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Another Masonic tradition represents Robert the Bauce, as the founder at Kilwinning, of the Royal Order of Scotland; and an old chronicle states that the monarch, under the title of Robert the First, created the Order of St. Andrew of Chardon, after the battle Bannockburn, June 24, 1314. To this Order was afterward united that of H. R. M., for the sake of the Masons who formed part of the army in that famous battle. King Robert reserved the title of Grand Master to himself and his heirs forever, and founded the Grand Lodge of H. R. M., at Kilwinning. In the time of James the Second, the Earls of Roslin, as hereditary Grand Masters of Scotland, held their annual meetings at Kilwinning, and the Lodge of that place granted warrants for the formation of subordinate Lodges in other parts of the kingdom.
In 1743 the Lodge of Kilwinning, although admitted to be the cradle of Masonry in Scotland, was forced to be content to be numbered as second in the list in point of antiquity, its record having been burned, while the Lodge of St. Mary's Chapel, being more fortunate, preserved its record as far back as the year 1598.
In the title of James the Second, of Scotland, Masonry began to assume some of the forms it has to-day. That monarch took particular interest in the Order, and appointed William St. Clair, Earl of Orkney and Caithness, and Baron of Roslin, and his heirs and successors, to be hereditary Grand Masters of Scotland, reserving to himself and his heirs the right of appointing office-bearers to the Craft. Things continued to prosper with them until the time of James the Sixth. The "Wisest Fool" in Europe after his accession to the English Throne, appears to have neglected his Masonic duties, that the then Grand Master, not having heard from the king for some time on matters pertaining to Masonry, took up his abode in Ireland, leaving the Craft to its fate. Things soon got into confusion- -as they always will do, for want of a head; a convention was called, and Sir William St. Clair, son of him who went to Ireland, was appointed by it as Grand Master, and the office continued in that family until the year 1736. At that time William St. Clair Esq. of Roslyn, being childless, and anxious that the office of Grand Master should not become vacant at his death, resigned for himself and his heirs forever, the office of Grand Master, and requested the Craft to come together, and appoint a successor. They did so, after receiving his resignation, appointed him, by acclamation, their first elective Grand Master.
So ends the traditional history of Freemasonry. Guilds were dying out. Owing to the increase of knowledge, the
spread of commerce, the greater diffusion of wealth among the masses of the people, giving rise to increased demands for better homes among the middle and lower classes; the decay of monastic institutions, and the greater attention and respect paid to industrial classes, and their growing importance in the different States of Europe, the Masons, as a Guild, were not compelled to wander abroad in search of employment, and consequently gradually lost that attachment to the Order which had bound them together for centuries, consequently fewer apprentices were taken, fewer applications made for admittance to the Order; men were beginning to act separately, instead of in masses; individualism began to assert itself, and the old order of things was passing away. Masonry shared the fate of its sister institutions, and about the beginning of the last century, the organization became to all intents and purposes, a thing of the past.
So ends the legend of primitive "Freemasonry," at least so far as it exists in Scotland; and it is most probable that what is said of its history there, is as true as applied to other countries. Be that as it may, however, one thing is clear; we have no authentic, well attested history of it extant. We come now to a (to us) more important period, the revival of the Order or more properly speaking the institution of the modern Order of Free and Accepted Masons.
To understand the subject, we must remember that about the beginning of the last century, and far into it, a perfect rage for clubs of various kinds prevailed. They were formed for all sorts of objects and purposes, and it is not strange that among other ideas, that of resuscitating the Order of Masonry, should arise, but as, for the reasons above stated, the Order had fallen into decay and real Masons were not to be had, it is said that several old members who remembered its workings and its laws, and wished to preserve the shadow if nothing more, met together and agreed to take in persons who, if not actual Masons, they would accept as such, and hence arose the Free and Accepted Masons.
For some time it seems that the "Blue Lodge" was the only one known to Masonry, but at last there arose a passion for inventing degrees. It seems that this innovation is chiefly due to one "Michael Ramsay—better known as the Chevalier de Ramsay. He was born at Ayr, of Presbyterian parents, and after finishing his education at Edinburgh went to Leyden, in Holland, which was then a great resort for the literary youth of Scotland. While there he became indoctrinated with the mystic theology then in vogue and which no
doubt was the original source of that mysticism which caused him afterwards to figure so largely in the history of Freemasonry. While afterwards sojourning in France, he learned that the celebrated Fenelone, Bishop of Cambray, was an eminent exponent of the mystic theology, and therefore he determined to visit him. He accordingly did so, and the Bishop taking a lively interest in his talented young visitor, the result was that young Ramsay was soon converted to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. About this time the drama of the Stuart family, trying to recover a throne that had disgraced, and obtained ascendency in a country they had degraded, was being enacted, and Ramsay, with all the enthusiasm of his nature, inspired no doubt by the Popery to which he had lately been made a convert, or rather pervert, took an active part with the Jacobites, (or adherents of James.) After the discomfiture of the Pretender, and his flight to France, Ramsay sought him out, and, aided by the clerical party, became the tutor of his two sons. There was now a large number of wandering and exiled Jacobites in France, and being mostly Masons, the Order was made a bond of union between them. It was during this period, that it occurred to the prolific mind of Ramsay, that the great popularity of Freemasonry might in some way be turned to account in restoring the Stuarts to power and prestige. His idea was, that by starting a secret organization all over Europe, on a Masonic basis, but incorporating with it some Jacobite ideas, that it would in time perhaps be powerful enough to start another revolution in favor of the Stuarts, or at least, render it valuable assistance.* With that idea, he invented a degree which he called The Royal Arch, and among others to whom he communicated it, was Prince Charles Edward, who was much pleased with it, and granted a charter to a number of brethren to start a Chapter at Araas, in France. This Chapter was named "Le Jacobite Eccossais" or the Scotch Jacobite, and was the first Royal Arch Chapter in the world. By what right Prince Charles granted a charter to any Masonic body can never be imagined unless it was by virtue of the ancient prerogative of the Scottish monarchs to have supervision over the Craft. Ramsay assumed a great antiquity for his degree, and aided by the wandering Jacobites and adventurers, and also by the French clergy, with whom he was a great favorite, it soon became very popular.
"Ramsay having hit upon a happy expedient in his invention.
*Even as late as 1828. I recollect seeing old Masons in my father's house, when drinking a toast to the memory of the Stuarts, pass their glass over a vessel of water with the words' Here's to the King (over the water); alluding of course to the exiled family.
of the Royal Arch, it only served as a spur to his ambition, and he busied himself in the construction of other degrees, amongst the most important of which was that of the Knight Templars the Knights of St. John. He maintained that these knights still retained an organization in Scotland, and he as one of them, and actuated only for the good of the Order, felt bound to propogate it in France. These degrees he thought an improvement on the Royal Arch, and as they contained some military features, a little military knowledge might be of some use in case of another rising in favor of the Stuarts. With that idea, he went on perfecting his work in every way he knew how, aided by the Jesuits, to whom anything that looked to the reëstablishment of the Stnarts seemed of paramount importance. He also invented the greatest part of a series of degrees now known as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. This Rite consists of thirty-three degrees, and is in use to this day.
The multiplication of Masonic degrees and legends, now became the order of the day. They were manufactured not by ones or twos, but dozens all over Europe, but more especially in France and Germany, every dreamer or quack fabricating something of the sort, and setting himself up as Grand Mason, initiated any one who was silly enough to be initiated, and, of course, putting the money in his own pocket. A dozen adventurers might be named who during the last century made up degrees, baptized them with some high sounding title, pretending of course that they were of great antiquity, and so kept on till the fraud was discovered' and the so called degrees were "played out." These degree mongers generally attached the word "Scottish," in some way or other to their fabrications, for Scotland seemed to them to be the great store house of Masonic arcana. Dr Oliver gave a catalogue of some forty or fifty degrees to which Scottish prefix was attached.
Prof. Robinson, of Edinburgh, gives a curious account of some German Masons, who, led away with the idea that Scotland was the great fountain head of Masohry, came over in a body to search for some caves about Aberdeen, where they were told that the secrets of Freemasonry were hid. They hunted around for some time, much to the surprise of the quiet Aberdeenians, and finally went away with the conviction that there was a mistake somewhere.
Such in brief appears to be a rational history of Modern Freemasonry. It was resuscitated and reorganized about the beginning of the eighteenth century, and was undoubtedly social in its character. About the middle of that century, the Royal Arch and other degrees were added to the Order, principally by political adven
turers, and for political purposes, which happily failed, and the Order retained, and does retain its social character, ignoring as an Order all political and social distinctions. Around its history clusters many beautiful and affecting legends of prisoners rescued by its means, of victims saved from torture, even among savages; stories of selfsacrifice and moral heroism of the highest order, and many, very many well authenticated instances of lives saved on the battle field and in the hospital, by its all pervading influence; stories which while they unfold to us glimpses of man's better nature, also cause us to bless the humanizing influence of the sacred Order.
Among the most affecting of the legends of ancient Masonry, is that of the Melrose apprentice. Melrose is well known as one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, of the old ruins in Scotland, and well merits Scott's elogium.
"If thou wouldst view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by pale moonlight,
For the gay beams of lightsome day
When the broken arches are black in night,
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die.
The moon on the east oriel shone
Through slender shafts of shapely stone,
By foliage tracery combined;
Thou would'st have thought some fairy's hand,
Twixt poplars straight the osier wand
In many a freakish knot had twined;
Then framed a spell, when the work was done
According to the legend, it was founded by Sir William St. Clair, the first Patron or Grand Master of Scottish Masons, who, wishing to do something for the honor of the art in which he took such an active interest, gathered together me of the most famous workmen he could find, either in Britain or on the continent to aid in its construction. He caused drafts to be made on boards; these the carpenters carved in wood as patterns to the Masons, that they might carve the same in stone; one of the pillars, from its subtilty and intricacy of design, puzzled the Master Mason who had it in charge.