February 2017 Stated Communication

Our speaker for our February educational program was Worshipful Brother Dan Kemble and spoke of the Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry.

The Ancient Landmarks: An Introduction

Early in one’s Masonic journey, the new Mason is confronted with the concept of the “Ancient Landmarks.” Perhaps no other topic in Freemasonry has generated so much study, so much debate and so little agreement.

Landmarks are defined as objects or features of a landscape that are easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish their location.

Albert G. Mackey, the noted and prolific Masonic writer, wrote that Landmarks mark boundaries and, more in the Masonic sense, mark the boundaries between the profane world and the Masonic world.

As Masons, we generally encounter the term “landmarks” twice – once when receiving the charge as a newly raised Master Mason, and again during a Lodge’s annual installation of officers.

The Master Mason Degree Charge states:

Universal benevolence you are always to inculcate, and by the regularity of your own behavior afford the best example for the conduct of the less informed. The ancient Landmarks of the Order, intrusted to your care, you are carefully to observe, and never suffer them to be infringed, or countenance a deviation from the established usages and customs of the Fraternity.

In the Installation ceremony, the Master Elect is asked:

Do you promise to respect genuine and true Brethren, and to discountenance imposters and all dissenters from the Ancient Landmarks and Constitutions of Masonry?

But beyond these two instances, how much are we taught, and how much do we really know about the Ancient Landmarks?

For the first 100 years or so following the creation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, little was written about the Landmarks.

Anderson’s The Constitutions of the Free-Masons of 1723 says, “Every annual Grand Lodge has an inherent power and authority to make new regulations, or to alter these, for the real benefit of this ancient Fraternity; provided always that the old Landmarks are carefully preserved.” While we accept Anderson’s Constitutions as an integral part of the foundation of Freemasonry as we know it, it sheds little light on what, exactly, the ancient Landmarks are.

In the 1820s, Masonic scholar, George Oliver made oblique references to the Landmarks in several of his writings, but did not specifically identify them.

In 1856, M. W. Bro. Rob Morris, who would serve as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky in 1858-1859, published a list of 17 Ancient Landmarks in his Code of Masonic Law. Morris’s list of Landmarks is noteworthy in that it differs so greatly from the other lists that followed, and seemed to have but little effect on the general direction of the debate about the Landmarks. The Ancient Landmarks, as enumerated by M. W. Bro. Morris is provided on a
separate sheet.

W. Bro. J. W. S. Mitchell, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri, rejected Morris’s list of Landmarks, saying that “all, or nearly all” of the Landmarks were included in Andersons Constitutions of 1723. M. W. Bro. Mitchell’s reading of Anderson’s Constitutions is puzzling, given its silence on specifics of the Landmarks.

Morris’s list, and Mitchell’s subsequent rejection, touched off a lasting debate about the identity and nature of the Landmarks. The next Masonic scholar to weigh in on the subject was the renowned Dr. A. G. Mackey.

Albert Gallatin Mackey (1807-1881) was a South Carolina physician and one of the greatest Masonic thinkers and writers of the 19th century. In 1859 Dr. Mackey published A Textbook of Masonic Jurisprudence which discusses, in great depth, Mackey’s understanding of the Landmarks.

In his Textbook, Mackey established four tests which must be met in order for a custom to be considered a Landmark. The four tests are:

  1. It must be an unwritten law or custom;
  2. It must has existed “from a time when the memory of man runneth not to the contrary;”
  3. It must be universal; and
  4. It cannot be changed.

All four tests must be met for a practice or custom to be considered a Landmark.

Mackey then went on to list 25 Ancient Landmarks which, in his opinion, met the four tests. Those 25 Landmarks are provided on an attached sheet.

The study of the Landmarks caught the interest of Henry Bannister Grant, known to most of us as H. B. Grant. Bro. Grant was a native New Yorker who moved to Kentucky as an adult. He joined Hiram Lodge No.4, in Frankfort, then, upon moving to Louisville, became
instrumental in the founding of Louisville Lodge No. 400.

Bro. H. B. Grant served as Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky from 1887-1912. In 1889, R. W. Bro. Grant published his list of Ancient Landmarks in the “Masonic Home Journal,” beginning in February of 1889. R. W. Bro. Grant said, “The Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry are the immemorial usages and fundamental principles of the Craft and are unchangeable.” Note the similarity to Mackey in the use of the terms immemorial (existing since antiquity) and unchangeable.

Right Worshipful Bro. Grant then proceeded to list 54 Ancient Landmarks of the Craft.

These Landmarks can be found in Bro. Grant’s Vest Pocket Trestle-Board and Working-Tools. A list of Landmarks as identified by R. W. Bro. Grant is provided on an attached sheet.

In 1889, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky adopted the 4th Edition of its Constitution, which incorporated Grant’s List of Ancient Landmarks. R. W. Bro. Grant died (in office) in 1912. Several years after the death of Bro. Grant, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky directed W. Bro.
Henry Pirtle, author of the Kentucky Monitor, to revise our Constitution. In 1919, Bro. Pirtle completed his task and the Grand Lodge of Kentucky approved the 5th Edition of its Constitution. Missing from the Constitution were R. W. Bro. Grant’s list of Landmarks. Pirtle explained as follows, “The so-called ‘Ancient Landmarks’ which were included in the Fourth Edition have never received the endorsement of the Grand Lodge and have proved misleading to Brethren in this and other states for this reason. No one knows what the’ Ancient Landmarks,’ so often referred to, really are. And it seemed better to the compiler of this edition [Pirtle] to
avoid entering upon the wide field of controversy over this subject.”

In 1918, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts formally entered the debate on the Landmarks, by announcing that it recognized six Ancient Landmarks:

  1. Membership is limited to free born adult males;
  2. The practice of monotheism;
  3. A belief in the immortality of the soul;
  4. A Volume of Sacred Law;
  5. The Legend of the Third Degree; and
  6. The symbolism of the operative art of Masonry.

The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, in publishing this list, went on to declare that the list was not “exclusive.”

In 1920, Massachusetts Freemason and noted American legal scholar Roscoe Pound published Lectures on Masonic Jurisprudence. In Lectures, Dean Pound identified seven
Ancient Landmarks, as follows:

  1. Belief in God.
  2. Belief in the persistence of personality.
  3. A “book of law” is an indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge.
  4. The legend of the third degree.
  5. Secrecy.
  6. The symbolism of an operative art.
  7. That a Mason must be a man, freeborn, and of age.

Pound wrote that there were “certain universal, unalterable and unrepealable Fundamentals which have existed from time immemorial and are so thoroughly a part of Masonry that no Masonic authority may derogate from them or do aught but maintain them.”

A study of the Landmarks does not reach a definitive conclusion as to how many exist and what their specific nature is. In reflecting upon the debate about the Landmarks, and with reference to Mackey’s four-fold test, Melvin M. Johnson, who served as Grand Master of Massachusetts from 1914-1916, commented as follows, “Probably all Masonic students will agree to this definition and then proceed immediately to disagree upon the list of those fundamentals which are to be classified as universal, unalterable and unrepealable.” M. W. Bro. Johnson’s analysis is probably the most correct statement that can be made about the Landmarks. Yet their study is of infinite interest to Masons and the source of unending, and hopefully, productive, hours of discussion.


Albert G. Mackey, M. D., A Textbook of Masonic Jurisprudence, Macoy & Sickels, Publishers, New York, New York, 1859.

B. Grant, Vest Pocket Trestle-Board and Working Tools, Masonic Home Print, Masonic Home, Kentucky, 1914.

Book of Constitutions of The Grand Lodge of Kentucky,4th Edition, Press ofthe Masonic Home Journal, Masonic Home, Kentucky, 1893.

Rob Morris, A Code of Masonic Law; Being a Practical Exhibit of the Landmarks and Usages of Ancient Craft Masonry, J. F. Brennan, Louisville, Kentucky, 1856.

Coils Masonic Encyclopedia, Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., Richmond, Virginia, 1961.

Roscoe Pound, Lectures on Masonic Jurisprudence, National Masonic Research Society, Anamosa, Iowa, 1920.

Delivered by Dan M. Kemble
Elvin E. Helms Lodge No. 926
Petersburg, Kentucky
February 14,2017

W. Bro. Rob Morris’s List of Landmarks (1856)

  1. The Masonic Landmarks are unchangeable and imperative.
  2. Masonry is a system, teaching symbolically; piety, morality, charity and self-discipline.
  3. The law of God is the rule and limit of Masonry.
  4. The Civil Law, so far as it accords with the divine, is obligatory on Masons.
  5. The Masonic Lodge and the Masonic Institutions are one and indivisible.
  6. Masonic qualification regards the mental, moral and physical nature of
  7. Personal worth and merit are the basis of official worth and merit.
  8. The official duties of Masonry are esoteric.
  9. The selection of Masonic material and the general labors of the Masonic Craft are
  10. The honors of Masonry are the gratitude of the Craft and the approval of God.
  11. Masonic promotion, both private and official, is by grades.
  12. The Grand Master may have a deputy.
  13. The head of the Lodge is the Master, duly elected by the Craft.
  14. The medium of communication between the head and the body of the Lodge is the Warden, duly elected by the Craft.
  15. Obedience to the Master and Wardens is obligatory upon the members.
  16. Secrecy is an indispensable element of Masonry.
  17. The Grand Lodge is supreme in its sphere of jurisdiction, and controls both the Subordinate Lodges and individual Masons, but is always subject to the Ancient Landmarks.

Ancient Landmarks from Mackey’s A Textbook of Masonic Jurisprudence (1859)

  1. The modes of recognition.
  2. The division of Masonry into three degrees.
  3. The legend of the third degree.
  4. The government of the fraternity, by a presiding officer called the Grand Master, who is elected from the body of the Craft.
  5. The prerogative of the Grand Master to preside over every assembly of the Craft.
  6. The prerogative of the Grand Master to grant dispensations for the conferring of the degrees at irregular times.
  7. The prerogative of the Grand Master to give dispensations for opening and holding Lodges.
  8. The prerogative of the Grand Master to make Masons at sight.
  9. The necessity of Masons to congregate in Lodges.
  10. The government of the Craft, when congregated in Lodges, by a Master and two Wardens.
  11. The necessity that every Lodge, when congregated, should be duly tiled.
  12. The right of every Mason to be represented in all general meetings of the Craft, and to instruct his representatives.
  13. The right of every Mason to appeal from the decision of his Brethren in Lodge convened, to the Grand Lodge or General Assembly of Masons.
  14. The right of every Mason to visit and sit in every regular Lodge.
  15. No visitor unknown to the Brethren present, or to some one of them as a Mason, can enter a Lodge without first passing an examination according to ancient usage.
  16. No Lodge can interfere in the business of another Lodge, nor give degrees to Brethren who are members of other Lodges.
  17. Every Freemason is amenable to the laws and regulations of the Masonic jurisdiction in which he resides, and this although he may not be a member of any Lodge.
  18. Certain qualifications for candidates are derived from a Landmark of the Order.
  19. A belief in the existence of God as the Grand Architect of the Universe.
  20. A belief in the resurrection to a future life.
  21. The book of law shall constitute an indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge.
  22. The equality of all Masons.
  23. The secrecy of the institution.
  24. The foundation of a speculative science upon an operative art, and the symbolic use and explanation of the terms of that art, for the purposes of religious or moral teaching.
  25. That these Landmarks can never be changed.

Some of the


See Proofs (prepared by H. B. Grant) in Ky. Book of Constitutions, 4th. Ed. (1889)

  1. The Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry are the immemorial usages and fundamental principles of the Craft and, are unchangeable.
  2. Freemasonry (existing “from a time whereofthe memory of man runneth not to the contrary”), was anciently operative and speculative; it is now speculative, embracing a system of ethics – moral, religious and philosophical – and relates to the social, ethical and intellectual progress of man.
  3. Freemasonry embraces the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, which are conferred in regular Lodges whose rites and ceremonies are private.
  4. The legend of the third degree.
  5. Secrecy is an essential element of Masonry, and every Mason is bound by irrevocable ties to keep inviolate the private ceremonies, signs and words of Masonry, and the business of the Lodge, including the ballot, and (excepting treason and murder) never to divulge any accepted secret confided to him.
  6. Writing or printing the esoteric part of Masonry plainly or by sign or otherwise, is contrary to the covenants of the Fraternity.
  7. The Covenants of a Mason do not conflict with his duty to God, his country, his family, his neighbor, or himself, but are binding upon his conscience and actions.
  8. Belief in the existence and reverencing the name of the Supreme Being, whom men call God, and whom Masons refer to as “The Grand Architect of the Universe,” is unqualifiedly demanded.
  9. Belief in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection to a future life.
  10. “The Book of Law,” Square and Compasses, are the Great Lights in Masonry, and their presence in an open Lodge is indispensable.
  11. The Principal Tenets of Masonry are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
  12. The Cardinal Virtues of Masonry are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.
  13. The white lambskin apron is the badge of a Mason.
  14. The Square and Compasses are Masonic symbols of morality.
  15. The Saints Johns’ Days (June 24 and December 27) are Masonic Festivals.
  16. The “General Assembly,” or Grand Lodge, is the supreme legislative, judicial and executive body of the Craft in all matters Masonic within its territorial jurisdiction, and is composed of representatives from Lodges therein.
  17. A Lodge is an organized body of Freemasons, having a Warrant of Constitution authorizing it to work.
  18. Every Lodge, Grand and Subordinate, when lawfully congregated, must be clothed, tyled and opened before it can proceed to work.
  19. Masons meet in the Lodge upon the level of equality, and address each other as Brother.
  20. A Lodge, duly opened, has the right to instruct its representatives to Grand Lodge.
  21. Questions of politics, or sectarian religious beliefs, cannot be brought into a Lodge.
  22. A Mason in good fellowship with some regular Lodge may visit any Lodge not his own when it will not disturb the harmony of the Lodge visited.
  23. A Mason cannot sit in a clandestine Lodge, nor converse on the secrets of Masonry with a clandestine made Mason, nor with one who is under suspension or expulsion.
  24. The Grand Master is the executive head of the Craft, and presiding officer of the Grand Lodge, by which he is elected and whose laws he must obey.
  25. The Grand Master may preside in any Lodge in his jurisdiction.
  26. The Grand Master may suspend the Master of a Lodge or arrest a Lodge charter for cause.
  27. The officers of a Lodge are the Master, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Secretary, Treasurer, Senior Deacon, Junior Deacon Steward and Tyler.
  28. The Master is the head of the Lodge, and, as a presiding officer, governs it according to the laws usages of the Fraternity, and may convene it at pleasure.
  29. The Master must have been a Warden [except in the formation of a new Lodge, or when no Past Master or Past Warden who is competent and willing to serve is a member of the Lodge].
  30. The Master, by virtue of his office, represents his Lodge in Grand Lodge.
  31. The Master becomes a “Past Master” at the close of his official term.
  32. The Wardens of a Lodge must be Master Masons.
  33. In the absence of the Master, the Senior Warden performs his duties. In the absence of both, the Junior Warden acts.
  34. Officers of a Lodge, Grand or Subordinate, hold their offices until their successors are lawfully chosen and inducted into office, or become lawfully disqualified.
  35. A Mason is not to urge any person to become a candidate for the mysteries of Masonry, for every candidate must offer himself voluntarily and unsolicited.
  36. Every candidate must be a man, free born, of mature and discreet age, of good morals and report, possessed of intelligence and having the natural use of his limbs that will enable him to receive and impart Craft mysteries.
  37. It is the internal qualifications of a man that recommend him to become a Mason.
  38. Careful inquiry into the physical, intellectual and moral fitness of every candidate for the mysteries of Masonry is indispensable.
  39. Advancement to the degrees of Fellow Craft or Master Mason is not to be made without examination as to the qualifications of the candidate, and by unanimous consent.
  40. Unanimous consent of the Lodge, expressed by ballot, is essential before initiation or admission to affiliation.
  41. A Mason must be a good man and true, conforming to the laws of justice and virtue, called “the moral law. “
  42. Every Mason must be obedient to the laws of the country in which he lives or sojourns.
  43. No Brother can recognize anyone as a Mason until after strict trial or lawful information.
  44. A Mason is bound to use the utmost caution when in the presence of strangers or profanes, that no sign, token or word to which they may not be entitled shall be discovered by them.
  45. Every Mason out to belong to some Lodge, attend its meetings and share its burdens.
  46. A Brother is not to be admitted to Lodge membership without certificate [or demit], due notice and inquiry.
  47. Every Mason must patiently submit to the award of his Brethren in Lodge assembled [subject to appeal to Grand Lodge].
  48. A Mason must be true to his fellow; instruct, admonish, defend and assist; but never traduce or supplant him.
  49. A Mason shall not have unlawful knowledge ofthe wife, daughter, sister, mother or servant of his fellow.
  50. A Mason should be diligent in business and pay his just debts.
  51. Every Mason must obey Lodge summons.
  52. The only penalties known to Masonry are fines, reprimand, suspension for a definite period, and expulsion.
  53. A Mason cannot be disciplined without having an opportunity to be heard in his own defense [unless he absconds or cannot be reached by notice].
  54. Every [affiliated] Mason is entitled to burial with Masonic [ceremonies and] honors.

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