Espionage and English Freemasonry

By comparison with the Tudors, Hanoverians were relatively considered and pragmatic, but it was a matter of degree. Their ruthless outbursts happened less regularly and were better controlled. Greater confidence and a better-defined national purpose encouraged belief that problems could be solved. After the great fire, London had bounced back quickly and had become a vortex, sucking in people and goods from all over the known world. In 1690, records show that 73% of apprentices given the ‘freedom of the city’ were from outside London, in 1700 76% of England’s commerce with the world was passing over its wharves. The prevailing mood was that foreigners were everywhere and that everything was for sale – as John Bunyan noted – houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts were just so many tradeable items.[lxiii] The court remained the market place, but was no longer the only possible place a deal could be negotiated. Opportunities, including for intrigue, had increased but ‘secret agents’ were now regarded as inevitable rather than an excuse for paranoia.

Realists have described the political life of 1720’s England as having ‘the sick quality of a “banana republic”, ‘ wherein ‘predators (fought) for the spoils of power’, and where rational, bureaucratic rules and forms did not exist. Loyal lieutenants attended their patrons seeking ‘some post in which they could milk some part of the public revenue…The plum jobs of political office – notably that of Paymaster-General, upon the tenure of which the Earl of Ranelagh, the Duke of Chandos and Sir Robert Walpole all founded their wealth – were worth fortunes.’ The Whigs, in the 1720’s, were ‘a curious junta of political speculators and speculative politicians, stock-jobbers, officers grown fat on Marlborough’s wars, time-serving dependants in the law and the Church, and great landed magnates.’ [lxiv] The Duke of Chandos, ‘England’s richest man’, who hired Desagulier as chaplain in 1714, was among Walpole’s strongest supporters and a major player in the game of power and privilege: ‘Vigilant and ruthless in his business ventures, he engaged ceaselessly in speculation in land and stocks…Always obliging to Walpole…he was one of those whose liberty and property Walpole’s regime existed to preserve.’ [lxv] He was, as well, an investor in the slave trade. Lecky’s 19th century account asserted that Walpole ‘bribed everyone’, including ‘the King, the Queen, (and) Dissenters’, and ‘(Secret) service money during his administration (was devoted) to the direct purchase of members of Parliament’:

Bribery was ingrained in English politics long before…Walpole. Speakers of the House of Commons, Secretaries of the Treasury, Paymasters of the Forces, Chancellors of the Exchequer, Secretaries of State, had all been convicted of bribery…Burnet assures us that (bribery) was in full force at the election of 1701…[lxvi] The system of patronage was developed further in EF’s formative years: ‘(Walpole) ran bribery and corruption on an industrial scale. There were bribes (previously), of course, but nothing to touch the systematic rottenness, tally lists of hard cash, military and civil places, the benediction of snug livings to younger sons, the outright purchase of power in a myriad of little deals which was Robert Walpole… (The corrupt) system…was, if not his creation, his life work of perfection and augmentation.’ [lxvii] A later US political scientist had a similar view: ‘It would be difficult to conceive a lower stage of degradation than that reached by the English ministry and parliament during and immediately following the time of Walpole…’ (RC Brooks, Corruption in American Politics and Life, Dodd, Mead and Co, NY, 1910, p.83)

There was always space in London for a new dining club where the rich and powerful could meet, but EF was not going to be useful to London’s oligarchs if it stood against greed, corruption or self-indulgence, or if it espoused Catholicism or even a broad-handed tolerance. EF has claimed for itself religious diversity and political neutrality, some critics have insisted that it was a nest of men committed to one Party and one religion – Field’s study of the Kit-Kat Club [KK] and its personnel, views EF as one of KK’s many imitators: ‘The earliest members were all men of property (and), loyal to the Hanoverian crown…’ [lxviii] A third, more accurate view, is that EF was a roiling mass of competing egos, aspirations and principles, including around the only points of contention where self-interest could be put on hold: religion – Roman, Dissent or High Anglican – and ideology – Whig or Tory. These were the poles around which all policy, including that of royal succession, revolved and which determined who among the hundreds of contenders starved, ran up crippling debts or drank and feasted into the night. In addition to sociable self-promotion and patronage-seeking, both of which must be assumed,[lxix] what was required if EF was to succeed as a popular ‘watering-hole’ was an ‘x-factor’ which could provide benefits to one side or the other.

I can’t assume that a mutually-satisfying arrangement with the Walpole Whigs or with their opponents was achieved quickly, because of the ambiguous nature of the memoirs and contemporary records of the time. But clearly, if EF had seriously attempted a moral crusade in line with its claimed ideals, it would have been in opposition to the decision-making oligarchy and would have been harassed if not closed down.

Schuchard’s thesis is that EF was established to counter a ‘Freemasonry’ already in place, which was a mix of Jewish kabala and practices of Scottish operative stonemasonry. After being ousted in 1688, the Stuart family and its supporters developed a network of conspirators across Europe united in opposition to the Hanoverian usurpers and in a belief that ‘Freemasonry’ could provide a peace and stability, based more on Leibnizian tolerance than Newtonian mechanics. Geo-politically their plotting involved negotiated alliances between Sweden, Russia and Jacobite forces to counter Prussian/Hanoverian intentions in northern Europe. The plotters believed a major reason for the failure of their attempted uprising in 1715 was the spread and efficiency of the English espionage system which intercepted too easily and too often their postal messages and deciphered their codes too quickly. They sought a more secure means of communication in ‘a system of non-traceable and largely non-written communication that utilised all the “Masonic” tricks of secrecy – oaths, finger signs, body postures, symbolic language, disappearing inks, trick papers, etc.’ There is much more to her speculations and there are numerous points where universal agreement is not assured. But for this reader, she has convincingly linked military, industrial and architectural calculations with mystical interpretations of geometry, astronomy and astrology, with the result that her ‘Freemasonry’ attains credibility.

That an invasion force was being readied to cross from Sweden to Scotland in 1717, became known to the London establishment, and, realising the threat was real, the alternative Masonic order was established, Defoe was commissioned to produce two major pamphlets exposing the plot, and a number of diplomats were arrested, despite conventions of immunity.[lxx] The famous London meetings of 1716-17 were, then, to plan a takeover, to devise a transformation and to display loyalty to Hanover. In November that year, King Charles XII of Sweden died. Once again, the Jacobite plotters had to re-calibrate and to regroup.

One crucial gap in the Schuchard thesis needs further context. Exactly how and why did the Hanoverians choose ‘Freemasonry’ as their weapon of choice? At the political level, Desagulier was just another place-hunter. He gained his first grip on the greasy pole at Oxford University when pressure removed his tutor, Keill, a Tory, cryptographer and Jacobite-supporter, and he was given the position. Attracted to court and parliamentary circles, he perhaps benefitted for a time from his lectures proving valuable to Walpole and his cohorts but he could only ever be an outsider looking in, always needing to impress powerful men who were self-serving and venal. Blueprints for steam pumps and water closets rapidly decrease in value once they have been displayed. Berman details his paid lecture tours to provincial Britain and to Europe where, he emphasises, Desagulier was a Hughenot among many Hughenots. He notes a number of known or suspected spy/diplomats but does not make what I think is the key connection.[lxxi]

To be politically and financially viable, a new organisation such as EF, had to have substance and a public purpose. It could not be just an idea or collation of ideas. At some point, proponents would have to demonstrate the idea’s usefulness to its potential regulators and its potential consumers. Perhaps it was hatched in a Cabinet meeting, or over a plate of roast beef, but eventually it had to be presented to a larger group by its initial creator/s. The sociable Whig elite already had the Kit-Kat Club [KK] and if scientifically-inclined they already had the RS. By 1717, the KK was on its last legs, its fabled sense of brotherhood eaten out from the inside by resentments and jealousies between winners and losers in the competition for patronage. Limited to forty members, ‘its congenial, alcohol-mellowed atmosphere’ had been a key venue since the 1690’s for formulation of Whig policy, parliamentary tactics, propaganda campaigns and street protests. It was not however an organisation about which many generalisations can be made. One early KK member, Mathew Prior, was a diplomat/spy for the opposition who became part of the Tory administration’s peace negotiations to end the War of Spanish Succession in 1711. Neither Parliament nor other diplomats were informed of these talks and when he ‘returned to England from his first mission under a false name [and in disguise]a port official arrested him as a suspicious character’.[lxxviii]
The RS was more of a façade than a reality, too, as none of the royals since 1688 had been especially concerned to nurture it and after 1677 no report appeared for forty years. Rather than being a refuge for unalloyed reasoning, it was one more prize to be fought over, any funds or commissions it might bestow being dependent on which faction at court or around the parliamentary lobbies had the larger numbers. The number of votes in its elections was small and whenever there was more than one candidate the result was, probably, determined by who was prepared to pay more. This is all documented and acknowledged to be so.[lxxii] Schuchard has emphasised the chauvinism and the factional in-fighting experienced by visitors to the RS, a number of whom withdrew their energies.[lxxiii]

Neil Kamil’s work[lxxiv] has detailed how the Hughenot community made itself financially viable while remaining desperately insecure as refugees in countries which didn’t necessarily want them. In London, for example, their goldsmiths and furniture-makers brought French aesthetics with them and made high quality items sought after by wealthy citizens but which were seen as threats by local artisans. The immigrants, prior to Walpole, had often had to defend themselves against charges of breaching guild regulations, of being diseased, of being counterfeiters, alchemists and worse. On a number of occasions, their shops and houses were set upon and destroyed. But having lived under threat for generations they had developed clandestine survival mechanisms. Not only did their furniture and decorative items, for example, carry trade secrets but they also carried coded messages from suppliers to agents or family members still on the mainland. This is the point of conjunction which I surmise EF was developed to embody.

Someone, perhaps Desagulier, perhaps other Hughenot community leaders, sought government protection, and the administration saw advantages in maintaining the new commerce, and value in the secret networks. Negotiations achieved what I call ‘the EF solution’, a combination of ritualised conviviality, religious and political allegiance, and the all-important underground networks. In a single entity, the agendas of the administration and the Hughenot were brought together and provided with a cover story. The Hughenot traders gained protection, an enhanced entre into gentry society, and resources to augment their networks; while the administration gained established agents and ‘safe houses’ throughout Europe, a further vehicle for its clandestine activities, and insider access to luxury goods. At a stroke, EF had legitimacy, a missionary purpose, which in the circumstances it could argue was totally moral and progressive, and the benefits of being in partnership with two powerful, outward looking allies.

For the Hanoverians to choose the name ‘Freemasonry’ despite it being a site of opposition strongly implies that the bundle of notions which it carried was so well-regarded that it was necessarily the entity which had to be secured.

That Walpole’s dominance of the 1720’s and 1730’s was a result of his earthy pragmatism and capacity to charm people, his control and skillful use of the secret service budget to achieve his ends, is generally agreed among scholars of Georgian politics.[lxxv] To retain office he also needed to be better informed than his enemies, locally and abroad. Records show that in EF’s first flush, Grand Lodges appeared in Edinburgh and Dublin, and then at those royal courts of mainland European dynasties, about which English power-brokers needed to be best informed – Germany, Poland, Austria, France, Sweden and Russia. Schuchard has provided plausible argument that the English system of code-breaking was extremely effective against Jacobite plots, and that Walpole used Desagulier, among others, as travelling, Masonic go-between in trips abroad.[lxxvi] Other intelligence that in the 1720’s Russia was sniffing the spicy winds from the east and thinking of an Indian entrepot, and had already built and manned ‘observation posts’ along its southern borders, doubtless spurred Walpole to look to his agents in Europe, in the Ottoman Empire and in what became ‘India’. Other speculative lodges suddenly appeared in these areas after 1723.

It is unlikely that London’s Grand Lodge paid all the costs involved in these extensions abroad, or even the major part. Who did pay would have depended on who was ‘encouraging’ who, and whether the Order, the Hughenot leadership, the government or the King was the employing agency – one anecdote as evidence: ‘Secret correspondence was linked to the practice of secret meetings. These provided an opportunity to circumvent official channels, as in 1722 when at the height of the Atterbury Crisis, Destouches the French envoy, dined with Melusine von der Schulenberg, Duchess of Rendal, George’s long-time mistress, who said she would get him a secret audience with the King.’ [lxxvii]

Close association of Protestant/Hanoverian EF, ie the post-1723 ‘gentry-EF’ organisation, with government-funded espionage programs is the only possible explanation for the notable series of prohibitions placed on ‘Freemasonry’ by mainland, anti-Walpole, rulers over the period of Walpole’s regime. They also suggest this was the period when the initial idea of EF was in operation, and mark the point at which it faced its first crisis: ‘In 1736, Frederick I of Sweden prohibited Freemasons from meeting under pain of death. Masonic assemblies were abolished in France the following year and the Inquisition closed the English lodge meeting in Rome. In 1738, Pope Clement XII’s Papal Bull against Freemasonry was published and Charles VI also issued an edict prohibiting Masonry in the Austrian Netherlands. Poland followed in 1739 when Augustus III…proscribed Masonic meetings…and in 1740 Philip V of Spain issued a decree… (condemning Masons) to the galleys. (RB, 2012, p.60) The savagery of the punishments is a marker of the seriousness with which the threat of EF as a vehicle for Protestant/Hanoverian spies was viewed. A certain John Coustos, usually identified by EF as merely a ‘Freemason’, was arrested in 1741 in Portugal on charges of ‘heresy and espionage’, tortured and sentenced to five years in the galleys. Released after five months as a result of ‘diplomatic pressure’ he returned to England, and prepared accounts of his travails dedicated to Lords Stanhope and Holles, both Secretaries of State. (RB, 2012, p.182)
It is inevitable that the lives of EF’s Grand Masters during the Walpole regime will be re-examined but they are probably of little significance in the inter-national context. In the following list of the first nineteen GMs, those asterisked were either KK members, sons of members or otherwise closely related to members. In place over the period 1721-1740 they were, in the main, undistinguished figureheads as Berman has argued. But he has also implied that they were paragons of all the virtues. He asserts that the very first GM, Montague, demonstrated to his noble friends that the Order was ‘acceptable, morally, intellectually and politically’, and thus a number of them ‘were willing to become’ EF’s ‘titular head’. In the context this is an untenable contradiction. Many of the GMs were known drunks, gamblers and brothel-creepers, only one or two were concerned with science, and most spent their time striving for advantage in a licentious and profligate era:

John, 2nd Duke Montague*        1721    Master of Great Wardrobe: Walpole’s Cabinet, 1730-42.

Philip, 1st Duke Wharton*         1722      Nominally Jacobite

Francis, 5th Earl of Dalkeith,    1723   Scot Known for ‘low company’

Charles 2nd Duke Richmond*     1724-5   Scot  Cricketer George II’s Lord of Bedchamber Fought Jacobites in ’45

James Hamilton, Lord Paisley     1726   Authored book on magnetism

William, 4th Earl of Inchiquin    1727    Irish   MP

Henry, 3rd Baron Coleraine        1728    MP     Antiquarian

James, 4th Baron Kingston*       1729    French-born

Thomas, 8th Duke of Norfolk     1730   Jacobite ?

Thomas, Lord Lovell              1731    MP 1722-29, PMG of UK 1733 -59

Anthony, 6th Viscount Montague* 1732   ‘Power behind notorious rotten borough’

James, 7th Earl of Strathmore       1733   Scot       Nothing known

John, 20th Earl of Crawford      1734   Soldier   Died fighting Jacs in 1745

Thomas, 2nd Viscount Weymouth 1735  Keeper of Hyde Park, Ranger of St James Park

John, 4th Earl of Loudun        1736   Scot   C-in-C & Gov of Virginia    Fought Jacobites

Edward, 2nd Earl of Darnley     1737 Irish Lord of Bedchamber to P of Wales    Anti-Walpole Whig

Henry, Marquis Carnarvon          1738 Son of Duke of Chandos, MP 1727-41 Master of the Horse to P of Wales

Robert, 2nd Lord Raymond          1739   Nothing known

John, 3rd Earl of Kintore         1740   Nothing known

Montague, GM in 1721, is one of those whose papers ‘lack any material mention of Freemasonry’. They do disclose his financing an unsuccessful expedition to colonise islands in the West Indies and his close participation in the ceremonial at the coronations of Georges I (1714) and II (1727). His father-in-law was the Duke of Marlborough, though it is not at all clear that he saw any battlefield action. (Berman, 2012, pp.124-131)   The second GM, Philip Wharton, has been treated either as an impetuous, young fool or glossed over in the official record. The ‘usual story’ that he usurped the top position by calling his friends to a meeting and having them install him as GM which coup was then ratified by the executive, makes one wonder just how the organisation was being run. Wharton was already well-known to be dissolute and socially difficult before he became GM and his quick entry and exit from EF implies that GL arrangements with the parliament and with Hughenot leaders was still in negotiation and perhaps were only secured because of Wharton’s intransigence. When he queried a GL vote against him in 1723 concerning his successor, he was defeated by just one vote in 85, 43 to 42, which result Berman applauds: ‘Wharton’s exodus from Grand Lodge can be categorised as a key event that cemented the pro-Hanoverian and the pro-Whig nature of (EF)’. (Berman, 2012, pp.136-143)

In addition to being in receipt of royal sinecures reserved for trusted supporters such as ‘Lord of the Bedchamber’, a number of these nineteen men were involved in the operational side of the administration’s work. Three served as MPs, one in Walpole’s Cabinet for a substantial period, and one was PMG for 26 years, a long time to be intercepting mail and to have control of such a major, secure income. None of those known to be of Jacobite persuasion or suspected of being so were in these positions. One career soldier, Crawford, was killed fighting ‘the rebels’ in 1745, two others fought on the government side. A number of these GMs have ‘Custos Rotulorum’ among their ‘posts’. This old grace and favour position placed them at the head of a regional civil hierarchy as the ‘Keeper of Records’ and made them, among other things, the instruments by which ‘their’ magistrates were created. As the PMG and the MP’s were, they are likely, therefore, to have been especially valuable to Walpole and to Brother Charles Delafaye whose career shows him as JP, Magistrate and Under-Secretary of State and therefore at the centre of the hugely-corrupt legal system. At this time, power to direct espionage normally resided with two Secretaries of State and their Assistant-Secretaries, such as Delafaye. A Hughenot, he had been the government link to whom Daniel Defoe had sent his clandestine reports from Scotland in the first years of the century, the recipient of sinecures, and was otherwise extremely well-connected, in particular, to the Duke of Newcastle. Berman has concluded that he was Walpole’s spy master with freedom to operate domestically and abroad. He was, in Berman’s account, both ‘loyalty personified’ and one of ‘Desagulier’s principle Masonic colleagues and collaborators’. He was so well-trusted and his position so vital to all involved, he was given a seat both in the Commons and in Grand Lodge.[lxxix] As ‘Judge Advocate’, examining magistrate and Secretary to the Commission of Chief Justices, he was in a position to skew justice to protect the law-makers against those who suffered most from its application.

Among the administration’s chief domestic targets were ‘the Blacks’, described as such from their night-time disguise and from the Black Act of 1724 which was used to destroy them. Depending on one’s point of view, they were either ‘armed and dangerous criminal gangs’ or remnants of rural communities defending a way of life from aristocratic land holders determined to fence and exploit previously common land. The Black Act and its extensions over the next decade were the pieces of legislation which took England/Britain into the 19th century with over two hundred designated crimes carrying the threat of capital punishment. The ‘crimes’ included damaging a fish-pond, killing or maiming cattle, cutting down trees, sending anonymous letters considered threatening, hunting red deer, and poaching of hares, conies or fish.[lxxx] Opposition within the initiated brotherhood could be dealt with in the same manner and was, albeit less drastically – surveillance first, then secret reports to government, and threat of arrest and suspension from the Order.[lxxxi] Berman notes a Desagulier motion at GL designed to safeguard ‘their security against all open and secret enemies to the Craft.’ (RB, 2012, p.157) He didn’t follow the logical implications of this.

 After Walpole

During the 1740’s and 50’s, EF had to re-engineer itself. Berman has summarised the problem as he saw it: ‘(EF, the organisation) became arrogant and self-obsessed …disaffection grew, becoming so considerable that by the end of the (1740’s) around a quarter of London’s lodges were expelled or erased from the register, while others seceded or chose to remain independent.’ (RB, 2013, p.4) He has focused, as most others have done on the Irish working class in London, the gentry-EF’s rejection or harsh treatment of those artisans who sought to join it, and an alternative ‘Freemasonry’ which its long-serving Grand Secretary Dermott named ‘the Antients’. The Hughenot community fade at this point from Berman’s attention, because, it seems, he believes they assimilate into the local population. Kamil believes they were largely transient and were, in the main, only in the UK on their way to the Americas.[lxxxii] Their English numbers were never huge but the importance of this community in EF’s genesis makes further demographic research crucial.

I surmise that the Hughenot dynamic in English government espionage survived Walpole’s fall. Espionage remained indispensable,  and the evidence argues that EF and the military worked together more closely and that the Court was more directly involved in what would today be called ‘operational matters.’ Most immediately, EF found itself infiltrated by Jacobites and supporters of the earlier Freemasonry.  This was dealt with, ruthlessly. A ‘contingent of foreign diplomats’ participated in the February, 1741, ‘Cavalcade and Grand Feast’ in London, consequent on the GM’s installation. [lxxxiii] After the 1745 rebellion had failed, this GM, Morton, was arrested by French officials, presumably on orders from London and imprisoned in the Bastille. A Scot, he was of known Jacobite inclination when elected. Desagulier was either out of favour or disillusioned with Walpole and appears to have at least flirted with the Jacobite Masons by participating in their procession mocking the gentry-EF on March 19th of 1741, known as the ‘Scald Miserable Procession’. Interestingly, given the 1736 Swedish prohibition on ‘Freemasonry’ the Swedish Ambassador to London walked with Desagulier at this event. It is believed Desagulier was subsequently abandoned by his erstwhile friends and died in poverty. [lxxxiv]

Attempts by Walpole’s political opponents to bring an indictment against him while he was in office had failed. After his resignation in 1742, a Secret Committee, packed with his opponents, was appointed to enquire into his administration. The substance of the case against him, according to a sympathetic biographer in the Dictionary of National Biography, rested on the last of the charges – ‘peculation and profusion in the expenditure of secret-service money’. Leadam argued that ‘there was no evidence whatever’ of Walpole taking any of this money for himself, and that as far as unnecessary or excessive use of the money was concerned, the charge was proven to the satisfaction of the Committee members only by: ‘…the comparison of a carefully selected decade, 1707–17, during which the secret-service money expended was no more than 338,000l., with the decade 1731–41, when it amounted to 1,440,000l.’ Leadam sought to justify the expenditure of such huge amounts of secret service money overseas with: ‘…much of this money was well laid out… for Walpole was better furnished with information from the continent than any of his predecessors.’ [lxxxv] His account has provided one further incident: ‘…(With the crown) of Poland (vacant, the continent had been) plunged… into a war, in which the emperor was rapidly succumbing before the combined forces of France, Spain, and Sardinia. His appeals for help enlisted the German sympathies of the [English] queen…(and) king. Walpole…was resolute for non-intervention…The emperor, furious…despatched Strickland, bishop of Namur, to London to intrigue…at court. Strickland began by tampering with Harrington, the secretary of state, with whom he had a long and secret conference…’

The domestic, oppositional EF, ‘the Antients’, in mid-century gave the other EF a new name, ‘the Moderns’, to suggest a loss of contact with an original, ‘honorable’ motivation. The ‘usual’ account of the conflict is based on ritual differences but Berman asserts, as RF Gould has done, that it had more to do with social standing: ‘..(The) original (GL) stagnated, the number and membership of Antients lodges … climbed…in part (because of) the particular circumstances of the Irish immigrant community…(as) a response both to their social and Masonic alienation and to that of the lower and middling and working class more broadly…(The) rival ‘Antients’ Grand Lodge…differed fundamentally in terms of its social and economic function, and in the composition of its membership.’ [lxxxvi]

From 1751, when ‘the Antients’ formed their Grand Lodge, to 1813, when unification brought the factions back together, their leadership berated the gentry-EF for damaging the fraternity by removing certain allusions and symbols from the common rite. This has become over time the only explanation offered for them having claimed freedom from ‘head office’ and, usefully for the myth-makers, has buried the politics. Berman has shown that ‘Antient Freemasonry’ was ‘from its earliest years’ an association of friends, neighbours and co-workers, ‘the large majority of whom lived and laboured’ close to one another. These EFs were more concerned with the financial security fraternalism could offer than with elegant conviviality, status or secret work overseas. They formed recognisable ‘mutual benefit funds’ which were much closer to the pre-1717 operative guilds in form and function than ‘the Moderns’, and much closer to fraternities such as the Odd Fellows, Druids and the ‘United Watermen’s Friendly Fund’, proliferating around them. This ‘lower class’ membership was unwelcome to London’s gentry and to ‘gentry’ Freemasons on the European mainland where ‘the Jacobite’ Freemasonry remained strong.

Pitt, the Elder, a dominant but ambiguous parliamentary figure over the four decades, 1737 – 1778, is not known to have had any interest in ‘Freemasonry’, but in various official positions, including as the forces’ Paymaster-General he had ‘a personal role’ in ensuring the espionage networks developed in line with his aggressive Empire-building policies. [lxxxvii] A war economy, increased importance of ‘the Orient’, and the shift from mostly maritime to more land-based colonisation in the Americas and Australasia, forced changes in espionage methodologies, against which class rigidities, in the army for example, acted as the only major retardants. The sense of English/British superiority already in place turned decidedly evangelical and heroic with mixed, but clearly anti-Enlightenment results. Obviously part of ‘the government’, EF could safely continue to claim that its loyalty pledge was politically neutral. For their part, any Jacobite Masons still plotting the downfall of the regime, anti-gentry EFs such as ‘the Antients’, or French brethren supporting revolution were all acting in breach of their commitment to remain loyal to ‘the government’ whatever it might be. This was also the case with ‘Moderns’ in France working against the French status quo, attempting to gain advantages elsewhere in Europe, or to brethren in the US fighting for independence.

The Regimental Lodges 

The ‘usual’ EF story has Masonic lodges travelling with regiments from at least 1732 as a positive link between ‘Freemasonry’ and ‘the government’. Berman has rightly emphasised their importance but EF literature is mostly coy about them. Many insiders don’t refer to them at all, others are unconvincing: “Officer Freemasons saw the potential of the Craft to foster the esprit de corps and strengthen the bond along the chain of command” is one favourite explanation. “For individual soldiers’, it has been argued, ”in addition to the self- improving aspects inherent in membership, the benevolent nature of the Order in the days before widespread insurance surely would have been an added attraction.” Because the first GL to issue charters to regiments was the Irish, it has been put forward that: ‘Given the turmoil that existed in England, and that it was relatively easy to get a warrant under the Irish constitution, it is hardly surprising that Dublin was the first port of call for Army regiments that were on the move and wished to open a lodge.’ Baigent and Leigh have further argued these lodges created a ‘climate in which dynamic young soldiers – such as James Wolfe – could advance themselves, regardless of caste.[lxxxviii] They have argued that England/Britain lost the American colonies because of unwillingness of ‘Freemasons’ on both sides, but particularly on the militarily more skilled and better armed ‘British’ side, to fight as ruthlessly and as cleverly as they did in other theatres. (B&L, 1998, Chap 16, espec pp.287-293)

Taken together, these published assertions are contradictory – the lodge inhabited the regiment as a whole, it was the initiative of the commanding officer, it was held in the officers’ mess, it excluded the lower ranks, it was begun and energised by the rank-and-file, it was just like a stationary lodge and needed to make annual returns, its documentation is rare, etc, etc. Neither do the ‘usual’ accounts explain why some of these lodges have been designated ‘Officer Lodges’, and some not, nor what implications followed for lodges which were in the Indian Army and/or under the nominal control of the East India Company. These regimental lodges were not self-financing so who was paying for their lodge ‘accoutrements’ and at what point were regiments given permission to include lodge trunks in regimental baggage – trunks which contained the sorts of ceremonial items which brought prison if paraded by trade-oriented fraternities?

Importantly, the essential question has been dodged – why ‘regimental lodges’ at all? What is the connection between war and Masonry? Why not accountancy lodges, medical lodges or foot-stool makers lodges? The idea that EF lodges full of Irishmen were regarded as the best and only answer to the need for loyalty in those conflicted times is laughable, and becomes doubly so when ‘the Antients’, the oppositional form, are introduced into the equation.

Almost the only account of the regimental lodges by a significant EF historian, RF Gould’s Apron and the Sword of 1899, attempted no explanation for their existence except to say that almost all of those he’d traced were begun in the lower ranks. He did spend time on the reasons for their ‘decay’ acknowledged as having occurred after the two camps re-united, that is, during 1812-13. With assistance from his then-QC colleagues, his tabulations showed that the proportion of Military to Civil Lodges at ‘the Union’ was one to twelve. In 1878 this had fallen to one in three hundred and to one in eleven hundred in 1899. He dismissed the explanation popular at the time that the army after Waterloo, 1815, had gone from a war to a peace footing. He noted that shortly after ‘the Union’, regulations for military lodges were passed by the new, combined Grand Lodge forbidding initiation of civilians or any soldier more-lowly ranked than corporal, and commented: ‘It might therefore, at first sight, appear that the prevalence of lodges in the British Army was very seriously affected by the junior Grand Lodge of England [ie ‘the Antients’] ceasing to exist as an independent institution.’ [lxxxix] In his first formulation in 1880, Gould had made the case more forcefully: ‘With fusion of the Grand Lodges in 1813, the decadence of Military Masonry commenced. A ‘working man’s’ Grand Lodge no longer existed…The schismatic body became wholly merged in the older and more fashionable organisation, while the latter disposed of a formidable rival, by adopting all the novelties and innovations which, for more than half a century, it had vehemently denounced.’ (Gould’s emphases) [xc]

That military lodges were tried but judged inappropriate by Prussia, France and the United States of America, and probably other countries, indicates that comparative studies could be useful. The other founders of London’s Research Lodge, QC, Gould’s colleagues, appear to have dropped the subject when the research began to show that the preponderance of these lodges had not been chartered by ‘the Moderns’, the gentry-run EF. The majority had been registered in Ireland, just when the Army was recruiting lots of Irish labourers and when ‘the Moderns’, the gentry-led EF, was most out of favour with those men. Time spent considering the involvement of these ‘travelling lodges’ in the power dynamic between ‘the Antients’ and ‘the Moderns’, between officers and the other ranks, or as a means of advancement would probably be wasted as they appear to have been an acknowledged failure, at least as cultural facilitators. No doubt there are exceptions, but ‘the Mess’ was either a replacement for them or evolved out of the same idea and proved more practical.

Time-lines for known regimental lodges do not fit any of the ‘usual’ conclusions. For example, Harland-Jacobs’ 2007 version described military lodges as an innovation by the Irish Grand Lodge to ‘facilitate the spread of Freemasonry abroad’ and to gain a ‘head-start on their rivals’ in London and Edinburgh.[xci] Just what race the Irish GL/‘the Antients’ believed they were engaged in, she doesn’t say. Her answer might be that they sought to have their alternative version of ‘Freemasonry’ established at ports of call before any other version. However, the ‘Antients’, although Irish-based, were not administered from Dublin but from London by non-gentry brethren, they were not in existence before 1751, two decades after the first known military lodges officially appeared, and ‘the Antients’ were not aligned with the Irish GL until 1758. The idea of the military lodges being part of a competitive strategy within ‘Freemasonry’ doesn’t fit, either, with her over-riding insistence on a singular ‘British’ Freemasonry. Contrary to what other recent, non-Mason scholars like Bullock have done, she has not questioned EF’s projected image of itself. Her interpretation does have EF’s 18th century administration at its centre from its beginning: ’As military lodges crisscrossed the globe…the metropolitan grand lodges adapted their administrative structures to facilitate the fraternity’s global diffusion…Specifically, they added nodes to Freemasonry’s growing bureaucratic network by expanding the number of provincial grand lodges…For all the British jurisdictions, the provincial grandmaster served as the grand master’s representative in a locality (much as colonial governors represented the crown abroad)…(p.38)…(Deficiencies) aside, the provincial grand lodge system (allowed) metropolitan authorities both to extend (the network) and to oversee it.’…(p.40)

The image she has given of efficiency, order and stability is how EF wishes all of its past to be regarded and, as I’m surmising, the ‘bureaucratic network’ is the part of EF which is co-ordinating with Government operations, including espionage. The other part of EF, where the officers and ranks interact is very different. Before QC, ie before 1886, scholars had not shied away from the informality and the rowdiness of EF’s past, even if they left it in footnotes or otherwise played it down. ‘Freemasonry’, in reality, was not orderly, regulated, neat and tidy at its inception any more than it was undivided. Its main attraction for many soldiers was as the Army was – not the ritual, not the symbolism, not the claimed ideals, but the conviviality and opportunities for plunder and adventure. [xcii] These are realities which undermine the ‘usual’ answers to questions around security and a need for steadiness under fire. Military personnel were sent wherever ‘government’ thought necessary, but for the 18th century and earlier, the process was not straightforward. To emphasise one point only – for any regiment or naval vessel to carry with it ‘a secret society’ which may or may not be trustworthy would have required authorisation at a reasonably high level, but whose? The determining decision for any regimental lodge to travel into a conflict zone was, surely, not made by a Grand Lodge, or a lodge ‘Master’, but by the ‘Commanding Officer.’ It would help if this officer was also an EF, since if a lodge was not known and authorised at GL/Ministerial level, discovery would inevitably mean charges of disloyalty, perhaps treason, and could invite the death penalty. Being ‘unfashionable’ or a loyalist, would be the least of a secret brother’s problems. No such cases, even anecdotally, have come to light. I conclude that authorisations were made at a very senior level but that evidence relating to the process has been suppressed, perhaps by being rendered archivally invisible.

An interpretation of EF which gives geo-politics its due, does not necessarily render lodge idealism impossible, nor prevent a set of principles being the common bond across wide geographic areas, or huge numbers of people. It only insists on the likelihood that EF/military conformity came after ‘the Union’, when gentry-EF had re-established its overall control. The prominence of Irish brethren in EF’s first century of military endeavour is unsurprising but has implications. Embracing the music and the opportunities to sing, to dance, laugh and to fall about, were at the heart of all the earliest fraternal expressions, Masonic and non-Masonic. Regimental lodges were migratory in nature, ie from tavern to tavern, well before they went ‘off-shore’. Initially, they were informal ‘clubs’ and, probably, ‘tolerated’ by those in command, since line soldiers would not have remained if the music and the rum were denied them. It is precisely because the officers were more likely to be from ‘the Moderns’ that internal tensions are certain to have been high, and that much ‘negotiation’ must have gone on about the clash of attitudes. What has survived is evidence supporting the idea that centralised order and stability were imposed from London on a fraternalism already in place, but the fact that the process took well over a century to succeed has been suppressed. Harland-Jacobs’ provincial ‘nodes’ were the means of inserting Masonic ‘mercantile/diplomatic/spies’ into off-shore locations from the 18th century but their real-time experiences before 1812-13 would have been very messy, frustrating affairs. I surmise a struggle at GL level and in local lodges between conviviality and political efficacy until in the 19th and 20th centuries, the military lodges disappeared, or conformed to the disciplines of professionalization and to the requirements of EF’s evangelical, counter-narrative. The ‘Antient’ ‘regimental lodges’ proved unsatisfactory, especially to gentry-EF officers, who began operating exclusive ‘officers’ lodges on ‘the Moderns’ registers from the 1780’s. It was only after ‘the Union’ that regulations relevant to ‘military masonry’ appeared, whereupon the exclusive lodges proliferated.

My interpretation takes support from the remarkable level of involvement of the royal family with gentry-EF and the military from the accession of George III and throughout the period known as ‘Old Corruption’. Neither George I (1660-1727) nor George II (1683-1760) are known to have been initiated brothers but they were heavily involved with the military and with European affairs: ‘George [I] had an experience of European power politics that Anne [his predecessor] lacked. On the other hand (he) could not speak English, and all relevant documents from his …ministers were translated into French for him…George spent long periods abroad in his native Hanover…His visits in 1716, 1719, 1720, 1723 and 1725 were lengthy…'(Black, 2014, p.27). George II was yet more Germanic in temperament and, it seems, preferred cards, hunting and the military. Neither appear to have played any public role with either the EF though George II’s eldest son was initiated in 1737. Of three sons of George II known to have been initiated by the 1760’s, two were given ‘Past Grand Master’ rank in the ‘Moderns’ in 1767, while the third, Henry, was their GM from 1782 until his death in 1790. Known for his frugality and piety as much as for his debilitating porphyria, George III had numerous children, who were educated either at home or, in the case of sons, in Germany, where six were initiated into ‘Freemasonry.’ His three brothers were also prominent Masons. Collectively, this royal family was vehemently opposed to claims for any reforms under the rubric ‘people’s rights’. At the peak of English/British aristocracy, it was severely Protestant and strongly opposed to Catholic emancipation.

A well-known episode of EF involvement in European politics is from George III’s reign. English Ambassador and an EF, Goodricke’s ‘greatest triumph’ came in 1765 when he helped to secure the defeat of the pro-French ‘Hat Party’ in ‘the notoriously corrupt’ Swedish diet elections. This made an ‘implantation’ of English lodges easier as part of a mission to ‘consolidate British influence’ and ‘undermine the French’. In Prescott’s words: ‘Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Sweden became an important diplomatic forum for Britain, particularly to cultivate Russia. Sir John Goodricke’s mission to Sweden was accompanied by a vigorous attempt to establish freemasonry (sic) under the English Grand Lodge there and to drive out French freemasonry.’ (AP, 2012, p.185, p.193) The French-aligned politicians regrouped, the Hats won the diet elections of 1769, whereupon ‘the Moderns’ in London soured matters by unilaterally claiming the right to act as a Supreme Grand Lodge, and to over-ride Sweden’s appointment of a ‘Provincial Grand Master’ in Russia. This, in Prescott’s words, was ‘imperialist’ which it was, (p.199) but he allows no hint of ‘underhand’ methods to attach to either English diplomats or to EF-initiated brethren. The twists and turns in Swedish affairs were ‘doubtless partly influenced by the changes in Britain’s world status’ and probably also ‘affected by internal masonic considerations, principally the rivalry with the Antients Grand Lodge’, but this is as far as speculation takes him.

George III’s second son, Frederick, Duke of York, was thrust into the British army at a very early age, appointed to high command at the age of 30, and was involved in a ‘notoriously ineffectual campaign’ during the ‘War of the First Coalition’ which followed the French Revolution. Later, as Commander-in-Chief during the Napoleonic Wars he adroitly re-organised the British army, putting in place ‘vital administrative and structural reforms.’ The fourth son, father of the future Queen Victoria, was initiated into a German lodge in 1790, the year the Duke of Wellington was admitted into an Irish lodge. As the Duke of Kent, he lived abroad from 1791 to 1800, rising to be General and Commander-in-Chief of British Forces in North America. He arbitrarily abolished all ‘Modern’ lodges in Canada in 1790 in order to achieve a kind of Union there, and was then ‘chosen’ to serve as GM of ‘the Antients’ which he did from 1791 until 1800. He was then appointed Governor of Gibraltar by the War Office with explicit orders to ‘restore discipline among the drunken troops’ but was withdrawn after a time for being too enthusiastic. He replaced the Scottish Duke of Athol as Grand Master of the ‘Antients’, his predecessor ‘choosing’ to resign before the 1813 Union. He then declined the offer of the Grand Mastership of the new entity. He died in 1820 and when the young Queen was married she was ‘given away’ by his younger brother, the Duke of Sussex. He, George III’s sixth son, Prince Augustus Frederick, was made Deputy Grand Master of ‘the Moderns’, or as they were then known, ‘the Prince of Wales Masons’, in 1801. He had been initiated in Berlin only three years before, in 1798, and then rushed through the following degrees. Subsequently, he was elected and re-elected Grand Master of the new entity, the UGLE, every year from 1813 until his death in 1843.

In his excellent account of the interplay between the factions of London’s gentry politicians and ‘the street’, US scholar Rea has explained the infamous libertine and agitator from this period, John Wilkes, as more of a pawn than an independent player: ‘By 1762, (the Earl of Bute, then Chief Minister) had learned the secret of organising coffeehouse spies and was rapidly becoming proficient in the art of establishing a government press.’ [xciii] For setting out a factional line, individual writers received up to 300L per year out of ‘secret service funds’ which averaged between 30,000L and 40,000L pa: ‘As members came up for parliament, every effort was made “to silence or intimidate the printers of newspapers, libels and satiric prints.” Those who could be frightened were made aware of the strong arm of the government; those whom threats left unmoved were purchased whenever possible.’ [xciv] The Wilkes-episode, during which a majority of London’s voters defied the established factions and ‘their’ Parliamentary system, has not figured in any EF-insider history as far as I know, but it would appear to involve, at the very least, use of propaganda campaigns and street demonstrations by a number of fraternal societies, including ‘the Antients’, to assail ‘the Moderns’ for political reasons.[xcv]

The ‘widespread use’ by Whig and Tory governments of pensions and sinecures ‘to bribe, reward or buy’ domestic political supporters had been successful so why would it not be continued. The five decades from 1780 have been singled out for particular notice. [xcvi] For what another author has labelled ‘a spy culture’, [xcvii] the term ‘Old Corruption’ was first applied by early 19th-century reform-minded activists such as William Cobbett and John Wade. As with the Walpole-decades, the scandalous behaviour of many of the nation’s leaders, going well beyond the merely non-respectable debauchery to corruption of the legal system and the infliction of misery and injustice on innocent people, did not produce regret among the gentry-brethren in charge of ‘the Moderns’. Rather, the term neatly showcases a period of close involvement of the upper reaches of ‘the Moderns’ with the royal family and its culmination in neutralisation of the ‘Antients’ by ‘the Union’ of 1812-13.

Mystic poet and artist, William Blake wrote of the unpopularity of ‘the American War’ in England and noted that ‘Freemasons’ were fighting George III. [xcviii] When Enlightenment rhetoric first appeared in English-language literature, it came, not from acclaimed EF insiders, but from alienated radicals, for example, in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and The American Crisis, and his later Rights of Man, or in the remarks of Benjamin Franklin. US brethren have, since 1776, credited their initiated antecedents in the revolutionary government with everything good about their nation: ‘…We, as Masons, should cherish with pride the fact that Masonry was most intimately interwoven in the building of the grandest country on the face of the globe. Surely the hand of Providence was with our forefathers in that great and glorious undertaking.’ [xcix] For any Mason, anywhere, to insist that a single, universal ‘Freemasonry’ existed and that its brethren, wherever they were, must be politically neutral under any and all circumstances was and is politically opportunist, at best. A universal ‘Freemasonry’, to be feasible, would need to possess a flexibility akin to that claimed by all protagonists in bloody conflict, ie, that ‘God is on Our Side’. Tolerance, peaceful adherence to the rule of one’s society, belief in equality, and all the other alleged Masonic-defining virtues, would have to reside within all regimes, whether radical, conservative, or any others for which a ‘brother’ made the claim. Notions of universal values and a global template notwithstanding, different ‘Freemasonries’ were developing. US ‘Freemasonry’ was evolving quite differently to that of England, and differently again to that in France. In addition to the likely Irish-Jacobite influence from regimental lodges, the most popular ‘Freemasonry’ practised in the US was filtered through a number of mainland European cultures before entering the US by way of its southern ports. Interested readers are referred, firstly, to an 1890 account [c] and only then to more recent publications. The 1927 US pamphlet quoted above continued: ‘The American ideal of government was, with few exceptions, promulgated and achieved by members of our Fraternity. And when the reader will have finished reading this book, he will have found that ours is truly a Masonic government.’ This is not only a politically partisan statement, it is a claim to uniqueness by one group of Masons on the basis of ‘their’ Masonry.

French circumstances were generating a version of ‘Freemasonry’ which ‘the Moderns’ publically repudiated.[ci] Home grown enemies, such as Lord Edward Fitzgerald, were plotting with suspected agents of the French Directory, [cii] while religious implications of ‘the Enlightenment’ and its socio-political content – republicanism, free education for all, free speech and free movement, universal suffrage and free access to libraries and museums – provided a degree of alignment of French brethren with US ‘rebels’, and with nationalists in other jurisdictions. It was the English Order’s denial of these ‘foreign’ values which allowed it to escape the opprobrium of revolutionary involvement cast on mainland brethren by Abbe Barruel and John Robison.[ciii] Domestic unrest and general panic brought on by the events in France from 1789 have been used to justify the coercive, anti-seditious legislation passed into law in the 1790’s and, more generally, the cleaving of loyalists to stability and the established order before all else. Pitt, the Younger, has been portrayed as a reluctant war-maker and an unwilling despot. He is quoted as saying that he alone stood between an aroused rabble and the rule of law.[civ] The evidence is that the system of government-run espionage in place was centralised and professional, as those terms were understood at that time, that it was sophisticated and, as we have seen, that it was of long standing. Military commanders continued with their own locally applicable spy networks, despite London becoming more cognisant of the benefits of common purposes. Generals Amherst and Wolfe in Canada are well-known examples, as Silas Deane, diplomat and politician, is an example of a US spy-master.[cv] Amherst’s journals record his collecting, collating and interpreting information gained from spies, deserters, prisoners-of-war and captured enemy documents. ’I kept my operations secret,’ this long-time EF wrote. The Duke of Wellington interviewed and hired ‘special agents’ as required.

Critic Haswell has lamented that, in contrast to Washington’s ‘proper, centralised organisation’, the British over-relied on ‘casual’ sources – ‘loyalists, disaffected rebels, and anyone else who might volunteer it’…‘They certainly had a few spies…who used codes and invisible inks to pass details of American forces, morale and plans to the British General Gage.’ (JH, 1977, pp.58-9) He saw only British ad-hocery even when admitting: ‘During practically the whole of the War of Independence, from 1776 until the surrender of General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in October, 1781, (Dr Edward) Bancroft supplied Lord Wentworth at the British Foreign Office with far more detailed information of America’s international relations and foreign policy than ever reached either the Second Continental Congress (in Virginia) or the American Commander-in-Chief, George Washington…’ [cvi] This ‘Lord Wentworth’ was ‘Paul Wentworth’, well-connected ‘plantation owner’ and ‘stockbroker’ in London and Paris, and sometimes ‘New Hampshire’s colonial agent in London.’ This man has been assigned so many different careers, one has to suspect all his public credentials. He was Bancroft’s link to Baron Eden and Lords Suffolk and Weymouth in the English cabinet. Having agreed to spy, Bancroft had been supplied with a species of ‘invisible ink’ for his weekly letters. Haswell continued: ‘George III who took a great personal interest in espionage, for a time gave every encouragement to Bancroft who thoroughly enjoyed being a spy…When he returned to Paris he took with him carefully prepared material provided by his English spymasters.’ Eden, later the first Baron Auckland, was Under-Secretary for State in Lord North’s cabinet, and later Special Envoy to Paris, Ambassador to Spain and the Netherlands, and Joint Post-Master General in Pitt the Younger’s cabinet. He was ‘closely associated’ with Major John Andre, the man who helped ‘turn’ Benedict Arnold, later executed by the US ‘rebels’, and with Henry Clinton, the eventual British Commander-in-Chief in North America, whom US sources credit with a spy network from New York early in the campaign.[cvii] All of Eden’s ministerial positions carried with them authority to employ ‘secret service’ agents. Clinton, Wolfe and Eden are known to have been ‘Freemasons’, of the gentry version. Many other commissioned officers are known to have been initiated, though whether before or after they paid for their commission is not known.

Correspondence between King George III and ‘his’ Ministers reveals very close tracking of the government’s spies overseas. It shows that Bancroft was a known ‘double agent’ and that Wentworth was also paid but not trusted. The King observed to Lord North, December of 1777 of documents they were discussing:’…I cannot say I look upon intelligence from Mr Wentworth with more degree of certainty than as it is confirmed by others; he is an avowed stock-jobber, and therefore, though I approve of employing him, I never let that go out of my mind. I cannot say his dispatch, which I return, contains anything to build on, but it convinces me that Bancroft is entirely an American, and that every word he used on that occasion was designed to deceive…’ A further letter has the King retorting: ‘The intelligence from Bancroft may not be entirely false, though it is certainly greatly exaggerated, for to intimidate has ever been one of his chief aims.’ [cviii] A footnote at p.94 of the correspondence states ‘Bancroft was on the pay of both the English Cabinet and Congress.’ Wentworth helped Bancroft make money on the London exchange from early knowledge of General Burgoyne’s defeat in Canada, and both were involved with peace negotiator and known spy, Benjamin Franklin in Paris,[cix] where Bancroft was made Secretary to the American Commission. Neither appear to have suffered any legal consequences for their actions, Bancroft retiring to Essex.

With peace restored, the activities of diplomat/spies once more centred on Europe’s power shifts, possible alliances and preparations for future wars. French author, Mirabeau’s notes for his sponsors, a Parisian bankers’ ring, provide detailed accounts of the court of the ailing Frederick of Prussia over two years, 1786-7. Their only relevance, here, is the information Mirabeau gives about the English diplomatic/spy team on site to act in London’s interests – Sir James Harris, 1746-1820, (later Lord Malmesbury), and his consular assistants, Dalrymple and Ewart. The French group included influential Masons and politicians – Talleyrand, Duc d’Orleans, etc – in a concentration of ‘money, of intellect and of secret intrigue’ that made it ‘one of the principal forces of France’ in the pre-revolutionary period. Mirabeau, having proved his worth to the group with a series of devastating political pamphlets aimed at the group’s opponents at home, was sent to Berlin. There, ‘through the relations of the [Lodge]Amis Reunis…(which) had a secret way of acting’, he was to spy out the land, ‘politically, for the benefit of Calonne [a central figure in the group] and the government; – (and) financially, for that of his friends who had their eyes fixed on Frederick the Great’s hoarded millions…’ [cx]

The best known allegations of conspiracies threatening European stability and the traditional order came out of this period: ‘(In Germany, secret societies) arose from among the masonic lodges, with well-defined and advanced programs,‘ eg the Illuminati, and the German Union which was ‘intended to be a secret trade-guild of publishers’ to monopolise ‘public opinion and publishing profits.‘ Characters in the mix include the Count Cagliostro and a Benedictine monk, Dom Maurus. The first I leave for the present, as for the second – from Mark Dilworth’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Biography, Wikipedia has compiled a profile which includes:

Alexander Horn, (1762–1820), was a Scottish Benedictine monk who became a British secret agent and diplomat. His work contributed to the birth of the conspiracy theory of the illuminati.

  Horn was born in the village of Oyne, County of Aberdeen. In 1772, at the age of ten, he was accepted as an oblate by the Scots Monastery in Regensburg, Germany, an imperial abbey in the capital which was then the seat of the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire. About 1782, when he had come of age, he was admitted to the monastic community as a monk and given the religious name of Maurus and was ordained a Catholic priest around 1785. He was an esteemed librarian at the monastery by 1790, while at the same time working as the Regensburg agent for the British ambassador in Munich. He cultivated close ties with the Thurn and Taxis family and other influential people in the region. Despite being a monk, his social life led to him being described as a “wild young fellow”. Horn wrote anonymously, condemning France’s activities in undermining the Holy Roman Empire. He supplied the material that formed the core of John Robison’s 1797 allegation of an international conspiracy of freemasons, illuminati and Jacobins. In 1799 he travelled to England, meeting with members of William Pitt’s government including Earl Spencer. He subsequently used his bibliographical expertise to acquire rare books and manuscripts for Spencer’s Library. When in 1802 the Eternal Diet of Regensburg, under pressure from Napoleon Bonaparte, determined to secularise all property of the Catholic Church within the Empire, the Scots Monastery was uniquely successful in avoiding this fate. Horn and his abbot, Charles Arbuthnot, (the last abbot of the monastery) lobbied Jacques Macdonald and Jacques Lauriston, Scottish Catholic generals in the French army. He was by now the official British agent in Regensburg and further appealed to the British government. The Scots Monastery was exempt from German church authorities coming under the sole authority of Holy See and the two monks successfully obtained the support of the Cardinal Protector of Scotland in Rome. An express exemption was made in favour of the Scots Abbey, although it was not allowed to take any new novices. In 1804 Horn became the official Charges d’Affaires following the expulsion of the British ambassador in Munich at the instance of Napoleon.

It is not known if the Thurn and Taxis family was still in control of ‘the Black Chamber’ described above. The organised buying up and physical reconstruction of 15th century books in the 18th and 19th centuries was an extension of the idea behind that espionage – capture, re-assess and re-shape ‘the past’ – in this case by State-funded museums and major libraries like the Bodleian.[cxi]

An Austrian government-funded research project is currently exploring the over 900 reports submitted by Horn to Whitehall over 15 years. Mirabeau published his otherwise secret despatches in 1789, perhaps because he needed the money, and other writers, exercised by the momentous events in Paris, picked up on his Masonic assertions. Scottish Professor of Natural History and Secretary of the Royal Society of Scotland, John Robison, translated and developed the Abbe Barruel’s argument that ‘the Freemasons’ were centrally involved in the revolutionary turmoil. Perhaps he was a Catholic, too, and was networking with both Horn and Barruel who were at least partly motivated by animus towards the opponents of Catholicism. The Reverend Dodd, who wasn’t, attempted rebuttal of the charges at the dedication of London’s Freemason’s Hall in 1793 by making other claims: ‘…For though it [EF] might owe to the wise and glorious King of Israel some of its many mystic forms and hieroglyphic ceremonies, yet certainly the art itself [Freemasonry] is coeval with Man, the great subject of it. Nay, it may be well stiled coeval with Creation; when the Sovereign Architect raised on masonic principles, this beauteous globe.…(etc)’.[Emphases in original][cxii]

French consular officials who happened to be committed to the republic sought a new diplomacy at this time in line with changes being made to the calendar, to forms of address and so on. In place of intrigue and secrecy they sought openness and straight talking but like other changes introduced after 1789 these aspirations did not endure.[cxiii]

Harland-Jacobs in 2007 believed that ‘Freemasons contributed to… (a) “face-lift” of the British monarchy in the aftermath of the American War.’ In another place, she asserted that ‘Freemasons’ efforts to cultivate relationships with the royal family paid off during the second half of the 1790’s’ when the government’s ‘Unlawful Societies Act’ of 1799 appeared to threaten it along with other oath-giving, secret societies.[cxiv] Such claims are mis-guided. The 1799 Act and similar attempts to muzzle street protests were put in place because of the unpopularity of the monarch, his family and ‘his’ government, expressed for example by an assassination attempt in October, 1795, which is not in her account, along with the huge numbers protesting the passing of the ‘Treasonable Practices Bill’ in November, the same year. No doubt, the French excesses were feeding into the fear and the outbursts of passion on all sides. But declarations of loyalty by aristocratic EFs do not equate to an unqualified ’freely given assent and praise of his subjects’, no matter how much the GL executive might wish it to be so. Harland-Jacobs allows that ‘his sons’ were ‘scandalised and unpopular’ and ‘often the brunt of public ridicule if not contempt’, but insists: ‘(Even) though individual members of the royal family departed from respectable mores in their own lives, they nevertheless represented an institution and an ideal that was deemed inherently respectable. Thus Freemasonry’s association with the royal house, despite the princes’ tarnished reputations, did bring prestige to the Craft.’ Erdman’s interpretation has the alternative: ‘…George III did not attempt to ignore (the people’s) Parliamentary representatives. He simply bought them. Taking over the Whig machinery of bribery and electoral manipulation, he effectually disintegrated the Whigs and surrounded himself with ‘friends.’[cxv]

The continued closeness of the royal family with gentry-EF brought criticism to both. The Gentleman’s Magazine of June, 1794 attacked ‘Freemasonry’ by reviewing a second French-published book that argued the central role of ‘the Order’ in the revolutionary mayhem across the Channel. It ridiculed ‘the several pretensions to a high antiquity, and to an honourable origin, to which many of today’s Freemasons still lay claim.’ Re-printed in The Freemason’s Magazine, the piece drew a rebuttal which addressed none of the substantive issues.[cxvi] This paper, published in London from June, 1793 to 1798, is of interest here precisely because it was both a highly politicised journal and a Grand Lodge response to criticisms of both the Royal Family and of gentry-EF. Its major articles, including those of apparent general historic interest, such as ‘Events in the Life of Roman Emperor Julian’ and ‘A General History of China’, articulated a superiority of English/British institutions over those of any other nation. It insisted ‘English Freemasonry’ was deserving of the same regard because of the closeness of the Order with ‘the national character.’ The first issue was illustrated by ‘Mather Brown, Esq, Historical Painter to Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of York.’ Featured prominently were the texts of two ‘Declarations’ moved unanimously by the Modern’s Grand Lodge in February, 1793 and signed by ‘William White, GS; Lord Rawdon, Acting GM; and Peter Parker, DGM’. ‘Lord Rawdon’, afterwards as Earl of Moira, acted as GM of the Moderns until 1812, and Acting GM for Scotland, 1806-1808. He was a particular friend of the Prince Regent, the King’s eldest son, later George IV, and a potential ‘Chief Minister’ until they fell out and he was ‘banished’ to India. The above ‘Declarations’ claimed that a need existed for political comment, not by the newspaper but by the Modern’s Grand Lodge: ‘(It is written that we don’t go into religious or political discussion) A crisis, however, so unlooked for as the present, justifies to our judgement a relaxation of that rule, and as our first duty as Britons superseding all other considerations we add, without farther pause, our voice to that of our fellow-subjects, in declaring one common and fervent attachment to a government of King, Lords and Commons, as established by the glorious revolution of 1688.’ [cxvii]

It is hard to conceive a more partisan statement. It is not just supportive of the nation’s government in general terms but of that religious and political arrangement brought into being in 1688. Specifically addressed to King George III as ‘the immediate instrument of (Britannia’s) prosperity and power’, it continued: ‘(We) exult in possessing at this time, the wisest and best-poised system the world has ever known…’ Concerning English Freemasonry it asserted: ‘(Pervading) as we do, every class of the community and every walk of life, and disseminating our principles wherever we strike root, this address may be considered as speaking, in epitome, the Sentiments of a People.’

The second declaration, thanking the Prince of Wales for ‘condescending’ to hand the first to the King, wishes: ‘Britain triumphant and her enemies abased. May her acknowledged superiority, returning peace, and the grateful reverence of rescued nations, perpetuate the fame of her virtues, the influence of her example, and the weight and authority of her dominion.’

Headlined as ‘Lord Malmesbury’s Embassy’, long despatches from this spy/diplomat in various European capitals to Whitehall are quoted verbatim in a number of editions. In every issue there are also detailed debates from the House of Commons, including lengthy speeches by opponents of the government such as Charles Fox: ‘…Never did the crown exercise its authority against the rights of the people more effectually than during the last two years. It had created new crimes, and new treasons, abridged the liberty of the subject, and assumed a military power at which our ancestors would have shuddered…’ [cxviii] A ‘House of Commons’ report for 23 Dec, 1797 showed: ‘The House in a Committee of Supply voted 180,000l for the French clergy and laity; 150,000l for Foreign Secret Service for 1797.’ This same newspaper’s roundup of each year’s events regularly included sensitive but loyalist, political matters, such as: ‘26 April, (1798) A strong detachment of the Guards marched to Kent, for the purpose of embarking on a secret expedition at Margate.’ [cxix] The originating proprietor, JW Bunney was bankrupt by November of 1793, the magazine nevertheless continuing until 1798 when its title page disclosed ‘George Cawthorn’ as the editor and publisher, albeit with a different title. The attempt to shift the direction of its appeal as The Scientific Repository and Freemason’s Magazine was no more successful perhaps because of its continued attempts to propitiate ‘the great and the good’. In its July, 1797 issue a ‘Biographical Sketch of His Royal Highness Prince William Frederick of Gloucester (with Portrait)’ eulogised a man known privately as ‘Silly Billy’ but whose lucky birth, as the nephew of the King and his son-in-law, meant he was afforded positions he had no chance of earning. From 1811 to his death in 1834 he was Chancellor of Cambridge University and in 1812 he was offered the throne of Sweden, opportunities not hindered by the fact that in 1797 he had been initiated into Britannic Lodge No 17: ‘notice of which being given to the Grand Lodge by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Grand Master, April 13th, it was resolved unanimously:

That in testimony of the high sense the Grand Lodge entertains of the great honour conferred on the Society by the initiation of Prince William of Gloucester, His Royal Highness be presented with an apron lined with blue silk, and in all future processions do rank as past Grand Master.’ [cxx]

Researchers have determined that 62,000l was spent by Treasury Secretary, John Robison [no relation to other], to buy 33 seats in 1780, and 30,000l to buy 19 seats in 1784. There are documented cases where ministers and their cabinet officials falsified documents in order to keep the truth hidden.[cxxi] The Reverend Knox, headmaster and well-known essayist, circulated in the 1790’s a text attacking all aristocratic corruption, but centred on the Pitt Government. Although re-published outside England, the author’s name was not disclosed until after his death in 1821. Called The Spirit of Despotism it reiterated ‘honest Whig’ attacks on the ‘luxury, corruption and effeminacy’ endemic in the ‘modern commercial culture of which Britain provided the most advanced and therefore the most degenerate example.’ The aristocracy was insolent, disinterested in learning or public virtue and, it maintained, disconnected from ‘the middle and lower classes.’ The institutions that should defend the public good, such as the House of Commons, had become part of the corrupt system: ‘the best emoluments in the church, in the law, in the army, in the navy, are reserved to secure implicit votes in favour of corruption.’ Knox observed that ‘the spirit of despotism’ had worsened as a direct result of the war with France and ‘loyalist hostility to the rise of the popular movement for the reform of parliament.’ His many examples began with the ‘growing government interference in the conduct of newspapers’ by which it was: ‘propagating principles unfavourable to the people’s rights,…palliating public abuses, varnishing ministerial misconduct, and concealing facts in which the people are most deeply interested,’ so that the press had become ‘a powerful engine of oppression’ to serve ‘the purposes of slavery’; the dissemination of suspicion and ‘false alarms’ about imaginary conspiracies against the constitution. The government’s secret service account supposedly forced the opposition to set up its own mechanism for bribing newspapers: ‘On 17 July, 1784, for example, the London Evening Post and the St James Chronicle each received 100l from the taxpayer, and this was matched by 200l of Foxite money for the General Advertiser. A snapshot taken in 1790 shows the Treasury controlling nine dailies, including the Morning Herald and The Times, while the opposition ran the Morning Chronicle and four others.’ [cxxii] Surviving accounts, in Hilton’s words, assert that in the early 1790’s the government spent about 5,000 a year on press ‘subsidies’, and that ‘the two most alarmist papers’, The Sun and The True Briton were both started with ministerial help in 1792-3. Alarmist deliberately, since it was believed that exaggerating threats of insurrection aided their sponsor’s election hopes. With perhaps a quarter of a million readers, London’s pressmen and publishers ‘became thoroughly embroiled in party warfare.’ In 1784, the Morning Post was bribed by Treasury to support Pitt ‘the Younger’, but five years later, ‘the Prince of Wales inveigled it back into opposition.’[cxxiii]

Government duplicity, both Whig and Tory, involved far more than use of tax-payers’ contributions ‘to subsidise the ministerial press…and to carry on election campaigns.’ (WR, 1983, p.64) Knox was concerned with: ’the revival of jacobitism among Tories and high churchmen, attempting to defend the monarchy by proposing a definition of loyalty as loyalty to the king only, or even to the government for the time being, not to the whole constitution or to the public interest…and the growing influence of lawyers in parliament…invariably exercised in favour of the government and which threatened the integrity of both the legislature and the judiciary.’ [cxxiv]

A 2006 scholar returned to the evidence gathered by Knox and others showing the politicisation of public spaces and concluded: ‘The coffee house, by long convention a space where conversation even about politics was protected from political surveillance; the dressing of hair, too unimportant to be thought of as a political issue; the cottage, imagined as a space removed from public and political conflict, even the king’s private character…all suddenly became part of the arena of politics. (JB, 2006, p.14) Concluding this review, Barrell believed: ‘…The conversations, the correspondence, the private papers, of avowed and suspected radicals, became subject to various kinds of formal and informal surveillance. Not even their domestic conduct was free from inspection or malicious fabrication, first and most noticeably in the scandalous biography of Tom Paine written by the loyalist propagandist George Chalmers under the pseudonym ‘Francis Oldys’. (JB, 2006, pp.245-6). A later Paine-biography has documented the swarms of English spies following and reporting on just this one man, and being rewarded for their efforts.[cxxv] Paine could not be put on trial, at least not in person, for his book, The Rights of Man, but he could be burned in effigy. Hundreds of ‘loyalist festivals’ were staged to counter the effects of his riposte to Edmund Burke’s anti-revolutionary essay. Paine’s words were read far and wide, especially in Ireland and Scotland, provoking hundreds of responses. Another review of the newspapers of the period has concluded that choreographed or not, planned centrally or not, the loyalist initiatives ‘helped to consolidate the propertied classes’ allegiance to the political order’: ‘(Incidents) where loyalism was elaborately choreographed suggest that (they)… met with considerable scepticism (and) may explain why the loyalist experiment was itself short-lived (and gave) way to a volunteer movement that ensured that internal dissent might be met with armed regiments captained by the propertied… (Conservatives) could be assured that the superficial bonhomie of festive paternalism would be adequately policed.[cxxvi] [My emphasis] Other contemporary observers, including the novelist Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873), wrote about wide-scale vote and electorate buying, leading to paralysis of the parliamentary process, as a core of Whig and Tory grandees manipulated results so that they rarely faced a genuine opposition. When George III was shot at on his way to open Parliament in 1795 newspapers reported that 500 constables were mobilised by the civil authorities, while in 1820 the well-known Cato St Conspiracy was disclosed by ‘Home Office spies’ recruited by the Chief Clerk at Bow St, John Stafford. His duties included giving the agents their orders and receiving their reports.
What is now called ‘insider knowledge’ must have been widespread in establishment circles since, for example, the Archbishop of Canterbury was aware beforehand that the Royal Proclamation of May 1792 ‘was intended to spread alarm.’[cxxvii] In November of that year Treasury solicitors laid plans for the future prosecution of seditious libellers, and local agents were appointed to collect the necessary evidence. Soon afterwards, the government established an Alien Office under the wing of the Home Secretary: ‘(Its) ostensible function was counter-espionage, but it quickly spread its surveillance from foreign spies to suspected rebels at home. According to one of its agents, William Wickham, it constituted “a system of preventive police…Without bustle, noise or anything that can attract public attention, Government possess here the most powerful means of observation and information…that was ever placed in the hands of a free government.” [cxxviii]
As in the earlier periods, there are no known signs of regret or opposition to the administration from within ‘the Moderns’, the gentry-EFs. There is only the excessive adulation, already cited. The only possible conclusion from all of this is that any English institution aligning itself with the English administration before, during and after the wars with Napoleon was choosing to align itself with reactionary forces known to be corrupt, anxious to preserve their influence and opposed to the principles now referred to as ‘Enlightened’. Given that this alignment had by then been in place for a century, one has to accept that ‘the Moderns’ were so deeply embedded within the circles of corruption that they were themselves tainted beyond repair.
Hone has examined the 1790-1820 metropolitan London surveillance ‘systems’, some of them quite new, and concluded that among reasons why details have been hard to come by, were that the relevant government official/s and the areas each had responsibility for often changed. Another was that the organisational methods used varied with the individual. Details of ministerial disbursement of ‘secret service money’ remained under tight control despite expansion of the range of its uses. At one end of the spectrum, reporters in port towns could be given access to a ‘press release’ concerning Royal Navy departures ‘on secret service’, but, involving far more money, the Ambassador to France before 1789 was employing ‘all means possible to increase internal troubles’ including ‘spending money on a large scale for the purpose of stirring up revolution.’[cxxix] Any published figures can only be indicative. Examples seen were brief and used the heading ‘Other’ a lot. Three junior ministers – George Rose (Treasury), Bland Burges (Foreign Office) and Frances Freeling (Post Office) masterminded links with the press. In his examination of the paid espionage work of poets Wordsworth and Coleridge, Johnston has noted that Home Office Records show that in 1795 the Duke of Portland, with his under-secretary, William Wickham, head of the new Alien Office, and the Bow Street magistrate, Richard Ford, put into operation ‘an elaborate new system of payrolls and payoffs’ designed to consolidate Westminster’s control over the heretofore ‘loose system of unpaid magistrates, honorary local officials, Bow Street “runners”, and informers of all stripes.’[cxxx] Secret service funds for overseas use, authorised by relevant cabinet ministers were remitted to agents and informers via Continental banks. In the so-called ‘Cold War’ decade between the hot conflicts with the US and those with revolutionary France and then Napoleon, energy had been put into nullifying French influence in ‘the Lowlands’, Belgium and the Dutch Republic: ‘The object was to win votes not battles and they could be won by influence, propaganda or purchase, all methods which were likely to cost money. In addition it was necessary to know, in order to be able to forestall, the moves of the opposing side, and this also involved expenditure. The money for such activities naturally came from secret service funds.’ From the Hague Lord Malmesbury paid for reports from agents in Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Vienna, Genoa, Dunkirk and elsewhere.[cxxxi] An English/British ‘eye’ in Berne trained on Paris was focused by the trusted William Wickham there as charge d’affaires: ‘‘On one calculation the Foreign Office spent 665,222l on His Majesty’s Secret Service operations in the 1795-9 period as compared with 76,759l in the previous five years. (Wickham and James Talbot his successor at Berne) were responsible for 80% of all secret service money spent by British envoys in Europe during the period 1790-1801, and in addition there were a number of hidden or camouflaged accounts, many of which have never been brought to light.’ These, no doubt, included the likes of Father James Robertson, used by the Iron Duke to carry secret messages in Europe. [cxxxii] [My emphasis]

Another English/British ‘diplomat’ named Francis Drake actively recruited ‘agents’ across southern Europe but was compromised by a counter intelligence operative employed by Napoleon’s spymaster, his Minister of Security, M. Fouche. Napoleon was a keen student of English espionage methods, and had Fouche institute a domestic, counter-intelligence system involving 30,000 police blanketing the country and, of course, extensive use of counter-intelligence and propaganda. [cxxxiii] A number of foreign spies were caught, but Fouche found that he had obtained a massive data base on French citizens which he used as a personal political weapon. One well-hidden FO expense was a large pension paid to a French royalist agent, D’Antraigue, until he was murdered in London in 1812.[cxxxiv] One of England’s earliest heroes and just one among many gentry-EFs, the Duke of Wellington was indebted to his best friend, Lord Castlereagh for his preferment into the army. He returned the favour by employing Castlereagh’s brother, Charles Stuart, as his Adjutant-General on the Iberian Peninsular. Later, as the Iron Duke’s ambassador, this gent built up a strong spy network around the port of Bayonne. A first hand observer believed that Wellington’s Quartermaster on the Peninsular, John Waters, was ‘the most admirable spy that was ever attached to an army.’ The skills described resemble those taught to the fictional Kim much later in India: ‘(He could assume different characters) But what made him more efficient than all was his wonderful power of observation and accurate description, which made the information so reliable and valuable to the Duke of Wellington. Nothing escaped him. When amidst a group of persons he would minutely watch the movement, attitude and expression of every individual that composed it, in the scenery by which he was surrounded he would carefully mark every object – not a tree, not a bush, not a large stone escaped his observation, and it was said that in a cottage he noted every piece of crockery on the shelf, every domestic utensil and even the numbers of knives and forks that were got ready for use at dinner.’ [cxxxv]

In the South and East

   The ‘British Library Guide to India Office Records – Central Asia’ remarks a major change in government policy around 1800: ‘From the late 18th century the motivation for British activity became…less concerned with the pursuit of trade per se and more concentrated on the establishment and maintenance of diplomatic and strategic links in the geo-political area surrounding and including the sub-continent.’ And: ‘Throughout the 19th century, the security of India’s Northwest and Northern boundaries, trans-frontier trade and political intelligence on events beyond the border became a dominating factor in the making of British Foreign policy. (1998, updated 2009, ‘Introduction – Pre-20th century’) (My emphases) Scholars of espionage have taken this to mean that from this point any English/British spies were employed overseas – probably in ‘the Great Game’ – and that whatever they did, it had little to do with ‘home’ politics and absolutely nothing to do with ‘Freemasonry’. Further, that legislative changes after 1815 had ameliorated the effects of corruption and the cultural air in which it had bred.

For their part, any number of authors have studied the BEIC and managed not to notice the presence of espionage, nor even of much secrecy.[cxxxvi] Little has been made of the claim by one 18th century critic that ‘the Company’ had from its inception in 1600, ‘industriously, and, till lately, very successfully covered their transactions with a veil of secrecy’. Corruption trials in the English/British parliament of Robert Clive and Lord Hastings accelerated the shift of Indian policy away from the BEIC towards Whitehall and a shift from ‘Ministry espionage’ to ‘Government espionage’ leading, eventually, to a fully professional spy service. The 1782 Act setting out regulations for how ‘secret service money’ was to be authorised, issued and receipted if used, otherwise returned, meant that from that year a ‘secret service’ budget for the BEIC was formulated annually and submitted to the House of Commons [HoC] as part of the ‘Forward Estimates’ for discussion and approval. Again the figures are only indicative as to actual amounts and vague as to intended purposes. In a resolution of 13 September, 1783, the BEIC Board in London established an ‘Indian Political Department’ (IPD) to help “relieve the pressure” on the administration of Warren Hastings in its “secret and political business”. In 1784, it only just managed to prevent the Pitt Cabinet taking control of all its political activities. Clause 14 of a draft Act drawn up by Lord Dundas at the Board of Control proposed to give ‘His Majesty’s Ministers’ the power ‘to issue secret orders to the Governments in India, concerning the levying of war or the making of peace.’ [cxxxvii] This was subsequently amended to authorise the passing of ‘secret orders’ to India through a three-man ‘Secret Committee of Directors’ each of whom was required from 1786 to swear an oath that he would not inform the other directors of any decisions taken: ‘… Hitherto, a small ‘Committee of Secrecy’ had undertaken such tasks only in wartime, although a [different] ‘Secret Committee’…had long organised sailing instructions and protection for Company ships (BoE, HB, 2006, pp.186-7). In 1785 Dundas set up a further ‘Secret Board of Control’ which, until 1805, took over the task of liaising with the Secret Committee of Director’s about ‘the more important India business.’ (CHP, 1961, p.50.) Immediate administrative adjustments were required when Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798-99 caught the local English spies by surprise, but just where in the government papers would the requisition figure for the subsequent adjustments appear? It was the Secret Committee of the BEIC which alerted cabinet of the Corsican’s probable destination before informing the three Indian ‘presidencies’ at Madras, Bombay and Calcutta of plans to send 4,000 troops immediately.[cxxxviii] The Company directors back ‘home’ often muttered about ‘secret service’ moneys appearing in their ledgers without their being consulted and without their having any power to find out how ‘approved’ moneys had been spent.

Land-based, 18th century ‘lodge/s’ outside Europe were unlikely to be the stable, a-political enclaves of conviviality and progressive values that they are assumed to have been. More likely, they continued to operate as they had in Europe as sites of intrigue, informal intelligence gathering and influence-peddling, with the addition of cultural opportunities not normally available in English schools. Indicative of military/mercantile priorities among the earliest ‘envoys’, George Pomfret, about whom absolutely nothing else is known, was appointed ‘Provincial Grand Master of East India’ [PGM] in 1728 by London’s GM Kingston. Pomfret was succeeded in 1729 by Captain Ralph Farr Winter, a BEIC ship’s captain, who in 1730 in Calcutta established the “East India Arms” as Lodge No. 72. He supposedly “sent from his Lodge in Bengal, a chest of best arrack for the use of the Grand Lodge in England”, and 10 guineas for the Masonic Charity. In Calcutta, among few known facts, ‘Freemasons’ supported a school built in 1731 by a Mr Bourchier for European and Eurasian children who wore uniforms similar to those worn at the Blue Coat School in London. These nods to respectability, benevolence and stability are the cover story. I surmise a number of approaches were being tried combining EF, military force, commercial and diplomatic initiatives, and Christian missions. One approach, the travelling regimental lodge, I suspect, grew out of a need to recruit town and farm labourers for service overseas and, only circumstantially, held within it a spore of ‘Freemasonry’.

China had long been the fount of fantastic tales and lucrative trade in exotic goods. Interdiction of the caravans along the Silk Road by Ottoman raiders in the mediaeval period had had major geo-political consequences for Europe and had provided sound reasons for trading companies to have had diplomat/spies throughout the region for as long. Some brethren in EF had long mused about the Levant, ie the eastern Mediterranean coastal regions from Anatolia to Egypt. Internal debates, around the 1731 novel, “Séthos” and around Count Cagliostro’s introduction of an Egyptianized rite in Paris in 1785 overlapped with talk of trade or cultural potentialities, as in the Royal Society, when the possibility was raised of an eastern origin for ‘freemasonry’, and just what that might mean. Speculation fed on speculation and fantasy on fantasy but ‘modern’ scholars have been very selectively-dismissive with evidence.

Within Walpole-era circles, little thought had been given to the religious possibilities of an extension of ‘Freemasonry’ globally. Yet in London, in 1720, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge had deemed it expedient to print the New Testament and Psalter in Arabic for use in Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia and Egypt. A century later, increasing numbers of missionary enterprises were ‘reaching out’ to indigenes. Some no doubt were genuine, some were peddling ‘fire-water’ or worse, while some were covers for government intelligence-gathering initiatives and were ‘run’ by British Consuls, such as Alexander Drummond in Turkey from 1747. His diplomatic appointment coincided with his authorisation by the GL of Scotland as PGM for areas both north and south of the Mediterranean. That France, for example, had signed treaties with Persia in 1708 and 1715, of course, had nothing to do with these moves.

Harland-Jacob’s thesis concerning the Empire/EF parallel is mostly concerned with ‘the colonial’ and ‘the domestic’ and almost not at all with ‘the foreign’, eg, the Middle East, but the policy distinction is actually between white, english-speaking brethren, and ‘the others.’ The literature already marks the difference, referring, for example, to ‘Lord Moira initiating Mirza Abul, Persian Ambassador in 1776’, rather than ‘a lodge was established at xyz under the English Constitution into which abc was welcomed and initiated’ which is how EF’s colonial/domestic efforts are introduced. The sparse details of the first emphasise the foreignness of the diplomat and his status and invite reflection on politico/historical realities, not a benign charitable program. However, the literature, in this case a paper by Prescott, a scholar sympathetic to EF, does not provide the context, which is that the period, 1747-1794, in Persia has been described by other scholars as ‘bloody and destructive.’ [cxxxix] The Middle East was not just another photo-opportunity whereby the locals could be impressed with the dignity and power of a public processional which is a large part of how Prescott, and Harland-Jacobs, have explained EF’s modus operandi. But neither was it simply the site of contexts and issues a bit different to those in Ottawa, Sydney or Cape Town because non-white, non-english language speakers were involved. Harland-Jacobs would have had to write a very different book to accommodate ‘the foreign’ into her thesis, which she ought to have done since at least the eastern Mediterranean was the focus of imperial and EF anxieties for almost the whole of EF’s three centuries.

In 1858, a young EF and soldier named Irwin, addressed Gibraltar’s ‘Inhabitant’s Lodge’ on ‘ancient Freemasonry’: ‘…Guided by designs laid down by the Great Architect, Noah was enabled to construct that first masterpiece of Geometrical Science – the Ark – in which…the knowledge of time, God and the secrets of our Order (were) preserved to be transmitted for the good of future generations.’ [cxl] This can be dismissed as fanciful, but with Gould and Warren, and perhaps Woodford, in his regimental lodge audience, Irwin had further insisted: ‘…Much more could be adduced to show that the Arabs practised Masonry during the time in which their power was established in Europe, (for example) that at this moment it is very well known in all those countries where the Moslem faith predominates…’ (CM, 2007, pp.203-4) This observation has been dismissed out-of-hand with the rest which is unfortunate for a number of reasons.

European interest in ‘Egyptian’, ‘Islamic’ or ‘Arabic’ rites before Napoleon may have arisen from traveller’s observation of the ‘abundant’ secret societies which in 1965 Landau accepted had existed in Egypt for a very long time, and which appear to have been labelled ‘Freemasonry’ to suit the imperial colonisation process. These societies were, supposedly, ‘ancient and local rites’ from Dervish Orders and Muslim guilds ‘with their own secret signs of recognition’. Kedourie, a long-time scholar, asserted that ‘It cannot be doubted’ that Al-Afghani, an important if elusive anti-British activist late in the 19th century, ‘saw in masonry a modern extension of ancient Islamic heterodoxy.’ [cxli]

Further, QC-founder Gould quoted from The Times of 1881 to the effect that ‘there is in existence a widely-spread system of “Moslem Political Freemasonry”: ‘This has five sub-divisions, one of which – the powerful confraternity of Sidi Abdel Kader of Chiliani – possesses a college at Kairwan’. A footnote provided the information that Kairwan, ‘long the capital of Moslem Africa, and formerly a place of great literary eminence, is still considered a sacred town’. The original bearer of the confraternity’s name lived in the 11th century, was a descendant of Mahomet, and was considered a holy man and saint. Gould’s account of ‘Freemasonry’ disregards non-European material from this point. [cxlii] In the nineteenth century, the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and of Antioch always chose their members from ‘the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, an old monastic Order, which in its modern form, dates from 1662.’ [cxliii] [My emphasis]

Any non-European fraternities, vibrant or not, in place when colonisers arrived would have provided a strong reason for the use of ‘Freemasonry’ as a social lubricant. Even dim but collective memories of a fraternal past would have assisted the newly-arrived to argue a degree of compatibility with influential locals at the point of contact, when differences, not similarities, would have been uppermost in many minds. One could argue ‘Freemasonry’ was chosen by Europeans as a suitable vehicle for their aspirations precisely because the notion of fraternalism was of long-standing.

Power disparities at cultural flash-points and the relative values placed on types of information can affect how, and whether, mutually useful information flows. Commercial transactions require product knowledge to take place, imperial decision-makers put a higher priority on geo-political intelligence – place, distances, centres of administration, key individuals, etc. In what is now called Central Asia/Middle East, pre-European communities saw their information-gatherers ‘instrumentally’, ie they were a means to an end, an approach which would have been recognised by Europeans. But the reasons the intelligence was gathered were very different. Indian spy systems, for example, were intended to serve a whole community. They were ‘flexible and adaptable’ and depended on ‘informal networks of knowledgeable people’ – from holy men, mid-wives, astrologers and exorcists to traders, surgeons and artisans: ‘Indian statesmen had long been concerned with good intelligence gathering, regarding surveillance as a vital dimension of the science of kingship – networks of running spies, newswriters and knowledgeable secretaries’ Their aim was not to create a police state which monitored the political attitudes of subjects, so much as to detect moral transgressions among their officers and the oppression of the weak by the powerful.[cxliv] In the 18th and 19th centuries, the system’s enormous scale and scope were perfect for the British to adopt, but the whole was weak enough to be taken control of and changed. The Resident at Hyderabad, James Kirkpatrick, within a short time of arriving in 1795 was receiving intelligence from cleaners, concubines, harem guards and the Nizam’s official historian, as well as from agents within the French military encampment.[cxlv] He was making use of a traditional way of life to achieve new ends. The later ‘Great Game’ of spy vs spy on the icy slopes and wind-swept plains of Central Asia and the bribery of camel-drivers between Egyptian bazaars were not new but they were not entirely old either. In mid-century, ‘as the busiest junction of British and Indian interests, the Commissariat Office acted as a kind of intelligence centre. The ante-rooms and verandahs of the Cawnpore’s Commissariat swarmed with spies, some under contract to the military and civil authorities. Entire castes dedicated themselves to spying. There were reckless men who hired themselves out as messengers and learned to carry infinitesimal coded notes in the cracks of their bamboo staffs, in their hair, between their teeth, under especially cut flaps of skin, or even in more private parts of their anatomies…The contractors themselves were expected to provide the British with not only supplies but with intelligence.’[cxlvi]
The intelligence was not just collected, it was used to imperial advantage, including to bring about that component of diplomatic-spy work noted by Baden-Powell, what we now call ‘regime change’. Instructions rarely needed to be written down, much would have been understood by ‘brothers in arms’ but where better to plot the alienation of one royal faction or the undermining of another than an exclusive, secretive lodge meeting? Interpretations by indigenous historians not bound by race or instinct to the imperial chariot have listed what they regard as the intended goals of surveillance networks set up with ‘Machiavellian coolness and calculation’, for example by Sir John D’Oyley (1774-1824) in what is now Sri Lanka:
to ascertain the identity of the important Kandyan noblemen and aristocrats who were not well-disposed towards the king, and to fan their feelings of ill-will to the sovereign;
to ascertain the names of the members of the Kandyan court who remained loyal to their monarch, and wherever possible to neutralise them;
to secure the trust and support of the sangha or Buddhist clergy;
to gain a comprehensive knowledge of strategic points of the realm and of the various secret routes leading from the Maritime provinces by which they could be reached, and Kandy itself approached;
to obtain information regarding personal antipathies and clan rivalries among the leading families in the Kandyan Provinces;
to originate and bring into existence in the remotest part of the king’s dominions such situations and tensions among the people as might justify British intervention;
to find out the exact military strength, supplies, arms and ammunition available for the defence and protection of Kandy;
to obtain information regarding the whereabouts of hiding-places in which the royal treasure was usually hidden during political upheavals;
and last but not the least important, to convey through various agencies, British liquors of all sorts to the king.

Non-Military Lodges

Reports to London’s 19th century EF periodicals of Indian EF jurisdictions were inter-changeable with those coming from the BEIC’s administrative ‘presidencies’. For example in 1839: The Provincial Grand Master for Western India wrote that while lodges were succeeding, ‘the dispersion of so many military brethren from Bombay, must, as in other parts of India, occasion temporary checks to Masonic operations.’ [cxlvii] These are not regimental lodges, with travelling charters, these are lodges already known to have initiated BEIC officials and civil servants. The notion of ‘agency’ is still in place but military involvement with EF has long since shifted from being EF within regiments to the reverse – service personnel inside non-regimental EF. Any list of military ‘agents’ for the gentry-EF who were not initiated at home and were not in defined ‘regimental lodges’ would include the future governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, who was initiated in Bombay in 1793. His Masonry supposedly led to visionary policies among the convicts, gaolers and embryonic capitalists at Botany Bay. Rather, his initiation was a strategic reaction to a broader phenomenon:

– Great Power competition was transforming the rift between the ‘Antients’ and ‘Moderns’ into one between English and non-English ‘Freemasonries’;

– Control of a unitary ‘Freemasonry’ was becoming part of local, national, and global rivalries;

– French ‘Freemasonry’ was expressing itself in socially progressive ways, as the gentry-EF was interpreting ‘Freemasonry’ in socially reactionary ways;

– Continental and ‘American’ governments and ‘their’ Grand Lodges were engaged in joint ‘recruiting drives’;

– Supported by the House of Hanover, gentry-EF was shoring up its image as the mother of all ‘Freemasonry’ and as the Empire’s strongest supporter, a movement which came to fruition at ‘the Union’.

Geo-political rivalry is the context in which Napoleon’s alleged‘ introduction of Freemasonry’ into Egypt and his appointment of loyalists to high status positions in both government and ‘Freemasonry’ needs to be seen. Non-military lodges were better-placed to operate as ‘safe houses’ for the exchange of sensitive information between belligerents. The French lodge, Neuf Soeurs, in Paris was one such place of contact during the US war for Bancroft, Franklin and other agents.[cxlviii] Sir Robert Wilson (1777-1849), a military surveyor and diplomat/spy, set down in his memoirs his use while in action of his Masonic membership. This soldier was with the Russian Army in Moscow when Napoleon was turned around and in Spain and Portugal when Wellington was engaged in the same enterprise. He was sidelined for a time for publishing warnings that Russia was intent on capturing India and the Indies. Hopkirk credits him with the creation of ‘the Russian bogey.’ He was Gibraltar’s Governor in the 1840s. In 1805 he recorded making a sketch while on patrol of the ‘Great Cairo’ and later submitting it with a report which remarked that the fortress was not defensible. On the same day, June 9, he referred to meeting a Mameluke Bey, just returned from Gizeh: ‘where he had been sent on an important secret mission, the purport of which was only known to the general and myself, therefore not to be mentioned or even hinted at, at home…’ [cxlix] The following November he was similarly engaged in San Salvador and wrote:

(p.277, November 16, 1805)’…Here I have found the greatest advantage from masonry. No sooner had I declared myself than houses, horses, servants, all things, were put at my disposal, for the institution is held in the highest estimation, because the laws and bigotry persecute the professors with fire and sword. I dare not now mention the names of those who devoted themselves to my service but some of the chief members of government have in private made me their acknowledgements.’

Another of the 19th century’s earliest Empire and EF heroes, Stamford Raffles, wrote, around 1810, of ‘the splendid prospect’ of: ‘the total expulsion of the European enemy from the Eastern Seas, and [of] the justice, humanity and moderation of the British Government, as much exemplified in fostering and leading on new races of subjects and allies in the career of improvement as [in] the undaunted courage and resolution of British soldiers in rescuing them from oppression.’ [cl] This was his self-serving justification to his superiors including Lord Minto of his bloody, racist invasion of Java in 1811. His subsequent, post-invasion initiation into ‘a small, select Lodge’ on a coffee plantation owned by a Dutchman, who just happened to be the ‘Master of the Lodge’ has been celebrated by EF insiders as totally without duplicity or artifice of any kind.[cli] Lord Minto, Governor-General of India 1807-1812, had apparently ‘sponsored’ Raffles into gentry-EF and Raffles then just happened to meet with William Daendels, appointed that same year by Napoleon to be the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. Whereupon, Daendels, being ‘so worried by the possibility of Masonic conspiracies’, had new club rooms, the Harmonie, built for expatriates to meet openly and fraternally. In that same spirit, Raffles, allegedly, had the building completed with public funds. Non-Masonic historians have done little better with these layers of illusion.[clii]

Raffles was unusual among military/Masonic heroes in recognising that the maxim, ‘knowledge is power’, extended to artefacts. Having humiliated the Javanese people in 1812 he then sought to conquer their past by, in Hannigan’s words, ‘annexing the island’s history’, and making it ‘his own vassal state.’ He had his underlings plunder Javanese flora and fauna, its artworks and its literature for relocation. He sent his military engineers to survey ancient temples in order to capture them as well as the island’s myths and legends for repackaging. European theft of indigenous culture, whether the Elgin Marbles, Australian aboriginal bark paintings or Cleopatra’s Needles, was just another element of colonisation’s appropriation of its victims’ lives. To the victor went not only the power to appropriate knowledge about a people, but also the power to write that people into a history which set out the European version, even of themselves. Raffles wrote in Java: ‘(In) the intercourse between enlightened and ignorant nations, the former must and will be the rulers.[cliii] His ruthlessness was at odds with Macaulay’s benign view of Whiggery and with that of EF’s claims of universality and tolerance. Rather than make him a poor example of an Englishman, or of English Freemasonry, his words evidence imperialist and gentry-EF attitudes.[cliv] His immediate superior General Robert Brownrigg made sure that the European community on the island were given only a negative view of the entrenched rebel leader and were therefore totally supportive of the unnecessary, particularly brutal campaign which followed the King’s capture. (B&YG, 1999, pp.147-8.)

Writing in the 1880’s UGLE insider Gould saw no need to distinguish ‘diplomatic’ from ‘Masonic’ when describing ‘foreign’ activities seven decades earlier: “His Excellency Mirza Abdul Hassan Khan”, Persian Ambassador to Great Britain, in 1809 travelled to London on an English war-ship with Sir Ousley Gore, Baronet, as his Mehmander, ‘an officer of distinction’ whose duty it was ‘to receive and entertain foreign princes and illustrious personages’. On June 15, 1810, Mirza Khan was made ‘Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England.’ In the same year, Sir Ousley Gore was appointed British Ambassador to the Shah of Persia and was ‘granted an English patent as Provincial Grand Master [PGM] to that country.[clv] This Persian diplomatic mission reportedly set London social circles ablaze – ‘the women are quite mad’ about the ambassador Hassan Khan who had ‘considerable charm, a neat turn of phrase, good looks and flowing silk robes which besotted London crowds, high and low.’[clvi]

At the time Gould was writing, there was nothing known of an English lodge in Persia in 1809, and none were known to have been ‘established by any other external authority’. As far as was known, Mirza Khan was not a ‘Freemason’ at all until initiated by Lord Minto in 1810, and was therefore ineligible to be made a Past Grand Master. Gould was no innocent in these matters and he thought the interlocked diplomatic/Masonic workings were for mutually beneficial, political ends. Presumably, government funds – ‘secret service money’ – were used when visits to London of such strategic importance occurred. Gould doesn’t mention that Mirza Khan was paid 1,000 rupees a month from 1810 until his death in 1846 by the ‘political department of the East India Company.’ As the official in charge of Persian foreign affairs, Mirza Khan was to have this amount from the British Ambassador, Sir Ousley Gore, if that gent was ‘satisfied with (Khan’s) conduct of affairs.’ [clvii] After his return to Iran, Mīrzā Khan worked closely with Gore who added Mīrzā Šafī, the prime minister, to the British payroll (F.O. 60/7 1812, letter no. 16) Gore’s immediate instructions had been to safeguard the British and Russian interests and enable the Russians to face the Napoleonic army without being disturbed by Iran. After Napoleon had been defeated, neither the paymaster nor the recipients appear to have attempted to promote lodge expansion which would indicate that that wasn’t the point of the initiations. Gould doesn’t mention either that Askar Khan Afshar, ‘leader of a diplomatic mission to Europe’ had been initiated the previous year ‘into the mother lodge of Philosophic Scottish Rite’ by the Grand Orient of France, in Paris. At his ceremony, Napoleon’s Secretary of State had spoken of ‘the alleged oriental origin of masonry and its latter-day return to its birthplace through the efforts of Iranian masons’: ‘By (the initiate) this pure light will return to its ancient cradle.’ The English/British establishment had a double reason to respond – the local origin of ‘Freemasonry’ was being challenged and other nations, using the same methods, were gaining influence in Persia.

Travel, exploration and conquest were exponentially increasing the volume of information which needed to be processed by ‘home’ governments and their advisors, inevitably multiplying potential for disagreement over interpretations. Where 18th century BEIC officials had entered into indigenous life to understand it, to enjoy its pleasures and to obtain its hidden meanings, the ‘19th century way’ included seeking information from the terrain in order to control it militarily. At the same time, evangelical Christians argued that acquired ‘subjects’ needed to be saved from themselves with ‘our’ education and ‘our’ religion. A Director of the BEIC, Charles Grant in 1787 described Hindus as ‘a universally and wholly corrupt’ people and this remark has been used as a time-marker for a change in attitude.[clviii] Grant, (1746 – 1823), was, in time, to become Chairman of BEIC, an influential MP and an energetic member of the Clapham Sect, a group of social reformers which included William Wilberforce and the later Lord Shaftsbury. John Shore, 1st Baron Teignmouth (1751-1834) and Governor of India from 1793 to 1797, was also the first President of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and so on. (MtE, pp.142-155.) This was rarely turn-the-other-cheek Christianity, this was active, aggressive proselytising, with a Bible in one hand and a sword or a Cooper ‘pepperbox’ pistol in the other. The practicalities of empire-building with reason and science could mean the Bible stayed out of sight until ‘the heathen’ were subdued, but ‘our Book’ shouldered ‘theirs’ aside, forcing compromises and hybrid solutions which, history tells, were not always successful. In brief, spy-masters were seeking more sophisticated surveillance methods and administrators more accurate and up-to-date information, while others were turning to the ancient past for verification of knowledge they believed they already had. In either case, EF had instrumental value.

An apparent turning back towards the past by EF after 1813 included genuine curiosity about what was potentially new knowledge, but other brothers like Raffles were capturing symbolic markers to shore up preconceptions. David Stevenson has backgrounded hermeticism and the cult of Egypt which he believed entered into Scottish Masonry in the early modern period. (DS, 1988, pp.82-87) By the time the actual hieroglyphs were deciphered by a Frenchman in 1822, attitudes among the broad public included both spiritual and scientific curiosity but when the sphinx, the obelisk and the Great Pyramid enclosing an all-seeing eye (the Eye of Horus) became more prominent in EF they were as much consumer items as keys to enlightenment. Thomas Pettigrew, surgeon to the English Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, and an antiquarian held parties at which he unrolled and autopsied mummies for the entertainment of his guests, later publishing a history of his findings. In Kensal Green Cemetery, while Sussex’s tomb was built of dour, understated Aberdeen granite, a number of GL-EFs, including that of Peter Thomson, who was directly involved in the 1813 union, had headstones with Egyptian motifs. Later on, the famous ‘Egyptian Room’ at London’s revamped Crystal Palace, 1852-4, was a collaboration of EFs, while English brethren were central to the transportation of a ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’ obelisk from Egypt to London in 1878 and its erection on the Thames Embankment.[clix]


By 1800, the British Army’s Ordnance Department was complaining that ‘to improve military technology’ and to ‘keep…abreast of foreign scientific and military developments’, its entrenched procedures, including its ‘two hundred-year-old Decyphering Branch’, needed renewal. Napoleon and Wellington, both militarily trained on the Continent, complained of the abysmal state of their, home-grown intelligence-gathering systems. The need to know ‘what is over the hill’ – the Iron Duke’s phrase for ‘what my opponent is thinking’ – remained their immediate priority. There was always the fear that ‘his’ skills were getting ahead of ‘ours’. A theme in the competitive drumbeat for government was now ‘directed’ intelligence. Emerging military theory after the loss of the US colonies was saying a man could be more effective, for a longer time, if he was better prepared beforehand. Skills to fit circumstances could therefore be better taught ‘at home’ and refined ‘on site.’ The British Library has commented that not only was this adjustment ‘mainly political,’ but it was no-longer about Europe – it was about ‘which tribes might be plotting to overthrow some ruler and what might be the effect on border tribes.’ (BL Guide to Records)

Proficiency in appropriate languages needed time to develop as did back grounding in a culture or a region. Upgrades in specialisations – translator, code-breaker, engineer, gunner, active spy, sleeper spy – needed more complex information and better teaching methods. Trigonometry and geometry were essential in the front line but when that agents were ‘undercover’, their ability to measure by eye, to determine angles of shell trajectories, to conduct survey and cartographic work quickly and effectively, required better-focused skills.[clx] Usable, coherent intelligence needed a base in statistical/geographic/economic and sociological descriptions which, in turn, needed field agents who could draw maps, collect data and generally pass through or investigate specific areas without raising storms of protest.

A 1997 study of how cartography defined the Empire in the 19th century began with the assertion that ‘Imperialism and mapmaking intersect in the most basic manner’. Its author convincingly argued: ‘Without good political and military intelligence the British could never have established their rule in India or consolidated the dominant international position of the United Kingdom.’ [clxi] Surveyors and engineers had long been the means of giving shape and form to what otherwise were ‘trackless wastes’ of ocean, highland, jungle or desert. They were of special value to government precisely because, in theory, they exemplified the secular search for ‘truth’, what, in the 19th century was commonly called ‘science-based knowledge’. Their reports and briefings were always, in theory, rational, data-driven and objective, because that’s what, in theory, the Navy’s captains, the War Office’s strategic analysts and government policy-makers had to have to be effective.

Government authorisation and funding was needed for the systemisation and the teaching of the new skills. The Great Trigonometrical Survey of India [GTS] was a project of William Lambton, an infantry officer, who in 1799-1800 convinced the Madras administration to provide the first funds. George Everest, a young artillery officer, was Lambton’s first assistant at the GTS and his successor in 1823. In 1829, Lord Ellenborough, (1790-1871) Governor of India and member of the Duke of Wellington’s Ministry, issued orders for the routes by which an invader might enter India to be thoroughly explored and mapped. The GTS produced maps of the borders of the British colonies in India and in the process measured Everest, K2 and Katchenjunga. But in 1800, except for the artillery school at Woolwich no institution for the education of military officers existed in Britain. In 1801, after overcoming considerable opposition, a skilled swordsman and cavalry officer, John Le Marchant convinced Parliament to vote £30,000 and to appoint him ‘lieutenant-governor’ of a Royal Military College. Over the next nine years he trained the officers who served under Wellington in the Peninsular War against Napoleon. Promoted and sent back to active service by the Duke of York he was killed at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812. His initiative eventually became Sandhurst. A similarly colorful start was made to a new direction offered by the BEIC’s Military Seminary established at Addiscombe in 1809.[clxii] Fraud had been discovered in the selection processes at the earlier Hayleybury College set up ‘for cadets, assistant surgeons, free mariners, and volunteers for the Bombay marine and Bengal pilot service’. The Reverend Thomas Malthus was among its staff from 1805 to teach History and Political Economy. A House of Commons Select Committee issued reports on the cheating, a number of appointments were ‘annulled’ and the whole of ‘the Court’s patronage’, hitherto with the Shipping Department of the Company, was ‘in future to be examined and passed by the Select Committee superintending the [Addiscombe] Seminary, recently appointed.’ No lodge was established within the grounds but a number operated in close proximity.

In 1809, Wellington, made clear his belief that ‘order and discipline (was) the key to military success.’ In Harland-Jacobs’ words, he sought ‘to engender obedience, loyalty, passivity and a lack of inquisitiveness among the rank and file.’ [My emphasis] He firmly believed that the army would function most effectively if its structure and internal workings mirrored Britain’s social hierarchy. UGLE in 1813 was clearly in agreement. As already noted, it determined that no warrant would be issued for a new regimental lodge ‘without the consent of the commanding officer’, forbade initiation of civilians into military lodges, and barred admission of any soldier below the rank of corporal, except as a serving officer or by dispensation from the GM. Any privates who were admitted were relegated to the role of servants in newly-formed “Officers’ Lodges’.

By 1817, Addiscombe had admitted 427 ‘Artillery and Engineer gentlemen cadets’ and had sent 338 out to India, a result with which Lord Minto had expressed himself well-satisfied. In that year, an attempt was made to wind back its programs, one Company Director saying that BEIC’s civil servants were only required ‘to weigh tea, count bales and measure muslin.’ Malthus issued a pamphlet defending the Seminary in all its parts, quoting Minto, and the then Marquis of Wellesley from 1800 when his ‘prototype’ college at Fort William in Calcutta was being set up: ‘(No) more arduous or complicated duties of magistracy exist in the world, no qualifications more varied and comprehensive can be imagined than those which are required from those persons.’ Established languages, Latin and French were by then being taught alongside Hindustani, with mathematics, fortifications, astronomy, landscape drawing, military surveying and civil drawing. Espionage was not named in the curricula. However, a new Superintendent at Addiscombe in 1824, RL Houston came from the Indian Army where, among other postings, he had been in charge of ‘Guides’ and of the ‘Intelligence Department’. He introduced what was later described as ‘the pernicious system of espionage’ which, in situ, meant sergeants were authorised ‘to observe the movements of the cadets’ during sport and recreation and to report to staff immediately any infringement of the rules ‘regarding smoking, entering public houses’ and the like. The system was removed after a short ‘trial’. For the 1894 author of the College’s history nothing more likely to destroy all self-respect among ‘the youngsters’ could have been devised: ‘The only reason I can give for the failure of this system to ruin the cadets is that (they) were imbued with such manly and generous feelings throughout that it was impossible to destroy them.’ [clxiii] He crowed in 1894 that ‘(The) [BEIC] Chief Engineers, are, or have been Addiscombe men…The heads of the Great Survey Department are still Addiscombe cadets.’ (HV, 1894, p.8)

This new breed of engineer is of interest: ‘(The) explosion of cartographic enterprise in early modern Europe was motivated by the specific requirements of powerful social formations – fiscal, dynastic, military, commercial and imperial.’ [clxiv] In the words of another recent scholar, the operators of the 19th century, rational approach lost touch with their indigenous ‘subjects’ in statistics, strategies and map lines. Speaking about India: ‘The British elite created a myth of a bourgeois colonial community comprised only of themselves, which subsequently engendered the greater, more potent, and more ambiguous myths of Raj, of the White Man’s Burden, and of the never-setting Sun.’ (MtE, p.30) Local knowledge was to be waved aside.