Who Was Brother James Anderson?

Those of you interested in Masonic history will likely have heard about the prominent role that James Anderson played in the establishment of Freemasonry. As a writer and ordained minister in the Church of Scotland, Anderson made a telling contribution to the constitution of Freemasonry, that has benefitted many future generations up until the present day.

James Anderson was born in Aberdeen in 1680, and dedicated his early life to study. He completed several degrees and was appointed as the minister of the Presbyterian Church on Swallow Street in London. He was popular amongst his religious peers, and many of his sermons were printed.

Bro. James Anderson
Bro. James Anderson wikimedia.org

Anderson’s Constitutions

Soon after Freemasonry was firmly established in England [sometime around 1720], Anderson was asked to produce the constitutions of the fraternity. By 1723, Anderson had produced The Constitutions of the Free-Masons: containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of that Most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity.

As you can infer from the title, the Constitutions are split into three sections, the history of the Craft, the rules to be followed, and Payne’s regulations. In his history of Freemasonry, he cast Masons as Noachides, who must adhere to the following seven laws of Noah:

  1. Do not deny God.
  2. Do not blaspheme God.
  3. Do not murder.
  4. Do not engage in incest, adultery, pederasty, or bestiality.
  5. Do not steal.
  6. Do not eat of a live animal.
  7. Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law.

The history of Freemasonry is the most significant section of the text, and was the most extensive composition of Masonic history to that point. Following from the history, he authored a comprehensive list of charges that sought to guide Masons in everyday life.

The final section was written by George Payne, who was the second Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England. Included within Payne’s regulations were instructions on how to constitute and regulate new lodges in different parts of the country.

It’s testament to the significance of Anderson’s original document, that the Ancient Charges published today by the United Grand Lodge of England have ventured only slightly from those presented by the initial author. All Masons should take the time to read his constitutions and appreciate this impeccable documentation of the Craft in its infancy.

Brother James Anderson’s legacy.

Aside from producing the Constitutions, James Anderson was also a dedicated Freemason. He served as the Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster and served his home lodge as a Grand Master.

When you read the Constitutions, Anderson isn’t obviously credited as the author. His name appears in an appendix, rather than front of center. Regardless, most brothers are aware that Anderson was the author of the Masonic Constitutions, and his legacy is greatly appreciated.
You can read James Anderson’s Constitutions here.