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The great plague of 1348, and the consequent depopulation, gave origin to the Ordinance of Laborers, A.D. 1349, afterwards by stat. 3 Rich. II., st I., c. viii., made an Act of Parliament or statute, and described as stat. 23 Edw. III.
British Ordinance of Laborers
The history of the ordinance of Laborers, from 1349 until 1562, can be viewed as a record of the conflict between the aristocracy of England and the growing insistance on the part of skilled labourers that the results and management of their own labour should belong to them and not to the landed classes that employed them. Several of the statutes have been used by anti-masons to "prove" Freemasonry’s historical conflict with established government, and to "prove" government’s hostility to the customs and beliefs of Freemasonry. Taken as a whole though, these statutes are clearly an attempt to regulate labourers and can have no relevence to any analysis of society’s views on modern speculative Freemasonry.
1349 23 Edward III The Ordinance of Laborers.
1350 The Statute of Laborers. Fixed wages of laborers and artisans
1356 30 Edward III Regulations for the trade of Masons.
1360 34 Edward III., c. ix. (III.) Prohibited annual gatherings.
1368 42 Edward III., c. vi Statute of Laborers confirmed.
1369 43 Edward III., c. ii Artificers not to import wine.
1377 1 Richard II., c. vi., Restricted freedom of serfs.
1389 12 Rich. II., c. iv All guilds and brotherhoods to supply full information on their "liberties, privileges, statutes, ordinance, usages, and customs" and to lay before the king their charters and letters patent.
1402 4 Henry IV., c. xiv. Prohibited hiring by the week.
1405-06 7 Henry IV., c. xvii. Confirmed Statutes of Laborers.
1414 2 Henry V., stat. i, c. iv. Extended authority of justices of the peace to "fugitive laborers".
1416 5 Henry V., c. iv. Limited penalties for excessive wages.
1423 2 Henry VI., c. xviii. Reinstituted penalties for excessive wages.
1424 3 Henry VI., c. i. (XVI.) Prohibited annual gatherings.
1427 6 Henry VI., c. iii. Gave power of justices of the peace to determine wages.
1429 8 Henry VI., c. xi. Revoked 1406 ruling on the taking of apprentices.
1436-7 15 Henry VI., c. vi. Attempted to control a system which the legislature had been unable to suppress.
1444-5 23 Henry VI., c. xii. Limited wages of a "frank mason".
1495 11 Henry VII., pp. c. xxii. Regulating wages of "free mason, master carpenter, and rough mason".
1514 6 Henry VIII., c. iii. Limited wages of a "free mason".
1530-31 22 Henry VIII., c. iv. Repealed several clauses of the 1514 statute.
1548 2-3 Edward VI., c. xv. Prohibited meetings for the purpose of fixing wages and determining qualifications to work.
1549 3-4 Edward VI., c. xx. Repealed statute of 1548.
1562 5 Elizabeth, c. iv. XXX. The entire statute, a codification of the Statutes of Laborers, retitled Statute of Apprentices, in effect repealed any statutes not retained or amended. Clause XXX is noteworthy in that the term "rough mason" appears but not "free mason".
1714 54 George III, c. xcvi. Repeal of Statute of Apprentices.

Cf.: The History of Freemasonry, Chapter VII, "The Statutes relating to the Freemasons." Vol. 1. Robert Freke Gould. The John C. Yorston Publishing Co., Philadelphia: 1902. pp 327-380.


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