Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Freemasons were originally what their name, Freemen Masons, implies - namely, members enjoying all the privileges of the guild of masons. These craftsmen travelled about in order to take part in building, and were recognised and accorded hospitality after exchanging certain signs, which were known only to members of the guild. A master was at the head of the central organisation, and wardens presided over branches of it. In Germany the masons were not only builders, but also, to a large extent, architects. Modern, or as it is sometimes called "Speculative," Freemasonry has no connection with any particular trade, though the Scotch Lodges trace their origin to the masons who came from abroad to build the Abbeys of Melrose, Kilwinning, and Holyrood in the 12th century, and those of England to an assemblage of masons held by AEthelstan at York in 926. In reality they are of English origin, and date from the 18th century only. In England the two Grand Lodges were those of York and London, who disputed about precedence and other matters till, in 1813, they were united by the Dukes of Kent and Sussex, their respective Grand Masters. There is now one central governing body, called the "United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England." The Prince of Wales is its Grand Master; and besides his deputy. its officers include Grand Wardens, provincial Grand Masters, Masters and Wardens of Lodges, and annually-elected stewards. There is every year a masonic festival, and the stewards meet four times during the same period for business purposes. The object of existing English freemasonry is "the practice of moral and social virtue," and, above all, mutual relief. A freemason becomes first an "apprentice," next a "fellow-craft," and, lastly, is admitted as "master-mason." A set of pass-words and a peculiar way of shaking hands enable freemasons to recognise one another. The Grand Lodge of Scotland dates from 1736, and has now more than 600 branches, That of Ireland, founded in 1730, has 900 lodges under it. Freemasonry has been introduced into India, China, and the Colonies, and in the United States flourishes greatly, having nearly 10,000 lodges. On the Continent it has been ' used as a political agent, and has been condemned by five Popes as subversive both of religious and civil authority. It exists, nevertheless, in every country of Europe. In England it has never beeti"1 regarded as revolutionary, and when in 1799 the Act for- the suppression of secret and unlawful societies was passed, freemasons' lodges were expressly excepted from its operation. Encyclopeedias of freemasonry have been published both in German and English, as well as many other works on the subject.