From: Ron Blaisdell
Subject: When the Grand Lodge of England Convened in America
Date: Friday, April 23, 1999 6:42 AM
The Master Mason - August 1925
When the Grand Lodge of England Convened in America
By Bro. THEODORE WALTON
NOT many are aware, I imagine, that the Grand Lodge of England once convened, for three hours, in America. It was during the War of the Revolution, too, which gives it an added significance. The story of it, briefly, is after this fashion, and is appropriate to recall just now when we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the opening of the War of the Revolution. In the British regiments ordered to America to suppress the rising rebellion of the Colonies there were many military lodges, owing, largely, to the activities of the "Ancient" Grand Lodge of England in its rivalry against the "Modern" Grand Lodge - the Great Schism, which extended from 1752 to 1813, being at its height. The military lodges, left their mark upon the Craft in this country, particularly in New York. It was a part of the strategy of the leaders of the "Ancient" Grand Lodge to work in harmony with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland, the ritual and customs of the three Grand Lodges being very much alike - all three differing in some points from the premier Grand Lodge of London. As in Pennsylvania, so elsewhere, the "Ancients" soon had the upper hand in the struggle, due, let it be said to their credit, to the fact they were more democratic and kept close to the humanity of the great middle class in what Emerson later called "our middleclass country." The question of "regularity," so vexing to Masons in the old country, did not trouble Colonial Masons at all. They saw no reason for avoiding Masonic fellowship with "Ancient" Brethren on that score, the less so when the "Ancient" Lodges were acknowledged as regular by the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland. The last impediment to a free mingling of brethren made under the older dispensation with the members of the steadily increasing number of "Ancient" Lodges was removed when Sir John Johnson hied away to Canada and took his Provincial warrant with him. The field was left free to the "Ancients," and they were not slow to take it. Accordingly, it was decided to form a Grand Lodge under the Ancient obedience. The leading lodge was No. 169 of "Ancient York Masons," which had been constituted as such while its regiment was located in Boston, July 13, 1771, under warrant from the Ancient Grand Lodge of England. On the evacuation of Boston, in 1776, the lodge followed the British army to New York, where it saw its opportunity of uniting several military lodges into a Provincial Grand Lodge. TO THAT end a convention of lodges was called on January 23, 1781, attended by twenty-nine representatives of seven lodges. Past Master James McCuen, of Lodge No. 169, presided, and after the purposes of the gathering were explained, the convention organized a Grand Lodge "in ample form," electing James McCuen as temporary Grand Master. A permanent formation was agreed upon, and officers elected, as follows: The Rev. William Walter, of No. 169, Grand Master; John Studholme Brownrigg, of 441, Senior Grand Warden; the Rev. John Beardsley, of No. 210, junior Grand Warden. Information of the proceedings was sent to the Ancient Grand Lodge of London, with a request for authority to make the organization permanent. On October 10, 1781, a dispensation was given for the constitution of a new military lodge, No. 215, to be held in the Second Regiment of Anspach-Bayreuth, which was stationed in New York. The lodge was constituted five months later by the inchoate Provincial Grand Lodge, who were empowered to represent the mother Grand Lodge on that occasion, "for three hours only." A record of the transaction was later made a part of the proceedings of the Grand Lodge in London, a certified copy of which was given by Bro. John W. Vrooman, Grand Master of Masons in New York, at the time of his visit to England in 1889. It is as follows: EXTRACT FROM THE MINUTES OF THE GRAND LODGE "FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS ACCORDING TO THE OLD INSTITUTIONS" At present in the Archives of the United Grand Lodge of England. Free Masons Hall - London. "Grand Lodge open'd at 4 o'clock in the City of New York, North America on the 21 of February, An: Do: 1782, - An: Lap: 5782. The R.'.W.'. & Revd Br. WM. WALTER, P.G.M. elect as D.G.M. The R.'.W.'. BR., JOHN St BROWNING Esqe, P.S.G.W. elect as S.G.W. The R.'.W.'. & Revd BR. JOHN BARKLEY, P.J.G.W. elect as J.G.W. The R.'.W.'. BR. ISAAC CALLINS P.'.M.'. of 169 as Gd. Secy. Present: BR. CUNNINGHAM, Mr. of No. 169. BR. WARDEN S.W. do BR. LOUNDS J.W. do BR. BARCLAY P.M. do BR. MCEWEN do do BR. COLLINS Mr. of No. 210 BR. WATSON S.W. do BR. GRIGG J.W. do BR. COCK Mr. of No. 212 BR. COURTNEY S.W. do BR. HARRISON J.W. do BR. HODSON P.M. do BR. CROWELL do do BR. DREW Mr. of No. 213 BR. FIFE S.W. do BR. GEDDES J.W. do BR. STOKES P.M. do Installed according to Ancient usage. MAXIMILIAN De STRAIT, Master. The Revd JOHN PHILLIP ERB. S. W. vice DAVID SCHOEP, absent. GEORGE DOIG, J. W. vice FERD FORSTER, dead. All matters relative to this Constitution being complaited the Gd Officers aforesaid in the name of the Most Noble Prince John Duke of Athol G.M, proclaimed the New Lodge Duly constituted No. 215, registered in Grand Lodge Book, Volume 8, Letter H, to be held in the Second Reg't of Auspack Berauth. Closed before 7 o'clock, adjourned to the Grand Lodge in London. * N. B. The Revd WILLM WALTER was empower'd to act as D.G.Mr (for 3 hours only) by an authority from Win Dickey Esqe, D. G. M." CERTIFIED AS A TRUE EXTRACT. [L.S.] (Signed) SHADWELL H. CLERKE G. S. IT IS only proper to add that in the autumn of 1782 the Provincial Grand Lodge was duly organized, by virtue of a warrant dated September 5, 1781, its transmission having been delayed, no doubt, by the war conditions. So runs the record of the only time the Grand Lodge of England was convened in America, and it is an item of interest, if nothing more, in the annals of the Craft in the New World - all acts made regular and a part of the common tradition of the Fraternity when the Great Schism was healed in the Lodge of Reconciliation in 18l3.
Everyone is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him/her to be untrue or unsound. - Morals and Dogma Ron Blaisdell, PM Capital of Strict Observance No. 66