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by Bro. S. BRENT MORRIS 33° G.C.
THE POLITE REVOLUTION
a Brother should be a Rebel against the State, he is not to be coutenanc’d in
his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of
no other Crime, though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his
Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the government
for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge,
and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.
II. Of the Civil
Magistrate supreme and subordinate
Constitutions of the Free-Masons,
“Conventional wisdom” can sometimes give you a broad understanding of difficult subjects. It can also simplify complex ideas beyond recognition. In the case of Freemasonry and the American Revolution, conventional wisdom tells us that loyalists belonged to lodges of the Moderns and patriots affiliated with the Ancients. After the success of the Revolution the Moderns departed and left the field to the Ancients, who then proceeded to reconstruct the established Masonic organization as they had the political order. This broad-brush summary does not do justice to the details nor to a Masonic revolution that was decidedly polite, as contrasted to the parallel political revolution. The independence of American Freemasonry—as that of the American colonies—established a pattern that has inspired many followers. In the absence of generally recognized procedures for forming new Grand Lodges, American Masons created their own methods, though they often backed into independence.
in Colonial America
so many Masonic events, the first appearance of Freemasonry in America is not
precisely known. Jonathan Belcher, a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts and
later Governor of the Colonies of Massachusetts and New Hampshire from 1730–41
and the Colony of New Jersey from 1747–57, was made a Mason in London around
1704. He is one of the very few Masons known to have joined the Craft before
It is possible he held private Lodges at his residence before time-immemorial or
chartered Lodges appeared. On 5 June 1730, the premier Grand Lodge appointed
Daniel Coxe Provincial Grand Master for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania,
giving the first official Masonic recognition of the English colonies. Bro. Coxe
does not seem to have exercised his authority, even though he lived in New
Jersey from 1731–39.[ii] The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania possesses a book
marked “Liber B” which contains the records of the earliest known
Pennsylvania and American Lodge. The first record is for 24 June 1731, and in
that month Benjamin Franklin is entered as paying dues five months back.
Franklin’s entry implies Lodge activity from at least December 1730 or January
earlier Lodge records exist in the United States, though there are suggestive
comments in newspapers. Consider these words from the Boston
Gazette for 29 August 1720, about the death of Mr. Benjamin Dowse in a
hunting accident: “He was very much beloved and is universally lamented, being
a Person of Exemplary Piety and Industry, and Good Temper, and a Widows Only Son.”
Mr. Dowse was predeceased by his father and brother, and he left a mother and
three sisters. Suggestive though this account is, it is not definitive proof
that Masons met in America in 1720.[iv]
are thus safe in setting 1730 as the date for the beginning of American Masonry.[v]
Whatever Masonic meetings may have been held before 1730 were not recorded or
the records have been lost, and activity after 1730 rapidly increased and is
documented. In addition to Bro. Coxe, England established several other
Provincial Grand Lodges and Grand Masters. Coxe’s deputation was unique in
granting the authority to Masons to elect the Coxe’s successors. Specifically:
Masons “in all of any of the said Provinces, Shall and they are hereby
Impowered every other year on the feast of St. John the Baptist to elect a
Provincial Grand Master.…”[vi]
The fortunes of these Provincial Grand Lodges waxed and waned during the following decades. Some were blessed with dynamic leaders who nurtured and expanded the Craft, while others had periods without effective administration. Two factors complicated matters for American Masonic leaders: the rivalry between the Ancients and Moderns in England and the growing political turmoil in America. The masonic fraternity overcame these problems in a way that reflects well on the cement of brotherly love that bound their members together. They laid the foundation for an independent American Masonic system with millions of members, tens of thousands of lodges, and scores of retirement homes, orphanages, and national hospitals.
revolutionary Masons fought and died for political independence but still
cherished their ties to Great Britain. Their rebellion was political, not
Masonic, and here was little bitterness or acrimony on either side as mortal
combatants engaged in Masonic matters. This seeming contradiction was
wonderfully illustrated by a meeting on 7 February 1780 of American Union Lodge,
a military lodge chartered by the Modern (and mostly loyalist) St. John’s
Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and attached to the Connecticut Line of the
Continental Army. The war had been fought for five years, and the American
forces could not foresee their decisive victory a year away at Yorktown,
Virginia. The Americans had done the unthinkable in separating from king and
country. They had endured the bitter winter of 1777 in Valley Forge and the
onslaughts of the world’s greatest military machine. And yet they assumed a
deferential posture in most things Masonic. The rebel soldiers, led by General
Mordecai Gist, petitioned the Grand Lodges if the United States to create a
General Grand Lodge, but only after obtaining “approbation and confirmation”
from their “Grand Mother Lodge.”
the RIGHT WORSHIPFUL, the Grand Masters of the several Lodges in the Respective
United States of America.
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 whatsoever degree or denomination.…
accomplish this beneficial and essential work, permit us to propose that you,
the Right Worshipful Grand Masters of 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 important and elevated, 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
the war, control of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (Ancients) went
from loyalists to patriots, depending on which forces were present. “Lodge No.
3 [of Philadelphia] held the warrant of the Grand Lodge, whose [mostly patriot]
members had fled the city. Under that authority, it formed itself into a Grand
Lodge—an irregular proceeding—and [in 1778] warranted a military lodge” in
the British Army’s Seventeenth Regiment of Foot.[viii]
The regiment’s original Irish charter was replaced by a Scottish one,
subsequently lost at the battle of Princeton, New Jersey. The lost Scottish
charter was replaced by the Pennsylvania warrant for Unity Lodge No. 18 and the
new charter was itself lost a year later at the battle of Stony Point, New York.
This time, however, the charter and regalia fell into the hands of American
General Samuel H. Parsons, a member of American Union Lodge. The captured
Masonic material was returned to the British lodge with the following letter.
Jersey Highlands, July 23, 1779
When the ambition of monarchs or jarring interest of contending states, call
forth their subjects to war, as Masons we are disarmed of that resentment which
stimulates to undistinguished desolation; and however our political sentiments
may impel us in the public dispute, we are still Brethren, and (our professional
duty apart) ought to promote the happiness and advance the weal of each other.
Accept therefore, at the hands of a Brother, the Constitution of the Lodge Unity
No. 18, to be held in the 17th British Regiment which your late misfortunes have
put in my power to restore to you.
touching as this fraternal story is, the epilogue says even more about the
character of the Masons involved.
March 1786, Three years after American independence had been achieved, the
officers of [Unity Lodge No. 18] wrote to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to
inquire as to the status of its warrant, which they feared had been canceled.
They expressed their wish to continue Masonic affiliation with the Grand Lodge
and offered to pay all back dues. The Grand Lodge replied that it wished the
same result, allowed the regiment to determine its own dues as all records
pertaining to it had been misplaced or lost, and promised to search for the
missing warrant. It extended its best wishes for the welfare and prosperity of
the military lodge. These communications were curiously devoid of any of the
bitterness or hostile feeling that one might expect to find between former
difficulty in carrying hostilities from the battlefield into the lodge room, was
mirrored by American Masons’ difficulty in embracing the Ancients-Moderns
dispute with the enthusiasm of the English. There were indeed Ancient and Modern
American lodges and Grand Lodges, and they often denied recognition to each
other. However, except in South Carolina, this denial was seldom vigorous and
often honored in the breach. It was as if the American Ancients and Moderns knew
they weren’t supposed to like each other, but they weren’t really sure why.
This polite confusion is illustrated by the By-Laws of the lodge at Joppa,
[, Maryland,] November 21st diem A.D. 1765, A.L. 1765 A.M. 5768.
by and with Consent of the Right Worshipfull Worshipfull Master and the Right
Worshipfull Wardens and other Worshipfull Officers and Brethren of this Lodge be
It Enacted and it is hereby Enacted that the following Articles be Laws
fundamental for the use of this Lodge only subject as by our Warrant Specified.
[of 24]. That none who hath been admitted in any Modern Lodge shall be Admitted
as a Member of this Lodge without taking the respective Obligations Peculiar to
Lodge certainly did not want any Ancients joining them, but they seem to have
made an oversight when they obtained their charter: they were Number 346 on the
Grand Lodge of Moderns, not the Ancients! The lodge eventually obtained an
Ancient charted from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, but their confusion is
typical of how the Ancients-Moderns dispute muddled along in America.
In 1761 the Moderns’ Provincial Grand Lodge of Massachusetts voted to prohibit its members from attending the Ancient Lodge of St. Andrew (which eventually received its charter from Scotland), even though a list of St. Andrew’s members shows fifteen were made Masons in the Moderns Grand Lodge. A dozen years later in 1773, St. John’s Grand Lodge voted to allow visitors from St. Andrew’s Lodge and their Provincial Grand Lodge. This legislative fiat effectively ended the Ancients-Moderns dispute in Massachusetts, and is typical of how the dispute was settled throughout the states.
shooting started in 1775, and on 4 July 1776 the thirteen united States of
America issued their Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. After five
years of warfare the combined American and French forces defeated General Lord
Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia., on 19 October 1781, which effectively ended
the Revolutionary War. The formal end came with the signing of the Treaty of
Paris on 3 September 1783. During this unsettled period, American Masonry had a
precarious existence. Some lodges were virtually unaffected by the war, while
others dissolved. Control of some grand lodges swung from patriots to loyalists
and back to patriots. The fieriest political revolutionaries could at the same
time maintain a firm attachment to their mother grand lodge.
independence began as necessary actions to insure a stable government of the
fraternity; there was often no plan or real desire to permanently sever Masonic
ties. Contact with Great Britain was limited and erratic during the war, if not
dangerously near to treason, so some Provincial Grand Lodges felt they had
little choice but to elect their own Grand Masters. Some of these first steps at
self-government were realized only later to be acts of independence. As more
states took over their own Masonic governance, and as the revolution moved
towards a successful conclusion for the former colonies, the remaining states
came to view independent state Grand Lodges as the natural evolution from
Provincial Grand Lodges. Dissent to Masonic separation from England became
almost nonexistent, and the later votes for independence became unanimous
endorsements of the new nation.
In the lists that follow, I have ranked the states by the year I believe a Grand Lodge considered itself independent. It is not intended to challenge which state has the first or oldest Grand Lodge, but to provide yet another way of studying our gentle craft.
Franklin’s private journal for 15 August 1734 contains a charge for 25 Books
of Constitutions sent to Carolina,”[xii]
which is strongly suggestive of Masonic activity in the colony. In 1735 Lord
Weymouth, Grand Master of England, granted a warrant to Solomon’s Lodge in
Charleston. The South Carolina Gazette
in its issue of 29 October 1736 reported that “Last night lodge of the Ancient
and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons was held, for the first
John Hammerton was elected Master and had been appointed Provincial Grand Master
of South Carolina in 1736 by the Earl of Loudoun.[xiv]
departure of the loyalist Provincial Grand Master, Sir Egerton Leigh, for
England in 1774 because of political tensions had the unintentional effect of
launching South Carolina Masons into independence. Leigh’s absence left a void
of Masonic leadership in South Carolina that had to be filled. In 1777, after
the Declaration of Independence and armed conflict made requests to England
impolitic if not impossible, South Carolina Modern Masons elected Barnard Elliot
as “Grand Master of Masons,” and an independently functioning Grand Lodge
was born.[xv] In 1780 British troops retook Charleston, and loyalist
Masons revived the Provincial Grand Lodge, electing John Deas Provincial
Grand Master in 1781.[xvi]
The next meeting of the Grand Lodge was 1783, from which time on it acted like
an independent body.
The Ancients were not idle in South Carolina. In 1760 the Grand Lodge of Scotland warranted one lodge, with others coming from the Ancient Grand Lodge of England and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Five of these Ancient lodges organized the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of South Carolina on 5 February 1787.[xvii] Thus began the only really bitter Ancients-Moderns rivalry in the United States. There was an attempt at a merger in 1808, but it was not until 28 December 1817—four years after the union in England—that unity was achieved in South Carolina when the quarreling grand lodges merged.
history of lodges in the Commonwealth of Virginia illustrates well the
difficulties of tracing the origins of early American lodges. There were many
sources of warrants: the Grand Lodge of Moderns chartered four lodges; Scotland
four, Mother Kilwinning Lodge two, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania 3;
the Provincial Grand Lodge of North Carolina one, and the Grand Orient de France
one. The complexities are actually greater that indicated in this brief list.
The Lodge of Fredericksburg apparently operated as a time-memorial lodge without
charter as early as 1752, then received a charter from the Grand Lodge of
Scotland in1758. In 1757 Fredericksburg chartered Botentourt Lodge in
Gloucester, and Botentourt in turn received a charter from the Moderns.[xviii]
Lodge called a convention in 1777 attended by five lodges that voted unanimously
to elect a Grand Master. Four more conventions met, and at the fourth meeting in
1778 John Blair was elected Grand Master of Virginia. The idea of Masonic
independence for Virginia seems to have followed naturally from the earlier act
of political independence. This is not a surprising sentiment from a state that
produced revolutionary such leaders as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,
Patrick Henry, and James Madison. Further, there were doubts about the authority
of Cornelius Harnett, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of North America. Harnett
had been appointed Deputy to Joseph Montfort of North Carolina whom the Moderns
in 1771 appointed Provincial Grand Master of and for America. Montfort’s
appointment seems to have been intended originally for North Carolina.
Following the pattern of other states, not all lodges affiliated with the new Grand Lodge. Alexandria Lodge No. 39 of Pennsylvania remained loyal to its Provincial Grand Lodge and later voiced dissent when Pennsylvania debated declaring independence from the Grand Lodge of Ancients. The Ancients-Moderns dispute briefly reared its head on 12 December 1798 when the Grand Lodge, “Resolved, That if any member of a Lodge under the jurisdiction of this Grand Lodge, shall visit or work in any Lodge of Masons, commonly called Modern Masons, or any Lodge of Masons not working agreeably to the ancient usages of York Masons, he shall be reprimanded by the Lodge to which he belongs, and if he should afterwards be guilty of a similar offence, he shall be expelled from the Lodge, and be excluded from the benefits of Masonry.”[xix]
30 July 1733, the premier Grand Lodge of England appointed Henry Price of Boston
Provincial Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons in New England. From this
appointment grew St. John’s Provincial Grand Lodge. Some twenty years later
the Grand Lodge of Scotland received a petition from brethren in Boston who
requested a charter, which was granted to St. Andrew’s Lodge and dated 30
November 1756, signed in 1759, and delivered in 1760. The Lodge of St. Andrew
had an initial tense relationship with the older St. John’s Grand Lodge which
on 8 April 1761 “Voted That it be, and it is hereby recommended & Ordered
by the Grand Master that no Member of a Regular constituted Lodge in Boston do
appear at the Meeting (or Lodge so Call’d) of Scotts Masons in Boston not
being regularly constituted in the Opinion of this Lodge.” By 1773 St. John’s
Grand Lodge dropped the restrictions when they voted to allow Ancient masons to
visit, and thus effectively ended the Ancients-Moderns dispute in Massachusetts.
years later the Lodge of St. Andrew was joined by three military lodges
stationed in Boston—Duke of York Lodge No. 106 Scotland, Lodge 58 of England (Ancients),
and Lodge 322 of Ireland—in requesting that the Grand Lodge of Scotland
appoint Joseph Warren as Provincial Grand Master. This request was granted, and
in 1769 Massachusetts saw two rival Grand Lodges competing as in England. It is
ironic that the Master of the Lodge of St. Andrew, Joseph Warren, was one of the
leading American revolutionaries, and yet he had happily joined with British
military lodges in petitioning the Grand Lodge of Scotland for a warrant. This
behavior was typical of the day: mortal opposition on the field of battle and
fraternal cooperation in the Lodge.
between the colonists and England continued to grow, especially in
Massachusetts, and on 5 March 1770 an angry but unarmed mob confronted a squad
of English soldiers in Boston. After enduring taunts, rocks, and clubs, the
soldiers fired on the mob, killing five. Revolutionaries quickly dubbed the
event “The Boston Massacre,” and the English soldiers were forced to
evacuated Boston. On 16 December 1773 St. Andrew’s Lodge had only five its
meeting at the Green Dragon Tavern because, as the Secretary wrote, wrote,
“Consignees of tea took up the brethren’s time.”[xx] That same evening a group of “Mohawk Indians” left
the Green Dragon Tavern and threw consignments of tea from three English ships
into Boston Harbor. By 19 April 1775 events reached the point of no return at
Lexington, Massachusetts. British troops faced American citizen-soldiers—the
legendary “Minute Men”—across Lexington Green and soon thereafter was
fired “the shot heard around the world.” The American Revolution had begun.
Grand Master Joseph Warren embodied the revolutionary sentiments of the Lodge of
St. Andrew. On 12 June 1775 he joined hundreds of other patriots at the Battle
of Bunker Hill in Boston. The superior British troops eventually won the fight,
but had 1,054 casualties, nearly 40% of their ranks. The Americans lost 441,
including Joseph Warren, and this incidentally led to the first step towards
eventual separation of Massachusetts Masons from their mother Grand Lodges. On 4
July 1776 the colonies took the definitive step towards political separation
when they declared their independence from England.
death of Warren created a quandary for St. Andrews Provincial Grand Lodge: Did
they have an existence independent of their Provincial Grand Master? Since the
colonies were now at war with Great Britain, could they petition Scotland for
another Grand Master? The Provincial Grand Lodge met on three times up to 7
March 1777, with Joseph Webb, Deputy Grand Master, presiding each time. Then on
8 March 1777 they elected Webb Grand Master—not Provincial
Grand Master—and generally began acting like an independent Grand Lodge.[xxi]
It’s not entirely clear, however, if they thought of themselves as truly
independent, because on 10 June 1782, to make things unambiguous, they
“Resolved That this Grand Lodge be forever hereafter known and Called by the
Name of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Ancient Masons, and, that it is free
and Independent in its Government and Official Authority of any other Grand
Lodge, or Grand Master in the Universe.”
resolution followed the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia,
on 19 October 1781, which effectively ended the Revolutionary War. The formal
end of the war came with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783.
The declaration by the Massachusetts Grand Lodge has no fiery rhetoric or list
of grievances; it is a formal and polite statement of fact. The four-year delay
between assuming de facto sovereignty
and formally declaring independence is surprising since the leaders of St.
Andrew’s Lodge, and thus those of Massachusetts Grand Lodge, included such
revolutionary firebrands as Paul Revere, whose midnight ride warned the citizens
of Lexington, John Hancock, whose signature is the first and largest on the
Declaration of Independence, and Major General Joseph Warren, whose heroic death
at Bunker Hill inspired wavering patriots. What is nothing short of astonishing
is that in response to the Grand Lodge’s declaration of independence, St.
Andrew’s Lodge voted 30 to 19 that “The Lodge cou’d not consent to the
declaration, supposing it to be inconsistent with the principles of Masonry,
necessary to be observ’d for the good of the Craft, amidst all the Variety of
circumstances incident to the human affairs.”[xxii]
The lodge of political radicals could not bring itself to separate from its
Masonic mother. A rump group, including Paul Revere, withdrew and formed a new
lodge, Rising States, while St. Andrews remained loyal to the Grand Lodge of
Scotland for 27 years until 1809 when it returned its charter to Scotland and
united with the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
older St. John’s Grand Lodge seems to have fallen on hard times. There are no
records of it meeting between 1775 and 1787, though newspaper, diary, and other
accounts indicate continued if somewhat diminished activity. For example, on 15
February 1776 St. John’s chartered American Union Lodge, the first military
lodge in the Continental Army.[xxiii] Provincial Grand Master John Rowe has been
described as “a merchant and shipper and, while not openly Tory, was, to say
the least, not an enthusiastic patriot.”[xxiv] He died on 17 February 1787, but there is no record
that St. John’s Grand Lodge elected a successor. First and Second Lodges of
Boston had merged as St. John’s Lodge in 1783, and Third and Fourth Lodges of
Boston had dissolved. When the British pulled out of Boston many loyalist
members of St. John’s left with them for Canada, as did the Grand Secretary,
who carried lodge records and the grand lodge jewels.[xxv]
After several years of on-and-off discussions of union, Massachusetts Grand Lodge on 5 December 1791 voted “to Confer with the Officers of St John’s Grand Lodge upon the Subject of a compleat Masonic Union throughout this Commonwealth and that said Committee report as soon as may be convenient.”[xxvi] The committee included Paul Revere and John Warren, brother of Joseph Warren. On 5 March 1792 the two grand lodges united, with the younger Massachusetts Grand Lodge dissolving and merging into the senior St. John’s Grand Lodge.
Coxe’s jurisdiction as Provincial Grand Master included New York, New Jersey,
indicates that the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was meeting in Philadelphia as
early as 24 June 1731.… No one is certain, however, how this body was
established. If Coxe authorized it, it should more properly be referred to as a
“Provincial” Grand Lodge, but if organized without the specific approval of
the representative of the Grand Lodge of England, which is also possible, it
should be termed an “Independent” Grand Lodge.[xxvii]
records show that Benjamin Franklin served as Grand Master of this Grand Lodge
for at least one year and as Deputy Grand Master for at least three years.[xxviii]
The Pennsylvania Moderns chartered four lodges in Philadelphia, and then
withered with the advent of the Ancient masonry. “Although apparently inactive
after the establishment of the ‘Ancient’ Grand Lodge in 1761, remnants of
the ‘Moderns; Masons persisted until the early 1780s.”[xxix]
Thus there was little opportunity for Ancients-Moderns disputes in Pennsylvania.
Masonry began in Pennsylvania with Lodge No. 4 chartered in 1757 by the Modern
Provincial Grand Lodge. Most of the original members of the lodge had been made
Masons in the Ancient manner, and they soon adopted Ancient working in their
lodge. The Moderns revoked their charter after only six months, and in 1758 the
lodge received a warrant as No. 69 from the Ancients in London.[xxx]
This lodge then petitioned London for a Deputy Grand Master in Pennsylvania,
elected their own Grand Master while awaiting a response, and were granted a
Provincial Grand Warrant on 15 July 1761.
the British occupied Philadelphia, the loyalist Masons ran the Grand Lodge.
Among their actions was the earlier mentioned chartering of a military lodge in
the British Seventeenth Regiment of Foot. When the British departed Philadelphia
in 1778, the patriot Masons resumed control. They did not revoke the actions of
their loyalist predecessors, but by 1782 they had issued seven military warrants
to American units. Thus it was possible for Masons from different Pennsylvania
lodges to face each on opposite sides of a battlefield.
first Pennsylvania Ahiman Rezon was
published in 1783, the year of the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Perhaps
anticipating eventual Masonic autonomy from England, it said that a Grand Lodge
was an “absolute and independent body, with legislative authority” to govern
the craft within its jurisdiction.[xxxi] In 1786 the Grand Lodge invited its subordinate
lodges to debate independence at the September quarterly communication. The
representatives of the twelve lodges in attendance, about one-third of
Pennsylvanian lodges, unanimously adopted the following resolution.
this Grand Lodge is, and ought to be, a Grand Lodge, Independent of Great
Britain or any other Authority whatever, and that they are not under any ties to
any other Grand Lodge except those of Brotherly Love and Affection, which they
will always be happy to cultivate and preserve with all Lodges throughout the
The Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania closed sine die, and the next day “The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and Masonic Jurisdiction thereunto belonging,” with the same officers and regulations, began functioning. Yet another revolution through a polite but firm announcement.
James E. Oglethorpe organized the Colony of Georgia as a refuge for debtors, and by tradition opened the first lodge on 10 February 1733/34 in Savannah. This time immemorial lodge was chartered as No. 139 sometime before 1 March 1735/36 and came to be known as Solomon’s Lodge. Two other Modern lodges were chartered in Georgia in 1774 and 1775, but these soon disappeared. In 1784 Pennsylvania chartered an Ancient Lodge, and the next year Solomon’s decided to become Ancient itself. Yet again Modern masonry yielded to Ancients. On 16 December 1786 these two lodges organized the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons according to the Old Institutions in the State of Georgia.[xxxiii]
While Daniel Coxe’s 1730 deputation included the Provinces of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, New Jersey’s first lodge was not established until 1761 by the Provincial Grand Lodge of New York, successor to Coxe. This first lodge, called St. John’s, survived the revolution as did two lodges chartered by the Ancients in Pennsylvania. The formation of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey was unique in that a convention of all New Jersey masons—not lodges—was called for 18 December 1786 for the purpose of creating a Grand Lodge. Then with no hesitation the delegates formed the Grand Lodge of New Jersey and elected officers.[xxxiv]
At the end of the Revolutionary Wary there were eight Ancient lodges in Maryland, all chartered from Pennsylvania. In 1783 representatives of five met to establish and independent Grand Lodge and to receive a charter from Pennsylvania. They elected Dr. John Coats, Past Deputy Grand Master of Pennsylvania, as their new Grand Master. At this time Pennsylvania had not yet declared itself independent and doubted if it had the authority to charter another Grand Lodge. After four years of correspondence, delegates of Maryland lodges voted on 19 April 1787 to form a Grand Lodge regardless of approval from Pennsylvania and reelected Dr. Coats as Grand Master.
first Provincial Grand Master in America was Daniel Coxe, appointed on 5 June
1730 by the premier Grand Lodge with a jurisdiction of New York, New Jersey, and
Pennsylvania. Coxe exercised little if any of his authority, but his successors
from Richard Riggs, 1737, to John Johnson, 1771, created more than a score of
Modern lodges in New York by 1776. The fortunes of the Moderns took a downturn
with the outbreak of the revolution. Provincial Grand Master John Johnson fled
to Canada and later returned to command the King’s troops in western New York
throughout the war.[xxxv]
As the war turned in favor of the colonists, Johnson could not return to the
state, His Deputy, Dr. Middleton died, and the Moderns appointed no new
Provincial Grand Master. Adding to the misfortunes of the Moderns, many of their
lodges started accepting charters from the Ancients. The Modern Provincial Grand
Lodge was effectively wiped out.[xxxvi]
1781 the Articles of Confederation were ratified on 1 March giving the colonies
a new form of government with the formal name of the “United States of
America.” Seven months later the combined American and French forces defeated
Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown, Virginia, and marked the beginning of the end
of the war. In January of the same year representatives of six Ancient lodges,
including three British military lodges, met in New York City and determined
“that for the good of the Antient Craft, it would be highly necessary to
appoint a Grand Master for this Province.”[xxxvii] The Ancient Grand Lodge complied with the request
and issued a warrant on 5 September 1781, appointing Rev. William Walter
Provincial Grand Master of New York. The Provincial Grand Lodge was organized
fourteen months later on 5 December 1782, but the New York body, unlike most
other Ancient Provincial Grand Lodges, was strongly loyalist. This inclination
to the crown was probably due the body’s organization in New York City, which
was occupied by British troops; New York country lodges were decidedly more
American Revolution formally ended on 15 April 1783 with the signing of the
Treaty of Paris. The remaining British troops along with many loyalists made
plans to evacuate New York City. On 19 September 1783 the Provincial Grand Lodge
met and adopted the following resolution.
Propriety of leaving the Grand Warrant, by which this Lodge is established in
the Province of New York being fully discussed, it was resolved, that the same
should be left and remain in the case of such Brethren as may hereafter be
appointed to succeed the present Grand Officers, the most of whom being under
the necessity of leaving New York upon the removal of His Majesty’s Troops.[xxxviii]
Provincial Grand Lodge elected its own officers, and began to function as an
independent body. Once again Masonic actions were governed by fraternal courtesy,
this time from the departing British troops and loyalists who chose to leave the
warrant and Grand Lodge organization intact for the military victors. The Grand
Lodge was weakened by the departure of so many of its loyalist members, but in a
shrewd move they elected as Grand Master Robert R. Livingston, Chancellor (now
Governor) of New York.[xxxix]
the Grand Lodge of New York acted like an independent body, a few details
remained unsettled. Lodge No. 2 in 1786 asked for consideration of “the
propriety of Holding a Grand Lodge under the Present
Warrant, and the Authority from which it is derived.”[xl]
On 6 June 1787 the Grand Lodge of New York definitively settled the question
with a self-confirming statement of its independence.
Grand Lodge of this State is established according to the antient &
universal usages of masonry, upon a Constitution formed by the representatives
of the regular Lodges, convened under a legal Warrant from the Grand Lodge of
England.… And your Committee further beg leave to report , that in their
opinion, nothing is necessary or essential in the future proceedings of the
Grand Lodge upon the subject matter referred to them but that a committee be
appointed to prepare a Draft of the Style of Warrants to be hereafter granted by
the Grand Lodge, conformable to the said Constitution.…[xli]
The last detail was settled in 1788 when the Grand Secretary had a new Grand Lodge seal cut with the word Provincial removed from the inscription.
By 1786 the Articles of Confederation were proving to be impractical for governing the new nation, and a convention was held in Philadelphia in 1787 to consider revisions. What emerged was not a mere revision of the Articles, but an entirely new government created by the Constitution. At this time the logic of independent grand lodges in each independent state was overwhelming. There was little remaining debate, and the action in each state was virtually automatic and unanimous. Joseph Montfort of North Carolina, appointed Provincial Grand Master of and for America in 1771, died in 1776. It is debatable whether his warrant was actually intended for all of America, but his death did leave the craft in North Carolina leaderless. Nearly every lodge then went dark during the war, and only revived as soldiers returned home. A convention was held on 24 June 1787, but without a majority of the lodges in the state. Unlike other states, North Carolina masons waited until a majority of their lodges could be present. A convention of eight lodges created the Grand Lodge of North Carolina on12 December 1787.
Henry Price of Boston chartered St. John’s Lodge at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 24 June 1736. Forty-four years later on 17 March 1780 St. Patrick’s Lodge was established at Portsmouth with a charter from Massachusetts, but this time from the Ancient grand lodge.[xlii] The Ancient and now independent Grand Lodge of Massachusetts then chartered three more lodges in New Hampshire from 1784 to1788. On 8 July 1789 five brethren from two lodges met and resolved, “That there be a Grand Lodge established in the State of New Hampshire, upon principles consistent with and subordinate to the General Regulations and Ancient Constitutions of Free Masonry.”[xliii] The Grand Master and other grand officers were installed on 8 April 1790.
Freemasonry got its start in Connecticut when St. John’s Grand Lodge of Massachusetts chartered Hiram Lodge at New Haven on 12 August 1750. By the end of the Revolution there were sixteen Lodges: six from the Moderns in Massachusetts, four from the Moderns in New York, three from the Ancients in Massachusetts, and three of unknown origin. Thirteen of the lodges met in convention 13 March 1783 to organize a Grand Lodge, but with no results. There was a second convention in 1783, a Grand Master was elected in 1784, a third convention was held in May 1789, and then finally on 8 July 1789 a constitution was adopted, the Grand Master reelected, officers installed, and the present Grand Lodge was formed.[xliv]
Rhode Island masonry is descended from the Modern St. John’s Provincial Grand Lodge of Boston which chartered St. John’s Lodge at Newport in 1749 and another St. John’s lodge at Providence in 1757. It is curious that the first St. John’s Lodge originally was limited to conferring only the first two degrees, but the members convinced Provincial Grand Master to expand their authority to all three degrees. The two St. John’s Lodges formed the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island on 27 June 1791, which may be the most Modern of American Grand Lodges.[xlv] The coat of arms of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island is a duplicate of the premier Grand Lodge.
lodges were the only kind known in Delaware. The Provincial Grand Lodge of
Pennsylvania warranted the first Delaware lodge on 27 December 1769, and five
more through 1802. The Grand Lodge of Maryland, itself originating from
Pennsylvania, chartered two lodges in 1792 and 1806. Representatives of three of
these lodges met on 6 June 1806 to form the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania objected to the formation of the new Grand Lodge because Wilmington
Lodge owed it dues, the installation and opening of the grand lodge was
irregular, and less than five lodges formed the new grand lodge. Pennsylvania
did not similarly object when other Grand Lodges were formed with fewer than
five lodges. Maryland also objected to the new Grand Lodge. Delaware ignored
both objections and stayed the course, eventually gaining recognition as a
regular grand lodge.
Steven C. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the
American Social Order, 1730–1840. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North
Carolina Press, 1996.
Harry M. Symbolic Freemasonry in New
Hampshire. New Hampshire: Grand Lodge of New Hampshire, 1934.
Henry W. et al. Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia. New York: Macoy Masonic Publishing
and Supply Co., Inc., 1961.
David. First American Born. Bowie, Md.:
Heritage books, Inc., 1992.
John. Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge
of Ancient York Masons of the State of Virginia from its Organization, in 1778,
to 1822. Richmond,
Va.: James E. Goode, 1874.
Charles E. History of the M\ W\ Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of
Delaware. Wilmington, De.: Grand Lodge A.F.&A.M. of Delaware, 1956.
Wayne A. The Master Builders: A History of
the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia,
Grand Lodge F.&A.M. of Pennsylvania., 1986.
Melvin M. The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America.
Kingsport, Tenn.: Southern Publishers, Inc., 1924.
H. P. “Origins of the Grand Lodge of New York,” Transactions
of the American Lodge of Research, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 278–402.
Thomas C. Launching the Craft: The First Half Century of Freemasonry in North
Carolina. Raleigh, N.C.: Grand Lodge of North Carolina, A.F.&A.M., 1975.
in Masonry: St. John’s Grand Lodge 1733–1972, Massachusetts Grand Lodge
Boston: Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1895.
Thomas S. Stalwart Builders: A History of
the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, 1733–1978. Boston, Grand Lodge
of Massachusetts, 1980.
Henry W. History of Freemasonry in Rhode
Island. Providence, R.I.: Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, 1895.
Richard A. and Peter S. Stewart. The
History of Freemasonry in Virginia. Lanham, Md.: University Press of
Edward T. History of Freemasonry in Maryland of All the Rites introduced into
Maryland, from the Earliest Time to the Present. 4 vols. Baltimore: J.H.
Mediary & Co., 1884.
H. L. and W. J. Hughan, Eds. History of
the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons and Concordant
Orders. Boston & New York, Fraternity Publishing Co., 1891.
J. Hugo. Freemasonry
in the Thirteen Colonies.
New York, Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1933.
[ii] Henry W. Coil et al., Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia (New York: Macoy Masonic Publishing and Supply Co., Inc., 1961), s.v. “Coxe, Daniel.”
[iii] Coil, s.v. “America, Introduction of Freemasonry into.”
[iv] Melvin M. Johnson, The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America (Kingsport, Tenn.: Southern Publishers, Inc., 1924).
[v] It is worth noting that Massachusetts, Virginia, and some other states have traditions of Masonic meetings earlier than Pennsylvania. To declare dogmatically that Pennsylvania is the source and origin of American Freemasonry is to run the risk of friendly but intense disagreement from other Grand Lodges.
[vi] Huss, p. 19.
[vii] J. Hugo Tatsch, Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies (New York, Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1933), pp. 208–9.
[viii] Wayne A. Huss, The Master Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Grand Lodge F.&A.M. of Pennsylvania., 1986), p. 40.
Tatsch, p. 212–13.
Huss, p. 40.
[xi] Edward T. Schultz, History of Freemasonry in Maryland of All the Rites introduced into Maryland, from the Earliest Time to the Present, 4 vols. (Baltimore: J.H. Mediary & Co., 1884), vol. 1, pp. 38–39, 51.
[xii] Coil, s.v. “South Carolina.”
Tatsch, p. 83.
Tatsch, p. 84.
Tatsch, p. 91.
Tatsch, p. 92.
[xvii] Coil, s.v. “South Carolina.”
Coil, s.v. “Virginia.”
[xix] John Dove, Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of the State of Virginia from its Organization, in 1778, to 1822 (Richmond, Va.: James E. Goode, 1874), p. 193
[xx] Steven C. Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730–1840 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), p. 113.
[xxi] Proceedings in Masonry: St. John’s Grand Lodge 1733–1972, Massachusetts Grand Lodge 1769–1792 (Boston: Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1895), p. 259.
[xxii] Proceedings, p. 459.
[xxiii] Thomas S. Roy, Stalwart Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, 1733–1978 (Boston, Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1980), p. 52.
[xxiv] Coil, s.v. “Massachusetts.”
[xxv] Bullock, p. 113.
[xxvi] Proceedings, p. 380.
[xxvii] Huss, p. 18.
[xxviii] Huss, p. 281.
[xxix] Huss, p. 27.
[xxx] Huss, p. 32.
[xxxi] Huss, p. 46.
[xxxii] Huss, p. 56.
[xxxiii] Coil, s.v. “Georgia.”
[xxxiv] Coil, s.v. “New Jersey.”
[xxxv] Coil, s.v. “New York.”
[xxxvi] Tatsch, p. 70.
[xxxvii] H. P. Nash, “Origins of the Grand Lodge of New York,” Transactions of the American Lodge of Research, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 278–402.
Nash, p. 291.
Tatsch, p. 70.
Nash, p. 291.
Nash, p. 292.
Tatsch, p. 196.
[xliii] H. L. Stillson and W. J. Hughan, Eds. History of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons and Concordant Orders (Boston & New York, Fraternity Publishing Co., 1891), p. 231.
[xliv] Stillson & Hughan, p. 253, Tatsch, pp. 184, Coil, s.v. “Connecticut.”
[xlv] Tatsch, p. 168–170, 173.