The Historical Origins of Freemasonry


THE might of the Father of Kings, [i] with the wisdome of his glorious Son, through the grace of the goodness of the Holy Ghost, there bene three persons in one Godheade, be with us at our beginninge, and give us grace so to governe us here in this mortall life liveinge, that we may come to his kingdome that never shall have endinje. Amen.

"Good Bretheren and Followes: Our purpose is to tell you how and in what manner this worthy science of Masonrye was begunne, and afterwards how it was favoured by worthy Kings and Princes, and by many other worshippfull men. And also to those that be willings, wee will declare the charge that belongeth to any true Mason to keepe for in good faith. And yee have good heede thereto; it is well worthy to be well kept for a worthy craft and a curious science.

"For there be Seaven liberall Sciences, of the which seaven it is one of them. And the names of the Seaven Seyences bene these: First is Grammere, and it teacheth man to speake truly and write truly. And the second is Rhethoricke; and teacheth a man to speake faire in subtill termes. And the third is Dialectyke; and teacheth a man for to discern or know truth from false. And the fourth is Arithmeticke; and that teacheth a man for to recken and to accompte all manner of numbers. And the fifth is called Geometrie; and that teacheth mett and measure of earth and of all other things; of the which science is called Masonrye. And the sixth science is called Musicke; and that teacheth a man of songe and voice, of tongue and orgaine, harpe and trompe. And the seaventh science is called Ashonomye; and that teacheth a man the course of the sunn, moone and starts. These be the Seaven liberall Sciences, the which bene all founded by one Science, that is to say Geometric. And this may a man prove, that the science of the work is founded by Geometric, for Geometrie teacheth a man mett and measure, ponderation and weight, of all manner of things on earth, for there is no man that worketh any science, but he worketh by some mett or measure, nor no man that buyeth or selleth, but he buyeth or selleth by some measure or by some weight, and all these is Geometric. And these use merchants and all craftsmen, and all other of the Seaven Sciences, and in especiall the plowman and tillers of all manner of grounds, graynes, vynes, flowers and setters of other fruits; for Grammere or Retricke, neither Astronomie nor none of all the other Seaven Sciences can no manner find mett nor measure without Geometric. Wherefore methinketh that the science of Geometrie is most worthy, and that findeth [ii] all other.

"How that these worthy Sciences were first begunne, I shall you tell. Before Noye's flood, there was a man called Lameche, as it is written in the Byble in the iiijth chapter of Genesis; and this Lameche had two wives, and the one height Ada, and that other height Sella; by his first wife Ada he gott two sons, and that one Jabell and thother Tuball, and by that other wife Sella he got a son and a daughter. And these four children founden the beginning of all sciences in the world. And this elder son Jabell found the science of Geometric, and he departed flocks of sheep and lambs in the field, and first wrought house of stone and tree, [iii] as is noted in the chapter above said. And his brother Tuball found the science of musicke, songe of tonge, harp and orgaine. And the third brother, Tuball Cain, found smithcraft of gold, silver, copper, iron and steele; and the daughter found the craft of Weavinge. And these children knew well that God would take vengeance for synn, either by fire or by water; wherefore they writt their science that they had found in two pillars of stone, that they might be found after Noye's flood. And that one stone was marble, for that would not burn with fire; and that other stone was clepped laterns, [iv] and would not drown in noe water.

"Our intent is to tell you trulie how and in what manner these stones were found that these sciences were written in. The great Hermarynes, that was Cuby's son, the which Cub was Sem's son, that was Noy's son. This Hermarynes afterwards was called Harmes, the father of wise men; he found one of the two pillars of stone, and found the science written there, and he taught it to other men. And at the making of the Tower of Babylon there was Masonrye first made much of. And the Kinge of Babylon that height Nemrothe, [v] was a mason himself; and loved well the science, and it is said with masters of histories. And when the City of Nyneve and other cities of the East should be made, Nemrothe, the King of Babylon, sent thither three score Masons at the rogation of the King of Nyneve, his cosen. And when he sent them forth, he gave them a charge on this manner. That they should be true each of them to other, and that they should love truly together, and that they should serve their lord truly for their pay; soe that the master may have worshipp and all that long to him. And other moe charges he gave them. And this was the first time that ever Masons had any charge of his science.

"Moreover when Abraham and Sara his wife went into Egipt, there he taught the Seaven Sciences to the Egiptians; and he had a worthy scoller that height Ewclyde, [vi] and he learned right well and was a master of all the vij Sciences liberall. And in his days it befell that the lord and the estates of the realme had soe many sonns that they had gotten, some by their wives and some by other ladyes of the realme; for that land is a hott land and a plentious of generacion. And they had not competent livelode to find with their children, wherefor they made much care, and then the king of the land made a great Counsell and a Parliament, to witt, how they might find their children honestly as gentlemen; and they could find no manner of good way. And then they did crye through all the realme, if there were any man that informe them, that he should come to them, and he should be soe rewarded for his travail, that he should hold him pleased.

"After that this crye was made, then came this worthy clarke Ewclyde and said to the king and all his great lords, 'If yee will take me your children to governe, and to teach them one of the Seaven Scyences, wherewith they may live honestly as gentlemen should, under a condition, that yee will grant me and them a commission that I may have power to rule them after the manner that the science ought to be ruled.' And that the kinge and all his Counsell granted to him anone and sealed their commission. And then this worthy Doctor tooke to him these lord's sonns, and taught theat the scyence of Geometrie in practice, for to work in stones all manner of worthy worke that belongeth to buildinge churches, temples, castells, towres, and mannors, and all other manner of buildings; and he gave them a charge in this manner.

"The first was that they should be true to the Kynge, and to the Lord that they owe. And that they should love well together and be true each one to other. And that they should call each other his fellowe or else brother and not by servant nor his knave, nor none other foul name. And that they should deserve their pale of the lord or of the master that they serve. And that they should ordaine the wisest of them to be master of the worke and nether for love nor great lynneage, ne riches ne for no favour to lett another that hath little conning for to be master of the lord's worke, wherethrough the lord should be evill served and they ashamed. And also that they should call their governors of the worke, Master, in the time that they worke with him. And other many moe charges that longe to tell. And to all these charges he made them to sweare a great oath that men used in that time; and ordayned them for reasonable wages, that they might live honestly by. And also that they should come and semble together every yeare once, how they might worke best to serve the lord for his profitt and to their own worshipp; and to correct within themselves him that had trespassed against the science. And thus was the seyence grounded there; and that worthy Mr. Ewclyde gave it the name of Geometrie. And now it is called through all this land, Masonrys.

"Sythen longe after, [vii] when the children of Israell were coming into the land of Beheast, [viii] that is now called amongst us, the country of Jhrlm. Kinge David began the Temple that they called Templum D'ni, and it is named with us the Temple of Jerusalem. And the same Kinge David loved Masons well and cherished them much, and gave them good pale. And he gave the charges and the manners as he had learned of Egipt given by Ewclyde, and other charges moe that ye shall heare afterward. And after the decease of Kinge David, Solomon, that was David's sonn, performed out the Temple that his father begonne; and sent after Masons into divers countries and of divers lands; and gathered them together, so that he had fourscore thousand workers of stone, and were all named Masons. And he chose out of them three thousand that were ordayned to be masters and governors of his worke. And furthermore there was a Kinge of another region that men called Iram, [ix] and he loved well Kinge Solomon and he gave him tymber to his worke. And he had a sonn that height Aynon, [x] and he was a Master of Geometric, and was chief Master of all his Masons, and was Master of all his gravings and carvinge, and of all manner of Masonrye that longed to the Temple; and this is witnessed by the Bible, in libro Regum, the third chapter. And this Solomon confirmed both charges and the manners that his father had given to Masons. And thus was that worthy Science of Masonrye confirmed in the country of Jerusalem, and in many other kingdoms.

"Curious craftsmen walked about full wide into divers countryes, some because of learning more craft and cunning, and some to teach them that had but little cunnynge. And soe it befell that there was one curious Mason that height Maymus Grecus,' that had been at the making of Solomon's Temple, and he came into France, and there he taught the science of Masonrye to men of France. And there was one of the Regal line of France that height Charles Martell; [xi] and he was a man that loved well such a science, and drew to this Maymus Grecus that is above-said, and learned of him the science, and tooke upon him the charges and manners; and afterwards by the grace of God, he was elect to be Kinge of Fraunce. And when he was in his estate, he tooke Masons, and did helpe to make men Masons that were none; and set them to worke, and gave them both the charge and the manners and good pale, as he had learned of other Masons; and confirmed them a charter from yeare to yeare, to hold their semble when they would; and cherished them right much; and thus came this science into Fraunce.

"England in all this season stood voyd, as for any charge of Masonrye unto St Adbones [xii] tyme. And in his days the King of England that was a Pagan, he did wall the towne about, that is called Sainct Albones. And Sainct Albones was a worthy Knight and stewart with the Kinge of his household, and had governance of the realme, and also of the makinge of the town walls; and loved well Masons and cheished them much. And he made their paie right good, standing as the realme did; for he gave them ij.s. vjd. a weeke and iij.d. to their nonesynches. [xiii] And before that time, through all this land, a Mason tooke but a penny a day and his meate, till Sainct Albones amended it, and gave them a chartour of the Kinge and his Counsell for to hold a general councell, and gave it the name of Assemble; and thereat he was himselfe, and helped to make Masons and gave them charges as you shall heare afterward.

"Right soon after the decease of Sainct Albone, there came divers wars into the realme of England of divers Nations soe that the good rule of Masonrye was destroyed unto the tyme of Kinge Athelstone's days that was a worthy Kinge of England and brought this land into good rest and peace; and builded many great works of Abbyes and Toures, and other many divers buildings; and loved well Masons. And he had a sonne that height Edwinne, and he loved Masons much more than his father did. And he was a great practiser in Geometric; and he drew him much to talke and to commune with Masons, and to learn of them science; and afterwards for love that he had to Masons, and to the science, he was made Mason, and he gatt of the Kinge his father, a Chartour and Commission to hold every yeare

once an Assemble, wher that ever they would, within the realme of England; and to correct within themselves defaults and trespasses that were done within the science. And he held himselfs an Assemble at Yorke, [xiv] and these he made Masons, and gave them charges, and taught them the manners, and commanded that rule to be kept ever after, and tooke then the chartour and commission to keepe, and made ordinance that it should be renewed from kinge to kinge.

"And when the Assemble was gathered he made a cry that all old Masons and young that had any writeinge or understanding of the charges and the manners that were made before in this land, or in any other, that they should show them forth. And when it was proved, there were founden some in French, and some in Greek, and some in English and some in other languages; and the intent of them all was founden all one. And he did make a booke thereof, and how the science was founded. And he himselfe bad and commanded that it should be readd or tould, when that any Mason should be made for to give him his charge. And fro that day into this tyme manners of Masons have been kept in that form as well as men might governe it. And furthermore divers Assembles have beene put and ordayned certain charges by the best advice of Masters and fellows."

Then follow the charges that are thus said to have been enacted at York and at other General Assemblies, but which properly constitute no part of the Legend, at least no part connected with the legendary details of the rise and progress of the Institution. The Legend ends with the account of the holding of an Assembly at York, and other subsequent ones, for the purpose of enacting laws for the government of the Order.

[i] In the Landsdowne, and most of the other MSS., the formula is "the Father of the Heavens," or "of Heaven."

[ii] Used in its primitive Anglo-Saxon meaning of "to invent, to devise." Geometry invented or devised all the other sciences.

[iii] This is an instance of the inaccuracy of these old records in historical lore. So far from Jabal being the first who "wrought house of stone and tree," he was the originator of the nomadic life, in which such buildings are never used. He invented tents, made most probably of skins, to be the temporary residence of a pastoral people, led by the exigency of a want of food to remove their flocks from time to time to new pastures.

[iv] This word is a corruption of the Latin "later," brick.

[v] Nimrod.

[vi] Bro. Matthew Cooke, in his Notes to the MS. which he was the first to publish, and which thence bears his name, protests against being held responsible for the chronology which makes Abraham and Euclid contemporaries. It will hereafter be seen that this legend of Euclid is merely a symbol.

[vii] Since then long after-long after that time.

[viii] The Land of Promise, or the Promised Land. "Beheste Promissio," says the Promptorium Parvulorum.

[ix] It is scarcely necessary to explain that this is meant for Hiram.

[x] The true origin and meaning of this name, for which some of the modern Speculative Masons have substituted Hiram, Abiff, and others Adoniram, will be hereafter discussed.

[xi] The introduction of this monarch into the Legend leads us to an inquiry into an interesting period of French Masonic history that will be hereafter discussed.

[xii] St. Alban, the protomartyr of England. Of his connection with the Legend, more hereafter.

[xiii] A corruption of the old English word noonshun, from which comes our modern luncheon. It meant the refreshment taken at noon, when laborers desist from work to shun the heat. It may here mean food or subsistence in general. St. Alban gave his Masons two shillings a week and three pence for their daily food. (See Nonesynches in ,Mackey's " Encyclopzedia of Freemasonry.")

[xiv] This part of the Legend which refers to Prince Edwin and the Assembly at York is so important that it demands and will receive a future comprehensive examination.

"If I have seen further than
others, it is by standing
upon the shoulders of giants."


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