PART ONE: Biblical Archaeology as Geo-Masonic Politics
The popularity of the Crucefix/Oliver editorials was a straw in the wind. Some on ‘the Dais’ may have recognised that renewal of GL personnel was overdue but thought the stirring breeze no more than that. When it began to blow in earnest, reaction was so entrenched that even the minimal, generational change which occurred had to be engineered.
The long-serving Grand Secretary White, who had succeeded his father in the position, had been shrugging off complaints about his administration for years, [ccxliii] while GM Zetland, successor to Sussex from 1843, was what today would be labelled ‘a colourful personality’, more likely to be found at the race-track than in pursuit of his Masonic duties. By mid-century, these two were presiding over a situation variously described as mis-management, nepotism and apathetic disregard of EF affairs. Study of even the cloistered sort that Sussex had pursued was not a priority. Zetland refused an offer of a book dedication from Oliver in 1848 saying ‘(As) a general principle I am much averse to publications on Masonry.’ [ccxliv] In 1849, a scholarly brother who had been working in Australia, William Melville, tried handing his findings concerning the ‘lost mysteries of Freemasonry’ to Drs Oliver and Crucefix. Both advised him to consult with Grand Lodge. Melville later told how his requests for meetings with GL personnel were not even answered. He concluded that: ‘from the manner in which Dr Oliver wrote, it is evident that there were at the time two Masonic factions. I had ranged myself, without being aware of it, against the powerful one of Zetland and White, and was immediately considered by the ignorant party as a would-be innovator…’ From talking to other EFs in London he came to believe that the Zetland-White faction was known as the ‘Beef-Eaters’ ‘in consequence of their ‘gaudy outside show’, resembling in pomposity the well-known ‘warders of the tower’ and in the process creating substantial ‘animosity’: ‘This feeling ultimately exterminated scientific masonry, so far as the Grand Lodge of England is in question, and the Zetland ‘beef eaters’ triumphed over their more intelligent brethren.’ [ccxlv] [My emphasis]
The UGLE under Zetland had revived public displays, a device not used for a century. In Prescott’s words: ‘Such events (as Mason-led parades at community events) vividly encapsulate the ideological and philosophical character of British freemasonry [sic]…It is deeply engaged with the monarchy and aristocracy, and, above all, it has an intimate relationship with the churches, and in England particularly with the established Anglican churches.[ccxlvi] He has noted that the most recent of emigre French Masons were deeply shocked by the innovation: ‘For French freemasons [sic] arriving in Britain as refugees after Louis Napoleon’s coup d’etat in 1851 such scenes were astonishing, and in their opinion bore little relationship to freemasonry. Many were republicans and freethinkers…They also found the cost of English freemasonry prohibitive…’ Costs of being an EF were on the rise, anyway, but the temptation to display out-of-the-ordinary regalia was strong. Once Sussex had gone in 1843, a ground swell had built up to ‘regularise’ three ‘extra degrees’ then outside the formal definition of ‘Freemasonry’ set down at the 1812-13 declaration of unity. Oliver and Crucefix were strong advocates of the explicitly Christian Templar and Rose-Croix Degrees and in 1850 a Scottish Lodge made an incursion into UGLE’s home territory of London and claimed the freedom to work ‘the Mark Degree’.[ccxlvii] The agitation had significant implications and was resisted, but ambitious opportunists saw a weapon to use against White, whose removal they ‘assisted’ in 1855-56, by which time ‘the entire English Craft (was) in a state of insubordination and discontent’. [ccxlviii]
The two decades after White was removed have been described by a recent EF-scholar, Jim Daniel, as a period of ‘transformation of the Craft and the extra-Craft degrees and their relationships’. Other recent researchers have interpreted the period as a revitalisation, an awakening of the Order by more efficient, more forceful voices, many of them outside London. These researchers have used the ‘Mark Degree’ to symbolise the change but have not agreed about causation. Daniel has argued that long before his resignation in 1870, Zetland was surrendering influence to a younger group which included the later Lord Amherst, the Reverend Portal and the Tory MP, Lord Carnarvon: ‘Between 1856 and 1875 a small group of powerful, enthusiastic, youthful and – in the main – aristocratic Freemasons took control of Grand Lodge and shook it out of the torpor that had set in during its consolidation [after the Union].’ [ccxlix] Prescott has made anonymous ‘social forces’ the key cause of changes from 1856: ‘(The) Mark Grand Lodge was the product of a specific historical moment and of the immediate social and political crisis which characterised the years 1855-56. It reflected a broadly-based antagonism towards the old-fashioned, aristocratic and London-orientated values that were represented by men such as Zetland…’ [ccl] Prescott has also drawn a parallel between the criticisms of Grand Lodge in the new group’s paper, the Masonic Observer and Grand Lodge Chronicle, and broader dissatisfaction with the War Office: ‘In 1856, a new Masonic periodical was established…whose tone was perhaps the most acerbic of any…before or since, but which (reflected) the kind of rhetoric which was commonplace at the end of the Crimean War.’ [ccli] A third representative of this UGLE-sympathetic group, Newman, has credited a different periodical and different personnel: ‘In giving publicity to the affairs of Freemasonry and to the activities of Grand Lodge, (The Freemasons Magazine) was drawing attention to contemporary controversies and allowing a wider audience than the restricted circle of London Freemasonry to play a fuller part in the politics of the Craft.’ [cclii]
A perhaps disgruntled observer much closer to the action, the editor of The Masonic Examiner, in 1870 remembered a ‘takeover’, that he thought more pragmatic and less glamorous, by two separate groups: ‘…Somewhere about 1850 the Mark Degree was, again, coming into favour, and as the ceremony in ‘the hangman’s knot’ was and still is of the most meagre description, Brothers Henry George Warren and Hughes took it in hand and re-cast the ritual…A small knot of Conservatives…not seeing their way clearly to preferment did their best…to embarrass Grand Lodge and turn (it) into a veritable bear-garden…This ‘Observer Party’ ultimately made a dash at the Mark Degree and secured it.[ccliii] HG Warren [no relation to Sir Charles Warren, below] was first editor of the short-lived, The Freemason’s Magazine, but being less wealthy he changed his editorial line from critical to positive when Grand Lodge offered him a Prestonian Lectureship in 1859 and other opportunities to retrieve his financial position.[ccliv]
Born in 1830 at Grosvenor Square in London, Carnarvon was educated at Eton and Oxford, and was then appointed to various government positions mainly to do with ‘foreign affairs’, before becoming Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1866, at age 36. When he was absent from London or otherwise engaged, his neighbour, the Reverend George Portal, kept him informed about Masonic developments. The 4th Lord Carnarvon, he was only initiated into ‘the Craft’ in February 1856 aged 25, when his ‘Observer’ group confronted the leadership of UGLE with their new, superior view of EF. An unusual degree of co-ordinated organisation, rather than spontaneous enthusiasm, is apparent. Two lodges were formed and named after him in 1857, barely a year after he took his first step as an ‘Entered Apprentice’. His initiation was attended by Lords North and Amherst and enthusiastically remarked by the FM&MM: ‘It is a matter of sincere congratulation to the Craft that so talented a nobleman and practised a debater as the Earl of Carnarvon should have joined the Masonic body. His advent may be looked upon as giving hope of a new era in the conduct of the business of Grand Lodge.[cclv] Just 15 months later, he became Worshipful Master of the Westminster and Keystone Lodge, No 10, and ‘owing to the interest taken in the installation’, both GM Zetland and DGM Panmure attended, with numerous ‘Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge Masters’. For the banquet, attended by over two hundred people: ‘(Freemasons’ Hall) was most elegantly decorated for the occasion, with the choicest of flowers, and the most elegant vases and epergnes…’ (FM&MM, June, 1857, p.4) On this occasion, Carnarvon pointedly praised Zetland’s period in office, and was praised in return. UGLE’s dogmatic handling of Canadian Freemasonry’s move to independence in late-1855 gave the ambitious malcontents an issue on which to campaign for change.[cclvi] For the next three decades, in alliance with the Prince of Wales, Carnarvon’s was the most influential voice in English Freemasonry.
There were benefits for anyone attached to Carnarvon’s rising star, but the Reverend Portal was an enthusiastic EF before his younger ally and appears to have cleared the way for Carnarvon, rather than to have attached himself to that gentleman’s wagon as it passed.[cclvii] Portal entered into the ‘extra Craft’ degrees of the Knights Templar and of the A&A Rite not long after he joined the Craft in 1848. He was a High Church Anglican, and Daniel has remarked that the numerous priests of this faith who were following the same path at a time when Anglo-Catholicism was under attack ‘suggests that they were attracted by the ancient and “romantic” tradition… particularly by its relatively colourful ritual.’ [cclviii] Portal joined the Mark Degree, in 1856, in order, it seems, to participate in the inauguration of that rite’s Grand Lodge that year as part of a strategy of showing UGLE how a GL should be run. This GL of Mark Master Masons, followed UGLE’s example of regal leadership, Lord Leigh being its first GM, and Carnarvon its second, in 1860, just four years after his initiation.
The just-quoted ‘insider’ scholarship has made no criticism of Carnarvon or his immediate clique. Lesser mortals can be accused of ‘invention’ and of ‘being a law unto themselves’ but no such chicanery can, apparently, be attributed to the tallest of the poppies.[cclix] The first issue of The Masonic Observer , perhaps edited by Portal, was strategically astute, historically loose and overblown with self-importance: ‘…Among the circumstances which have imperilled English Freemasonry and have prevented a return to our ancient position of internal harmony and external credit, none have been more serious than the absence of the Country Lodges from the General Council of the craft…’ [cclx] [My emphases] The genuflection to EF’s assumption of an ancient heritage – ‘our ancient position of internal harmony’ – sits oddly alongside the assertion that the presence of Country Lodges in future Quarterly Assemblies would go a long way towards saving EF from its ‘imperilled’ position. The language in the statement of perils facing EF could have come from the War Office: ‘Our colonial dependencies are on the eve of dissolution, our foreign brethren are suffering persecution; disorganisation and misrule exist at home’. To my eye, none appear amenable to repair by an increase in the number of delegates.
Carnarvon’s role in Tory governments, to shape responses to colonial affairs, was evident in his first major speech to Grand Lodge. He repeatedly referred to ‘our colonial policy’ – Canadian lodges are ‘in rebellion’ and are only to be saved or ‘reprieved’ if they stay ‘loyal’, that is, remain under London’s control – as though independence from ‘Mother England’s’ loving embrace was akin to sudden death by execution. The alignment of EF politics with national politics had not been articulated so clearly before. The Canadian lodges might have a say in the selection of ‘their’ Provincial Grand Master, he asserted, but the MWGM should make the decision, for:‘(The) necessity (is) of maintaining the due dependence and allegiance of the Canadian lodges to the Grand Lodge of England. I wish to see the Grand Lodge the fountain of appeal – the source of our great policy, and the sole arbiter; I wish to see all the allegiance due to the Grand Lodge preserved, but I would surrender to the Provincial Grand Lodge all the minutiae of local business.’ The first Observer editorial ended on a note which in other hands would have sounded seditious: ‘A grave question remains: are those worthy to be entrusted with the supreme power, who first ruin our affairs, and then conspire against our liberties? Cannot an Executive be found who will be true to Grand Lodge?’ The group sought to break the grip of the metropole on UGLE, but it’s clear it didn’t want to see power of decision-making devolve any further than Grand Lodge. The assemblage of delegates must, of course, come to London to be heard and could be swayed by pomp and circumstance.
The coincidence of certain events in royal affairs with Carnarvon’s ascendancy in EF and his alliance with the youthful Prince of Wales (1841-1910) is significant. Before his death in 1861, Albert, the Prince Consort, was both deeply interested in politics and concerned that his wife’s naivety might allow the Cabinet to increase its prestige over the royal prerogatives he was keen to maintain. In attempting to be better informed and to better advise Victoria he became the target of criticism, much of it anonymous. To some, he was an inappropriate German influence, to others he was a secret and hostile manipulator of the government to which he had sworn loyalty. He was viciously attacked in 1853-54 over leaks of his ‘secret communications’ with foreign governments and with ‘his’ government’s diplomatic representatives abroad. In offering advice to key ambassadors he had, supposedly, undermined government policies, caused Lord Palmerston to be temporarily dismissed as Foreign Secretary and had delayed a forceful British response to Russian moves against Turkish possessions. News outlets in January 1854 were saturated with commentaries attacking ‘a distinguished personnage’ but, as though in passing, also attacked the government for a lack of war-readiness. For some, Albert was the stalking horse rather than the target. In the event, France and Britain declared war on Russia in March and halted its advances in the Crimea. The campaign which ended in 1856 was symbolized for many by the charge of the Light Brigade down the wrong valley.[cclxi] The reading public was, of course, not told that the Queen had her own surveillance networks for spying on her own children or that: ‘The marriage of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter to the future King of Prussia (had as its) main purpose to place a political agent and spy at the heart of the Prussian Court…’ [cclxii] Neither was it told that she was deeply enmeshed in Imperial politics and was constantly briefed about government espionage and counter-intelligence. The Queen’s Consort collided with the Scottish Masonic establishment in 1851 and again in 1861 when he accepted invitations to lay foundation stones of public buildings in Scotland. The GM, Duke Atholl, having failed to convince Albert of the benefits of being initiated had protested that ‘by ancient royal ordnances’ he, the GM, was the designated stone-layer of all public buildings ‘within the Scottish realm’. Albert had on both occasions ignored the protest.[cclxiii]
Numerous, overtly political articles appeared in the 1850’s, ’60’s and ‘70’s, in the pages of the three major EF periodicals operating in London, The Freemason, the Masonic Mirror, and the FM&MM, and all were narrowly partisan. Their coverage included regular ‘Reports from Parliament on Bills and Debates’. Simply headed, ‘Imperial Parliament’, 1850’s items included: ‘The Queen’s (opening) speech stated that Parliament was called together in order that its assistance measures might be taken for carrying on the war with vigour and effect. The exertions of the army and the navy hitherto had been beyond all praise…etc…’ [cclxiv] The UGLE-friendly Masonic scholars just quoted have had nothing to say about this phenomenon or about controversies of the time which probably made both the new and the old guard at GL uncomfortable, the opium trade, for example. This was a warm topic of discussion among Dissenters, Dean Trench in October 1857, railing about ‘the curse of India and the East India Company’s traffic in opium’ as the cause of troubles in England. It was a hideous fact, he preached, that ‘revenue was raised upon the vice, the misery, the degradation, in fact the ruin of the soul and body of a vast portion of the human race.’ In the same year, the Bishop of Victoria, in Manchester for a meeting of the Church Missionary Society, set out the full horror of the trade – the scorn for Chinese government wishes and law, the use of smugglers, the large scale bribery of district mandarins, and the complicity of the English/British government at all stages by virtue of BEIC involvement and the need to subsidise the costs of the Indian commissariat. There was also the effect on missionary work: ‘(On) the universal testimony of missionaries in China (opium) was declared to be most destructive to the health, the morals, the social prosperity, and the national resources of Chinese, (and) presenting a serious obstacle in the way of Christian Missions…reflecting discredit and reproach upon the Christian character of Great Britain, by whose complicity…that great evil was mainly promoted and upheld.’ He went on: ‘The opium system was so intermixed and interwoven with… legitimate commerce that…not a few members of (my) flock and personal friends in China, men of benevolent disposition and of the highest respectability in the private intercourse of social life, were implicated…’[cclxv] The editor of the Hereford Times knew why Indian service was so popular despite its drawbacks: ‘The East India Company were obliged to keep an enormous military establishment, and a large portion of their revenue went in giving high salaries for efficient European agents.’[cclxvi]
In the light of Carnarvon’s ‘Masonic Parliament’ as disclosed by Harland-Jacobs (above), it’s worth asking what Carnarvon’s options were for EF. He might have opened UGLE up to greater scrutiny, and encouraged unrestricted study. New areas of learning were being opened up in the non-Masonic world in what was, after all, ‘the Age of Discovery’ with high levels of public interest in regard to the curious, the scientific, the ‘modern’. In an age of industry, and of debates over everything from the origins of life to the possibilities of domestic furniture, Carnarvon might have invoked the original ‘Royal Society’ model and brought industrial/scientific experimentation back to lodges. Given his interest in the colonies and their progress towards ‘civilisation’ he might have encouraged the study of the different versions of ‘Freemasonry’. The possibility of pre-1717 ‘Freemasonry’ having evolved outside England was being discussed and he would have suffered no criticism if he had introduced this topic into his speeches. The brethren in the various ‘Statistical and Topographical Departments’ were being trained in languages other than English and pushed to understand ‘foreign’ cultures. The possibilities were endless, the potential rewards for him personally and for EF were enormous.
The evidence shows that he chose to do none of these things. He was a Conservative by birth, by training and by inclination. It’s not that he, or UGLE were un-interested in ‘current affairs’, they were vitally interested, but in uncontrolled learning they saw only threats to their privileged position. EF was to be protected, the brethren were not to be encouraged to explore and the interests of UGLE were what UGLE said they were. A library had been included in the constitution of an 1830’s ‘Grand Lodge Club’ proposal but the idea had failed to gain momentum. In June, 1865, with Zetland still GM, German scholar Findel urged establishment of a Masonic archive in London and was supported by Bro Cooke in the Freemasons Magazine and Masonic Mirror, [FM&MM]. An authoritative-sounding correspondent thundered: ‘MASONIC ARCHIVES AND MASONIC LIBRARY- I have read with deep interest the propositions of our learned Bro Matthew Cooke on these heads, but I can perceive very strong objections to these Jesuitical schemes, and looking to the present and prospective state of our funds, I think it is the duty of the Grand Lodge authorities to set their faces against such innovations.’ [cclxvii] A few weeks later the same pseudonymous writer expressed his opposition at greater length: ‘MASONIC ARCHIVES AND MASONIC LIBRARY – The more I think of these monstrous propositions of Bro Matthew Cooke, the more must I and every brother who is consistently opposed to innovations in Masonry object to them, as being calculated to produce very grave results, perhaps far beyond what the concocters themselves anticipate. To introduce anything new into Masonry must be regarded as next door to removing landmarks. To remove archives from the secrecy becoming our mystic Order, in which they have reposed for a century or half a century, and thereby reposed into landmarks, is to remove landmarks, and Grand Lodge ought to lift up its voice against such abuses…(etc over three pages)’ The outcome accorded with this writer’s apparent desire – UGLE did not ‘impose’ a library committee on EF, even to oversight its collection of ‘donations’. In this atmosphere, the long-standing use of spies in ‘the Holy Lands’, since Joshua, Herod and the rest, was not likely to surface.
What was founded in 1865 was the Victoria Institute, or Philosophical Society of Great Britain, a response to the publication of On the Origin of Species. It was, more generally, a response to the public’s supposedly uncritical acceptance of scientific pronouncements. Its objective was to defend “the great truths revealed in Holy Scripture … against the opposition of Science.” Its Aims and Objects included the founding of a Library and Reading Room, and began with
First: To investigate fully and impartially the most important questions of Philosophy and Science, but more especially those that bear upon the great truths revealed in Holy Scripture, with the view of reconciling any apparent discrepancies between Christianity and Science. [cclxviii]
Six other aims showed its primary concern was to emulate the methods of science in order to have theology taken as seriously as science and scientists were. Its first annual meeting attracted the Bishop of London, the Earl of Shaftsbury and Lord Argyll. In structure it was an approximation of what QC would later attempt. Annual Transactions, sent to members and ‘associate members’, up to 1874-75, included interpretations of Darwinism, the Geometry of Crystals, Metaphysics, and Scepticism. ‘People’s Editions’ were produced, priced 3d, on, for example, ‘Rules of Evidence and the Credibility of History’, ‘On Buddhism’ and ‘On the Principles of Modern Pantheistic and Atheistic Philosophy’. Others published separately included ‘Prehistoric Traditions and Customs in Connection with Sun and Serpent Worship’, and ‘A True Key to the Assyrian History, Sciences, and Religion’. This had as leading illustration, a drawing captioned ‘The Foundation of Freemasonry: The Word Upon the Cubical Stone.’ [cclxix] [My emphasis]
Much later, Charles Warren recalled a failed effort to establish a lodge ‘for prosecuting the science of Masonry’: ‘… In 1862 it was proposed to establish a lodge in the Royal Engineers, with very much the same design (as QC), but yielding to the advice of the Grand Secretary of that day the scheme was abandoned….[cclxx] In 1872 he tried again with the Masonic Archaeological Society, an off-shoot of the Masonic Archaeological Institute [MAI] which see below. Between those two attempts he was involved with the Palestine Exploration Fund [PEF].
The Palestine Exploration Fund
The ‘usual’ story of PEF is that it was set up explicitly to defend the Old Testament from attacks by ‘Higher Criticism’ said to be ‘undermining the concept of the historical veracity of the bible’. [cclxxi] It brought together academics, archaeologists and soldiers and provided a template of inter-connections that was duplicated in Lodge QC, two decades later. It is therefore the most interesting of the ‘learned societies’ which preceded EF’s first lodge of research. But among its other objectives, the PEF was a cover for government espionage which, in the context – Biblical veracity and myth-making – is not at all surprising.
The Archbishop of York chaired the first, public meeting, on 22 June, 1865. The original idea, in fact, came from the Dean of Westminster and was broad in scope, seeking to provide factual information in the areas of archaeology, manners and customs, demographics, languages and other related areas. The Dean, Arthur Stanley, was already a controversial figure and when, in April, 1865 the first press notices about the PEF appeared, they all began by quoting from ‘a paper’ for which they gave no author. The publicity information argued the need for funds to carry out research in ‘the Holy Land’ and said that an influential committee had already been formed and a secretary, George Grove, appointed.[cclxxii] Clearly, other meetings had been held but who was behind it? Press reports mentioned two prior events that had relevance.
One was a survey ‘on the surface’ at Jerusalem recently completed by ‘Captain Wilson, RE’ and party, financed by ‘the private liberality of a single person’. The second event was the visit by the Prince of Wales to a mosque at Hebron, which visit, it was said, had ‘removed a centuries-old barrier to the entrance of Christians’ and which had ‘thrown open the whole of Syria to Christian research.’ The financial backer of Wilson’s work was perhaps Baroness Burdett Coutts, who was reportedly keen to improve sanitary conditions in Jerusalem, or perhaps it was the recently-appointed Dean Stanley, who had accompanied the Prince to Syria. An immediate precedent seems to have been an ‘Assyrian Excavation Fund’ which in 1863 had been set up with public funds with Prince Albert as its patron and a subscriber. In that year, Stanley had been elected to the Royal Society, been ‘appointed by the Crown’ to the deanery at Westminster and had married Lady Bruce, the sister of Lord Elgin, then Governor-General of India. Briefing notes from the ‘Topographical Department’ of the War Office revealed the confluence of interests: ‘An accurate contoured survey of Jerusalem and its neighborhood being considered necessary for the purpose of carrying out certain projected works for improving the sanitary state of the city, and also for the proper discussion of many interesting questions connected with its ancient topography, the Dean of Westminster, on the part of the Bishop of London and other philanthropic persons applied to the Secretary of State for War for a party of non-commissioned officers and sappers from the Ordnance Survey to be allowed to make the required survey, stating at the same time that he was prepared to pay the cost of the survey.’ [cclxxiii] The RS and the RGS having voted GBP100 each to the costs, Lord de Grey at the War Office ‘consented’ to their request, whereupon ‘Captain Wilson, RE with three non-commissioned officers and two sappers’ had been sent out in September, 1864. Wilson’s was a rising star but not in Biblical archaeology or EF. Born 1836, educated in Liverpool and then at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, CW Wilson was commissioned as an officer in the RE’s in 1855. In 1858, he was selected to be secretary of the sensitive North American Boundary Commission set up to define and map the Canadian-US borders and thus secure the Dominion of Canada against possible annexation from the south. The PEF was founded while he was in Palestine and when he returned, the PEF Committee engaged him to carry out a ‘feasibility study’ for a proposed Survey of Western Palestine and to identify suitable sites for future exploration. In November 1865, his party landed in Beirut and surveyed their way south to Palestine, planning the Great Mosque of Damascus along the way. From January to April 1866, he carried out reconnaissance and survey work in Palestine, paying particular attention to the archaeology and ancient synagogues of the region. One report notes that the collected intelligence provided ‘the making of about fifty maps’ with ‘detailed drawings’ of ‘churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and tombs, etc’. [cclxxiv] Below the surface of Jerusalem he gave his own name to ‘Wilson’s Arch’. In 1866, he was appointed to the Ordnance Survey of Scotland and, in 1867 he joined the PEF Committee. In 1868, he ‘volunteered’ to take part in an Ordnance Survey of Sinai with a ‘Capt. H.S. Palmer’. Their report contains chapters on the route of the Israelites and the prehistoric and Byzantine archaeology of the region.
In 1870, as newly-promoted Director of the Topographical Department and Assistant Quartermaster-General in the Intelligence Department, he was invited by Gladstone’s reforming Secretary of State for War, Cardwell, to suggest ‘the best means’ of turning the Topographical Department to ‘the greatest account.’ Viscount Cardwell, was in the process of abolishing flogging in the army and otherwise raising the status of the private soldier. In 1870 he abolished ‘bounty money’ for recruits and discharged known bad characters from the ranks. He pulled 20,000 soldiers out of self-governing colonies, like Canada, which learned they had to defend themselves. Accepted by an especially-convened committee chaired by Lord Northbrook, then Under-Secretary for War: ‘Captain Wilson’s memorandum of 30 April, 1870 ranks as one of the most significant documents in the history of British military intelligence. Only two pages long, this extraordinary memorandum was concise yet comprehensive…’ [cclxxv] Disturbed by the easy German victory over France which was happening as he wrote, Wilson provided the impetus for moving military intelligence to the next level by critiquing what then existed within the WO and urging renovation in the ‘three major functions of intelligence work at the strategic and tactical levels: collection, processing/analysis, and dissemination/reporting.’ In 1873, ‘his’ Department became the ‘Intelligence Branch of the War Office’ headed by Major-General Sir Patrick MacDougall: ‘Until at least 1886, the planning/operational element of the Branch’s work was secondary in importance and at times almost insignificant compared to its intelligence role.’ (TF, 1984, p.47)
In an 1870 talk to the Royal Institution of Great Britain, (then) Captain Wilson, RE, gave the official version of how PEF surveys had evolved as a synthesis of academia, Church and State: ‘The project of a systematic survey of the Peninsular of Mount Sinai, with special reference to the Mosaic record of the Exodus, owes its origin to the Rev. Pierce Butler, late Rector of Ulcombe, Kent…(A) fund was raised…The sanction of the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for War was obtained, and the Survey was carried out under the direction of Col. Sir H James, RE., Director-General of the Ordnance Survey…’ [cclxxvi] ‘Sir H James’ was then Wilson’s boss and chief intelligence officer. In its report of this talk, FM&MM identified Wilson as a ‘Brother’ and explained that, with other REs, ‘his’ party included a Reverend Holland ‘who had already paid three visits to the Peninsular, and spent many months wandering over it on foot’, a ‘Mr Palmer’ who was a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge and ‘well-known for his extensive knowledge of Eastern languages’ and a ‘Mr Wyatt, who at his own expense, accompanied the party as Naturalist’.
‘Mr Palmer’ aka ‘Professor’ EH Palmer, of the British Syrian Exploration Fund, at Cambridge University, was another EF.[cclxxvii] In 1873, a paper of his, on ‘Secret Sects in Syria’, was published in the PEF Quarterly Review. In his version of the Sinai journey he thanked his brother, ‘Captain HE Palmer of the Royal Engineers’ and exposed its clandestine aspect: ‘…We were dressed in Arab fashion; but, except in places where such concealment was absolutely necessary, we made no secret of our European appurtenances.’ (p.389).[cclxxviii] Charles Warren was in the audience for Wilson’s talk, having returned home in 1870 with reports for PEF and a long-term proposal for the “Holy Land”. He suggested that it be placed under the supervision of a company, modelled after the East India Company, for twenty years. The company would guarantee to pay the Ottoman government in Constantinople a sum equivalent to the current tax income of Palestine and would pay the government’s creditors a portion of the interest that was due. The company’s task would be to settle Jews in the country, step by step, so that Palestine would ultimately come under their ownership and control.
Walter Besant, 1836-1901, who went on to help found QC, became PEF Secretary in 1868 and remained until 1895, solidly-anchoring it as the major connection between EF and the WO. His role included co-ordination of the web of ‘operatives’ working in Palestine. He later expressed the PEF’s ‘profound gratitude to the War Office for granting the services of the Royal Engineers, (in particular) Sir Charles Wilson…Sir Charles Warren (and) Captain Conder, for fifteen long years the chief prop and mainstay of the Society; he is par excellence the Surveyor of the Holy Lands.’ The RE’s skills were essential to the PEF: ‘(The Royal Engineers were) men whose official position and professional reputation, as well as the methods of research which they adopted, place their reports beyond question. In retrospect, the PEF considered: The conduct of the principal part of the work by officers of the Royal Engineers has effectually ensured (our) object…’ Since the reverse was also the case – the PEF was essential to the work of the RE’s and to military intelligence more generally – the procedure of having both secret and public reports continued. Warren was sent to Dover to command the 10th Company of Royal Engineers, and was not part of the ‘large-scale survey of the whole country’ for which the PEF employed the third RE named by Besant, above, Claude Reignier Conder, (1848-1910)
Seconded in the usual way and put in charge of this survey he worked with Charles Tyrwhitt Drake (1846-74), described in the Dictionary of National Biography (Vol 15) as a ‘naturalist and explorer in the Holy Land’. Youthful asthmatic bouts had allowed him time to pursue draughting skills and to learn Arabic. Having built up his physique, he passed the winters of 1866–7 in Morocco, the winter of 1868 in Egypt and the following spring in the Sinai. Here he met Wilson and the ‘Sinaitic Ordnance Survey’ and subsequently visited the places they had mapped. After a few months in England he returned in 1869 with ‘Professor Palmer’ to explore on foot an area from the Canal through the desert of the Tih, the Negeb, from the mountains on the west side of the Arabah, to the previously unknown parts of Edom and Moab. After visiting Palestine, Syria, Greece, and Turkey, he returned to England, but in 1870, he investigated for the PEF the inscribed stones at the biblical site of Hamáh. With the Burtons he then trekked through the volcanic regions to the east of Damascus, and the highlands of Syria. For the next two years he worked with Conder for the PEF. He is recorded as ‘Acting Secretary’ in 1873 of the ‘Royal Solomon Mother Lodge, No 293’ which was chartered at Rob Morris’s request by the Grand Lodge of Canada to meet in Jerusalem. The Charter had been previously refused by numerous jurisdictions including the USA and England. In 1872 Drake wrote: ‘I can only say that it would be a most splendid thing if the [Ottoman] government could overcome its aversion to selling land to foreigners. With the right guarantees, a great portion of this land [Palestine] would find a favorable market, and then the peasants [read Arabs] now there would either be cleared away or transformed into useful members of society, while the increased income of the Turkish government would be very considerable.’ [cclxxix] He died on 23 June 1874 at Jerusalem from an infection. The book of his work with the Burtons, Unknown Syria, was published in 1872. Walter Besant published a memoir, the Literary Remains of Charles T Drake, in 1877 with an ‘Introduction’ by the Burtons.[cclxxx] After Drake’s death, Conder had the support of a school friend, ‘Lieutenant Kitchener’ who he influenced to learn Hebrew.
An earlier influence on the younger man had been a Captain RH Williams, from Chatham’s ‘School of Military Engineering’: ‘As they talked, rode and worshipped together, Kitchener came to love more ritual and to give a higher place to the Eucharist.’ Williams was a High Churchman. ‘Ferment in the Church of England over vestments, incense and lights had led to a Royal Commission which had ruled against many of the pre-Reformation practices which were being re-introduced by the Oxford Movement, to which Kitchener became an enthusiastic adherent.’ He was initiated into an Anglican ‘Guild of the Holy Standard’, was sent to Aldershot where he dined with the Elphinstones, and sometimes with ‘Chinese’ Gordon, who was about to be Viceroy of the Sudan with ‘powers greater than those of the Viceroy of India.’ [cclxxxi] Kitchener was sent to map Cyprus and to Asia Minor with CW Wilson before joining Conder. ‘Mapping Ottoman Palestine with Bible, theodolite, compass and spade’, Conder and Kitchener produced enough publishable material for eight bestselling volumes. Among their finds was a ‘crucial’ piece of evidence in the search for proofs of the Bible’s veracity. This was a wall inscription, found in 1881, and reconstructed by the Reverend Sayce, a co-founder of the PEF, who from this point became the megaphone for the PEF cause. [cclxxxii]
Besant, trained as for the church, became a mathematics teacher, had retired sick and begun a writing career. Beside novels, he prepared all of PEF’s publications, wherein he espoused the Society’s claim to be applying ‘the scientific method’: ‘It is, in fact, in recognition of these principles that the work has always been carried on. These [principles] were:
* That whatever was undertaken should be carried out on scientific principles.
* That the Society should, as a body, abstain from controversy.
*That it should not be started, nor should it be conducted, as a religious society’. .[cclxxxiii] Besant explained that: ‘The object of the first law was to ensure that the results of enquiry and exploration, whatever they might prove, should commend from the world the same acceptance as a new fact reported from a physical laboratory, and that the work should be faced in the same spirit of fearless investigation into the truth as obtains in scientific research.’ Nullifying these assertions, at least as far as the religious basis of EF was concerned, the work’s conclusions were in place before research had begun: ‘The Palestine Exploration Fund was founded in 1865, for the sole purpose of ELUCIDATING AND ILLUSTRATING THE BIBLE.’ [cclxxxiv] [Emphasis in original] Echoing Oliver’s resolution of the EF dilemma, it claimed Christian faith and the Bible would be proven by more, not less rigour: ‘It was proposed to effect this by a systematic exploration of the Holy Land, by excavation, by the collection of the traditions, manners, and customs of the people, and by an exhaustive research into the natural history, meteorology and geology of the country, the whole to be conducted under the direction of a Committee entirely un-denominational.’ [My emphasis]
The Rev Oliver died in 1867 and avoided the nasty ‘Sensation Novels’ which in that year proved that pandering to public thirst for oddities could be commercially viable. They played on mass fears of the unknown and on a willingness to be sexually titillated while questioning the place and nature of religion. They were one form a freed-up information industry might take. In 1867, too, ‘Historicus’, Henry Melville, complained to the Editor of FM&MM that little had altered within EF with regard to ‘scientific history’: ‘…Masonic archaeology is at the present a standing reproach to our Order, and we seem to grow no wiser by the lapse of time, but parrot-like to repeat those time-honored, if mythic, claims to antiquity which are valueless, and worse than valueless, if not based on historical evidence.[cclxxxv] Fittingly, in 1867, (Charles) Warren was commissioned to follow up the Wilson expedition by proving the prevailing theory, known as ‘Ferguson’s’, ‘beyond any doubt’ but as Besant later recalled: ‘…From the very first his excavations went against (Fergusson)…He showed that the Haram Area [which Fergusson had claimed was the site of ‘the Temple’] was surrounded and contained by a huge wall…(The) rock-levels of the Haram Area…proved that the south-west corner was a steep slope…(The) followers of Fergusson were not discouraged. These new difficulties were added to the old, and the theory was still accepted…’ [cclxxxvi] Not yet thirty, Warren was described in 1868 as ‘modest but thoroughly educated and indefatigable’ by US author, Freemason and wealthy, amateur archaeologist, Rob Morris.[cclxxxvii] In his first address to QC, Warren expressed his pleasure that he had participated in a lodge ‘under the Temple’ in, he thought, 1869.[cclxxxviii] More likely in 1868, this gathering could not have been less regular and there were no follow-up meetings. Morris was regarded by UGLE as highly irregular having been involved with the Order of Mithraim and with having founded a ‘vicious Order’ called ‘The Conservators’. Nevertheless, Warren’s work continues to be respectfully mentioned by today’s archaeologists. [cclxxxix] Besant praised it in the 1875 book for the PEF, Our Work in Palestine : ‘So long as an interest in the modern history of Jerusalem remains, so long as people are concerned to know how sacred sites have been found out, so long will the name of Captain Warren survive.’ [ccxc] The survey maps, the sketches of buildings, military or not, and the apparently mundane information about weather, wells, plants and animals, customs and languages were all grist to the espionage mills.
The Masonic Archaeological Institute
Early in 1869, a report in The Building News backgrounded another initiative, the Masonic Archaeological Institute [MAI] while providing a brief reference to an even earlier, unsuccessful initiative: ‘Some quarter of a century ago there was a society formed called the Society of the Freemasons of the Church, for the study of mediaeval freemasonry and buildings. It included several professional men of standing, most of them not Freemasons, and held several meetings but had only a brief existence.’ [ccxci] The first meeting of the MAI, in 1869, was held at Freemasons Hall in London, and was addressed by Bro Hyde Clarke who has claimed credit for the idea.[ccxcii] Already a celebrated engineer, author, editor and philologist, Hyde Clarke is someone about whom more should be known.[ccxciii] The MAI had the nominal support of the Building Committee of UGLE, which apparently sought ‘to give more intellectual vigour to Freemasonry’ by exploring the recent past. The proposed curriculum was broader than ‘mediaeval freemasonry and buildings’, and included: ‘…mediaeval architecture and guilds, secret societies, Templarism, gnostic symbols, the mysteries of ancient initiation, and the wide range of symbolism in all ages…’ One observer of this meeting in February 1869 noted that: ‘Grand Lodge, which has been sluggish, has opened a Library to its members, and another Masonic body, the Supreme Council, has formed a curious library in Golden-Square…’ The apparent change in attitude towards book learning was being stimulated by competition for recognition within EF which is discussed below. The same reporter went on: ‘Although the membership of the Institute is restricted to Freemasons, it is not conducted as a Masonic organisation, but as a simple literary society on the same basis as the other archaeological associations with an annual subscription of half a guinea. Transactions will be issued of such papers as are considered suitable for publication…The society contemplates the formation of collections of books, MSS, prints, drawings, paintings, charters, seals and of all illustrations of the objects of their researches.’ John Yarker, of whom more below, later claimed to have been a member in 1869,[ccxciv] while Woodford and Besant and perhaps Hughan were also involved. Another within QC’s founding circle, Simpson, was involved ‘about the year 1871’. Simpson remembered that it had been formed ‘with the same objects in view’ as the later QC. Documents he provided showed that its original organisational approach was close to that of the VI, with vice-regal Patron and a numerous Council, and that: ‘The Object of this Society is the advancement of those branches of Archaeological knowledge and research which, either directly or indirectly bear upon Masonry.’ [ccxcv] Importantly, MAI documents dated 1872 show a significant change in emphasis. ‘Freemasonry’ had become the first priority, not ‘knowledge and research which …bear upon’ as previously: ‘The object of this Society is to promote the interests and to elevate the standing of Freemasonry, by systematic and scientific investigations into the early history of the Craft, and the origin and meaning of Masonic symbols, rites and traditions.’ Use of the terms ‘systematic and scientific’ again might be presumed to invoke the rigour of objectivity, but as the document shows, unexamined conclusions were now made the beginning point for research, thus nullifying the exercise as far as ‘objectivity’ was concerned: ‘Hitherto, there has been a wide-spread uncertainty among Masons as to the antiquity of the order; and it is to be lamented that, in many instances, the spare funds of the members, instead of being devoted to the promotion of the interests of the Craft, have been absorbed in convivialities…
As it is believed that the memorials of Freemasonry scattered throughout the world, in the form of ethnic tradition and symbolism, are of greater antiquity than the most ancient historical monuments, it is proposed to have papers read and published on the following…
* The connection of Freemasonry with the religion and symbols of primeval men.
* The connection of Masonic symbols with the astronomical systems, and with mythical or pre-historic chronology.
* Traces of Freemasonry in the traditions, symbols, religious rites, and systems of initiation among existing races of savages.
* Connection of Masonic symbolism with the primeval traditions of our race respecting Paradise and the Deluge.
* Connection of Masonic symbolism with the sacred structures of all ages.
It went on to claim: ‘…As the Masonic Archaeological Institute is the only body of its kind in existence, it is intended, if possible, to extend its operations to every portion of the globe where craft Masonry is practised, especially throughout the Colonies. A volume of Transactions will be published, and will be forwarded, post free, to the members annually.’ This model provided the bulk of QC’s later template, including its unexamined assumptions. Only MAI’s lack of ‘lodge status’ was regretted in a subsequent response to AQC by Besant: ‘…The Society languished…chiefly, I believe, for want of the cohesive and attractive power of a Lodge which it never became…I have always felt…that there is an immense amount of information…which could be collected and put together from a Masonic point of view. It was this conviction…which also made me join the Quatuor Coronati, which you [Speth] are rapidly developing into the kind of Institute which I…thought to make of (the Institute).'[My emphasis] [ccxcvi]
The reference to a ‘Masonic point of view’ coincided with EF outbursts against French Masonry (below). It is also the point in time when the word ‘archaeology’ began to appear in the Masonic periodical literature as synonym for ‘history’.[ccxcvii] When in 1888 Simpson boasted of his place in the QC founding group it was in terms of continuity, not innovation: ‘…We have, I am delighted to say, passed the initial stage of uncertainty, our scheme of a Masonic Archaeological Lodge is already established on a sure footing, and we now look to the future…’ [ccxcviii] and of AQC : ‘Our publication has become an important journal of Masonic Archaeology…’ In almost all cases, where the word was used by these men, Middle Eastern or Biblical diggings were meant.
Warren at his 1886 Installation dinner recalled how he was involved with what would appear to be an attempt to revive the MAI, perhaps even to use a lodge format for it: ‘…In 1873, with our Treasurer Bro [Walter] Besant and others, I endeavoured to form a Masonic (Archaeological) Society by means of which papers on Masonic subjects might be read and printed, but this project also had to be given up.’ [ccxcix]
Carnarvon and EF Declare War
It will seem a long bow to argue a link between an internal spat in an ‘irregular rite’ in the southern United States and London’s home of EF. It will seem an unacceptable stretch to locate both in global geo-politics. Years of context-free ‘Masonic history’ have rendered any politics-to-EF linkages invisible, but an extraordinary period in the history of EF, melodramatic and over-wrought in many ways, now results in its separation from its imperial partner and the exposure of both to the realisation that they had over-reached and were falling back to earth.
When in March, 1869, RW Little, ‘second clerk and cashier’ in the office of his uncle John Hervey, UGLE’s Grand Secretary, began editing The Freemason, he saw a call to arms.[ccc] The publisher, ‘with the sanction of the Earl of Zetland, MWGM of England’ was George Kenning, an ambitious printer and regalia-maker. On the surface the magazine was a remarkable departure for UGLE, but it was one which cost that body no effort, financial or other. Within a year it had doubled in size and claimed a circulation of half a million readers a year, and though this claim is impossible to verify, its success was obvious and its influence as the apparently sanctioned voice of UGLE was great. Whether Little, Hervey or UGLE as a whole had initiated the venture is unknown but it had been launched to meet a threat and the auguries were good.
A seemingly innocuous Masonic event had occurred in 1868. The Grand Orient of France (GOF) had recognised the ‘Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of the State of Louisiana’, a body in competition with and therefore not recognised by the ‘Grand Lodge of (Northern) Louisiana’ [GLL], already in place. The GOF action constituted a violation of Masonic conventions relating to territorial jurisdiction, but the GLL was most upset by the new body admitting men ‘regardless of race or colour’ something it was not prepared to do. In 1869, the GOF ruled that no colour, race or religion should be used to disqualify a candidate for initiation. The GLL withdrew recognition from the GOF, and called on other American Grand lodges to do the same.
Racial discrimination in the US remained hugely-divisive in the wake of the Civil War, 1861-65. Numerous fraternities were splitting along ‘colour lines’. Adherence to Enlightenment values might have put EF on the side of the angels in the parallel debate rolling through Europe, but a complacent UGLE chose to maintain its backward-looking stance, and to deny reason and common sense. Was not its international reach proof that it was vitally alive and secure from competitors? Did it not have the support and mutual respect of the greatest empire the world had ever seen? The incongruous mix of Bible and Empire provided rhetorical justification but in the steaming boiler room strategic considerations and personal interests were delivering increased amounts of colour and movement and diminishing amounts of usable power. EF was like the British Army which was now in the hands of a man whose contribution has been retrospectively summarised: ‘Deeply devoted to the old Army, he worked with the Queen to defeat or minimise every reform proposal, such as setting up a general staff. His Army became a moribund and stagnant institution lagging far behind France and Germany. Its weaknesses were dramatically revealed by the poor organisation at the start of the Second Boer War’ (1899-1902)’ [ccci] Prescott has noted that The Freemason ‘was closely linked to the more conservative wing of English Freemasonry’ and that: ‘The enthusiasms of the editors and publisher…are apparent from the long series of articles… (seeking) to demonstrate that the Anglo-Saxons were a lost tribe of Israel and that the British Empire was the fulfilment of the divine mission of the chosen people.[cccii]
UGLE was beset by a pincer movement for which it was unprepared. Internally, it was being pressured to re-define ‘Freemasonry’, externally, its claim to be ‘the Premier Freemasonry’ and therefore to be the adjudicator and guiding hand in disputes between ‘sub-branches’ was being threatened. In the Middle East, in particular, its involvement with imperial policy meant it was having to wrangle feisty, recalcitrant ‘Freemasonries’ which it really didn’t want even to acknowledge. Jurisdictions in the colonies, in the USA and France were claiming Masonic independence to match their political revolutions.
Alongside ‘the Craft’ and the recently ‘regularised’ Mark degrees, brethren in other Orders and Degrees were chafing under the euphemisms used to describe their ambiguous status – terms like ‘unrecognised’, ‘irregular’ and ‘fringe’. Little and a friend, WJ Hughan, were not put off by the confusion but had thrown themselves into learning about as many of these off-shoots as possible and had enthusiastically joined the agitation for their ‘regularisation’. Initiated an EF in 1863 at age 22, Hughan collected Bibles and quickly established a reputation around the magazine as ‘the expert’ historian. ‘(Within) 4 years of his initiation (he) had been advanced in the Mark (Degree), Perfected in the Rose Croix, Exalted in the Holy Royal Arch, Installed as a Knight Templar, Admitted into the Rosicrucian Society, Advanced and Promoted in the Royal Order of Scotland, and Installed in the Red Cross of Constantine.[ccciii] Little’s first issue provided his full address as presiding ‘Sir Knight’ and President of the re-established Palatine Preceptory of Instruction, Order of Knights of the Red Cross and Constantine, an Order he is credited with having revived in 1865. His publisher, Kenning was among the ‘Knight-Companions’ in his audience as he made his address, in the process provoking brethren from other chivalric Orders. In a tangle of distraught logic and fanciful assertions which, journalistically, ought to have resulted in his immediate sacking, Little claimed that he regarded ‘Freemasonry as a pure system of ethics which contains every element that can constitute real greatness and goodness in life…’ His major conclusion alluded to the crisis which had aroused him: ‘…I will not attempt to deny that designing men may have abused the privileges of Freemasonry by inventing pseudo Masonic degrees, which reflected disgrace upon Christianity by preaching a spirit of intolerance and fulminating anathemas on all who were outside the narrow boundaries of their belief. But that such an objection can be sustained against degrees originating in England amongst the founders of modern Freemasonry and now practiced by English Masons I cannot for a moment believe…’ [ccciv] [Emphases in original]
It’s not clear to which degrees he was referring. The 1813 Act of Union had set down a base definition of EF – ‘Freemasonry’ was to consist of three Craft degrees and the Royal Arch Degree [RA]. The RA was an inducement to ‘the Antients’ to agree to the settlement but it was also a favourite with many on the gentry-EF negotiating panel. There were three other major reasons which made even this compromise impractical: it had a large, built-in, loop-hole; there were other degrees and Orders operating which had influential members; and the demarcations between those defined ‘in’ and those defined ‘out’ were not clear. As its footnotes have faded from memory, the importance of this agreement has been exaggerated. It did end over half a century of dis-union and did seem to provide a clear-cut, enforceable situation, namely that UGLE was bound never to regularise any other Orders or degrees in the future. However, the loop-hole – that UGLE agreed it would not prohibit the continued working of chivalric degrees – meant the declaration was immediately undermined and was never stable. A half century on and the 1813 decision was null and void.
Hughan’s curiosity and his comparative openness led him to publicise some relevant history as a new compromise was taking shape: ‘…We are told that the (Christian ‘Red Cross Knights of Palestine’ Degree) was patronised during last century by several excellent Masons, whose connection with Freemasonry was of much value to the institution. Bros. James Galloway (one of the chief promoters of Royal Arch Masonry under the ‘Moderns’), James Heseltine (Past Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary) William White [Senior, Grand Secretary from 1780, succeeded by his son]… (and) HRH the Duke of Sussex (who) was installed “Grand Master for and during his natural life.”…[cccv] Hughan had discovered that Sussex had contemplated reform of the confusion of degrees by bringing together all but one of the Chivalric Orders. He had intended issuing a warrant ‘empowering the Red Cross Knights of Palestine’ to work ‘all the inferior degrees in Masonry, except the RA and Templars.’ [My emphasis] This would have resulted in an EF with only two entities, ‘the Craft’ and ‘the Red Cross Knights’ and would have prevented incursion by ‘foreign’ rituals such as the A&A Rite. Hughan revealed: ‘…For our part, we are no enthusiastic admirer of Masonic Chivalric degrees at all, and although a member of many, would join in voting their funds to be devoted to the charities of the Craft, and their meetings be at an end, provided a greater interest would be taken in purely Craft Masonry, and our charitable institutions be more generally supported than they are…’ [Emphasis in original]
To end the new wave of unrest the Reverend Portal, Hughan and some others advocated amalgamation of all into a ‘Council’ but insisted that it was up to ‘the irregulars’ to come up with a resolution: ‘…There ought to be no antagonism between Orders which profess to have kindred objects, and which are supposed to be swayed by similar principles. We go further, we say there must not be – and if the degrees which are at present unrecognised in England cannot speedily arrive at a definite alliance between themselves, it will be the most remarkable proof of their inanity ever provided…’ [cccvi] [Emphases in original] No public guidance came from UGLE, but Hughan urged that ultimate power remain with that entity: ‘In order to prevent any subsequent institution or “revival” of other degrees, it would be well to secure from (Craft) Grand Lodge the power to prevent any other degrees being worked…than those sanctioned, on pain of certain penalties for disobedience; and thus without actually recognising any degree beyond the Craft, the Grand Lodge may virtually be of great weight and service in promoting union, regularity, and progression as in Ireland.’ [cccvii] Hostility was apparent between purist ‘Craft’ brethren, who thought the 1813 agreement should be maintained, and advocates for a broader definition. Greater hostility was manifested by supporters of ‘the Scottish Rite’ who apparently believed that, at the very least, its significance would be diminished by acceptance of other rites into the circle. Hughan in response said: ‘…that no Supreme Council of the 33# [ie, the A&A Rite] would ever have been suffered in England during the life-time of the Duke, and accordingly, no such body was established – (until it came about)… under American authority (in) December 1845……The fact is, that the introduction of the fantastic degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite into England dislocated and destroyed the Ancient York working, which comprised everything that is really interesting in the pseudo-Scottish rite…’
In July, of 1870, Little listed the advantages he believed were to be gained from ‘a federation of the various Masonic jurisdictions in England’ – ‘more regularity in conferring the degrees’, ‘better discipline…in each of the bodies’ and ‘unquestionably powerful’ influence through united action ‘on any point.’ These advantages are all political in nature and are all directed at greater conformity and predictability, while sanctioning entry of all the rites being ‘worked’, whether ‘regular’ or not. He claimed to have founded the ‘Ancient and Primitive Rite of Misraim in England’, the inaugural meeting of which at the Freemasons’ Tavern, was attended by between eighty and one hundred brethren. Misraim, like Memphis was in Egypt. The Earl of Limerick, society artist, Sigismund Rosenthall and Little occupied the three principal chairs. Other meetings being held to produce ‘mutual treaties of alliance’ between the strongest contenders for regularisation included, as delegates from ‘the Red Cross of Constantine Order’, Little, Hughan and GS Hervey, while members of the ‘Observer’ group can be perceived representing ‘the Grand Lodge of Mark Masters’.[cccviii]
The signed conventions rendering what previously had been ‘irregular’ into ‘not-irregular but not recognised Masonry’ were made public in July 1871. Little made the most of the new compromise: ‘…By a mutual arrangement and understanding between the various governing bodies, the formation of petty Masonic jurisdictions in future will be effectually checked, and the unseemly spectacle will no longer be presented to the Craft of the assumption of high-sounding designations and supreme authority by men whose neglected education and inferior social position utterly unfit them for any but the most subordinate station.’ [cccix] [My emphasis] Further sense of the agreements can be gained from Clause V of the ‘Convention between the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, the Supreme Grand Chapter 33#, and the United Orders of the Temple and Hospital’: ‘V. All judgements, decrees or sentences shall be communicated to the supreme authorities of all the contracting parties, and shall be valid and executory without question or further process, and no appeal, error or review shall lie against such judgements, decrees or sentences, which shall ipso facto become the judgement, decree or sentence of all the parties hereto.’ Under the arrangements, each of the constituent elements could claim to be standing alone while being actually dependent on UGLE in so far as the Craft degrees were the mandatory requirement before enrolment in any of the others. Almost immediately there were repercussions.
Yarker was dismissed from the A&A Rite for promoting rites that had lost out in the scramble and were to remain ‘irregular’.[cccx] One of his critics defended his assertion of ‘Freemasonry’s’ general lack of democracy: ‘…Bro Yarker objects to (his) expulsion on the ground that the Supreme Council, 33# [of the A&A Rite] is a self-elected body, and lays down the dictum that it is usually good Masonic law that the governed should have some voice in the election of high functionaries. Perhaps Bro Yarker will tell us what part Craft Masons have in the election of their Provincial Grand Masters, what power they possess in the election of Grand Officers and Provincial Grand Officers; and what voice the general body of Craft Masons have, except by delegation, in the election of the WM Grand Master.’ [cccxi] Yarker claimed the Supreme Council of the A&A had no ‘accrediting diploma, (only) the self-created function of receiving fees.’ This critic sneered at the low fees charged by Yarker and his colleagues in their ‘irregular’ operations: ‘The (Supreme) Council derives its charter from the Supreme Grand Council, Northern Jurisdiction, United States, which charter can be seen by any member of the high degrees, at the offices of the SC, No 33#, Golden Square London.
In a similar situation, Little had the more useful connections. In 1871, he conducted a rite, believed to have been the Rite of Misraim, in the GL building whereupon professional musician and sometime scholar, Bro Matthew Cooke, charged him as a part of GL with having ‘a conflict of interest.’ Allegations of corruption against all office workers of UGLE quickly became part of the exchanges. Cooke’s purpose can be better appreciated through his tabled resolution: ‘That whilst this Grand Lodge recognises the private right of every brother to belong to any extraneous Masonic organisation he may choose, it firmly forbids, now and at any future time, all brethren, while engaged as Salaried Officials under this Grand Lodge to mix themselves up in any way with such bodies as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; the Rites of Mizraim and Memphis; the Spurious orders of Rome and Constantine; the schismatic body styling itself the Grand Mark Lodge of England, or any other exterior Masonic organisation whatever (even that of the Order of Knights Templar…) under the pain of immediate dismissal from employment by this Grand Lodge.’ [cccxii] In the heated, lengthy but ultimately inconclusive debate which ensued, the Reverend Woodford chose to describe Cooke, initially without naming him, as ‘a bedlamite’ who had run amuck ‘like a hog in armour’ and who had chosen to pour ‘the torrent of his foul, though imbecile, anathemas upon the heads of honourable men.’[cccxiii] When he did name Cooke, it was to further calumniate him: ‘Under ordinary circumstances, we should pass over, with deserved contempt the utterances of Bro Matthew Cooke upon any question affecting Freemasonry but, in the interests of truth and justice, we are compelled – though with loathing and disgust – to analyse the mass of verbiage, yclept his ‘speech’ at the last Quarterly Communication…’ [cccxiv] UGLE’s own Board of General Purposes investigated and found only a minor charge proved against Little. Whether he was pushed or jumped is not clear but Woodford replaced him as editor of The Freemason.
The Earl of Zetland had been succeeded in 1870 as Grand Master by perhaps EF’s most controversial figure, George Robinson. His relations with Carnarvon, et al, and his role in the compromise deal are not yet researched. On the face of it, he was kept well away from the decision-making process. Born at 10 Downing Street in 1828 while his father was Prime Minister, in 1849 at age twenty-two, he was initiated into the Christian Socialist movement. He was an MP from 1854 until 1859, when upon the death of his father, he was seated in the House of Lords as Lord Ripon. In 1859 he was Palmerston’s Under-Secretary of War and in 1863, was appointed Secretary of War. He succeeded Sir Charles Wood as head of the Indian Office in 1866 and under Prime Minister Gladstone in 1868 became President of the Privy Council. He led a delegation of goodwill in 1870-71, not to France, or to Germany, which might have been expected from the Anglo-Saxon and Royal connections, but to the USA where hand-picked delegates vigorously sought to cement friendship ‘on behalf of Queen Victoria…between the great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race’. [My emphasis] Ripon then headed the 1871 American/British commission to settle the claims resulting from the Civil War in the United States, the primary claims coming from attacks by United States and Confederate naval vessels upon British commercial ships. Upon completion of this work he was made Marquis of Ripon. When reciprocal delegations came to London, Hughan and Woodford advised US Templar Knights against publically processing in England, not, they said, because their military look might be misconstrued at a time when Europe was again at war, but because EFs rarely if ever paraded in public.[cccxv] Woodford regarded US brethren more highly than local EFs and was euphoric: ‘We have frequently had occasion to refer to the splendid organisation of American Masonic bodies, and have even incurred the wrath of certain quidnuncs at home for the outspoken manner in which we have…Lord Ripon’s Masonic reception at Washington so strongly corroborated (our opinion) that thoughtful English Masons are beginning to enquire whether our English system is all perfection? Whether the want of cohesion – nay, the ill-disguised hostility unhappily existing – between some of the branches of English Freemasonry, is worthy of our ancient reputation and renown, or consistent with the progressive tendencies of the age?’ [cccxvi]
The orchestrated progress of the Prince of Wales continued. Three of the royal princes were Masons after the Queen Victoria’s eldest son ‘took’ the twelve degrees of the Swedish Rite in Stockholm over two days in 1868. Subsequently, he involved himself in seven English lodges, but just one year after initiation he was ‘elected’ a Past Grand Master making him second to the GM. When he attended the December 1869 UGLE meeting, his first, he was reportedly greeted with ‘rapturous cheers’ by the ‘muster’ of 660 brethren, many of whom were no doubt reacting to his brother’s escape from an assassination attempt in Sydney in March the previous year. In 1871, he was brought to a lodge other than a Grand Lodge for the first time and he and Carnarvon were made ‘honorary members’ of the Jerusalem Lodge. This provoked press commentary on anomalies in EF: ‘The Prince of Wales, for example, is a Past Grand Master and a Masonic Knight Templar; yet the degree of Knight Templar is not ‘recognised’; the Earl of Carnarvon is Deputy Grand Master, and Past Grand Master of the Mark Degree, yet the Mark Degree is not ‘recognised’, though no man can be a member of either Order who is not a Freemason first; what is called Mark Masonry furnishes perhaps the most curious anomaly of all, for while in Scotland and Ireland it is held to be an essential portion of Freemasonry, in England it has a separate jurisdiction and a separate Grand Lodge.’ [cccxvii]
In September 1874, the Order and partisan journalists were convulsed with news that GM Ripon had resigned from EF after converting to Roman Catholicism. Rather than take the opportunity to enter into public discussion, UGLE chose to publically express regret that Lord Ripon had moved on and to thank him for his past services and, privately, to continue its fierce allegiance to the English/British political State. The brethren, at first shocked into silence, were confronted into a temper by organs of the RC Church exulting. One reaction from the brethren was to insist that his loss was of no account: ‘…Never has English freemasonry witnessed before such a spectacle of universal tranquility and contentment, of material prosperity and of universal development.’ [cccxviii] Leading articles exchanged abuse across the religious divide, some summarising Ripon’s allegedly undistinguished political career, mental instability and his predilection for ritual: ‘Lord Ripon’s religious views were of the Ritualistic school…and it is only logically following out that system for his Lordship to be landed in the Church of Rome.’ The Times shrieked to find that a man ‘in the full strength of his powers’ had renounced his ‘mental and moral freedom’: ‘To become a Roman Catholic and remain a thorough Englishman are – it cannot be disguised – almost incompatible conditions.’ [cccxix] The Catholic Westminster Review referred to the ‘cap, bells and motley’ of EF, otherwise known as ‘the Craft of the evil one’, while the Pall Mall Gazette joined with: ‘(Englishmen) consider that a man who adopts such a creed [Roman Catholicism] cannot be a good Englishman, not because he has been disloyal to an English institution, but because he holds views which if carried out would injure the English nature.’ The Saturday Review described ‘Freemasonry’ as a ‘trifle’, contradicting a well-connected brother who hinted: ‘The political state of a country will always exercise a powerful influence on the form of its Masonic Government.’ [cccxx]
The media sniping continued, but GL and Carnarvon moved quickly on a replacement after what he called a ‘most unfortunate and…most astonishing secession.’ The PoW was offered the post, and in true English/British military style agreed to ‘step up and fill the gap’.[cccxxi] GM of ‘the Craft’ from then until he became King Edward VII in 1901, the PoW was also ‘made’ the highest officer in the ‘extra’ Orders – of the ‘Knights Templar’ in 1873, the ‘Royal Arch, 1874, of the Ancient and Accepted Rite in 1874, and of ‘the Mark’ in 1886. In 1883 Carnarvon, who had been made Pro GM in 1875, credited him with having ‘brought greater depth and breadth to the foundations of English Freemasonry, and introduced into it elements which had contributed much to its credit and strength.’ [cccxxii]
War With France and Germany
However the revised 1871 agreement was produced, one at least of UGLE’s political priorities was achieved. Its new line in the sand excluded rites which had a Gallic aroma, most obviously the Primitive Rite of Memphis. [cccxxiii] Allegedly created by Samuel Honis in Cairo in 1814, perhaps with inspiration from Cagliostro’s 18th century Egyptian Rite, it had been promoted by a father and son, Marconis de Negre, in France and Belgium, where it was worked until suppressed by police in 1848, the year in which uprisings swept across Europe. Revived again, French refugee Freemasons brought the rite to London and formed La Grande Loge des Philadelphes which had its constitution ratified by the Conseil Supreme l’Ordre Maconnique de Memphis in January, 1851. Its members originally worked 95 ‘Memphis’ degrees but, in response to political developments, determined to work only the three Craft degrees from April, 1857. Charles Bradlaugh, prominent English freethinker and agitator joined this lodge in March, 1859, whereupon the Grand Secretary of the UGLE, in October, 1859, sent a letter to every lodge WM within the UGLE jurisdiction: “I am directed to inform you … that there are at present existing in London and elsewhere in this country, spurious Lodges claiming to be Freemasons.” He specifically named ‘Memphis’ Masons. In 1860, the editor of the FM&MM declared: ‘We are astonished that any Mason should recommend a new degree to the brethren, and we sincerely hope that no attempt will be made to introduce such humbug into England.’ [cccxxiv] He had in mind one particular ‘humbug’, a rite recently ‘invented’ in New York by a Bro Dr Horwitz and applauded by the editor of The Masonic Chronicle: ‘The rite…hails from Egypt, once the nurse of art and science. It is Masonic in character, elucidating to its votaries, who must be Masons, the principles which Masonry inculcates. This ‘Oriental Rite’ commences the work at the 34th degree, thus interfering in no way with those already established.’ In November, 1866, the declaration opening Philadelphe lodges was altered to read: ‘In the Name of Reason and of Universal Fraternity.’
An 1869 contributor to The Freemason reflected on a Charles Bradlaugh lecture on ‘Freemasonry’ in the New Hall of Science. Bradlaugh, taken up in greater detail below, was the leading free thought lecturer of his time. The motto of his newspaper, The National Reformer, was seen by his critic, ‘Cryptonomous’, ie KRH Mackenzie, ‘sufficiently plain and straightforward’ to be quoted in full: ‘I conceive it to be the duty of students in every science to uphold nothing dogmatically, but simply to find out what is true, no matter what existing theory they may demolish. For so only can science be built upon a firm foundation, and truth be glorified.’ [cccxxv] ‘Truth’, unfortunately, is relative and subjective, and there is warning enough in Bradlaugh’s suggestion that it can be ‘glorified’, but MacKenzie wanted to make a different point. First, he allowed: ‘It is true, by the researches of modern Masonic historians, that the history of the order or Fraternity may be fairly shorn of its mythical glories…’ He then immediately negatived this optimistic aspiration with yet another version of the assumed ancient, pre-historic heritage: ‘…still, it has been superimposed and founded upon a much older system. In its essence it is no new invention, any more than the saint-worship of Papal Rome is other than a revival of the polytheism of Classical Rome…’ Denying Bradlaugh’s assertion that ‘Freemasonry’ was of little importance in England, he embraced the grandest illusion of all, the one which brings together the myths of imperial and Masonic grandeurs: ‘The position of Freemasonry at the present day has an exact analogy with those ancient (Eleusinian) rites. The statesmen, warriors and philosophers – the leaders of action and thought – the poets and orators – show everywhere that they were affiliated to some great and secret body which inspired them with patience, hope, mutual forbearance and charity;…’ His opinion touching on the major political controversy of the day was predictably jingoistic but he showed his acuity by linking two unlikely Masonic allies: ‘I have frequently said…that in nations politically free, as England and the United States…be said to be, any admixture of politics becomes unnecessary. Not so among nations who have still their Freedom to achieve. Such nations have a sacred right to employ secret associations for the attainment of similar benefits…The Freemasons certainly inculcate love of humanity, national freedom, and individual justice. They would be unfit to exist as a powerful and growing body were this not the case…’ [My emphases]
A writer in The Freemason, ‘At Home and Abroad’ of December 1869, maintained that lodges which allowed ‘religious and social questions’ to be debated, allowed ‘rash utterances in favour of democracy and scepticism’ to be made, or allowed ‘political discussions’ to proceed, must be ‘communistic’ and their brethren must be bloodthirsty ‘anarchists and atheists’. Masonic errors were, of course, only found on ‘the Continent’, ‘in French Lodges, Italian Lodges, aye, and even German Lodges.’ (My emphasis) In contrast, EF was true, divinely inspired and manifested ‘the harmony’ which naturally existed between ‘Masonic precepts and the broadest principles of free thought and action’. Those continentals, the editorialist insisted: ‘have lost the true essence of Freemasonry…they have wilfully severed themselves from that great family of brethren which, thanks to the vast increase of the Anglo-Saxon race, now encircles the earth, and…holds the future in its grasp.’ [cccxxvi] This was from previously-jailed, Chartist agitator, self-taught writer and editor, William Carpenter. Described in the New England Freemason (USA) as ‘a remarkable man’[cccxxvii] Carpenter was another who identified his ‘British’ race with ‘the lost tribes of Israel’ and who thought he could map the latter’s epic journeys across Europe.
In January, 1870, Hughan began a long series in The Freemason on ‘Masonic Historians’ with Brother Findel of Leipzig as ‘No 1’. Many so-called ‘histories of Freemasonry’ had already been attempted but Hughan argued that ‘to write a really impartial and universal work on the Order’ had not been possible until very recently. Oliver and Rebold had been pioneers but: ‘(it) has been reserved for Bro Findel of Leipzig to approach the nearest to perfection as a Masonic historian…(His is) the best, the fullest and most accurate History of Freemasonry extant.’ (Hughan’s emphasis)[cccxxviii] Hughan noted that the first Masonic periodical, Die Freymaurer (The Freemason) on record had been published in Leipzig on the 4th of January, 1738. He acknowledged that ‘up to the commencement of the present century few but Germans’ wrote ‘intelligently’ on the origin of ‘the Fraternity’ and credits a string of Prussian researchers to whom ‘we are indebted’: ‘…It will…be seen that Bro Findel is not in sympathy with those who seek to veto the study of Masonic history, or with those who would like their feeble cries to drown the results of free enquiries into the origin of the society, concerning which, even to this very day, the most confused, ridiculous and discordant opinions prevail, utterly opposed to facts of history.’ (The Freemason, 8 Jan, 1870, p.1) Hughan agreed with Findel that ‘what is now being generally admitted’, that the Craft originated in the ‘Building Fraternities of the Middle Ages’, was an assertion first made in Germany, and he approvingly quoted Findel’s assertion that Masonic history ‘has acquired of late years a sure foundation upon scientific principles’: ‘…From the materials, slowly, surely and regularly prepared, far back in the twilight of the Middle Ages, and carefully cherished down to posterity by the old Building Associations of Germany and England, arose a new and beautiful creation.’ (My emphasis) (The Freemason, January 15, 1870, p.1) One of Findel’s intentions was to rid Freemasonry of ‘all that does not pertain to the three Craft Degrees‘ and he boldly asserted that no document existed anywhere that showed the existence of any ‘Haut-Degree’ before 1740. Hughan allowed that this was probably true.
Findel upset many EF’s by pointing out that ‘nothing has been done in England towards the investigation of the history of Freemasonry’ since the 18th-century and that it was German and French researchers ‘who have provided the evidence for the copying of the stonecutters by Freemasons from 1717.’ The book’s introduction by a colleague included a suggestion that since ‘historical science’ had been ‘somewhat neglected’ by them for the last 30 or 40 years, English brethren ‘doubtless will thank Brother Findel for imparting to them the fruits of his and his predecessor’s indefatigable studies’. The deep flaws within even Findel’s view of what amounted to ‘historical science’ show in his definition of ‘Freemasonry’: ‘This union of all unions, this association of men, bound together in their struggles to attain all that is noble, who desire only what is true and beautiful, who love and practice virtue for its own sake – this is Masonry. It is the most comprehensive of all human confederacies and therefore the purest and sublimest form of human association…’ [cccxxix]
French Freemasons, on an upward swing which would see their numbers double from 1862 to 1889, were debating which form of democratic government suited their purposes. The GM, an Army general, resigned at their 1870 Assembly and endorsed his successor, a school teacher, as a loyal and trustworthy man with government authorities, as was required. The two then supported the fraternity being asked to vote on a resolution that, if passed, would ‘suppress the office of Grand Master’, ie, declare the position to have no further relevance. Babaud-Laribier, the in-coming GM, emphasised the need for the brethren to seriously consider their decision, while making clear that he was personally in favour of the suppression. He emphasised two essential conditions which in the future should be non-negotiable, namely, the independence of lodges, and the simplicity of the administration: ‘Is it not evident, my brethren, that there still exists a considerable amount of error, prejudice, injustice and misery?…preserve your liberty, your independence of thought, I do not advocate we form a clique or a party – we should not fall into the error of an enervating and brutal centralisation. Each lodge should progress the learning most appropriate to it – be it agricultural, a library, or lectures, or professional instruction…’ [cccxxx]
On July 19th 1870, the government of France, in order to bolster its sagging electoral support in Paris and other major towns, declared war on the Prussian Empire, only to suffer a humiliating defeat, whereupon the German army advanced at will and quickly surrounded Paris. Early in 1871, Carnarvon threatened ‘the masonic press’ with loss of all GL information if it continued to express ‘political opinions’ concerning the fighting in France.[cccxxxi] Defiant citizens declared the Paris Commune into being in March, 1871, at which point the French government ‘invited’ its conquerors into the city to help it put down the uprising. On 21 April, 1871, a number of French Freemasons made a last-ditch attempt at conciliation between their conservative government and the revolutionary socialists who were pushing ahead with social reforms and lobbying for a republic to replace the monarchy. The brethren were received coldly by the President, Thiers, who assured them that, though Paris was already ‘given over to destruction and slaughter’, the law had to be enforced. Heavy fighting ensued but the poorly-armed citizens were no match for the disciplined soldiery and their cannon. Defiant Freemasons resolved to plant their ‘colours’ on the city’s ramparts in support of the Commune. On the 29th, 10,000 of the brethren representing 55 lodges, marched to the Hôtel de Ville, headed by Grand Masters in full insignia and with lodge banners. The procession then went, through the boulevards and the Champs Elysées, to the Arc de Triomphe, where the banners were raised. On the Porte Maillot the Versaillese [government] soldiers ceased firing, and the commander, himself a Freemason, received a deputation of brethren, and suggested a final appeal to Versailles. The Government, however, declined to further discuss the matter and ordered the fighting to continue which it did until the last communards were dead, imprisoned or had fled.
In July, the English Masonic press reported in full the address from the French GM, Bro L Babaud-Laribier to all lodges under his jurisdiction. In the midst of the dual crises, to his nation and his ‘Freemasonry’, he urged brethren to keep in mind that it was ‘Freemasonry’s strength and glory ‘to march in the advance guard of progress’ and to establish institutions which will be picked up later by ‘the outer world’, that the Order was ‘a refuge always open to free thought’ and ‘an ideal sociability’ for those with the welfare of human kind at heart. Following the example of ‘the Encyclopedia’ – ‘Didn’t the doctrines [of the Enlightenment] develop first in our Temples?’ – he reminded his audience that ‘universal suffrage’ was proclaimed in the Craft long before it was an issue ‘in the outer world’: As the smoke cleared and the Parisian dead were carted away, at a banquet in the west of England, Carnarvon ‘took occasion to contrast the happy condition of England with the present lot of France. Alluding to the recent events in Paris, he characterised the proceedings of the insurgents as the most horrible and detestable conspiracy against law and order and everything that made human society good and noble and generous. (Cheers)...’ [cccxxxii] This tickled the ego of his audience whose self-regarding glow increased as he continued: ‘…He thought these events had read us the melancholy lesson that however great our civilization, unless there were morals and religion, all that civilization failed. (Loud cheers) In conclusion, he advised them to cling to all our old institutions, and foremost among them all, the ancient and hereditary monarchy – the Queen and Crown. (Loud and enthusiastic cheers)…’ He maintained his righteous anger. In 1873 he wrote: ‘…Thus it comes to pass within less than a century, almost every political buttress and institution in France has gone, and…Frenchmen stand on the naked howling plain of pure democracy.’ [cccxxxiii]
Destruction of the Paris Commune and the GM’s conversion and replacement by the Prince of Wales appeared to justify the political commentary in EF periodicals. The Reverend Woodford argued that notice of the State visit of the Czar to London in May 1874 in the Freemason was permissible because EF obedience to civil authority extended to giving due reverence to a foreign ruler: ‘We English Freemasons are not politicians, and it never can be repeated too often, or remembered too carefully, that with politics…we have no concern whatever. Indeed so careful are we to maintain the golden mean of neutrality…we should not allow…political addresses on one side or the other, even as paid advertisements… But…there are some events in the world’s history which seem to lift themselves above the domain of mere party politics, and which we may fairly deal with…Now, it appears to us that the visit of the Emperor Alexander II to this country is just one of those events…For in truth, the Emperor Alexander II comes to us invested not only with that Sovereign rank which as loyal Englishmen, we have been taught to value and revere…’ [cccxxxiv]
Another editorial in The Freemason, of June, 1876, concerning ‘Whit-Monday’s Holiday’ argued for the social value of this holiday and berated the British Museum for refusing entry of women with babies. The text included: ‘…As Freemasons we rejoice in all that affects the social happiness, and comfort and welfare of the People…(We) have a right, and we mean to exercise it…to express our humble opinion on all matters which relate to the social progress of our own ‘good folk’ or of humanity at large.’ From its inception in 1875, another Masonic periodical, the Freemasons’ Chronicle, dealt with parliamentary politics, sympathised with trade unions and with education reform. Its editor believed that ‘…the occasional discussion of social questions, in a free and impartial style in the pages of a journal devoted to the interests of the Craft, cannot but be beneficial.’ [cccxxxv]
In 1877, Carnarvon led a UGLE Special Committee to report on the reasons for the changes in the declaration instituted by the Grand Orient. RF Gould was a member.[cccxxxvi] The Report formalised what became known as ‘The Great Schism’, a declaration by UGLE that the GOF was ‘irregular’, on the grounds that it allowed religious freedom of choice. On September 14th, 1877, GOF voted to eliminate from its constitution the article reading: “Freemasonry has for its principles the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and the solidarity of mankind” and to substitute the following: ‘Whereas Freemasonry is not a religion and has therefore no doctrine or dogma to affirm in its constitution, this Assembly has decided and decreed that the second paragraph of Article 1, of the Constitution (above quoted) shall be erased, and that for the words of the said article the following shall be substituted: 1. Being an Institution essentially philanthropic, philosophic, and progressive, Freemasonry has for its object, search after truth, study of universal morality, science and arts, and the practice of benevolence. It has for its principles absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity. It excludes no person on account of his belief, and its motto is ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.[cccxxxvii] The A&AS Rite which was strong in France determined to retain the requirement that members swear belief in a supreme Deity. At the next annual session of the GOF, in 1878 a move was made on the ritual. A committee was directed to report with recommendations for the following session. In September, 1879, upon report of the committee, a new ritual was adopted wherein all reference to the name and idea of God was eliminated, but liberty was given to the Lodges to adopt the new or old rituals as they should see fit. In that year, Woodford responded to Findel’s published support for the GOF: ‘…Despite Bro Findel’s sneer at our “benevolence” [ie, charity, which had been threatened by a bank failure] we wish other Masonic bodies would do as much, for no one who studies the question can doubt for a moment that the last movement in France, despite its loud professions, is purely political and communistic…We are sorry to see an able brother like Bro Findel lose himself, as Sterne would put it, in the ‘sty’ of communistic and un-believing dirt. ‘ [cccxxxviii]
In 1884 a ‘Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees’ was set up by UGLE to take control of yet more, ‘irregular’ degrees and Orders. Its Rule 1 was: ‘In view of the rapid increase of Lodges of various Orders recognising no central authority and acknowledging no common form of government, a Ruling Body has been formed to take under its direction all Lodges of such various Orders in England and Wales and the Colonies and Dependencies of the British Crown as may be willing to join it.’ [cccxxxix] In 1902, UGLE extended its authority even further by claiming: ‘the superintendence of all such Degrees or Orders as may hereafter be established in England and Wales with, and by consent of, The Supreme Council 33^, Great Priory, Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters and Grand Imperial Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine, but not under the superintendence of such governing bodies.’ Re-arrangement of the entities making up EF hardened the governance principles of hierarchy and centralisation, physically and symbolically. ‘The Mark’ established its head office in Great Queen Street and the A&A Rite did likewise, in Golden Square, neither far from UGLE’s temple.
‘Mr Palmer’, the 1882 Invasion of Egypt
and the Road to Khartoum
The story of ‘Mr Palmer’ and his death in Egypt in 1882 at unknown hands has similarities to that of Stoddart and Conolly, and prompts the same question: who was ultimately responsible? As in 1842 Afghanistan, a British military invasion supported by clandestine activities brought about thousands of deaths, initially on the Egyptian side but followed by many British soldiers and their auxiliaries. As in 1842, government agents disappeared ‘on mission’, whereupon a stranger in London offered his services to fill the gap left by apparent government inaction. And as in the earlier case, intervention proved futile, the agents eventually turning up dead.
Early in this research, I thought to link the 1842 and the 1882 events simply because in both cases, EF-involvement surfaced early. Pursuit of the 1882 ‘Palmer’ context then revealed that his death, like those of the 1842 victims, happened in a side-show away from the main arena. Palmer and party were collateral damage, their story lost long since in the bombast and lies around an imperial turning point, in the latter case the British occupation of Suez. But like those in Afghanistan, the events in the North African big-top have had repercussions to the present day.
The 1842 deaths produced comparatively little fall-out. In contrast, mountains of newspaper commentary and books by participants appeared after 1882 and more again after Gordon’s death at Khartoum in 1884. Among scholars, diplomats and military personnel the events of that period have been the source of a continuing debate – their origins, their operational course and their consequences. The total number is enormous. Despite this, further exploration of the murkier, diplomatic/spy area will yet, I believe, reveal new connections and intrigues involving the English/British governments and UGLE. In most of what may be called ‘the 19th century diplomacy of the Mediterranean’ literature, Masonic connections have not been seriously appraised so even basic chronology is not clear. But because ‘Freemasonry’ has been assumed to be straightforward, assumptions have been made and contradictory conclusions have been drawn. This brief foray concentrates on Egypt and the closely connected Masonic/political machinations apparent in just this one jurisdiction.
Earlier, I referred to diplomatic/Masonic exchanges between European capitals and ME centres. In 1867, one of the 1845 students, (above) the youngest son of M Ali Abd al-Halim and his heir presumptive, was made GM of the Egyptian Grand Orient [GONE]. UGLE’s relationship with this and other GLs, in Turkey, Greece, etc, is not clear, but London’s immediate response was to name the son GM of a new EF District and to have him installed. Suddenly, the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople changed the rules of succession in favour of the incumbent’s grandson. The father, M Ali Abd al-Halim, vowed to use the lodges in a political campaign to overthrow the usurper, but he lost out and was exiled in 1868. The positive status of ‘Freemasonry’ apparent in this account is not always matched in others. The much-quoted 20th century scholar, Kedourie, who appears not to have been a brother, made no distinction between ‘Freemasonries’ in his writings: ‘In the Middle East at this time, freemasonry and freethinking seemed to have (been) closely linked…To be a freemason was to show one’s dislike of orthodox, traditional religion, the power it gave to [the ulama] and the hatreds and divisions it promoted and perpetuated in society.” He has quoted Egyptian Jurji Zaydan to the effect that: ‘As for the vulgar mass…it is useless to ask how deeply engrained in their minds was hatred and contempt for the sect of the masons… If they wished to describe how heinously atheistical or hypocritical somebody was, they found no better term to describe him than the word, ‘freemason’.’ Kedourie again: ‘The secret subversive work of Oriental masons was indeed known to Oriental rulers and troubled them.’ [cccxl]
Lane’s English Masonic Records, 1717-1894 show no EF lodges in Egypt before 1861, with all being established between then and 1873, and they show no breaks in transmission. Lodges named after Zetland, Hyde Clarke and Lord Dalling, otherwise Henry Lytton Earl Bulwer (1801-1872) are in the list. He was uncle of Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton (1831-1891), also a diplomat, one-time British Ambassador to Turkey and son of novelist and alleged occultist, Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) who was brother of ‘Lord Dalling’. An EF insider wrote in 1969:‘(In 1871 some) native Masons…associated with Bulwer Lodge applied for and obtained a Warrant for a lodge to be worked in Arabic, and to be reserved for non-Europeans, under the name ‘Kawkab-el-Sharq’. ‘Kawkab al-Sharq’ is Arabic for ‘Star of the East’ which lodge name appears in Lane’s list. Unfortunately, there are no records of this ‘native’ Lodge prior to 1907; they are supposed to have been burnt.
L Zetland, met 1867 – 1890, Alexandria
L of St John and St Paul, 1867 – 1882, Alexandria
St John’s Lodge, 1862 – 1877, Alexandria
Hyde Clarke L, 1865 – 1869, Alexandria
Bulwer L of Cairo 1865 -1891, Cairo
Grecia L 1866 -1891, Cairo
Egyptian L 1867 -1882, Cairo
L La Concordia 1868 -1890, Cairo
Star of the East 1871 -1888, Cairo
Ramleh L 1873-1882 Ramleh
An Italian, SA Zola was appointed by the then-Khedive Ismail in 1872 to head GONE, Zola in return declaring that the lodges ‘would not meddle in the country’s politics.’ Zola has been credited with having established the first Italian lodge of the A&AS Rite, (consolidated as we have seen in the US in 1845) in Alexandria in 1849 but his reason for being there at that time is unknown. In 1873, Zola threw down a further gauntlet to UGLE by decreeing that the A&A/Scottish Rite would be replaced with the Memphis Rite. He ‘was further authorised to assume the title of Grand Hierophant, 97th Degree,’ the supreme office of the rite.[cccxli] In 1875 he brought together ‘the Scottish’ and the Memphis Rite in GONE which was declared the official federal diet [ruling body] for all Egyptian lodges. An 1883 London Masonic paper backgrounded a revival in that year of English lodges by saying: ‘Ten years ago one of the most prosperous lodges in Cairo was the Bulwer…By an unfortunate coincidence, nearly all its active members left Cairo six years ago and the meetings of the lodge ceased…’ This 1883 report claimed however that: ‘As a matter of fact, English Masonry has been long predominant in Egypt as its laws, rituals and principles have been adopted by the Grand Lodge of Egypt over which MW Bro Borg the British Vice Consul at Cairo, now most worthily presides.’ The Grand Lodge of Egypt was included for the first time in the family of ‘European Grand Lodges’ by UGLE in its official 1878 calendar, recalling the GOF decision of 1877 and the resulting ‘Great Schism’ (above). An English lawyer who was at once a Mason, a close observer of the invasion and an important participant in its legal consequences wrote a book about his involvement. In it he observed: ‘There is a vast difference between the principles and practice of ‘Freemasonry’ in England and on the continent of Europe.’ After explaining that ‘our own system’, by which he meant EF, ‘embraces nothing more exciting than charity and good fellowship’, all non-EF, which he called ‘foreign Masonry’, was ‘an appropriate and convenient arena for political discussion, and both political and religious activism’.[cccxlii] Broadley, on the spot, was certain that: ‘The two creeds’, by which he meant English and ‘foreign’ Freemasonry, ‘have absolutely nothing in common but a few outward and visible signs, which convey to the minds of those who use them very different significations.’ He spelled out what he had observed in the period 1877-78: ‘In Egypt the tenets of continental Masonry, with its republican watchwords of Fraternite, Liberte. Egalite, had evidently overshadowed for a time at least a strong English element which once prevailed in her numerous lodges.’ The ‘overshadowing’ is more accurately a loss of lodge influence which just happens to correspond with published opinion that the Khedive Ismael was taking Egypt into bankruptcy and needed to be rescued. Consequently, the Khedive ceded control of his treasury, customs, railways, post-offices and ports to a joint Anglo-French bureaucracy, at which point prominent activists for Egyptian independence entered the fray: ‘About this time (1877), at the suggestion of al-Afghani, (Muhammad Abduh) joined the Masonic Order of the Eastern Star, [sic] affiliated with the headquarters in England. Its membership included three hundred of the most prominent men in the country.’ [cccxliii] Wissa, in 1989, wrote that al-Afghani first joined an Italian lodge but English Consul, Rafael Borg, had him shift to ‘Star of the East’ whereupon Borg declared that lodge to be free and independent of Zola’s remit and the control of GONE. However, al-Afghani appears to have recognised the differences between the Freemasonries for when he was made ‘President’ in 1878 he moved the lodge back under French patronage. He encouraged his religious students to join and sought ‘to turn the lodge into cells of political agitation.’: ‘According to Makhzumi, the (lodge) members were divided into several committees to serve as liaisons with government departments. One was entrusted with admonishing… the War Minister to treat justly those Egyptian officers who had been on duty in the Sudan. Others were assigned to the Ministers of Justice, Finance, Public Works, etc., asking them to treat Egyptian civil servants with fairness and equality. These officials were resentful of Europeans who were receiving three or four times their salaries for the same positions and amounts of work.’ [cccxliv] Wissa asserts that EF lodges sought to attract less-radical Egyptians by way of the joint controls on Egyptian budgets in 1878 wherein speculation in land was permitted and financial assistance to cotton growers was introduced. None of this is apparent in the regular reports published in the English Masonic journals.
While providing French watchwords, Broadley was thinking of recent Italian politics: ‘Although none of the National Brotherhood, a large number of their subordinates were amongst (continental Masonry’s) most active and zealous members. Sheik Abduh had been Master of his Lodge and many of the Deputies of the Egyptian Chamber had hastened to join the craft.‘ Why had they done this? ‘The ‘hungry after justice’ as Rifat (also a Mason) usually described the Egyptian patriots, found a strange fascination in the mystic tie…and believed the same machinery which had helped the Italians in their struggle for freedom and unity would materially assist the Egyptian cause.’ (My emphasis) Sommer’s 2015 book on ‘Freemasonry’ and the Ottoman Empire is mostly about Tripoli. Her interpretation emphasises unity and does not gel with that of Broadley’s which emphasises a clear division between EF and ‘Continental Freemasonry’. His personal legal and Masonic careers for the years 1876 to 1883 were centred on Malta and Tunis, and at least as reported in the English Masonic press, they do not reflect the division he wrote about in his book. Tunis and Malta are 500 miles apart but over the period he maintained numerous Masonic commitments in both places, and in England. The Orders and degrees with which he was involved range from the Craft, through Royal Arch and Mark Masonry, to the Cryptic Council, Rosicrucians and ‘The Order of Lawrence the Martyr.’ The published reports detail his enthusiasm, almost obsession, for establishing EF where it seems not to have been before, and for bringing with him on the journey a high-powered mix of locals and mainland Europeans whose original Masonic allegiance, their ‘mother lodge’, is varied and includes the Grand Lodge of Turkey which appears to have been declared ‘irregular’ previously by UGLE. [cccxlv]
In 1878, al-Afghani was expelled, apparently from ‘Freemasonry’ altogether, but by who is not clear. French and English officials seemed to have co-operated on this matter, too. Kedourie has suggested that his expulsion was from a French-registered, ‘Scottish’ lodge, ie the A&A Rite, whereupon he either joined or began a GOF lodge. In any event, Al-Afghani set up a political party, ‘The Free National Party’ supposedly using ‘Freemasonry’ as its basis, and according to Wissa: ‘(The FNP) played a great part in removing Ismael Pasha [the then Khedive] and bringing in Tawfik (or Tewfik) Pasha.’ (Wissa, 1989, p.149, and fn 41) This new Khedive was initially an ally of the reformers whose leader, M Arabi/Urabi was his Minister for War. The events which followed provided a fortuitous excuse for British forces to move in and claim suzerainty over Egypt, an occupation which itself provided cover for ‘Mr Palmer’ and party to leave Cairo without fanfare and disappear over the horizon. Out-manoeuvred and his Egyptian army decimated in August-September, 1882, al-Arabi, the reluctant hero who had become de facto embodiment of the dreams of Egyptian liberty, was arrested and handed over to the ‘native’ justice system. His supposed C-in-C, Tewfik who had commanded him to fight the British changed sides mid-campaign and now sought his head.
Broadley was then hired by a certain Wilfred Blunt to go to Cairo to defend el-Arabi and other Egyptian captives. In his book Broadley wrote that interference with his efforts came, not from British officials whom he generally praises, but from other Egyptians aligned with the Khedive Tewfik, and/or Turkish officials seeking to maintain Ottoman influence. He recorded that ‘At every period of…my stay in Egypt, and more particularly at every acute crisis through which the fate of Arabi passed, I received a series of anonymous letters giving me many valuable hints, and informing me of all that was going on in the enemy’s camp. A great majority of them bore unmistakeable signs of a masonic origin…’ (My emphases) His informant, whose identity he does not pursue in the book, was clearly a brother with access across jurisdictions, legal and Masonic, and in clear breach of his obligation to be neutral.
The sometime Cambridge professor, ‘Mr Palmer’ had considerable scholarly achievements in his CV and he had worked hard to spread the Christian gospel. He had translated the Koran into English and the New Testament into Hindustani, Arabic and Persian for the British and Foreign Bible Society, and he had completed histories of Jerusalem. He had skills, too, in legerdemain, mesmerism, and was a raconteur, poet and painter. In mid-1882, he was supposedly commissioned by the London newspaper, Evening Standard, to gather publishable material ‘about the character, power and… movement of the Sinai Arabs’. A more recent explanation of his task, by a Masonic scholar, claimed: ‘Palmer volunteered to travel from Gaza to Suez to ascertain the mood of the Bedouins and to act as principal interpreter to Admiral Sir William Hewitt, who was commanding naval operations in the Red Sea.[cccxlvi] With Palmer was Captain Gill, RE, who had also supposedly volunteered. He was actually another ‘asset’ from the military’s Intelligence Department, and had the familiar background history. He had escaped with his life only by good luck in 1873 when with a fellow officer, Valentine Baker, [see Ure] he had been ‘exploring’ Persian Central Asia, ‘recording every angle in the road for mile after mile.’[cccxlvii] A second military ‘volunteer’, a Lieutenant Charrington, was from Admiral Hewett’s staff which means he had been brought in from Naval Intelligence at Hewett’s direction. These three and a small support group had not returned when in October, a letter to The Times, from a Colonel Yule, RE, Ret, complained on behalf of ‘the ladies of Captain Gill’s family’. They had heard nothing of the expedition for a month and wanted to know what ‘the government’ was doing, if anything about the party’s disappearance. Two days later a letter appeared from an interested observer, offering to go to Arabia and to ‘help in such way as lay in my power.’ The writer, Wilfred Scawen Blunt, has left more biographical detail than ‘Captain Grover’ of the Stoddart and Conolly incident but appears no less mysterious. A relative of Charrington’s added to public discontent: ‘The government appears to have behaved in a very half-hearted manner in their endeavours to rescue the missing men, and for ten weeks they seem to have given Admiral Hewitt no definite instructions on how to proceed.’ He claimed that ‘blue-jackets’ ought to have been sent in immediately but ‘the government’ had missed its chance. The distressed families denied Blunt the necessary authorisations. Charrington’s brother, also a Lieutenant, was granted a visa for Egypt but he could speak none of the relevant languages and he had no knowledge of the area or of the Bedouin. One letter writer noted that ‘the government’ had shown one sign of stirring, they had authorised Colonel Warren ‘to offer a reward for information or a ransom for their recovery’, but insisted that ‘Mr Blunt is the one man in the whole of England best qualified to undertake the task’. [cccxlviii]
By the 27th October, newspapers were reporting that the whole party was dead. Supposedly travelling in secret, they had been ambushed, murdered and their bodies left to rot, on the orders of ‘the Governor of Nakhl’, almost due west of the Canal. ‘Cairo Correspondent’, the unnamed author of the story, claimed that the main purpose of the expedition had been to obtain camels for the army and that ‘Professor Palmer had hoped to be able to persuade some of the Bedouins to lend help to the Khedive and to take an active role against Arabi.’ This ‘informed source’ was still not being honest. ‘The gold which he carried with him, and which must have been a tempting booty…may have been intended to give force to his persuasions.’ The source said that ‘Captain Gill had been charged with the special task of cutting telegraph wires which run across the Syrian desert and connect Egypt with Constantinople.’
Walter Besant emerged as a close friend of Palmer and quickly produced a massive eulogy to him in which was a quote from Gill’s journal: ‘August the 6th – Met Palmer. He has travelled much in the Sinaitic Peninsular and knows all the Arab sheikhs. He has just come from among them, and is hopeful of bringing about 50,000 Arabs over to us for 25,000l…’ [cccxlix] In his 1902 Autobiography Besant was a little more open: ‘…In 1882 when the trouble with Egypt began, and the Suez Canal was threatened, (Palmer) undertook for the Government a journey in the Sinai Desert in order to keep the Arabs quiet. He went out alone, disguised as a Syrian Effendi, he travelled through the desert in the summer heat, he saw sheikh after sheikh, and made them promise not to harm the canal; he arrived safely at Suez, his mission accomplished. He had however to take some money to his new allies, and was treacherously murdered by a party of Arabs sent from Cairo for the purpose…’ [cccl]
Though no version cited so far has used the word ‘bribe’, it is clear that that was what Palmer’s instructions involved. English vanity required it to be unsaid, but the use of ‘inducements’ for commercial/political advantage was wide-spread, one of the canal bond-holders, Lord Rothschild offering al-Arabi GBP4,000 to leave Egypt before the invasion. I presume inducements were used to ‘turn’ Tewfik, an initiated brother, Britain not wishing to see any strengthening of Egyptian independence. Lord Wentworth in the Lords in 1883 described the party as ‘secret agents in an enemy’s country in time of war’.[cccli] Blunt watched a bevy of politicians in the House of Commons lie about the whole affair and concluded: ‘…The English intelligence department had…taken secret measures of a kind which is always employed in modern warfare but never avowed…That [British General] Wolseley’s advance was helped by bribery has always been indignantly denied but it is time the truth was authoritatively told…’(WB, 1907, p.302) [ccclii] Blunt wrote later that the shooting of the Palmer party had been ‘an act not of common murder but clearly of warfare’ and: ‘one which should certainly have been covered by the amnesty, the business the disguised officers were on giving them the character of spies.’ [cccliii]
WS Blunt is officially recorded as ‘a diplomat’ but only until 1869 after which extensive travels led him to begin importing Arabian stud horses into England, a business which depended on good relations with both the sellers in the desert and the English public. But his biographer has noted his being sent on a ‘Secret Imperial Mission’ in 1880, details unknown. Before the invasion, he had lobbied strenuously for the reformers and had brought a reactionary barrage down on his head. In Parliament and in the press he was labelled a traitor, instructions for his arrest should he attempt to re-enter Egypt were issued, even if he arrived ‘in disguise’, and his letters from London to al-Arabi were intercepted and read by Malet, (1837-1908) an English consular official.[cccliv] After the invasion he claimed to have been a friend of Palmer, as Grover had with Stoddart, and to have great expertise in the region, as Wolff had done in 1842.
He went on the offensive when his offer of help was refused by the family. He had access to Palmer’s diaries, perhaps through Besant, and used them to assert that, recently married and in financial difficulties, he had been plucked from civilian life, given the journalist cover story and thrust back into the desert specifically to bribe Arabs whom he knew from previous visits: ‘…The [British] attack on Egypt from the side of the Suez Canal had been resolved on by our War Office and Admiralty early in the year and it was determined about the middle of June to prepare the way betimes by a large operation of bribery, especially among the Eastern Bedouins.’ [ccclv] The timing here is important.
The Palmer mission was authorised in late-June, after French and British war ships had been positioned off Alexandria and after troops had begun preparing for action around the Canal. Extensive street rioting and shelling of al-Arabi’s fortifications of Alexandria, 11-13 July, were followed by the port’s occupation by marines. The main invasion of Cairo and the Canal on 5 August routed the Egyptian forces which retreated to defend the city which was taken in September. The meeting of 6 August with Gill occurred after Palmer had brought news back to Cairo from his talks with desert sheiks and was the date he was given the gold which they had told him was wanted before they would enter the conflict on the British side. The authorising of the money implies someone, probably Wolseley, thought the tribesmen were still needed at that late date. The consequences prove that British intelligence was flawed and that security was lax but perhaps the local agents believed they had already done enough to gain the Canal.
The riot which supposedly provoked the British naval bombardment of Alexandria, and the follow-up invasion by 40,000 men fits the B-P explanation in his handbook for ‘Class One’ spies (above): ‘(The creation of) political disaffection and…outbreaks, such, for instance, as spreading sedition amongst Egyptians or in India amongst the inhabitants, or in South Africa amongst the Boer population to bring about an outbreak, if possible, in order to create confusion and draw off troops in time of war…’ [ccclvi] What we might call the ‘Baden-Powell’ hypothesis is that the sequence of events – unrest, naval bombardment of Alexandria, assertions in London newspapers that European lives were in danger, followed by a land invasion ‘to secure the canal’ – was contrived locally. Palmer’s mission to bribe the Egyptian Bedawin to reject Arabi’s overtures was, in the event, of no account. The 1894 text prepared by Warren and Besant has a last letter from Palmer to Besant, dated 22 July, 1882. It spoke of ‘the Arabs all in a state of devildom’, and of his having to dodge Turkish and Egyptian soldiers: ‘It is a queer sensation to have one’s throat in constant jeopardy, but I don’t mind it as I feel quite cool and sure of success. Explanation is quite out of the question…I expect a man in from Suez tomorrow with letters and then I shall know my plans better. I hope he won’t get killed, because if the Egyptians get hold of my letters things won’t be nice for me……Lord Northbrook said that he looked upon my task as the most important one to the success of the campaign…I am the only European on Egyptian territory who is not under the protection of the guns of the fleet.’
Blunt later claimed that in 1881 he had been ‘sent to (Cairo to) notify Sir Edward Malet, the British agent, as to the Egyptian public opinion’. He interviewed al-Arabi and then reported to Malet and Lord Cromer, who as Evelyn Baring had been among CW Wilson’s colleagues earlier at the WO. Baring/Cromer wrote in Cairo in 1882 that there were only two options, ‘Blunt’s or Colvin’s’. He was never going to support Blunt’s approach but this is an astonishing nod to Blunt’s efforts and connections. In a 1200-page memoir published in 1908 to justify his belief that Britain’s duty was to maintain its occupancy of Egypt against the nationalists, he was critical of three men whose oppositional importance he equated – ‘Blunt, Gladstone and Gordon’. Sir Auckland Colvin (1838-1908) in Egypt since 1879 had succeeded Cromer as Comptroller-General when he, Cromer, was sent in mid-1882 to India to sort out finances there. Gladstone and his Cabinet had not been able to resolve their internal differences and the local diplomat/spies, had advocated only one option: ‘(Colvin) from the beginning of 1882 both shaped and interpreted events to hasten and justify intervention… Malet, strongly influenced by Colvin’s views…became increasingly hostile to the nationalists (and advised) the Foreign Secretary that, unless strong action was taken, Egypt would soon be ruled by a military clique dedicated to the overthrow of European influence. [My emphasis] The Pall Mall Gazette, ‘said by Blunt to be the only paper that Gladstone read attentively’, had Colvin as its correspondent in Egypt while The Times used as its main source C. F. Moberly Bell ‘who had considerable business interests in Alexandria and whose opinions on policy were shaped by a well-informed friend – Colvin….Thus, all the official information reaching London during 1882 fitted the requirements of the forward party in the cabinet perfectly…(Hopkins, 1986, p.383) Bell was another EF.
Blunt knew about press manipulation: ‘Reuter [the News Service] especially was the servant and mouthpiece of the English Agency and the telegrams despatched to London were under [Foreign Office] censorship. This sort of manipulation of the organs of public news in the interests of our diplomacy exists in nearly all the capitals where our agents reside, and is a potent instrument for misleading the home public. In ordinary times our officials have had complete authority both as to what news should be sent to London, and what news, received from London, should be published in Egypt. It is very necessary that this, the true condition of things, should be steadily borne in mind by historians when they consult the newspaper files of these years in search of information.’ (WB, 1907, p.134)
Cromer had been private secretary to his cousin, Lord Northbrook, the incoming Viceroy of India in 1872. In 1883, he was back at the Canal and in charge: ‘From 1883, when he was appointed British agent and Consul-General, until 1907, Baring was virtually the ruler of Egypt.’ (TF, 1984, p.43, p.50, fn, 21) According to the report in the English Masonic press in 1883 already quoted, ‘one of the early effects of the British Military Expedition to Egypt’ was a revival of ‘Masonic bodies working under the (GLE)’.[ccclvii] In her sceptical, ‘political biography’ of al-Afghani, US academic Keddie speculated that the use of ‘masonic symbols and slogans, including the masonic triangle and dots’ in an anonymous threatening letter in 1883 to Malet at Cairo was from him or one of his circle but she took this claim no further. [ccclviii] The known EF lodges peter out again in the 1880’s when their job was perhaps perceived as done, but ‘Freemasonry’ did not disappear.[ccclix] The British Foreign Office in Egypt, which meant Cromer, Malet and Colvin, continued to ‘monitor’ all known Masonic activists and to ‘examine’ Masonic periodicals: ‘Documents studied by Elie Kedourie leave little doubt that, for example, the British Foreign Office had increased its tendency to view local masonic activities in the Ottoman Empire mainly in political terms. In Cairo, specifically, the British occupation regime was becoming concerned enough about nuances in diverse masonic loyalties…to wonder if a special relationship with masons in Egypt was not necessary if only to assure useful monitoring of the Ottoman Grand Orient.’ [ccclx] (My emphasis)
Moberly Bell was called home to the metropolis in 1890 to manage The Times. His replacement and other ‘connections’, including those at The Spectator, were wined and dined by Cromer to ensure continued co-operation.[ccclxi] The number of English/British agents ‘on hand’ – military/diplomatic/ commercial/indigenous is still to be totalled but I have no doubt that it was high. The geo-political stakes were considerable and competition for ‘intelligence’ was intense. We have already met a number of the military agents and noted that their shared backgrounds included the survey and cartography skills of RE, the networking advantages of EF and English gentry circles, and strong Bible-based Christian beliefs. Most advocated ‘Jewish restoration’, a few sought ‘Arabia for the Arabs’:
Gordon RE & Mystic Christian
Warren EF & RE
Gill RE & Anglican EF?
Palmer EF & Christian EF?
Conder RE & Christian EF?
Kitchener EF & RE & High Anglican
CW Wilson EF & RE
It would be a remarkable coincidence if these men were in Egypt for other than espionage purposes, and if the lodges were not part of their brief. Some are known: ‘The 1882 Egypt expedition benefitted from very full military intelligence, carefully gathered during a previous shooting and tourist trip by one Major AB Tulloch, who, together with the very young Kitchener, both in disguise, also conducted a clandestine railway reconnaissance.’ [ccclxii] Conder joined Wolseley in Cairo as deputy assistant adjutant and quartermaster general in the ‘intelligence department’ and worked alongside Kitchener. After 1882 he was invalided home.[ccclxiii] A Memorial plaque to Palmer and Captain Gill unveiled in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral claimed they had been ‘travelling on public duty when they were treacherously and cruelly slain’.[ccclxiv] Gill’s intelligence gathering experiences were described as the travels of an enthusiast: ‘(He) entered the Royal Engineers in 1864. Being a man of great energy and enterprise, with both the taste for travel and the means of gratifying it, he had gained considerable reputation as an explorer of the unknown districts of Central Asia…’ (AH, 1894, pp.5-6) After leading an ordnance survey of Ireland, which no doubt had strategic intentions, Wilson from 1879 to 1882 had been Consul-General in Anatolia, with Kitchener as one of his vice-consuls. His obituary in 1905 recorded that ‘while in Anatolia he was sent on a special commission to Bulgaria, Roumelia and Asia Minor. For these services he was made a KCMG.’ It went on: ‘When the troubles in Egypt were brewing in 1882, Sir Charles Wilson volunteered for special service…and his splendid work in the intelligence branch of the British force resulted in his appointment as Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster General…’ [ccclxv] Their Commander, Sir Garnett Wolseley, also an EF, already held the title of Adjutant General. It might seem that this collection of committed EF Christians were on hand in Egypt because they had been hand-picked by Wolseley or perhaps had responded to some sort of fraternal pledge each had made with Wolseley. But, according to Snook, a military historian and serving officer, these men were not Wolseley’s greatest favourites, his ‘Ring’: ‘ He was notorious for making repeated use in his campaigns of the same circle of talented subordinates…(Not) content with merely mobilizing the Ring every time he took to the field, (Wolseley) was also inclined to request the services of composite units of hand-picked men…’. Those in his inner circle included Sir Evelyn Wood, Sir Redvers Buller, Sir Frederick Stephenson and Henry Brackenbury – officers who had served with him since the Crimea or in Africa. They made up one of the last examples of a General’s personal clique, or what Walpole’s favourites knew as patronage. The first two named were known EFs, while Brackenbury later became the first Director of Military Intelligence from 1886 when that position was created on the back of the work done by Wilson and Baring at the Topographical Department.[ccclxvi] Wolsley’s superior, the Duke of Cambridge, was, in Wolseley’s view, ‘the old crocodile’, but it was he who thought Wolseley’s approach ‘prejudicial to the wider interests of the service.’
Blunt was sure that: ‘(Our) government had special reasons for resenting their [Palmer and his party] deaths and after the war was over an English officer (Warren, was sent into the region to exercise British justice)…This duty he performed by driving into Suez some scores of Bedouins, men, women and children, and selecting out of them five for hanging while the rest were detained for many months in prison as hostages for more important personages still at large.’ In apparent recognition of his success, in 1883 Warren was made a Knight of Justice of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. As his training insisted he do, he kept detailed notes and he and Besant helped another military colleague, Captain Haynes, to prepare a positive account of this expedition. Published in 1894 and dedicated to Lord Northbrook, First Lord of the Admiralty at the time of the invasion, it was introduced with the following: ‘…Perhaps the time has not yet come to tell the whole truth concerning this expedition. Things are known – I do not speak of things connected with his instructions, his powers or the Government – which are not easy to prove, yet are very well known to a few. It is sufficient here to say that the real murderers of this scholar and of the two gallant officers who fell with him were not the wretched men who were rightly hanged for being the tools, but others.’ [ccclxvii]
Warren was accompanied by two hundred troopers and other support people: ‘(The) question arose whether we should be within the law in arresting any Bedoui in disguise who might come by stealth into Suez, (we found) this would not meet with opposition from the Egyptian authorities, provided that we took reasonable precautions to avoid arresting the wrong person…’ He was ‘resourceful’: ‘It would be out of place to describe the secret service Colonel Warren organised in this matter, but success very soon resulted from his operations…’ (AH, 1894, p.52) The text continued in this vein: ‘(The) Bedouin viewed with amazement the precision with which Colonel Warren achieved success after success in his enquiry. Entirely unacquainted with his methods of weighing the evidence of all who had anything to say about the matter, of piecing together, and extracting the true from the false by minute and continual comparisons of one man’s evidence with another…(Days) upon days of patient, pitiless examination and cross-examination…with a scribe recording everything said.’ (AH, 1894, p.150) Biblical descriptors were attached to desert geography. Mt Serbai is described as ‘God’s choice of the spot where His chosen people should worship Him’, and Jebel Musa as ‘the pulpit Rock of the Law-giver (Moses).’ (AH, 1894, p.192) The party was obviously not just looking for suspects, but also gathering detailed figures of possible ‘fighting men’ which each tribe might put into the field, figures only relevant to future military activity. Palmer had speculated 50,000. Warren concluded the figure was closer to 6,000: ‘On January 17 (1883) we commenced a compass-survey of Wadi Sadr [where the deaths occurred] making at the same time a careful examination of the ground which resulted in the discovery of many mementoes of the murdered men…The location of the actual site of the ambush was fixed by the finding of a stain of blood on the road which led up to the wadi.’ (AH, 1894, p.218)
Warren was to be the arrested men’s prosecutor in court but supposedly from considerations of a possible conflict of interest, that job was undertaken by Burton for the five days of the trial. He had been in the consular ‘sinecure’ of Trieste since 1873 from where he had continually appealed to influential persons asking to be sent back to Afghanistan. He promised that six months work would reveal all that government needed to know about Russian intentions. One known letter was to Queen Victoria’s ‘secret envoy’, General William Wilde. Lovell, Burton’s biographer, was surprised by the informal tone of this letter, ‘for it points to an acquaintance which has never been explored…Why should Richard write to this man…unless somehow he had been advised of intelligence missions…then under discussion?’ (Lovell p.591) Lovell notes Palmer’s friendship with the Burtons, that Palmer had been an ‘agent’ before 1882, and that Burton, though at Trieste, had initially been tasked with finding the party: ‘(Richard) had last seen Palmer eighteen months earlier…Then, Palmer was engaged in gathering intelligence for the British Army, and as a result of this meeting Richard began noting appropriate information.’ [ccclxviii] In Burton’s words: ‘We agreed that I should go to Ghazzah and search the northern road for the 21 fugitive murderers. I did so, made all my arrangements and was ready to start when I received at Jaffa another (telegram) inviting me to return to Trieste. So I damned them all and did. This is simply making a fool of me. They wanted my name while the House of Commons was sitting and then – nothing. (L, 1998, p.674
Kitchener later wrote: ‘Colonel Sir Charles Warren’s energetic action in the capture and bringing to justice of the perpetrators of the crime has created a deep impression (among the Arabs) and I consider the whole peninsular is now, for foreign travellers, as safe as, if not safer than, it was previously.’ (AH, 1894, p.272, quoting from Kitchener’s Seir and Moab.)In the House of Commons, however, it was claimed: ‘…Colonel Warren had not scrupled, by the use of duplicity, force, or torture, to extort confessions, or pseudo-confessions, from those incriminated persons.’ The responsible Minister did not respond. Lord Northbrook defended Warren for his ‘gallantry, determination, good judgement, and a perfectly judicial mind.’ The personal attacks continued – ‘The ambush by which Professor Palmer was captured’ was explained as: “natural resistance to the invasion and spydom, and bribery and treachery of the Mission”. The murder of Professor Palmer and his companions was characterised…as the justifiable exaction of the penalties of war upon spies, and the proceedings of the Government in demanding and carrying out justice…resulted in what was termed “bloody judicial murder.’ (AH, 1894, pp.268-70) Prime Minister Gladstone initially sought to put al-Arabi on trial and execute him, portraying him as “…a self-seeking tyrant whose oppression of the Egyptian people still left him enough time, in his capacity as a latter-day Saladin, to massacre Christians.” After glancing through the man’s captured diaries and other evidence, he found there was little with which to “demonize” ‘Arabi in a public trial. The charges were down-graded, he admitted to rebellion and was sent into exile.
A Commission was appointed to advise on the re-organisation of Egyptian civil society. The then British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Dufferin, 1826-1902, was appointed to head it and Wilson was seconded to assist him. Again, Wilson was ‘thanked by the government’, in this case, ‘in connection with the trial of Arabi (Urabi) Pasha’. Dufferin’s background was that of a typically, well-connected diplomat/spy in the ME. He had done a little biblical archaeology in the 1860’s, had tried his hand at hieroglyphics and had explored the Baltic Sea by sailboat.[ccclxix] He had, no doubt, been part of the local effort to facilitate the invasion and has been credited with ensuring al-Arabi didn’t hang and thereby calmed Egyptian concerns. His published Report and paraphrases it received in the press exemplify English/British imperialism at its most stark and its most seductive – extreme arrogance and assumed superiority dressed up in the language of duty and altruism: ‘we interfered against our will’, ‘we could not shirk our duty to others’ and ‘we have the best systems of governance, the Egyptians are incapable, its only right that we give them a perfect Constitution, an efficient police force “to enforce civil law and watch over civil rights”, and ‘tribunals to offer them that protection from arbitrary authority they have never before known’. (My emphases) [ccclxx]
Kitchener who is believed to have joined one Cairo lodge in 1883 and others thereafter had been invited by the PEF to work in the Sinai with a geologist, ‘a Professor Hull’, when ‘the Mahdi’ (‘the Chosen One’) began rampaging through the Sudan, overwhelming an Army detachment sent against him and threatening the enclave of Khartoum. Appointed ‘Special Commissioner for the Arabs’ and given command of 1,500 men, Kitchener ‘gathered intelligence and secured the loyalty of tribes by the careful distribution of subsidies.’ Following the same strategy which had brought Palmer and his party undone, he was authorised to deliver bribes of up to GBP10,000.[ccclxxi] The invasion of the Canal area had made the British government morally responsible for law and order along the Nile, and while Gladstone continued to insist Britain’s intention was to withdraw as soon as possible, his men on the ground either had other ideas or were confounded by circumstances. Home from the Sudan where he’d been Viceroy, 1873-1880, ‘Chinese’ Gordon, was feted a hero and then asked by his friend ‘Elphi’, Howard Elphinstone, to take his commission – command of the Royal Engineers at Mauritius. Gordon was in place only a few months before the Belgian King sought again to send him to Basutoland. Lord Ripon, Viceroy-designate to India offered him the post of Secretary which he accepted and then resigned soon after getting to the sub-continent. In 1882-3 he was in Palestine supposedly tracing Biblical events and locations for his own benefit. In January, 1884, he was in Brussels being prepared by the Belgium King when he was ‘summoned’ to London. There, he was briefed and immediately despatched ‘by the mail for Brindisi’ to somehow ‘retrieve’ the besieged troops and residents under threat at Khartoum.[ccclxxii] His state of mind, the Army’s intelligence and administrative deficiencies, the state of the Nile and the Mahdi’s unexpected skill combined to keep him in the town until any retreat had become impossible. When a decision was eventually taken in London to try to rescue him with another Wolseley-led force, Kitchener and Wilson were again involved in the Intelligence Department. A detachment commanded by Wilson was first to reach Khartoum but was two days too late. Snook’s version blames Wolseley for the failure, while the General’s reports blasted other people from Gladstone down. He especially blamed Wilson who was returned to Ireland and to survey work.
Kitchener remained in the area. He ‘wore the Arab dress and fell into the Arab type of courtesy so effectively that even his blue northern eyes did not betray him. Above all, he sympathised with the Arab character; and in a thousand places sprinkled over the map of North-East Africa he made friends for himself and therefore enemies for the Mahdi.…’ He followed Warren into the governorship of the Red Sea Territories, in practice little more than the Port of Suakin in the late 1880’s. Having become Sirdar of the Egyptian Army in 1892 – with the rank of brigadier-general and then major-general, in 1896 he finally had his chance to lead British and Egyptian forces ‘up the Nile’. After his defeat of the Mahdi army, Kitchener was made Aide-de-Camp to the Queen and appointed a Knight Commander of the Bath: ‘(He) was a soldier of considerable energies, most of which were channelled into the furtherance of his career. He was a dedicated imperialist who believed that he was waging war…in the name of civilisation, a consideration which did not prevent him from treating his enemies with extreme ruthlessness.’
Blunt, still barred from the region, bombarded the London papers with allegations of the Army’s brutalities, the burning of water wheels, the filling in of wells, and, in general, creating social mayhem. He was later able to list the rewards given to Wolseley, Colvin and others, for what he rightly called ‘the Egyptian blunder.’ [ccclxxiii] He went on to publish other ‘secret histories’ to expose government policies for Africa, India and Ireland. He witnessed what he called the ‘revolt of the Egyptian peasantry’ against the increasing debt being placed on them by British expansionist activities. He argued that Gladstone’s idealistic hopes for a reversal of repressive policies in India by his appointment of the ex-Grand Master of EF, Lord Ripon, as GG in 1883 were obstructed and reversed by orchestrated attacks which Gladstone was unable or unwilling to repulse: ‘The attacks against Lord Ripon were certainly encouraged by the Anglo-Indian officials; and presently they were repeated in the press at home…The “Times” took up the attack; the Cabinet was alarmed for its popularity, and the Queen was shaken in her opinion of her Viceroy’s judgement. Lord Ripon was left practically alone to his fate.’ [ccclxxiv] Surviving the personal attacks by compromising on his intended reforms Ripon in 1884 returned to the UK where he involved himself in Irish affairs. From 1892 he was Secretary for the Colonies.