The Plain Dealer
Monday 14 September 1724
Credulity is a Weakness, from which very few are exempted. It is the Ground-work of Craft and Imposture; and the Means by which they are propagated.
I have often reflected, with Concern, upon the Condition of Humanity, in this Regard: And nothing can be more afflicting, than to behold one Part of the rational World making a Trade of misguiding the other! If all the Errors, into which People are drawn, had but the Marks of Truth, some Excuse, might be found for their Credulity, but the Shame is, in their receiving what is new, at the Expence, even of Probability. Vulgar Minds are most struck with what is most incredible; and the Way to convince, is, to amaze them. Reason makes few Proselytes: But Mystery rarely fails. And the less they know why, the fonder they grow of the Imposture.
Because I would not dip into Controversies, wherein Religion and Government, are concern’d; I must descend into Low Life, and only touch the little Artifices which owe their Reputation to this Weakness.
The World is wearied with Stories of Witches and Fairies, and begins to see thro’ the Imposture. The Craft of Astrologers, Conjurers, and Prophets, begins also to be exploded, by the Vulgar, whose Oracles they have long been. But I am not a little amaz’d to find, that, instead of the Delusions, once practis’d on the Multitude, They, now, work strongest among the polite and fashionable People. What Staring, what Clapping, what Waste of Time and Money have Harlequin and Faustus occasion’d? The Madness, both of Actors, and Spectators, has so provok’d me almost to Tears, that I could even have wept over the City!
I will not be so partial, to our Worshipful Society of Free and Accepted MASONS, as to forbear reproving them, on this Occasion, for the unaccountable Pother and Noise they have lately made in the World. What Stories have been told to amuse, and engage the Credulous? What Reflections, what Reproach, have they brought upon That Ancient Order, by making Proselytes, in so cheap and so prostituted a Manner? It afflicts me sensibly, when I see Coxcombs introduc’d into our Lodges, and made privy to our Secrets. I have often enter’d my Protest against this Abuse, in private Society; and must use the Freedom to offer this Memorial, in my publick Character. ’Tis my Opinion, That the late Prostitution of our Order is in some Measure, the betraying it. The weak Heads of Vintners, Drawers, Wig-makers, Weavers, &c. admitted into our Fraternity, have not only brought Contempt upon the Institution, but do very much endanger it. And I have heard it ask’d, Why we don’t admit Women, as well as Taylors, into our Lodges? I must confess I have met with as sufficient Heads among the Fair Sex, as I have found in the Brotherhood: I have some Reasons to fear, that our Secrets are in Danger. There is, in the Conduct of too many, since their Admission, the
———————— Cœcus amor sui,
Et tollens vacuum plus nimio Gloria verticem;
Arcanique Fides prodiga, perlucidior vitro;
which is expresly prohibited by our Excellent Rules and Constitutions; and, which is the very Characteristick of the Fools, that were received into the Lodges at ROME, in the Days of AUGUSTUS CÆSAR; and whereof our Brother HORACE complain’d vehemently, in an Ode to VARUS, who was then Grand Master. But whatever Freedoms others imagine they may lawfully and discreetly use, my Conscience cannot brook them.
———— NON EGO TE — — — —
INVITUM QUATIAM: NEC — — — —
SUB DIVUM RAPIAM — — — —
My Female Readers, and, I’m afraid, some of the Brotherhood may stop here, and stare, as if I had blabb’d out the whole Mystery. They may be doubtful whether the above Words, and Dashes may not be decypher’d into the famous Mason Word? But I leave the Ignorant to their Wonder; and proceed to assure my Brethren, that they have promoted Superstition and Babbling, contrary to the Peace of our Sovereign Lord, the King, by their late Practices, and Condescentions. Alarming Reports, and Stories of LADDERS, HALTERS, DRAWN SWORDS, and DARK ROOMS, have spread Confusion and Terror: And, if the Government does not put the Laws against us in Execution, it will be an extraordinary Favour, or Oversight. For my own Part, I am so faithful a Subject, and have the Weal of Our Ancient Order, so much at Heart, that unless the Grand Master puts a Stop to these Proceedings, by a peremptory Charge to the Brotherhood, I wish I cou’d honourably enter into Another.
And, now I have hinted at Another Order, I must entertain my Readers with Two Letters; the first address’d to my self, and the last written from Rome, to the Author of the first.
* * *
HANG CHI to the British PLAIN-DEALER: Health:
“BY the Help of my Secretary and Interpreter I peruse your Lucubrations; and write this Epistle, to assure you of my Esteem.
“I am inform’d, that you have taken Notice of the Advertisement I caused to be publish’d in the News-Papers; and that you call’d at the Castle, to be satisfy’d of the Truth of my Arrival in this Place. Your Enquiry, and the Conversation you had with my Secretary, give me Occasion to gratify you farther; and I am proud to have it in my Power to distinguish one of your Merit in the Manner I intend.
“THE Laws and Constitutions of the most ancient and illustrious Order, of the GORMOGONS oblige us to be cautious and frugal, in admitting new Members. Remarkable Virtues have always recommended the Candidates. No Rank, Station, or Condition of Life, intitles a Person to be of our Fraternity. We know neither Prejudice, nor Partiality, in conferring this Honour; and all the Interest in the World to procure it, would be fruitless, without Merit.
“MY Residence here will be short. It cannot therefore be expected, that I shou’d invite many worthy Persons to enter into our Order; nor dare I render it cheap and contemptible, by admitting every Pretender: But I know several who deserve to be received, and to whom I have promis’d the Distinction.
“I shall consider it as an Ornament to our most ancient and illustrious Order, which is the Honour and Ornament of all its Members, if you, Sage Sir, will be pleas’d to accept the Privileges that I am empower’d to bestow on the Deserving. I confess, you must first be DEGRADED, as our Laws require, and renounce, and abandon, the Society of False-Builders. But, as your great Judgment must distinguish the Excellence of our Order, I hope you will prefer being a Fellow with Us. Nothing would more sensibly concern me, when I leave London, than not be able to transmit your Name in the List, that I must send to the OECUMENICAL VOLGEE in China.
"I am, Sage SIR,
Your Affectionate Friend,
* * *
SHIN SHAW, to HANG CHI, at London: Health:
Most Illustrious Brother and Friend,
“I congratulate you on the speedy Progress you have made from the Court of the Young SOPHY, and your safe Arrival in the Isle of Britain. Your Presence is earnestly expected at ROME. The Father of High Priests is fond of our Order, and the CARDINALS have an Emulation to be distinguish’d. Our Excellent Brother GORMOGON, Mandarin CHAN FUE, is well, and salutes you. Since my last, I had Advices from Pekin, which confirm former Accounts, that our new Emperor is an open Enemy to the Jesuits: But I pray, their Disgrace in China may not provoke the Europeans to use Us ill. Take Care of your Health. Farewell.
I acknowledge the Honour done me, by the illustrious Mandarin HANG CHI; and, though I cannot prevail with my self to be DEGRADED, in the Manner requir’d by the Laws and Constitutions of the Order of GORMOGONS, I approve and applaud, their admitting none, but whom Merit recommends into the Fellowship of the OECUMENICAL VOLGEE. Moreover, I propose the Good Conduct, and Regularity of the GORMOGONS, as a Pattern to the Free and Accepted Masons, for the future: And, if I shall be enabled to make any useful Discoveries for the Service of the Brotherhood, they may depend on my watchful Fidelity.
The Letter, sign’d Mæcenas, communicated to us, by Philanthropos, are come to Hand, and deservedly claim a Place in this Paper the first Opportunity.
Our Fair Correspondents, the one from Edinburgh, the other from Surrey, who, both so beautifully, and pathetically, pour forth their Complaints to the PLAIN DEALER, shall meet with a proper and early Regard.
The Anonymous Gentleman, who requests our speedy Opinion of a certain Case, which, he says, is urgent, is desired to suspend his dangerous Advice to his Friend; and we shall touch upon that Subject, in an ampler Manner, than is consistent with the Haste he requires.