- 1 SAMUEL WELLS 1836-1903
- 1.1 TERM
- 1.2 NOTES
- 1.3 MEMORIAL
- 1.4 SPEECHES
- 1.4.1 AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN PALMER, JULY 1890
- 1.4.2 AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN LOWELL, OCTOBER 1890
- 1.4.3 AT THE CONSTITUTION OF PROSPECT LODGE, JANUARY 1891
- 1.4.4 AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN BROCKTON, MAY 1892
- 1.4.5 AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN TAUNTON, JUNE 1892
- 1.4.6 AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN SPRINGFIELD, OCTOBER 1892
- 1.4.7 AT CENTENARY OF OLD COLONY LODGE, DECEMBER 1892
- 1.5 CHARTERS GRANTED
- 1.6 RULINGS
SAMUEL WELLS 1836-1903
Deputy Grand Master, 1888-1889
Grand Master, 1890-1892.
FROM PROCEEDINGS, 1903
From Proceedings, Page 1903-117, in Grand Master's Address:
R.W. Samuel Wells, a beloved and highly esteemed Permanent Member of this Grand Lodge, passed into the life eternal Oct. 3, 1903, at his home in Boston, aged sixty-seven years and twenty-four days. A man of wide experience, of marked ability and social excellence, he merited and secured the confidence and esteem of a large circle of friends. He was Grand Treasurer from 1879 to 1887, Deputy Grand Master in 1888 and 1889, and was Grand Master in 1890, 1891 and 1892, which position he filled with honor to himself and with great acceptance to the Brethren. His obsequies took place at the Arlington-street Church, October 6, and were largely attended by friends and prominent citizens. The Grand Lodge was represented by the Grand Master and five of its Past Grand Masters, also several of its Permanent Members.
From Proceedings, Page 1903-147:
R.W. Bro. Samuel Wells was suddenly taken from us. On a Thursday he arrived in Boston from his summer home in Campobello and on the following Saturday, October 3, he breathed his last at bis residence in this city.
Brother Wells, son of Samuel and Louisa Ann (Appleton) Wells, was born in Hallowell, Maine, Sept. 9, 1836. His father, born in 1801, removed to Portland, Maine, in 1844, where he practiced law. He became a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine, serving as such from 1848 to 1852, and in 1856 and 1857 was the governor of that State. On retiring from the executive chair, he removed, with his family, to Boston, where he practiced his profession until his decease, July 15, 1868.
His son Samuel received his early education at a private school in Portland, Maine. He was graduated from Harvard College in 1857. After his graduation he became a student in his father's office in Boston and was admitted to the Suffolk bar, Dec. 18, 1858. He was married June 11, 1863, to Kate Boott Gannett, daughter of Rev. Ezra Stiles Gannett, D.D., pastor of the Arlington-Street Church, Boston, by whom there were three children: Stiles Gannett, the late Samuel, jr., and Louis Appleton.
Brother Wells continued in practice with his father until the latter's death in 1868, and afterward was alone until about 1871, when he formed a co-partnership with the late Edward Bangs, which has since been continued under the firm name of Bangs and Wells. He was not long engaged in general practice, but confined himself to office business and the management of important trusts. He was one of the leading members of the Boston bar and was recognized as an able, judicious and reliable lawyer. He achieved success through his intellectual ability, sound judgment and great industry. During forty years he won and retained the confidence and respect of the community.
Outside of his profession he was active and efficient. He was president of the State Street Exchange; vice-president of the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company; a member of the Citizens' Association of Boston, of the Tariff Reform League, Boston Society of Natural History, Boston Young Men's Christian Union, Bunker Hill Monument Association, Bostonian Society and of many other similar organizations; also a founder and the first president of the Exchange Club; a member of several other clubs — as the Union,. St. Botolph, Unitarian, Papyrus and Boston Art Clubs, Beacon Society, all of Boston, and of the University Club in New York city. In these various organizations he was not merely a nominal member, but his tastes, activity and experience made him influential in their management and purpose.
Brother Wells received the first three degrees in Freemasonry in Revere Lodge of Boston in 1862 and 1863, and was elected a member thereof March 3, 1863, and an honorary member Jan. 5, 1875. He served that Lodge in various offices until 1873. He was Worshipful Master that year and in 1874. He was Treasurer of Revere Lodge from 1879 to 1887. He was admitted a member of the First Worshipful Masters' Association in January, 1873, and was its president from 1876 to 1881.
He was Grand Treasurer of the Grand Lodge, A.F. and A.M., of Massachusetts from 1879 to 1887; Deputy Grand Master of the Grand. Lodge of Massachusetts in 1888 and 1889 and Grand Master of the same in 1890, 1891 and 1892.
Brother Wells received the capitular degrees in St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter and was admitted to membership therein April 5, 1865. He was created a Knight Templar in St. Bernard Commandery of Boston, Nov. 3, 1865; was its Eminent Commander in 1871 and 1872 and was made an honorary member thereof in 1873. He received the various grades of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite—from the 4° to the 32° inclusive in 1875 and 1876. He was created a Sovereign Grand Inspector General at Cleveland, Ohio, Sept. 16. 1890, and was crowned an active member, ad vitam, of the Supreme Council, 33° for the District of Massachusetts, Sept. 22, 1892. He was Illustrious Deputy for the District of Massachusetts from Sept. 22, 1893, to Sept. 23, 1897.
The foregoing is the record of the public work of our friend and Brother, but there was other and no less efficient of a private nature. He was active in philanthropic work, not simply as an adviser or manager, but as a willing and generous supporter. He made a close study of scientific matters and was one of the first in this country to employ the microscope in photography. In the threefold capacity of lawyer, scientist and philanthropist, he achieved eminence and honor. As a citizen he was universally respected for his integrity, public spirit and liberality.
To us who were associated with him, and knew him intimately, he was the embodiment of gentleness, humor and generosity. Noise and pageantry were not his choice. His voice was soft and low; his manner gentle, and he always moved amongst us with quiet grace and pleasing smile. His humor was a remarkable trait. He made the most ordinary things bubble with fun. Even in serious, conversations he found the gem of mirth; he held it before us and, with the dexterity of a master, dazzled us with its many beauties. His generosity was to many an unknown quantity; to some of us it was not. He never hesitated to give generously when a call was made upon him for assistance. Brethren — some dead, some living — have unknowingly been the recipients of his cheerful generosity. These traits — gentleness, humor, generosity — were prominent in his character and never failed. By these fraternal cords he bound our hearts to his so strongly that this separation, though temporary, is both painful and sorrowful, yet we will cherish with sincere gratitude the blessed memories of his sterling worth and constant friendship.
The funeral services of our Brother were held in the Arlington-Street Church, Boston, on the 6th of October, 1903, and were attended by a large number of his late associates and friends. His widow with one son and one daughter survive him. Death, the common leveller of humanity, has borne Brother Wells from us. He has joined the great company of our beloved Brethren whose voices on earth are now silent. Sundered fraternal ties have been united in the Celestial Lodge.
"As for our friends, they are not lost;
The several vessels of the fleet,
Though parted now by tempest tossed,
Shall safely in the haven meet."
FROM COUNCIL OF DELIBERATION, 1904
From Proceedings of the Massachusetts Council of Deliberation AASR NMJ 1904, Page 29:
The sudden death of I11. Bro. Samuel Wells, which occurred on the 3d of October last, was deeply felt by the members of the Scottish Rite and by the fraternity at large. As Grand Master of the Masons of Massachusetts, through a term of three years, he had secured the love and confidence of the Brethren, and the impress of his fine personality and trained ability had left a durable mark upon the administration of Masonic affairs in this jurisdiction.
Brother Wells was the son of Samuel and Louise Ann (Appleton) Wells, and was born in Hallowell, Me., Sept. 9, 1836. His father was an eminent lawyer, and was a justice of the Supreme Court of Maine, from 1848 to 1852. In 1856 and 1857, he was Governor of that State. Later, he removed with his family to Boston, where he practiced his profession until his decease in 1868. His son Samuel received his early education at a private school, in Portland, Me., and in 1857 was graduated with honors from Harvard College. He became a student in his father's law office in Boston, with whom, on his admission to the bar in 1858, he entered into partnership, which continued until the death of his father, July 15, 1868. He formed a copartnership in 1871 with the late Edward Bangs, under the firm name of Bangs & Wells, to which the eldest sons of both members have been admitted.
In this early part of his professional career Mr. Wells was engaged in general practice, but of late years he confined himself to office business, to the law relating to corporations, and to the management of important trusts, to which he gave much of his time. He was one of the leading members of the Boston Bar, and for many years was recognized as an able, industrious and reliable lawyer. Well grounded in legal matters, and possessed of sound judgment and great intellectual powers, he achieved deserved success. During a career of forty years, he won and maintained the confidence and respect of not only a large clientage, but of the entire community. For several years he was President of the State Street Exchange of Boston, a Trustee of the Boston Heal Estate Trust, Counsel and Director of the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, and for several years its First Vice-President. He was also a director of various other corporations. He was a member of the General Committee of the Citizens' Association of Boston; a member of the Massachusetts Civil Service Reform Association and of the Tariff Reform League; a Vice-President of the Boston Society of Natural History; one of the Trustees of the Boston Young Men’s Christian Union and of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston, and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, of the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society, of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, of the Bostonian Society, and of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. He was a founder and first President of the Exchange Club, and in 1897 he was President of the Papyrus Club and of the Beacon Society. He was a member of, and at various times had been an officer In, the Union, St. Botolph, Unitarian, and Boston Art Clubs of Boston, and of the University Club of New York.
It will be seen by the foregoing sketch of his career, that our beloved Brother was a man of varied activities. He was a reformer and philanthropist, and took a prominent part in all movements that looked to the promotion of the welfare of the community in which lie lived. Nor did this cover the whole breadth of his interests. It is remarkable that, although immersed in business cares and responsive to all the calls of good citizenship, he should have found time for scientific study and investigation, and that his labors, especially in microscopy, were crowned by practical results which were positive additions to scientific knowledge, and were so recognized by members qualified to pronounce a judgment upon them. He was in truth a many-sided man.
He was married June 11, 1863, to Kate Boott Gannett, a daughter of Rev. Ezra Stiles Gannett, D. D., pastor of the Arlington Street Church, Boston, by whom there were three children, — Stiles Gannett, the late Samuel, Jr., and Louisa Appleton.
Brother Wells took an early Interest in Masonry. He was raised in Revere Lodge of Boston, Jan. 23, 1863, and became a member of it March 3, 1863. After serving eight years in the subordinate offices, he held the position of Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1873 and 1874, and that of its Treasurer nine years, from 1879 to 1887. He was elected an Honorary member Jan. 5, 1875.
He was admitted a member of the First Worshipful Masters' Association in January, 1873, and served as its President from 1876 to 1881. He was Grand Treasurer of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts from 1879 to 1887, and its Deputy Grand Master in 1888 and 1889. He was the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge in 1890, 1891 and 1892, and filled that office with great acceptance to the Brethren.
He was exalted in St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter of Boston Feb. 1, 1865, and was admitted a member therein April 5, 1865. He was created a Knight Templar in St. Bernard Commandery of Boston Nov. 3, 1865, was Its Eminent Commander in 1871 and 1872, and was elected an Honorary member in 1873. In the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, he received the Fourteenth Degree in Boston Lodge of Perfection. Nov. 29, 1875; the Sixteenth Degree, in Giles F. Yates Council of Princes of Jerusalem, April 14> 1876; the Eighteenth Degree, in Mount Olivet Chapter of Rose Croix. April 21, 1876; and the Thirty-second Degree, In Massachusetts Consistory, April 28, 1876. He was created a Sovereign Grand Inspector-General of the Honorary member of the Supreme Council, 33°, at Cleveland, on the sixteenth day of September, 1890, and crowned an Active member thereof Sept. 22, 1892. He was on that day appointed a member of the Committee on the State of the Rite, and served for a period of live years. He was elected Deputy for Massachusetts Sept. 22. 1893, and served for four years to Sept. 23, 1897, in that capacity, and ex officio as Commander-in-Chief of Massachusetts Council of Deliberation. He was deeply interested in his duties in the Supreme Council, and rendered valuable service as Deputy for Massachusetts. In Masonry, as in every other sphere of life, he showed the possession of those manly and social qualities which endear men to one another.
Our parting words can only be words of tenderness. Useful and productive ns was his life, we best remember the beauty of ids character, the gentleness of Ids manners, and his exceeding great kindness of heart. Ho possessed all the traits of a full humanity.
AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN PALMER, JULY 1890
From Proceedings, Page 1890-68:
BRETHREN, VETERANS AND FRIENDS: It was truly said, at the beginning of the ceremony you have just witnessed, that from time immemorial it has been the custom of this Ancient and Honorable Fraternity to lay the Corner-stones of public buildings in ancient form. The origin of this custom is lost in the mists of the past. We learn little or nothing concerning it from history, and the traditions of Masonry do not assist our research. We know that Masons formerly were operative before they were speculative, and that they then not only were the actual makers and layers of Corner-stones, but the constructors of the buildings that arose thereon. It has been said that the architects of Tyre formed a religious association under the name of the "Dionysiac Fraternity," about the time of the Ionic migration, fixed approximately at 1044 B.C., nearly five hundred -years before the commencement of King Solomon's Temple; and that this association was exclusively engaged in the construction of temples and theatres in Asia Minor, and that they interwove their substantial work with religious ceremonies and mystical forms.
While this tradition may not be capable of historic proof, yet we see in the ceremony you have participated in to-day internal evidence of the connection, either by direct transmission or by subsequent imitation, with ancient Grecian ceremonies. But however that may be, we know that Freemasons built the cathedral of Strasburg, beginning in 1015 A.D., and continuing to 1439; that of Cologne, founded in 1248; and the magnificent convent of Batalba in Portugal, in the fifteenth century; besides many famous structures in England and on the continent of Europe.
Is it not, therefore, reasonable to infer that in those times, now ancient to $s, the Corner-stones of those religious edifices were laid with forms and ceremonies somewhat resembling those we now use? — perhaps then with pomp and splendor, trumpets and banners, and winding processions of robed priests and Master Masons, instead of our simpler forms, more adapted to the taste of this age.
There is a pleasure in the thought that we have in this ceremony something which connects us with the spirit of the past; that in this age of rush and whirl we can pause for a moment and feel that we are repeating words and actions which were said and done by our predecessors for unknown generations. There is refreshment in this theme, as when the weary traveller on the hot and dusty plain pauses to catch on his sunburnt brow the cool breath from the distant mountain peak.
Our ancient Brethren devoted themselves principally to building religious edifices, and this fact suggests to us a change in the character of modern civilization from that of the old, of which we may well be proud.
To-day we begin a public library for the use of the citizens of this town, a building which could not have been thought of before the invention of printing, nor practically realized until modern inventions and machinery have placed literature within the reach of the poorest.
The secrets of art and architecture that were formerly hid within the breasts of the learned few, and transmitted laboriously by word of mouth to those entitled to receive them, are now open to the eyes of the humblest, and in this building may be learned by all who choose to come and read. In the multiplication of such buildings throughout our land lies the hope and promise of peace and prosperity in the future.
But we have here another purpose, and one which would have pleased but not surprised our ancient Brethren, for they were accustomed from times unknown to reward and commemorate courage and valor. We have in this building a memorial of those who nearly thirty years ago left home and all they loved, to preserve by their suffering and by their courage this country as one and indivisible. To such of your fellow-townsmen as lost their lives in their patriotic efforts you do well to erect this memorial, and to combine with its monumental character the means of teaching children yet unborn the virtues of patriotism, of love of their fellow-men, of charity and good will to all.
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN OF THE BUILDING COMMITTEE: On behalf of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, I thank you for the opportunity you have given us of participating in this celebration and assisting you in laying the Corner-stone of a building destined to forever remind your citizens of all that is good and true and noble.
AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN LOWELL, OCTOBER 1890
From Proceedings, Page 1890-90:
BRETHREN OF THE GRAND LODGE, BROTHER MASONS AND CITIZENS OF LOWELL: — To-day we have left the busy cares of life, the routine of daily work, and the. struggles and labors of business and commerce, to .unite in ceremonies that elevate our thoughts, enlarge our minds, and fill our hearts with love for freedom and equality.
It is fitting that we should leave our homes and shops, mills and factories, and, forgetting the cares of existence, assemble together for the purpose of laying the corner-stone of this building, destined to be the home of free government for this great city.
This ceremony strengthens in the minds and hearts of all the fact that in this country and city the people govern themselves. Here there is no place for that ancient dogma descended from barbaric times and called the "divine right of kings"; here no man is born to rule; here no man acquires the right to govern his fellow-man through inheritance ; and here no one can obtain the-right to authority except by the suffrages of his fellow-men.
We who are now living have so long enjoyed the privilege of freedom in government that we are apt to forget the labors and struggles of our forefathers, in their efforts to procure for us the inestimable privileges which we enjoy. It is hardly more than two hundred years since our ancestors, by great effort, with many differences and disagreements, began the experiments which have led, by slow changes, to our present forms of government, and yet we are impatient because we have not already reached perfection.
There is still much more work for us to do, before we can completely and. satisfactorily solve the problem of how to attain perfection in government. As the builders will add stone to stone and brick to brick in the construction of this building, so let us with patience and industry, gradually work out the solution of this great problem, until we can show the world a perfect model of municipal government. As the founders of your city chained the strength of the free-flowing river, and led it a captive to do the work of thousands of arms, so it will be your privilege to control, educate and direct the intellectual force of your people to the highest and most exalted use of which it is capable.
Before there were City Halls, before there were schools, before there were buildings erected for the administration of justice, when the only public buildings were Temples for religious uses, Masonry began to lay corner-stones, and down through the growth of civilization and the progress of the human race in improvement, Masonry has continued to lay corner-stones.
It has witnessed the wonderful expansion of the human mind as exemplified in the multiplication of such buildings from time to time.
Beginning ages ago with Temples, coming then to monuments and cathedrals, and then to the present time, we find the greatest variety of public buildings in this free republic. Here it has been the privilege of Masons to lay the cornerstones of Post-offices and other public buildings of the United States, State Houses, City Halls, Public Libraries, Memorial Halls, Monuments, Churches, and Masonic buildings. Masons are good citizens, and are always pleased at any opportunity to promote good government, and they believe that in this building will be found an example of organized civil liberty to be followed the world over, and I give you again the charge to let this structure be erected and forever maintained according to the grand plan, in Peace, Harmony and Brotherly Love.
AT THE CONSTITUTION OF PROSPECT LODGE, JANUARY 1891
From Proceedings, Page 1891-3:
It is part of the unwritten law of Masonry that it shall not grow rapidly; that no additions shall be made to its structure without due examination and consideration. When a builder is engaged in the erection of a structure which he designs to last for all time, he first carefully tests the qualities of the materials available for his use, selects that which is the least liable to fracture or deterioration, and when his foundation is prepared he allows no stone to be added which has not been cut from the selected material, shaped according to the drawings on the trestle-board, dressed to the desired surface and, finally, carefully examined for possible defects, and accurately measured to prove the correctness of the workman.
Only by the wise exercise of these precautions can the builder feel confident that he is constructing a lasting edifice.
A new Lodge is like a new stone added to the structure of Freemasonry, and under the laws of our Order is not created lightly or carelessly.
First, the character and qualifications of the petitioners are considered by the Grand Master ; next, the reasons for the establishment of such a Lodge are submitted to him, and, if he is then satisfied to proceed further, he requires, in pursuance of the Grand Constitutions, that all Lodges whose jurisdictions may be affected by the establishment of such new Lodge, shall give their consent; but not even then is the Charter granted. The Grand Master grants a Dispensation, and the Brethren who have petitioned for the new Lodge must work for a year to prove their ability to manage and control a Lodge of Freemasons.
These precautions are eminently wise and just. The principles of our Order are opposed to hasty growth; all additions must be strong and healthy, and give evidence of ability to continue in an existence which shall be both prosperous and useful.
In view of the efforts you have made and the patience you have displayed, the Grand Lodge is satisfied that your Lodge has a reason for its existence, and we have no doubt that you will flourish and prosper.
Similar principles to those that actuate the Grand Lodge in the establishment of a new Lodge- should influence you in the making of Masons. Be careful, cautious and painstaking in the selection of candidates. Consider the quality of your work as of much more importance than its quantity. We do not make Masons by wholesale, and we require the best men in each jurisdiction as our material. We do not want any branch added to the tree of Freemasonry that is likely to decay and fall off: it is only branches that are healthy and bring forth good fruit that will add to the usefulness of the Craft.
With these principles in view, Brethren of Prospect Lodge, we have no doubt you will do good work and maintain the high standard of Massachusetts Masonry. The interest in your undertaking manifested by the Grand Lodge is shown by the large attendance of Grand Officers here to-night; and that Grand Body extends to its youngest Lodge a cordial greeting and good wishes for its success.
AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN BROCKTON, MAY 1892
From Proceedings, Page 1892-45:
BRETHREN OF THE GRAND LODGE, BROTHER MASONS, AND CITIZENS OF BROCKTON: To-day the citizens of this great country forsake their usual vocations, forget the cares and troubles of business, and, with solemn music and drooping banners, show respect for the patriotic dead who lost their lives in preserving the unity of the Government of the United States. Such ceremonies are fitting and proper. It is also fitting and proper that we, standing here to establish the foundation of a civic home for government by the people, should acknowledge what we owe, not only to the brave patriots whose loss we mourn, but to all whose love of liberty has made it possible for us to meet here to-day in honor of free government. Let us be grateful, then, to the mighty men who established liberty of thought and action, and whose brave words and deeds have enabled us to exercise that freedom, unrestrained except by the laws we ourselves make for our own guidance.
While we recognize the memories to which this day is consecrated, it is yet permitted to us, assembled here to lay this corner-stone, not only to think of those who have died for us, but to look forward to the future. We are celebrating the erection of a building which may be fitly termed a monument to freedom. Nowhere else in the world has man yet established a form of government so free and beneficent as that existing in the United States of America. Of that freedom and beneficence this building is an expression.
Long ago you passed beyond the period, of town life, in which all your people assembled together to decide upon their interests. You became a city, with its varied departments controlled by the representatives whom you yourselves elected. This city hall, whose corner-stone we lay to-day, is your pledge to the future, as it is the mark of your evolution from the historic principle of town government into that of municipal obligations and functions.
Here, then, in the future will meet the representatives of the people. Here will they consider and decide such questions of civic policy as may arise. Here will be the head of this body politic, controlling and governing the arms that shall reach out over the whole city.
From the history of your people, and the intelligence they have heretofore displayed in the management of their affairs, and in promoting the growth of their business, we can surely hope that the rulers of this young city will be able to find remedies for the evils that still exist in municipal governments; that they will discover how to obtain efficient service from officers and employees, how to prevent improper influences from affecting the action of the governing board, how to act for the good of the city as a whole, rather than for a favored portion; in fine, how to govern on business principles, and so become a model for like forms of government elsewhere.
The citizens of Brockton; and indeed of all large centres, have greater privileges and greater powers than ever have been possessed by citizens of any place in Europe; and yet municipal government with us is far from perfect.
Take this day, then, citizens of Brockton, as a further incentive to your determination to make your government so good that you will attract the admiration of other cities, and teach them how to escape the evils that now perplex them.
"Then fix in love's cement the heart!
Study and act the Trowel's part!
Strive, in the Compass' span to live,
And mutual concessions give!
Daily your prayers and alms bestow,
As yonder light doth clearly show,
And, walking by the Plummet just,
In God your hope, in God your trust!"
Let.the truth in these Masonic symbols be, then, your ambition and hope, and may success attend your efforts.
AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN TAUNTON, JUNE 1892
From Proceedings, Page 1892-84:
In laying the Corner-stone of this new Court-house, the Grand Lodge of Masons takes pleasure in adding another act to a long series of similar services. Centuries ago Freemasonry was closely connected with the practical labor of the construction of cathedrals and other public edifices. To-day, however, the work of the Order is termed speculative, and what was formerly practical has now become symbolical. The connection between operative and speculative work has long continued to exist in the custom of the laying of Corner-stones, which Masons have, according to our ritual, been accustomed to do from time immemorial, when so requested.
It is fitting and proper that the commencement of a public building should be marked by a suitable ceremony, and such a ceremony can best be performed by an Order trained to the work by tradition and experience,— an Order that lives apart from political and religious dissension — of every kind, — an Order that seeks only the welfare and improvement of its members, without regard to country, sect or opinion.
The establishment of a Court-house is an evidence of a high civilization. It shows the growth of the human race from barbarism to a well ordered state of society; it proves the progress of man from a period of brute force to an age of reason.
At first disputes between men were settled by personal contests in which the strongest prevailed. These contests were gradually surrounded by rules and acquired the name of "trial by wager of battle." It was even deemed permissible for the contestants to employ champions to fight for them, and a religious element entered into these trials leading to a belief that the victory was given by Divine Providence. The only trace left now of this form of disposing of disputes is the duel, which is recognized among the French and Germans, notwithstanding that both of these nations claim to be the highest representatives of modern civilization.
The establishment of monarchies led to an effort on the part of the sovereign to decide by himself differences between his subjects, and as he could not personally hear all cases he appointed judges to represent him. Various titles have been given these judges, but they all represented the monarch until a recent period. In ancient Greece and Rome the building in which trials were held was called a basilica.
In the early history of England there were, however, no Courthouses. Following the theory that the dispensation of justice was a royal prerogative, the courts were held wherever the king happened to be, and such a court was called aula regis. Magna Charta, or the "Charter of Liberties," granted by King John in 1215, abolished the migratory character of the courts and required them to be held in fixed places. This led to the establishment of the various courts of England, each having jurisdiction of a particular class of cases.
Since the formation of these courts, by a long series of decisions, made by men of the greatest intellect in England, have been established those important principles which form the body of the Common Law. Under these general rules the law is more certain, and the public understand their rights and powers better than under a jurisprudence which gives discretionary power to the judges. Under the English law, as enforced by the courts, there are doubtless cases of individual hardship, but the general results are far better than if each case were decided without reference to principles.
After the location of Court-houses the people took pride in them as representing progress in law and order. They made them commodious, ornamental and imposing; they called them Palaces of Justice, thus personifying her as a Queen, to be honored and worshipped and provided with a home of beauty. The people of this country have carried out the same idea and made their Court-houses ornaments to the county seats, and in this building will arise a conception of the beauty and sanctity of Justice that will be a lesson of patience to posterity.
I have somewhere read that Louis Eleventh of France, yielding to the clamor of the people, once provided that if they could not obtain justice from his courts within a certain time they might take the law into their own hands. Even among civilized people there still exists a similar feeling, and a barbaric atavism of that kind occasionally appears even in this country in the form of lynch law. How much more proud of its civilization must be a people who have discovered that private vengeance is savagery, and that patience with the law's delays is a sublime virtue that finds its own reward.
I have said that the establishment of a Court-house is evidence of a high civilization, but is it the highest attainable? We may well ask if the time will ever come in the history of man when he will not need courts? We know that in the history of law, and even within the memory of living lawyers, the character of litigation has changed in certain classes of cases and new kinds of suits have arisen involving conditions of facts unknown to our ancestors. Time does not permit us here to specify the classes referred to, and we can only say, that in considering them we can see nothing that indicates a probable or even possible suspension of the functions of the courts. Of course I refer here to civil proceedings, for so long as crime exists the criminal must be punished under the forms and rules of law.
However this may be you are wise to-day in building a Courthouse that will be permanent and enduring, one that will be an ornament to the city of Taunton and a credit to the County of Bristol.
AT CORNERSTONE LAYING IN SPRINGFIELD, OCTOBER 1892
From Proceedings, Page 1892-135:
MY BRETHREN: The last quarter of this century will be famous for a long time as the period in which were celebrated so many centennial anniversaries. Most of them have been local commemorations of famous battles, or of the foundation of towns and cities.
But to-day the whole nation unites in celebrating, not the centennial, but the four hundredth anniversary of the day when land on this side of the world was first seen by a civilized European. It is well to mark this day by the concurrent action of all the people of this great country, and to emphasize it as an anniversary of one of the most important events in the history of the world.
I do not intend to take up your time with the details of the great discovery, with which you are all familiar. Indeed you know much more about the geography of the land first observed than Columbus himself. He thought he had reached the east coast of Asia, and because of that error he named the native inhabitants Indians" as if they belonged to India. But notwithstanding the mistakes he made, and the fact that he was more anxious to find gold and treasures than to discover new continents, yet the greatness of the event remains. It was the first whisper of that mighty power which the new world now exercises over the whole globe.
Since that day, four hundred years ago, what wonderful developments have taken place on this continent. We cannot review them without surprise and admiration. Yet imagine what the scene would be, if we had before us to-day the Court of Spain and the enterprising men who had faith enough in the dreams of Columbus to promote their realization; and we should tell them for the first time what had happened on this side of the world since their day. Would they not in turn believe that we were wild narrators of still wilder dreams! Surely we would tell them that this great city of Springfield, with its public and private buildings, with all its factories and railroads, is but two hundred and fifty-seven years old.
Think of their surprise at this statement! But, Brethren, we have not met here to-day for the sole purpose of celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the Americas. We are here to lay the Corner-stone of another monument of that organization so ancient and venerable that it has never had and never can have a centennial, nor a four hundredth anniversary.
Freemasonry has no birthday; no one knows when it began, nor where it drew its first breath. Of all existing institutions it stands alone in this respect. No history records its birth, no prophet can foretell its death. We do not even know the time when Freemasons first laid the Corner-stones of Temples and public buildings; but we do know that that ceremony is an ancient, architectural expression of reverence for truth which has come down to us through the ages; and the antiquity of its origin is shown by the words of simple grandeur which we use in this solemn rite, when we say, "From time immemorial it has been our custom."
Why has the Institution of Freemasonry flourished so long, and taken such hold of the hearts of men? It does not change or alter in itself; it does not promote alterations in governments or peoples; and yet in the midst of changes, reforms and improvements of all kinds, it lives and grows and is reverenced by those who know it.
Men are glad to turn from the strifes and turmoils of life to enter the portals of a Society where there are no dissensions; a Society that admits men of every country, sect and opinion, and inculcates the old and simple virtues of truth, peace and brotherly love.
Let the Temple here to arise be a lasting monument to these solemn truths; let it be the abode of wisdom and friendship; and may the Brethren who shall here meet show to the world that the instruction here received will make them better men, and better citizens.
Brethren, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts congratulates you on the auspicious beginning of your Temple, and extends to you its greeting on an occasion so fruitful of promise for the future. May those who shall go in and out through the portals of this building, in years to come, never have cause to. regret that they are members of our ancient, great and world-wide Institution.
AT CENTENARY OF OLD COLONY LODGE, DECEMBER 1892
From Proceedings, Page 1892-143:
BRETHREN AND FRIENDS: — The ceremonies of the day point to a remarkable epoch in the history of Freemasonry in Massachusetts. Among the earliest Masons in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay were Scotch and English settlers. It was here, and by them, that duly organized Masonry was first inaugurated in America. The first regularly warranted Lodge was established in Boston. Others were subsequently instituted throughout the State, and throughout every State in the Union.
For nearly a quarter of a century previous to 1792, two Grand Lodges had existed in Massachusetts, and discord and dissension were thereby caused in the Fraternity; but on the fifth of March in that year, a union of these rival organizations was happily effected, and since that date the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts has been supreme in this jurisdiction. Old Colony Lodge came into existence in the same auspicious year, and is now the oldest Lodge on our roll within the limits of the State, chartered by the united Grand Lodge. It has been estimated that there were at that time about two thousand Masons under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge. At the present time the membership of our two hundred and thirty-two Lodges is, in round numbers, thirty-three thousand.
Anniversaries such as we celebrate to-day bring forcibly to our attention the great obligations of our people and country to the Institution we represent. It was probably the first organized Body in this country to recognize the need and importance of respecting the opinions of others; to lay down as one of its fundamental principles the duty of toleration, especially in regard to politics and religion. This obligation, almost unrecognized and unknown in the profane world a century ago, thanks to our Fraternity, is now almost universally regarded as an axiom — a proposition, the justice of which is so evident, at first sight, that no process of reasoning or demonstration can make it plainer.
Another service rendered to our country is also frequently suggested by the review of our history, to which we turn with pride on these anniversary occasions. I allude to the important part taken by many of our Craft in the struggle for liberty and the rights of man, which had just culminated, in the establishment of the Federal Union, when Old Colony Lodge was instituted.
I will not enlarge upon these points. I have no doubt that our reverend historian and orator on this occasion is much better prepared for that service; and that he has gathered from the Records of Old Colony Lodge much interesting and valuable information and instruction on these and other subjects, alike creditable to the Fraternity in general and the Lodge in particular. From that "feast of fat things" I will not longer detain you.