Already in earlier times the Lodges have themselves given orders (Fabric Rolls of York 1352, Straßburg 1459 and 1563, Torgau 1462, Lansdowne Manuscript Orders of 1599 of the Lodge of Kilwinning). In the oldest masonic poem in the Halliwell-Handwriting (about 1390) the term "constitution" is used: "Hic incipunt constitutiones artis gemetriae secundum Euclydem". This collective name for the orders issued by the corporation has been preserved and is used in freemasonry accordingly. There are also terms like "Articles" (Cook 1490), "Statutis" (Schaw-Manuscript, 1558) or "Laws and Regulations".
For the Grand Lodge of London founded 1717, George Payne (Grandmaster 1718 and 1720) created 1720 in consideration of the old Cook Manuscript the "General Regulations", which were announced on June 24 in 1721 at the meeting of the Grand Lodge. James Anderson seized 39 of these "General Rules" in his Constitutiones of 1723. Reverend Dr. phil. theol. James Anderson, preacher at the church of the Scottish presbyterians in London, was born about 1680 in Aberdeen. Before he came to London, he presumably had become a freemason already. In 1723 and 1725 he appears in the lists of the Lodge "Horne Travern", Westminster, and the "Lodge at Salomon's Temple, Hemmings Row". In the second issue, he declares the Duke of Montagu had expressed his displeasure about the present old "gothic" Constitutiones at the meeting of the Grand Lodge and had entrusted him with the altered edition. On January 27 in 1722 Anderson submitted a committee of fourteen learned brothers his work for discussion. On 17th January in 1723 the book of constitutiones was in hand in the final version and was accepted by the Grand Lodge. On Februar 28 in 1723 it was already announced in "Postboy" as a new publication for the book trade and was offerred for free sale and distributed thereafter. So it is not a secret writing.
The contents of the Constitutiones consists of a preface dedicated to the Duke of Montagu and signed by J. T. Desaguliers, Deputy Grandmaster. It contains a partly free evented history of freemasonry, starting at Adam about the building of Salomo's temple up to the time of King Williams (1688). Then follows the chapter "The Charges of a Free-Mason", traditionally translated into German with "Die Alten Pflichten". The next chapter is titled "General Regulation, compiled first by George Payne Anno 1720, when he was Grand Master", which is a sort of rule of the house. Finally follows a postscript containing instructions for the installation of a new Lodge.
For freemasonry of today only "The Charges of a Free-Mason" are important. They have got the following contents:
I. Of GOD and RELIGION.
II. Of the CIVIL MAGISTRATE Supreme and subordinat.
III. Of LODGES.
IV. Of MASTERS, Wardens, Fellows, and Apprentices.
V. Of the Management of the Craft in working.
VI. Of BEHAVIOUR, viz.
1. In the Lodge while constituted.
2. After the Lodge is over and the Brethren not gone.
3. When Brethren meet without Strangers, but not in a Lodge.
4. In Presence of Strangers not Masons.
5. At Home, and in the Neighbourhood.
6. Towards a strange Brother.