FREEMASONRY AND SOCIAL
ENGLAND IN THE EIGHTEENTH
WOR. Bro. GILBERT W. DAYNES.
Transactions of the Manchester Association for Masonic
Research - 1929
And yet again,
"You are to act as becomes a moral and wise Man you must
also consult your health, by not continuing together too late,
or too long from home, after Lodge Hours are past; and by
avoiding Gluttony or Drunkenness, that your Families be not
neglected or injured, nor you disabled from working."
From the before-mentioned speech of Edward Oakley I
propose to quote once more in order to show that those in
power were desirous of giving full effect to the ancient
Charges of the Freemasons. In the course of his address to
the Brethren of his Lodge, Bro. Oakley said:-
"I must now, in the strictest manner, charge you to be
careful, and diligently to enquire into the Character of such
Persons who shall intercede to be admitted to this
Honourable Fraternity; I therefore, according to my Duty,
forwarn you to admit, or even to recommend to be initiated
Masons, such as are Wine-Bibbers or Drunkards, witty
Punsters on sacred Religion or Politicks, Tale-Bearers,
Bablers, or Lyars. litigious, quarrelsome, irreligious, or
prophane Persons, lew'd Songsters, Persons illiterate and of
mean Capacities ; and especially beware of such who desire
admittance: with a selfish View of Gain to themselves ; all
which Principles and Practices tend to the Destruction of
Morality, a Burden to Civil Government, notoriously
scandalous, and entirely repugnant to the Sacred Order and
Constitution of Free and Accepted Masons."
This is surely in advance of the times remembered by Dr.
Samuel Johnson, "when all decent people of Lichfield got
drunk every night and were not the worse thought of." I think
that all the early Lodge By-Laws that I have read deal with
this subject, and impose fines upon any Brethren who enter
the Lodge "disguised in liquor," or as one Lodge phrased it,
"distempered with drink." Persistent disregard of these
By-Laws meant permanent exclusion from the Lodge; and
there are Lodge Minutes to confirm that the various penalties
were duly inflicted. Thus in the Lodge of Felicity, No. 58,
there was a By-Law of 1742, which reads :-
"That if any Member of this Lodge shall in Lodge hours be
judged by the Majority of the Company to be Disguised in
Liquor he, or they, so offending shall pay two Shillings each
for the use of the Lodge."
The Lodge, at that time, was composed of Tradesmen and
servants of the Nobility who resided in the neighbourhood of
Then again there is a considerable body of evidence in
support of the endeavours made by Freemasonry to purge
its Members from swearing and other profaneness,
lewdness and other unchivalrous conduct towards
womenfolk, although these latter were, of course, ineligible
as Members of the Society. In a Speech made by Isaac
Head, at Helston, Cornwall, on the 21st April, 1752, he said:-
"Let us also be resolutely fixed in the great duty of sobriety
and not suffer Liquor to get the Ascendancy of our Reason.
An whilst we are careful to avoid the Shameful sin of
Drunkenness let us at the same time remember that we are
in Duty bound to abstain from another Vice, which is too
common in this present Age; I mean the detestable Practice
of Swearing by, and invoking the Solemn Name of the Great
and Glorious God on the most trifling occasions . . . . .This
Vice is a Scandal to Society and Degrades the Man below
the Level of the Brute Tribe."
In the By-Laws of the Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2, printed in
1760, there is the following rule:-
"If any Brother Curses, Swears or says anything Irreligious,
Obscene or Ludicrous, Holds private Committees, Disputes
about Religion or Politics, offers to lay Wagers, or is
disguised in Liquor during the Lodge hours such offending
Brother shall be immediately fined by a private Ballot for
each Offence . . . . each fine not to be under one shilling nor
to exceed Five Shillings."
Many other Lodge By-Laws could be quoted, and from the
body of evidence thus available it seems quite clear that
Freemasonry was making an earnest endeavour to improve
the manners of the Brethren (and we hope with success) at
a time when from the literature of the period, and other
contemporary evidence, we learn of the prevalence of
coarseness and violence of manners, the oaths which were
continually upon the lips of all classes of men, and the
persecution with which young ladies of beauty and
distinction were often pursued in public places.
Another subject for consideration is that of the Benefit and
Friendly Society. These were well-known prior to the 18th
century, and were probably a survival of the Mediaeval Guild
system. Although Freemasonry is now no longer even
associated with such Societies yet at times during the 18th
century many of the Lodges undoubtedly partook of the
nature of Benefit Societies; and at the close of the century
the premier Grand Lodge founded a Masonic Benefit Society
as distinct from any of its charitable foundations. But if
Freemasonry cannot be connected with the birth of this
system of thrift there are many Societies of that nature which
seem to have taken their inspiration from Freemasonry.
Such Societies as those of the Oddfellows, Foresters, Druids
and Buffaloes, with their varied regalia of aprons and collars,
and their ceremonies of initiation, may all I think be traced to
the influence exercised by Freemasonry upon the 18th
Yet a further interesting avenue for social study is that of the
Army. Commencing from 1732, when the Irish Grand Lodge
warranted a Lodge in the 1st Regiment of Foot, and
continuing until the Union of the two English Grand Lodges
in 1813, the approximate number of Regimental Lodges
which have existed under the English, Scottish and Irish
Grand Lodges, are as follows:- English 141 (Antients 116,
Moderns 25), Scottish 21, and Irish 190, thus showing a
grand total of 352 Lodges. Of these some were erased,
many became dormant and some became civil Lodges. In
1813 only 219 of these Military Lodges remained, England
having 65, Scotland 19 and Ireland 135. To trace the effect
these Lodges, and the principles and tenets inculcated
therein, had upon the rank and file of the Army of the 18th
century, who undoubtedly joined the Craft in considerable
numbers, would be an extremely interesting line of research.
The result might supply part, at least, of the answer to the
question propounded by Lecky in his History, in which he
"It is indeed a curious thing to notice how large a part of the
reputation of England in the world rests upon the
achievements of a force which was formed mainly out of the
very dregs of her population and to some considerable
extent even out of her criminal classes."
It was, I believe, Carlyle who stated,
"Universal History, the history of what man has
accomplished in this world, is at bottom the history of the
Great Men who have worked there."
It may, therefore, be fitting to give you the names of a few
Brethren who achieved eminence during the 18th century,
especially as we are told by G. M. Trevelyan, in his History
"The Greatness of England during the epoch that followed
the Revolution is to be judged by her individual men, by the
unofficial achievements of her free and vigorous population.
The glory of the 18th century in Britain lay in the genius and
energy of individuals acting freely in a free community."
No less than eleven of the Royal House became
Freemasons during the 18th century, including nearly all the
sons of George lII. From 1721, when John, Duke of
Montagu, became Grand Master, representatives from most
of the titled families have joined the Brotherhood. Dukes of
Norfolk, Richmond, Marlborough, Grafton, St. Albans,
Buccleugh, Atholl and Manchester have been Freemasons.
Again, Ambassadors such as the Earls of Chesterfield,
Albemarle and Essex, and Lord Waldegrave, were of the
Craft. So, too, were Courtiers such as Lord John Hervey,
Lord Baltimore and the Earl of Carnarvon. Lord Petre, a
leading Roman Catholic, was Grand Master, and after his
death, in 1801, it was found that he had spent 5,000 pounds
annually in charity. Of distinguished Soldiers and Sailors
who were Freemasons, I might mention the third Earl of
Hyndford, Sir Adolphus Oughton, Lord Blayney, Sir Robert
Rich, Viscount Cobham, Sir Eyre Coote and Sir Charles
Napier as to the former, and Earl Ferrers, Sir Peter Parker,
Lord Rodney and, it is believed, Lord Nelson as to the latter.
Amongst English Statesmen known to have been
Freemasons were the Duke of Newcastle, Henry Pelham
and Henry Fox, first Lord Holland, whilst in America
Benjamin Franklin and George Washington may be
mentioned. Many Clergy have joined the Society, including
Dr. William Howley, who became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Of the Doctors, we know to be Freemasons there are Sir
Richard Manningham, who founded a lying-in Infirmary, in
1739, and his son Thomas, also Edward Jenner, who
discovered vaccination. In passing, I may mention that
nearly 50 of the Fellows of the Royal Society, whose names
appear upon the 1723 List of Fellows, were Freemasons.
Amongst other celebrated Freemasons may be mentioned
Dr. John Arbuthnot, Theobald, the Shakespearian Critic,
James Thomson, Author of the Seasons, James Quinn the,
Actor, Beau Nash of Bath and Edward Gibbon the Historian.
Poets such as Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott were
Freemasons, as also were Artists such as Joseph Highmore,
Sir James Thornhill, William Hogarth and Sir William
Beechey, R.A. the influence of Freemasonry upon Hogarth
would form a most interesting study.
The Brethren I have named, as well as a host of other
famous men too numerous to mention, were members of
Lodges wherein Brethren drawn from all stations of life
foregathered. Histories inform us that Humanitarianism was
an 18th century product, and that the rigid class barriers
caused by class hatred broke down as the century
advanced. May not the interchange of thought by Brethren in
various social grades aided by the principles of Freemasonry
have played their part in this movement, for as Mrs. George
tells us in London Life in the 18th century,
"The rigidity of class distinction was breaking down as the
idea of humanity began to gain upon the conception of a
community made up of classes and sections."
It is just because we find that the change in the attitude
towards social conditions was the outcome of this new spirit
of humanity, and because that spirit of humanity was so
clearly inculcated in the Lodges of Freemasons, where
Brotherly Love was one of the Grand Principles of the Order,
that I venture to couple the two together.
And now I must take leave of these interesting speculations,
however inadequate my treatment of them may have been.
But, in thus saying farewell, let me express the hope that
one day Students will consider this period of English History
from the particular standpoint I have indicated.