Celebrating 300 years

'Our Yesterdays' - Graham Redman and John Hamill

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Quarterly Communication

10 December 2014 
A speech by WV Bro Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary, and VW Bro John Hamill, Assistant Grand Chancellor 

GFR: MW Pro Grand Master and Brethren, a year ago we left the United Grand Lodge of England duly constituted on 27 December 1813 with elaborate ceremonial, and the Brethren recruiting themselves at the Crown and Anchor tavern where a grand banquet was provided.

As might be expected, 1814 was a year of consolidation in which many of the details of the Union fell to be worked through.  At the Quarterly Communication of 2 March the Board of General Purposes in its report set out the “Duty of the Board”:

1st To propose for the sanction and adoption of the Grand Lodge such Laws and regulations as may appear necessary or expedient for the Government of the Craft and to draw up and arrange the same….

2dly To propose for the consideration and adoption of the other Masonic Boards such measures as appear to this Board to require their consideration.

3dly To hear and determine all subjects of Masonic Complaint or irregularity respecting Lodges or Individual Masons, To proceed to admonition or suspension if judged necessary, and where the case shall appear of so flagrant a nature as to require the Erasure of a Lodge or expulsion of a Member from the Fraternity to make a special report to the Grand Lodge with their Opinion thereon.

That all the other powers and duties heretofore exercised and belonging to the former Stewards Lodge or Committee of Charity now belong to this Board, except only such powers and duties as are specially vested in or properly belong to the several other Boards now constituted

The Board then promulgated the Rules and Regulations proposed for its Government

JMH: MW Pro Grand Master and brethren, the Duke of Sussex was keen that there should be no slacking once the festivities were over and the Union achieved. He had round him a close circle of advisers to push forward his aims. The new Boards were immediately set to their tasks. The Board of General Purposes was a combination of the former Committee of Charity of the premier Grand Lodge and the Stewards Lodge of the Antients. Both had originally been set up to manage the central charitable affairs of their respective Grand Lodges but had gradually accrued both policy making and disciplinary powers and were more like general committees. In the twenty years after the Union the Board of General Purposes slowly absorbed the other Boards set up in 1814, except for the Board of Benevolence which continued until 1980 when its duties were taken over by the Grand Charity.

GFR:  The Board went on to represent 

that various irregularities having been communicated to this Board in the practice of initiating of Members as well as in that of granting Certificates and other Matters, It is recommended that in the Conferences which are to take place between this Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland a general understanding be established on every point of communion between them that perfect unity may be established.......

JMH:  Because the Union had, in the end, been so hastily arranged neither the Grand Lodge of Ireland nor that for Scotland had been able to send delegates to the great meeting on 27th December 1813. The Grand Master, however, was keen to have their support and to try and achieve unanimity of purpose between the three Grand Lodges. Although not referred to in the Grand Lodge Minutes the Grand Masters of Ireland and Scotland and other of their senior brethren met with the Duke of Sussex in the early summer of 1814 and agreed and signed what became known as the International Compact which has governed relations between the three Home Grand Lodges ever since and brought into being what is now an annual tripartite meeting where the three get together to discuss common problems.

GFR: The Board also reported on Charges preferred before them by the Officers of the Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2 against Brother Charles Bonner … for having printed part of the Proceedings of the Lodge of Antiquity, and its Permanent Committee, without the consent of the Grand Master or his Deputy. Grand Lodge Resolved unanimously that the report be confirmed and the paper printed by Brother Bonner be referred to the consideration of the Board of General Purposes and that in the meantime Bro Bonner be suspended from all Masonic Rights and Privileges.

Reports were also delivered by the Board of Works (which had been considering jewels and aprons), the Board of Finance and the Board of Schools.

JMH: Brother Bonner we will return to a little later. The Board of Works had been given the remit of looking after the real property, furniture and regalia of Grand Lodge. They immediately set to designing standard regalia and it is to them that we owe the design of the aprons, collars and jewels we still wear today. The only differences since 1814 are the addition of emblems for new officers as they have been introduced at Lodge, Metropolitan, Provincial, District and Grand Lodge levels and the wearing of chains by active Grand Officers. Until 1836 active Grand Officers wore their jewels pendent to embroidered collars, as Past Grand Officers do today. Amazingly the Minutes of the Board of Works still survive. Infuriatingly,  whilst they list the designs chosen they give no indication as to why they were chosen – which has left the field wide open to Masonic symbologists to give more and more abstruse meaning to the various symbols used!  Having presented their ideas to the Grand Lodge in March, they were formally approved at the Installation of the Grand Master on 2nd May.

GFR: At the Quarterly Communication held on 1 June, the Board of General Purposes reported that Bro Bonner had been summoned to answer 

“for having printed and circulated amongst some Members of the Craft a certain paper purporting to be the Copy of an address proposed in the Lodge of Antiquity to be presented to His Royal Highness The Grand Master together with remarks and observations thereon, in which said printed Paper the conduct of the M.W. Grand Master and others was spoken of and animadverted on and that in a way highly improper unmasonic and unjust and to bring with him to the Board such witnesses and evidence as he might think necessary in his behalf”

JMH: Charles Bonner was the Acting Master of the Lodge of Antiquity, of which the Grand Master was the permanent Master. Claiming to act with the agreement of the Past Masters and other members of the Lodge, Bonner had issued a printed letter in which, like his mentor in ritual matters William Preston almost forty years earlier, he claimed that the immemorial rights of the Lodge of Antiquity were being set aside by the Act of Union. In particular he referred to the Lodge having lost its No. 1 status on the Register, lost its right to carry the Book of Constitutions on a cushion immediately in front of the Grand Master in all Masonic processions and the right of its Master or Acting Master to sit at the right hand of the Deputy Grand Master at feasts after Grand Lodge meetings. His case might have been listened to had he simply made these claims, but he was guilty of two major errors. First, admittedly in the most carefully polite language, he chided His Royal Highness the Grand Master as Master of the Lodge of Antiquity for not having done more to safeguard the rights of the Lodge and, secondly, despite claiming to speak on their behalf had not gained the agreement of the Lodge to his complaint before having it printed and circulated. At its meeting the Lodge formally rejected the letter and informed both the Grand Master and the Grand Secretary that it did not represent the views of the Lodge.  

GFR: The Quarterly Communication of 7 September saw the reappearance of a character we have previously met in these historical presentations.  The Board of General Purposes reported

that Brother Francis C. Daniel a Member of the Lodge of Felicity No. 75 late No. 54 having attended on the 22d Decr last at one of the Meetings of the Lodge of Reconciliation previous to the day of Union….. it was stated by some of the Brethren present that he had been expelled from that part of the Fraternity of which His Grace the Duke of Athol was formerly Grand Master and as the Rules Orders Regulations and Acts of the two Grand Lodges previous to the Union ought to be maintained subject to the reconsideration of the United Grand Lodge Brother Daniel must be taken and considered to stand expelled the United Fraternity.

JMH: Those who have been attending this Quarterly Communication for the last few years will remember that Francis Columbine Daniel was the Brother who, joining a queue at a garden party at Buckingham Palace was surprised when asked to kneel and had a sword tapped on his shoulder, thus gaining a knighthood by default! He had indeed been expelled by the former Antients Grand Lodge and, as a tit for tat, had engineered the expulsion of Thomas Harper from the premier Grand Lodge, which actions delayed any discussion of the Union for nearly seven years. 

GFR: There were a few fireworks at the December Communication.  After the Grand Lodge had been opened in ample Form and the Laws relating to the Behaviour of Masons in Grand Lodge had been read, the Minutes of the previous Communication were put for confirmation, whereupon:

Robert Leslie Junr Master of the Lodge No. 9, rose and addressing himself in the most disrespectful, disorderly and unmasonic manner to the Grand Master then presiding over the Grand Lodge which had been opened in ample form, demanded to know whether he had been regularly initiated and passed the several Degrees of Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft.  This outrageous act of indecorum committed in the Grand Lodge towards the Fraternity at large in the person of the Grand Master by Bro. Leslie Junr excited a general indignation in the breast of all the Brethren present; who had most of them witnessed the joint and solemn Obligation taken by the two Grand Masters of the respective Fraternities on the day of Union.……

Eventually a motion was carried

“That the said Robert Leslie Junr should lay aside his Masonic Insignia and Quit the Grand Lodge” 

which upon his refusal he was compelled to do.

JMH: Robert Leslie Jnr was the son of Robert Leslie who since 1790 had been Grand Secretary of the Antients Grand Lodge. Father Leslie had been wholly against any idea of a Union of the two Grand Lodges and did all he could to hinder matters. He continued to rail against the event and refused to hand over the books and papers of the Antients Grand Lodge until he was guaranteed a pension of £100 p.a., which had been his salary from the Antients Grand Lodge. It would appear that the son was even more abrasive than the father! 

GFR: Later in the meeting a Letter addressed to the Most Worshipful Grand Master by Bro Charles Bonner was by His Royal Highness laid before the Grand Lodge and read ……..  After which on a Motion duly made it was Resolved that Bror. Charles Bonner be restored to his functions as a Mason and a Member of the Grand Lodge.

JMH: Bonner’s letter was suitably abject and apologetic and he was enabled to return to the fold and continued his interest in ritual matters. He had been Secretary of the Lodge of Promulgation, which had paved the way towards the Union and gave much advice to the Lodge of Reconciliation in its attempts to bring about a standard form of ritual after the Union.

GFR: It was “Ordered that a Special Grand Lodge be holden on Wednesday the 1st of February next”…  The purpose of the meeting was to consider the new Code of Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Grand Lodge, and of the Craft in general, which had been deliberated on by the Board of General Purposes.

The Board’s report had also dealt with the case of Bro Francis Columbine Daniel, and he

being in attendance two Stewards conducted him into the Grand Lodge without his Masonic Clothing when His Royal Highness the Most Worshipful Grand Master addressed him on the circumstance of his Restoration to his Masonic Privileges and on the conduct which it was the duty of every Mason to observe after which he was reinstated with his Apron and directed to take his Seat as a Member of the Grand Lodge.

JMH: Daniel, you may be pleased to hear, caused no further problems, was never referred to again in Grand Lodge and will not appear again in these talks, should we be asked to continue them! The new Code of Laws was issued as unbound sheets for anyone to make comment on their content. Comments there were aplenty and it was not until 1819 that the final text was agreed and published. 

GFR: The Quarterly Communication of 4 March 1914 was held at Central Hall, Westminster, in order to accommodate the large numbers attending, and opened on an amicable note with a unanimous vote in favour of a contributory pension scheme for the clerks in the Grand Secretary’s office in receipt of salaries of under £400 per annum.  Alas, controversy set in immediately afterwards with the Motions Pursuant to Notice.  In December 1913 Grand Lodge had directed that a special report of the Board of General Purposes putting forward significant constitutional proposals for the reorganisation of the Grand Lodge and London be circulated to Lodges in order that all Brethren might vote on the proposals.  This provoked a flurry of Motions for March 1914.

A preliminary skirmish was launched by W Bro Samuel Green, who objected to the order in which the various motions were set out in the paper of business.  He quoted the then Rule 55:

“Notices of motion shall be set down for consideration in the order in which they were given, and.... shall stand on the paper of business in precedence of all subsequent notices.........”

He went on to submit that it was 

a matter of extreme importance that the resolutions shall come on in the order in which the notices were given, because it may be a matter of considerable interest to the Brethren that certain resolutions should be dealt with before others.  I have little doubt about that.  Many Brethren sent in their resolutions earlier in order that they might be dealt with in accordance with the Book of Constitutions, and the point I make is, that if whoever is responsible for altering the Agenda Paper now does so on a future occasion it may create considerable difficulty. I submit that the Book of Constitutions binds, not merely the Initiate, not merely the Master Mason, but also the Board of General Purposes. Therefore, Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master, I ask your ruling as to whether the notices of motion shall be taken in the order in which they are on the Agenda Paper to-day, or whether they shall be taken in the order in which they were given, and comply with the Book of Constitutions?

The Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, after consultation with the Grand Secretary replied:

Brethren, I hold myself most particularly bound by the Book of Constitutions, but this matter is capable of a very natural and simple explanation, which, I am sure, will give satisfaction to all and cause offence to nobody. ….  It is this. The Grand Secretary showed the motions of which notice had been given to the President of the Board and asked him what would be the best order in which to take them? The President did not recollect for the moment that there was Rule 55 – any of us may forget the existence of a Rule – and, as it was put to him in that way, he naturally only regarded it from the point of view of the convenience of Grand Lodge and suggested a particular order.  It was only after that had happened and the notice had been printed, that he was reminded of the Rule. That is the explanation, and I hope you regard it as a sufficient one….

Nevertheless, Bro Green’s resolution “That the original order of the motions, as they stood on the Agenda on the 18th February of this year, be adhered to” was put to the meeting and declared carried.

After passing an amendment to the Book of Constitutions to allow Honorary Members an unfettered right to attend the Lodges that had elected them to honorary membership, the first Motion relating to the reorganisation of Grand Lodge was called.  Its proposer, VW Bro R.A. McCall, KC, PDepGReg, was detained in Court, so it was put back in the agenda and W Bro Norman Armitage rose to propose on behalf of W Bro Keogh Murphy (who was absent through illness)

That this Grand Lodge expresses its regret at the action of the Board of General Purposes in circulating two letters dated the 18th December, 1913, and the 24th January, 1914, respectively, inaccurately stating the effect of the Resolution passed in Grand Lodge on the 3rd December, 1913, which authorised the reception and circulation of the Report of the Board of General Purposes containing nineteen proposals.

JMH: The Board had a very paternalistic attitude towards the Grand Secretary’s Staff and the new pension scheme was a generous one, which, it was admitted in introducing it to Grand Lodge, would in the long run save Grand Lodge money, which the then existing ad hoc provisions would not!

The rest of the meeting was one of those rare occasions when the management of Grand Lodge was caught on the wrong foot! The rather acrimonious debate which followed, and went on for most of the evening, was on technicalities: who had said what and if they had been correctly reported in the official published records, whether or not the procedural rules for debate in Grand Lodge had  been followed to the letter (they had not), complete with statements implying that the Pro Grand Master, President of the Board and Grand Secretary did not appear to be as well acquainted  with the Book of Constitutions as persons of their eminence should be. The evening was taken up with motions, counter motions and amendments that make reading the Proceedings of the event something of a towel round the head task. 

GFR: VW Bro McCall, now released from Court, spoke to his motion “That this Grand Lodge do now proceed to discuss and consider the Report of the Board of General Purposes relating to the Reconstruction of Grand Lodge.”  The debate became heated and eventually boiled over when another PDepGReg, VW Bro. J.V. Vesey Fitzgerald, KC, weighed in with

except from Bro. McCall, I have never heard anyone suggest it is beyond the power of Grand Lodge to accept a scheme for devolving some of its powers… and Brethren, although Bro. McCall asserted that with great emphasis, he has given no reasons why we should accept his statement on that point as a sound one….. I do not know whether the members of Grand Lodge wish to be addressed as common jurymen or Judges.  Brother McCall's speech struck me as very much like what we hear from him in the Law Courts when addressing a Common Jury. (Cries of “Withdraw.”)  I am very sorry if my opinion is not that of others. I am quite sure that anyone who is used to the Courts as Bro. McCall is, will not take objection to what I say, If he does I am sorry. (Cries of “Withdraw.”)  If Bro. McCall feels I have said anything to hurt him, and he objects, I will do so.

From the Pro Grand Master: Bro. Fitzgerald has said that if Bro. McCall feels hurt he apologises. Is not that sufficient?

From VW Bro Fitzgerald: If Grand Lodge feels aggrieved I apologise to Grand Lodge.

JMH: Tempers were evidently fraying and the tenor of the debate was certainly descending. To the possible relief of the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, Brother Samuel Green suggested the setting up of a Committee to go into all the matters, which was agreed to and the meeting closed. Lord Ampthill had obviously been affected by the ferocity of the debate and that some of the attacks had come from senior Grand Officers. When he addressed the assembly after he had invested the new Grand Officers in April 1914 he quoted the first paragraphs of the Address to the Brethren given at the installation of every Master of a Lodge, modifying it to refer to Grand Lodge and stated his hope that if in the future Grand Officers disapproved of the agenda or any other matter they would approach him or some other senior officer to discuss them rather than to launch them on Grand Lodge without notice. He reminded Grand Lodge that its meeting were not a Parliament or a political meeting but a meeting of Freemasons and that there should not be factions or an opposition party but that they should be able to have informed debate and respect each other’s views as Freemasons were taught to do.  

GFR: In June, again at Central Hall, Westminster, Grand Lodge gave its unanimous approval to two resolutions: “That there be appointed by Grand Lodge a Special Committee of seven Members, to consider the question of making a further grant to the Royal National Life-Boat Institution, and report to Grand Lodge;” and “That the sum of three hundred guineas (£315) be granted to the fund now being raised in Newfoundland, and assisted by the District Grand Lodge, for the relief of the widows and orphans of the 250 sealers who recently lost their lives in the ice-fields.”

The Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill then spoke:

Brethren, I beg to move, “That the Board of General Purposes be requested to prepare a scheme for the fitting celebration in 1917 of the Bi-centenary of the foundation of Grand Lodge, with due regard to the fact that genuine Freemasons in every part of the world are looking forward to the occasion with deep interest and with the hope that it may be the means of strengthening the bonds of the fraternity and conforming the true principles of our Order.” It is high time that we should commence preparations for the celebration of our Bi-centenary, an occasion when English Freemasonry will be expected to prove its worth to all the world. .….  For some time past letters have reached me from different parts of the world asking me what the Grand Lodge of England is going to do, and whether other Grand Lodges will be invited to participate in the celebrations or allowed to co-operate by simultaneous celebrations in their own territories. I regret to say that I have not yet been made aware of any similar interest or intelligent anticipation of the event among Brethren in England…… You cannot do better than test the ability of the Board which you have just elected by calling upon them for proposals….  I daresay that a special Committee of a more representative character may be suggested, but it will be time enough to set up Special Committees when there is special work to be done. For the present, all that is necessary is to draw up a general scheme and to promulgate it for discussion in the Craft, so that there may be general approval of anything that is eventually decided   I beg to move.

The Deputy Grand Master seconded the proposal, which was declared carried unanimously.

Grand Lodge then moved on to the business of debating at almost interminable length the composition and mode of selection of a special or representative Committee to consider the proposals for constitutional change.

JMH:  Grand Lodge support for the Royal National Life-Boat Institution had begun in 1871 and it was a cause dear to many members of the Craft. Those who wish to know more can read about the long association between the Craft and the RNLI in the new issue of Freemasonry Today. Support for Newfoundland was because the majority of the Lodges there were under our Grand Lodge, there being no local Grand Lodge. Interminable the discussions on the proposed Committee certainly were and sight appears to have been lost of what the Committee’s purpose was to be. The proposal to start planning a major celebration to mark the bi-centenary of the formation of the premier Grand Lodge and the interest being shown in it by Grand Lodges overseas certainly resonates today when plans are being hatched to celebrate our tercentenary in 2017 and those same sister Grand Lodges are showing great interest in what might be being planned. Although it is ahead of the time we are talking about today, it should be noted that despite the War over 7,000 brethren, many of them in uniform, gathered in the Royal Albert Hall in June 1917 to celebrate our bi-centenary.

GFR: When Grand Lodge next met, on 2 September, the country was at war. MW Pro Grand Master, in your Presiding Officer’s Remarks this September you quoted the words used by the then Deputy Grand Master, Bro Halsey, and we do not propose to repeat them now. The Grand Secretary read a letter, expressing deep fraternal concern, from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, which described itself as our eldest child in the Western Hemisphere, and similar sentiments were echoed by a Past Grand Master of South Carolina and two Past Grand Masters of New Zealand who were present as Visitors at the Quarterly Communication.

JMH:  Support from the Grand Lodges in Australia, Canada and the United States of America was to be a constant throughout the War, which in a very real sense brought those Grand Lodges closer to us, particularly when troops from those areas began to go through London, the Brethren amongst them taking an opportunity of visiting Lodges. The Board showed its paternalistic side once again by announcing that those of its Clerks who responded to the “call to the Colours” would continue to have their salaries paid throughout the hostilities and would be guaranteed to resume their labours at Grand Lodge once hostilities ceased. More than half of the clerks answered the call and happily only one of them did not return.

GFR: The following resolution marked an early casualty of the conflict:

That further proceedings in regard to the election of the Representative Committee on the question of the re-organization of Grand Lodge, under the resolution of Grand Lodge of June 3rd, be postponed.

JMH:  Mercifully the war put an end to the endless argument over the re-organisation of the administration of the Craft. The intention had been a good one of bringing the Provinces more actively into the central administration of the Craft but the scheme that had been produced was an unwieldy one of multiple layers of Committees at both local and central levels, the division of London into ten Provinces and so much would have been devolved to committees before coming to a central Council and then the Board that it would have been almost impossible to get any policy or changes through in less than eighteen months! Some changes were made during the War, the most important of which was elected Provincial representation on the Board of General Purposes to give the Provinces a voice in central administration.

GFR: In December an amendment was made to the Book of Constitutions to prevent the automatic exclusion of Brethren from their Lodges if the arrears of subscription arose while they were serving their country.

JMH:  The amendment was an example of Grand Lodge at its pragmatic best, almost making policy and change “on the hoof” amending a recommendation within Grand Lodge to bring into effect a rule change recognising the difficulties that members on active service would face during what was being slowly realised was not going to be a short war. The year, however, ended as it had begun with a very lengthy and somewhat nit picking debate on the actual wording of the proposition. There was also an attempt to persuade Grand Lodge to make a donation of 1,000 guineas towards the funding of a Masonic Nursing Home to care for members of the services injured on active service. There was a certain amount of support but two major figures questioned whether this was a good use of Grand Lodge’s limited finances as experience had shown that running a private hospital was an enormous economic undertaking. The proposition was negative but in 1917 the Freemasons’ War Hospital and Nursing Home was opened in London, eventually becoming the Royal Masonic Hospital. As time was to show the comments made in 1914 proved correct and the Hospital eventually had to go. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

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