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Seafaring Masons

That seafaring man who appears in one of the Degrees, and who as a character is of Shakespearean brevity and poetic power, was always followed by eager interest and applause in the Eighteenth Century by one kind of Masonic audience, the Brethren among the "salt water Lodges" in cities along the coasts; these were the "sea brothers," "mariner Masons, " "our Brethren and Lodges in ships," the famous and far-going seamen of the Craft in the days of sail. A reader of the Minutes of these Lodges is tempted to believe at the end that every Jack Tar in Britain must have been a Mason.

Thus, Sir Francis Columbine, many years the Right Worshipful Master of Royal Naval Lodge at Bapping, is credited with having raised 600 American captains and 400 British Naval officers in twenty years; Old Dundee, its neighbor Lodge, had 267 "Sea-members" (a special classification) in 1810.

The great Thomas Dunckerley, the largest figure in the first days of Grand Chapter and Grand Encampment, u as made a Mason in the latter in 1761, and found there twenty-six others who, like himself (he was in the Navy), were "sea-members." These seafaring Brothers of Britain, along with other thousands from America, Canada, Europe, and the West Indies, carried the Craft into almost every port in the world, and often were the first to plant it in newly-opened countries, as in South Africa, New Zealand, Hawaii, China, India, Egypt.

Can any Brother explain why the historians of Masonry (and mea culpa) have failed to give a chapter to them? they were the missionaries, they and Army and Naval Lodges, of Freemasonry as a universal, a worldwide Brotherhood. Many of the rumors, whispers, traditions of Masonry in America long before 1730 become credible and understandable if it is remembered how many Mason "sea captains" were coming into the ports of Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, and Norfolk.

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