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GENERAL GRAND LODGE.
Unhappily the distinctions of interest, the political views and national disputes existing between Great Britain and these United States have involved us, not only in the general calamities that disturb the tranquillity which used to prevail in this once happy country, but in a peculiar manner affects our society, by separating us from the Grand Mother Lodge in Europe, by disturbing our connection with each other, impeding the progress and preventing the perfection of Masonry in America.
We deplore the miseries of our countrymen, and particularly lament the distresses which many of our poor Brethren must suffer, as well from the want of temporal relief as for the want of a source of light to govern their pursuits and illuminate the path of happiness. And we ardently desire to restore, if possible that fountain of charity from which. to the unspeakable benefit of mankind, comes benevolence and love. Considering with anxiety these disputes, and the many irregularities and improprieties committed by weak or wicked Brethren, which too manifestly show the present dissipated and almost abandoned condition of our lodges in general, as well as the relaxation of virtue amongst individuals.
We think it our duty, Right Worshipful Brothers and Seniors in the Craft, to solicit your immediate interposition to save us from the impending danger of schism and apostasy. To obtain security from these fatal evils with affectionate humility we beg leave to recommend the adopting and pursuing the most necessary measures for establishing one Grand Lodge in America, to preside over and govern all other Lodges of whatever degree or denomination, licensed or to be licensed, upon this Continent; that the ancient principles and discipline of Masonry being restored, we may mutually and universally enjoy the advantages arising from frequent communion and social intercourse. do accomplish this beneficial and essential work, permit us to propose that you, the Right Worshipful Grand Plasters, or a majority of your number, may nominate as Most Worshipful Grand Master of said lodge a Brother whose merit and capacity may be adequate to a station so elevated and important and transmitting the name and nomination of such Brother, together with the name of the Lodge to be established, to our Grand Mother Lodge in Europe for approbation and confirmation, and that you adopt and execute, by other ways and means mast eligible for preventing impositions, correcting abuses and for establishing the general principles of Masonry, etc.
In the interval of these two meetings of Army Freemasons at Morristown the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania convened a "Grand Lodge of Emergency) ," January 13, 1780, to consider the subject of a supreme governing Body for the American Craft. "From the records," wrote the late Josiah H. Drummond (see Symbolic Masonry in t united States), "it might well be inferred that the movements by the Lodge and the Grand Lodge were entirely independent of each other; but Morristown, where the Lodge met, is sufficiently near Philadelphia to justify the influence that this action was soon known to the Grand Lodge; and as the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge, in his letter to the Grand Master of Massachusetts says 'It has been a measure long wished for among the Brethren especially in the Army, and from them the request came originally to us,' it is quite certain that the movement by the Grand Lodge was in consequence of the action of this Lodge."
There is here a slight discrepancy of dates, which may affect by a few days the question of priority of action by these two Bodies. Brother Julius F. Sachse has this in the preface to his account of the "Emergent" meeting at Philadelphia (see Freemasonry in Pennsylvania, 1727-1907, volume i, page 396):
Washington, from his affiliation with our Pennsylvania Grand Lodge, vas naturally held in the highest esteem by his Brethren in Pennsylvania, and from almost the very day of the procession to Christ Church. in Philadelphia on Saint John the Evangelist's Day, 1, 7X3, in which Washington participated, his name was suggested as a General Grand Master over all the American Colonies. The movement continued to find favor amongst the Craft, and culminated in a motion to that effect at a General Grand Communication of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, December 20, 1779.
As stated above, the first meeting, at Morristown was held December 27, 1779. Brother Sachse's last quoted statement, therefore, gives priority, of action to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, but against this is the statement of the Grand Secretary of Pennsylvania of the time, as quoted above, that the first motion came to Grand Lodge from Brothers in the Army. The point, however, is of minor, even negligible, importance. The action was almost simultaneous, was presumably concerted, and reveals the sentiment of the time as favoring a national governing Body, and an equally strong sentiment favoring Washington as the first General Grand Master. Still following Brother Sachse's reproduction of the old records of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, we have this of the "Emergent'' session of that Body:
The Lodge being called to order by the Grand Master, upon the request of sundry Brothers, and also in pursuance of a motion made at the last General Communication to consider the propriety as well as the necessity of appointing a Grand Master over all the Grand Lodges formed or to be formed in these United States, as the correspondence which the rules of Masonry require cannot now be carried on with the Grand Lodge of London, under whose jurisdiction the Grand Lodges in these States were originally constituted; the ballot was put upon the question: Whether it is for the benefit of Masonry that a "Grand Master of Masons throughout the United States" shall be now nominated on the part of this Grand Lodge; and it was unanimously determined in the affirmative.
Sundry respectable Brethren being then put in nomination, it was moved that the ballot be put for them separately, and His Excellency George Washington, Esquire, General and Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States, being first in nomination, he was balloted for accordingly as Grand Master, and elected by the unanimous vote of the whole Lodge. Ordered, that the Minutes of this election and appointment be transmitted to the different Grand Lodges in the United States, and their concurrence therein be requested, in order that application he made to His Excellency in due form, praying that he will do the Brethren and Craft the honor of accepting their appointment.
Notwithstanding that a Committee was raised by Grand Lodge to expedite the ordered communications with other Grand Bodies, the affair moved slowly. A half year passed before the Committee officially ascertained that Grand Lodges existed in Virginia and Massachusetts. Not until October, 1780, was a reply received from the Grand Master of the latter body, then next in importance among American Grand Lodges to that of Pennsylvania. This, in answer to a letter from Grand Secretary Rev. Dr. William Smith, at Philadelphia, was as follows:
Boston, September 4, 1780.
Sir--Your agreeable favor of the 19th ult., I duly received the 31st, covering a printed abstract of the proceedings of your Grand Lodge. I had received one before, near three months, from the Master of a traveling Lodge of the Connecticut line, but it not coming officially did not lay it before the Grand Lodge, but the evening after I received yours, it being Grand Lodge, I laid it before them and had some debate on it, whereupon it was agreed to adjourn the Lodge for three weeks, to the 22d inst., likewise to write to all the Lodges under this jurisdiction to attend themselves, if convenient, by their Masters and Wardens, and if not, to give instructions to their proxies here concerning their acquiescence in the proposal.
I am well assured that no one can have any objections to so illustrious a person as General Washington as Grand Master of the United States, but at the same time it will be necessary to know from you his prerogative as such; whether he is to appoint Sub-Grand or Provincial Grand Masters of each State; if so, I am confident that the Grand Lodge of this State will never give up their right of electing their own Grand Masters and other officers annually. This induces me to write you now, before the result of the Grand Lodge takes place, and must beg an answer by the first opportunity, that I may be enabled to lay the same before them. I have not heard of any State except yours and this that have proceeded as yet since the Independence to elect their officers, but have been hoping that they would.
This raising of the question of prerogative for the proposed Supreme Body and the General Grand Master, which has proven the chief stumbling block at every period of the long debate, moved the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to a further consideration of the matter. Its conclusions thereupon are embodied and set forth in the report of a Committee, as a reply to the questionings of the Grand Master of Massachusetts. This report, unanimously approved by Grand Lodge, justifies its inclusion in full, as trance matted by the Grand Secretary:
Respected Sir and R. W Brother:—Your kind and interesting letters of the 14th and l9th, by some delay in the postoffice, came both to my hands together, and that not before the 10th inst. They were both read and maturely considered at a very full Grand Lodge last evening, and I have it in charge to thank you and all the worthy members of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for the brotherly notice they were pleased to take of the proposition communicated to you from the Grand Lodge of this State.
We are happy to find that you agree with us in the necessity of having one complete Masonic Jurisdiction, under some one grand head throughout the United States. It has been a measure long wished for among the Brethren, especially in the army, and from them the request came originally to us, that we might improve the opportunity which our central situation gave us of setting this measure on foot.
From these considerations. joined to an earnest desire of advancing and doing honor to Masonry, and not from any affectation of superiority or of dictating to any of our Brethren, we put in nomination for Grand Master over all these States (and elected, so far as depended upon us) one of the most illustrious of our Brethren whose character does honor to the whole Fraternity and who, we are therefore persuaded. would be wholly unexceptionable. When our proposition and nomination should be communicated to other Grand Lodges and ratified by their concurrence, then, and not before. it was proposed to define the pouters of such a Grand Master General, and to fix articles of Masonic union among all the Grand Lodges by means of a Convention of Committees from the different Grand Lodges, to be held at such time and place as might be agreed upon. Such Convention may also have power to notify the Grand Master General of his election, present him his Diploma, badges of office, and install with due form and solemnity.
To you who are so well learned in the Masonic art and acquainted with its history, it need not be observed that one Grand Master General over many Grand Lodges, having each their own Grand Masters, is no novel institution, even if the peculiar circumstances of the Grand Lodges in America, now separated from the Jurisdiction from whence they first originated, did not render it necessary. We have also a very recent magnificent example of the tame thing in Europe, which may serve in respect to the ceremonies of installation as a model to us.
I will copy the paragraph, as dated at Stockholm, in Sweden, the 21st day of March last, as you may not perhaps have seen it:
"The l9th of this month (March, 1780) will always be a memorable day to the Freemasons established in this kingdom, for on that day the Duke of Sudermania was installed Grand Master of all the Lodges throughout this kingdom, as well as those of St. Petersburg, Copenhagen, Brunswick, Hamburg, etc. The Lodge at St. Petersburg had sent a Deputy for this purpose, and others had entrusted the Diploma of Installment to Baron Levonhrefud, who had been last year to Copenhagen and in Germany on this negotiation. The installment was attended with great pomp. The assembly was composed of more than four hundred members, and auras honored with the presence of the King, who was pleased to grant a Charter to the Lodge, taking it under his royal protection, at the same time investing the new Grand Master with an ermined fur cloak; after which he was placed upon a throne, clothed with the marks of his new dignity, and there received the compliments of all the members, who, according to their rank, were admitted to kiss the hand, scepter or medal, struck to perpetuate the memory off this solemnity, which passed in Exchange Hall. It is said the Icing will grant revenues for the Commanderies, and that this Royal Lodge will receive an annual tribute. This solemnity hath raised the Order of Freemasons from a kind of oblivion into which they were sunk."
What the particular authorities of the Grand Master of these United States were to be, we had not taken upon us to describe, but (as before hinted) had left them to be settled by a Convention of Grand Lodges or their Deputies. But this is certain, that we never intended the different Provincial or State Grand Lodges should be deprived of the election of their own grand officers, or of any of their just Masonic rights and authorities over the different Lodges within the bounds of their Jurisdiction.
But where new Lodges are to be erected beyond the bounds of any legal Grand Lodge now existing, such Lodges are to have their Warrants from the Grand Master General, and when such Lodges become a number sufficient to be formed into one Grand Lodge, the bounds of such Grand Lodge are to be described and the Warrant to be granted by the Grand Master aforesaid, who may also call and preside in a Convention of Grand Lodges when any matter of great and general importance to the whole united Fraternity of these States man require it. What other powers may be given to the Grand Master General, and how such powers are to be drawn up and expressed, will be the business of the Convention proposed.
For want of some general Masonic authority over all these States the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, ex necessitate, have granted Warrants beyond its bounds in the Delaware and Maryland States, and you have found it expedient to do the same in New Hampshire, but we know that necessity alone can be a plea for this.
By what has been said above, you will see that our idea is to have a Grand Master General over all the United States; and each Lodge under him to preserve its own rights, jurisdictions, etc., under him as formerly under the Grand Lodge of Great Britain, from whence those in America had their Warrants, and to have this new Masonic Constitution and the powers of the Grand Master General fixed by a Convention of Committees aforesaid .
Others, we are told, have proposed that there be one Grand Master over all these States, and that the other Grand Masters, whether nominated by him or chosen by their own Grand Lodges, should be considered as his deputies. But vise have the same objection to this that you have, and never had any idea of establishing such a plan as hath been suggested before. This letter is now swelled to a great length. We have, therefore, only to submit two things to your deliberation:
First. Either whether it is best to make your election of a Grand Master General immediately, and then propose to use a time and place where a Committee from your Body could meet a Committee from ours to fix his powers and proceed to installment; or Second. Whether you will first appoint such a place of meeting and the powers of the proposed Grand Master, and then return home and proceed to the election, and afterwards meet anew for installment. This last mode would seem to require too much time, and would not be so agreeable to our worthy Brethren of the Army, who are anxious to have this matter completed. As you will probably choose the first mode, could not the place of our meeting be at or near the headquarters of the Army, at or soon after Saint John's day next? At any rate, you will not fix a place far northward, on account of some Brethren from Virginia who will attend for we propose to advertise the business and the time and place of meeting in the public papers, that any regular Grand Lodge, which we may not have heard of, may have an opportunity of sending representatives.
Brother Morcombe says this document, when examined and analyzed, throws light upon the condition of Freemasonry in the infant States, and also reveals how vague was the knowledge of the Craft, its traditions and its history possessed by the leaders and spokesmen of their time. Brother Joseph E. Morcombe published in the American Freemason (from November, 1909, to October, 1910, inclusive), a discussion of the various attempts at forming a General or National Grand Lodge in the United States of America. To these essays we are indebted for many particulars of this important movement.
Doctor Mackey thought it possible that there was some concert of action between the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and the Freemasons at Morristown. Perhaps, the initiative having been taken by the latter in December, the former determined to give its influence, in January, to the final recommendations which were to be made in the following February. All this, however, although plausible, is but conjecture. Nothing appears to have resulted from the action of either Body. A further documentary reference to the subject is the declaration of a Convention held in 1783, to organize the Grand Lodge of Maryland, where it is remarked that "another Grand Lodge was requisite before an election could be had of a Grand Master for the United States." Brother Josiah H. Drummond, writing of the failure of the Grand Lodges of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to agree on the project of a General Grand Lodge, throws some needed light upon the subject. He refers the plan, indeed, in its motive, to the strife or jealousy then existing between Antients and Moderns, and says:
The Massachusetts Grand Lodge was not willing to adopt the plan proposed by American Union Lodge even as modified by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania without the concurrence of other Grand Lodges, and as their sentinels could not then be ascertained, consideration of the matter was postponed " until a general peace shall happily take place through the Continent." This action of Massachusetts was more significant than at first appears. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was an Antient Grand Lodge, and the members of its obedience did not recognize the Moderns as regular Masons, it proposed to limit the National organization to Antient Grand Lodges. The Massachusetts Grand Lodge derived its origin from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and while it was an Antient Grand Lodge in all but origin, it recognized the Moderns as Masons, and it had endeavored for years to establish mutual visitation with the Lodges under the Saint John's Grand Lodge. When the correspondence took place, the Grand Lodges of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were all the Antient Grand Lodges, either Provincial or Independent that existed in a state of activity in America. Pennsylvania contemplated the formation of the National organization by those two Grand Lodges, unless it should appear that there were other Antient Grand Lodges in the country But Massachusetts evidently contemplated the union of all the Grand Lodges, whether Antient or Moderns the postponement of the matter for such a purpose w as equivalent to an absolute rejection of the plan of Pennsylvania.
But the attempt to form a General Grand Lodge, although, on this occasion, unsuccessful, was soon to be renewed. In 1790, the proposition was again made by the Grand Lodge of Georgia, and here, true to the Roman axiom, Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis, Times change and we change with them, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania became the opponent of the measure, and declared it to be impracticable.
From that time the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania set itself against any attempts to revivify the movement. Its records show repeated action refusing assent to any plan Proposed looking to the creation of a Supreme Lodge. Yet we find that, with the natural and laudable desire to harmonize existing differences and to bring about a uniform system, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1785 proposed a Convention of Delegates from each existing Grand Lodge. The purpose of such Convention was specifically stated to be "for the only purpose of conferring together and mutual advice." Apparently this suggestion was renewed later, and misunderstood, for in 1790 there was laid before the Grand Lodge of Virginia what was stated to be "a letter from a Committee of the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge purporting a wish to constitute 3 Supreme Grand Lodge composed of Deputies from every Grand Lodge of the United States." That such was far from the intention of Pennsylvania is made evident by action taken from the same year. The Grand Lodge of Georgia declared itself as favoring a General Grand Lodge, and sent out a circular letter to other Jurisdictions proposing its establishment, upon receipt of which the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania resolved unanimously
That the constituting of a Federal or Supreme Grand Lodge, to have jurisdiction over the respective Grand and other Lodges throughout the Continent, as proposed by the R. W. Grand Lodge of Georgia, is inexpedient and appears impracticable; but that a Convention of Deputies from the several Grand Lodges of the United States for the purpose of forming a more intimate union and establishing a regular and permanent intercourse betwixt the said Grand Lodges, would be highly advantageous to the Fraternity, and that Grand Lodge will appoint Deputies to such Convention for the aforesaid purposes.
Again, in 1799, the Grand Lodge of South Carolina renewed the proposition, and recommended a Convention to be held at the City of Washington for the purpose of establishing a "Superintending Grand Lodge of America." The reasons assigned by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina for making this proposition are set forth in the circular which is issued on the subject to its sister Grand Lodges. They are:
To draw closer the bonds of union between the different Lodges of the United States, and to induce them to join in some systematic plan whereby the drooping spirit of the Ancient Craft may be revived and become more generally useful and beneficial, and whereby Ancient Masonry, so excellent and beautiful in its primitive institution, may be placed upon such a respectable and firm basis in this western world as to bid defiance to the shafts of malice or the. feeble attempts of any foreign disclaimers to bring it into disrepute.
The allusion here is to the Abbé Barruel, who had just published his abusive and anti-Masonic History of Jacoinism. Several Grand Lodges acceded to the proposition for holding a Convention! although they believed the scheme of a "Superintending Grand Lodge" inexpedient and impracticable; but they were willing to send delegates for the purpose of producing uniformity in the Masonic system. The Convention, however, did not assemble. The proposition was again made in 1803, by the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, and with a like want of success. In 1806, the subject of a General Grand Lodge was again presented to the consideration of the Grand Lodges of the Union, and propositions were made for Conventions to be held in Philadelphia in 1807, and in Washington City in 1808, neither of which was convened. The Proceedings of the various Grand Lodges in the years 180G, 1807, and 1808 contain allusions to this subject, most of them in favor of a Convention to introduce uniformity, but unfavorable to the pertinent establishment of a General Grand Lodge. North Carolina, however, in 1807, expressed the opinion that "a National Grand Lodge should possess controlling and corrective powers over all Grand Lodges under its jurisdiction."
An unsuccessful attempt was again made to hold a Convention at Washington in January, 1811, "for the purpose of forming a Superintending Grand Lodge of America." After the failure of this effort, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, which seems to have been earnest in its endeavors to accomplish its favorite object, again proposed a Convention, to be convoked at Washington in 1812. But the effort, like all which had preceded it, proved abortive. No Convention was held. The effort seems now, after all these discouraging attempts, to have been laid upon the shelf for nearly ten years. At length, however, the effort for a Convention which had so often failed was destined to meet with partial success, and one rather extemporaneous in its character was held in Washington. In the National Intelligence of March 9, 1822, there appeared the following notice: Masonic Notice. Those members of Congress who belong to the Masonic Fraternity, and those visitors of the city who are or have been members of any State Grand Lodge are respectfully invited to attend a meeting, to be held in the Senate Chamber, this evening at seven o'clock to take into consideration matters of general interest to the Masonic institution. In answer to this invitation, as stated in the rare pamphlet preserved by the Grand Lodge of Iowa, A number of members of Congress, and strangers assembled at the Capitol, in the City of Washington March 9, 1822. Brother Thomas R. Ross of Ohio was appointed Chairman, and Brother William Darlington, Member of Congress, of Pennsylvania, Secretary, and it was unanimously Resolved, That it be proposed to the several Grand Lodges in the United States to take the subject into their serious consideration, at their next Annual Communications; and that, if they approve of the formation of a General Grand Lodge, it be recommended to them to appoint one or more Delegates, to assemble in the City of Washington, on the second Monday of February next, to agree on the organization of such a Grand Lodge.
Resolved, That if two-thirds of the Grand Lodges within the United States concur in the propriety of establishing a General Grand Lodge, it be recommended to them to instruct their representatives to proceed to the formation of a Constitution of a General Grand Lodge, to be subsequently submitted to the several Grand Lodges in the Union, for their ratification, and which being ratified by a majority of them, shall be considered as thenceforth binding on all the Grand Lodges assenting thereto.
Resolved That the Most Worshipful John Marshall, of Virginia Henry Clay, of Kentucky; William H. Winder of Maryland; William S. Cardell of New York; Joel Abbott of Georgia- John Holes of Maine- John H. Eaton of Tennessee; William W. Seaton of Washington; Christopher Rankin of Mississippi; Thomas R. Ross of Ohio, H. G. Burton of North Carolina, and the Rev. Tharddeus M. Harris, D. D.,of Massachusetts, be, and they hereby are, appointed a Committee to open a correspondence with the respective Grand Lodges within the Chutes States, and to take such measurers therein, as they may deem expedient to carry the aforesaid resolutions into effect. The Committee, in performing the duty thus imposed upon it, issued an address to the Masonic Fraternity of the United States. Henry Clay of Kentucky, was the Chairman, and it is not doubted that the brilliant sentences which make up this address are from his pen. The full text of this document, apart from its connection with our Subject, deserves to be read by the present generation of Freemasons. The address follows:
The Committee. in complying with the above resolutions, are aware that a meeting of individual Masons, however respectable in numbers and characters, could delegate no regular authority in behalf of the Masonic Body, and if they could, it was unnecessary. This paper will therefore be understood as it is intended, a proceeding originating in the necessity of the ease, to adopt some mode by which the general views of Masons in the different States of the American Union may be ascertained. The history- of the Masonic Institutions show that, though established among various nations, it was, in each country, confined to a comparatively small number. The jurisdiction exercised by Grand Lodges, like almost every exertion of power or of moral influence, was concentrated in the different capital cities. The subordinate Lodges were few in number, and their connection with the supreme head was very direct. Till within a recent period, it is believed, no great number of Lodges have been united under a single Jurisdiction. The art of printing and other causes have produced great changes in the condition of the world, and these causes have operated in their full proportion on the society of Freemasons. The sphere of civilization is greatly enlarging its boundaries; intellectual attainments and the influence of moral operations are taking the place of brute force. Now principles and laws are recognized, and the advantages of cultivated reason are shared by an increased proportion of mankind. Under these circumstances Masonry has been extended, and its Lodges so multiplied as to make their proper conduct a subject of much interest to the friends of society. continue click here
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