What Ever Became of the Trowel in the Canadian Ritual?

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by iainmason, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. iainmason

    iainmason Registered User

    What Ever Became of the Trowel in the Canadian Ritual?
    by W. Bro. Ian M. Donald

    A Mason I know asked a question, "What happened to the Trowel in the Canadian Ritual?" and he received a very short answer, It was never there in the first place. This piqued my interest and I began to look into this question. There had to be more to it than that, masonry in North America came from the same source, England. I was soon aware that the question of the trowel is just a small part of the differences found in the Canadian Ritual and American York Ritual and in looking for one answer I came across a multitude of questions. What happened to the Beehive, Flaming Sword, the Globes, or the differences in the Masters Word and many other things? Why does our Ritual differ so much in so many ways yet also has so many similarities? All these questions beg to be answered.

    I am aware that the Trowel Charge is used in the American rituals and it can also be found in the Bristol Ritual, which is one of the oldest workings in England. For those who are unfamiliar with the Trowel Charge, it is the third degree working tool in the American Ritual and in the Bristol it is the fourth of four working tools in the third deg. The third degree working tools in the Canadian Ritual are the same as the Bristol's, but the trowel is excluded, so we only have three working tools.

    Here for reference are the Charges; first the American:
    The Trowel is an instrument made use of by operative Masons to spread the cement that unites the building into one common mass; but we as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection that cement which unites into one sacred band or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble contention, or, rather, emulation, of who best can work and best agree.

    Now the Bristol:
    The Working Tools of a Master Mason are the Skirrett, Pencil, Compasses and Trowel. The Skirrett is an implement, which acts on a centre pin from whence a line is drawn, chalked and struck to mark out the ground for the intended structure. With the Pencil the skillful artist delineates the building in a draft or plan for the instruction and guidance of the workmen.
    The Compasses enable him with accuracy and precision to ascertain and determine the limits and proportions of the several parts, and the Trowel is used for spreading the cement, which unites the structure into one common mass. But as we are not all Operative Masons, but rather Free and Accepted, or Speculative Masons, we apply these tools to our morals: - Thus the Skirrett points out the straight and undeviating line of duty laid down for our pursuit in the Volume of the Sacred Law. The Pencil teaches us that our words and actions are observed and recorded by the Almighty Architect, to whom we must give an account of our conduct through life. The compasses remind us of the unerring and impartial justice of Him, who having defined for our instruction the limits of good and evil, will reward or punish as we have obeyed or disregarded his divine commands.
    We are to use the Trowel for the noble purpose of spreading the cement of Brotherhood and affection which unites us in a common bond as a society of Brethren amongst whom no contention should ever exist, but only that worthy emulation as to who can best work and best agree.

    Before we go any further we have to say that contrary to popular belief the United Grand Lodge of England does not publish, nor does it give its authorization to any specific form of ritual, written, printed, or spoken. It clearly states in the UGLE Constitution, Rule 155: The members present at any Lodge duly summoned have an undoubted right to regulate their own proceedings, provided they are consistent with the general laws and regulations of the craft.

    This is further clarified in the Year Book under Decisions of the Board of
    General Purposes on Points of Procedure:
    Question: Is a Master entitled to decide what ritual shall be practiced during his year of office?
    Answer: Rule 155 B of Clay's down that the majority of the Lodge shall regulate proceedings.

    The search for the answer of this question is not an easy one. Great events in history have intervened several times and Masons do have that streak of stubbornness when it comes to secrecy, and to the belief that It's always been done this way! so the task was somewhat confusing. To trace the threads of our Masonic heritage we must start at the beginning. Here with the help of some eminent scholars such as Wallace McLeod, Harry Carr, and many books published by the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario, the answer can be found. Sometimes the trail is very confused and more questions are found than answers, but eventually clarity overcomes the confusion.

    When you travel from country to country and for that matter even within your own borders you will find that there are differences in our rituals. We have to remember that the ritual began to take shape back in the mists of time. Our constitutions are based on the Ancient Charges found in the Regis Poem or Halliwell MS written in c.1390. These old Charges became the building blocks of the Catechisms that eventually became our rituals. Nothing can stand the test of time without some form of weathering or change and our rituals were not exempt from this fact.

    North America received its Masonry from seven sources, but there were two big events in history that separated the rituals used north and south of our border.

    Masonry as we know it today in North America started:
    1st with the Immemorial Right Lodges; these are the lodges that existed before the formation of the first Grand Lodge and there were several found in the Colonies in the 1730's. Benjamin Franklin was initiated into one in Philadelphia and George Washington's mother lodge in Fredericksburg Virginia was one as well.

    2nd the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717 in London England. They were to become the Moderns some years later. They grew very quickly and in April of 1733 the Grand Master named Henry Price Provincial Grand Master for New England and the Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging.

    3rd 1725 Freemasonry came to France from England. An independent Grand Lodge was formed in 1728 or 1729. In 1760 a French speaking Lodge was warranted by the English (Modern) Prov. Grd. Ldg. of New York. From 1798 to 1823 many Lodges were warranted in Louisiana by several French bodies and there is a definite Scottish Rite influence in the ritual of Louisiana. Two French Lodges were warranted in California in 1850 and still do the first deg. in French today.

    4th The Grand Lodge of Scotland formed. It warranted lodges in Virginia and Boston and in the southern colonies.

    5th Mother Kilwinning left the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1743 and warranted lodges in Virginia between 1755 and 1758. It remained independent for more than 60 years.

    6th The Grand Lodge of Ireland was instituted in 1725. It warranted no civilian Lodges only Military lodges under traveling warrants. During the French and Indian War 1755-1763 a great many found themselves in the Colonies.

    7th In 1751, six lodges split from the Premier Grand Lodge and formed the Grand Lodge of England according to the Old Constitutions (The Antients). They accused the Premier Grand Lodge (The Moderns) of making innovations in the ritual. By 1758 the Antients had Warranted Lodges in Philadelphia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia.

    So these are just some of the influences that affected our Ritual. We have to remember that in 1776 the American Revolution cut off the Lodges in the American Colonies from England. Essentially the rituals they had then are the rituals they have now. They began to form their own Grand Lodges and depending, which was the stronger influence in the state at the time (either the Antient or the Modern), dictated the ritual they used and this accounts for the small differences in the ritual between the States. Contrarily in Canada we were still in the sphere of England so our ritual grew out of the next event: The unification of the Antient and the Modern Grand Lodges.

    In 1813 after many years of head butting the Antients and Moderns finally unified to form the United Grand Lodge of England. The story begins in 1809 when G.L. Moderns formed the Lodge of Promulgation. It was made up of elected and appointed officers and brethren who were considered experts in Ritual. They were to study the Landmarks and esoteric practices and recommend changes to the ritual acceptable to both the Modern and Ancient G.L. This ment that there were going to be wholesale Changes. In the words of Harry Carr "Everything was put in the bath water and when they where all finished it appears that the baby was thrown out with the bath water." he was refering to some of the wonderful lectures that were left out, such as those I have mentioned previously but also the due guards and the complete revamping of the 3rd degree by replacing the re-enactment of the ritual with lectures alone.

    On Dec. 7, 1813, twenty days before the Union, the G.L. Moderns warranted the Lodge of Reconciliation; the G.L. Antients formed a similar body under dispensation on the same day. On the day of Union both of these bodies were combined and its membership was made up of the Grand Master and other senior officers of both Grand Lodges and eighteen experts (nine elected from each G.L.). Their duty was to demonstrate and teach the ceremonies that had been adopted. The Lodge of Reconciliation was closed in 1816, after giving many demonstrations in London to representatives from the London and Provincial Lodges. After this several of the experts continued to demonstrate the ceremonies in London and even traveled to the Provinces (of England). You must also keep in mind that there was no written official copy of the new ritual, but interestingly post union records indicate that the Reconciliation Ritual was not the same as the Promulgation Ritual. It was a very slow process as no official version was issued as basis of instruction, but eventually there was a large degree of standardization achieved throughout England’s many workings.

    The first post union exposure was published in serial form by Richard Carlile beginning on 8th of July 1825. It is interesting to note that it was an anti masonic attack and that Carlile was in prison for libel when it was published. Later it was published with great success without the anti masonic rhetoric as "The Manual of Freemasonry" in 1831 and again in 1836 and 1843.

    The first respectable post-union ritual, though not officially approved, was published by George Claret in 1838. He had attended several meetings of the Lodge of Reconciliation and had even been a candidate for the 3rd deg at one of the meetings. It was printed in clear language with dots and dashes replacing omitted words and letters. It is the considered the ancestor of today's printed ritual works in the UK.

    There are two forms of the ritual considered nearest to the newly adopted form of the Union ritual. They are the Emulation and the Stability. The Emulation Ritual though often said to be the official ritual of the UGLE simply isn't, as I have already said the UGLE recognizes no one ritual. This mistake is made because the governing body of the Emulation Ritual is the Emulation Lodge of Improvement and has been around since 1823. There have been many copies of the ritual printed and available to both masons and non-masons alike over the years but the only official version was published in 1969.

    So we can now see that the American Revolution happened before the Union of the Antients and Moderns, which effectually cut them off from the changes that were made at that time. The rituals in the United States are based entirely on Pre Union Ritual while here in Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth, where the lodges derive from the UGLE, therefore are Pos Union.

    At the time the Antients and Moderns were uniting in 1813 the War of 1812 was at its height in North America. The focus was on the problems of the union and the 60 years of animosity to overcome. Provisions were made that any Modern or Antient Lodges working overseas could continue to work under their warrants, until such time as the Lodge died or turned in their warrant for a new one. So this explains why when you begin to look for answers in our history here in Canada it is easy to get confused because you find all sorts of references to the Antients and Moderns well after 1813. The UGLE paid little heed to the wishes and desires of its Canadian lodges and this caused a great deal of animosity, which eventually led to the formation of the Grand Lodge of Canada.

    Simon McGillivray the PGM of the 2nd PGL was the person who brought the new ritual to Canada. The 2nd PGL convened in 1822 under his leadership and he was PGM till 1840. He brought the new ritual to Canada in 1825 and is responsible for ¾ of the Lodges in Canada using the Canadian Ritual, the Post Union English Ritual, while ¼ use the American York Rite, or Pre Union English Ritual. There are at least two lodges in every jurisdiction that uses a Post Union ritual here in Canada.

    In 1855 when the Grand Lodge of Canada formed there was a Provincial Grand Master in Canada. He was Sir Alan MacNab. He had received a patent as PGM of the Scottish Constitution August 1st 1842 while visiting Scotland when he was a fellowcraft. Two years later when visiting England he was given his patent as PGM of Canada by the United Grand Lodge of England. Strangely he never told anyone of these warrants in either case upon his return from the UK. In 1845 when a lodge in Toronto put forth a petition to be sent to England asking that Thomas Gibb Ridout be appointed the next PGM, McNab produced his warrant. The PGL was called and he was installed as PGM. He named Thomas Ridout his Deputy and basically left the running of the PGL to Ridout. It can be pointed out that the appointment of Sir Allen McNab shows the attitude of the Grand Lodge of England to the affairs of Masonry in Canada. The appointment was more likely due to political patronage than to the Masonic experience or leadership that should be expected in a Grand Master. As an interesting aside to Sir Allan MacNab's leadership he refused
    to be obligated at his installation and did so only under protest saying that he had the warrant and that was good enough. He only attended four communications of the PGL in the ten years leading up to the formation of the Grand Lodge of Canada.

    For the next ten years the PGL tried to get more autonomy from the Grand Lodge in England. Eventually some lodges finally decided to form an independent Grand Lodge of Canada in 1855. McNab did not agree and continued as PGM with the lodges that didn't join the new GLC. The following year 1857 more lodges left the PGL and MacNab then formed the independent Grand Lodge of Antient Freemasons in Canada. Finally seeing that nothing would come of his Antient Grand Lodge, MacNab united with the Grand Lodge of Canada in1858 and so there ended the 3rd PGL of Canada. On the whole MacNab was a very ineffectual PGM and most likely because of his lack of leadership made the split from the UGLE inevitable.

    One of the first pieces of business the new GLC did was to move that the Constitution of the UGLE be accepted as the Constitution of the GLC. They also moved that the official ritual would be that, which Simon McGillivray had brought to Canada. In the next few years changes were made to both the constitution and the ritual so that they both became uniquely Canadian.

    The Trowel, and many other symbols used in the Pre-Union Rituals are not practiced here in Ontario. As a new Master Mason I thought that there was only one ritual in the world, so the first time I traveled across our border into New York State and visited a lodge and witnessed a pre-union ritual I was quite surprised. The realization that mine wasn't the only ritual sparked my interest in the history of Freemasonry here in Canada and the world. This in turn led me to take a more active role in Masonic Education, and in doing so I have gained a wonderful appreciation of our respective rituals. I became a member of Ensor Lodge # 729 Grand Lodge of Kentucky in 2002 and enjoy participating in a pre-union ritual there. The differences in our rituals have given me a better understanding of the beautiful tapestry, which forms our Masonic Brotherhood. The differences not only make Masonry interesting, but I feel they strengthen our Brotherhood, because without differences we would have nothing to entice us to delve into our Mysteries.

    Col. Ian M. Donald, (KY)
    PM. Hillcrest Lodge #594 GRC

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