A Dubious Rite
the history of the Southern Jurisdiction
of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite
By ALBERT LANTOINE
The Masonic writer and historian Albert Lantoine along with Thory, Clavel and Ragón are probably the most well informed and documented historians in freemasonry, here in this brief but exact article the reader is presented with the real facts surrounding the fictional regular establishment of the AASR, and its dubious origins.
The Great Frederick or the God of the Fable
Frederick of Prussia! What has Frederick the Second of Prussia to do with this affair? Again we demand it. The High Grades made use of the mysterious Superiors; Charles-Edward had excused himself, but Frederick could do so no more: he was dead! It is quite difficult to imagine today the motives which decided the ascription of such a patronage. Were the Americans deceived by Etienne Morin who, aware of Frederick's initiation before his departure, played it up before the New World to interest it in this Masonic line? Or did these Americans, in their democratic respect for the great ones of the earth consider that such a king could not tarry with the others in the "Middle Chamber," and that a "Sublime Apartment" was better suited to the loftiness of his position and character? Or again, to avoid the innovations of imaginative inventors, and this scattering abroad of Ecossaism which had marked the 18th century, was it deemed necessary to call to the rescue one of those men who were not to be disobeyed to put each grade into its place again? We do not know. But behold, after Charles-Edward, Frederick introduced into the history of the High Grades. Shall we expel him--the one as we have the other ? Alas ! we cannot do otherwise; we have no proof whatever of his collaboration on the new statutes of Ecossaism, and on the contrary we have almost too much that contradicts it.
It is not through a comparison of the sentimental order, we say it at once, that we have connected Frederick the Second with the Pretender Charles Edward; this connection the Ecossais have made to enter the domain of reality. The Bro. Pyron addressed to Napoleon First an historic note (!) in which he asked him as "Sovereign of sovereigns" to support an Institution which had passed from the family of the Stuarts into the hands of the Great Frederick. This idea was accepted with enthusiasm by the Supreme Council which embodied it with ultra fantastic details in its Encyclical letter of March 5, 1813:
Charles-Edward, last scion of the Stuarts, was the chief of Ancient and Modern Masonry. He nominated Grand Master Frederick II to succeed him. Frederick accorded to Masonry a careful attention, it was the object of his constant solicitude. At this period the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite comprised but twenty-five grades, of which Prince of the Royal Secret was the highest. Certain new projects, certain discords which unexpectedly arose in Germany in 1782, inspired him with fear lest Masonry become the prey of anarchy and the victim of those who, under the name of Masons, might be tempted to let it fall into decay or annihilate it. When in 1786 Frederick saw his life had almost run its course, he decided to transmit the sovereign powers with which he was clothed to a Council of Grand Inspectors General who after his death would take over the direction of High Masonry, conformably to the Constitution and Statutes. On May 1, 1786, he increased to thirty-three the number of the grades of the hierarchy of the Scottish Rite, which till then had counted but twenty-five, and assigned to the thirty third the designation of Puissant and Sovereign Grand Commander General. The powers conferred under this degree, for the government and direction of the Rite, were concentrated in a Sovereign Chapter called the Supreme Council, etc. On May 1, 1786, Frederick established the Constitution and Regulations for the Grand Inspectors General, of which article VIII provided that after the death of Frederick the Supreme Councils would be the Sovereigns of Masonry.
A tiny glimmer of truth is at the bottom of this legend. In distinction to the Scottish Pretender, Frederick had actually been initiated. It will be outside our task to repeat here, from Baron de Bielfeld, (1) the details of this initiation, which took place when Frederick was only prince and heir-apparent.
FREDERICK AS A FREEMASON
This title of Freemason would not seem displeasing to a critical youth who took no part in religion and who entered the Order at a time when every secret society touched by the breath of liberty which had then begun to blow over Europe, had less and less honor and sanctity. On becoming King, he did not at once lose interest in the Institution, and he continued for a long time to receive with fraternal courtesy the homage addressed to him by the National Grand Lodge at the Three Globes and other Prussian Masonic organizations. At the beginning of his reign, he still amused himself in his Masonic capacity, and he had not forgotten those hazardous escapades he had perpetrated incognito in his realm--as for example when on the right bank of the Rhine, he levelled a pistol at an abbe traveling in a post-chaise and cried with a savage air "Become a Freemason or die." Dieudonne Thiebault (2) who relates this prank, adds that the King allowed the poor frightened abbe to go, telling him his fear made him unworthy of being a "brother"--which shows at least some esteem for the Masons.
Even if Frederick patronized Freemasonry, even if he founded The Three Globes, he was never Grand Master--or at least he was never a Grand Master in partibus ("never having particularly occupied himself with organization and legislation") as that function is recognized and understood. His Masonic activity (and this word activity should not be given the meaning of assiduity) lasted not much more than seven years from the date of his initiation, that is from 1738-1744. But the participation of Frederick II in the work and development of the Order has been very fully investigated by German authors--there is an extensive bibliography on the question-but all of them, even though they disagree on certain points, are unanimous in exonerating his memory from the creation of the high grades. Circumstantial details regarding this are to be found in Lenning's Masonic Encyclopedia. Doctor Adolph Kohut in Die Hohenzollern und die Freimaurerei (Berlin, 1909) tells us that "he was disgusted with the grotesque practices and hazy doctrines of the Strict Observance and that he spared no sarcasm in speaking of it. He thought Freemasonry should have no other end save the perfection of human society and he disapproved any act which might demean the high standard of such precepts." He even went so far on Nov. 13, 1780, as to blame the lodge Royal York for having organized a charitable concert, which seemed to him beneath the character of the Institution. Treutel in his Vie de Frederic II roi de Prusse (Strassburg, 1787) gives us some Masonic details of our hero. appears that during the early days of his reign, summoned a lodge, where, in the capacity of Master in the chair, he received Prince William, Margrave Schwedt and Duke of Holstein.
Although Frederick was a Freemason, he did not wish the usages of Masonry to be extended outside the lodge. Some Masons having sent him a petition during the war of succession in Bavaria took it into their heads to append to their signatures their titles and grades in the Order. The King at once sent the petition to the Lieutenant of Police and forbade them to further use these titles.
An upholsterer who was working one day in the King's apartments tried to make himself recognized as a Freemason; but Frederick turned his back on him and withdrew.
Lord Dover, author of History of the Private, Political and Military Life of Frederick II King of Prussia, which seems admirably documented, writes:
Although having become a member of the Fraternity, Frederick was not very kind to the Freemasons during his reign; he seems even to have discouraged them. Shortly after the death of his father, he presided over one of their assemblies and in the capacity of Grand Master initiated his brother, Prince William, Margrave of Schwedt and Duke of Holstein, there is no evidence that he took any further interest in the actions of this society.
We read in the third volume of La Monarchie Prussiene by Mirabeau:
It is unfortunate that Frederick II did not have sufficient zeal even to become Grand Master of all the German lodges, or at least of the Prussian lodges; his power might have acquired a considerable growth . . . and even some military enterprises might have taken another turn if he had never fallen out with the leaders of this society.
One might object that all these arguments are of a psychological nature, so to say, and that the secret of the relations of Frederick with his brethren may have been religiously, or better, Masonically guarded. But even if we accept this improbable hypothesis, we come now against a material impossibility. Here once more Mirabeau furnishes us with evidence. It is to be found in the Histoire secrete de la cour de Berlin, ou Correspondance d'un Voyageur Francais depuis le 5 Ju 1786, jusqu'au 19 Janvier 1787:
His (Frederick's) malady, which would have killed ten men had lasted eleven months without interruption and almost without respite, since the first attack of suffocating apoplexy from which he recovered through an emetic, and uttering with an imperious gesture as his first sound these two words: "Be quiet . . ." [Letter XXVIII dated from Dresden, Sept. 24, 1786.]
This information carries weight as coming from a witness who was there and who saw for himself. We have proof of it in the preamble with which he saw fit to preface his Lettre remise a Guillaume Frederic II roi regnant de Prusse . . . where these lines may be found:
Frederick II summoned me before him voluntarily when I hesitated to importune his last moments with my natural desire of seeing so great a man, and of obviating the regret of having been his contemporary without knowing him. He deigned to welcome me, to distinguish me, even though a stranger such as I had not been admitted to his conversation
Frederick II died Aug. 17, 1786--he would have revised the Constitutions May 1, 1786, that is to say three months and a half before his death. Now how can anyone believe that this man, who according to Mirabeau suffered for eleven months "without interruption," could apply himself to a task so foreign from all his habitual activities and duties under the constant anxieties that the charges of royalty imposed upon him? From January, 1786, he was condemned, and he himself, according to his family, had not the slightest illusion about the fatal outcome of his malady.
DISCREPANCIES IN THE STORY
The fabricators of novels of adventure are not accustomed to consult sources and their imagination never considers anachronisms . . . The pamphleteers of the High Grades had not the benefit of being corrected by an informed editor. For not only is the date more than open to suspicion but even the city where the generous deed was done, Berlin. Here again the larger history refuses to confirm the little history. Frederick II lived at Potsdam, and he died there, at his chateau Sans-Souci, without having set foot in Berlin after his last visit of Sept. 9-10, 1785, when his movements . . . have been carefully reported by his biographers. Now a sentimental argument which deserves consideration because it upholds the other, is this--why did not Frederick II give his compatriots some share in the harvest of the High Grades? Why was not his lodge The Three Globes given some part in their distribution? And even were it a case of an exclusion prompted by some resentment or other, would not his subjects have hastened eagerly to adopt a reform extolled by their king?
What a bizarre idea, moreover, for this fanatic Prussian, so zealous for the glory of his own nation to do this -and for what a reason! To transmit his famous powers to certain Americans instead of simply delegating them to his eldest son and heir Frederick William!
THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTIONS LOST
As for these Constitutions, where are they? Vanished in air! As attestation for their authenticity we have almost nothing; only the discourses of Dalcho to which we have referred, where among other equally fantastic allegations we find this:
In 1762 the Grand Masonic Constitutions were expressly ratified by the government of all lodges of Perfect and Sublime Masonry.
There is also the formal affirmation of Pyron in his Abrege historique de l'organisation en France, jusqu'a l'epoque du ler Mars 1814, des trente-trois degrees du rit Ecossais ancien et accepte . . . where he says:
At the same time in 1786, Frederick II, King of Prussia, Sovereign of Sovereigns of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, and Grand Master, successor of the Kings of England and Scotland, wished to weld together forever the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for which he had a special affection. He wished to invest it, in every State and Empire where it might practiced, with the necessary power to free it from any obstacles which it might meet with on the part of this crude ignorance which misrepresented everything, etc....
Consequently, Frederick II presiding in person [these words are italicized by Pyron himseif. Tr.] over the Supreme Council by the aid of which he ruled and governed the Order, on May 1, 1786, raised to thirty-three degrees the hierarchy of twenty-five degrees sanctioned by the Grand Constitutions of 1762.
Later General Albert Pike repeated this affirmation on his own account; but this citizen of free America has every interest in making us believe it an affirmation which at the same time legalized the Council at Charleston, which had only been created, it seems, on May 21, 1802, while the patent of de Grasse-Tilly was dated Feb. 21 of the same year. We prefer the text, but the High Grades are pursued by an improbable misfortune. It is with the Constitutions of Frederick as with the Bull of Charles-Edward installing the Chapter at Arras, as with the Charter of the Templars, as with the patent of Dr. Gerbier, as with so many other documents by which so many fables have been supported: the original is lost. What a loss! Albert Pike in his Memoirs to be of service to the history of Freemasonry in France, which the New Age published, tries to calm our anxiety:
We possess, writes he, the copy of the Constitutions of Frederick the Great, and I certify that it conforms with the original which, through misfortune, has disappeared and on which the august signature had been effaced by the water of the sea.
The sea respects nothing. Misfortunes never come singly; behold, after the august signature, even the document itself disappears. So the ambassador who carried so precious a document lost it! And we do not even know the name of this wretch, who not only exposed the manuscript to the spray but who also let it be borne away by the wind! No not by the wind at large --for the statement would seem too suspect. No! Some fine fellows have seen the marvelous paper, and they cite the names of other signatories, hardly decipherable, but decipherable just the same. Bro. Jottrand wrote in 1888: (3)
According to the description of the authentic copy submitted in 1834 to the Supreme Council of France with the names of those who had constituted at Berlin the first Supreme Council of 33d only four are legible; in the fifth the initial D is still legible; the others, so runs the descriptive process, verbal, are illegible owing to rubbing or to the water of the sea to which, written on parchment, they have accidentally been exposed several times. The initial D is certainly that of the Italian Denina, professor at the University of Tusin, author of a history of Italian and Greek Revolutions, whom Frederick had called to join his Academy. The legible names are those of Stark, Woellner Willelm and d'Esterno.
But the archives left behind by Woellner, who was at this period Supreme Scots Master, have been searched and nothing found relating to this so important consultation with Frederick. Stark lived at Wismar, and in his Justification, published in 1787 at Leipzig and Frankfort-on-Main, he confessed the small part taken by him since 1777 in the work of the Freemasons and even (an avowed sin is easily pardoned) his indifference to the work. So far as Denina is concerned he was not only the author of a history of the Revolution of Greece and Italy as Bro. Jottrand says, but he wrote an Essai sur la vie et regne de Frederic II, roi de Prusse (Berlin, 1788), where he describes in a few words his initiation into Freemasonry "a society recognized today which begins to make some noise in the world" (pages 36-37), and (page 453) he devotes these few words to the Freemasons:
The Freemasons into which society Frederick had been received ten years before he ascended the throne, did not meet with any marked favour, as perhaps they had hoped. But while they were persecuted in Italy, Bavaria and other countries, they enjoyed complete freedom in Prussia. If the King did not do any more for them, it was because he feared to favor them too much lest they meet the end of the religious and holy fraternities of the Middle Ages. However, assured of his protection by a letter of July 16, 1774, the Freemasons counted in Berlin five lodges under different names, and they had a large enough number in the provinces.
If Denina had collaborated with Frederick at the elaboration of the Grand Constitutions would there not be an allusion or at least would he not have spoken of the Masonic Order with a more apparent interest?
The vexatious thing, however, is that all the authors who uphold this belief have forgotten to agree among themselves. It was in 1887 that Albert Pike announced the crime of lese majeste committed by the water of the sea, and in 1818 one named Marguerite asserted that the Constitutions were in the hands of a Scottish Knight and that they were signed in the very hand of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia.
INCONSISTENCIES IN THE TRADITION
Search has been made everywhere, even where it seemed most likely proofs might be found, namely in Prussia. Wasted effort ! The National Mother Grand Lodge of the Three Terrestrial Globes at Berlin, questioned in a letter from Bro. De Marconnay dated at New York, May 26, 1833, made a reply which Findel saw and of which he records this passage: (4)
The National Mother-Grand Lodge of the Three Terrestrial Globes was founded Sept. 13, 1740, under the authority of Frederick the Great, who was also its first Grand Master. This monarch did not, however, occupy himself particularly with organization and legislation. None of the assertions concerning his own acts or those of the supreme Masonic Senate that he may have founded in 1785 . . . have the least historical basis.
It is even today necessary to prove what The Three Globes affirmed, because "this great falsehood of the Order," using the words of George Kloss, (5) has even been repeated in our own time by the Very Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Scottish Council, Bro. J. M. Raymond, who says in his Resume historique de l'organisation des travanx du Supreme Conseil du Rite Ecossais ancien et accepte pour la France et ses dependances: ( Paris, 1908)
On May 1, 1786, Frederick II, King of Prussia, in his Masonic capacity as Sovereign of Sovereigns, definitely established the Constitutions, Statutes, and Regulations of the Scottish Masonic Order.
How can such a legend help but gain credit among Freemasons when it finds itself still propagated by their very "luminaries" ?
(1) de Bielfeld - Lettres Familieres et autris . . . 1763. (2) Thiebault - Souvenirs de vingt ans de sefour a Berlin. (3) Jottrand - Sur le Constitutions de 1786 du Rite E. A. et A. 1888. (4) Findel Histoire p. 486-487. (5) Kloss - Geschichte der Freimaurerei in Frankreich, etc. 1852-3.
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