MASONIC INTOLERANCE AN APPEAL

TO THE CONSCIENCE OF ALL

ENLIGHTENED MASONS

Communication addressed To The Grand Lodge of England

London, Truelove, 240, Strand, near Temple Bar

December 1860

To the Grand Lodge of England.

Gentleman,

We should willingly call you Brothers, but we are afraid of exciting your indignation. Can we, humble plebeians, parvenus of Masonry, place ourselves on a level with the legitimate princes of that Great Institutions?

Would this not be the overthrowing of all accepted ideas of hierarchy, supremacy, and order? Besides, you have so solemnly repudiated any link of relationship, any affiliation with the Grand Lodge of Philadelphes, that we shall never be led into the temptation of calling ourselves members of your family. In fact, we should not have again importuned you with our profane scribblings, had not your journal, the Freemason’s Magazine lately contained a small, anodyne, sneaking, interrogative notice, which implies more than it says. From one of the Nestors of your councils the query probably proceeds, if we judge by the signature “Senex” Old men are like children; they are always afflicted with a degree if inquisitiveness, and indiscretion; and this venerable correspondent under pretence if inquiring about the Grand Lodge of Philadelphes insinuates that she is dead and buried; and that the Grand Lodge of England has had the signal honour of being her executioner and gravedigger.

We will not dwell upon the fact that it is anything but fair to attack in your publication, under a veiled name, those whose answers you have refused to insert. And, we agree with your correspondent that you have struck with all your might, and that it is not fault of the Grand Lodge of England if, the Grand Lodge of England if, the Grand Lodge of Philadelphes obstinately lives on still. Major excommunication, official denunciations to all friendly Lodges, through all Europe, she has neglected nothing, not even those very means she has so much ridiculed in the Pope, execrated in the inquisition, anathematized in Loyola. After so many efforts she may wash her hands of our existence; to be able to resist so those steel constitutions, tempered by misfortune, which nothing cam bite: neither force, nor calumny, nor file, nor rust. Do not hurry to send your friends mourning cards to attend our burial. The time is passed when, and we are not in a country where people are buried alive, and the Grand Lodge of Philadelphes is not quite dead. We breathe still, and while we do, we will make peace with our conscience, publicly making our confession and your own.

A great man of antiquity, Themistocles, history says, on the eve of the battle of Salamina, was discussing with a Spartan general as brutal as ignorant, on the means of safety left to Greece. The Lacedemonian, furious at his being driven out of his last argument raised his staff against the Athenian; and history has preserved these memorable words: “strike; but listen”. The Spartan, ashamed, did not strike, listened, and Greece was saved. With you, it has been quite the reverse. You have struck hard and not listened; and then, in order to prevent our complaints from being heard, you have tied our tongue. Indeed, you have calumniated us in your Lodges, vilified us in your journal, you have done everything to prevent truth from coming to light. Yet, sooner or later, it must be heard; you tread upon it, and it cries out the louder; you are deaf to it; but there are around you men, Masons who will awake at its appeal, who will recognize its brotherly voice; and, that suit which you have judged without allowing us to be heard, will be brought before the conscience of every one of them; and from those consciences will rise an unanimous cry of reprobation which will proclaim your shame. It is to those Masons our humble brothers, we appeal against the sentence passed upon us by the high barons of English Masonry. We know that justice has its sanctuary in every man’s conscience, and its decisions are equitable when not prompted by vanity, egotism, or love of domination.

WE know that the good of Masonry only, will dictate their verdict, and we accept it without fear.

Now, here are the facts: The Grand Lodge of England has issued an interdiction against the Grand Lodge of Philadelphes; she has forbidden, under the most severe punishment, all the Lodge acknowledging her supremacy to have any connexion whatever with the Philadelphes; and her official journal has published the excommunication pronounced by the supreme power. Not content with striking at us a direct blow within the limits of her jurisdiction, the Grand Lodge of England has denounced us to all the Masonic orders she is connected with in France, Germany, &c. Thse are the facts we complain of. We will now examine the motives that have prompted our enemy’s conduct, and the right by which she has struck, without even having consented to hear us.

In spite of anything that may have been said to cover this interdiction by a specious and Masonic Philadelphes is that she is accused of being a political body, representing in England the Republican principle, and founded for the purpose of propagating it through the medium of the French political refugees.

In order to re-established the truth of the facts, we are obliged to summarily repeat what we stated in the Freemasons Magazine of June, 1st, 1859, and which we offered to prove by our registers. The Grand Lodge of Philadelphes is a transformation of the Lodge “Les Sectateurs de Menes”, founded in London in 1850, one year before the Coup D’Etat of December, by Masons foreigners to England, but belonging to various Masonic orders, acknowledge in Europe. A charter was granted to them by a regular Masonic power, the Lodges of which had continuous and amicable relations with those of the Grand Orient and those of the Supreme Conseil of France, a power which was therefore acknowledged. True, after the Coup d’Etat of December, 1851, the Lodges of the Rite of Memphis were closed in France. But it must not forgotton, they were not so by an order emanating from the Masonic power, but by an order from the administration (government). This step against the order of Memphis was therefore entirely extra-masonic, and we will not stop here to discuss its lawfulness.

An arbitrary act of the political power having closed the Lodges of our rite in France, measures were to be taken to shield the archives of the order against another coup de main. Then was it, that the Lodge “des Sectateurs de Menes” in London was selected to be the depository of them, was legally constituted Grand Lodge of the Rite of Memphis, under the distinct name of Grand Lodge des Philadelphes. From that period she has continued to work without interruption, and we can prove by our minute books that she has never deviated from a truly Masonic path.
Such are the facts; they alone would be sufficient to annihilate the accusation. However, we will insist upon two points.

1-It was in 1850, the Lodge of Philadelphes was constituted in London. That date shows that she was not founded by political exiles.

2- That Lodge was regularly established, since she received a regular charter from an acknowledged Masonic power, which was suppressed in France by no other but an administrative authority, when Masonic liberty shared the fate of all other liberties.

Now, we do not deny our having received amongst us the flotsons of the wreck of 1851; aye we glory in it. And why not? Is not England proud of having afforded an inviolable shelter to the exiles of all nations?
And you Masons ought to be ashamed of being less liberal and more selfish than the profane. Yes, we have called amongst us the exiles of 1851, and we have on our registers the names of men who are an honour to mankind, whom England is proud of having sheltered.

Those men have embellished our meetings, enlightened our minds, and warmed our hearts. We are not ashamed, we are proud of having opened to them the gates of our temple.
And what would it come to if in the name of masonry such accusations could be brought against us?
At what period, at what time of political strife; when did masonry close her doors against a persecuted thinker, against a vanquished party? Does it make a distinction between the victor and the vanquished? Are there for masonry, master and outcasts republicans and royalists? Has it not throughout all ages opened its temples to men of all opinions? Did not the defenders of the Stuarts meet from masonry with the same fraternal reception as did in later days, such men as Voltaire, Condercet, Diderot, Dalembert. Has it not fanaticism and ignorance a neutral ground upon which all opinions have been summoned to shake hands, to prepare and hasten the day of universal reconciliation? And can it be that in the 19th century, in England, measures have been taken to prevail upon it to deny to the victims of despotism the right of dreaming, in the calm of the Masonic temple of a distant home, of fallen liberty, of a better future for mankind?

Grand Lodge of England, you have perpetrated an act of cowardice. You have struck us because you thought as helpless. We were a handful of men, for the most part strangers to your country, too ignorant of your language to speak it at your meetings, or write it in your journals.
What resistance could we offer to an arbitrary attack? You had an unparalleled opportunity of striking a violent blow without fear of reprisals. You did not neglect it. You did not consider that however small our number, whatever our weakness, right was still on our side that by violating it when personified in a few you were more guilty then if represented by thousands. Else you would have hesitated.
But you compromise with the strong and trample on the weak. It is generally thus that matters are conducted in the profane world and you have introduced that iniquity into the Masonic one. It is not the first time you have tried to stifle the newly constituted Masonic orders. Happy those that have been strong enough to resist you. Their strength has decided the justice of their cause. Instead of excommunicating them as you did us, you have invited them to share the supremacy. The same fate awaits the Lodge of Philadelphes when she has proved she can resist and return your blows.

How is it that you did not think of the disgust that must fill the minds of all true Masons, at your bringing forth in this enlightened age, an accusation worthy of the times of intolerance and superstitions? You hope you have crushed us with the accusation that we meddle with politics. Now what is your definition of the word politics? If you mean those wild and savage politics that substitute violence to violence, which suppress one class for the benefit of another, which at every step violate the rights of man; the degrading politics of Caesars, the art of duplicity taught by Michiavel, the infernal diplomacy of Taleyrand and Matternich. Your accusation merits not an answer. But if by politics you mean the philosophical study of all the questions which may, by enlightening men upon their true and legitimate interests, bring about the triumph of justice without storms, without violence, without revolutions; the practice of human brotherhood in all social intercourse; yes, we discuss politics just in the same manner as did Socrates, Plato, Thomas More, Jean-Jacques Rousseau; as do, in our days, Lord Brougham, Cobden, and many others to the eternal glory of the human mind.

But you yourselves are not strangers to such politics; for it they be not for you an object of speculative study, you daily put them in practice. What ere all those benevolent institutions, founded in your name, for the old, the widows, and the orphans; establishments of education, and hospitals, of all descriptions if not the practical affirmation of human brotherhood, the material proclamation of the duty for the strong to help the weak for the rich to assist the poor, in fact, a realisation within the limits of your means of the time when every man shall have food and shelter? Then you have no right to strike us; for you our accomplices in this good work.
And, if we were advanced sentinels in the guard of the camp, your attempt to disarm us was not merely a mistake but a crime.
Besides, why did you refuse to hear us? We have invited you to our meetings in the most brotherly spirit, that you might convince yourselves of what we are, that you might appreciate our proceedings. But no; you have preferred crushing us between two doors, in consequence of denunciations of a very questionable origin, and for motives which we are a loss to understand.

And all this after having allowed us to live in peace during eight consecutive years.
Wherefrom this sudden anger? From a very simple fact. Two years ago we founded at Stratford a lodge of our order, totally composed of English elements. This was shooting on your ground. Blinded by passion, you did not perceive that we were completing your work; that English masonry, imposing heavy expenses upon its members, was unapproachable to the honest and industrious working man, and thus deprived him of a means of mental improvement and moralisation; that it thus mountains the distinction of classes, and makes of an essentially universal institution for the benefit of mankind, something exclusive, selfish, and we may say dangerous. We had endeavoured to fill up the vacancy, and improve upon your work; but vanity has dimmed your minds – you have trembled for your privileges – you have only considered the material view of the case, the sinking of your funds; and you have raised a hue and cry against those whose object was to install young and vigorous blood into your exhausted veins.

Having violated the principles of masonry, you have logically fallen from precipice to precipice. You have turned your back to progress, to your country, to tradition to the 19th century, to play the part of the holy inquisition, the Pope, and the Jesuits. We will prove it in a few words.

What do you reproach the Pope and the Inquisition with? Those monstrous trials when the accused were gagged, those impenetrable dungeons destined to bury with their victims the traces of their own crimes. If we except the dungeons, which you had not at your disposal, yours has been exactly the conduct of Gregory VII and St. Dominic. You have excommunicated us in your conclave, your bull has been proclaimed in the columns of the Freemason’s Magazine, you have cut us off from any intercourse with the living; and, all this while you refused to hear our justification. Is this not a sufficient reason to assimilate your actions to those of the Popes and the Inquisition?
Non content with this condemning us, you have circulated the interdiction amongst your friends abroad, basing it upon reasons unknown to us, and which we cannot consequently oppose. You have calumniated us, that your iniquitous sentence should have the colour of justice, and might be approved. Are we not justified in saying that you have walked in the steps of the disciples of Loyola?
But what leaves still a blacker stain upon you is your having trampled under foot the glorious traditions of your country. You have voluntarily renounced to be Englishmen, that is to say, men of progress and freedom, to become the champions of the past, of despotism.

We are bound to say it for your shame, in England, which stands first amongst civilized countries; in England where political and religious creeds enjoy an equal right; where the socialist and the absolutist, the Mormon and the Catholic are equally protected by the laws; where the Pope and the Sultan could find a safe refuge; in England, that country of liberty in every shape, where every man respects his adversary’s right as a guarantee for his own, there remains but one monopoly, but one centre of intolerance; and this is to be found in the bosom of the Masonic society, which was the first that preached to the world political and religious tolerance. Those sacramental forms of excommunication, that infallibility of Rome she has so much and so often ridiculed the Grand Lodge of England has invoked them against brothers which she has declared to be heretics.
Wonderful lesson! What would Luther say, were he raising from the tomb?
Thus, in order to procure yourselves the puerile satisfaction of handling and hurling thunder like Jupiter and the Vatican you have forsaken the traditions of Masonry and those of your country. You have buried everything. You must have experienced Erostrate’s luxuriant pleasure on the smoking ruins of the temple of Ephesus.

Indeed, your conduct is a real crime against Masonry.

You have taken ancient institution, the mission of which is to instruct and moralise the ignorant, and rise them to the level of man; to efface the distinction of classes, to prepare by peaceable means the social regeneration, and to be the vanguard of progress, an institution which is nothing if it be not this; and you have made of it a sort of tontine, of insurance company, of society for festivals and funeral pomp’s, as if those things did not exist in society without you, and better conducted than by you. Away with such; your mourners are ridiculous, and your banquets uninteresting. The insurance companies pay regularly a premium higher than yours. Is such be the object of masonry, let it disappear. Its existence is useless.

Yes, you must introduce reform into your institution.
Else, it is nothing but a corpse. May the sight of what is taking place in your slow but continuous, steady, and progressive movement which maintains it at the head of civilisation.

It is what your reject, Reform. You meet it everywhere: in the administration, the army, the navy, commerce, and industry, in civil and political legislation: you perceive Reform and Progress in every direction. And is it anything else that protects England against Revolutions?

You Grand Lodge, alone do not understand the requirements of the day. And thus, you are left behind on the Road of Progress; unnoticed by the mass, ridiculed by sensible people for your obstinacy in sticking to an immovable status quo.

Prepare to die, if you will not submit to the laws of motion that rule the Universe.
Move on, keep pace with time; else it will pass over your body. Renounce the past however glorious, for it shackles your march. Leave off your old clothing, and dress in the fashion of the day. We admit that it is hard to part even with old tinsel and false diamonds. But it cannot be helped. The merciless law Progress wills it so.
Do not sequester yourself within a sort of intramuros; for, the days of aristocracy and privilege are gone by. Abandon your grimaces and the mechanical recitation of words; learn your formula and meditate upon their meaning; teach the truth to the ignorant, work on, move, act, and you will no longer require, in order to prove your existence to post up on the door of your Lodge a miserable rag with the inscription: Death to the heretics!

Thank God, the heretics are not burned in our days, and the thunders of excommunication go back to those that hurl them.
We might even say that they awaken and invigorate the spirit of those that seemed to be nearly extinct. We might for an illustration of the fact call your attention to the history of our days, but we will only mention the Grand Lodge of Philadelphes. You have violated against her all the laws of Justice; and instead of annihilating, you have endowed her with a new and energetic impulse.

Why? It is not easy to destroy a body so strongly constituted.
She has a right, and it is her will to live.
She follows on the steps of Progress, and reaps the benefits of it. Her members are preserving and thoroughly convinced of the justice of their cause.

What else is needed to make her strong?
Moreover one must judge of a tree by its fruits. Well, can you mention within your vast Masonic empire a single Lodge that has produced such results? In the space of ten years she has initiated above 300 profanes; she has founded Lodges in Belgium, Switzerland, England, as you well know, and America; and her children, indefatigable apostles of Masonry, have raised the first Masonic temple at Ballarat. You must acknowledge that for a society poor, without official means, unpatronised, despised and insulted by you; the work she has achieved is at least equal to that of the Grand Lodge of England during the same period. Had you been as kind as powerful, you would have applauded and encouraged us; for we belong to that race of men whom the events of the next day may disperse to the four corners of the world, and we never leave behind us our faith, our ardour, our devotion.

But, no; instead of bestowing upon us a word of sympathy, you have slighted us, you have called us impostors. Yet, do not imagine that all your insults however undeserved have extinguished in our hearts that brotherly fire which Masonry has lighted in them. We never asked a brother where he came from, we never refused to assist the distressed. Even now, in this very protestation do not look for a feeling of hatred or anger. It is but an appeal for union. The language of truth is the most sacred debt, which Masons owe to one another, and we have not hesitated to speak it.

Such is the narrative of our grievances. As already stated at the beginning, we appeal to our peers, to the humble, to the unprejudiced and truly devoted Brother Masons. This is a protest against the cabals and party intrigues, the narrow minded and retrograding Masons who would make of our institution an accomplice of their hatred, shallowness of mind, and prejudice, and reduce it to be a dead letter. Our wish is that it should live on, surrounded by the respect of the present and future generations as it legitimately was by that of the past ones; that in our days it should take the lead of Progress, and contribute to the moral and material improvement of mankind. And, it is to all those who wish Masonry to play such a part that we appeal against a sentence passed contrary to all the laws of Justice and Truth.


The President of Grand Lodge of Philadelphes
E. Benoit

The Senior Warden The Junior Warden
J. Balague F. Mathiew

The Orator
G. Jourdain

The Secretary
J. Nancy



NOTICE

To our Brother Visitors

The symbolical Lodge of Philadelphes holds three meetings a month at the Eclectic Hall, 18, Denmark Street, Soho Square. W.

1- One, in the first Degree (Apprentice) on the first Wednesday of the month.

2- One, in the second Degree (Fellow-Craft) on the third Wednesday of the month.


3- Another, in the third Degree (Master) on the fourth Wednesday of the month.

Any visitor, whatever the Masonic Rite to which he belongs is admitted to take part in our proceedings provided he can justify that he be a Masons. He shall meet with the most cordial and brotherly reception.

 


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