Sometimes called African Builders; or in French, Architectes de l'Afrique; and in German, Afrikanische Bauherren.
Of all the new sects and modern Degrees of Freemasonry which sprang up on the continent of Europe during the eighteenth century, there was none which, for the time, maintained so high an intellectual position as the Order of African Architects, called by the French Architectes de l'Afrique, and by the Germans Afrikanische Bauherren. A Masonic sect of this name had originally been established in Germany in the year 1756, but it does not appear to have attracted much attention, or indeed to have deserved it; and hence, amid the multitude of Masonic innovations to which almost every day was giving birth and ephemeral existence it soon disappeared.
But the Society which is the subject of the present article, although it assumed the name of the original African Architects, was of a very different character.
It may, however, be considered, as it was established only eleven years afterward, as a remodification of it.
The Society admitted to membership those possessing high intellectual attainments rather than those possessing wealth or preferment.
There was probably no real connection between this Order and the Freemasonry of Germany, even if the members of the latter organization did profess kindly feelings for it. Brethren of the former based their Order on the degrees of Freemasonry, as the fist of degrees shows, but their work began in the Second Temple. while they had a quasi-connection with Freemasonry, we cannot call them a Masonic body according to the present day standards.
The degrees of the Order of African Architects were named and classified as follows:
2. Fellow Craft.
3. Master Mason.
4. Architect, or Apprentice of Egyptian Secrets. Thory (Acta Latomorum I, page 297) gives the ...title as Bosonien.
5. Initiate into Egyptian Secrets. Acta Latomorum (1, page 292) gives the title as Alethophile.
6. Cosmopolitan Brother.
7. Christian Philosopher. Thory calls this the Fourth Degree in his Acta Latomorum (1, page ....632).
8. Master of Egyptian Secrets.
9. Esquire of the Order.
10. Soldier of the Order.
ll. Knight of the Order.
The last three were called superior Degrees, and were conferred only, as a second or higher class, with great discrimination, upon those who had proved their worthiness to receive promotion.
The assemblies of the Brethren were called Chapters.
The central or superintending power was styled a Grand Chapter, and it was governed by the following twelve officers:
1. Grand Master.
2. Deputy Grand Master.
3. Senior Grand Warden.
4. Junior Grand Warden.
7. Tricoplerius, or Treasurer.
8. Graphiarius, or Secretary.
10. Standard Bearer.
Mackenzie says the Order was instituted between 1756 and 1767, under the patronage of Frederick II of Prussia, by Baucheren, and that the objects were chiefly historical but the ritual was a compound of Freemasonry, Christianity, Alchemy, and Chivalry. He quotes from its claims thus: "When the Architects were by wars reduced to a very small number, they determined to travel together into Europe, and there to form together new establishments. Many of them came to England with Prince Edward, son of Henry III, and were shortly afterward called into Scotland by Lord Stewart. They received the protection of King Ing of Sweden in l125; of Richard Coeur-de-Lion, King of England in l190; and of Alexander III of Scotland in 1284. " He further states that the Order came to an end in 1786, that the three last degrees conferred offices for life, that the Order possessed a large building for the Meetings of the Grand Chapter, containing a library, a museum, a chemical laboratory', and that for many, years they gave annually a gold medal of the value of fifty ducats for the best essay on the history of Freemasonry, Lenning does not mention any connection of Frederick the Great with the Order and Woodford is inclined to limit its activity to ten years, presumably from 1767, though he points out that it has been said to have had an existence into the year 1806. A claim has been made that it was but an enlargement of a Lodge in action at Hamburg in 1747, and the further assertion has been offered of the French origin of the Order. The names of the degrees have also been named as:
1. Knight or Apprentice.
2. Brother or Companion.
3. Soldier or Master.
4. Horseman or Knight.
6. Aedile, or Builder.
7. Tribunus, or Knight of the Eternal Silence.
The members are said by Woodford to have all been Freemasons and men of learning, the proceedings being, it is claimed, conducted in the Latin language, a circumstance that has a parallel in the Roman Eagle Lodge, No. 160, Edinburgh, Scotland, founded in 1785. This Lodge had its By-Laws and Minutes written in Latin, the object being "to erect and maintain a Lodge whose working and records should be in the classical Latin tongue" (see Historical Notes, Alfred A. A. Murray, Edinburgh, 1908, also The Jacobite Lodge at Romne, William J. Hughan, 1910, page 14).
For a helpful guide to the conditions under Frederick the Great's control favoring the existence of such organizations as the African Architects. the student may refer to volume ii, pages 60--73, The Beautiful Miss Craven, by Broadley and Melville, 1914.
The African Architects was not the only. society which in the eighteenth century sought to rescue Freemasonry from the impure hands of the charlatans into which it had well-nigh fallen.
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