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THE YORK RITE OF FREEMASONRY

The oldest and perhaps the purest form of Ancient Craft Masonry takes its name from the City of York, in the north of England.

It was there in the year A. D. 926 that we find Masonry adopting its first recorded Constitution. It is recorded in many very ancient manuscripts that during the reign of the good King Athelstan he granted a patent to (his nephew) Prince Edwin, under authority of which an assembly of divers lords, dukes, barons, knights, squires, great burgesses of cities and many more, all Masons, convened in the City of York and adopted a Constitution of fifteen Articles for the future government of the Craft.

An account of this historical incident is fully recorded in the Halliwell Manuscript which dates from the year A. D. 1390. In the Cook Manuscript whose date is placed at A. D. 1490, three hundred and twenty-seven years before the organization of the Grand Lodge of England, the York meeting was again described.

That Masonry existed in England before the reign of good King Athelstan, we find in historical Lansdowne MS. written in 1560 A. D. from which is quoted the following:

"Soon after the decease of St. Albans, there came divers warrs into England out of divers nations, so that the good rule of Masons was disturbed and put down until the tyme of King Athelstan. In his tyme he brought this land into good rest and he builded many great works and buildings, therefore he loved Masons well for he had a (nephew) called Edwin, the which loved Masons much, * * * and he was soe practized in Geometry that he delighted so much to come and talke with Masons and to learn of them the Craft, and after, for the love he had to Masons and to the Craft, he was made a Mason at Windsor and got from the King, * * * a charter and commission once every year to have assembly within the ReaIm and to correct within themselves faults and trespasses that were done as touching the craft and he held them an Assembly, and there he made Masons and gave them charges, and taught them the Manners and comande the same to be kept ever afterwards."

Prince Edwin called upon all members old and young to bring in any writings to be found concerning "Masonrie." There were some found in Greek, some in Hebrew and some in English and some in other languages, some of them hundreds of years old, and when they were read "and overseen well, the intent of them was understood to be all one." and then he caused a book to be made thereof how this worthy craft of Masonrie was first founded. "* * * And from that, until this day manners of Masons have been kept in this manner and forme."

Based upon the older manuscripts named, Dr. Anderson, in A. D. 1723, published the first edition of the Book of Constitutions, in which the history of the fraternity of Free Masons is, he says, "collected from their general records and their faithful traditions of many ages." The history, as narrated herein, is repeated by Dr. Anderson and subsequently by Preston, author of the first Masonic Monitor.

The degrees recognized by the Grand Lodge of England at the revival in 1717 A. D. were as follows:

"Pure ancient Masonry consists of three degrees, no more; viz: those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch."

It is therefore seen that the Royal Arch Degree was once a part of the Master's Degree. It was the crowning feature and glorious completion of Ancient-Craft Masonry. The Grand Lodge of England to this day exercises jurisdiction over the "Holy Royal Arch."

In the early days of the Republic of Texas the Grand Lodge of Texas exercised authority over the Capitular Degrees and actually granted dispensations to form several Royal Arch Chapters.

There was a schism in the Grand Lodge of England in 1738 A. D., at which time a rival Grand Lodge was organized by the schismatics. This situation continued for a period of seventy-five years. In 1813 the breach was healed by the reconciliation and union of the two Grand Lodges.

During the rivalry of the two Grand Lodges both granted charters to form Lodges in the American Colonies. The jurisdiction over the Degrees underwent some changes in this country, resulting finally in organizing separate Grand Bodies which took over what are now called the Chapter Degrees. The organization of the General Grand Royal Arch Chapter was begun shortly after the Revolutionary War and in the year 1806 A. D. was finally completely organized.

Since that time, in the United States, the Capitular Degrees have been governed by it, and by Grand Chapters that are affiliated with it, with a few exceptions hereinafter noted. In 1859 the Grand Chapter of Texas severed relations with the General Grand Chapter, on account of differences growing out of certain amendments made in the Constitution of the General Grand Chapter, unnecessary to be discussed, since they are not pertinent to our theme, and since that time the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Texas has exercised exclusive sovereignty over the Capitular or Chapter degrees in this state.

While under the system in vogue in the United States, the Capitular degrees are severed from the Blue Lodge, yet, they should be regarded as anintegral part, and necessary to the completion of Ancient-Craft Masonry. They are essential to a full understanding of the system as a whole.

Thus, you have a brief but authentic historical sketch of Ancient-Craft Masonry extending backward a thousand years. The traditional history extends back much further. Well informed Masons are familiar with the traditions concerning its origin. I will offer some additional evidence hereinafter in support of the sound basis on which rests securely, the verity of these traditions.

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