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There are two points which at once present themselves in connection with the idea of establishing a General Grand Lodge of the United States. The first is to acquire. in a correspondence with foreign nations, an elevated stand for the Masonry of this country, to unite with them in maintaining its general principles in their purity, and secondly, to preserve, between our own States, that uniformity of work and that active interchange of good offices which would be difficult, if not impossible by other means. The Committee do not presume to instruct their Brethren in the nature of an Institution in which they have a common interest. They are governed by a few plain considerations known to all who have attended to the subject.
The antiquity of the Masonic Society, extending so far beyond all other human associations, seizes the attention, and the mind is naturally impressed with feelings of interest for an Institution transmitted to us through the long train of a hundred ages. Time, which destroys all perishable things, seems to have consolidated the pillars of this moral temple. We contemplate the catalogue of excellent men who have been equally the supporters of Masonry and the ornaments of human nature; and we say, almost unconsciously, that the present generation with all its lights, must not tarnish the name of an Institution, consecrated by so many circumstances calculated to endear it to the mind of a good man. Without making invidious comparisons between the United States and other portions of the world, there are some great considerations of responsibility, which our intelligent citizens accustomed to reflect on the affairs of nations, cannot overlook. The Masons of the United States, in character as such, have their the share of this moral responsibility They will consider their Institution as one of the great social causes to allay low-minded jealousies between nations of peace, and in war to mitigate the horrors which it cannot avert. While they offer their gratitude to a Beneficent Providence for their own blessings, they will not be regardless of their obligations to their Brethren throughout the world.
These reflections, drawn from the external circumstances of Masonry, are strengthened by the consideration of its intrinsic nature. Its foundations are fixed in the social feelings and the best principles of the human mind. Its maxims are the lessons of virtue reduced to their practical application. It stands opposed to a jealous or revengeful temper; to all the selfish and malevolent passions; it coincides with the highest motives of patriotism, the most expanded philanthropy, and concentrates all its precepts in reverence to a Divine Creator, and good will to men. The United States are supposed to contain near 80,000 Freemasons. They are generally in the vigor of manhood, and capable of much active usefulness. Notwithstanding the abuses in some places by the admission of unworthy members, they are as a body, above mediocrity in character and talent. It becomes an interesting question how the energies of this body can be best combined to give effect to the benevolent design of their association.
From causes which need no explanation, the Masonic Jurisdiction in this country has taken its form from the political divisions. The modification which it has undergone, from the spirit of our civil institutions, has its benefits and its defects. Each of our state Jurisdictions is supreme within itself. Whatever collisions may exist; whatever abuses, whatever departures from the correct standard, in principles or in rites, whatever injury to the common cause; there is no mode assigned to obviate the wrongs which it is the interest of all to prevent. There is no provision for a systematic interchange of Masonic intelligence. In one or two instances there are already two or more Grand Lodges in the same State each claiming superior jurisdiction, and with no acknowledged boundaries between them. Will not these evils increase as our population becomes more dense unless means be seasonably used to guard against them? Is the difference now prevailing between different States an evil which calls for remedy'? Every good Mason must wish chiefly for the harmony of the general Institution: For the Society is so formed that no particular part however meritorious by itself, can continue to prosper if the Body at large IS brought into disgrace. Is the Masonry of our country at present a great arch without a keystone? Is it not in danger of falling? Are not many of the books which are published in the name of the Masonic Institutions derogatory to its character and interest?
It is not the design of the Committee to enter into arguments on this subject, nor to lay down their own opinions as a guide for those better able to judge, but to proceed to the only duty required of them to perform. According to the preceding resolutions the Committee are to submit the question whether it be expedient that a Grand Lodge of the United States be formed and, secondly, to request these Grand Lodges which approve that object to appoint Delegates to meet at Washington on the second Monday of February next, to take such measures as may be deemed most proper for the organization of such General Grand Lodge.
It is requested that this letter may not be published in newspapers, but submitted to the several Grand Lodges and distributed among Masons, as a subject concerning the affairs of their own Body. If the information furnished to the Committee should render it expedient perhaps another letter may be forwarded, giving a statement of such facts as may be interesting to be known previous to a final decision on the course to be taken. An answer is requested, with a free expression of opinion on the subject of this communication. Such answer may be directed to any member of the Committee. or in particular, to William W. Seaton, Esq., Washington
Henry Clay, William S. Cardeli, John Holmes, John H. Eaton, Thomas R. Ross, Christopher Rankin, William H. Winder, Joel Abbot, Henry Baldwin, Wm. W. Seaton, H. G. Burton
The appeal fell upon unwilling ears and thus the Grand Lodges continued firm in their opposition to the organization of such a Superintending body. Yet as the years passed, and Freemasonry was carried farther into new territory, the vagaries and variations of work in the Lodges became more and more glaring. It was realized that some sort of standard should be set, or otherwise the eccentricities of conceits of individuals might be perpetuated to the injury of the Craft. Brother Morcombe says it is true that "uniformity of work" was, at the time mentioned, and has been since, a fetish, and the letter of Freemasonry was exalted to the position of all-importance, while the spirit of the Institution was neglected and in many cases entirely lost sight of.
With the object of fixing a Standard Work, the Grand Lodge of Alabama in 1841 urged an assemblage of delegates, accredited from the various Jurisdictions, "to decide upon a uniform mode of work for the Grand Lodges of the United States and for the making of other lawful regulations for the interest and security of the Craft." With this object in view representatives gathered at Washington on Monday, March 7, 1842, from the Grand Lodges of Maryland, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Alabama, and Virginia. Delegates appeared also from the Grand Lodge of Michigan, but their credentials were not recognized, because of the then alleged irregularity of that Body. Of this Convention Brother Charles Gilman of Maryland was chosen President and Brother John Dove of Virginia, Secretary. After sessions covering four days the representatives were able to do little beyond passing a series of rather conventional resolutions, and recommended the appointment of Grand Lecturers, who should meet and agree upon instruction to be given.
There was at this gathering no mention of a General Grand Lodge, at least as recorded in the published proceedings. But judging from the Grand Lodges participating and the distinguished Brothers who constituted the Convention, we cannot avoid a conclusion that one of the motives was to familiarize American Freemasons with national gatherings of Craftsmen, to the end that a way might be prepared for a governing body embracing the whole of the Fraternity in the United States. An account of the Convention is detailed in Schultz's History of Freemasonry in Maryland, which work also deals at length with the proposals for a General Grand Lodge in the United States.
As a result of this Convention, and of the resolution "that the first meeting of said Grand Lecturers be held in the city of Baltimore on the second Monday in May, 1843," such meeting convened on the date named. Brother John Dove of Virginia was made President; Brother the Rev. Albert Case of South Carolina, Secretary. It assembled May 8, 1843, the following Grand Lodges being represented; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Ohio, District of Columbia, Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee. Thus sixteen of the twenty-three Grand Lodges of the United States sent delegates to a gathering which had as the objects
I. To produce uniformity of Masonic work.
II. To recommend such measures as shall tend to the elevation of the Order to its due degree of respect throughout the world at large.
As result of the deliberations an authorized form of monitorial work was prepared and disseminated, which for years was referred to as "the Baltimore Work," and enjoyed some measure of authority
But again there is no mention made of a General Grand Lodge, though by these two gatherings the way had been prepared. The subject was again brought to the attention of the Fraternity by the Grand Lodge of Maryland, which Body, at its Communication in May, 1845, invited its sister Grand Lodges to meet in Convention at Baltimore on September 23, 1847, for the purpose of reporting a Constitution of a General Grand Lodge. This Convention met at the appointed time and place, but only seven Grand Lodges were represented by twice that number of Delegates. A Constitution was formed for a "Supreme Grand Lodge of the United States," which was submitted for approval or rejection to the Grand Lodges of the Union.
The opinion expressed of that Constitution by the Grand Lodge of Ohio, "that it embraced, in several of its sections, indefinite and unmeaning powers, to which it was impossible to give a definite construction, and that it gave a jurisdiction to the body which that Grand Lodge would in no event consent to," seems to have been very generally concurred in by the other Grand Bodies, and the "Supreme Grand Lodge of the United States" never went into operation. The formation of its Constitution was its first and its only act.
The next action was by the Grand Lodge of New York, which Body recommended, in 1848, that each of the Grand Lodges should frame the outlines of a General Grand Constitution such as would be acceptable to it, and send it with a Delegate to a Convention to be held at Boston in 1850, at the time of meeting of the General Grand Chapter and General Grand Encampment. The Committee of the Grand Lodge of New York, who made this recommendation, also presented the outlines of a General Grand Constitution. This instrument defines the Jurisdiction of the proposed General Grand Lodge as intended to be "over 311 controversies and disputes between the different Grand Lodges which may become parties to the compact, when such controversies are referred for decision; and the decisions in all cases to be final when concurred in by a majority of the Grand Lodges present;" but it disclaims all appeals from State Grand Lodges or their subordinates in matters relating to their internal affairs. It is evident that the friends of the measure had abated much of their pretensions since the year 1779, when they wanted a Grand Lodge of America, "to preside over and govern all other Lodges of whatsoever degree or denomination, licensed or to be licensed, on the continent."
The Grand Lodge of Rhode Island also submitted the draft of a General Grand Constitution, more extensive in its details than that presented by New York, but substantially the same in principle. The Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia also concurred in the proposition. The Convention did not, however, meet; for the idea of a Supreme Grand Lodge was still an unpopular one with the Craft. In January, 1850, Texas expressed the general sentiment of the Fraternity when it said: "The formation of a General Grand Lodge will not accomplish the desired end. The same feeling and spirit that now lead to difficulties between the different Grand Lodges would produce insubordination and disobedience of the Edicts of a General Grand Lodge." But the subject was not allowed to lie long dormant. We come next upon an action of the Grand Lodge of Maine. At its Annual Communication for 1851 the Committee on Foreign Correspondence was instructed "to correspond with the several Grand Lodges of the United States, recognized by this Grand Body as such, urging upon them the necessary steps for forming a General Grand Lodge of the United States." In compliance with such instruction the Committee, consisting of Brothers Cyril Pearl, Allen Haines and F. Bradford, presented a report, which is important for our purpose. This was issued ads a circular letter, and distributed to the Grand Lodges and their principal officers, that so the matter might be thoroughly discussed and clearly understood.
It will have been noticed so far in this review that the proposals for a General Grand Lodge had come from Grand Lodges in the Southern States, and the chief support of the movement had been from that section. The members of the Grand Lodge of Maine Committee were especially careful to avoid all possible subjects of controversy setting forth their opinions of the benefits to be derived from a General Grand Lodge, and leaving for a representative gathering any real discussion of the subject. The opening paragraphs of the report merle recited the instructions under which it was prepared and expressed the natural hesitancy of the Committee as to the best method of procedure. The report, bearing the date of May 6, 1852, then continued: From the result of efforts thus far made to secure a General Grand Lodge, the Committee were satisfied that nothing could be gained by precipitation, but that if such a body was to be formed, with any prospect of success, it must be a work of time and mature deliberation. It has seemed to them desirable that if another attempt were made to organize such a body, it should be done when this branch of the Masonic Fraternity could be generally and ably represented, and without involving heavy expense to the several State Grand Lodges. It has also seemed desirable that such an attempt should be made when there were no exciting influences or perplexing controversies to disturb the deliberations of a preliminary meeting, or enlist any of the Grand Lodges against the measure, or against each other.
The Committee have also desired to profit by the experience of the General Grand Bodies in the other departments of Masonry, and by whatever light the communications from the several Grand Lodges and Grand Chapters of the Union might incidentally reflect on this subject the present year. They have believed that the most favorable time for attempting an organization would be at the time of the Triennial Meeting of the General Grand Chapter and General Grand Encampment, which Bodies are to assemble at Lexington, Kentucky, in September, 1853.
For these and other reasons, your Committee have thought proper to delay addressing the sister Grand Lodges on the subject till their views could be better matured and submitted to this Grand Lodge; and, if approved, to send them out in connection with the Proceedings of this Annual Communication, and also in the form of a circular, to all the elective officers of the several Grand Lodges of the United States, inviting the early attention and reply of their respective Bodies to this proposition. Such being the views of the Committee they will indicate briefly the outlines of the question as they understand it.
1. They believe the interests of Freemasonry in our country, in all its departments, would be greatly promoted by the formation of a General Grand Lodge of the United States, with appropriate powers and limitations.
2. That a voice of a decided majority of the Grand Lodges of this country has been clearly expressed in favor of such an organization.
3. That the diversities of sentiment as to the precise duties, powers and limitations of such a Body, so far as expressed, do not at all discourage the hope of essential agreement on a satisfactory basis, whenever a suitable meeting of delegates can be assembled.
4. That the progress already made in the settlement of long-standing difficulties in some of the States, is one of the most encouraging evidences that a General Grand Lodge may be harmoniously and successfully organized
5. If all the difficulties of Jurisdiction and the intestine strifes in the several States were healed, so far from diminishing the necessity for a General Grand Lodge the difficulties in the way of its organization would be removed, and the way successfully opened for its beneficent career.
6. That such an organization is highly desirable, that it may complete our national Masonic organization, and Cooperate successfully with the other national bodies the General Grand Chapter and General Grand Encampment. Such an organization should hold its sessions in connection with the other two, and in some cases the same individuals should represent each department of the Order, and the expense of representation should be shared equitably by their several bodies. In this way all the interest of Masonry would be brought into notice and in a way most likely to harmonize and promote the interests and prosperity of all the departments.
Such a gathering of the Masonic family, in all its branches would bring together Masons of high characters talent and moral worth, familiar with the wants of the various departments of the Order, and the happiest results might be anticipated from their labors.
7 . Your Committee believe that such an organization with proper regulations, would be of great value, not only to the Masonic Fraternity in this country, but to the interests of our Order throughout the world. It would be the center of correspondence for all the Grand Lodges of the world, and a Masonic union of these United States would present to our Brethren of all lands a most happy illustration of our national motto, E pluribus unum—out of many one.
In conclusion the Committee
suggests that such an organization, meeting regularly with the General Grand Chapter and General Grand Encampment, and bringing together from all parts of the country noble-minded men, imbued with the spirit of Masonry, and charged with the responsibilities of legislating for its welfare would be most happy in its influence on the stability and welfare of our Union. The meetings of this Body might sometimes occur near our halls of national legislation, and give them an example of legislating which knows "no North, no South, no East, no West," and has no " Mason and Dixon's line" (referring to supposed boundary lane between the free and slave States).
This report is signed by Brothers Cyril Pearl, Allen Haines and F. Bradford. It was approved by Grand Lodge, and was thereupon sent out to all the governing Bodies of American Freemasonry. From the arguments, admissions and inferences of the foregoing document we become aware of a new factor in the controversy. The national Bodies of allied or concordant organizations are constantly referred to, their examples are quoted with emphatic approval, and there is manifested a desire that "Masonry, in all its departments," should progress along identical lines. Vile find, as a result of the invitation extended by the Grand Lodge of Maine, several of the sister Bodies tool; favorable action. Delegates were appointed by these, principally New England Jurisdictions. The Convention met at Lexington Kentucky, September 17 1853, and Grand Lodges of Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Vermont, were represented.
Nathan B. Haswell, Grand Master of Vermont, was chosen as President of the Convention, with Brothers John L. Lewis Jr., of New York;, and Eliphalet Storer of Connecticut as Secretaries. The President of the Convention stated the objects of meeting, to be the "consideration of a suitable plan to be presented for a National Grand Lodge, or Confederation of Grand Lodges of the Masonic Fraternity in the United States, for the speedy and final adjustment and decision of matters in difference, which may arise between the various Grand Lodges to promote uniformity in work, and to cultivate the general good of the Fraternity." The proceedings of this Convention were brief, being concluded in two short sessions. A Committee was raised to propose a definite plan, constituted of the following named Brothers: Most Worshipful A. B. Thompson, Maine; Most Worshipful William Field, Rhode Island; Most Worshipful Benjamin B. French, District of Columbia; Most Worshipful David Clark, Connecticut, and Right Worshipful John L. Lewis, Jr., New York. This Committee submitted the following report:
The Committee appointed by the Delegstes of several Grand Lodges of the United States, assembled in Convention at Lexington, Kentucky, September, 1853, for the purpose of taking into consideration the proposition submitted by the Grand Lodge of Maine, to form a General Grand Lodge of the United States, having duly considered the proposition, ask leave to report: That in their opinion it is inexpedient at this time to attempt the formation of a General Grand Lodge, but, from a free interchange. of opinion among the Delegates assembled, your Committee believe that a proposition for a National Confederation for specify objects, would meet the approbation of the several Grand Lodges of the Union. They therefore submit the following plan:
First That all matters of difficulty which may hereafter arise in any Grand Lodge, or between two or more Grand Bodies of the same Order; which cannot by their own action be satisfactorily adjusted or disposed of, shall, if the importance of the case or the common welfare of the fraternity demand it, be submitted with accompanying evidence and documents, to the several Grand Lodges, in their individual capacities; and the concurrent decision thereon of two-thirds of the whole number, officially communicated, shall be held authoritative, binding and final on all parties concerned.
Second That from and after the adoption of the foregoing proposition by two-thirds of the several Grand Lodges, its provision shall be considered ratified, and all matters therein contemplated for adjustment shall then and thereafter take the course prescribed
Third That each of the Grand Lodges be requested to adopt a resolution, if they accede to the proposed measure, pledging themselves to abide by the concurrent decisions of two thirds of the several Grand Lodges, relating to all matters submitted to their action.
For the purpose of further maturing the plan for the proposed Confederation your Committee propose that the several Grand Lodges be respectfully requested to send one or more Delegates each to a Convention to be held at Washington, District of Columbia, on the first Wednesday of January, 1855, to consider such propositions as may be submitted by the several Grand Lodges in relation thereto. The Committee further recommends that the proceedings of this Convention be officially communicated to the several Grand Lodges of the United States.
As suggested by the Lexington Convention, another gathering of leaders of the American Craft was held at Washington on Wednesday, January 3, 1855. Devid Clopton, Past Grand Master of Alabama, was chosen President, with Finlay W. King, Senior Grand Warden of New York, as Secretary. The vice-presidents were Charles Gilman and Benjamin B. Frenon.
Past Grand Masters of Maryland and the District of Columbia respectively. The Committee on Credentials reported the Grand Lodges that were represented, and by Brothers, as follows: Alabama—David Clopton, P.G.M.; William Hendrix Past Grand Master.
California—Milton S. Lathom, James A. McDougall District of Columbia Benjamin B. French, P.M. William 13. Magruder P.G.M.; Charles S. Frailey, G.M
Maryland—Charles Gilman P.G . M.
Michigan—.Albert C. Smith P.G.S.
Minnesota—Alfred E. Ames, G.M.
New York—John L. Lewis D.G.M.; Finlay M. King, S G.W.; James H. Perry, Grand Chaplain; James L Austin.
Immediately upon opening the Convention the subject matter of the meeting was brought forward in a resolution offered by the Michigan Delegate, as follows:
Resolved: That to form a more perfect union, establish uniformity, insure domestic as well as foreign Masonic tranquillity, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings flowing from the perpetuity and diffusion of the principles embraced in the ancient ritual of the Order, it is eminently expedient to organize a Federative National Head with well-defined and limited powers reserving to the several Grand Lodges, or to the Fraternity, all powers, privileges and prerogatives not expressly debuted.
For this a substitute was offered, and prevailed, that the whole matter involved be referred to a Committee of five, with the President of the Convention as chairman, "to mature the plan of a Confederation, as contemplated by the Lexington Convention." Such a Committee was accordingly erected, consisting of Brothers Clopton, M ing, Smith, Ames, and Gilman.
Pending the formulation of their report a communication was read from Brothers Nathan B. Haswell and Philip C. Tucker, Past Grand Masters of Vermont. These had been appointed Delegates from their Grand Lodge, but were unable to attend. This document indicates the reservations suggested to the minds of these distinguished Freemasons. The Convention was warned that the only authority to be conferred upon the Confederation, as specifically stated by the Lexington gathering, was to settle "all matters of difficulty which may arise in any Grand Lodge, or between two or more Grand Bodies of the same Order, which cannot, by their own action, be satisfactorily adjusted or disposed of." The writers are careful to point out that the words Grand Bodies can apply only to Grand Lodges. The letter thus concludes:
It is, we think, entirely obvious, that to carry out the plan proposed to the efficiency of which it aims, particular care will be required in establishing the details for its practical action. Who or what Bodies are to decide when the importance of the ease or the common welfare of the Fraternity demand that action is necessary, under the confederate regulations and what shall be the manner of proceeding to bring about that action, are things important to be specified with clearness, and appear to us to present strong difficulties in their satisfactory adjustment. Upon the day following, its appointment the Committee on Plan was ready with its report.
This formulates a plan for a Court of Final Appeal and Arbitration, without power to interfere between disputants unless specially invoked.
PREAMBLE For the purpose of establishing a unity of interest among the Grand Lodges of the United States a unity of design and purpose and of securing mutual confidence between them, and promoting the general welfare of the Fraternity said Grand Lodges do ordain and establish the follow
ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION I. All matters of difficulty which may hereafter arise in any Grand Lodge, or between two or more Grand Lodges of the United States, which cannot, by their own action, be satisfactorily adjusted or disposed of, shall, if the importance of the case, or the common welfare of the Fraternity demand it, be submitted, with accompanying evidence and documents, to the several Grand Lodges in their individual capacities, and the concurrent decision thereon of two-thirds of the whole number, officially communicated, shall be held authoritative, binding and final on all parties concerned.
II. When any matter of difficulty shall arise, in any Grand Lodge, belonging to this Confederacy, between such Grand Lodge and its subordinates, of a revolutionary or other character, it shall be submitted, as prescribed in Article I upon the request or direction of the Grand Lodge in which the same may have occurred.
III. When a difficulty shall have occurred between two or more Grand Lodges, of the character mentioned in Article I, it shall be so submitted upon the request or direction of either of the Grand Lodges immediately interested therein.
IV. Any member of the Confederacy shall have the right to submit to the several members of the same any question of Masonic jurisprudence, or Masonic action, contemplated within its own Jurisdiction, which may be deemed by it of sufficient importance to call for the united opinions of the members thereof; and in all such cases, the like action shall be had by the said Grand Lodges, as is herein provided in other cases, and the decision thereupon shall be conclusive.
V. Each Grand Lodge belonging to this Confederacy shall take action upon the matter so submitted to it, and make a decision thereupon at its first annual communication after the evidence and documents relating thereto shall have been received; unless for want of time or information it shall be unable to arrive at a decision, and in this case it shall have until the next Annual Communication, at which time a decision shall be made.
VI. When any difficulty shall have arisen in any Grand Lodge, or between a Grand Lodge and its subordinates, or between two or more Grand Lodges, as mentioned in Articles II and III, the Grand Lodge submitting such difficulty, in manner as aforesaid, shall give notice to the other party or parties concerned therein, of its intention to submit the same to the Confederacy, and in case of the omission, neglect or refusal of such other party or parties to supply the evidence and documents relating to such difficulty, in the manner prescribed in Article I, for three months from the time of the service of such notice, the members of the Confederacy may proceed to the examination and decision of the difficulty so submitted, upon the evidence and documents before them; provided, that when such difficulty exists between two or more Grand Lodges, the Grand Lodge or Grand Lodges which shall not at first decide upon such submission, shall have three months after its next succeeding Annual Communication, to supply such evidence and documents as aforesaid.
VII. From and after these articles shall have been adopted by twenty of the Grand Lodges of the United States, their provisions shall be considered ratified, and all matters therein contemplated for adjustment shall then and thereafter take the course herein prescribed. VIII No Grand Lodge, which shall have united in this Confederacy, in manner as aforesaid, shall withdraw therefrom, until it shall have given twelve months' notice to each and every member of the Confederacy of intention to do so.
IX. These Articles maybe altered, amended or revised, by proposition in writing, submitted by any one Grand Lodge, and concurred in by two thirds of the Grand Lodges in this Confederacy; and such alteration, revision or amendment shall be operative and binding upon each and every member of the Confederacy from the time of its adoption, in manner as aforesaid.
This Convention, having adopted the foregoing Articles of Confederacy, also took occasion to affirm the American doctrine of exclusive jurisdiction, by adoption of the following resolutions: That this National Convention recognize most fully the principle that no territory can be rightfully covered by more than one superior Jurisdiction.
That this Convention solemnly protests, in behalf of the Masonic Fraternity of the United States of America against any foreign Grand Body exercising any Masonic Jurisdiction within the limits of the accredited jurisdiction of any of the Grand Lodges of the American Union. Brothers Clopton, Smith, King, Gilman, and French were constituted as a Committee to prepare an address to the Fraternity. The "Address" reveals the differences of opinion before reaching unanimity among the delegates. Some believed that anything short of a General Grand Lodge, invested with supreme powers (original or appellate) in certain respects, or with certain defined limitations, would prove wholly insufficient; while others entertained apprehensions with regard to any national organization whatever.
It is further set forth that since the national independence, the chief need of American Freemasonry "has been for a closer bond of union between the different Grand Lodges." The document briefly reviews the several attempts to organize a General Grand Lodge, and admits the hopelessness of further effort. The Committee sets forth the territorial status of the American States, as compared with the unified sovereignties of foreign countries. Arguing that these States are politically united by the Federal Government, there is conclusion that the Masonic organizations required a national center of fraternal union. "One of the greatest evils that has attended the condition of the Institution in this country has been a diversity of opinion concerning Masonic laws and usage's, and the proper jurisdiction and rights of the several Grand Lodges. Every disagreement which has occurred between any of the Grand Lodges of the United States has been produced by the assertion of a right by one, which another has denied; or a claim of jurisdiction, which another has resisted." To bring about real unity of action, to substitute authority for discordant opinions, the Committee urges a general acceptance of the Convention's plan—"a tribunal of wisdom, beauty and strength." But, like all the plans previously proposed, this also failed of acceptance by the required number of Grand Lodges.
Another Convention was called, by no apparent definite authority, to meet at Chicago on Tuesday, September 13, 1859. Rob Morris, Past Grand Master, Kentucky, was one of the moving spirits, and upon his motion Finlay M. King of New York was chosen President, while Brother Morris himself was named as Secretary. The Grand Lodges represented were: Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York;, South Carolina, and Vermont. Upon a suggestion that those present from other Grand Lodges not accredited as delegates, be invited to join in the deliberations, Brothers responded from Alabama, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. It will thus be seen that this was a most numerously attended and an influential gathering. A Committee of five, consisting of Brothers A. T. Pierson, of Minnesota; A. G. Mackey, of South Carolina; J. L. Lewis, Jr., of New York; Philip C. Tucker, of Vermont, and Cyril Pearl, of Maine, presented a plan of permanent organization, which was adopted.
This document set forth the need of closer union and increased harmony among American Grand Lodges, and the necessity to extend our knowledge of the History, Work, Symbolism, Philosophy and Jurisprudence of Craft Masonry." To bring about this very desirable result it was proposed to form the various Bodies into a Worth American Masonic Congress. w To this Body three Delegates should be chosen from each assenting Grand Lodge. The Congress, when fully organized was to maintain three permanent Committees—on International Correspondence; Work, Symbolism and Philosophy, Jurisprudence. Masonic History and Antiquities. It was further proposed that this Congress should meet triennially, in such place as might be determined. The scope of the Body was, also, "to take cognizance of all eases of difference which may occur between two or more (grand Lodges. provided the parties shall mutually submit the said difference for decision." It was further intended that the Congress should consult and advise on questions of Masonic law," that so, in course of time, uniformity of law and usage might prevail. Further, the triennial meetings were to be made notable by presentation of papers and essays on Masonic topics, with discussions thereon. It was provided, further, that this plan of permanent organization should go into effect when five or more Grand Lodges had given in their adhesion to the same. To make all plain to the various Bodies a Committee of Correspondence was constituted and Brother Samuel G. Risk of Louisiana was elected the permanent Secretary. This Committee on Correspondence prepared an address to the Grand Masters and Grand Lodges, in which was set forth the necessity for a closer union, and urging the plan adopted by the Convention. This effort might have been successful, and the Congress speedily formed, had not the Civil War immediately followed. By that struggle the sections were divided, and Freemasons, like other citizens, went with one or the other side as conscience and patriotic motives dictated. During the years of strife there could be no hope of even meeting as an Association of Grand Lodges of the United States.
There is preserved an interesting correspondence between Brother Cyril Pearl of Maine, and Brother Richard Vaux of Pennsylvania. The former was chairman of the Permanent Committee of the Chicago Convention, and Brother Vaux was at that time, 1862, Chairman of the Committee on Correspondence for the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Brother Pearl urged the calling of a national Masonic Convention, "not so much for discussion of the esoteric subjects of ordinary times as for a sincere endeavor to pour the oil of tranquillity on the troubled waters of national strife." To this appeal Brother Vaux replied, for his Grand Lodge, expressing opinion that such effort as was proposed would be futile in the then condition of the public mind. He believed that then "the still small voice of Masonic faith and practice has not power enough to rise above the din of arms and the roar of battle."
This really ended all serious effort to bring about a national governing Body for the Craft in the United States. Conventions have since been held, notably at Chicago in 1893, but these have been only to unify ritualistic phraseology. Even such endeavors have failed, each Grand Lodge with a prudent conservatism holding affectionately to what it had grown accustomed.
Doctor Mackey held that a proposition simply for a Confederated League, with scarcely a shadow of power to enforce its decisions, with no penal Jurisdiction whatsoever, and with no other authority than that which, from time to time, might be delegated to it by the voluntary consent of the parties entering into the Confederation, if the plan had been adopted the Body would, in all probability, have died in a few years of sheer debility. There was, in the opinion of Doctor Mackey, no principle of vitality to keep it together.
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