Robert L.D. Cooper  Author, Historian, Freemason.

Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly? Part 3

December 22nd, 2022 by Robert Cooper

The previous post left off where we had described how stonemasons’ only lodges became ‘mixed’ stonemason/non-stonemason Lodges and, then so called ‘speculative’ Lodges with no stonemasons as members. In other words Lodges of all possible ‘types’ originated and developed in Scotland before 1717.

1717 was therefore another just another step in the long march of history – in this case Masonic history.

Here, I digress to make an important historical point. History is a flow, without start or end. Oh, we know that certain big events grab the headlines – the beginning and end of WWII, 9/11, the fall of Soviet Russia, but these events do not occur as a one off, unexpected, event. In the natural world, noticeable events do occur, seemingly at random, such earth quakes or volcanic eruptions, but even they are the consequence of an historical progression, albeit in a physical, rather than a human manner.

Those events that are part of human history from major events such as the outbreak of war or revolution do not happen at 09.00 on a Monday morning but are the culmination of a previous series of events. Thus, the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717* is but one event in the chain of events leading to Freemasonry as we know it today.

Back then, to the question: ‘Do Grand Lodges have a Monopoly regarding Freemasonry?’ and the answer, you may have already guessed, is no.

In fact, this has already been confirmed in a court of law no less! This is another interesting historical fact albeit virtually unknown. The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No.1 (whose minutes begin on 31 July 1599 and are continuous to this day) had, by the end of the 17th century, become a Lodge whose members were essentially managers of other stonemasons and their influence and changes in the Lodge disturbed the ordinary stonemasons to such an extent that they broke away and formed another Lodge. That Lodge, The Lodge of Journeymen Masons, No.8, was for working stonemasons only and they continued to confer the Masonic degrees. Their actions annoyed the remaining members of the Lodge of Edinburgh to such an extent that they sued the Lodge of Journeymen Masons in court for unlawfully conferring the degrees of Freemasonry on people who had no right to receive the Masonic ‘secrets.’

The court found that no one, no Lodge, had a monopoly of conferring the degrees of Freemasonry and dismissed the case brought by the Lodge of Edinburgh. This is all a matter of record. As far as I am aware this was the first and only time (in the UK at least) that the right to confer Masonic degrees has been the subject of a legal challenge.

That legal judgement was made before the existence of any Grand Lodge and confirms that no one and no entity had or has a monopoly over Freemasonry.

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