The Life of Captain George Smith

Captain George Smith was a Freemason of some distinction during the latter part of the 18th century. Although born in England, he entered the military service of Prussia (being connected with noble families of the kingdom). During his residency in the kingdom he was initiated in one of the German Lodges.

On his return to England he was appointed Inspector of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and published The Universal Military Dictionary in 1779ce, and Bibliotheca Miliaris in 1783ce.

Brother Smith devoted much attention to Masonic studies, and was noted to be a good workman in the Royal Military Lodge at Woolwich, of which he spent four years as Master. During his Mastership the Lodge had been opened in the King’s Bench prison, and some persons who were confined there were initiated. For this the Master and Brethren were censured, and the Grand Lodge declared that “it is inconsistent with the principles of Masonry for any Freemason’s Lodge to be held, for the purpose of making, passing, or raising Masons, in any prison or place of confinement”.

Brother Smith was appointed by the Duke of Manchester to be the Provincial Grand Master of Kent in 1778ce, and on that occasion he delivered his Inaugural Charge before the Lodge of Friendship at Dover. He also drew up a Code of Laws for the government of the Province, which was published in 1781ce.

In 1780ce he was appointed Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge; but objections having been made by Heseltine, the Grand Secretary, between whom and himself there was no very kind feeling, on the ground that no one could hold two offices in the Grand Lodge, Smith resigned at the next Quarterly Communication. As at the time of this appointment there was really no law forbidding the holding of two offices, its impropriety was so manifest, that the Grand Lodge adopted a regulation that “it is incompatible with the laws of this society for any Brother to hold more than one office in the Grand Lodge at the same time.”

Captain Smith, in 1783, published a work entitled The Use and Abuse of Freemasonry: a work of the greatest utility to the Brethren of the Society, to Mankind in general, and to the Ladies in particular. The interest to the ladies consists in some twenty pages, in which he gives the “Ancient and Modern reasons why the ladies have never been accepted into the Society of Freemasons,” a section the omission of which would scarcely have diminished the value of the work or the reputation of the author.

The work of Brother Smith would not at the present day, in the advanced progress of Masonic knowledge, enhance the reputation of its writer. But at the time when it appeared, there was a great dearth of Masonic literature — Anderson, Calcott, Hutchinson, and Preston being the only authors of any repute that had as yet written on the subject of Freemasonry. There was much historical information contained within its pages, and some few suggestive thoughts on the symbolism and philosophy of the Order. To the Craft of that day the book was therefore necessary and useful. Nothing, indeed, proves the necessity of such a work more than the fact that the Grand Lodge refused its sanction to the publication on the general ground of opposition to Masonic literature.

Northouck, in commenting on the refusal of a sanction, says:

No particular objection being stated against the abovementioned work, the natural conclusion is, that a sanction was refused on the general principle that, considering the flourishing state of our Lodges, where regular instruction and suitable exercises are ever ready for all Brethren who zealously aspire to improve in masonical knowledge new publications are unnecessary on a subject which books cannot teach. Indeed, the temptations to authorship have effected a strange revolution of sentiments since the year 1720, when even ancient manuscripts were destroyed, to prevent their appearance in a printed Book of Constitutions! for the principal materials in this very work, then so much dreaded, have since been retailed in a variety of forms, to give consequence to fanciful productions that might have been safely withheld, without sensible injury, either to the Fraternity or to the literary reputation of the writers.

 

To dispel such darkness almost any sort of book should have been acceptable. The work was published without the sanction, and the Craft being wiser than their representatives in the Grand Lodge, the edition was speedily exhausted. In 1785ce Captain Smith was expelled from the Society for “uttering an instrument purporting to be a certificate of the Grand Lodge recommending two distressed Brethren.”

Brother Doctor George Oliver describes Captain Smith as a man “plain in speech and manners, but honourable and upright in his dealings, and an active and zealous Mason.” It is probable that he died about the end of the 18th or the beginning of the 19th century.

Most of the information in this blog comes from the article GEORGE SMITH - From Albert Mackey’s Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry