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John Barney’s ritual
"It is generally known among Masons, that in the Northwestern States the lectures and "work" are those as taught by Barney. There is a great degree of uniformity in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin—also in Indiana and Iowa.1 The Barney "work" is that adopted by the Baltimore Convention [1843/05/8-17]. The "work" in Minnesota and New York is strongly impregnated with what is called, among Masons, "Morganry"—very similar to the disclosures of Morgan and Richardson—so much so, that many Masters purchase these publications for their instruction in their duties and in the ritual. Masonry has but little changed, and a knowledge of the alterations which have been made since Morgan's exposure was written is all that is requisite to make a "bright Mason." The only alterations which occur in the lectures of each degree are in the commencement. A concise sketch of Brother Barney, the author of the three lectures introduced in this work, would not be out of place, as it will account to the reader for the difference existing between Masonic "works" in the several States, and in Europe:
"In the year 1817, Brother John Barney [1780-1847], formerly of Charlotte, Vermont,2 went to Boston, and obtained possession of the Preston Lectures, taught there by Gleason,3 and approved by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. With these lectures he returned to Vermont, and submitted them to the Grand Lodge, at its annual session in October, 1817. The subject was there referred for examination to a committee, which reported that these lectures were according to the most approved method of 'work' in the United States, and proposed to give Brother Barney letters of recommendation to all Lodges and brethren in all parts as a brother well qualified to give Masonic information to any desirous of his services.
"This report of the committee was accepted and adopted by the Grand Lodge, and Brother Barney, provided with the recommendation thus obtained, visited many of the Lodges of the State, and imparted to them a knowledge of these lectures. At this time Brother Barney wrote a portion of them in cipher. Subsequently to 1818, Brother Barney went to the Western and Southwestern States, and, being in delicate health, adopted the profession of Masonic lecturing as a means of subsistence.
"A few years afterward, on his return to his brethren in Vermont, he stated to them, as I have been credibly informed and believe, that he found in the Western and Southwestern States different systems of lecturing prevailing, and that, upon presenting Gleason's Lectures to them, they were objected to by the different Grand Masters, who would not sanction his lecturing in their respective jurisdictions, unless he would adopt the lectures then in use among them; that, desiring to pursue his occupation there, he learned the different systems of lecturing existing among them, and made use of his newly acquired knowledge under the sanction of the respective Grand Masters."
These facts will account for the want of agreement between the East and the West and Southwest, as to what are the true Barney Lectures.
From the foregoing remarks, it will be seen that the essential points of Masonry are identical the world over, and that the differences, which are of minor importance, may be gathered by comparing the present work with Richardson's Monitor or Allyn's Ritual.
The "work" known among Masons as the "Webb Work," and inculcated by Robert Morris, is generally accepted as the "Work" of ancient origin, and there is not much doubt but that it will be adopted by the Grand Lodges throughout the United States.
1.The Iowa Masonic Library holds a hand-written single letter cipher comparing the rituals, with a lineage of Webb to Barney to Wilson, and Webb to Gleason to Clavell, showing their similarity and minor differences. Iowa uses the Wilson version.
2.Also see: W Bro. John Spargo, Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of Vermont (Proceedings, 1954).
3.Benjamin Gleason, Grand Lecturer, Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

Excerpted from Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, Malcolm C. Duncan [1866] pp. 148-49, with added footnotes.


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