This week’s submission for From The Mentor’s Mouth is from Bro. C. M. Williams, which was originally presented to William Renton Lodge No. 29, Free & Accepted Masons of Washington on Bainbridge Island. Bro. Williams is a Master Mason at large, currently looking for a new Lodge within the Grand Lodge of Washington. He is a regular guy who is interested in men’s issues including fatherhood, modern masculinity, veteran’s concerns, leadership, society, philosophy, Olympic lifting, strength training, cycling, and the outdoors.
Weapons in Lodge
C. M. Williams
William Renton Lodge No. 29 F&AM
Bainbridge Island, WA
June 16, A.L. 6015
On September 19th, 2014 a man jumped the fence of the White House, sprinted more than 70 yards, and got into the front door, armed with a knife. During the arraignment it was learned that in an unrelated incident on July 19th the same man was arrested while allegedly carrying a sawed off shotgun, two sniper rifles, and several other firearms. The man also had a map of Washington D.C. which had the Masonic Temple in Alexandria Virginia circled, along with a line pointing to the White House. On March 17th a man was arrested in an unrelated incident, after he allegedly walked into the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, doused himself with lighter fluid and attempted to ignite himself. In September of 2014 a man was acquitted of attempted arson of a Masonic Lodge building in Morristown, New Jersey. The suspected arsonist was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The following Lodge buildings were also lost due to arson in 2014: Flint Hill Masonic Lodge No. 371; Winslow Masonic Lodge No. 1; Blossom Masonic Lodge. Incidents like these have many brothers wondering if they should be armed while attending lodge.
As Freemasons, we learn in the Entered Apprentice degree that the candidate is divested of all metals, in part to ensure nothing offensive or defensive is brought into the lodge. Interpreting whether weapons should be allowed in Lodge often comes down to perspective. There are those who adamantly believe that weapons, especially firearms, have absolutely no place in Lodge. There are those, on the other hand, who feel the lessons learned in the Entered Apprentice Degree are limited to that of the candidate. They feel if the rule was intended for all Masons, everyone would be divested of their belongings at every meeting.
Even without a definitive stance on the acceptance of weapons in Lodge, the craft has defensive measures in place. The defense of the lodge historically and allegorically begins with the Tyler, a Master Mason without the door, armed with the proper implement of his office. The Tyler is to be at his post “with a drawn sword in his hand” ever ready to “keep off cowans and eavesdroppers”. In United Kingdom Lodges, the Tyler is assisted by the Inner Guard, a mandatory officer position, who is armed with a short sword or dagger. The Inner Guard shares many of the duties carried out by the Junior Deacon in the American Lodges. There was a time when the Junior Deacon was armed with a trowel. The trowel within a circle is still the emblem of the office of Junior Deacon, in the Scottish Constitutions. The Senior Deacon was also once armed with the jewel of his office, the setting maul. Should danger present itself to the lodge, the brethren have at their disposal several lethal cutting instruments as well as a blunt object.
A Masonic Lodge is a place where the brethren come together, where peace and harmony prevail. Suspending our contentions is not always easy, particularly during times of war. When the American Civil War divided this country, it often pitted families against families and brothers against brothers, both blood and fraternal. The mystic tie which binds us all proved stronger than ties of a national origin. During the Civil War the Union Navy successfully blockaded Port Galveston Texas on October 6, 1862. Soon after, federal troops took control of the entire island.
Confederate General Magruder, a West Point Graduate, and Entered Apprentice Mason of San Diego Lodge No. 35, led a counterattack on New Year’s Eve. The Confederate Ships Bayou City and Neptune entered the harbor and opened fire on the Union Ship Harriet Lane. The Harriet Lane was a copper bottom gun ship under the command of Commander Wainwright, a Freemason. The Bayou City rammed the Harriet Lane and subsequently captured her in hand to hand combat. Wainwright fought valiantly to save his ship, suffering a wound to his head and leg. Wainwright was mortally wounded when Commodore Leon Smith, Freemason and Commander of the Bayou City shot him. During the naval battle, ground forces surrounded the Union garrison and took control of the island. Following the battle, General Magruder demanded the union abandon their fleet in an unconditional surrender.
Prisoners from the Harriet Lane who were Freemasons vouched for Wainwright as a Mason in good standing. The prisoners requested a Masonic Burial for their fallen Commander. Confederate Major Philip C. Tucker was the Worshipful Master of Harmony Lodge No.6, and he served under General Magruder. When Tucker Learned of the request he was confronted by General Magruder who reportedly demanded, “Major Tucker, I hear you intend to bury the remains of Commander Wainwright tomorrow with Masonic honors. Is this true?” Major Tucker replied, “Yes, Sir. And I hope General Magruder will give it military honors.”
“Who in Hell ever heard of burying a dead enemy with Masonic and military honors?”
“General Magruder, when Lieutenant Colonel Rogers of the Second Texas fell, the Federal authorities gave the body Masonic and military burial, and it is said that you are never to be outdone in courtesy to a friend or enemy.”
Magruder rebutted, “Not by a damned sight. Colonel DeBray (a Mason and former Secretary of Austin Lodge No. 12), turn out your regiment for escort duty tomorrow at the Masonic burial of Lieutenant Commander Wainwright of the Harriet Lane.”
Masons, both Union and Confederate gathered to bury their brother. The Lodge minutes from January 3rd 1863 state, “Whereupon the Lodge was called upon to bury the dead. A public procession formed in which appeared both friends and foes wearing the insignia of the Order, and accompanied with a proper military escort under the command of Col. and Brother H. B. Debray, among which was the Major General Commanding J. Bankhead Magruder. The body of Bro. Wainwright was borne to its grave in the Episcopal Cemetery where it was deposited with rites of Masons and military. Lodge called from burying the dead and closed in due form.”
In modern times of war Masons have gathered on the level in order to spread that cement which unites us into one common bond; friendship, morality, and brotherly love. Kandahar Lodge Afghanistan was opened on May 6th, 2010 under a special dispensation of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario. Kandahar Lodge was made up of soldiers and civilian contractors from Canada, Scotland, Japan, and the United States, serving in Afghanistan, within Kandahar Airfield. As soldiers, the brethren were required to be armed at all times; the exception being the candidates, whose weapons were held by the Outer Guard or Tyler. There were times during meetings, when the base came under rocket attack, when the brethren had to suddenly drop to the floor. The Lodge, which had started off as a few brothers meeting at a Tim Horton’s grew in size. In time, the Kandahar Lodge conducted its first Candidate, and raised their first brother to the sublime degree of Master Mason. The brethren also, sadly gathered in a Lodge of Sorrow when their Senior Warden, Marc Cyr, a retired member of the Canadian Forces, who worked in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor, was killed in theater.
Whether brethren cross enemy lines and lay down their weapons to come together in unity or gather together armed as allies, history has shown fraternal spirit trumps ritual dogma. The spirit of not allowing weapons in the lodge is two-fold; first to protect the brethren from cowans and second, to meet on the level. One of the working tools of my vocation is the forty-five caliber, semi-automatic Glock 21, with a thirteen round capacity. The thirty-eight ounce weapon system delivers rounds at 985 feet per second with an impact of up to 404 foot pounds. My duty weapon is my “force multiplier” which ensures I return home at the end of every shift. My “force multiplier” has no place in Lodge, which is why when I attend lodge directly from work, my weapon is completely disassembled and locked in the safe. I am not able to meet the brethren on the level while armed. In order to truly meet on the level, I feel we should all be armed or unarmed together. If I cannot meet my brethren on the level, then why should I come to meet them at all?
Thank you Bro. C M. Williams for you contribution this week!
If you would like to be the next contributor to From The Mentor’s Mouth, send me an email. I hope you will.