CORNERSTONE LAYING, NEWBURYPORT, JUNE 1928
OTIS C. WHITE 1874-1957From Proceedings, Page 1928-170:
My Brethren and Friends:
You have assembled here to take part in and to witness a ceremony of venerable origin; a ceremony banded down from the fathers of many generations of men. That ceremony has now been completed, with due and careful regard for ancient traditions. The corner-stone of the edifice, soon to be reared upon these premises, has been "truly laid," the foundation is in place, and the sponsors of this new enterprise look eagerly forward to its completion, to the day on which they shall experience the realization of their aspirations.
The occasion is truly one of deep significance and gives rise to serious thoughts in those who will but pause for reflection. Just how remote in the mists of antiquity rests the origin of the custom of laying corner-stones with attendant ceremonies, no man knows. There is evidence from which we may conjecture that it is almost, if not quite, as old as recorded history itself. We have reason to surmise that the custom may have originated when man first began to erect his shelters and edifices on firm and enduring foundations. There is an existing record of such a ceremony participated in by King Thotmes III. about 1600 years before Christ. An excavation in 1853 disclosed a corner-stone, enclosing a box and contents, with an inscription showing it to have been laid by King Sargon of Assyria, some Slid years before Christ. We thus have actual proof of the great antiquity of the custom of laying corner-stones.
As to the form of the ceremonials attending the laying of ancient corner-stones, we can be guided only by tradition. The ceremonies which you have just witnessed are substantially the same as those recorded as performed by the Grand Master of Masons of Scotland on September 13, 1753, and precedent for the ceremonials then used goes back to the time of King Henry the Seventh, who presided as Grand Master, on June 24, 1502, in the laying of the foundation stone of the Chapel bearing his name at the east end of Westminster Abbey. Thus, my Brethren and Friends, in the brief space of an hour this summer's afternoon, we are led to some conception of the thoughts, the ambitious, the hopes of the material builders of centuries ago. Just as the sponsors of the edifice here to be erected have been actuated by thoughts of building for the future, so too, did the builders of long ago have like visions. The essentials of the worthy conceptions of mankind experience no change as the ages roll by. Though man may be a creature of circumstances, though his habits of life and thought may and, of necessity, must change with his surroundings, though his inquisitive and inventive mind may continue to draw from the storehouse of Nature revelations by which the scope of his physical activities is increased many fold, yet the spiritual essence of his inmost consciousness, his closest point of contact with his Divine Creator, forever remains unchanged. To "ring in the new" is ever our restless ambition, but to "ring out the old" is beyond the power of any man, no matter how loudly he may shout the slogan to his neighbors from the house top. We meet here in this fair New England City old. as we Americans are wont to reckon time, and rich in patriotic traditions. I know. then, that references to the past, that reminders of the ideals of the forefathers, must strike responsive chords in your hearts. I know the attitude of mind we have a right to expect to be found in men of such a community, and I know, therefore, that I cannot be mistaken in my convictions of your high regard and respect for old traditions. To those present who are Masons, the trend of thought in these remarks is, perforce front their Masonic training, quite apparent. To the friends here who are not members of the Fraternity, let it be made dear that Masonic ideals are being brought to their attention. There is no secrecy in regard to the aims and purposes of Masonry. Its tenets and principles are so broad in their conception, so liberal in I heir application, as to be readily acceptable to any decent man, regardless of his race, religion, or politics. Teaching the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. it can tolerate within its body no theological or political discussions, because of keen appreciation of the fad that such discussions would lead only to dissensions, frustrating the very ends it seeks to accomplish. It teaches patriotism, love of liberty, obedience to law and respect for duly constituted authority, protect inn of the home and family, loyalty to friends and ideals, relief of distress, love for truth, temperance in thought and action, fortitude in overcoming vicissitudes, prudence as opposed to rashness, and tolerance for the conscientious convictions of others. Masonry has no room for the bigot. So high. indeed, arc its ideals, that their full attainment is beyond the hope of any man. Yet, what, manner of man is he who has no ideals, no concept of righteousness towards which he can. at least, endeavor to shape his course through life? Even though the man with ideals, through the frailty of human kind, does frequently err and stray, the urge towards better things still remains. God help the man who has no ideals! Masonry traces its ancestry back to the times when it was practiced purely as an operative art — when Craftsmen banded themselves together and were graded according to their skill. An appreciation of what could be accomplished through the means of the tools and implements devised for their work inculcated a deep respect for those tools and implements and gave rise to speculative thoughts of their moral application. Thus we have, as a natural sequence, the development of what is known as "Speculative Masonry," the Fraternity of to-day. Every tool and implement of architecture adopted by the Speculative Mason, yes, and furthermore, each of his rites and ceremonials, has its distinctive symbolic meaning, tending to impress upon the memory wise and serious truths. Through its symbols Masonry strives to teach its followers. and they profit just to the extent to which they heed and follow those teachings. That Masonry has continued to thrive through the centuries, is conclusive evidence of its worth and value to mankind, for no institution can long endure whose edifice is built on a foundation of unworthy motives. And so, to-day, we have witnessed a ceremony of truly symbolic significance. Just as the character and enduring qualities of a building are determined by the integrity of its physical foundation, so is the moral character of man determined by the character and soundness of his spiritual foundation. To the Brethren through whose efforts the foundations have been laid for this Temple to be devoted to the purposes of Masonry, the in MassGrand Lodge of Massachusetts extends its encouragement and felicitations. In the accomplishment of your project, however, you must constantly bear in mind that you are thereby erecting a monument to moral principles and are thus assuming added responsibilities among your fellow citizens. You are building upon a public thoroughfare, in the heart of a busy community, an edifice to be dedicated to instruction in Masonic ideals, and you are proclaiming thereby your devotion to those ideals. Be you, therefore, diligent in your thoughts, words, and actions, that you may reflect only credit upon the great Fraternity of which you are a part. By your conduct shall you be known and your worth be judged. To this community, of which so many Masonic Brethren are citizens, the Masonic Fraternity at large offers its best wishes for success and prosperity. We extend to you citizens of Newburyport our congratulations that you are soon to have a new building which cannot fail to add to the attractiveness of your city and of which, with all that it implies, you may well be proud.
Source Masonic Genealogy
The Wise Garden