When the Grand
Lodge of England Convened in America
by Bro. Theodore Walton
The Master Mason - August 1925
NOT many are aware, I imagine, that the Grand Lodge of England
once convened, for three hours, in America. It was during the War
of the Revolution, too, which gives it an added significance. The
story of it, briefly, is after this fashion, and is appropriate to recall
just now when we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the
opening of the War of the Revolution.
In the British regiments ordered to America to suppress the rising
rebellion of the Colonies there were many military lodges, owing,
largely, to the activities of the "Ancient" Grand Lodge of England
in its rivalry against the "Modern" Grand Lodge - the Great
Schism, which extended from 1752 to 1813, being at its height.
The military lodges, left their mark upon the Craft in this country,
particularly in New York.
It was a part of the strategy of the leaders of the "Ancient" Grand
Lodge to work in harmony with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and
Scotland, the ritual and customs of the three Grand Lodges being
very much alike - all three differing in some points from the
premier Grand Lodge of London. As in Pennsylvania, so
elsewhere, the "Ancients" soon had the upper hand in the struggle,
due, let it be said to their credit, to the fact they were more
democratic and kept close to the humanity of the great middle class
in what Emerson later called "our middleclass country."
The question of "regularity," so vexing to Masons in the old
country, did not trouble Colonial Masons at all. They saw no
reason for avoiding Masonic fellowship with "Ancient" Brethren
on that score, the less so when the "Ancient" Lodges were
acknowledged as regular by the Grand Lodges of Ireland and
Scotland. The last impediment to a free mingling of brethren made
under the older dispensation with the members of the steadily
increasing number of "Ancient" Lodges was removed when Sir
John Johnson hied away to Canada and took his Provincial warrant
with him. The field was left free to the "Ancients," and they were
not slow to take it.
Accordingly, it was decided to form a Grand Lodge under the
Ancient obedience. The leading lodge was No. 169 of "Ancient
York Masons," which had been constituted as such while its
regiment was located in Boston, July 13, 1771, under warrant from
the Ancient Grand Lodge of England. On the evacuation of
Boston, in 1776, the lodge followed the British army to New York,
where it saw its opportunity of uniting several military lodges into
a Provincial Grand Lodge.
TO THAT end a convention of lodges was called on January 23,
1781, attended by twenty-nine representatives of seven lodges.
Past Master James McCuen, of Lodge No. 169, presided, and after
the purposes of the gathering were explained, the convention
organized a Grand Lodge "in ample form," electing James McCuen
as temporary Grand Master. A permanent formation was agreed
upon, and officers elected, as follows: The Rev. William Walter, of
No. 169, Grand Master; John Studholme Brownrigg, of 441,
Senior Grand Warden; the Rev. John Beardsley, of No. 210, junior
Grand Warden. Information of the proceedings was sent to the
Ancient Grand Lodge of London, with a request for authority to
make the organization permanent.
On October 10, 1781, a dispensation was given for the constitution
of a new military lodge, No. 215, to be held in the Second
Regiment of Anspach-Bayreuth, which was stationed in New
York. The lodge was constituted five months later by the inchoate
Provincial Grand Lodge, who were empowered to represent the
mother Grand Lodge on that occasion, "for three hours only." A
record of the transaction was later made a part of the proceedings
of the Grand Lodge in London, a certified copy of which was
given by Bro. John W. Vrooman, Grand Master of Masons in New
York, at the time of his visit to England in 1889. It is as follows:
MINUTES OF THE GRAND LODGE
"FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS
ACCORDING TO THE OLD INSTITUTIONS"
At present in the Archives of the United Grand
Lodge of England.
Free Masons Hall - London.
"Grand Lodge open'd at 4 o'clock in the City of New York,
North America on the 21 of February, An: Do: 1782, - An: Lap:
The R.'.W.'. & Revd Br. WM. WALTER, P.G.M. elect as D.G.M.
The R.'.W.'. BR., JOHN St BROWNING Esqe, P.S.G.W. elect as
The R.'.W.'. & Revd BR. JOHN BARKLEY, P.J.G.W. elect as
The R.'.W.'. BR. ISAAC CALLINS P.'.M.'. of 169 as Gd. Secy.
BR. CUNNINGHAM, Mr. of No. 169.
BR. WARDEN S.W. do
BR. LOUNDS J.W. do
BR. BARCLAY P.M. do
BR. MCEWEN do do
BR. COLLINS Mr. of No. 210
BR. WATSON S.W. do
BR. GRIGG J.W. do
BR. COCK Mr. of No. 212
BR. COURTNEY S.W. do
BR. HARRISON J.W. do
BR. HODSON P.M. do
BR. CROWELL do do
BR. DREW Mr. of No. 213
BR. FIFE S.W. do
BR. GEDDES J.W. do
BR. STOKES P.M. do
Installed according to Ancient usage.
MAXIMILIAN De STRAIT, Master.
The Revd JOHN PHILLIP ERB. S. W. vice DAVID SCHOEP,
GEORGE DOIG, J. W. vice FERD FORSTER, dead. All matters
relative to this Constitution being complaited the Gd Officers
aforesaid in the name of the Most Noble Prince John Duke of
Athol G.M, proclaimed the New Lodge Duly constituted No. 215,
registered in Grand Lodge Book, Volume 8, Letter H, to be held in
the Second Reg't of Auspack Berauth.
Closed before 7 o'clock, adjourned to the Grand Lodge in London.
* N. B. The Revd WILLM WALTER was empower'd to act as
D.G.Mr (for 3 hours only) by an authority from Win Dickey Esqe,
D. G. M."
CERTIFIED AS A TRUE EXTRACT.
[L.S.] (Signed) SHADWELL H. CLERKE G. S.
IT IS only proper to add that in the autumn of 1782 the Provincial
Grand Lodge was duly organized, by virtue of a warrant dated
September 5, 1781, its transmission having been delayed, no
doubt, by the war conditions. So runs the record of the only time
the Grand Lodge of England was convened in America, and it is an
item of interest, if nothing more, in the annals of the Craft in the
New World - all acts made regular and a part of the common
tradition of the Fraternity when the Great Schism was healed in the
Lodge of Reconciliation in 18l3.
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