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Montana TheFreemason Old ChargeBysBarMon.adHy .2WL0.1H4haaywtoTodhey Mean to UsVolume 90 Number 1
                                      The Builder Magazine, September 1923

I. WHAT THE OLD CHARGES ARE                                 book of a lodge. They range in estimated date from
   I have just come from reading an article in one          1390 until the first quarter of the eighteenth century,
                                                            and a few of them are specimens of beautiful Gothic
of the more obscure Masonic periodicals in which            script. The 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.” The context makes it clear that he
had in mind the Old Charges. A sufficient 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              They establish the continuity of the Masonic institution
subordinate lodge, or a Grand Lodge, or any other           through a period of more than five 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 significance, 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 craft in existence is able to
laws, rules, by-laws and regulations to some extent or      do. These 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 affairs of the Craft, would be     based on internal evidence sheds more light on the
left 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 Craft 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             The 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 efforts 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. This 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 afterwards 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. They
are called variously “Ancient Manuscripts”, “Ancient           For the sake of being better able to compare one
Constitutions”, “Legend of the Craft”, “Gothic              copy with another, Dr. W. Begemann classified all the
Manuscripts”, “Old Records”, etc, etc. In their physical    versions into four general “families”, The Grand Lodge
makeup these documents are sometimes found in the           Family, The Sloane Family, The Roberts Family, and
form of handwritten paper or parchment rolls, the           The Spencer Family. These family groups he divided
units of which are either sewn or pasted together; of       further into branches, and he believed that The
hand-written sheets stitched together in book form,         Spencer Family was an offshoot of The Grand Lodge
and in the familiar printed form of a modern book.          Family, and The Roberts Family an offshoot of The
PSaogme 2e8times they are found incorporated in the minute  Sloane Family. In this general manner of grouping,
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