Freemasonry In The United States during And After The Revolution.

Freemasonry in the United States during and after the Revolution.

[The American Revolution was an ideological and political revolution which occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783.

The Americans in the Thirteen Colonies defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), gaining independence from the British Crown and establishing the United States of America, the first modern constitutional liberal democracy.]

We are indebted to a History of Philadelphia, by a Mr. Thompson Westcott, now current in one of the American journals, for the following particulars, which cannot fail to be in the highest degree interesting to our readers.

 

John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the US Capitol rotunda.
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During the earlier revolutionary movements, the Masonic Lodges of Ancient York Masons continued to meet with occasional interruptions. Lodge No. 3, met at Daniel Smith’s City Tavern, in Philadelphia, on St. John’s day 1775, and participated in a banquet.

On this occasion, we are told, thirteen members are said to have met, and, measuring all their proceedings by the patriotic number thirteen (in honour of the thirteen States),

. they had thirteen dishes of meats, banqueted thirteen hours, drank thirteen toasts, sang thirteen songs, and, with a capacity which must astound our brethren of this generation, drank thirteen bottles of wine and thirteen bowls of toddy,

. and it is added that, by way of consistency, the landlord’s bill amounted to £13.

During the occupation of the city by the British troops, its Lodges were interfered with, and, perhaps, suspended ; but one, probably connected with the Royal forces, appears to have met at Second Street and Elfreth’s Alley.

When, however, the city was evacuated, the return of the Whigs gave new spirit to Masonry.

The brethren re-assembled, and though, as the issue of the contest was yet doubtful, no formal assertion was made at the time that the ties connecting them with the Grand Lodge in England were severed, a feeling prevailed that the declaration of National Independence had virtually established a ground for such rupture.

Certainly, American Masons were in no way restrained in what they did by any regard for ancient authority.

PGM. William Ball was charged with the important duty of organising the Grand Lodge, and he summoned the brethren to meet on 16th December 1778, when Bro. Rev. William Smith was appointed Secretary protem, and Grand Officers were elected.

On St. John’s day of the same year, the Grand Lodge and subordinate Lodges celebrated the day by a procession and other ceremonies, the occasion being honoured by the presence of Bro. George Washington, who took part in the procession, supported by the Grand Master and his Deputy.

Divine service was held in Christ Church, after which they returned to the College, and afterwards dined in their respective Lodges, a collection amounting to £400, for the relief of the poor, appropriately closing this portion of the proceedings.

 

frontispiece L’Ahiman Rezon
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The Book of Constitutions of this Grand Lodge or Ahiman Rezon (אֲחִימָן רְזוֹן) was a constitution written by Laurence Dermott for the Ancient Grand Lodge of England which was formed in 1751.

The formation of the Ancient Grand Lodge brought together lodges and Masons who, believing themselves to be part of an older, original Masonic tradition, had chosen not to ally themselves with the previously formed Moderns Grand Lodge of 1717.

At the meeting of Grand Lodge in this year, a committee was appointed to present a new code of laws for its future government, and, in November 1781, Bro. Rev. William Smith presented an abridgement of Dermot’s ” Ahiman Rezon,” with alterations and additions; and it was unanimously accepted.

In 1780, this abridgement was published, under the title of ” The Abridged Ahiman Rezon, as a help to all that are, or would be Free and Accepted Masons,” and itis now known among the Craft as ” Smith’s Ahiman Rezon.”

 

Frederick II (German: Friedrich II.; 24 January 1712 – 17 August 1786) was a Prussian king and military leader who ruled the Kingdom of Prussia from 1740 until 1786, at 46 years the longest reign of any Hohenzollern king.
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In the meantime, an attempt was made by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to establish a Grand Lodge of the United States, even before the Revolutionary War was over.

A special communication was held for this purpose, in 1780, and resolutions were adopted in favour of a General Grand Lodge, with General George Washington as General Grand Master for the whole of the United States, but the proposition was coldly received by the Grand Lodge of Virginia, and afterwards fell through.

In 1785, a Sublime Lodge of Perfection, according to the rites recommended by the King of Prussia, extending the Masonic degrees to 33, was constituted in the new Grand Lodge room in Black Horse Alley, and at the banquet Which followed at the City Tavern, the occasion was dignified with thirteen toasts, the first being in honour of the King of Prussia, and the second of Bro. George Washington.

The new room in Black Horse Alley could not have been occupied for a long time, for in the year following the meetings were again held in the Old Masonic Hall, built by the modern Masons in Lodge Alley.

This branch of the Order, however, declined very rapidly, and in 1785, an Act was passed by the Assembly of Pennsylvania, ordering the sale of the Masonic Hall.

The revenue from the rents and profits was to be given, two-thirds to subscribers and one-third to the first Lodge, and two-thirds of the proceeds of the sale were paid to subscribers then living, and one-third to the first Lodge for charitable purposes.

The sale was effected in 1792,the first Lodge handing over its share to the City Corporation in 1793, to form a fund for the purchase of fuel for the poor.

In December 1786, the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons, which had rented the Masonic Hall for some time, resumed its meetings in Vidells Alley, where they had been held before the outbreak of the Revolution.

As might, perhaps, have been foreseen, a severance from England of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, when once the Independence of the United States was established, was soon determined open.

A special meeting of Grand Lodge, with subordinate Lodges, was held in September 1783, when it was ” Resolved, that it is improper that the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania should remain any longer under the authority of any foreign Grand Lodge.”

At a convention subsequently held, it was unanimously resolved that the heretofore Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania should be determined, and the Lodges under its jurisdiction should form themselves into a Grand Lodge, to be called ” The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and Masonic jurisdiction thereunto belonging,” and to be holden in Philadelphia.

 

Benjamin Franklin FRS FRSA FRSE (1706 – 1790)
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Benjamin Franklin FRS FRSA FRSE (1706 – 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

A polymath, he was a leading writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.

As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity.

As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions.

He founded many civic organizations, including the Library Company, Philadelphia’s first fire department, and the University of Pennsylvania.

When Franklin died in1790, the Masonic Lodges took no part in the funeral procession, he being a modern Mason, but an address of respect had, some years previously, been presented to him.

But, when General Washington died, in December 1799, Congress requested the society of Freemasons to attend as mourners, and this request was complied with, Lodge L’Amenite No. 73, holding also a Lodge of sorrow in honour of the deceased brother.

The Craft were also present on the occasion of the funeral solemnity, on 22nd January 1800, Grand Lodge being present, and the following Blue Lodges, L’Amenite, No. 73; -Philadelphia Lodge, No. 72 ; Orange Lodge, No. 71; Concordia Lodge, No. 67; Washington Lodge, No. 59; Harmony Lodge, No. 52; Lodge No. 19 ; Lodge No. 9 ; Lodge No. 3 and Lodge No. 2; between three and four hundred Masons being in the parade.

As regards Military Lodges during the Revolution, these were held under direction of officers of regiments, the ceremonies being made as complete as could be under the circumstances.

It is known that before the war, brothers of the 17th Regiment British were granted a warrant to work as a Lodge by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and this was designated Lodge No. 18.

The present Lodge, No. 19, or Montgomery Lodge, was established by warrant granted in May 1779, to the ” First Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteer Artillery.”

This Lodge travelled with the Pennsylvania line during the war, and in 1784 its warrant was surrendered to Grand Lodge, a new one, under which it is still worked, being issued in place thereof in 1786.

Other warrants for travelling Lodges were issued by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, not only to Pennsylvanian lodges, but to those of other states, among them being warrant No. 29 to North Carolina Regiment Continental Army; Warrant No. 27 to Maryland Regiment ditto ; Warrant No. 36 to New Jersey Brigade ditto.

The subject of Royal Arch Masonry appears to have caused some difficulty to the Order in Pennsylvania.

According to “Ahiman Rezon,” the first Royal Arch Chapter in America of which any account exists was held in Philadelphia before 1758.

This chapter worked under the warrant of Lodge No. 3, and had communication with a military chapter working under a warrant granted by the Grand Lodge of England.

In 1795, one Molan, attempted to form an independent Royal Arch Chapter under the warrants of Lodges No. 5, 19, 52 and 67, and a Maryland and Georgia Lodge.

But the Grand Lodge stepped in and suspended these Lodges, further declaring that Molan ought not to be received as a Mason by any of the Lodges under its jurisdiction.

The suspended Lodges were afterwards restored, and it was resolved to erect a Grand Royal Arch Chapter, under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

This was the first Chapter established in the United States.

In 1798 it was decreed that no warrant for a chapter should be granted by the Grand Chapter, except to be worked under the warrant of a regular subsisting Lodge.

Innovations, however, were meditated in other parts of the Union. In 1797, a convention of several chapters in the northern States was held at Boston, delegates from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and New York attending.

By this convention it was declared, in opposition to the Pennsylvania precedent, that no Grand Lodge had any authority to exercise any authority over any convention or Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, and co-operation was invited to assist in the opening of a Grand Chapter at Hartford, towards the end of January of the ensuing year.

This was done, and a Grand Chapter erected, having authority over the above States.

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania protested against this action, but in vain.

The innovation spread, causing much inconvenience to the Royal Arch Masons of Pennsylvania, with whom it became a subject of great complaint.

Extract: The Freemason’s Chronicle – February 6, 1875

Additional image research by the Square Editorial team

The Historic Mansions and Buildings of Philadelphia

By: Thompson Westcott 

Mr. Thompson Westcott, the author, is perfectly at home on this subject, having written “The Guide Book to Philadelphia,” and a history of the city. In the present volume, he has given a description of all the interesting historic buildings of the city, e.g. Penn’s Cottage, Swedes’ Church, Bartram’s House, Christ Church, Independence Hall, the Slate Roof House or Mount Pleasant, together with a notice of their owners and occupants.

 

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