The General Charge as the Ceremony of Installation: The Address to the Brethren

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It is possible that some brethren would be interested to know where the ceremony of installation came from.  Most of it is done exactly as it was in England two hundred years ago.  If you were to visit in an English Lodge when the Master is installed, nearly the whole thing would be familiar to you.  There is one notable exception, one piece of ritual that was “made in Canada”, that is the General Charge, or Address or Charge to the Brethren delivered to the Lodge at the conclusion of the ceremony.  I do not know if you have ever listened to it carefully.

It comes at the end of a long evening when you may be tired, and for that reason it is often abbreviated – and rightly so if the work is running late.  In it entirety, it is magnificent and contains the very essence of Masonry.

Only the first paragraph “Brethren, such is the nature of our institution…” and the last paragraph “Finally, my brethren, as our fraternity has been formed and maintained in perfect unanimity and concord…” are used in England.  The ten middle paragraphs are peculiarly Canadian, and are found only in our Grand Lodge and those Grand Lodges, which have adopted our ritual.  The complete General Charge was first put together in 1874 and published in 1876.  The man responsible was Otto Klotz, who might be the topic of a separate talk.  A native of Germany, he came to Canada as a young man.  He was a successful businessman and hotelkeeper in Preston, and a devoted Mason.  He never aspired to the chair of Grand Master, according to one story, because he was self-conscious about his strong German accent.  In recognition of his service to Grand Lodge, he was given the rank of Past Grand Master (Hon.) in 1885.

M.W. Bro. William Kirk Baily has devoted considerable time in tracing the sources from which Bro. Klotz drew the General Charge, and has been successful in tracking them all down.  I am happy to be able to share with you the results of his researches.

Paragraph two, “Masonry, my brethren, according to the general acceptance of the term…” is another old piece of the work, for it comes from the “Introductory Address” to what in England is called the First Lecture.  It apparently first saw print in 1798 in Browne’s Masonic Master Key, and ‘is believed to have been compiled by Preston.’

Paragraph three, “Freemasonry, from its origin to the present time, in all its vicissitudes, has been the steady and unvarying friend of man…”, and going down to, “There is no right without a parallel duty, no liberty…” is taken from the Grand Master’s Address, delivered to the Grand Lodge of Canada, in Ottawa on July 11th, 1860, by that splendid orator, our First Grand Master, William Mercer Wilson.

Paragraph four, “A Freemason ‘s Lodge is a temple of peace, harmony, and brotherly love…” and paragraph five, “The object, however, of meeting in a lodge, is of a two fold nature, namely moral instruction and social intercourse…” comes from the address delivered on December 27th, 1864, to a Ladies Night held at the Alma Lodge No. 72, Galt, by the Worshipful Master of the Lodge, V.W. Bro. Otto Klotz.

Paragraph six through to eleven, on the ideal of a Freemason, were likewise composed by Bro. Otto Klotz, and appear at the end of the article entitled, “The History of Freemasonry,” which was published in the (Canadian) Craftsman for March 15th 1868.

When you next have an opportunity to attend the installation, you should keep in mind that the outline of the installation ceremonies can be traced back more than 250 years; that virtually all the detail is unchanged from that used in England two centuries ago, and that the General Charge, [The Address to the Brethren], the one piece of specifically Canadian ritual we use, was compiled under the auspices of our Grand Lodge just a hundred years ago.

From an address delivered by Rt. Wor. Bro. Wallace McLeod at the installation and investiture of the officers of Moira Lodge No. 11, Belleville, on January 5th 1977.

2 thoughts on “The General Charge as the Ceremony of Installation: The Address to the Brethren

  1. As I prepare to deliver this address on the same night I am to be raised, I am genuinely moved to know of the specifics of the charge and description of the ideal Freemason. The fact that so much of it is of Canadian origin speaks to the strength of Freemasonry in our country and it’s contribution to the craft.
    Thank you for the article. It will be the topic of future education in our lodge, I’m sure.

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