Tradução José Filardo
By H. J. Whymper- Dep. Dis. G.M., Punjab.
My expressing an opinion opposed to that of so high an authority as Bro. Gould may excite a smile, but sometime ago I carefully studied the facts available regarding Lord Byron with the object of discovering whether the “Multa Paucis” theory could account for the formation of the ” Ancient” body, my conclusion was and still is, that it will not hold water at all, there is not an atom of bottom in it. I will give my reasons as briefly as possible, chiefly from my former notes.
Bro. Gould writes :—” During the presidency of this nobleman, which lasted for five years, the affairs of the Society were much neglected, and to this period of misrule, aggravated by the summary erasure of numerous Lodges, we must look, I think, for the cause of that organized rebellion against authority, resulting in the great Schism.” I am absolutely unable to reconcile this statement with the only authorised published proceedings I have access to. If Bro. Gould has other sources of information than are described in the footnote,1 it certainly would be of interest if he would disclose them, but from the sources indicated I can only discover that ten meetings of the Grand Lodge were held during Lord Byron’s time of office, which extended from April 30th, 1747, to March 20th, 1752. The previous ten meetings occurred between April 9th, 1743, and April 3rd, 1747, and the ten meetings succeeding his Mastership date between June 18th, 1752, and November 29th, 1754. In the period mentioned as preceding Lord Byron’s holding office no less than thirty- four Lodges were erased for not attending the Grand Master at the (so-called) quarterly communications, and at the ten meetings held after he had retired from office twenty-four Lodges were erased.
Neither at the ten meetings before, nor at those after Lord Byron’s Grand Mastership, is there any record of any Lodge being restored to the Grand Lodge list.
Now if anyone will refer to the only published information regarding the period during which Lord Byron held actual office, he will discover that although ten meetings of Grand Lodge were held, extending over a period of five years, only five private Lodges were erased, and three which had been erased before Lord Byron’s appointment to the Grand Mastership were replaced on the list. The net loss was thus two Lodges under Lord Byron’s ten meetings as against fifty-eight losses attendant on the preceding and ten subsequent meetings. It is impossible to reconcile these figures with the accusation that during Lord Byron’s term of office there was an aggravation of discontent ” by the summary erasure of numerous Lodges.”
So far I have applied the white-wash brush to Lord Byron (5th Baron), but that he was not a very estimable brother may be admitted.
Debrett says William, 5th Baron Byron, succeeded to the title in 1736, and was tried in 1765 for having killed William Chaworth, Esq., in a duel; he was found guilty of manslaughter, ” but claiming the benefit of the statute of Edward vi., was discharged by simply paying the fees.”
The last edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica somewhat enlarges this statement and says he killed his neighbour and relative in a drunken brawl, also that later in life he was known as the “wicked Lord Byron.” This is all I can discover which in any way might possibly lend any kind of support to a theory that Lord Byron was a careless or worthless man who neglected his duties, and that brethren being disgusted formed a secessionist body. But for other reasons this must not be too quickly assumed, for there are entries in Grand Lodge records which would show that however wild a nobleman he may have been in 1765, he was distinctly popular during his term of Grand Mastership, and that his non-attendance at six out of the ten Grand Lodges held during that term was owing to his being absent from England, possibly on some State mission. Here is Entick’s entry on the subject —
“Grand Lodge, at the Devil Tavern aforesaid, was held on March 16, 1752. Present, Lord Byron, Grand Master, his Grand Officers; Lord Ward, late Grand Master; and other late Grand Officers, Lord Carysfort; the twelve Stewards; the Stewards Lodge, and the Masters and Wardens of fifty six Lodges.
“The usual Forms being gone through, and the Brethren having, with great Demonstrations of Joy, expressed their Pleasure at the Sight of their Grand Master, who had been abroad for several years, and lately returned in Health and Safety; contributed handsomely to the general Fund of Charity.’
Further on we find at the assembly and Feast on March 20th, 1752:—” Much Harmony, the old Cement of the Fraternity, abounded throughout the whole large Assembly; and all expressing the greatest Joy at the happy Occasion of their Meeting, after a longer Recess than had been usual, occasioned chiefly by the Attention of all Persons, and especially the Masons, being fixed on the Re-establishment of the publick Peace, which ever brought Blessings in Abundance, and all desireable Honour and Esteem with the Good and Great, to the ancient and peaceable Fraternity.”
The italics in the above quotation are my own, the statement appears to some extent to exonerate Lord Byron for meetings not having been held.
A study of the records I have noted I think will convince most brethren that the ‘great schism started from what is termed the ” Irregular Makings ” of Masons, and that this in all probability came about from the assumption of the Grand Lodge (of London and Westminster) that with its foundation all Lodges of Freemasons, who could be got at, owed allegiance to it. We have certain records that this assumption was resented, or ignored, and other records point to the same conclusion.
I believe it is not known how Lodges were Constituted or authorised to meet prior to 1717; my personal conviction is brethren formed Lodges of their own volition, but in any case it is certain Lodges did not owe allegiance to any central Lodge authority. The first Grand Lodge originally only proposed governing London and Westminster, although it termed itself the Grand Lodge of England, a circumstance which it is well known occasioned the sarcastic rejoinder of the Lodge at York, describing itself as the Grand Lodge of AU “England. The London Grand Lodge’s government speedily became a government of “assumption, and the four Lodges which at the beginning constituted themselves a Grand Lodge, assumed rights which the Grand Lodge had no shadow of claim to.
There cannot be doubt but that in 1717 there were Freemasons in and about London who were not at that time members of those particular four Lodges which agreed to form a Grand Lodge, and it would almost naturally fellow that such brethren would disagree with a Grand Lodge which eventually declared there was no such thing as a Freemasonry which did not acknowledge its authority, it being at the same time perfectly self-constituted.
Anderson gives the places of meeting of seven London Lodges in the last decade of the 17th century, and he says there were others. He also indicates there were several working in 1708, and as there were others scattered over England it appears tolerably certain there must have been brethren in London who did not belong to the four Lodges which formed the 1717 Grand Lodge.
It is understandable that many an old brother may have viewed the outcome of the action of the four Lodges in forming a Grand Lodge, to the authority of which all were expected to bow, without possibly having heard anything at all of the proposed formation, or having assented to it, as an act of impertinence.
Some brethren so situated would assuredly have resented the bonds it was attempted to force on them, and the semi-public ceremonies of the Grand Lodge, which were certainly Novelties to the majority of the, if indeed they were not to the entire, Craft, afforded ample scope for ridicule or satire, and we know Freemasons joined in scoffing the Grand Lodge.
The United Grand Lodge of England has quite recently recognized that a newly established local Craft government has no such rights as the Grand Lodge of England (of 1717) assumed shortly after its formation, and it is not unnatural that a certain number of Freemasons, whether attached or unattached to Lodges, should have disregarded the imposed authority and should have held themselves free to form Lodges in the manner, whatever it “was (P) customary prior to the Four Lodge Grand Lodge.
The first record of “Irregular Making of Masons” is dated June 30th, 1739. In December of the same year we learn Grand Lodge ” pardoned the Transgressors, upon their submission, and Promises of future good Behaviour, it was ordered, that the Laws be strictly put in Execution against all such brethren, as shall for the future countenance, connive, or assist at any irregular Makings.” Regarding this Noorthouck says,—
“The Grand Lodge justly considered such proceedings as an infringement on the original laws, an encroachment on the privileges, and an imposition on the charitable fund of the society. It was therefore resolved to discountenance those assemblies, and to enforce the laws against all brethren who were aiding or assisting in the clandestine reception of any person into Masonry, at any of these illegal conventions. This irritated the brethren who had incurred the censure of the Grand Lodge; who, instead of returning to their duty, and renouncing their error, persisted in their contumacy, and openly refused to pay allegiance to the grand master, or obedience to the mandates of the Grand lodge of the antients and established laws of the order, they set up a power independent, and taking advantage of the inexperience of their associates, insisted that they had an equal authority with the Grand Lodge to make, pass, and raise masons. At this time no private lodge had the power of passing or raising masons; nor could any brother be advanced to either of these degrees but in the Grand Lodge, with unanimous consent and approbation of all the brethren in communication assembled. Under a fictitious sanction of the antient York constitution, which was dropped at the revival of the grand lodge in 1717, they presumed to claim the right of constituting lodges. Some brethren at York, continued indeed to act under their original constitution, notwithstanding the revival of the grand lodge of England; but the irregular masons in London never received any patronage from them. The antient York masons were confined to one lodge, which is still extant, but consists of a very few members, and will probably be soon altogether annihilated. This illegal and unconstitutional claim obliged the regular masons to adopt new measures to detect these impostors, and debar them and their abettors from the countenance and protection of the regular lodges. To accomplish thin purpose more effectually, some variations were made in the established forms; which afforded a subterfuge, at which the refractory brethren nadily grasped. They now assumed the appellation of antient masons, proclaimed themselves enemies to all innovation, insisted that they preserved the antient usages of the order, and that the regular lodges on whom they conferred the title of modern masons, had adopted new measures, illegal and unconstitutional.” Thus by a new species of deceit and imposition they endeavoured to support an existence; using the necessary precautions taken by the Grand Lodge to detect them, as grounds for a novel and ridiculous distinction of antient and modern Masons: This artifice strengthened their party in some degree; the uninformed were caught by the deception, and in order to procure further support to their assumed authority, they also determined to interrupt the regular mode of succession to the office of Grand Master by electing a chief ruler under that designation, and other officers under the title of grand officers, appointed from their own body, ” convinced that the most probable means for establishing their opposition, would be by liberally conferring honours on their votaries, to secure their allegiance, and to induce others to join them. They framed a code of laws for their government, issued patents for new Lodges, and exacted certain fees of constitutions, from which they hoped to raise a fund sufficient to support their power. They so far succeeded in their new plan as to be acknowledged by many; some gentlemen of family and fortune entered among them; and even many regular Masons were so unacquainted with their origin, or the laws of the society, as to attend their Lodges and give a tacit sanction to their proceedings. Of late years, however, they have not been so successful. The laws being more generally known, the impropriety of countenancing their measures has been more clearly discovered, and their meetings have not only been less encouraged, but many of their best members have deserted them.”
In 1740 (July 23rd) there is a record of late Stewards “being present and assisting at irregular Makings.”
The next allusion to dissension is in the record of June 24th, 1741, when ” It was also ordered, That before any Lodge shall be struck out of the Lodge-Book for Non-appearance, a Summons shall be left at the House where such Lodge is held, for the Officers to appear at the next quarterly Communication, to show cause for their Non-appearance.”
Following on this three Lodges were erased on June 24th, 1742, “for not attending the Grand Master, in quarterly communication, pursuant to several Notices sent them respectively,” and as before stated between April 9th, 1743, and Lord Byron’s Grand Mastership, thirty-four more Lodges were erased for the same reason.
A Schism was thus evidently in full swing long before Lord Byron assumed office in 1747, and in that year Lodge No. 9 was restored to the list, in the following year five Lodges were erased and in 1751 two Lodges were restored. This period, as before stated, did not thus witness “the summary erasure of numerous Lodges.” Some other cause for the Schism must be sought for. Why should Noorthouck’s account, which is consistent with what I have advanced, be ignored, and that of the anonymous writer of “Multa Paucis” accepted ?
Nor should good old William Preston’s record be overlooked:—
“Lord Raymond succeeded the Marquis of Carnarvon in May, 1739. His Lordship, in several communications, redressed many grievances complained of, and ordered the laws to be strictly enforced against some Lodges, on account of irregularities which then prevailed. Several Lodges were constituted by his Lordship.
“The Earl of Kintore succeeded Lord Raymond in April, 1740, and, in imitation of his predecessor, continued to discourage all irregularities. His Lordship appointed several Provincials, in particular one for Russia, another for Hamburgh and the circle of Lower Saxony, and another for the island of Barbadoes.”
Regarding Lord Byron himself Preston wrote:—
“Lord Ward succeeded the Earl of Morton in April, 1742. His Lordship was well acquainted with the nature and government of the society, having served every office, even from a Secretary in a private Lodge. His Lordship lost no time in applying the most effectual remedies to reconcile all animosities; he recommended to his officers the greatest vigilance and care in their different departments; and, by his own conduct, set them a noble example how to support the dignity of the Society. Many Lodges which were in a declining state, be advised to coalesce with others in the like circumstances; some who had been negligent in their attendance on the communications, after proper admonitions, he restored to favour; and others, who persevered in their contumacy, he erased out of the List.” We also read:—
“Lord Byron succeeded Lord Cranstoun, and was installed at Drapers’-hall on the 30th of April, 1747. The laws of the committee of charity were, by his Lordship’s orders, inspected, printed, and distributed among the lodges. A handsome contribution to the General charity was sent from the Lodges at Gibraltar. During five years that his lordship presided over the fraternity, no diligence was spared, on his part, to preserve the privileges of Masonry, to redress grievances, and to relieve distress. When business required his attendance in the country, Fotherley Baker, Esq., the Deputy Grand Master, and Secretary Revis were particularly attentive to the Society in his absence. The first gentleman was distinguished for his knowledge of the laws and regulations; the latter for his long and faithful services. Under the direction of these gentlemen the Society continued till the year 1752, when Lord Carysfort accepted the office of Grand Master.”
The foregoing three quotations are from the second edition of Preston, in the 1788 edition he enlarged these statements.
1 therefore think but slight evidence can exist beyond the “Multa Paucis” statement, that Lord Byron was responsible for the Schism, and I trust I have succeeded in showing much other evidence exonerates him from all blame.
The Lord Byron in question died in 1798, I do not know when he was born, but he succeeded his father in the peerage in 1736.
It has occurred to me there is a possibility that ” Multa Paucis,” the date of the publication of which is assigned to circa 1764, was in reality published after Lord Byron was convicted of manslaughter, i.e., 1765, and that his then unpopularity was improperly seized upon to account for the dissensions in the Craft, which continued long after ” Multa Paucis ” was published. I do not assert this was so, but I think the idea might be sifted, as everyone knows “Give a dog a bad name,” etc.
AQC vol 6 – – p. 17