City in 1777, included fourteen incorporated trades. They had all been 'raised' in the period 1520 to 1560, the 'cause of erection' in all cases being 'in order to raise a fund for the maintenance of (their) poor.' These trades were only granted legal place within the governing structure by a 'letter of gildry' in 1605, a letter confirmed by act of parliament, 11 September, 1672. The oath sworn in 1770 as a freeman member of one of these corporations included:
Here I protest, before God, that I confess and allow, with my heart, the true Protestant religion, presently professed within this realm, and authorised by the laws thereof. I shall abide thereat, and defend the same to my life's end; renouncing the Roman religion, called Papistry...308
The Merchants and the Trades each, then, had their 'House' which was their governing body and their funds collector and disburser, in other words their 'Grand Lodge.' In 1777, it was still the case that 'deputies' from each of the constituent trades, plus an elected Deacon, 'Baillie' and a Collector made up the 'parliament' of the Trades-House. Each of the Corporations was governed in a similar fashion: eg, the hammermen, by a deacon, a collector and 12 masters; the coopers by a deacon, a collector and 8 masters; the masons by a deacon, collector and 6 masters; and so on. These were all elected annually by the freemen of the trade, and the disposal of the public money, belonging to the corporation, was vested in them. The tradesmen paid for their 'freedom of the town' and a 'freedom-fine' from which the poor of that trade were relieved usually at the rate of 2/- per week.
The Edinburgh Society of Journeymen Shoemakers 'having existed since 1727' reprinted their 'Articles' in 1778. A selection follows [NB the use of 'Preses, ie 'President']:
I.That each entrant shall not be above the age of thirty-six years, brought up to the said trade, and a Protestant; shall be attested by two members to be of a healthy constitution, free from all hereditary or constitutional disease, of a good moral character; must be subject to the Society's regulations...The Society shall not be regulated by any party or faction, but by a majority of votes, according to the tenor of articles.
II. That each entrant shall pay Seven shillings and sixpence Sterling, besides clerk and officer's fees, as entry money, and fifteenpence Sterling every quarter day as quarter accounts...
IV. Each member shall remain twelve months from the date of his entry before he can receive any supply in sickness or lameness, burial-money...
V. The Preses shall be chosen every quarter-day by a poll from the whole Society, and whoever is chosen by a plurality of votes shall take the charge; if he should refuse, shall pay Two Shillings and Sixpence Sterling. The Key-Masters shall be chosen by the roll...The Preses and Key-Masters, shall choose, every one for himself, two Committee members...
VII. The Preses and Key-Masters shall visit the sick and lame in rotation, weekly, along with a Committee member...
VIII. It is appointed and agreed, that all Quarter-Accounts, Fines, etc, shall only be employed for the support of the sick and the lame, and to pay the other dues of the Society; and the Society determine to transact nothing contrary to the right and property of the sick and lame...
XI. Any person convicted of raising or following a faction, or inducing animosities into the Society, shall be suspended from all benefits from the Society, for the space and term as the Society shall find...
XXIV. It is agreed and appointed, that no cursing, swearing, or indecent behaviour shall be found in any member at their meetings...no member shall be found accessory to mobs or tumult..309
The lack of any reference to trade regulations in these Articles and their concern that all monies were used for benefit payments, have been taken to indicate an a-political and generally passive attitude. Rather, they indicate the custom that all trade regulations would be handled at the 'Trades-House' [Trades Hall] level, not at individual 'lodge' level.
On the one hand, the guilds over 700 years developed, among other things, a corporate structure, the Company, in order to strengthen or to establish monopolies over their particular trades. On the other, their very success prompted firstly, Royal attempts to dominate economic affairs, secondly, rank-and-file dissension, and thirdly, competition which, encouraged by increased levels of production, distribution and consumption, burst and overwhelmed the controls over work practices the brethren had collectively struggled for so long to put or to keep in place.310
The Livery Companies showed the way for industrial capitalism. They initiated the 'very features which (shaped) modern business associations'. At the same time their 'social and fraternal structure', surviving into the 19th and 20th centuries, clearly showed they were 'the legatees of mediaeval traditions.' And the most important tradition?
The most important tradition enabling the Companies to live long after they had lost their monopoly of supervision over their trades and crafts was that of fraternal charity.311
Such a legacy was increasing, not declining, in relevance since competition was sharpening artisinal isolation. That is, the rich and powerful were forging improved methods of being rich and powerful, increasing the vulnerability of 'their employees' yet each strata continued a committment to fraternal charity.
By the Settlement Act of 1662 two justices of the peace were given power to eject any newcomer to a parish without means. Briggs has commented this was a measure 'intended to deal with the whole population of the poor as only rogues and vagrants had been dealt with previously.' Whether called 'rogues', 'vagrants' or 'tramping brothers' the intention and the effect would seem to have been the same. Enclosures, pauperism, cheap labour, factories and mines using techniques of mass production, and producing defensive combinations of alienated individuals - the road ahead was clear.
Fraternal charity, we may see therefore as the vehicle for the rites of association into the period after the onset of the Industrial Revolution, proper. The long, slow gestation of economic rationalism has meant the originating ideas and purposes behind the rites have grown fainter, but the language and the general format has blurred less than we might think, since they were more-or-less 'fixed' before terminal damage had been done.
What has made 'modern' fraternalism most difficult for practitioners or would be practitioners is that a sense of the connections between the material and the immaterial has been largely lost. Imagining the ineffable has not become unfashionable, as much as it has rusted and decayed due to lack of use. This does not imply that reviving or rebuilding fraternalism in all its aspects requires a return to mediaeval, Catholic beliefs or 'magic' practices, but a re-education of capacity to 'see' the necessary connections.
'Charges' such as that of the Alnwick, and Swalwell Lodges, both in the north of England, and others, need to be approached with this requirement in mind. To judge their 'content' on the basis of the presence or absence alone of certain words is, I believe, to miss much of the point.
The 'Orders to be Observed by the Company and Fellowship of Freemasons att a Lodge Held at Alnwick [Newcastle, England] Septr 29, 1701, Being the Genll Head Meeting Day' are only likely to be found within SF literature yet as Gould tells us this was a fully operative lodge till 'at least the year 1763' when it was (probably) absorbed into SF ranks. Verified lodge minutes run from 1703 to 1757. Gould says:
(These) records...constitute the only evidence of the actual proceedings of an English lodge, essentially, if not, indeed, exclusively operative, during the entire portion of our early history which precedes the era of Grand Lodges.312
Disappointingly, he goes on to say:
It should be stated that the question of degrees receives no additional light from these minutes, indeed, if the Alnwick minutes stood alone...there would be nothing whatever from which we might plausibly infer that anything beyond trade secrets were possessed by the members.
He brings to bear evidence from what became in SF hands the Lodge of Industry at Swalwell, a village in the County of Durham, for which operative records run from 1725 to 1735 when it also accepted a 'deputation' from the London Grand Lodge and became, officially, a speculative lodge. The 1st and last, the 14th, Alnwick 'Orders' read:
1st - That it is ordered by the said Fellowship thatt there shall be yearly Two Wardens chosen upon the said Twenty-ninth of Septr., being the Feast of St Michaell the Archangell, which Wardens shall be elected and appoynted by the most consent of the Fellowship. 313
14 - Item, That all Fellows being younger shall give his Elder fellows the honor due to their degree and standing. Alsoe thatt the Master, Wardens, and all the Fellows of this Lodge doe promise severally and respectively to performe all and every the orders above named, and to stand bye each other...(etc)..
Gould quibbles at the lack of mention of 'the Master' at certain other points of these Orders, as he does at a lack of mention of 'Degrees' with a capital. He does not seem to find the 11th Order convincing either:
Thatt if any Fellow or Fellows shall att any time or times discover his master's secretts, or his owne, be it nott onely spoken in the Lodge or without, or the secretts or councell of his Fellows, that may extend to the Damage of any of his Fellows, or to any of their good names, whereby the Science may be ill spoken of, forr every such offence shall pay..£3 13s 4d.314
He footnotes this Order with one taken from the Swalwell Lodge minutes, namely:
If any be found not faithfully to keep and maintain the 3 ffraternal signs, and all points of ffelowship, and principal matters relating to the secret craft, each offence, penalty £10 10 0.315
After discussing the possible implications of these he weakly concludes only that the absence of mention of 'Degrees' within Alnwick Lodge might imply that it was unaffected by the parallel existence of SF lodges closeby, in other words that it is still only to the SF history that we should look for a formalised degree structure. He makes no attempt to explain what 'the Science', 'the secret craft' 'points of ffelowship', etc, might mean in this operative context in the north of England in the 18th century.
He notes 'the general uniformity' of the Alnwick and Swalwell minutes and that it was with 'much solemnity' that the 'head or chief meeting day', the festivals of St John the Evangelist/St John the Baptist, were commemorated. Again, note reference to a 'true and perfect lodge' in the following 1708 minute of an operative lodge:
At a true and perfect Lodge kept at Alnwick, at the house of Mr Thomas Davidson, one of the Wardens of the same Lodge, it was ordered that for the future noe member of the said Lodge, Master, Wardens, or Fellows, should appear at any lodge to be kept on St John's day in (church), without his apron and common Square fixed in the belt thereof, upon pain of forfeiting two shillings and sixpence..(etc).. 316
Note also the size of this fine compared to that for disclosing secrets, above. Gould further notes that nearly forty years after the formation of London's Grand Lodge and perhaps 20 years after it had received a 'deputation' consonant with its adoption of a speculative 'Charter', the minutes of Swalwell Lodge 'teem with resolutions of an exclusively operative character', for example that of 'entering an apprentice in the time-honored fashion handed down by the oldest of our manuscript Constitutions.'317 He also notes, but in a totally other context that lodges 'composed of "operative Masons" [NB his capital] were formed or received constitutions - in 1764 and 1766.'318
On the other side of the self-imposed divide, the assuredly 'speculative' side, Gould records the 'Old Rules' of a Grand Lodge which preceded that at London, viz that at York. Thus the
'Articles Agreed to be kept and observed by the Antient Society of Freemasons in the City of York, and to be subscribed by every Member thereof at theur Admittance into the said Society.
Imprimis - That every first Wednesday in the month a Lodge shall be held at the house of a Brother according as their turn shall fall out.
2 - All Suscribers to these Articles not appearing at the monthly Lodge, shall forfeit Sixpence each time.
3 - If any Brother appear at a Lodge that is not a Suscriber to these Articles, he shall pay over and above his club [ie, subscription] the sum of one shilling.319
Note the use of 'club'. Gould, here, falls into an error he castigates in others, accepting as proof of the claims made, a letter stating the writer has the actual proof in front of him, viz a list of the names of the GM's of this 'Grand Lodge' for the period 1705 to 1734. That these claimed gents are all 'Sirs' or 'Esquires' I forbear to mention. What Gould could have discussed was how it came about that this 'Lodge' came to be, or to claim, the status of being a 'Grand Lodge' and before 1717.
A 1984 revision of Max Weber's thesis concerning an 'affinity' between the rise of bourgeois capitalism and Calvinist-Puritanism in England focussed on Sir Edmund Coke's struggle with Court-assumed prerogatives over economic life.320 Coke, using language and concepts which would be strengthened and extended by Adam Smith, was suggesting free trade as a third force opposed to the 'two traditionalisms', the guild monopolies and 'court-bound capitalism'. He specifically argued that restrictions on entry into misteries and guild control of work conditions amounted to restrictions on trade which were, by definition against the common good and needing to be outlawed.321 When Parliament broke monarchical power, the era of economic rationalism began and the course of industrial relations as we know them was set.
At a time, therefore, when 'speculatives' were entering lodges and coming to grips with the ritual they found there, it is probable that the object of their attentions had already deteriorated in spiritual value, because the worm of rational individualism had already achieved noticeable influence, and had declined in material worth because a number of protective functions had already suffered damage.
There has always been a question as to 'why?' outsiders wanted to join operative lodges. Hart's research322 and that of Yates support an argument for a widespread 'speculative' current and possible underground network in the 17th century, more Protestant than Catholic/Jacobin. Yates was particularly interested in the SFreemasonry of Elias Ashmole, a brother 'made' in the 1640's, his Rosicrucian beliefs and his early invitation to join the Royal Society. She brought these aspects together to emphasise the growth of what we now like to see as rational science out of magical, cabalistic and hermetic scholarship.323 I note in passing that other scholars have related the preservation of the sacred knowledge of 'the Rosy Cross' to the phenomenon of 'the wandering stranger'.324
Yates hypothesised that SF was 'suggested' by the Rosicrucian manifestos in the early 1600's and that in a similar and connected way, the Royal Society resulted from the movement for an 'Invisible College' central to Rosicrucian beliefs. After 1660 and the Stuart Restoration, 'Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry and the Royal Society were..virtually...indistinguishable from one another.' Of the three tiers of Rosicrucian magic, it was the lowest, of 'practical' mathematics and mechanics which, slowly, came to dominate in the Royal Society - the others being the 'super-celestial world' of the angelic conjuration and a middle world of celestial mathematics. Respect for angelic protection and the key belief of 'en-light-enment' through knowledge received special loading in SFreemasonry symbolism, while the intense religious conflicts of the time had to be put aside both for cosmic harmony and for the pursuit of knowledge. Thus, for some it was perfectly natural to pronounce a prohibition on speaking about religion or politics within lodge, a 'modern' departure from mediaeval practice.325
Magic's decline in importance and Gould's argument that a handed-down ritual was bereft of much of its relevance clearly fit with the Catholic-Protestant struggle in a way that can provide the most cogent account of the SFreemasonry 'breakout' from its heritage. Such is the ambiguous nature of the transition, however, SF is today still being described by some supporters as 'ceremonial magic.'326
SFreemasonry initially fitted the model of a defensive, 17th century artisan-small employer alliance suggested by Unwin and others. Its political choices eventually took it out of the immediate context it had long shared with other 'benefit societies' but not out of touch with them. A greater use of and dependence on written words - 'what someone said' - would lead to finer and finer distinctions by later scholars, some of which at least would be foreign to the original users. Too much hanging on the nth degree of a possible nuance would dismantle many an observer's capacity to feel the spirit of the material, to 'see' its integrity.