The First Reformer of the Craft

From The Small Town Texas Mason June 2014 P 22-23

The article from whence the below is drawn is called “The Three Reformers of Craft Freemasonry” and below is the first offered.

RW Brother James Anderson

Circa. 1680-1739

RW Brother James Anderson was crucial in undertaking the first Reform of Craft Freemasonry, by reforming the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Mason from an operative society into a speculative society. RW Brother James Anderson was the author of the first and second editions of “The Constitutions of the Free-Masons”, a work commissioned by the Grand Lodge of London on the 29th September 1721 where Brother Anderson was officially directed to "digest the old Gothic Constitutions in a new and better method" and also wrote the “Charges of a Freemason.”

Both of these works greatly assisted in providing the guidelines on history, antiquity and importance of the Craft.

RW Brother James Anderson was also instrumental in the recording of the early history of the Grand Lodge of London founded in 1717, from recollection of members who attended these proceedings of the Grand Lodge of London as our Bro. James Anderson was not yet initiated into the Craft Himself which happened a few years later.

The only period portrait of Brother James Anderson is found in William Hogarth's "The Mystery of Masonry brought to light by ye Gormagons", Brother Anderson is portrayed with his head in the ladder.

As the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of London, Brother Anderson was a key figure in the process of changing the name from Grand Lodge of London to Grand Lodge of England during the year 1724. Brother Anderson, among other important contributions he made to the Craft, laid down in writing the position of Freemasons in Freemasonry with regards to organized religion and because of all this his work, which in its day helped the Craft to establish itself as a solid society, we are still honoured and grateful today for the fundamental work he did, enabling this grand society of the royal art to survive.

The Masonic published works of RW Bro. James Anderson are:

The Constitutions of the Free-Masons – 1723

Charges of a Freemason - 1723 ,

A Defence of Masonry – approx. 1738

Editors Note of interest (we hope)

Anderson’s Constitutions were edited and reprinted by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1734, becoming the first Masonic book printed in America. A second London edition, much expanded, appeared in 1738.