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The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (1734)
An Online Electronic Edition
2006 10 25

This is an online electronic edition of the the first Masonic book printed in America, which was produced in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin in 1734, and was a reprint of a work by James Anderson (who is identified as the author in an appendix) printed in London in 1723. This is the seminal work of American Masonry, edited and published by one of the founding fathers, and of great importance to the development of colonial society and the formation of the Republic. The work contains a 40-page history of Masonry: from Adam to the reign of King George I, including, among others, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Hiram Abif, Nebuchadnezzar, Augustus Caesar, Vitruvius, King Athelstan the Saxon, Inigo Jones, and James I of England. There are extended descriptions of the Seven Wonders of the World, viz. 1) the Great Pyramid, 2) Solomon’s Temple, 3) the City and Hanging-Gardens of Babylon, 4) the Mausoleum or Tomb of Mausolus, King of Caria, 5) the Lighthouse of Pharos at Alexandria, 6) Phidias’s statue of Jupiter Olympius in Achaia, and 7) the Colossus at Rhodes (although some maintain the 5th is the Obelisk of Semiramis). It is a celebration of the science of Geometry and the Royal Art of Architecture, as practiced from ancient times until the then-current revival of the Roman or Augustan Style. “The Charges of a Free- Mason” and the “General Regulations” concern rules of conduct for individuals and of governance for Lodges and their officers. The work also includes five songs to be sung at meetings, one of which—“A New Song”—appears in print for the first time and may have been composed by Franklin.

The document suggests that Masonry, in its modern Anglo-American form, was rooted in Old Testament exegesis (“So that the Israelites, at their leaving Egypt, were a whole Kingdom of Masons, … under the Conduct of their GRAND MASTER MOSES”) and in contemporary Protestant ideals of morality, merit, and political equality.

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