The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, “For the Use of the Lodges” in London and Westminster, was published in 1723. It was edited by the presbyterian clergyman, James Anderson, to the order of John Theophilus Desaguliers, and approved by a Grand Lodge committee under his control. This work was reprinted in Philadelphia in 1734 by Benjamin Franklin, who was that year elected Grand Master of Masons in Pennsylvania. It was also translated into Dutch (1736), German (1741), and French (1745).
Anderson was minister of the Presbyterian church in Swallow Street, London, which had once been Huguenot church, and one of its four Deacons was Desaguliers’ father. At the time of his meeting with Desaguliers, he seems to have passed himself off as a Talmudic scholar. His reward for his labours was the copyright on the work. In time, and to Anderson’s dismay, it was condensed into “pocket” editions over which he had no control and from which he received no income. It was expanded, updated, and re-published in 1738.
The Constitutions of the Free-Masons was a constitution written for the Premier Grand Lodge of England, to standardize the rituals and practices of Freemasonry among lodges of London and Westminster operating under that Grand Lodge. Obviously, it was not meant to apply to other lodges in other parts of England, Scotland and Ireland. The constitution laid the foundation of the legend of Hiram Abiff, King Solomon’s Master Builder, along with the pyramid style organizational model of Freemasonry. The first and second edition were written by Rev. James Anderson in 1723 and 1738. AnJames ANerson’s Constitutions were based on the Old Masonic Manuscripts (also called “Gothic Constitutions”) and on the General Regulations which had been compiled first by George Payne in 1720. The full title of the 1723 edition was The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of that most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity, For the Use of the Lodges.When in 1738, the Grand Lodge changed its name from Grand Lodge of London and Westminster into the Grand Lodge of England, the Constitution was rewritten by Anderson. The title of the second, rewritten, edition of 1738 was The New Book of Constitutions of the Antient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, Containing Their History, Charges, Regulations, &c. Collected and Digested By Order of the Grand Lodge from their old Records, faithful Traditions and Lodge-Books, For the Use of the Lodges.The 1723 edition of the Constitutions was edited and reprinted by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1734, becoming the first Masonic book printed in America.
Dedication: To His Grace the Duke of Montagu
The Constitution, History, Laws, Charges, Orders, Regulations, and Usages of the Right Worshipful Fraternity of Accepted Free-Masons
The Charges of a Free-Mason
Postscript: Coke´s Opinion on 3 Hen. VI. Chap I.
General Regulations, Compiled by Mr. George Payne
Postscript: The Manner of Constituting a New Lodge
The Master’s Song, or the History of Masonry
The Warden’s Song, or Another History of Masonry[A Paragraph from an Old Record] The Fellow-Crafts Song, by Charles Delafaye, Esq.
The Enter’d ’Prentices Song, by Mr. Matthew Birkhead
A New Song[Order to Publish] Editorial Note