CUCKSON, JOHN 1846-1907
- MM before 1884, Hope #302, Bradford, England
- Affiliated with Roswell Lee, 1889
- Affiliated with Lodge of St. Andrew, 1893
- Grand Chaplain 1893-1895
From Proceedings, Page 1907-158:
Rev. John Cuckson, Grand Chaplain of this Grand Lodge in 1893, 1894 and 1895, was born in Lincolnshlre, England, Jan. 25, 1846, and died at Plymouth. Mass., May 6, 1907. He attended the endowed grammar school of Caistor, the Government school at Sheffield and completed his education at the Manchester, England, Unitarian College. At the age of twenty-one he settled in Liverpool, being ordained by Rev. Wm. Gaskell, the husband of the novelist. He was afterwards settled in Birmingham and Bradford, England. He was pastor of the Unitarian Church in Springfield, Mass., from 1884 to 1892, when he was called to the Arlington Street Church, Boston. He remained there eight years, when he became pastor of the First Parish Church in Plymouth, Mass., where he was at the time of his death.
Brother Cuckson was made a Mason in England, but Nov. 6, 1889, by demit from Lodge of Hope, Bradford, England, he joined Roswell Lee Lodge, of Springfleld. He was elected a member of the Lodge of St. Andrew, of Boston, June 22, 1893, and was appointed Chaplain of the Lodge in November, 1898. He held this position until his decease. He was exalted in Morning Star R.A, Chapter Dec. 27, 1889; and was Chaplain of the Chapter in 1891 and 1892. He was Knighted in Springfield Commandery of Knights Templars April 18, 1892, and became a member of St. Bernard Commandery, of Boston, Dec. 13; 1893, and was made an honorary member Feb. 13, 1907.
Brother Cuckson was an earnest preacher, a studious pastor, an excellent citizen and a zealous Mason. The parish in Plymouth, and that community, the Lodge of St. Andrew and our Fraternity lost in his death a worthy and devoted pastor, citizen and Brother.
From New England Craftsman, Vol. II, No. 9, June 1907, Page 344:
Funeral services For Rev. John Cuckson. the former pastor of the Church of the Unity, Springfield, Mass. were conducted in that church May 10th at 2:30 o'clock, with many of the members of tit church and friends of the family in attendance. Rev. A. P. Reccord officiated. The services were simple, and consisted of Scripture reading, prayer and a brief eulogy on Mr. Cuckson by Rev. Mr. Reccord, and singing by the church quartet. The quartet sang the anthem Crossing the Bar, by Barnby; God Love by Shelley, and the old hymn, Abide With Me."
Mr. Reccord said there was a peculiar fitness about the service. Here in the city to which he gave eight of the best years of his life and in the church which he loved and served we meet to pay our tribute of affection and esteem. Mr. Cuckson was of English birth and training, but no one could have been more loyal to the land of his adoption. Coming here as a stranger to American ways and customs, he gave himself to the work of the city and of the church in a way that bore immediate fruit. The clearness of his vision, the profoundness of his thought, the honesty of his purpose and the sincerity of his utterance all combined to place him among the foremost of our preachers.
At the same time he will always be remembered as a kind, generous, sympathetic pastor and friend. He had a marvelous capacity for making and retaining friends and this gathering today is an evidence of the way he is still remembered in this community. After leaving Springfield Mr. Cuckson was settled in Boston and Plymouth. It was while engaged in his pastoral duties as minister of the church of the Pilgrims that death overtook him. It was a fitting close to a life of activity and achievement. Such a soul cannot die. It is a spark struck off from the heart of God and partakes of His eternity. Even now he has entered upon the larger life and the diviner service of the realms above.
The burial was in Springfield Cemetery. and the service at the grave consisted of the simple Masonic ritual which was recited by Worshipful Brother George W. Chester of Boston, the Grand Tyler of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, who represented St. Andrew's Lodge of Boston, of which Rev. Mr. Cuckson was Chaplain.
AT THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LODGE OF ST. ANDREW, NOVEMBER 1906
From New England Craftsman, Vol. II, No. 7, May 1907, Page 277:
Freemasonry: Friend of Human Progress
Since the following article was put in type, our distinguished brother, the Rev. John pickson, has passed on to the other side of life. On Monday evening, May 8, while on "s way to attend the reception of a newly arrived preacher of another religious faith, he was stricken by heart failure and died almost immediately.
Brother Cuckson was about 60 years old. He was a native of England and came to Us country on a vacation about twenty-five years ago. He preached in Springfield where he made a profound sensation and was invited to remain.
After serving that church about 10 years, he accepted a call to the Arlington Street Church in Boston. This pulpit he filled about eight years, resigning because of poor health. After remaining absent from a pulpit for about two years, Mr. Cuckson accepted a call to the First Church of Plymouth, Mass., and has been there about six years. He was a noted scholar, lecturer, theologian and historian.
From an address delivered before the Lodge of St. Andrew, on the occasion of its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, November 30, 1906. We take great pleasure in printing this portion of Brother Cuckson's remarkable address as an exposition of the value of Freemasonry as aid to the moral and social uplift of humanity :—
There is scarcely a great movement anywhere for the moral uplift and freedom of humanity, for its deliverance from feudalism, and the inequalities and indignities of every kind of serfdom, from the French Revolution down to the present day, in which Freemasonry has not taken a valiant part. In some instances, it has furnished eminent leaders, and in all cases, ethical inspiration and support. The inveterate foe of tyranny and despotism, it has sought to concentrate and organize the forces of liberty. Its Lodges have been, in all lands, the hatcheries of rebellion against kings, priests, and anarchists, whenever these were to be found plotting against the liberties and rights of a law abiding people. Again and again, it has gathered into a focus the liberal humanitarian sentiments which pervaded the literature and life of Europe and America, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, struggling against powerful odds for legitimate expression; and whenever occasion has offered, it has been the strong right arm of the beleaguered forces of freedom and righteousness. No just estimate of its history can be formed without reference to the revolutionary atmosphere in France and America which culminated in the revolt of the American Colonies against the British Government.
There was nothing in common between the ideals of Masonry, at that time, and the volcanic conspiracies, devoid of all moral purpose, of the Girondists, the Communists, and the Jacobins; but the influence of Voltaire and Rousseau in France, of Robert Burns in Scotland, of the Chartists and Friends of Parliamentary Reform in England, and the stubborn enemies of despotism in America, was fostered and augmented by the groups of free-thinking patriots of the Masonic order, who meeting in their Lodges, found leisure and opportunity during refreshment, because they could not do so at any other time, to promote liberty near and far, while they deprecated, as utterly opposed to their principles, the cruelties in the name of liberty, which for two years France suffered at the hands of tyrannical demagogues like Robespierre and Mirabeau. Without deliberately setting themselves to the task, the Masons of this period instituted a school of patriotism. The principles which had character ized the craft for so many generations were attractive to men who sought to harmonize liberty with equality before the law, and who were bent upon establishing a practical brotherhood on the simple foundations of God and humanity without regard to sect or social caste. It was a bold enterprise, and yet it appealed so strongly to th uncommon good sense of thoughtful and public-spirited men, that it grew to large proportions, and soon became one of the formidable forces with which kings and statesmen had to reckon.
It entered every field of political unrest, and gave counsel and direction to the new aspirations after wholesome and stable freedom which were being awakened in France, Germany, Great Britain, and the American Colonies, and created a distinct type of wise, conservative citizenship, which has come down augmented and unimpaired to the present day. The fact that it was a secret order, although its secrets were never intended to do more than preserve its identity, made it little understood by the outside world, and often misunderstood. Some people thought it was a conspiracy against good government, and loyal Tories came to look upon the lodge-rooms as "nests of traitors," notwithstanding the fact that every Mason stood pledged to the maintenance of the laws and liberties of the land. Others regarded it as the enemy of religion, although it was steeped in the spirit of true faith in God and duty and immortality, and made the Bible one of its foundations; while still more saw nothing in a Masonic Lodge except selfish and sometimes reckless conviviality. The fact that there was something about it which the outside world thought it ought to know, but could not penetrate, laid it open often, as to some extent it does now, to foolish conjecture and groundless suspicion. All the while, there was growing up an ever-increasing body of men, of high character and public spirit, banded together and meeting at stated periods, to inculcate the principles of their order, and to prove that brotherhood, on simple lines of fellowship, was not a crude dream, but an intensely practical reality. The new cult soon became more or less formidable power inm any lands, and an efficient working force wherever, in any part of the world, the down trodden and oppressed were struggling for freedom and the rights of man.
It is to the revival of Masonry in the eighteenth century, and to its development since, and especially the latter half of it, there may be traced three distinct phases, with which Masonic principles were closely concerned. There was that, so frequently observed as one of the characteristics of despotism, whether in politics or religion — a scepticism and almost despair of the progress of man. The greatest writers, at the close of the seventeenth and the opening of the eighteenth centuries, who dealt with questions of Church and State, were sceptics in religion, and cynics in almost everything else. Hobbes, the author of "The Leviathan," was in politics essentially a despot. He was followed by Hume and Gibbon, who were sceptics in philosophy and scornful of popular rights. And, though there was no resemblance religiously between them and Samuel Johnson, still his antipathy to democratic leaning, like theirs, was based upon a pessimistic view of human nature and its possibilities. It finds expression in his well known addition to Goldsmith's "Traveller" : —
How small of all that human hearts endure
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.
If, however, the ends to be gained by one form of government, as compared with another, be so insignificant, they can never adequately compensate for the trouble and danger involved in any change that might be made to secure them. The logical outcome of such scepticism is toleration or justification of the suppression of popular rights and aspirations. No wonder then, that men like Johnson and Gibbon, so unlike in many respects, were yet similar in their confirmed distrust of the people. One was a sceptic in politics, and the other a sceptic in religion and politics, and both were unable to feel any sympathy with the demands of the American Colonists which were to find such fervid embodiment in the Declaration of 1776.
Against this doubt of the moral order of the universe on the one hand, and of the inherent power of man to dispense with tyrants and take the best care of himself on the other, the Masonic body, in its charter and constitution, set the absolute sovereignty of the All-seeing God, and unbounded faith in human progress. The Lodges were essentially theistic and democratic. They stood for God and humanity, and became the schools of undogmatic faith, and of social sympathy and regeneration. Without making any open profession of their mission, they unconsciously laid the foundations of that inclusiveness and social fellowship, after which the noblest spirits in every church and nation are now feeling their way. Atheism and lawlessness and selfishness were against their instincts and purposes, which were religious without being sectarian, and republican without being sentimental; as far removed from the pessimism o Hobbes as from the flimsy optimism of Pope and Boliugbroke.
Another phase of the time was a widespread lack of real sympathy with the poor and the oppressed. The rapid increase of population everywhere of a privileged class had brought into striking contrast the burdens and miseries of the starving masses until, to stave off the evil day as long as they could, Mr. Leslie Stephen says, "fine ladies and gentlemen began to play at sympathy." Such writers as Sterne-Mackenzie and Alexander Pope spoke of human nature more from observation than experience.
How could they know much of mankind who never knew anything of such want and misery as dwelt in the purlieus of London and Paris? In France, the profligacy and incompetency of Louis XV. whose reign Michelet describes as "a halt in the mud," following upon the long wars of Louis XIV, had resulted in the most hopeless economical difficulties, and hence in the distress of the hitherto silent millions; while in England, the new social phenomenon supplied material to this kind of sentimentality, as also to the Evangelical fervor of the Wesleys and George Whitefield. Sympathy with the poor and oppressed was a social pastime. What more pleasant, forsooth, than to write and sing of humanity in the abstract! What more comforting than to distribute alms by deputy, and hug to their self-complacent souls Heaven's approval of their tender-heartedness, if only they kept their gentle hands clean! It it surprising that this placid assertion, that
"Whatever is, is right."
and could not well be better, was rudely denied by a crowd of sufferers; and that there intruded forced social issues to the front. The prosperous and insolent greeds upon the complacent body of shallow optimists and impracticable sentimentalists a man "stained with the filth of the street, his utterance choked with passion, a savage menace lurking in every phrase, and announcing himself as the herald of a furious multitude"? Sentimentality and epigrams, indulged in by those who were to be thrown into dismay and panic when they witnessed what was, to some extent, their necessary consequence in the rough, ruthless indignation of the multitude, I regard as the second phase of the political thought of the age, beginning in the rose-water prescriptions of literary sentimentalists, and ending in the blood and fire of the French Revolution.
The third was a real, deep-rooted sympathy with the suffering millions on the part of those who like the democratic poets, and the organized bodies of Free Masons, persisted in looking at humanity in the concrete, and not in the abstract; not as something stretching from China to Peru, but as something dwelling close at hand, and at everybody's door,— a tender, personal affection, rather than a profuse, undetached enthusiasm for humanity in general. There is a vast difference between a sentiment that is a passion and a conviction that is a passion. The epigrams and political discussions, which led to nothing, only exasperated the people, and paved the way for revolution. It was such views as those of George the Third, Dr. Johnson, and Gibbon, that were responsible for the war between the English and their Colonists in America, and hence for the Declaration of Independence. Here is one of history's most striking pieces of irony. Men in France and England were unconsciously helping to produce results in clean contradiction to their own programme. It is in truth not a mere paradox to say that George the Third did more than any other one man to bring about the American Revolution. His excessive influence over Ministry and Parliament has been of late more and more recognized. To him, as to Dr. Johnson, the English on this side of the Atlantic were simply three millions of detested Whigs, and as such were to be treated with a high hand. High-handedness, however, with three millions of spirited people, may prove fatal to the cherished purposes even of Royalty itself. In this case, it resulted in the Declaration that was to sound the death-knell of many another autocracy besides that of George the Third, and which was to be followed by the French Declaration of the Rights of Man.
It was through men like Rousseau and Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson that democratic views and sympathies were taught and promulgated on this side of the Atlantic. The dim-eyed Tories of England, the courtier-epigrammatists of France, and the soft-handed sentimentalists of both countries, contributed, perhaps, as much as the trumpet-tongued Patrick Henry, or the vehement Rousseau, to those great movements of the eighteenth century, of which we, in the twentieth century, are reaping the results.