CHAPTER ONE: The First Freemasons in Australia
(This Book, They Call Each Other Brother, is at November 2022 being totally revised. The revised ‘Introduction’ is now at the Home Page.)
In 1938, Cramp and Mackaness[lxxxi] provided an account of Freemasonry in NSW which became by default the history of the earliest years of Freemasonry in Australia. It began with the very prosaic: ‘Craft Freemasonry, as we now know it, was not regularly practised in Australia until the year 1816. Prior to that date, however, we have evidence of at least three occasions when Masonic arts were either proposed or practised in Sydney.’ [lxxxii] The word ‘regularly’ serves to send the pre-1816 ‘occasions’ to the realm of non-Masonry, but on what evidence? While Arthur Philip, first Governor is believed not to have been a brother, some officers and some of the rank-and-file troopers aboard the First Fleet had certainly been initiated, but into which Constitution and into which lodge, regimental or other, is often not known.[lxxxv] The very murkiness of this early period sets the scene for much of what follows over the next century and a half.
Norfolk Island’s Secret Societies
Australian academic Atkinson has recently asserted ‘a benefit and burial society’ was formed on Norfolk Island in 1793 by a Rousseau-devotee and about ninety others intent on regulation of prices for their produce, and that Commandant King tried to convert it into a ‘Settlers’ Meeting’ shaped more to his liking. Atkinson has assumed that this NI society must have had Speculative Freemasonry as its model, indeed that it must have been of that particular ‘branch’ of Freemasonry, the ‘Ancients’, not because of any Irish connections but because it had benefit provisions:[lxxxvi]
It was a benefit and burial society, as Ancient lodges normally were, and something of the international flavour of Freemasonry can be seen in the provision that the widows of members were to be provided with part of their passage money should they decide to leave the island, whether for Europe, Asia or America.
He has, equally erroneously, assumed the Provost Marshal of Norfolk Island, Fane Edge, was also a Freemason of the ‘Ancient’ variety, and has asserted that these ‘lodge’ members planned an annual feast on St Patrick’s Day , something ‘typical of Masonic lodges.’
In 1796 then-Governor Hunter, reported that the ‘British’ settlers on Norfolk Island included secret conspirators:
(Persons who) have neither been bold enough or so imprudent as to attempt openly..The original discipline of the colony is sadly relaxed or nearly lost..all is confusion, disorder and licentiousness..Our settlers, my lord, have been ill-chosen..many of them are very bad characters..[lxxxvii]
King, Hunter’s predecessor as Commandant of the Island, had pointed in the same direction:
A great part of the marine settlers, when the novelty of the change is gone off, will have neither ability or inclination to get on. They have been extremely troublesome, insomuch that I have found it necessary to try two of them..The charge against the first was for beating the watch and using the most inflammatory language against the government..[lxxxviii]
‘Marine settler’, here, refers to members of the original militia superseded by the newly-formed NSW Corps and, who, having determined to resign, had been granted land. King’s ‘Settlers’ Meeting’ soon died but later in the 1790’s, the authorities became alarmed that ‘settlers and others’ had established a new society. The founders, including some involved earlier, wrote to Governor Hunter denying they ‘had given any name to their meeting’ but he immediately informed the Duke of Portland, the Secretary for Colonies:
I conceive that there is something extremely improper in the manner of the meeting of the settlers on the island…
He then issued a ‘Government and General Order’ to the Island’s inhabitants which began:
It is with much astonishment and displeasure that the Governor has been informed of the very unwarrantable association entered into by the settlers and other persons upon Norfolk Island, and which he understands they have in the most seditious manner termed ‘The Fraternal Society of Norfolk Island’.[lxxxix] [My emphasis]
Just the title ‘Fraternal Society’ might suggest to harried and suspicious commandants revolutionary Paris and unsettled Ireland. The Report of the 1799 UK Committee of Enquiry into Secrecy listed 2 oaths which it claimed had been found in police raids on suspected societies, one of which was a ‘Brotherhood of Affection.’ The French priest Abbe Barruel, as proof of an Illuminati [alleged European revolutionists] connection with European Masons and Irish nationalists, had earlier quoted the 1791 oath of the United Irishmen which sought to bring Catholics and Protestants together in a ‘Brotherhood of Affection’. On the Island in December, 1800, in the aftermath of information received, there was found to be another oath-bound society, called the ‘Society of Affection’ which no doubt added to apprehensions.[xc]
Was either of these ‘Fraternal Societies’ Masonic? Were their members Masons? Expressions of ‘brotherly affection’ were basic to fraternities as we have already seen. There were certainly stonemasons there. One ‘Bricklayer and Stone-mason’ enumerated work in which he participated in the decade, 1791-1800:
1st, an Oven for the troops- 2nd the Government House – 3rd the present Store House – 4 the present Barracks – 5 the Judge’s present house – 6 the Head Surgeon’s House – 7 the present Stone Hospital and Kitchen – 8 Seven or more houses for Officers – 9 the stone-work of the present Mill, together with variety other work, Chimneys for Guard-House, etc.[xci]
Cramp and Mackaness noted Ireland’s (Masonic) Grand Lodge being petitioned in 1797 by three soldiers of the NSW Corps[xcii] for a Warrant, and that the request was deferred, otherwise they paid it no mind. How these troopers had become ‘Freemasons’ was just one question they didn’t think to ask. The requested lodge charter ‘was to be held in the South Wales Corps’ according to the GL of Ireland minute but no lodge is known for that regiment, either then or later. If it was a genuine request, why were troopers making the petition and not their officers?[xciii]
Gallagher’s has been the most thorough attempt so far to get to the bottom of these matters but again as far as Masonry is concerned he was an outsider attempting to see in through the cracks. He wrote in 1985:
We are on difficult ground..when trying to estimate the support which the Irish might have expected to receive from the NSW Corps..In December 1800, when a revolt of Irish convicts at Norfolk Island failed, it was revealed in the enquiry that followed that four of the soldiers were involved in the plot. Farrel Cuffe, a convict and an Irish schoolmaster stated on that occasion that he had been told by one of the implicated soldiers that ‘Turner and McCorigan two other soldiers were masons..’
which third-hand statement Gallagher follows with:
Farrel Cuffe’s statement suggests that there were freemasons among the soldiers, and that freemasonry was closely associated with sedition. In fact there were very strong connections between freemasonry and the corps.[xciv]
at which point he recounts briefly what are known as the ‘Kemp’ and ‘the Whittle’ mainland incidents of 1802 and 1803 respectively. A further reference to a mainland ‘Lodge’ he interpreted from the context as an Orange Lodge. These are all dealt with in more detail below.
A number of attempts have been made recently by Masonic ‘insiders’ to rectify shortcomings in the NI Masonic record. Proof has been claimed for a genuine, if unchartered lodge but, as of this date, none of these stand up to close scrutiny either.
Government records show land on the Island being granted to ‘Masonic Lodge of St John, No 1’ on 27 April, 1800, so it does appear that a society of some sort claiming Masonic legitimacy actually existed.[xcv] But was it a bona fide lodge? Was it even Masonic as we would understand it today? No Constitution has come to light, and ‘No 1’ is impossible if the lodge had been regularly established. All known contemporaneous references to the existence of a lodge’s presence are only to land, not to any building, thus it is likely that while a grant was made for a site, no petition was made to the GLI and no regular lodge gathering ever eventuated.[xcvi] It would seem indicative that no meeting notices or internal records of any kind have come to light and that all claims with regard to membership are circumstantial or for northern hemisphere activities. When for example, Woods, an Island settler killed by a falling tree was given a Masonic service in 1804 and followed to his grave by ‘a numerous procession of the fraternity’ no actual lodge is mentioned and therefore no indication of allegiance.
It would be useful to know how these processionists were identified as Masons and how the display of public grief came about. If any brother from a lodge of English ‘Moderns’ was wearing his regalia he would have technically been in breach of ‘a caution’ issued half a century before from London against any public display of regalia without permission of the GM ‘or his Deputy’. The ‘Antient’ Grand Lodge had only recently advised its members against public displays because of governmental concerns that agitators might use ‘demonstrations’ for seditious purposes.
Astute readers may well ask whether the deferred 1797 petition from the 3 Corps troopers could have come from the Norfolk Island ‘Society’? The only known list of persons put forward as NI Freemasons is dated well after the Island was more-or-less abandoned in 1808. It has 15 names, but the Masonic context of only four is even reasonably clear. Three persons on the list signed their names ‘Masonically’ on an 1807 letter to be referred to shortly, one other, Michael Lee, is described by an unknown writer in 1808 travel documents as a Freemason, while the other eleven are claimed to have been NI Masons on the basis of newspaper reports from Hobart in the 1817-1820 period. None of this constitutes proof of the prior events.[xcvii]
The only definite Masonic initiation claimed among the 15 relates to 1784 in England. One was born on NI, the others were English-born or very probably so.[xcviii] It’s therefore relevant to note that no NI lodge appears in Lane’s list of ‘English’ lodges which is internationally regarded as accurate to 1894, nor in the records of Irish GL.[xcix] All of the 15 appear to have been Protestant, seven were transported thieves, the crimes of 4 were unknown, 3 were marines and 1 was a ‘free settler’. No political interests appear in the published information about them. Neither Farrel Cuffe, Fane Edge or Whittle appear and neither do the 3 troopers from 1797, George Kerr, Peter Farrell and George Black.
The last odd thing is that of this 15 only Lee appears in the documents illuminating events which do clearly involve Freemasonry and the authorities over the two decades 1790-1810. Of the names that re-occur in these conflicts such as Whittle, Kemp, Wentworth, Piper and Macarthur, most are of military men who continue serving and for whom an explicit Masonic connection appears either to have been fleeting or has remained well-hidden.
Apart from European politics, and the chaotic nature of life in the penal settlements perhaps the strongest thread running through this material and bringing some degree of coherence to it, is the repeated insistence on rank and status by certain military officers as they engaged in very dubious practices, including the sale of rum which they knew was undermining the colony’s administration and good order. Freemasonry to such men seems not to have been a repository of high moral behaviour, nor a means to civilise those they regarded as inferior. A number appear to have been using Freemasonry for their own purposes, and not on behalf of the Empire or ‘the mystical brotherhood’.
A man for whom Masonic membership has not so far been claimed by anyone but whose high-risk career links these earlier events with others much later on the mainland is D’Arcy Wentworth. Arrested on a range of highway robbery charges, he escaped convict chains, perhaps worse, by accepting appointment as unpaid assistant surgeon on the infamous Second Fleet transport ‘Neptune’. For a time, he was accompanied on the voyage south by another risk-taker, one John Macarthur.
Wentworth and his convict-‘wife’, Catherine who gave birth to a son, William Charles, just after arriving in Australian waters, were sent onto Norfolk Island in 1790 where Wentworth senior was soon buying up land grants and using them to produce crops for the government agent. In 1796 the family returned to Sydney where Hunter engaged him to continue as assistant surgeon and where he quickly became deeply involved with both Macarthur’s machinations and the rum trade.[c] Both men appear to happily serve the loyalist cause when any Irish uprising is in the offing, with the proviso that Macarthur was absent during the turbulent period of 1801-1805.
Plots, real and imagined, were common colonial currency. Macarthur, often portrayed as the arch-conspirator and puppet-master, achieved wealth and immortality in his adopted country as an enterprising, pioneer wool-grower, and had seen no active service when he signed onto the Corps as a penniless subaltern in 1789. Arriving in Botany Bay in 1790 after eight months at sea, his ruthless ambition and short-temper ensured he would be found close to, or at the centre of many pivotal jousts with authority over the next 40 years. Correspondence indicates that he was a long-time confidante of another in similar circumstances, John Piper.
On the Mainland
King continued to suspect hidden conspirators when he was made Governor of the whole colony in 1800. Sending two men to the triangles for 500 lashes each in 1802, he described them as:
Two of the deluded people..(who have) been detected as active promoters (under the direction of persons at present unknown, but not unsuspected) of attempting to get together a number of offensive weapons..and..detected in seditious conversation, tending to the destruction of Government order and humanity..[ci]
Like Hunter before him and Bligh afterwards, King was being assailed by transportees of various kinds, and from within the military. Two suspects were French pow’s who had been contracted while on the hulks at Portsmouth to come to Australia and set up vineyards. One had married one of two Irish sisters transported after 1798 and had changed his name in the colony to ‘Francois Duri(n)ault’. King wrote of him after the major insurrection by Irish labourers in March, 1804:
Among several who are very deeply implicated and suspected in contriving the tumult is the Frenchman who I meant to retain here..His conduct has compelled me to send him out of the colony.[cii]
Another was a fleeing French aristocrat who had joined the NSW Corps, in 1793, as a private no less, and sailed to Botany Bay.[ciii] A third would have been James Larra, a Jew transported in the Second Fleet but who was nevertheless said ‘to be well regarded by the authorities’ becoming principal of the nightwatch soon after his arrival in 1790. It was he who had the ‘Masons/Freemasons Arms’ built at Parramatta before the end of the decade, and it was there that members of a key French scientific expedition stayed in 1802. One of these, Peron, later recalled:
During the six days that we spent in Parramatta, we received service with an elegance, and even with a luxury that we never thought possible in this region. The best wines always graced our table.
Peron later drafted a secret ‘Memoire sur les etablissements anglais a la Nouvelle Hollande’ which advocated a French conquest of Port Jackson with the aid of rebellious Irish convicts.[civ]
A contemporary engraving shows a prominent advertising sign outside Larra’s hotel bearing a square and compass.[cv] As a retailer of wines and spirits Larra and a number of other licensees were important to those Corps officers with imports, such as rum, to move. Macarthur owned the land under ‘the Freemasons Arms’ at some stage but the following is well wide of the mark:
In 1797, following a meeting at the Freemasons Arms hotel involving some fellow-officers and selected free settlers, the extraordinarily influential junior officer John Macarthur formed an exclusive freemason’s society. This secretive group had an all-pervading, if not sinister influence in colonial affairs from that time on.[cvi]
Binney provides no reference and, despite his claim of its on-going importance, never mentions this alleged society or Freemasonry again.
The justice system in the colony was far from perfect. Discretion allowed authorities, for example, to select among a range of punishments depending, not on the crime, but the probable usefulness of the law-breaker. Whereas others arrested with him in 1800 received up to 500 lashes, another who ate at Larra’s hotel, Joseph Holt, was among a group sentenced to be ‘sent out of the colony’. An alleged leader in Ireland of the 1798 rebels, he was a Protestant who made a point of saying he knew no Catholics ‘intimately.’ Involvement in the 1800 plot was not proven despite a number of the convicted participants speaking about his prior knowledge. Suspicions of his closeness to figures in authority had begun not long after he joined the United Irishmen in Ireland in 1797.
Atkinson has assumed Holt[cvii] was a Freemason because he wore his beard ‘under his chin’, a secret Masonic recognition sign according to Atkinson but unknown to Masonic insiders. Perhaps it was an unusual hair-style as Judge Atkins conducting the 1800 enquiry questioned him about it, but Holt insisted it was an ancient Irish sign of mourning.[cviii] In another version it is ‘a distinguishing mark of the fraternity of United Irishmen’.[cix]
Tendered evidence at the 1800 trial referred to other secret signs, none of which appear to be Masonic:
Placing the forefinger of the left hand in the palm of the right and closing the same. If acknowledged, it would be by clasping two forefingers of the right in the left hand.[cx]
Able to convince his accusers that he had known of but refused to participate in the plot, Holt was pardoned in 1802, another amazingly short sentence in the circumstances, and was given grants of land in 1803. Elsewhere in his memoirs, Holt described an un-named acquaintance as a ‘Freemason, an Orangeman, United Man and leader of a Banditti of robbers’ who, being made a constable in the colony, achieved a free pardon and returned to Ireland.[cxi]
The first pre-1820, Masonic ‘occasion’ Cramp and Mackaness seriously considered involved Captain Fenn Kemp, Lieutenant George Bellassis and French naval officers from Baudin’s marine survey vessel, La Naturaliste, in Port Jackson in September, 1802. The assessment so far among local Masons[cxii] seems to be that on board the French vessel, Kemp was ‘made’ Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, ie was received into the three basic ‘Craft’ degrees at one ‘sitting’.
Before receiving his commission into the NSW Corps in 1793, Kemp had spent time in France and the United States. He had then been stationed at Norfolk Island, from 1795-7. Sharp’s opinion of him was that he was ‘among the more active and aggressive officers of the Corps’, Ellis describes him as ‘greedy’. Holt and Margarot, another political transportee, had poor opinions of him, and of the Corps as a whole which they observed at first hand monopolising trade through their control of law and order and of the only viable currency, rum, to line their own pockets and gain control of the best land.[cxiii] Kemp showed no interest in Freemasonry after being ‘made’ and no respect for St Cricq, the French officer in charge of the ceremony. Within days, Kemp accused him of buying spirits in breach of King’s specific instructions. He later apologised as the charge proved to have no substance.
Bellassis, Kemp’s ‘supporter’ at the ceremony, was only briefly in the colony. Probably a Mason by virtue of what was then the less-well known ‘Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite’, (not ‘the ‘Antients’) he had been sentenced to transportation to the penal colony for duelling in India. Arriving in Sydney in January, 1802, he also had been quickly pardoned by King and put in charge of both the colony’s batteries and the Governor’s cavalry bodyguard. He left the colony and his post in August, 1803 immediately his pardon was confirmed.
The ‘bodyguard’ appears to have been made up of ‘trusted’ ex-convicts, including D’Arcy Wentworth, and became the basis of the para-military ‘Loyalist Associations’. Sheedy has assumed much more and named Wentworth as the first ‘master’ of an Orange Lodge formed in Parramatta in 1800, a claim for which no other corroborating evidence has been found.[cxiv]
Asked by King to act as the bodyguard’s and therefore as Bellassis’ commanding officer, John Piper refused the task, because, in his view, such ‘emancipists’ were not the equivalent of even base-grade privates and were not subject to the Articles of War.
King’s behaviour towards the French officers who were in harbour for some months appears on the surface to have been polite and free of suspicion despite the two nations having been recently ‘at war’ and soon to be so again. This maritime task force was acting on orders from Napoleon to seek out possible settlement sites and, it seems, did a lot of surveillance work on the local port and military facilities. King must have kept them under observation by way of his own spy/informer system while helping to restock the French boats and ‘guiding’ them around the region, and it seems unlikely that he was ignorant of the one (or more) Masonic gatherings, but he neither interfered with nor even reported the September meeting to his superiors. He could both read and write French, so perhaps it was unnecessary for Kemp to report the ceremony to him, at least on paper. Were Kemp and Bellassis acting under direct orders from King? Did they use Freemasonry as a smoke screen to meet the French officers ‘socially’ and attempt to gain information as to French intentions? Were the French attempting to turn Kemp to their advantage? Other obvious questions include:
why would Kemp undergo an apparently French ritual in those circumstances?
what ‘obligation’ was he under?[cxv]
why weren’t other, ‘British’ Masons present?
How did French officers come to be staying at the Parramatta home of James Larra, the Freemasons’ Arms?
Why would any bona fide, ‘French’ Masonic gathering not happen there?
Northern hemisphere Masonic jurisdictions were rent with internal conflict throughout these same decades, and French Freemasonry was especially uncertain. Although Napoleon supposedly favoured this brotherhood while suppressing others, his activities induced further conspiracies and conspiracy theories.[cxvi]
King certainly knew about the ‘Whittle’ meeting in 1803, the second of Cramp and Mackaness’ irregular Masonic ‘occasions.’ Now with family, Whittle had access to, was perhaps lessee of the intended ‘secret’ venue, a tavern in Spring Row. Illiterate, Whittle was never more than sergeant-major in the Corps, yet Atkinson’s unsubstantiated comments include not only that he was a ‘radical Freemason’, whatever that might mean, and that ‘Such a lodge would have been a ritual meeting ground for the men among Sydney’s elite.’[cxvii] Is it likely that Sydney’s ‘elite’, most of whom were determined, status-conscious military officers, would have relied upon an illiterate nco for their Masonic base, however ‘radical’?
Henley, another pioneer of SF history, has centred this meeting on Sir Henry Hayes, wealthy Irish land-owner transported for kidnapping a woman he wished to marry.[cxviii] Upon the meeting being broken up and Hayes sentenced by a Magistrate with whom he’d had previous conflict, Governor King wrote:
In consequence of a plan formed by Hayes of initiating Freemasons after I had forbid it, Hayes was detected presiding at a club, and would very soon have made every soldier and other persons Freemasons had not the most decided means been taken to prevent it.[cxix]
The Governor obviously believed that Hayes, who was not in the colony before 1802, was a Freemason, that at least some of the other attendees were Masons, and that some connection with sedition existed. His reference to a ‘club’ discloses 18th century terminology for a meeting place where Masonic business could be conducted but which was not formally a lodge and therefore not governed by the various protocols and Rules. This is what Atkinson accidentally noted with the Knuckle Club in London which he wrongly assumed was a lodge.[cxx] It is also what occurred with the Kemp meeting and could well explain the situation on Norfolk Island. It may, on the other hand, indicate just how loosely the words ‘Masonic’ and ‘freemason’ were being used.
Hayes was a member of Cork Lodge No 71, and Day (above) reviewing the Cramp and Mackaness ‘History’, thought it very likely his claimed Charter was ‘regular’. Writing in his own defence, Hayes asserted that King had adopted a consistently hostile attitude to him personally and that he had some affinity with naval rather than army officers:
Several of the officers of HM ships Glatton and Buffalo, together with some respectable inhabitants of this place, wished to establish a Masonic lodge, and being in possession of a regular warrant, I was instructed to make a respectful application for that purpose.[cxxi]
Of all the early ‘Masonic meetings’, Australian Masonry has struggled with this one in 1803 most of all. The official gloss that it was irregular, as in Cramp and Mackaness, has been maintained despite a ‘Special Communication’ involving 3,500 of NSW’s brethren having been held on 29 July, 1903 in Sydney Town Hall ‘in honour of the Centenary of the Dawn of Freemasonry in Australia.’[cxxii]
A major uprising by Irish labourers known as the Castle Hill Rebellion, against which an armed Larra ‘turned out’ as a loyalist member of the Parramatta Association, happened just outside Sydney in March, 1804, six months before Wood’s Masonic funeral on Norfolk Island in September. Between those events, in August, King reported:
Our Irish insurgents are now quiet, perhaps only for a short time, as they do not want very active and concealed councillors in Muir, Margarot, Henry Brown Hayes and often other incendiaries.[cxxiii]
When searched, Margarot’s home revealed ‘seditious’, ie republican material and correspondence supporting King’s belief, so, in July 1805, Captain Piper, an 18 year-old Ensign on Norfolk in 1792 but now the Island Commandant, was told to expect him, Hayes, his townsmen William Maum, and a London lawyer Massey Robinson, all sentenced to be re-transported there ‘on suspicion’ of being plotters. Margarot, a United Scotchman and the first person to greet Holt in Sydney, is another suspected of being as much spy and informer as radical agitator. Roe in 1966 opined that ‘Margarot’s relations with (King) were complex and mysterious.’[cxxiv]
Hayes appears to have provoked King by asking Captain Colnett, of HMS Glatton, to take ‘home’ his complaints about the Governor including sworn affidavits about a disputed 5,000 pounds. Colnett, for his part, was in conflict with King over alleged behaviour of Whittle’s son who was accused of having ‘smuggled himself (onto the) Glatton and (behaved) himself in a mutinous manner’ for which he had been ‘chastised’. Whittle, on the parade ground, spoke of being prepared to ‘cut his ears off’, referring to a Lieutenant Stewart who had delivered an alleged beating to his boy.[cxxv]
D’Arcy Wentworth was both Macarthur’s neighbour and a co-signatory to a petition Macarthur authored urging a coup by the Corps against William Bligh, King’s successor, in 1808. Hayes supported Bligh and was again arrested when the Corps imprisoned the Governor.[cxxvi] Kemp and Whittle were both centrally involved in the campaign against Bligh, as were many others, but it is Whittle who, Atkinson argues, was Macarthur’s ‘medium’, and the man who ‘provided the spark of Jacobinical energy moving at the heart of things.’[cxxvii]
Whittle’s only public role was to muster the ranks which on the 26th January, with drum and ensigns, marched the short distance from barracks to Government House where they detained Bligh. Thereafter, a cartoon showing the unlucky Governor being dragged from under a bed appeared in a prominent window of his, Whittle’s, house. Macarthur became Colonial Secretary for a time, even more grants of land were parcelled out to Corps members, including Whittle, and the rum spree continued.[cxxviii]
After the official inquiry back in London the following year, at which Whittle broke down under cross-examination, the Corps was withdrawn and broken up, the arresting officer, Johnston, dismissed from the service and Macarthur was effectively exiled from the colony since the new Governor, Macquarie, was given orders to arrest him for high treason should he, Macarthur, return to Sydney.
Wentworth again escaped the hangman, even censure. His influential English patrons had Macquarie appoint him Principal Surgeon, Treasurer of the Police Fund, Commissioner for the turn-pike road to the Hawkesbury River, a magistrate and Superintendent of Police. His son, William Charles, was similarly favored, being appointed Provost Marshall in 1811.[cxxix]
As noted, the labourer, Michael Lee, reappeared on a letter of loyalty to Bligh signed in total by 19 ‘settlers of Norfolk Island.’ Other names belong to men active in the earlier island societies, and described as ‘settlers who had retired from the detachment of marines at Hobart.’[cxxx] Wentworth does not appear while none of the signatories appears to fit the ‘elite’ label. Under the new regime, Hayes and Holt sailed for home in 1812, surviving a shipwreck on the way.
Cramp and Mackaness claimed as their third irregular ‘occasion’, an 1816 procession and foundation stone-laying ceremony for Piper’s new Sydney house. Arrangements indicate that the lodge, L 227 IC, within the 46th Regiment which had replaced the Corps, was revived for the occasion. A very new member of the lodge, ‘that queer character’ (in Ellis’ eyes), Piper entertained on that day a group which included the Lieutenant-Governor Molle, the Surveyor-General Oxley, the ‘notorious’ Judge Bent, the Reverend Marsden, and various other surgeons, solicitors and Government officials, not all of whom were Masons. Macquarie did not attend and neither did the Wentworths.
A merchant vessel in the harbour flew ‘a Masonic ensign’ and ‘saluted by seven guns’ the water-borne group, which included the regimental band, as it was rowed to the site where ‘the Brethren withdrew from the Assemblage’ to form the lodge ‘on a retired spot E of the foundation..in Solemn Form & Order’. ‘The RWM [Right Worshipful Master, a Captain Sanderson] having given the necessary cautions’, the brethren, with ‘appropriate Masonic symbols’, were marshalled by the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ and proceeded to the site. The items carried, which would all have been regimentally-owned, included
Candlesticks, Globes, a Box of Coins and a Charity Box, a Banner, the Roll, a Basket of Corn and Pitchers of Oil and Wine, the Bible, the Square and Compasses, the Columns, and the Charter supported on a Cushion.[cxxxi]
Two of the company, un-named, wore the robes of Knights Templar, and another that of a Red Cross Knight, ie of Masonic Orders other than ‘the Craft’. The documents also refer to the presence at a meal with ‘the Sisterhood’, ‘Sister Piper, and ‘a Female Knot.’’[cxxxii] These terms may have been social niceties at the time. However, ‘knot’ was the word used for a lodge in the Rules of the ‘Ancient and Most Benevolent Order of the Friendly Brothers of St Patrick’ established in Dublin in 1787.
Masonic authors rarely refer to the physical assault on Macquarie’s favourite architect Francis Greenway by Sanderson, as a supposed result of Greenway’s failure to deliver his regalia on time for the Piper ceremony. The lack of a single, hand drawn and painted apron was surely not sufficient cause of the beating. Greenway and Macquarie were awkward but firm allies in bitter conflict with the new military establishment and their clique, not over rum or trade, but over personal status and the distribution of power within the colony. Ellis has asserted:
It soon dawned on the colony’s many malcontents that [the regimental] Lodge Social and Military Virtues could be turned into a dark recess in which secret plotting might hide.
So soon as the warrant had been put into force, there was a zealous rush for admission by those opposed to the Governor.[cxxxiii]
In theory, regimental lodges were not to admit civilians, and this lodge appears to have been more strictly observing this prohibition than others, throwing into question the Masonic status of individuals at the Piper-stone laying, such as Oxley and Surgeon Harris.
In its service in North America before coming to NSW, Lodge 260 has been anecdotally associated with George Washington, has even been claimed as the lodge in which that worthy was first initiated.[cxxxiv] While on active duty, the regiment apparently twice lost contact with the trunk containing its Masonic ‘paraphenalia’, Washington allegedly intervening on one occasion to have it returned. In Sydney, it ‘lost (its) old Warrant’ only to have it turn up ‘among the effects of a deceased inhabitant.’ There appears to have been a shake-up at this time because Sanderson organised a set of Bye-laws, a seal and a tri-lingual travelling certificate, copies of which were despatched ‘home’ to GLI in February, 1817. It also appears that it was only at this time, 65 years after having been originally warranted, that the lodge adopted its motto, Sanderson writing to GLI:
..I enclose a set of our Bye-Laws as recently arranged and printed, together with a Copper Plate Impression of the Certificate, lately adopted by us..At the suggestion of a Brother, the Honorable Chief Justice Bent, we have chosen as Motto to our Lodge the following Roman Superscription, viz:- “Libens Solvit Merito Votum”, there being a Coincidence between its initial letters and those of our distinctive title – and its being moreover of Masonic Application.[cxxxv]
Samuel Clayton, the man who was on hand to design these items and to have them printed was not permitted to attend meetings of this lodge, although a Mason with Letters of Introduction from the GLI. Sanderson wrote:
..(Consistent) with our established Practice [we would] have given to the unfortunate Brother that Masonic Reception, which belongs to our Institution, but those circumstances which we have ever kept in view, since our Arrival in this Colony, and which are indispensably necessary to be averted to, in support of our Respectability both Military and Masonic, have ever rendered it necessary we should act, in these respects with more than ordinary Caution and Circumspection.[cxxxvi]
In other words, these ‘gentlemen’ considered Bro Clayton, transportee from Ireland, not worthy of admission into ‘their’ lodge, even as a visitor. In 1816, his were such rare skills he was able to immediately resume his printing and engraving business, including of the first paper currency and the first cheques in the colony. The prohibition against him lasted only until Lodge No 260 was fully authorised as the first civilian lodge, whereupon he was elected its first Master of Ceremonies.
In 1822, Greenway joined him, not long after he had completed a ceremonial trowel. In what is the most intriguing of the many un-answered questions, Macquarie only made known his attachment to ‘Masonry’ just before he left the colony, in October, 1821, and that to Catholic Bishop Terry, at the foundation stone ceremony for the first St Mary’s Cathedral. Even then, his apparently off-hand comments only survived because ‘an observant altar boy’ supposedly overheard them and, many years later, communicated what he remembered to the Freemans Journal.
Macquarie had been initiated into the Entered Apprentice or First Degree of Freemasonry in a Bombay, stationary lodge, in 1793, recording the fact in his diary. Ellis has suggested that as he was also in the first ecstasies of love and frantically manoevuring for promotion, the induction must have seemed to him ‘as one in a dream.’[cxxxvii] Masons would like to claim that his apparently humane and tolerant policies flowed from his being ‘a brother’, but at present there are far too many gaps for any conclusions to be drawn.
In 1817, Macquarie had ordered Catholic priest O’Flynn out of the colony, and in 1820 had told the two replacement priests, which included Therry, not to attempt to convert any C/E churchgoer, or any Protestants in general, not to celebrate Mass in public except on Sundays and not to approach Catholic children in the orphan schools, where only C/E scriptures were taught.[cxxxviii] Macquarie’s Secretary, ‘that stern Orangeman, Mr JT Campbell’, in Ellis’s words
had been treasurer of a committee to raise funds for the Popish work, which received the financial patronage of a number of staunch Protestants, who were lured from their prejudices by the Governor’s dispensation and example.[cxxxix]
Macquarie is not known to have progressed beyond his very first, tentative step into Freemasonry and he is not known to have referred to his fraternal allegiance during the almost 30 years from 1793 to 1821. It may be that he had more respect for Masonic principles than was displayed by brethren of the Lodge of Social and Military Virtues and that with its departure with the 46th Regiment, the removal of its especially ugly interpretation of fraternalism had made religious tolerance and reconciliation easier. In July, 1817, on the basis of the situation then existing he had requested London to authorise the ‘speedy removal’ of what he termed ‘a Political Faction’ and its ‘mutinous licentiousness’. An anonymous ‘pipe’ or broadside attacking Lieutenant-Governor Molle had appeared in 1815 and its victim had made such a fuss that enquiries were made. Macquarie explained to his superiors that:
(The) result of my enquiries has been the discovery that the officers of the 46th Regt, on the particular Recommendation of their Commanding Officer, Colonel Molle, had previous to their Arrival in the Colony bound themselves never to admit into their Society or to Hold any Intercourse with any of those persons who had arrived here under Sentence of Transportation.[cxl]
This agreement meant the Regiment, and its lodge brethren, were at odds with the legally-constituted authority as soon as they landed. Macquarie says he continued to treat Molle and his officers ‘with my usual Attention, Until After the Arrival of Captain Sanderson’ late in 1815:
This Officer having used most unbecoming and disrespectful language on a particular occasion to the Chief Magistrate of Police and to the Bench of Magistrates before whom he had been summoned for a Misdemeanour, I found it due to those Gentlemen’s wounded feelings to admonish and reprove Captain Sanderson…Resentment, perhaps mingled with even Worse Motives, immediately led Capn Sanderson to set about forming a Faction among his Brother Officers, and more especially among the younger and more inexperienced part of them, in which he has succeeded but too well; and by possessing a great Share of the Spirit of Faction and Cabal has even brought over others of the Superior Officers to his Party in opposition to Me and all the measures of My Administration.
Ellis has little good to say about the Governor’s opponents, but the available evidence indicts Sanderson as a brutal and arrogant thug. In contrast to his gentler tone towards GLI, above, in a letter to Molle after that gentleman had ended enqiries into the pipe because he was satisfied that WC Wentworth had been its author, Sanderson expressed the opinion:
…These (pipes) We perceive issuing from the Pen of Men so much Our Inferiors in Rank and Situation, that We know them not but among that promiscuous Class which (with Pride We speak it) have been ever excluded from Intercourse with Us. ..[His emphasis and brackets]
Thus, it’s possible that after 1817 a lighter atmosphere made possible Macquarie’s disclosure to a Catholic priest he hadn’t seemed well-disposed towards previously, but the claimed participation of avowed Protestants in the building fund, and the much later testimony of an old man remembering a remark not attested to by anyone else, add up to doubtful evidence, at best.
Clayton by 1822 was Secretary to the Leinster Committee and was thus the de facto Provincial Grand Master.[cxli] With L260’s backing he asked that the Lodge be allowed to assume the title of ‘Provincial Grand Lodge’. The Irish Grand Master refused the request but allowed the Lodge what were later described as ‘unprecedented powers’. This authority added to the resentment felt by certain other brethren. Stephen, in his 1827 letter, strongly argued the need for a local, Grand Lodge with full powers, but mandated from London:
(A Grand Masters Lodge in Sydney) would certainly..be of great utility, as the Colony has spread to such an extent, and Brethren residing in Towns at some distance from the capital desirous of forming lodges in their neighbourhood would thus be enabled to do so without the trouble and delay consequent on reference to England..
He was also refused.
With threats from both France and Ireland seemingly removed, English authorities were concentrating their efforts on internal enemies. In New South Wales, imperial government and its military representatives were being challenged by rising commercial forces eager to consolidate opportunities and to seize the levers of local power for themselves. Though control of Freemasonry remained a prize, ‘the Craft’ proved slippery and contenders soon looked to the broadening range of fraternal societies for other vehicles of advancement. Two other convicts of uncertain Masonic allegiance who had been kept from Sanderson’s table, ‘the young duellist Dr William Bland’ and an ex-Captain, Robert Lathrop Murray, were among the clutch of previously side-lined observers who, with the young Wentworth, now moved closer to centre stage.