~ The very first Grand Master of Masons ~

Mr. Anthony Sayer, the first brother ever elected to the distinguished office of Grand Master, as we now understand that term, is a dim and pathetic figure who in such glimpses as we are able to gain of him through the mist of time appeals to our sympathies more than to our admiration. In 1717 he was installed Grand Master "by the said oldest Master Mason present"; two years thereafter Desaguliers appointed him Grand Warden, so that, whatever his shortcomings may have been, he was evidently a man of some position at the first. Five years afterwards he appealed to the Grand Lodge over which he had once presided for charity, but there is no record to show what relief he received, if any. In 1730 he was summoned before Grand Lodge to explain why he had assisted in the irregular constituting of lodges. On April 21 of that same year he again appealed for help and received 115 from the General Charity. But in August of the same year he was again summoned to answer complaints against his irregular conduct; Grand Lodge minutes contain the following entry under date of Dec. 15, 1730:

"Brother Sayer likewise attended to answer the Complaint made against him, and after hearing both parties, and some of the brethren being of Opinion that what he had done was clandestine, others that it was irregular only, and the Lodge was of opinion that it was irregular only; whereupon the Deputy Grand Master told Bro. Sayer that he was acquitted of the Charges against him and recommended it to him to do nothing so irregular in the future."

Bro. Sayer's star was evidently in eclipse. During or shortly after 1733 he became Tyler of Old King's Arms Lodge, No. 28. Shortly thereafter he received charity from this lodge. He died in 1742, receiving a Masonic interment at which a number of distinguished Masons were present. It has been conjectured that Bro. Sayer may have been one of the old Operative Masons who never became a whole-hearted supporter of the new regime; if so, this may explain his irregularities. In any event his conduct shows that in its early years the new Grand Lodge met with many difficulties from within as well as from without, and that the new order of things had to win its way against the feeling that its very existence was an innovation in the ancient methods of the Craft.

Bro. George Payne, the second Grand Master, proclaimed June 24, 1718, was a man of different stripe; from his activities one may guess that unlike Sayer he was one of the most zealous leaders in the work of re-organizing the Craft from an Operative basis to a Speculative one, and there is no doubt but that to him Masonry is indebted more than one can say. Of his private life little is known save that he was a Secretary to the Tax Office and of some substance. His popularity among the brethren is shown by their electing him Grand Master a second term in 1720, to succeed Dr. Desaguliers, of whom more anon. According to Dr. Entick it was Payne who first interested the English aristocracy and nobility in the Order, which, if the statement is well founded, was in itself sufficient give him a great name in our annals in view of the far-reaching results that ensued when a "noble brother" became placed "at the head" of Grand Lodge. Payne was especially interested, it would appear, in readjusting the old constitutions to the new uses of the re-organized Fraternity, and it was he who made, in 1720, the first draft of the General Regulations afterwards incorporated, with some alterations, in Anderson's Constitutions of 1723. He was faithful and active up to the very end of his life and served as a member of the committee appointed to have charge of the revision of the Constitutions made in 1756.

But the most influential of the first Grand Masters was the third, Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers whose influence was so great that Mackey gave him the credit for creating Speculative Masonry, which, if it be an excessive statement, does not much exaggerate our debt to this remarkable man. He was the son of a French Protestant refugee who fled from religious persecution after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Desaguliers was made, in 1714, a fellow of the Royal Society, to which learned body he made contributions so valuable that he became a personal friend of Sir Isaac Newton and on at least two occasions was called to lecture before the king. Of his Masonic activities Bro. Calvert gives this account:

"In the year of Desaguliers' Grand Mastership (1719-20) 'several old Brothers that had neglected the Craft returned to their Masonic allegiance; a few Noblemen were initiated into the Order, and some new Lodges were constituted.' The Grand Master himself forthwith revived the old regular and peculiar Toasts or Healths of the Free Masons.' In 1721, on the occasion of the Festival, Desaguliers made 'an eloquent Oration about Masons and Masonry,' and seven years later he obtained the consent of Grand Lodge to his proposal 'that, in order to have the Grand Feast conducted in the best manner, a certain number of Stewards should be chosen who should have the entire care and direction of the said feast, together with the Grand Wardens.' To invent after-dinner speeches, introduce Masonic orations, and revive the once of the Stewards, was to render practical service to the Craft, and by securing the attendance of many eminent Masons and enlisting some noblemen as members, Desaguliers was instrumental in placing the new authority on a broader and more popular basis. Sayer was a nonentity whom chance elevated to the Grand Chair; Payne was a man of substance and intelligence who was zealous for the advancement of the Order; Desaguliers himself, of the three, lent real distinction to the office of Master. And the fact remains that Masonry languished until the third Grand Master enlisted the interest of some noble brothers in the society, and in 1721, when the Duke of Montagu accepted the Grand Mastership, Masonry 'rose at one bound into notice and esteem.' In that year Desaguliers visited the Lodge of Edinburgh, and was affiliated as a member of the Scottish Fraternity. On the subject of this memorable event, we read in Lyon's History of the Lodge of Scotland: