Masons Are "Free"-Are There Any "Tiedmasons"?

All of the Masonic lodges that I have seen advertise themselves as “FreeMasons”. I assume the name means that these lodges are independent in some way.
Were there ever “Tied”/Non-Free Masons? If so, do they exist today?

I always assumed that they started out as a society of free masons. Non-free masons didn’t get to start societies, on account of not being free.

I always thought that the “free” in “freemasons” meant they were enlightened–that is, free of irrationality and so forth.

But a quick search of Google proves that wrong.

Though it’s Wikipedia, I find this believable:

“They were called freemasons because they were free, they were not servants who belonged to a rich lord, like many workers were in those days.”

Wikipedia offers two possible explanations. "The earliest official English documents to refer to masons are written in Latin or Norman French. Thus we have “sculptores lapidum liberorum” (London 1212), “magister lathomus liberarum petrarum” (Oxford 1391), and “mestre mason de franche peer” (Statute of Labourers 1351). These all signify a worker in freestone, a grainless sandstone or limestone suitable for ornamental masonry. In the 17th century building accounts of Wadham College the terms freemason and freestone mason are used interchangeably. Freemason also contrasts with “Rough Mason” or “Layer”, as a more skilled worker who worked or laid dressed stone.

The adjective “free” in this context may also be taken to infer that the mason is not enslaved, indentured or feudally bound. While this is difficult to reconcile with medieval English masons, it apparently became important to Scottish operative lodges."

Bolding added by me.

Presumably the counterpart to a freemason would be a bonded contractor.


I don’t recall ever seeing the “m” of “freemason” in upper-case.

Could they perhaps have been Free(men) of the Company of Masons? Apprentices would have been bound by apprentice contracts and thus not free.

I think some Masons are very, very expensive :dubious:

Actually, they call themselves, more formally, Free and Accepted Masons (F&AM), seemingly from the olden days when you had to complete an apprenticeship with a master and create some impressive work of your craft (your “Master Piece”) to be judged by the Masters, in order to be accepted into the guild yourself. As others have suggested, these would be “free” masons. (That is, I think, what we would call “self-employed” versus “wage slaves”.) This title became shortened to “Freemasons”

Even more actually: It seems the theories are all over the map on the history of the phrase. With a little googlizing (left here as an exercise for the reader), I found multiple competing explanations. The abbreviated phrase “Freemasons” may have arisen in the 19th century, from the origins as described above. Or, it may be much much older, referring to those masons who worked in “free” stone. Or something else.

My google search turned up many Masonic Lodges that have their own web pages these days, some of which had essays on the history of the phrase – all different of course. So I won’t arbitrarily cite any one in particular – you can easily find plenty of tales to choose from.

Okay, I’ll give some cites.

Here are three Masonic articles I just found, giving the history in some detail. While they all agree that the history of the word is lost in the mists of time, they tend to agree that for an older origin rather than something recent. The main theories are:
(a) Once accepted into the guild as Masters, they were “free”, i.e., no longer indentured padawans.
(b) They were a higher class of masons, working in “free” stone (which I think meant, as opposed to rough stone)

There are other theories out there too, like it came from the French “frere macon” (brother mason). (Whole bunch of little essays here on the subject.)

That is taken from Masonic Ritual (Emulation, specifically). It is not a Masonic secret, either, you can get in books or even just find the text on the internet. It is said by the master of the lodge to a candidate during the ceremony of his initation into the craft.

Anyway the key point regarding what the opposite to a "free"mason is is in bold (the bit around it I mostly keep for context and cause the language is beautiful). I trust that answers your question?

Incidentally, slaves are not allowed to become masons.

As a Freemason, let me offer some information:

Some operative masons were granted free passage between territories. This was during a time when very few people had that ability, so it’s significant. In the early guilds, only certain types of masons were accepted, and the ability to travel was one limiting factor. Also, only “wet” masons were allowed, meaning those who not only carved stone, but joined them, by use of mortar, into one common mass. The type of stone wasn’t relevant, so the “free stone” theory is wrong. It’s interesting to note, I think, that cowens, or “dry” masons, were NOT allowed into the lodge. A dry mason still carved stone, but didn’t use mortar, so they made low stone walls, and other simple structures. I won’t explain that any further, but a little introspection should reveal why that’s a crucial distinction.

Yeah, they hang out with the locked-up Presbyterians.

Interesting. Do “operative masons” (i.e. real construction workers who work in stone and mortar) participate side by side as well, or have Masonic lodges become 100% speculative? I’d guess that even if a person was a real operative mason, their actual guild would be their workers’ union and if they joined a Masonic lodge as commonly known, they would join as a regular speculative mason. Is that right?