IT IS OFTEN noted that Masonic writers hesitate to offer any explanation of the term "due guard," averring that it is merely a form of words which was once in use, but is now grown obsolete, as if that were genuine explanation. Scholars should not close the book of interpretation merely because a thing has fallen out of use. Mackey's Encyclopedia, so it seems, has dropped into this error. On page 222 of the first volume of that useful compendium we read that "Due Guard" is a mode of recognition which derives its name from its object, which is to "duly guard" the person using it in reference to his obligation. Dr. Mackey then goes on to say that this term is "an Americanism" and therefore of recent origin, though he refers to a ritual of 1757 in which it is used.
Now there is reason to believe that "due guard" goes back to a time long prior to 1757, or to 1727, or to 1717, and that it came very reasonably from a phrase which was once the name of a town, whereby hangs a long tale, too long for the telling here, though it may be attempted at a later date.
Those who have read aught of the history of book-and paper-making know that these two trades were in the very van of those enlightened ones who led that great movement against the papacy, and all connoted thereby, which resulted at last in the Reformation and the Renaissance. Now it happens, as has been shown conclusively by various scholars working as specialists in this field, that these "Reformers before the Reformation" had to work in secret, and by means of signs and watchwords, lest they be detected by the authorities and therefrom suffer grievous evils.
Always there was a movement against the seven tyrannies of Rome but it was not until the beginning of the thirteenth century that this movement assumed such formidable movements as led the Holy Father to send out Bulls of destruction, which Bulls and their carrying out, left on the pages of history the reddest and angriest scars that Clio has to look upon.
Those who wrote books, those who printed books, and those who manufactured the paper and binding of these books, were naturally in the closest federation so far as all intellectual aims were concerned, and the members of these allied trades, so it may be safely said, formed a kind of great unorganized fraternity which worked underground in behalf of enlightenment. The paper-makers were in the habit of watermarking their stock with emblematic devices which were understood by the initiated; and the printers used for head-pieces and tail-pieces, and for initial ornaments, such cunning figures as, to those on the inside, meant very much; and the authors themselves, by a clever use of capital letters and such makeshifts, were able to flash to the scattered friends of Learning that they had many brethren here and there though they might know it not. A watermark was very often a call across the dark by one brother to another in order to carry a word of hope, recognition, and encouragement.
Now it happens that one of the towns at the very centre of the French paper-making trade was called "Dieu le garde," which, in our more familiar speech, connotes "God Guard It." In after years usage changed the name to various forms, such as Dulegard, Daulegard, etc., but it is evident that the French of that community never forgot the origin of the unusual name.
What more natural thing than that the Albigensian paper-makers should hit upon this name of one of their towns as an excellent device to use in their water-marks! Many such watermarks exist. One of them, a copy of which lies before me as I write, carries an elaborate symbolism in which one may detect the emblems of Light, of Brotherly Love, of the Bright and Morning Star, of the Spirit of Truth, etc., with a band across the bottom in which are the letters that spell "Daulegard."
But what has this to do with Freemasonry? This, that it seems very reasonable to suppose that among the various institutions the members of which in those days had completely outgrown the puerile superstitions enforced by the papacy must have been the Masonic lodges. I believe that this will some day be proved by documentary evidence. I am convinced myself that others of the fraternities existing in secret at that time, such as the various schools of the Alchemists, and, later, the Rosicrucians, had some connections with the Masonic Fraternity, and left in its symbolism certain emblems and ideas of their own. In other words, Freemasonry in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries was one of many secret fraternities the members of which were devoted to a campaign of enlightenment (which in those days meant anti-Rome) and it therefore fell heir to a whole stream of occult and symbolical lore which was devised to meet the situation at the time, which situation was that men could not, except at the peril of their lives, speak in public what every man of intelligence knew in his private mind.
Among these devices, symbols, or emblems thus inherited was this favourite paper-maker's device, "Dieu le garde," "God Guard It." This hypothesis seems reasonable to me; it has a host of facts behind it; and it gives to the expression as we have it a meaning and some significance, a thing that cannot be said of the Mackey hypothesis that "Due Guard" means to "guard duly."