Every Master Mason knows that he must not visit a clandestine
Lodge, or talk Masonically with a clandestinely made Mason, but not
all Master Masons can define clandestinism.
The dictionary (Standard) gives "surreptitious, underhand" as
synonyms for the word, and while these express the Masonic meaning
to some extent, they are not wholly clarifying.
Mackey (History of Freemasonry) states:
The (Anderson) Constitutions declare, Section 8, that where a
number of Freemasons shall take upon themselves to form a Lodge
without a Grand Master's Warrant, the regular Lodges are not to
countenance them nor own them as fair brethren, and duly formed. In
other words, a Lodge formed without a Warrant from the Grand Master
(we now say Grand Lodge ) is "clandestine", and so a "clandestine
Mason" is one made in a Lodge without a Warrant.
Even this definition will not wholly serve; many old Lodges began
and worked for a while without a warrant, yet were never
clandestine. "The Lodge at Fredericksburg" in which Washington was
initiated, had no warrant or charter until long after the First
President was made a Mason.
Haywood states of the several terms used to indicate those with
whom Masons may not officially have converse:
A cowan is a man with unlawful Masonic knowledge; an intruder is
one with neither knowledge nor secrets, who makes himself other-
wise obnoxious; a clandestine is one who has been initiated by
unlawful means; an irregular is one who has been initiated by a
Lodge working without authorization.
An "irregular" Mason is sometimes unfortunately confused with a
"clandestine" Mason: unfortunately, because some men are
irregularly made Masons even today--usually in all innocence.
George Washington was initiated before he was twenty-one years of
age; according to modern ideas, this was an "irregular" making, but
there was never a taint of clandestinism attached to "The Lodge at
Fredericksburg." North Dakota permits the reception of a petition
of a man under age, although he must be of age when he is
initiated; that their law differs from other laws does not make the
North Dakota minor, who receives his degrees after he is
twenty-one, either irregular or clandestine. In a Jurisdiction in
which all the membership must be notified of the degree to be
conferred and upon whom, the Worshipful Master may forget to list
one candidate in his monthly circular; if the unpublished
candidate, regularly elected, is initiated, it is an "irregular"
making, and the Grand Master may well order him "healed" by being
re-instituted, but no power could make such a Mason clandestine.
When a Lodge makes a Mason of one not freeborn, not of "mature and
discrete age" one who is a bondman, in his dotage, a Mason is made
irregularly, but not clandestinely.
When the Mother Grand Lodge separated into two, in 1751, each
termed the other clandestine, and this polite name-calling
continued even in this country, between Lodges begun here under
authority of the two rival Grand Lodges in England. The following
is from "Washington's Home and Fraternal Life" published by the
United States government:
According to the Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, February
"A petition being preferred to this Grand Lodge on the 2nd of Sept.
last, from several brethren of Alexandria, in Virginia, for a war-
rant to hold a Lodge there, which was ordered to lie over to the
next communication, in consequence of Bro. Adam, the proposed
Master thereof, being found to possess his knowledge of Masonry in
a clandestine manner, since which the said Bro. Adam, having gone
through the several steps of Ancient Masonry in Lodge No. 2, under
the Jurisdiction of this R. W. Grand Lodge, further prays that a
warrant may now be granted for the purposes mentioned in said
"Ordered That the prayer of said petition be complied with, and
that the Secretary present Brother Adam with a warrant to hold a
Lodge of Ancient Masons in Alexandria, in Virginia, to be numbered
"Bro. Robert Adam who was then duly recommended, and presented in
form to the R. W. Grand Master in the chair, for installation as
Master of Lodge No. 39, to be held in the borough of Alexandria, in
Fairfax County. Virginia, and was accordingly installed as such."
The word "clandestine" falls with unhappy significance upon modern
Masonic ears, but it did not in those days mean quite the same
thing as it does to Masons of this age. Prior to the "Lodge of
Reconciliation" and the formation of the United Grand Lodge of
England in 1813 the two Grand Bodies of England, the "Moderns" (who
were the older) and the "Antients" (who were the younger,
schismatic body) each considered the other "clandestine". Brother
Adam's Mother Lodge is not known, but as he lived for a time in
Annapolis, where a "Modern" lodge worked, it is probable it was
here that he received the degrees which the Grand Lodge of
Pennsylvania ("Antients") considered "clandestine."
Transition of Masons from Lodges of one obedience to those of the
other was neither infrequent nor difficult, so that "clandestine"
could not then have had the connotation of irregularity and
disgrace which it has with Freemasons of today.
Today the Masonic world is entirely agreed on what constitutes a
clandestine body, or a clandestine Mason; the one is a Lodge or
Grand Lodge unrecognized by other Grand Lodges, working without
right, authority, or legitimate descent, the other is a man "made
a Mason" in such a clandestine body.
More widespread than effective, more annoying than dangerous, only
continual vigilance by Grand Lodges keeps clandestinism from
becoming a real problem to legitimate Masonry.
Clandestinism raises its ugly head periodically in many Grand
Jurisdictions, and in some states it is always more or less of a
trouble. Either now, or in the immediate past, some clandestine
Freemasonry has afflicted Arizona, California, Colorado, Missouri,
Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and the
District of Columbia, a list too long to minimize altogether by
saying that clandestine Masonry is too weak to do much harm.
Arizona and California suffer to some extent from clandestine
Mexican bodies. Colorado and adjacent states have had with them for
some thirty years a curious organization known as The American
Federation of Human Rights, with headquarters at Larkspur,
Colorado, which is the seat of "co-Masonry", an organization
purporting to make Masons of men and women alike. Missouri has a
number of spurious Italian alleged Masonic organizations, and the
"Masonic Chauffeurs' and Waiters' Club" with headquarters in
In 1929 there was filed in the office of the Secretary of State of
New Jersey a certificate of incorporation of "The Grand Lodge of
Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of New Jersey," under which
certificate the incorporator claimed the right to: "Practice and
preserve Ancient Craft Masonry according to the Ancient Charges,
Constitutions and Land Marks of Free Masonry, to create, organize
and supervise subordinate Lodges of Ancient, Free and Accepted
Masons, granting to them dispensations and charters, empowering
them to confer the degrees of Masonry known as Entered Apprentice,
Fellow Craft and Master Mason and to do all things necessary to
carry into effect the objects and purposes of this incorporation."
The regular Grand Lodge instituted suit in the Court of Chancery
against this spurious Grand Lodge with the result that in 1932
there was entered a decree restraining and enjoining this "Grand
Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of New Jersey", its
officers, agents, members and employees,
1. From using the name or designation "The Grand Lodge of Ancient,
Free and Accepted Masons of New Jersey."
2. From using any name or designation containing the words "Free
and Accepted Masons," or word "Mason," or "Masons," in conjunction
with either or both of the words "Free and Accepted."
3. From practicing, or pretending to practice Ancient Craft
Masonry, according to the Ancient Charges, Constitutions and Land
Marks of Free Masonry; from creating, organizing or supervising
subordinate Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of New
Jersey, or pretending to do so, from conferring or pretending to
confer the three degrees of Masonry known as Entered Apprentice,
Fellow Craft and Master Mason, or any of them.
In New York are now, or have been recently, as many as fifteen
different spurious Masonic organizations.
North Carolina is not now troubled, but twenty years ago won a case
in court against the Cerneau bodies.
Ohio has the "National Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Free
Masons for the United States of America", but has been successfully
fighting it in the courts.
Pennsylvania has had troubles with spurious Ohio bodies and some of
her own, but her vigilance is such that these do not get very far
in deceiving the public. For instance, in 1927 was heard the case
of Phillips against Johnson. A portion of the opinion in that case
This was a proceeding in mandamus instituted by the realtors to
compel the Secretary of the Commonwealth to register certain
emblems and insignia, such registration having been refused by the
Secretary of the Commonwealth. The Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of
the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted
Masons of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging
and the Pennsylvania Council of Deliberation were permitted to
intervene as defendants, no objection being raised thereto by the
plaintiffs. On the trial of the case a verdict in favor of the
defendants was returned by the jury. The plaintiffs moved for a new
trial which was refused by the court.
South Dakota once had an Italian spurious body, but it has
disbanded. Texas has to contend with the clandestine Mexican
bodies. Utah has had some experiences, but her most famous
contribution to the history of clandestine Masonry was the trial of
the notorious McBain and Thompson. That Masonic fraud was there
exposed and the perpetrators sent to jail. M. W. Sam H. Goodwin,
Grand Secretary, writes of this:
Grand Lodge has not entered the arena against clandestinism, but a
great battle against clandestinism was brought to a successful
conclusion in the Federal Court, Salt Lake City, and the chief
promoters of the Thompson Masonic Fraud (three in number) heard a
jury declare them guilty, on ten counts, of using the U. S. mails
Grand Lodge did not get into this, neither did any other Masonic
organization. But Masons furnished the funds which made that trial
possible. It was necessary to send investigators across the water
to look up records in France and to interview certain important
witnesses in Scotland, and to secure their promise to come over for
the trial. Utah brethren furnished the money for this work, also
for the expenses of the three men to come and return, as the U. S.
does not pay to bring witnesses from the outside.
The men engaged in this fraud were each sentenced to serve two
years in Leavenworth and to pay fines of $5,000.00 each. This
destroyed the organization--so far as I am aware, no fragment of it
The Scottish Rite Bodies published a book of some 260 pages and
index, giving an accurate and most interesting account of
Thompson's methods, and of the trial of the case.
A spurious Grand Lodge of Thompson extraction was, and perhaps
still is, alive in Wyoming. The District of Columbia has had to
contend with various would-be incorporators who desire to attach
themselves to legitimate Freemasonry, but has always been
successful in heading off clandestines who desire legal status
under papers of incorporation.
In many States Prince Hall or other varieties of so-called Negro
Masonry is in existence, but this variety of clandestinism is
seldom if ever harmful to regular Masonry. As a general rule, the
legitimate Grand Lodges of the southern States do not quarrel with
the so-called Negro Lodges, although they are clandestine. Grand
Secretary James M. Clift, of Virginia, puts the general attitude
very clearly in writing about colored Masonry in the Old Dominion.
The Negro (Prince Hall) Grand Lodge, organized just after the war
between the States, can hardly be said to be clandestine, as it in
no way interferes with Lodges in Virginia. As matter of fact, the
then Grand Secretary of Virginia, Dr. John Dove, aided the leading
colored members of this organization in establishing it in
Virginia, believing it would be helpful to Negro citizenship. His
text book was used as their guide for some years. No recognition
could be given them, but so far it appears that Dr. Dove's
conclusions were correct.
Occasionally, however, clandestine Negro Masonry gets in trouble
with regular Grand Lodges. Colorado, in common with many other
States, has for years had colored "Masonic Lodges" which usually
give regular Masons no trouble. A few years ago a colored man there
organized "Masonic Lodges" and a "Grand Lodge of Masons", which
became a rival of the old colored "Grand Lodge". These
organizations became involved in litigation in which one sought to
restrain the other from the use of a name which in essence was the
same as the name of the regular Grand Lodge. If a decision had been
obtained, one of these Negro organizations would have had the legal
right to use the name of the regular Grand Lodge A. F. and A. M. of
Colorado and the use of the Masonic emblems. The danger lay in the
fact that if such a decision had been rendered, some degree-monger
and organizer of spurious "Masonic Lodges" might have obtained
control of the successful colored "Grand Lodge" and converted it
into a clandestine Grand Lodge for white men, and his organization
would have been fortified with a decision of the court that it was
entitled to the name of "Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted
Masons" and the use of the Masonic emblems.
The regular Grand Lodge of Colorado therefore intervened in the
suit. After trial, the District court issued a writ of injunction,
permanently restraining and enjoining both the Negro organizations
and their subordinate Lodges from using the names "Mason,"
"Freemason," "Masonic," "Free and Accepted" (together with various
other names), and the name "The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of
Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Colorado," and the members from
using, displaying and wearing emblems and insignia of Freemasonry.
This decision would be of value to Colorado in case it should
become necessary for that Grand Lodge to enter into litigation with
clandestine Masonic organizations.
In a majority of States legislation has been passed making it an
offense against the law to use the emblems of a fraternal
organization without a right, or to adopt and use the name of a
pre-existent fraternal, charitable, benevolent, humane or other
non-profit making organization. Some of these laws are very
elaborate, others are less specific, but in States where such
legislation has been invoked by regular Masonry against usurpation
by clandestine bodies, the courts have upheld, or are now in
process of upholding, the regular and recognized Grand Lodges of
the nation against those who would profit at their expense.
Clandestine Masonry of today is wholly profit-making, begun and
carried on by individuals who have nothing but duplicity to sell to
their victims. Unfortunately, many honest men have been persuaded
to pay fees for the "degrees" of such spurious organizations, in
the innocent belief that they were becoming regular Masons. Some
pathetic cases form a part of the literature of clandestinism. The
charity of Masonry, however, is usually extended to the honest
victims of misrepresentation, and such "Masons" may apply, and, if
they can pass the ballot in a regular Lodge, their misfortune in
innocently entering a clandestine body seldom acts as an objection
to their receiving the blessings of genuine Masonry.