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sequent growing excitement, that has arisen in our country on this subject, appear to justify a fearless and thorough investigation. Truth and impartiality are alone sought for. It has occurred to the undersigned, that the course most likely to give satisfaction to the public, in the present inquiry, was to present the historical question, as to the origin of Freemasonry, to the decision of high minded and honorable gentlemen of profound learning and research. Men above suspicion, and in possession of the most ancient and extensive libraries in this country.
The special object of this application is, respectfully to request an answer to the following historical question, viz.
Is there any known history, to justify the belief, that Speculative, or Freemasonry, had existence prior to the last century ?
The expression of your sentiments, in writing, on the foregoing question, will be gratefully acknowledged by Your most obedient servants,
MR. QUINCY'S REPLY.
CAMBRIDGE, Dec. 5, 1829. To the Gentlemen of the Suffolk Committee.
GENTLEMEN,- I have received and laid before the Faculty of Harvard University, your letter, requesung an expression of their sentiments on the question
“ Is there any known history to justify the belief, that Speculative, or Freemasonry, had existence prior to the last century.'
In reply, I have the honor, by request of the Faculty, to state that they have no knowledge of any such history. On inquiry of the Librarian of the University, and on examining the catalogue of books, no such has been found. The subject is one, however, on which the members of the Faculty profess to have no precise information, it having never before been presented to them as an object of interest and inquiry.
Should any books in the College Library be found to
be important, for your purposes, in the course of your investigation, they will, without doubt, on application, be placed at the command of any person engaged under your authority in the research you have instituted.
Very respectfully, Gentlemen,
President of Harvard University.
THE LAWFULNESS OF FREEMASONRY AS A SECRET
Extract from “ A Reply of the Genesee Consocintion to the letter of the Rer.
Mr Emersm, of Weathersfield, Conn. aldressed to them on the subject of their resolution relutive to masonic ministers, and musonic cundidutes för the ministry.”
We feel prepared to take what some may consider high ground, that secret societies are unlawful. We do not mean to assert it as a fact, that we have any special statutes which prohibit thein-but we mean that such an institution as yours is highly dangerous in its tendency to the best interests of society. What we have to state here may be offensive to some of your brethren, but we hope not to yourself. We say therefore that, towards masons we indulge no hostile feelings. If we give of fence to any, it is from an imperious sense of duty-not from personal resentment.
We here remark again that we are unable to perceive how we can discuss this question with you and come to the point in hand, which is to vindicate the propriety of our resolution, without freely examining the nature of your institution, which now stands all unguarded by the Tyler's sword.
We do not regard your institution with any friendly
* Their resolution was as follows,—“ Resolved, that the Consociation will neither license, ordain, or install, those who sustain any connexion with the institution of masonry, or who will not disapprove and renounce it; nor will we give letters of recommendation in favor of such persons to preach in any of the churches in our connexion."
feeling. We wish it prostrated to the ground, never to rise again. We are not in favor, as you are, of having its “implements,” &c. laid up in the choicest of cabinets, -nor of having the least vestige of it left to her
vigorous successors," — but we wish it to come to a complete and everlasting end. You have something to say in favor of the lawfulness of secret societies.-- In page 9th, you say, that “ of their intrinsic lawfulness, I have no doubt," and that " for any government to forbid them, would in my view, be rank tyranny.”
1. We oppose this opinion, first, by a view of some circumstances of the case. In this country, the people, who are always the best judges of their own interest, govern-and if they are disposed to prohibit by law, the existence of secret societies, there is no tyranny in the case; for it is absurd to suppose that the people, in the free exercise of their prerogatives, will oppress themselves. Therefore should it ever become the popular opinion, that secret societies ought not to exist, the omission to prohibit them bv law would be "rank tyranny," because this omission would give indulgence to the few without an espress right, to trample on the privileges of
As the case now is, and has been, for many years in our country, the masonic institution is an “imperium in imperio.” The prerogatives which it has assumed are unchartered It has grown up by mere indulgence. Society at large should never be exposed, to be practised upon by a few “ sons of light." Masonry has been the instrument in the hands of bad men, of piratical depredations on the people. If the people have foes, it is right that they should see them and their weapons, and understand their plans—that they may have an equal chance for their lives. Masonry is such an instrument as we have, in part, described it; and there are many in whose hands it has been intrusted, who were not dull in apprehending for what purpose the instrument is made.
2. Another argurnent against the “intrinsic lawfulness" of this secret society is the great facility which it affords for secret transactions of an immoral character. This forms a solid objection to it which can never be passed over.
These transactions which are to be kept secret under the sanction of the severest penalties, are a
temptation to the greatest enormities, and afford precisely such securities against detection and punishment, as the vilest of men desire. The good can never need such securities, and the bad do not deserve them, nor is it safe for society, that they should have them. If a man is always obliged to act openly, he is strongly induced to act honestly. But give him an opportunity to act secretly, and the security against punishment, which masonry guarantees, with great strength and a dreadtul energy, and he will act more agreeably to the selfish propensities of a sinful heart. Continue in existence your society, and many will be disposed to cultivate the bad principles of their nature ; abolish it, and they will be disposed to cultivate the better principles. Thieves, robbers, and counterfeiters, do not mature and discuss their plans in open assemblies, but in secret, “neither come they to the light, because their deeds are evil.” They may cultivate
friendships and honor” peculiar to themselves, as masons may cultivate the dispositions peculiar to their unlawful compact, but on the whole, the character is generally impaired, and society is injured.
3. In maintaining your views, you hypocritically say, page 9, “ if these secrets injure no one from their very nature, they must be referred to the day when all secrets will be disclosed.” But we reply, that such is the nature of your secrets, when joined with the selfish nature of man, that they will be injurious to society. To this rule there may be exceptions, but the rule itself is founded upon the broad and philosophical view of the human character. A dagger, from its very nature, injures no one ; but put daggers into the hands of such men as those with whom you have confided your secrets, and they are dangerous instruments. We do not approve of their being worn, for the purpose of practising upon others who wear them not.
Harmless as the instrument of masonry is in itself, good men ought not to wish for it- and bad men do not deserve it. Our safety in lives, character and property, in our prosperous application to business, and in our various privileges, guaranteed to us by the government under which we repose, requires that this instrument be wrested from the hands of bad men - and consequently from all--because in constitutional provis
ions, distinctions are impracticable. As the case now is, with masonic magistrates, jurors, &c. &c. if we must appeal to such a court, with a mason for an antagonist, we go pot with equal hopes or privileges for success. be wrong in such a manner as to obtain no redress by legal process; because perhaps, we cannot show that these masouic officers have, in a tangible manner, violated the letter of the law, although its spirit has been corruptly disregarded.
We have another remark to make on the manner in which you are disposed to express yourself, concerning these secrets-that “they must be referred to the day when all secrets will be disclosed." What is your ineaning here?
Is it, that your secrets cannot be known ? Deceive not yourself, nor vainly attempt to deceive others
- for they are known. Or, do you mean, that if they are known, the public cannot touch them now-that they are not to enjoy the liberty of examining the nature of this extraordinary code, thus thrown out before their gaze? And if so, by what legitimate authority is this liberty abridged, and this silence of the tongue imposed ? In our view, these revelations are things of this world, and men will judge them according to the light which God hath given them.
But you proceed page 9, and make the following decdaration, in favor of the lawfulness of your society, I know nothing in our secrets which appears to one contrary to the word of God or the rights of men, and that I never had the least suspicion that there was any masonic penalty worse than expulsion.”
With respect to this first clause, we have already remarked in substance, what we deem sufficient--ou the last clause, we say, that such assertions are by no means new things to us,-we have, long since, understood them. We know what is pledged to those who are about to be initiated, hen in the preparation room, that nothing is to be imposed which will injure their “ religion or their politics.” We also understand how masonry is plained" to some candidates, who are horror struck at the oaths; we grant that there is a favorable cominentary on such passayes-- yet we also understand the commentary on those same oaths, whenever there is an intended revelation of your secrets--we have the commentary in