Early History of Freemasonry in England


M.R.I.A., F.S.A., M.R.S. N.A., ETC.

"GOD alone is gracious and powerful! Thanks be to our
gracious God, Father of heaven and of earth, and of all
things that in them are, that he has vouchsafed to give
power unto men!"

So commences one of the ancient constitutions of Masonry;
and can we be censured for opening our task in the same
spirit? An Institution which has incontrovertibly in its present
form maintained a fair reputation for three centuries, is not
likely to suggest any reflection worthy of condemnation.
Listen, then, ye mysterious sons of Adam, to the outpourings
of one who has not the felicity of numbering himself a
member of your fraternity, and who has never yet had a
glance beyond the confines of your mighty arcana-

"- more wonderful
Than that which, by creation, first brought forth
Light out of darkness!"

After the sun had descended down the seventh age from
Adam, before the flood of Noah, there was born unto
Methusael, the son of Mehujael, a man called Lamech, who
took unto himself two wives; the name of the one was Adah,
and the name of the other Zillah. Now Adah, his first wife,
bare two sons, the one named Jabal, and the other Jubal.
Jabal was the inventor of geometry, and the first who built
houses of stone and timber; and jubal was the inventor of
music and of harmony. Zillah, his second wife, bare
Tubalcain, the instructor of every artificer in brass and iron;
and a daughter called Naamah, who was the first founder of
the weaver's craft.

All these had knowledge from above, that the Almighty
would take vengeance for sin, either by fire or by water, so
great was the wickedness of the world. So they reasoned
among themselves how they might preserve the knowledge
of the sciences they had found; and Jabal said that there
were two different kinds of stones, of such virtue that one
would not burn, and the other would not sink - the one called
marble, and the other latres. They then agreed to write all
the sciences that they had found on these two stones, Jabal
having offered to accomplish this; and therefore may we say
that he was the most learned in science, for he
accomplished the alpha and the omega.

Water was the chosen instrument of destruction, but the two
pillars of science remained in triumphant security. Hermes,
the son of Shem, was the fortunate discoverer of one of
them. After this the craft of Masonry flourished, and Nimrod
was one of the earliest and most munificent patrons of the
art. Abraham, the son of Terah, was a wise man, and a great
clerk, and he was skilled in all the seven sciences, and he
taught the Egyptians the science of grammar. Euclid was the
pupil of Abraham, and in his time the river Nile overflowed so
far, that many of the dwellings of the people of Egypt were
destroyed. Euclid instructed them in the art of making mighty
walls and ditches to stop the progress of the water, and by
geometry measured out the land, and divided it into
partitions, so that each man might ascertain his own
property. It was Euclid who gave Masonry the name of
geometry. In his days it came to pass that the sovereign and
lords of the realm had gotten many sons unlawfully by other
men's wives, insomuch that the land was grievously
burdened with them. A council was called, but no reasonable
remedy was proposed. The king then ordered a
proclamation to be made throughout his realms, that high
rewards should be given to any man who would devise a
proper method for maintaining the children. Euclid dispelled
the difficulty. He thus addressed the king: "My noble
sovereign, if I may have order and government of these
lords' sons, I will teach them the seven liberal sciences,
whereby they may live honestly like gentlemen, provided that
you will grant me power over them by virtue of your royal
commission." This request was immediately complied with,
and Euclid established a Lodge of Masons.

So far the ancient legend, which is found with occasional
variations in the histories of the constitutions of
Freemasonry. I have introduced it here as a preface to the
very singular and curious English poem which follows, which
would not be very intelligible without it.

The poem alluded to is on the constitutions of Freemasonry,
and is taken from a very small quarto manuscript on vellum,
written not later than the latter part of the fourteenth century,
preserved in the Old Royal Library at the British Museum.
(Bib. Reg. 17 A, I. ff. 32.) Casley, by some strange oversight,
in the only catalogue we at present possess, has entitled it
"a poem of moral duties;" and, although he gives the Latin
title correctly, yet the real contents of this singular document
were quite unknown, until I pointed them out in an essay "On
the Introduction of Freemasonry into England," read before
the Society of Antiquaries, during the session of 1838-9. I
believe I am right in stating that this is the earliest document
yet brought to light connected with the progress of Free-
masonry in Great Britain.


I highly venerate the Masonic Institution, under the fullest persuasion
that, when its principles are acknowledged and its laws and precepts
obeyed, it comes nearest to the Christian religion, in its moral effects
and influence, of any institution with which I am acquainted.