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Masonic History

The Orange Lodge


By Bro. J.L. Carson, Virginia

The history of Ireland since the days when King John of England (1199 to 1216) "built several forts and settled the English Colony and Civil Government" there, has been one of turmoil and trouble. Always the Celt against the Saxon, the Roman Catholic against his Protestant fellow countryman.

From 1150 to 1550 no Irish were admitted subjects of, or received benefit of, the English Colony or Courts, "Because !" says Butler in his history of Ireland, "upon all occasions they declared their malice and hatred against the English Colonists . . . whom they mortally hated."

During the reign of Edward III it was declared high treason for any of the English colonists to intermarry with the Irish, or to have any dealings with them.

Thus for four centuries until the reign of Queen Elizabeth, "Ireland had perpetual trouble and was overrun with misery," Protestant and Roman Catholic suffering alike. The rebellion headed by the Earl of Tyrone was only subdued after the expenditure of "nearly a million of money and much bloodshed" as also was the second rebellion of the same Earl, during the reign of James I. After these rebellions English and Scotch families settled on the confiscated lands in Ulster, where they "Built good towns, cultivated the land, and the country began to flourish." The very Irish seemed to be satisfied. Roman Catholics and Protestants alike enjoyed the free exercise of their rights, their religious convictions and observances.

Unfortunately, this tranquility was not to last forever; in 1641 the Irish Roman Catholics suddenly rose in rebellion again; this rising was "accompanied by horrid cruelties and abominable murders," so much so that "three hundred thousand Protestants were destroyed," sparing "neither sex, age or condition."

Oliver Cromwell with a firm and heavy hand crushed out this rebellion, twenty-seven thousand Roman Catholics departed from the shores of Ireland, and a new plantation of Scotch and English families arrived in Ulster. These planters and their descendants prospered exceedingly.

Although the conditions of peace seemed once again established, the feeling between these Protestant and Roman Catholic peoples was bitter in the extreme; therefore when the Earl of Tyrconnell became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, reinstated Roman Catholics, evicting the Protestants from the holdings they had received by grant or purchase, things were ripe for a great upheaval. Led by that notorious Jesuit Priest, Father Peters, the Roman Catholics declared for James II. King of England, who had openly espoused the Catholic Faith, and made treaties with the Pope and the King of France.

The various histories of England tell of the events leading up to the establishment of William III and Mary on the throne. The final struggle for the crown took place on Irish soil. The Protestants of the Ulster Plantation flocked to the standard of William, whose party represented all we as Protestants hold sacred-- Civil and Religious Liberty.

With the closing of the gates of Derry in the face of the Jacobite army by the small Protestant garrison, who held the city under the most trying conditions until relieved by the Williamite forces, with the defeat of James' Army at Enniskillen and the Boyne, the aspirations of the Jacobite party were forever overthrown.

The effect of these battles fought on the shores of the Erne, the banks of the Boyne, and in the village of Aughrum, will be felt for all time: representing the eternal struggle between Liberty and Tyranny, the closing of the Gates of Derry by the Apprentice Boys of the city, when the older inhabitants feared to take the initiative, meant the closing forever in Great Britain of the possibilities of Papal Supremacy in that Kingdom.

The Williamite triumph proclaimed to the world the principles of Liberty in the life of a nation rather than the supremacy of Protestantism, and the battle cry NO SURRENDER, raised in 1688 by our loyal forbears, will ring throughout eternity.

For a hundred years the old feeling between the two religions remained deep and bitter, as indeed it does today. They feel that "Home Rule" means "Rome Rule," and Ulster that has always been England's best friend and most loyal possession, refuses to be alienated from the Empire, and handed over to an Irish majority, dominated by Rome and governed by her prelates. "Rome never forgives, never forgets." It was therefore felt by the Protestants of Ireland that it was necessary to band themselves together for "Mutual defence and safety." The organization of the ORANGE INSTITUTION in the year 1795 was the result.

The name was selected in memory of "The glorious, pious and immortal memory of William the Third, Prince of Orange" and the motto of the war was significant of its purpose. "The Liberty of England we will maintain; the Bible and the Crown we will support."

In this exceedingly short resume of the history of Ireland I have tried to show the causes leading up to the establishment of the Orange Institution. Now a few words about the Institution itself.

The internal construction of the Institution leads us to accept for a fact the claim made that Thomas Wilson the founder was a Freemason. I know the methods of recognition by signs, grips and words, the system of Lodge Government, the vouching for visitors, and a hundred and one other little details could only have been introduced by a Mason. Tradition in the North of Ireland says he was a renegade Freemason. Little, however, is now known of him.

The first Lodge was opened at Dyan, a very small village in the County Tyrone, Ireland, and a Grand Lodge was immediately constituted in Armagh in 1795, which soon afterwards removed to Dublin. Lodges and Grand Lodges have been established all over the English speaking world, and the Institution has done and is doing a great work in a perfectly legal and constitutional manner. It is keeping strict tab on the social and political encroachments of Rome, stands for undenominational education and the freedom from clerical domination of "The Little Red Schoolhouse." It is a bulwark of English speaking Protestantism, the eternal enemy of Romanism and Priestcraft. The membership today exceeds one million five hundred thousand.

When the Institution first started there was but one degree, The Orange; in 1796 The Royal Arch Purple degree was added; later under what is known as The Royal Black Preceptory or Knights of Malta, the higher degrees-of the order, were introduced, of which there are quite a number. The Black Preceptory or Black Knights as they are sometimes called resembles in formation the Knights Templar Order in Freemasonry, and contains many of the elements of the Masonic Knights of Malta.

Strange as it may appear, amongst many Masonic Knights Templar and Orange Black Knights, there is a growing conviction that their origin was a bid of the Roman Catholic Church to use these orders for the purpose of overthrowing Protestantism in Great Britain. Had the Church not fallen down on its propaganda results would have been very different in the attitude of the Papacy to Freemasonry today. Fortunately things turned out for the best. Papish in origin the evolution of both these institutions has been helpful to the Reformed Faith, so we as Masonic Knights Templar or Orange Black Knights have cause to rejoice.

The Irish Black Knights grasped the Chivalric idea and incorporated it into the Orange system, instead of Christ and His twelve apostles using Joseph and his Brethren, ringing in Elijah and Baal to offset Papal idolatry. The belief remains that these orders sprung from a common origin. In the early days of the Institution undoubtedly most Freemasons were Orangemen and many Orangemen were Freemasons. This is a fact today in Ireland. But at the present time the line of cleavage between the two orders is distinctly marked and carefully maintained.

The Loyal Orange Institution is recognized as a purely political Society, to which only Protestants are admitted, by ballot, and into which all Protestants in good standing are welcome.

- Source: The Builder October 1917

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