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T  e Old Charges and What T  ey Mean to Us
          Montana Freemason                                           May 2014                                           Volume 90   Number 1
                                                   By Bro. H. L. Haywood
                                           T  e Builder Magazine, September 1923


          I. WHAT THE OLD CHARGES ARE                          book of a lodge. T  ey range in estimated date from
                                                               1390 until the f rst quarter of the eighteenth century,
             I have just come from reading an article in one  and a few of them are specimens of beautiful Gothic
          of the more obscure Masonic periodicals in which  script. T  e largest number of them are in the keeping
          an unknown brother lets go with this very familiar  of the British Museum; the Masonic library of West
          remark: “As for me, I am not interested in the musty  Yorkshire, England, has in custody the second largest
          old documents of the past. I want to know what is  number.
          going on today.” T  e context makes it clear that he
          had in mind the Old Charges. A suf  cient reply to    As already said these Old Charges (such is their
          this ignoramus is that the Old Charges are among  most familiar appellation) form the basis of modern
          the things that are “going on today.” Eliminate them  Masonic constitutions, and therefore jurisprudence.
          from Freemasonry as it now functions and not a  T  ey establish the continuity of the Masonic institution
          subordinate lodge, or a Grand Lodge, or any other  through a period of more than f ve centuries, and by
          regular Masonic body could operate at all; they are to  fair implication much longer; and at the same time,
          what the Constitution of this nation is to the United  and by token of the same signif cance, prove the
          States Government, and what its statutes are to every  great antiquity of Masonry by written documents,
          state in the Union. All our constitutions, statutes,  which is a thing no other craf  in existence is able to
          laws, rules, by-laws and regulations to some extent or  do. T  ese manuscripts are traditional and legendary
          other hark back to the Old Charges, and without them  in form and are therefore not to be read as histories
          Masonic jurisprudence, or the methods for governing  are, nevertheless a careful and critical study of them
          and regulating the legal af airs of the Craf , would be  based on internal evidence sheds more light on the
          lef  hanging suspended in the air. In proportion as  earliest times of Freemasonry than any other one
          Masonic leaders, Grand Masters, Worshipful Masters  source whatever. It is believed that the Old Charges
          and Jurisprudence Committees ignore, or forget,  were used in making a Mason in the old Operative
          or misunderstand these Masonic charters they run  days; that they served as constitutions of lodges in
          amuck, and lead the Craf  into all manner of wild and  many cases, and sometimes functioned as what we
          unmasonic undertakings. If some magician could  today call a warrant.
          devise a method whereby a clear conception of the Old
          Charges and what they stand for could be installed      T  e systematic study of these manuscripts began in
          into the head of every active Mason in the land, it  the middle of the past century, at which time only a few
          would save us all from embarrassment times without  were known to be in existence. In 1872 William James
          number and it would relieve Grand Lodges and  Hughan listed 32. Owing largely to his ef orts many
          other Grand bodies from the needless expenditure of  others were discovered, so that in 1889 Gould was able
          hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. If there  to list 62, and Hughan himself in 1895 tabulated 66
          is any practical necessity, any hard down-next-to-the-  manuscript copies, 9 printed versions and 11 missing
          ground necessity anywhere in Freemasonry today,  versions. T  is number has been so much increased of
          it is for a general clear-headed understanding of the  late years that in “Ars Quatuor Coronatorum”, Volume
          Ancient Constitutions and landmarks of our Order.    XXXI, page 40 (1918), Brother Roderick H. Baxter,
                                                               now Worshipful Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge,
             By the Old Charges is meant those ancient  listed 98, which number included the versions known
          documents that have come down to us from the  to be missing. Brother Baxter’s list is peculiarly
          fourteenth century and af erwards in which are  valuable in that he gives data as to when and where
          incorporated the traditional history, the legends  these manuscripts have been reproduced.
          and the rules and regulations of Freemasonry. T ey
          are called variously “Ancient Manuscripts”, “Ancient    For the sake of being better able to compare one
          Constitutions”, “Legend of the Craf ”,  “Gothic  copy with another, Dr. W. Begemann classif ed all the
          Manuscripts”, “Old Records”, etc, etc. In their physical  versions into four general “families”, T  e Grand Lodge
          makeup these documents are sometimes found in the  Family, T  e Sloane Family, T  e Roberts Family, and
          form of handwritten paper or parchment rolls, the  T  e Spencer Family. T  ese family groups he divided
          units of which are either sewn or pasted together; of  further into branches, and he believed that T e
          hand-written sheets stitched together in book form,  Spencer Family was an of shoot of T  e Grand Lodge
          and in the familiar printed form of a modern book.  Family, and T  e Roberts Family an of shoot of T e
          Sometimes they are found incorporated in the minute  Sloane Family. In this general manner of grouping,
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