The Freemasons' Guide and Compendium

First published in Great Britain 1950 By George. G. Harrap & Co.
Ltd182 High Holborn, London, W.C.1


The Jacobite Tradition


The possibility of English freemasonry having been subjected to Jacobite influence during the few decades immediately following 1717 has often been advanced. Many theories have been ventilated, with much conjecture, little fact; with much controversy, little agreement. There have been authors who have been downright in their statements that the freemasonry of the 'Antients'-the body that set up its own Grand Lodge in opposition to the Premier Grand Lodge-was the freemasonry of the Roman Catholics and the Stuarts-that is, of the Irish and Scottish followers of the Stuart cause who fled to France about 1688, whereas the founders of the first Grand Lodge were Protestant and Hanoverian. Others have pointed out that Jacobite influence was dying down at the time when the 'Antients' rose to strength, but they still appear to entertain the idea that the Jacobite party came into freemasonry, with or without the help of the Roman Catholics, with a view to using it as a mask for their efforts in the Stuart cause.

A peculiar twist is given by relating the Jacobite tradition to the so-called 'Scots Masonry,' the theory being that, while freemasonry recommended itself to the Jacobite movement as providing convenient, safe, and secret meeting-places for its adherents, it was obvious that freemasonry was open to Jacobites and Hanoverians alike. It was therefore decided to create a freemasonry apart, "to be made subservient to the cause they had so much at heart, with ceremonies and secrets peculiar to itself and jealously guarded from even the Masters of Craft masonry." So, it is alleged, the Jacobites brought into existence the degrees known in England as 'Scots masonry' and in France as 'Maçon Écossois,' 'Maitre Écossois,' 'Maçonnerie Écossois.

It is true that there are references to Scots lodges and Scots masonry in the early speculative days , and no one has yet been able to tell us exactly what they mean. In various Continental cities, too, these Scots lodges were founded. But there does not appear to be any ground for believing that the degree came from Scotland. Whatever 'Scots masonry' was, it was fairly certainly French, and mention of it continued to occur and recur in lodge minutes and other records through the eighteenth century. For example, when in 1777 the famous Cagliostro was initiated in the Esperance Lodge at the King's Head, in Gerrard Street, Soho, London, he is said to have passed through the four degrees of "apprentice, companion [fellow?], Master and Scotch Master." While we may conjecture that the degree was a mixture of Royal Arch and Mark, what it really was we simply do not know.

One author has spoken of "definite documentary evidence of the existence of a Jacobite Grand Lodge of London," but it is doubtful whether masonic writers in general are aware of any such evidence.

A plausible (perhaps for that reason, doubtful) suggestion is that Gaelic words meaning, or apparently meaning, 'widow's son' were brought into masonry by the Jacobites, it being especially noteworthy that both the Old and the Young Pretenders were widows' sons, but Gaelic scholars do not accept it, based, as it is, on the likeness between the sounds of quite different words. But it has been quite seriously put forward that "the untimely death of Hiram, Abif" is an allusion to the execution of Charles I, and that the attempt to raise the Master's body is an allusion to an attempt to raise the young Prince Charles from the grave of exile to the throne of England. To add a 'convincing' touch it is pointed out that cas is Gaelic for 'a branch of a tree,' and also for 'a young man, a lad ,'and that until about 1745, when the Pretender's hopes were finally brought to naught, it was the cassia plant that was supposed to mark the Master's grave.

Thus in Prichard's Masonry Dissected (1730) we have:

Q. What is a mason nam'd?

A Cassia is my name, and from a just and perfect lodge I came.

And here are some coincidences. The sprig of cassia at the head of a grave became the sprig of acacia about 1745, the year of the Jacobite rising. 'Acacia' is a Greek word meaning 'innocence' or
'blamelessness.' Among the score or so of names given to the assassins of the Master is that of Romvel, which is supposed to be a palpable hit at Cromwell, whom the Jacobites regarded as the murderer of Charles I. A warning: the more interesting and plausible the stories relating to the Jacobite legend are made, the more they must be treated with suspicion!

The fact that Jacobite allusions to the Pretenders occasionally reflected the idea of the 'widow's son' has been overstressed by masonic writers. The parallel of the 'widow's son' may have occurred
as the purest accident. How, for example, does the informed reader regard the allusion in the following instance? Queen Anne had a cook, Joseph Centlivre, whose wife Susannah, a playwright, produced between the years1700 and 1722 a score of comedies. One of them, A Gotham Election, contains this dialogue between a Jacobite mayor and a messenger coming from the Old Pretender:

THE MAYOR: Well, and how does all our friends on t'other side the water, ha? Well, I Hope?


MESSENGER: Oh fort bien, Monsieur Mayor, and Monsieur le Chevalier he
varey much your humble serviteur, Begar.


THE MAYOR: 1 am very much his, 1 am sure-come Monsieur, to the
Fatherless and Widow. (Drink.)


What is the reply to the Jacobite theory or tradition? Although the Roman Catholic Church was not always opposed to freemasonry, the Papal Bull Of 1738 had as one of its effects the suppression of a lodge containing purely Jacobite members. There is no actual certainty, although considerable likelihood, that the so-called 'Scots lodges' were the écossois degrees in English dress. It is not known that Jacobites had any hand in bringing those degrees into existence, although, of course, if the degree were largely the work of British people living in France, it is likely that such people would have been Jacobites; but it does not in the least follow that they invented the degrees as an instrument of their policies. Surely a lodge or degree designed to further the Jacobite cause would not deliberately label itself 'Scots.' Perhaps the nearest we shall get to the truth is the suggestion that any added degree formed in France at that time gave opportunity for men of similar interests and opinions to come
together. And we may note, also, a point made by F. L. Pick, that early in the eighteenth century there existed Jacobite societies, having the appearance of jolly, convivial affairs, but at the same
time inspired by a serious political purpose, and that some of them took a leaf from the freemason's book by wearing regalia and adopting a peculiar formality in their meetings. He wonders whether the
Jacobite tradition is not really an echo of such mock-masonic societies