from the book Encylcopedia of Freemasonry & its Kindred Sciences
by Albert C. Mackey M. D.
Lewis - 1. An instrument in Operative Masonry. It is an iron cramp which is inserted in a cavity prepared for that purpose in any large stone, so as to give attachment to a pulley and hook whereby the stone may be conveniently raised to any height and deposited in its proper position.
It is well described by Mr. Gibson, in the British Archoeologia (vol. x., p. 127); but he is in error in attributing its invention to a French architect in the time of Louis XIV., and its name to that monarch. The contrivance was known to the Romans, and several taken from old ruins are now in the Vatican. In the ruins of Whitby Abbey, in England, which was founded by Oswy, King of Northumberland, in 658, large stones were discovered, with the necessary excavation for the insertion of a lewis. The word is most probably derived from the old French levis. any contrivance for lifting. The modern French call the instrument a louve.
2. In the English system, the lewis is found on the tracing-board of the Entered Apprentice, where it is used as a symbol of strength, because, by its assistance, the Operative Mason is enabled to lift the heaviest stones with a comparatively trifling exertion of physical power. It has not heen adopted as a symbol by the American Masons, except in Pennsylvania, where, or course, it receives the English interpretation.
3. The son of a Mason is, in England, called a lewis, because it is his duty to support the sinking powers and aid the failing strength of his father or, as Oliver has expressed it "to bear the burden and heat of the day, that his parents may rest in their old age; thus rendering the evening of their lives peaceful and happy."
In the ritual of the middle of the last century he was called a louffton. From this the French derived their word lufton, which they apply in the same way. They also employ the word louveteau, and call the daughter of a Mason louvetine. Louveteau is probably derived directly from the louve, the French name of the implement; but it is a singular coincidence that louveteau also means a young wolf, and that in the Egyptian mysteries of Isis the candidate was made to wear the mask of a wolf's head.
Hence, a wolf and a candidate in these mysteries were often used as synonymous terms. Macrobius, in his Saturnalia, says, in reference to this custom, that the ancients perceived a relationship between the sun, the great symbol in these mysteries, and a wolf, which the candidate represented at his initiation. For, he remarks, as the flocks of sheep and cattle fly and disperse at the sight of the wolf, so the flocks of stars disappear at the approach of the sun's light.
The learned reader will also recollect that in the Greek language lukos signifies both the sun and a wolf. Hence some etymologists have sought to derive louveteau, the son of a Mason, from louveteau, a young wolf. But the more direct derivation from louve, the operative instrument is preferable.
In Browne's Master Key, which is supposed to represent the Prestonian lecture, we find the following definition:
"What do we call the son of a Freemason?
"What does that denote? "Strength.
"How is a lewis depicted in a Mason's Lodge?
" As a cramp of metal, by which, when fixed into a stone, great and ponderous weights are raised to a certain height and fixed upon their proper basis, without which Operative Masons could not so conveniently do.
"What is the duty of a lewis, the son of a Mason, to his aged parents?
"To bear the heavy burden in the heat of the day and help them in time of need which, by reason of their great age, they ought to be exempted from, so as to render the close of their days happy and comfortable.
"His privilege for so doing?
"To be made a Mason before any other person, however dignified by birth, rank, or riches, unless he, through complaisance, waives this privilege."
[The term occurs in this sense in the Constitutions of 1738 at the end of the Deputy Grand Master's song-in allusion to the expected birth of George III., son of Frederick, Prince of Wales:
"May a Lewis be born whom the World shall admire, Serene as his Mother, August as his Sire."
It is sometimes stated that a Lewis may be initiated before he has reached the age of twenty-one; but this is not so under the English Constitution, by which a dispensation is required in all cases of initiation under age, as was distinctly stated at the meeting of the Grand Lodge of England held on December 2, 1874. The Scotch Constitution, however, does allow a Lewis to be entered at eighteen years of age. (Rule 180.)
No such right is recognized in America, where the symbolism of the Lewis is unknown, though it has been suggested, not without some probability, that the initiation of Washington when he was only twenty years and eight months old, may be explained by a reference to this supposed privilege of Lewis.-E. L. H.]