(See also Regular)
In Anglo Saxon "helan" meant something hidden, or secret, a meaning preserved in "conceal;" "hell," the hidden place, is from the same word. Helan descended' from the Latin celare, hide; and on this was built the Latin clandestinus, secret, hidden, furtive. In English clandestine, thus derived, came to mean a bad secret, one that must be indulged in furtively. A secret may be innocent; it is merely something done without the knowledge of others, and nothing is more common; but a clandestine act is one done in such a way as to elude observation. Clandestine Masonry is a bad kind of irregular and unlawful secret society falsely claiming to be Masonic. In the Constitutions a Clandestine Mason is defined as, "One claiming to be a Free and Accepted Mason not having received the degrees in a Lodge recognized as regular by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York."
- Source: 100 Words in Masonry
One made in or affiliated with a clandestine Lodge. With clandestine Lodges or Freemasons, regular Freemasons are forbidden to associate or converse on Masonic subjects.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
A body of Freemasons or of those improperly claiming to be Freemasons, uniting in a Lodge without the consent of a Grand Lodge, or, although originally legally constituted, continuing to work after its Charter has been revoked, is styled a Clandestine Lodge. Neither Anderson nor Entick employ the word. It was first used in the Book of Constitutions in a note by Noorthouck, on page 239 of his edition (see the Constitutions of 1784).Regular Lodge would be the better term.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
Articles On Clandestine On This Page
The ordinary meaning of this word is secret, hidden. The French word clandestin, from which it is derived, is defined by Boiste to be something fait en cachette et contre les lois, a phrase meaning in the French language Done in a hiding place and against the laws, which better suits the Masonic signification, which refers to what is illegal, or not authorized. Irregular is the word which is often used for small departures from custom.
Brothers Newton R. Parvin, former Grand Secretary of Iowa, and C. C. Hunt, who succeeded him in office, have sent us an account of the American Masonic Federation.
A book, the Thomson Masonic Fraud, a Study in Clandestine Masonry, has also been written by Brother Isaac Blair Evans, United States Attorney for Utah in 1921, who not only prepared the case, with the assistance of Brother M. G. Price, for presentation to the Grand Jury but also drew the indictment upon which Messrs. Thomson, Perrot, and Bergera were Convicted.
The principal reason for the financial success of the American Masonic Federation was, as Brothers Parvin, Hunt and Blair point out, due to the general ignorance of the Craft on the subject of Masonic history and Law. By setting forth claims on this subject, which very few Freemasons because of lack of knowledge were able to disprove, the convicted persons were able to impose upon the public. We may here point out that neither the Judge nor any member of the jury were Freemasons. From these two sources of first hand information the following particulars are obtained. Brother Evans says in the introduction to his book, page 1.
The conviction in the Federal Court at Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 15, 1922, of Matthew A.McBlain Thomson, Thomas Perrot and Dominic Bergera, of using the mails to defraud, was the culmination of efforts of the United States Government, begun in 1915, to have a reckoning with the perpetrators of one of the most ingenious mail frauds, and the most daring and spectacular Masonic imposture in American history. No one can study the facts in the case without sensing keenly the great importance of this trial, both in the history of crimes and the history of Masonry. Future accounts of celebrated American mail frauds will surely be incomplete without some mention of this bold swindle which had gone its way without molestation for more than a decade.
For about fifteen years there had been an organization at work in the United States headed by one Matthew McBlain Thomson, formerly a member of two Lodges in Scotland and a Past Master of one of them. He came to America and affiliated with King Solomon Lodge No. 27 of Montpelier, Idaho. Later on he took a dimit from this Lodge and then formed an organization, which became the American Masonic Federation. Thomson claimed to have 10,000 members, and that his organization had been recognized in practically every country in the world. He put forth plausible arguments to convince people that he had authority to form his organization and confer Masonic degrees.
This he was able to do by making statements which only those who were posted in Masonic history and jurisprudence could refute. He claimed that with the exception of Louisiana, the United States was unoccupied territory Masonically, and that not one of the Grand Lodges in the United States had a Charter authorizing it to work; that each of the thirteen Colonies organized a Grand Lodge of its own, without obtaining consent of the Grand Lodge from which their Charters had originally been issued; that the Lodges in the Colonies, by this breaking away from the home Grand Lodges of Great Britain without first obtaining consent, became irregular and clandestine organizations, and that, therefore, the field in the United States was open to any regular organization that chose to occupy it; that later recognition by the Grand Lodges of Great Britain did not make these self-formed Grand Lodges of the United States legitimate; that they are clandestine, also, because of the alleged fact that they are not universal and refuse to recognize Freemasons in other countries on account of religion, race, or some other assumed reason, contrary to the principles of universality.
As for himself, Thomson claimed descent through lawful Charters from Mother Kilwinning Lodge No. 0, of Scotland, to Saint Johns Mother Lodge at Marseilles, France, and that this latter body chartered Polar Star Lodge in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1794; that Polar Star Lodge became a constituent part of the Supreme Council of Louisiana, and that this Supreme Council, on September 14, 1906, granted a Charter of authority to Matthew McBlain Thomson to form Craft or Symbolic Grand and Subordinate Lodges of Masons, and that by virtue of this Charter he, Thomson, granted a Charter to the Grand Lodge Inter-Montana.
Thus, he claimed that he alone had the true Scottish Rite Masonry since his came from Scotland, while the so-called Scottish Rite Masonry of the United States either originated in the United States or came from France, not Scotland.
For the Higher degrees of Masonry, as he called them, he claimed authority by virtue of a Charter from the Grand Council of Rites of Scotland, which he asserted to be "The oldest High degree Body in the world and all High Degree Diplomas came directly from the Grand Council in Scotland." He also claimed that the Grand Council of Rites derived from Mother Kilwinning Lodge. Such in brief is the "chain of title" claimed by Thomson. As a matter of fact there is not a sound link in the entire chain, but only a student of Masonic history could disprove his claim, and from among his statements, pick the true from the false.
Thomson sent out paid organizers whose duty it was to organize Lodges and confer Masonic degrees. The charge for the Craft degrees ranged from 535 up to 550 or more, the usual charge being about 550.
For the Scottish Rite degrees from the Fourth to the Thirty-third the charge was from $135 to $200. Sometimes for this amount were added the Shrine and Templar degrees. Occasionally these organizers would be arrested by the police on the charge of obtaining money under false pretenses. Sometimes convictions were had, but usually these were hard to obtain, for the reason that it was difficult to disprove statements made by Thomson and his organizers. This difficulty existed because of lack of knowledge by Freemasons called to testify in such trials. In 1915 one of these organizers by the name of Ranson was arrested in Saint Louis. The Post Office Inspector in charge at Saint Louis concluded that the United States Government take up the charge of using the mails to defraud.
He assigned his inspector, M, G. Price, to investigate. Price was not able to enter actively upon this work until 1919. Since then and up to the date of the trial he spent practically his entire time making an investigation in the United States, Scotland and France. As a result an indictment was found against Matthew McBlain Thomson, Thomas Perrot, Dominic Bergera and Robert Jamieson, and the case came to trial in the United States District Court at Salt Lake City, Utah. As the regular judge in this district was a Freemason, Judge Wade of Iowa was assigned to try the case and he impressed all who attended the trial with his absolute fairness to both prosecution and defense. As witnesses for the Government there were summoned several ex-members of Thomson's organization, three officers of various Masonic Grand Bodies of Scotland, and several Brethren representing the regular Masonic organizations in the United States. The former members of Thomson's organization testified as to methods used and representations made in obtaining members.
The Scotch Brethren testified as to Masonic history and Law in Scotland. They also testified that Mother Kilwinning Lodge had a copy of every Charter issued by her and that she never chartered a Lodge in Marseilles, France; as for the Grand Council of Rites of Scotland, it was considered clandestine and that members of legitimate Lodges in Scotland were forbidden to be members of it or have anything to do with it Masonically.
Two officers of the Supreme Council of Louisiana testified that their Council never granted a Charter to Thomson to work Craft degrees. The Government also was able to show contradictory statements in Thomson's publications. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty, and the Judge sentenced each of the defendants to serve a term of two years in the penitentiary and pay a fine of $5,000.
Judge Wade, in passing sentence upon the defendants, said:
Nobody can hear this evidence in this case without being convinced, absolutely convinced, that this thing has been a fraudulent scheme from the beginning. I can see where an ignorant person might find some possible excuse for the methods employed in this case. For intelligent people and experienced people to try to convince the Court that this organization and this plan and this work that had been going on is on the square-it can't be done. Of course now we are living in a time when some of the brightest minds in the country are devoting themselves to securing money by short cuts, by taking advantage of the gullible for their enterprises.
In fact that is one of the dominant crimes of the present time. I know of one state in which in the last two years, within two, there has been sold over twenty-nine million dollars worth of stock in packing houses which never were built, and practically every dollar of the money lost, just by shrewd practice, by trying to get the other fellow's money in some way without working for it. Now, of course, after all that was stated in this case from the beginning and all through I confess that I was astounded when I heard Mr. Thomson testify that there was no pretense, that there was no record anywhere of a Charter to Marseilles Lodge, on the existence of which lay the right and practically the foundation of all claims of legitimacy on that branch of the case and to have him admit that such a lodge existed only in tradition-I realize that some things can be proven by tradition, but tradition cannot exist with one man tradition must have-before it has any force as proof- such general recognition among men in that particular occupation or relation that it forces itself upon the mind as it truth the record of which has been lost-and it was conceded on the witness stand that so far as this particular thing was concerned there was no record anywhere and no one who was skilled in the history of Freemasonry had ever met any such a tradition so far as the record in this case is concerned, in any history or book or pamphlet or anything else outside of this organization. So was I surprised when I found that the Council of Rites of Scotland which had been one of the chief points urged by these gentlemen, had no record behind it but a few years and it was represented-entirely aside from the question of the origin and history of this organization and those that preceded it-it was represented time and time again without dispute to these poor devils that were led largely by their attraction to an ancient organization and to the rites and rituals of the organization, it was represented to them specifically and it has not been denied that by virtue of their association with this organization the doors of Freemasonry the world over were open to them outside of the United States, which is of course an absurd claim under the evidence in this case.
Then the trip that Bergera made to Europe on the investigation, in view of what transpired according to his own testimony, has all the appearance of being a plan or scheme th the might come back here and state to those whose membership was sought his capacity to enter the Lodges of Europe to support their claim, that the members immediately on getting across the water would have the doors wide open to them. And then after making a trip and going to one or two Lodges or three under peculiar circumstances, in fact never going to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and that was included in the representation made, that is to say, all Europe was included, never going m the Grand Lodge of Scotland, the Grand Lodge of England and never going to the Grand Lodge of France, whatever it is called, and coming back here no doubt to back up the representation that membership in this organization was opening the doors of all Masonic Orders, all of the regular Masonic orders in Europe-it was a pretense, gentlemen, you can't come to any other conclusion. If Bergera went over there for the purpose of conferring what these organizers were representing and which is not denied here he certainly would have gone to the Grand Lodge of Scotland or England or France or Germany or somewhere to find out whether the doors would be open to these fellows that were joining their ranks.
But it is not necessary to recite the details. One cannot listen to this evidence without being forced to the conclusion that so far as the representation as to the standing and the brotherhood and the association of people with which they would become immediately affiliated was concerned, that aside entirely from the genealogy of the lodge, nobody can claim that there was any truth in what was said except insofar as they had access to certain Lodges with which Mr. Thomson through his relation had some affiliation. The spectacle of Mr. Thomson going to Switzerland to this great conference, and parading afterwards through the journal a conference where eight men from the entire world were present-that in itself is sufficient to condemn the whole thing and the manner in which this business had been done. is sufficient in itself.
No pretense here on the part of the defendants that this money was kept in any business-like way for the benefit of this organization.
What became of it I don't know but there was more than a million dollars taken in here, of that there can be no question in view of the prices charged for little printed sheets of paper in the form of diplomas and certificates and things of that kind, entirely, aside from the membership fee. What became of that money is not indicated here. The head of this organization testified before the Court that he didn't know and in fact had some difficulty in recalling whether there was ever an account of the organization in a bank anywhere in the world. As far as the Secretary is concerned, there is no suggestion of a report indicating that this business was conducted as an honest organization, not a word.
So that, gentlemen, there is only one thing for the Court to do. If it were not for the age of Mr. Thomson at this time there would be a long prison sentence because I think he is the chief actor. I think he is more responsible than anyone else. As far as Bergera is concerned, of course, I cannot understand at all how a man would presume to parade himself as the Treasurer General of the organization of ten thousand members which had received from them in the neighborhood of a million or more dollars and never handle a cent of the money.
I cannot understand it at all, that is all, that any honest man would allow his name to be used in that connection under such condition and the concealment of the methods of doing business and where this money went even up to the present time. I cannot comprehend the whole thing. There is only one thing that saves these men a long prison term. I don't feel justified in sending any of these men to prison any longer than I do Mr. Thomson. As I say, when it comes to this point, in a trial of the case the charity of the law asserts itself.
Old age and sickness, of course, has a strong appeal to the Court, when it comes to the question of a prison term and I think that the district Attorney has been very generous in his suggestion. This Court hasn't really any power to impose a penalty here which would be adequate punishment for this thing that has been going on when we step to think of the honest fellows who parted with their fifty or seventy-five or a hundred and fifty dollars for membership in this organization.
So far as the evidence in this case is concerned not one dollar of it was ever used for any, of the business of the society except to carry on this work of getting members.
Not a word of charity or charitable funds or anything of that kind before this Court. I am very much inclined to be lenient in all things. I am inclined to look in a charitable way upon the mistakes of men, but this thing has in it that deliberateness and continuous conduct which sort of overcomes my tendency.
Stand up, gentlemen. The judgment of this Court is that each one of you serve a period of two years in Fort Leavenworth Prison and each one of you pay a fine of five thousand dollars and costs Brother Evans says in his work that although the public at large knows little of Freemasonry it expects much of Freemasons. In the eyes of those who are not Freemasons one Freemason would have the same standing as another. How could the public know a spurious from a genuine Freemason? No argument is needed to show that the misdeeds of one such spurious claimant can do more damage to the Fraternity than can be overcome by the good conduct of regular Freemasons. Thus, the Fraternity at large has to answer to the public for any bad conduct of both the genuine and the bogus who claim to be members of the Craft. This is indeed a truth which all Freemasons may well afford to take to heart.
Brother Evans says further, on page 7 of his book: Thomson also knew some other things about regular Masons. He knew that they read very little about their own institution, and that, therefore, they are generally ill-informed in matters of Masonic history and law.
Many times his degree peddlers were haled into petty criminal courts to answer to the charge of obtaining money under false pretenses. In as too many instances the prisoner was discharged because the prosecution could not show wherein the fraud lay. The prosecution was dependent, of course, for its proof of fraud upon the testimony of regular Masons. This testimony was often without value and all Masons will know why. Every little victory won by Thomson in the courts gave him just one more argument to make to his dupes.
Thomson also knew that regular Masons in general entertain acute indifference towards as things clandestine. The chances of his being caught up for his gross falsehoods were few, because, first, no one knew enough both about his institutions and regular Masonry to answer him, and, secondly, no one would take the pains to run his lies to earth. These things account, in part, for his enormous success for so many years.
This Thomson case is typical and because of its scope deserves liberal space. Other instances are numerous where the Masonic Institution has defended itself in the courts of law. Volumes two and three, History of Freemasonry in Ohio, 1914, contain many references to the seceders from the Grand Lodge and the lawsuits resulting from "Cerneauism" in that State. On the latter subject see Mackey's revised History of Freemasonry (volume vi) ; General Albert Pike's Cerneauism, 1885, his report on Joseph Cerneau, 1886, and other works; A History of Spurious Supreme Councils in the Northern Jurisdiction, William Gardiner, Past Grand Master, Massachusetts, 1863-4, republished 1884; The History of the Peckham Supreme Council, E. T. Carson, 1884; The Ancient Acceptet Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, William Homan, 1905, this latter work containing valuable reports on proceedings against unauthorized conferring of Craft as well as other degrees.
Forrest Adair, 33 , a Brother memorable for his labors for crippled children, spent freely his time and money protecting Masonic interests, as in the rights of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine determined by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1915, and the Supreme Court of the United States in 1918. A Committee headed by Brother Frank C. Jones on behalf of the Imperial Council continued this work successfully for the Shrine in other States, as in Texas, 1925, and the results will probably, end the matter for the whole country (see Infringing upon Freemasonry).
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
Every Master Mason knows that he must not visit a clandestine Lodge,
not talk Masonically with a clandestinely made Mason, but not all
Master Masons can define clandestinism.
The dictionary (Standard) gives “surreptitious, underhand” as
synonyms for the word, and while these express the Masonic meaning to
some extent, they are not wholly clarifying.
Mackey (History of Freemasonry) states:
“The (Anderson) Constitutions declare, Section 8, that where a number
of Freemasons shall take upon themselves to form a Lodge without a
Grand Master’s Warrant, the regular Lodges are not to countenance
them nor own them are fair brethren, and duly formed. In other
words, Lodge formed without a Warrant from the Grand Master (we now
say Grand Lodge) is “clandestine,” and so a “clandestine Masons” is
one made in a Lodge without a Warrant.”
Even this definition will not wholly serve; many old Lodges began and
worked for a while without a Warrant yet were never Clandestine.
“The Lodge at Fredricksburg” in which Washington was initiated, had
no Warrant or Charter until long after the First President was made a
Haywood states of the several terms used to indicate those whom
Masons may not officially converse:
“A “cowan” is a man with unlawful Masonic knowledge; an “intruder” is
one with neither knowledge not secrets, who makes himself otherwise
obnoxious; a “clandestine” is one who has been initiated by unlawful
means, an “irregular” is one who has been initiated by a Lodge
working without authorization.”
An “irregular” Mason is sometimes, unfortunately, confused with a
“clandestine” Mason; “Unfortunately,” because some men are
“irregularly” made Masons even today - usually in all innocence.
George Washington was initiated before he was twenty one years of
age; according to modern ideas, this was an “irregular” making, but
there was never a taint of clandestinism attached to “The Lodge at
Fredricksburg.” North Dakota permits the reception of a petition of
a man under age, although he must be of age when he is initiated;
that their law differs from other laws does not make the North Dakota
minor, who receives his degrees after he is twenty-one, either
irregular or clandestine. In a Jurisdiction in which all the
membership must be notified of the degree to be conferred and upon
whom, the Worshipful Master may forget to list one candidate in his
monthly circular; if the unpublished candidate, regularly elected, is
initiated, it is an “irregular” making, and the Grand Master may well
order him “healed” by being reinitiated, but no power could make such
a Mason clandestine.
When a Lodge makes a Mason of one not “freeborn,” not of a “mature
and discrete age” one who is a bondman, in his dotage, a Mason is
made irregularly, but not clandestinely.
When the Mother Grand Lodge separated into two, in 1751, each termed
the other clandestine, and this polite name-calling continued even in
this country, between Lodges begun here under authority of the two
rival Grand Lodges in England. The following is from “Washington’s
Home and Fraternal Life” published by the United States Government:
According to the “Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, February
“A petition being preferred to this Grand Lodge on the 2nd of
September last, from several brethren of Alexandria, in Virginia, for
a warrant to hold a Lodge there, which was ordered to lie over to the
next communication, in consequence of Brother Adam, the proposed
Master thereof, being found to possess his knowledge of Masonry in a
clandestine manner, since which the said Brother Adam, having gone
through the several steps of Ancient Masonry in Lodge No.2, under the
Jurisdiction of this R.R. Grand Lodge, further prays that a warrant
may now be granted for the purposes mentioned in said petition.
“Ordered, That the prayer of said petition be complied with, and that
the Secretary present Brother Adam with a warrant to hold a Lodge of
Ancient Masons in Alexandria, in Virginia to be numbered 39.
“Brother Robert Adam who was then duly recommended, and presented in
form to the R.W. Grand Master in the chair, for installation as
Master of Lodge No.39, to be held in the borough of Alexandria,
Fairfax County, Virginia; and was accordingly installed as such.”
“The word ‘clandestine’ falls with unhappy significance upon modern
Masonic ears, but it did not in those days mean quite the same thing
as it does to Masons of this age, Prior to the ‘Lodge of
Reconciliation’ and the formation of the United Grand Lodge of
England in 1813, the two Grand Bodies of England, the ‘Moderns’ (who
were the older) and the ‘Antients’ (who were the younger, schismatic
body) each considered the other ‘clandestine.’ Brother Adam’s Mother
Lodge is not
known, but as he lived for a time in Annapolis, where a ‘Modern’
Lodge worked, it is probable it was here that he received the degrees
which the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (‘Antinets’) considered
‘clandestine.’ Transition of Masons from Lodges of one obedience to
those of the other was neither infrequent, so that ‘clandestine’
could not have had the connotation of irregularity and disgrace which
it has with Freemasons of today.”
Today the Masonic world is entirely agreed on what constitutes a
clandestine body, or a clandestine Mason; the one is a Lodge or Grand
Lodge unrecognized by other Grand Lodges, working without right,
authority or legitimate descent; the other is a man “made a Mason” on
such a clandestine body.
More widespread than effective, more annoying than dangerous, only
continental vigilance by Grand Lodges keeps clandestinism from
becoming a real problem to legitimate Masonry.
Clandestinism raises its ugly head periodically in many Grand
Jurisdictions, and in some States it is always more or less of a
trouble. Either now, or in the immediate past, some clandestine
Freemasonry had affected Arizona, California, Colorado, Missouri,
Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and the
District of Columbia; a list too long to minimize altogether by
saying that clandestine Masonry is too weak to do much harm
Arizona and California suffer to some extent from clandestine Mexican
bodies. Colorado and adjacent States have had with them for some
thirty years a curious organi-zation known as The American Federation
of Human Rights; with headquarters at Larkspur, Colorado; which is
the seat of “Co-Masonry,” an organization purporting to make Masons
of men and women alike. Missouri has a number of spurious Italian
alleged Masonic organizations, and the “Masonic Chauffeurs’ and
Waiters’ Club” with headquarters in Chicago.
In 1929 there was filed in the office of the Secretary of State of
New Jersey a Certificate of Incorporation of “The Grand Lodge of
Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of New Jersey,” under which
certificate the incorporators claimed the right to:
“Practice and preserve Ancient Craft Masonry according to the Ancient
Charges, Constitutions and Land Marks of Free Masonry; to create,
organize and supervise subordinate Lodges of Ancient Free and
Accepted Masons, granting to them dispensations and charters,
empowering them to confer the degrees of Entered Apprentice,
Fellowcraft and Master Mason; and to do all things necessary to carry
into effect the objects and purposes of this incorporation.”
The regular Grand Lodge instituted suit in the Court of Chancery
against this spurious Grand Lodge with the result that in 1932 there
was entered a decree restraining and enjoining this “Grand Lodge of
ancient Free and accepted Masons of New Jersey,” its officers,
agents, members and employees,
1. From using the name or designation “The Grand Lodge of Ancient
Free and Accepted Masons of New Jersey.”
2. From using any name or designation containing the words “Free
and Accepted Masons,” or word “Mason,” or “Masons,” in
conjunction with either or both of the words “Free and
3. From practicing, or pretending to practice Ancient Craft
Masonry, according to the ancient Charges, Constitutions and
Land Marks of Free Masonry; from creating, organizing or
supervising subordinate Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons in
the State of New Jersey, or pretending to do so; from conferring
or pretending to confer the three degrees of Free Masonry known
as Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason, or any of
In New York are now, or have been recently, as many as fifteen
spurious Masonic Organizations.
North Carolina is not now troubled, but twenty years ago they won a
case in court against the Cerneau bodies.
Ohio has the “National Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Free
Masons for the United States of America,” but has been successfully
fighting it in the courts.
Pennsylvania has had troubles with spurious Ohio bodies and some of
her own, but her vigilance is such that these do not get very far in
deceiving the public. For instance, in 1927 was heard the case of
Phillips against Johnson. A portion of the opinion in that case
:This was a proceeding in mandamus instituted by the realtors to
compel the Secretary of the Commonwealth to register certain emblems
and insignia, such registration having been refused by the Secretary
of the Commonwealth. The Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most
Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of
Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging and the
Pennsylvania Council of Deliberation were permitted to intervene as
defendants, no objection being raised thereto by the plaintiffs. On
the trial of the case a verdict in favor of the defendants was
returned by the Jury. The plaintiffs moved for a new trial which was
refused by the court.”
South Dakota once had an Italian spurious body, but it has disbanded.
Texas has to contend with the clandestine Mexican bodies. Utah has
had some experiences, but her most famous contribution to the history
of clandestine Masonry was the trial of the notorious McBain and
Thompson. That Masonic fraud was there exposed and the perpetrators
sent to jail. M.W. Sam H. Goodwin, Grand Secretary, writes of this:
“Grand Lodge has not entered the arena against clandestinism, but a
great battle against clandestinism was brought to a successful
conclusion in the Federal Court in Salt Lake City, and the chief
promoters of the Thompson Masonic Fraud (three in number) heard a
jury declare them guilty, on ten counts, of using the U.S. Mails to
“Grand Lodge did not get into this, neither did any other Masonic
organization. But Masons furnished the funds which made the trial
possible. It was necessary to send investigators across the water to
look up records in France, and to interview certain important
witnesses in Scotland, and to secure their promise to come over for
the trial. Utah brethren furnished the money for this work, also for
the expenses of the three men to come and return, as the U.S. does
not pay to bring witnesses from outside the United States.
“The men engaged in this fraud were each sentenced to serve two years
in Leavenworth and to pay fines of $5,000.00 each. This destroyed
the organization - so far as I am aware, no fragment of it is left.
“The Scottish Bite Bodies published a book of some 260 pages and an
index, giving an accurate and most interesting account of Thompson’s
methods, and of the trial of that case.”
A spurious Grand Lodge of Thompson extraction was, and perhaps still
is, alive in Wyoming.
The District of Columbia has had to contend with various would-be
incorporators who desire to attach themselves to legitimate
Freemasonry, but has always been successful in heading off
clandestines who desire legal status under papers of incorporation.
In many States Prince Hall or other varieties of so-called Negro
Masonry is in existence, but this variety of clandestinism is seldom
if ever harmful to regular Masonry. As a general rule, the
legitimate Grand Lodges of the southern States do not quarrel with
the so-called Negro Lodges, although they are” clandestine. Grand
Secretary James M. Clift, of Virginia, puts the general attitude very
clearly in writing about colored Masonry in the Old Dominion. He
“The Negro (Prince Hall) Grand Lodges, organized just after the war
between the States, can hardly be said to be clandestine, as it in no
way interferes with Lodges in Virginia. As a matter of fact, the
then Grand Secretary of Virginia, Dr. John Dove, aided the leading
colored members of this organization in establishing it in Virginia,
believing it would be helpful to Negro citizenship. His text book
was used as their guide for some years. No recognition could be
given them, but so far it appears that Dr. Dove’s conclusions were
Occasionally, however, clandestine Negro Masonry gets in trouble with
regular Grand Lodges. Colorado, in common with many other States,
has for years had colored “Masonic Lodges” which usually give regular
Masons no trouble. A few years ago a colored man there organized
“Masonic Lodges” and a “Grand Lodge of Masons,” which became a rival
of the old colored “Grand Lodge.” These organizations became
involved in litigation in which one sought to restrain the other from
use of a name which in essence was the same as the name of the
regular Grand Lodge. If a decision had been obtained, one of these
Negro organizations would have had the legal right to use the name of
the regular Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Colorado, and the use of the
Masonic emblems. The danger lay in the fact that if such a decision
had been rendered, some degree-monger and organization of spurious
“Masonic Lodges” might have obtained control of the successful
colored “Grand Lodge” and converted it into a clandestine Grand Lodge
for white men, and his organization would have been fortified with a
decision of the court that it was entitled to the name of “Grand
Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons” and the use of the Masonic
The regular Grand Lodge of Colorado therefore intervened in the suit.
After trial, the District Court issued a writ of injunction,
permanently restraining and enjoining both Negro organizations and
their subordinate Lodges from using the names “Mason,” “Freemason,”
“Masonic” and “Free and Accepted” (together with various other
names), and the name “The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free
and Accepted Masons of Colorado,” and the members from using,
displaying and wearing emblems and insignia of Freemasonry.
The decision would be of value to Colorado in case it should become
necessary for the Grand Lodge to enter into litigation with
clandestine Masonic organizations.
In a majority of States legislation has been passed making it an
offense against the law to use the emblems of a fraternal
organization without a right, or to adopt and use the name of a pre-
existent fraternal, charitable, benevolent, humane or other non-
profit making organization. Some of these laws are very elaborate,
others are less specific, but in States where such legislation has
been invoked by regular Masonry against usurpation by clandestine
bodies, the courts have upheld, or are now in the process of
upholding the regular and recognized Grand Lodges of the nation
against those who would profit at their expense.
Clandestine Masonry of today is wholly profit-making, begun and
carried on by individuals who have nothing but duplicity to sell to
their victims. Unfortunately, many honest men have been persuaded to
pay fees for the “degrees” of such spurious organizations, in the
innocent belief that they were becoming regular Masons. Some
pathetic cases form a part of the literature of clandestinism. The
charity of Masonry, however, is usually extended to the honest
victims of misrepresentation, and such “Masons” mat apply, and. if
they can pass the ballot in a regular Lodge, their misfor-tune in
innocently entering a clandestine body seldom acts as an objection to
their receiving the blessings of genuine Masonry.