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Masonic Constitution Dedicated to George Washington, with frontispiece Masonic Coats of Arms by Future Chief Engraver of the US Mint
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In Testimony, as well as of his exalted Services to his Country as of that noble

Philanthropy which distinguishes Him among Masons

This is the scarce first American edition of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s Masonic Constitution, dedicated to Washington as “General and Commander in Chief of the Armies of the United States of America.

The 1778 sermon included in this volume carries a similar dedication, as well as a detailed description of the procession in which “our illustrious Brother George Washington” marched as guest of honor. The sermon itself contains a remarkably prescient characterization of Washington as an American Cincinnatus. The volume’s fine frontispiece engraving of two Masonic coats-of-arms is by Robert Scot (Scott), future chief engraver of the United States Mint.

[GEORGE WASHINGTON]. LAURENCE DERMOTT. Book. Ahiman Rezon [Help to a Brother] abridged and digested: as a Help to all that are, or would be Free and Accepted Masons. To which is added, A Sermon, Preached in Christ-Church, Philadelphia, At A General Communication, Celebrated, agreeable to the Constitutions, on Monday, December 28, 1778, as the Anniversary of St. John the Evangelist. Published by order of The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, by William Smith, D.D. Philadelphia: Hall and Sellers, 1783. 4¾ x 7⅝ in.; engraved frontispiece, xvi, 166 pp. First edition.

Inventory #25745       Price: $1,450

Front pastedown inscribed, “George F. Albrecht, Newton Upper Falls, Mass, April 25, 1908.

Inscribed on title page, “Thos ____ His Book, Philadelphia, January 21, 1798.” Effaced inscription on rear of frontispiece.

Historical Background

George Washington was undoubtedly the most celebrated member of the Freemasons. He joined the Masonic lodge in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1752, at the age of 20, and was raised to master Mason the ensuing year. Washington enjoyed the organization’s confraternity throughout his Revolutionary War service and presidency, serving as charter master of the Alexandria, Virginia lodge, accepting honorary memberships, and participating in a variety of ceremonies and celebrations. He is said to have visited the Yorktown, Virginia lodge with Lafayette following the surrender of Cornwallis in October of 1781. At his inauguration on April 30, 1789, Washington was sworn in as the nation’s first President using a Bible from St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in New York. On his death, he was buried with full Masonic rites.

Washington was the guest of honor when William Smith delivered the December 28, 1778 sermon included in this volume. Smith had personally requested the presence of “Brother Washington” at the celebration of the anniversary of St. John the Evangelist and the Commander-in-Chief agreed to take time out from his military duties to attend. That morning, he joined a procession of 300 fellow Masons to attend service at Philadelphia’s Christ Church. There, Washington heard Smith extol him from the pulpit as an American Cincinnatus.

Such...was the Character of a Cincinnatus in ancient Times; rising “awful from the Plough” to save his Country; and, his Country saved, returning to the Plough again, with increased Dignity and Lustre. Such too, if we divine aright, will future Ages pronounce to have been the Character of a **********; but you all anticipate me in a Name, which Delicacy forbids me, on this Occasion, to mention. Honoured with his presence as a Brother, you will seek to derive Virtue from his Example.

That title has come to characterize Washington as an exemplar of Democracy and integrity. It also provided the name for the Society of the Cincinnati, the organization of Revolutionary War officers founded at the close of the conflict.

Smith’s sermon was printed shortly after its delivery (the version included here is Hall and Sellers’ reprinting), the proceeds to go to the benefit of the poor. It is dedicated to Washington as the “Friend of His Country and Mankind, ambitious of no higher title, if higher was possible.

William Smith (1727-1803), a Scottish-born educator and clergyman, served as grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Smith had been hired by Benjamin Franklin as the first provost and professor of ethics for the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania). Though he served on the Philadelphia Committee of Correspondence in 1774, Smith’s position as an Anglican priest drew accusations of Loyalism. During the war, he moved to Chestertown, Maryland, where, with the support of patron George Washington, he founded Washington College in 1782.

Laurence Dermott (1720-1791), author of Ahiman Rezon (Help to a Brother), first published in England in 1756. Heserved as grand secretary of the Ancient Grand Lodge of England from 1752 to 1771.


Binding is overall Good+, contemporary three quarters calf over marbled boards, some rubbing, joints good. Contents About Good; stains, signatures and tears and repairs to several leaves. Corner loss to pp. 121-22 affecting a handful of words.

Selected Sources

“George Washington, The Mason,” The George Washington Masonic Monument,

Horace Wemyss Smith, The Life and Correspondence of the Rev. William Smith, D.D., Vol. II (Ferguson Bros. & Co., 1880)

J. Hugo Tatsch, Facts About George Washington as a Freemason (Kessinger Publishing, 1998)

Bristol B5800; Evans 17915; Sabin 84584.

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