The “FREE” in Freemasonry refers to the days when attempts were made in 1712 to regulate building wages.
“Freemasons” were distinguished from “Masons” as a separate class of workmen, notably in their wages. In numerous building accounts, “Freemasons were regularly distinguished from “rough” Masons, brick or stone layers, rough hewers, hard hewers, etc.
It was also quite probably the case, that Freemasons were not serfs or vassals, and indeed were free men, who had the opportunity, because of their station, to advance and excel in their profession.
Ordinary Masons were paid 1 1/2 to 3 pence per day, whilst Freemasons received 2 1/2 to 4 pence per day.
The term “Freemason” was also connected with “freestone”, meaning excellent quality. Freestone was a fine grained stone that could be worked in any direction, thus lending itself particularly to the carving of foliage, images and mouldings, window frames, and doorways.
The skilled worker in “freestone’ was an artist and a precision worker, so that the designation “Freemason” denoted superior qualifications in the mason trade.