Meeting of the Grand Lodge of S.C.
Intro By: Ill. Bro. McDonald “Don” Burbidge, 33º
The M. W. Grand Lodge of A. F. M. of the State of South Carolina assembled at 12 o’clock PM., at the Masonic Temple located in Charleston, South Carolina on December 10, 1878.
Members of the Grand Lodge present at this meeting in 1878 were M. W. Beaufort W. Ball, Grand Master, R. W. Augustine T. Smythe, Deptuy Grand Master; R. W. James F. Izlar; Senior Grand Warden; Brother W. F. Poulnot, as Junior Grand Warden; R. W. John H. Honour, Grand Treasurer; R. W. Charles Inglesby, Grand Secretary; R. W. and Rev. John Kershaw, Grand Chaplain; W. Bro. J. D. McFaden, Senior Grand Deacon; W. Bros. D. B. Gilliland and W. Z. McGhee, Junior Grand Deacon; W. Zimmerman Davis, Grand Marshall; W. Bro. T. T. Westmoreland, Grand Pursuivant; W. Bro. R. Furman Divver, Grand Steward; W. Bro. W. A. Wilson, Grand Tiler.
Grand Master Ball in a few prefatory remarks stated that a distinguished brother had been appointed to deliver at the last communication a Centennial address. On further consideration the G. M. believed that 1877 was not the real Centennial of this Grand body, and upon making known his doubts last year, M. W. Bro. Wilmot Gibbes DeSaussure was requested to deliver this year’s address upon the “History of Free Masonry in South Carolina.”
The Grand Master went on to say that Brother DeSaussure clearly establishes that the Grand Lodge of South Carolina was established as a Provincial Grand Lodge in 1787, and became an independent State Lodge in December, 1776, thus making it the oldest independent State Grand Lodge in the United States.
This speech was discovered a little over a year ago while I was researching Brother Wilmot Gibbes DeSaussure for a story that was printed by the Scottish Rite Journal in October 2002. I knew at the time that I saw it that it had to be presented to the Brethren of South Carolina to learn from.
With the approval of Most Worshipful Grand Master Kent Elkins here is the complete speech as it was written and presented 124 years ago before the Grand Lodge of South Carolina on December 10, 1878.
HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY
DELIVERED BEFORE M\W\ GRAND LODGE
A. F. M. OF SOUTH CAROLINA
M\W\ WILMOT G. DESAUSSURE, P\G\M\
10TH DECEMBER, A. L. 5878
CHARLESTON, S. C.
D. L. ALEXANDER, PRINTER,
No. 173 East Bay Street
At the Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of South Carolina, held in December, 1877, a resolution was adopted requesting me to deliver a public address at the next Annual Communication, on the history of Ancient Freemasonry in South Carolina. At your bidding, therefore, I now appear before you, endeavoring, so far, as is within my ability, to carry out the purpose of the resolution. One may approach the subject with diligence. Thrice since Freemasonry was planted upon the soil of South Carolina, war has, in a greater or lesser degree, disturbed the peaceful assemblage of its Lodges; twice by such wars, have the records of its Grand Lodge, and of the Subordinate Lodges of Charleston, the depositories of its early history, been seriously disturbed and even lost; four times, at least, have the ravages of fire destroyed the Temples in which the Grand and Subordinate Lodges of Charleston, were wont to assemble, leaving to the workmen little else than ruins and rubbish wherewith to reconstruct a history.
Time, with its effacing fingers, has blurred the pages from which material could have been sought, and prolific in destruction, has left but mouldering leaves behind. The diligence of those eminent Brethren, Frederick Dalcho and Albert G. Mackey, has exhumed from the rubbish, nearly all which at this day is known, and to them is due all the honor of preserving any history of the earlier days of Freemasonry in South Carolina. The gleaner in the fields where they have reaped can find but few sheaves to add to their stores. While therefore having given as much time and care to an examination of this subject as was practicable, in the midst of an engrossing professional life, in the desire to comply with your request, I can hope to do little more than give a repetition of what they have so much better told the Craft.
No man can tell when or where Freemasonry derived its origin. Whether it is an outgrowth of the Ancient Aryian teachings, with its foundations resting on the Veda: whether it is the successor of the Ancient mysteries; whether it grew with the craftsmen of Imperial Rome, or descends from the Ancient Guilds; whether the Saxon brought it with him into England, to be subsequently retransmitted to the places of its earlier birth; whether the nearly obliterated tombstone in Holyrood Chapel indicates its existence at a time earlier than any positive record tells: whether the following from the “Treasurers of Similies,” 1609, “As the Freemason hewth the hard stones, even so. God, the Heavenly Freemason, buildeth a Christian Church, “should be read as shewing that at that day the profound symbolism which the Freemasonry of the present enwarps, was understood; or whether it is the creation of the Eighteenth Century a revolt and a refuge from the fierce dogmas of the Coveuanter and the Cavalier, there is no certain history to tell, and no man can say. Perhaps, as its origin is enveloped in the mists of the far away times, it is not inappropriate that we of South Carolina should share, for our more immediate history, in some of the darkness, which shadows the past. In all the monitorial books used by Masons, will be found the impressive symbol of a virgin bending over a broken Corinthian column, upon one portion of which rests an open book; in the one hand she holds a sprig of acacia, emblem of immortality, while the other clasps a censer of incense, emblem of honor. Behind her, Time, his scythe and hourglass, emblems of transition and destruction, resting near his feet employs his hands in smoothing out her flowing hair, disheveled by her employment. Thus the muse of History seeks to perpetuate the past and do honor to those who gave it lustre, while the destroyer indicates that even in the present the threads of life are so interlaced as to present but a tangled web.
For a cleared understanding of the early history of Freemasonry in South Carolina, it is necessary, briefly, to refer to the Grand Lodge of England, the mother Grand Lodge as she may, not inappropriately, be designated. In Preston’s Illustrations of Masonry, it is said: “On the accession of George I., the Masons in London and its environs, finding themselves deprived of Sir Christopher Wren,” (who appears to have been Grand Master from 1698.) “And their annual meetings discontinued, resolved to cement themselves under a new Grand Master, and to revive themselves under a new Grand Master, and to revive the Communications and festivals of the Society. With this view the Lodges at the Goose and Gridiron, in St. Paul’s Church Yard; the Crown, in Parker’s Lane, near Drury Lane; the Apple Tree Tavern, in Charles street, near Convent Garden; and the Rummer and Grapes Tavern, in Channel Row, near Westminster, (the only four Lodges in being in the South of England at that time) with some old Brethren, met at the Apple Tree Tavern above mentioned, in February, 1717; and having voted the oldest Master Mason, then present, into the chair, constituted themselves a Grand Lodge, pro tempore in due form. At this meeting, it was resolved to revive the Quarterly Communications of the Fraternity, and to hold the next Annual Assembly and Feast on the 24th of June, at the Goose and Gridiron in St. Paul’s Church Yard (in compliment to the oldest Lodge which then met there), for the purpose of electing a Grand Master among themselves, till they should have the honor of a noble Brother at their head. Accordingly, on St. John the Baptist’s Day, 1717, in the third year of the reign of King George I., the Assembly and Feast were held at the said house; when the oldest Master Mason, and the Master of a Lodge having taken the chair, a list of proper candidates for the office of Grand Master was produced; and the names being separately proposed, the Brethren, by a great majority of hands, elected Mr. Anthony Sayer Grand Master of Masons for the ensuing year, who was forthwith invested by the said oldest Mason, installed by the Master of the oldest Lodge, and duly congratulated by the Assembly, who paid him homage.” Anthony Sayer was succeeded in office by George Payne, Esq., who, installed as Grand Master in 1718, continued as such until 1721, when John, Duke of Montagu, was chosen as his successor. On the resignation of the Duke of Montagu, in January 1722-23, Philip, Duke of Wharton, was chosen as his successor. The Duke of Buccleugh was chosen in 1723; the Duke of Richmond in 1724: Lord Paisley in 1725; the Earl of Inchquin in 1726, the Lord Colerane in 1727; Lord Kingston in 1728; the Duke of Norfolk in 1729; Lord Lovel in 1731; Viscount Montagu was installed as Grand Master on 19th April, 1732; the Earl of Strathmore on 7th June, 1733; the Earl of Crawford on the 30th March, 1734; Lord Weymonth on 17th April, 1735, and the Earl of Loudon on 15th April, 1736. “His Lordship constituted several Lodges, and granted three Provincial deputation’s during his Presidency, viz: one for New England, another for South Carolina and a third for Cape Coast Castle, in Africa.”
The Masonic traditions point to York England, as the earliest seat of Masonry of which there is traditional information, and the dates profess to be one of the year 924. Preston says, that on the revival, in 1717, in the South of England, the Grand Lodge, claiming through this tradition, was styled “The Grand Lodge of All England.”
In 1738, during the Grand Mastership of the Marquis of Camawon, there appears to have arisen differences, which led to a separation and from such separation arose the Grand Lodge of England according to Ancient Constitutions. Hence the terms of Moderns and Ancients.
It is necessary to an understanding of the history of the early Freemasonry in South Carolina, that these distinctions be remembered.
The Grand Lodge of England, designated as the First Grand Lodge; the Grand Lodge of all England, designated as the Second Grand Lodge, and the Grand Lodge of England, according to the Ancient Constitutions, designated as the Third Grand Lodge, were therefore in existence in England at one and the same time, about the year 1738. The first of such Grand Lodges was organized with Anthony Sayer as its Grand Master, on St. John the Baptist’s Day, 1717. The second Grand Lodge was of mystical origin and undefined date. The third Grand Lodge appears to have
In the publication made by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and generally known as the early history of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, it is said, “the Masonic history of this country is connected with the First and Third Grand Lodges of England, to wit: the Grand Lodge of England, (moderns,) and the Grand Lodge of England, according to the Ancient Constitutions, (ancients.)”
These distinctions being borne in remembrance, it is now possible to take up the early history of Freemasonry in South Carolina. And it is hoped and believed that the present Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of South Carolina, can be historically traced back for a period of one hundred and fourty-one years, thus making it one of the three oldest Grand Lodges in the United States of America.
In Anderson’s Constitutions, Edition 1738, it is said, “Earl Loudon granted a deputation to John Hammerton, Esq., to be Provincial Grand Master of South Carolina, in America.” The assertion thus made is confirmed as follows: “South Carolina Gazette, 23rd July, 1737. Last Thursday, (21st July,) John Hammerton, Esq., Receiver General of His Majesty’s quit rents, Secretary, and one of his Majesty’s Honorable Council, who has been the first Master of the Lodge of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Freemasons in this place, and intending to embark on board the ship Molly Galley, John Caruthers, Master, for Loundon, at a Lodge held that evening, resigned his office, for the true and faithful discharge of which he received the thanks of the whole Society, who were thirty in number. James Graeme, Esq., was then unanimously chosen Master in his room, and having been duly installed into that office, with the usual ceremonies, was pleased to choose and appoint James Wright, Esq., who was Junior Warden, to be Senior Warden, and Maurice Lewis, Esq., Junior Warden.
In the same Gazette, 20th August, 1737, appears as follows: “On Thursday night last (18th August) at the Solomon’s Lodge in Charles Town, a deputation from the Right Worshipful and Right Honorable John, Earl of Loundon, constituting and appointing a Provincial grand Master of South Carolina, was read, when James Graeme, Esq., the present Grand Master of the said Province, proposed James Wright, Esq., to be Master of Solomon’s Lodge, which was unanimously agreed to by the Lodge.
And yet again, in the same Gazette, 29th December, 1737, appears, “On Tuesday last, being St. John’s Day, all the members of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Mason’s in this place, met at Mr. Seaman’s, Master of Solomon’s Lodge, from whence they proceeded, all properly clothed, under the sound of French horns, to wait on James Graeme, Esq., Provincial Grand Master, at his house in Broad street, where they were received by all the members of the Grand Lodge. After a short stay there, they all went in procession, and with the ensigns of their Order, into the courtroom at Mr. Charles Shepheard’s house, making a very grand show. Here to a numerous audience of ladies and gentlemen, who were admitted by tickets, the Grand Master made a very elegant speech in praise of Masonry, which we hear was universally applauded. Then the Grand Lodge withdrew, in order to proceed to the election of a Grand Master for the ensuing year, when James Graeme, Esq., was unanimously rechosen Grand Master, who appointed James Wright, Esq., Deputy Grand Master, Maurice Lewis, Esq., Senior Grand Warden, John Crookshanks, Esq., Junior Grand Warden, James Michie, Esq., Grand Treasurer, and James Gordon, esq., Grand Secretary.
The same day Mr. James Crokatt was unanimously chosen Master of Solomon’s Lodge.”
Yet again, in Anderson’s Constitutions, Edition 1738, at the Quarterly Communication on 16th April, 1738, of the grand Lodge of England, “John Hammerton, Esq., Provincial Grand Master of South Carolina,” is recorded as being present.
It would be therefore appear to be a well established historical fact, that between April 15, 1736, and July 23, 1737, the Earl of Loudon, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England, had granted a deputation to John Hammerton, to be Provincial Grand Master of South Carolina. That on July 21, 1737, John Hammerton, being about to embark for England, appointed James Graeme as his successor, who in August, 1737, was confirmed in such office by a deputation from the same nobleman still grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England.
It is proper now to retrograde and enquire when the office of Provincial Grand Master was created, and what were the functions of such office, and what constituted a Provincial Grand Lodge.
Preston says, the office was instituted during the administration of the Earl of Inchiquin, and the first deputation granted on May 10, 1727, to Hugh Warburton for North Wales. Oliver. Speaking of a Provincial grand Master, says: “The appointment of this office for countries and large populous districts, is a prerogative of the Grand Master, by whom, or, in his absence, by his deputy, a Patent may be granted, during pleasure, to such Brother of eminence and ability in the Craft as may be thought worthy of the appointment. By this Patent he invested with a rank and power, in his particular district, similar to those possessed by the Grand Master himself.” In a note to Preston’s Illustrations, it is found that, “at this time the authority granted by Patent to a Provincial Grand Master, was limited to one year from his first public appearance in that character within his Province. And if, at the expiration of that period, a new election by the Lodges under his jurisdiction did not take place, subject to the approbation of the Grand Master, the Patent was no longer valid.” Oliver thus describes a Provincial Grand Lodge: “It is to be assembled by the Provincial Grand Master, or his Deputy, at least once in each year for business, and which may also be a Masonic Festival. The present and past Grand Provincial Officers, being subscribing members of any Lodge within the district, with the Masters, Past Masters and Wardens of all the Lodges, are members of the Provincial Grand Lodge. And the Master and Wardens shall attend the same when duly summoned, or depute some Brethren properly qualified to represent them.”
The importance of having the office, and Constitution of Provincial Grand Master and Provincial Grand Lodge, clearly understood, will hereafter appear.
From the South Carolina Gazette, December 28, 1738, it appears that James Wright was, on the preceding day, elected as Provincial Grand Master for the ensuing year. In 1739, James Graeme was a second time elected Provincial Grand Master. In 1740, he was succeeded by John Houghton. In 1741, John Hammerton was elected Provincial Grand Master, and in 1742, he was succeeded by Benjamin Smith. From this date until January 10, 1752, the Gazette contains no notices relating to Freemasonry. In the History of Freemasonry in South Carolina, Brother Mackey says: “We learn from the records of the Grand Lodge of England, that in 1741 a law was unanimously adopted, forbidding any Brother to print or cause to be printed, the proceeding of any Lodge, lest by the direction of the Grand Master, or his Deputy; and this law was to be enforced by several Masonic penalties. This regulation must have been communicated to the Masons of Carolina, and it is to its influence, I suppose, that we are to attribute the fact that from the year 1743 to 1750, both inclusive, there is not the slightest notice of a Masonic celebration to be found in the contemporary journal. The official records has been lost, and this period of eight years presents a blank in the Masonic History of South Carolina, which, unfortunately we have no means of filling up.” While therefore there are neither notices in the journals, nor official records, which will enable the hiatus to be filled, yet it may reasonably be inferred that the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Carolina, continued to meet. From the Constitution of such bodies as above stated, it had not only permanent membership, but also the membership of the Masters and Wardens of all Lodges within the Province. In December 1742, Benjamin Smith had been chosen Provincial Grand Master, and James Michie will be found among the Grand officers. And during the period in which the hiatus occurs, there certainly was one, and probably four, Lodges in existence and working. In a manuscript copy of the Rules and By-Laws of Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, purporting to be of the date of 1753, the fifteenth By-Law reads as follows: “That no Brother whilst a member of any regular constituted Lodge under the Provincial Jurisdiction in Charlestown, shall be admitted a member of this. And a member of this Lodge that shall afterwards be admitted a member of any other regular constituted Lodge as aforesaid, shall, by such admission, immediately be deemed no longer a member of this Lodge.” And in the third By-Law providing for arrears, the following appears, “Provided no Brother pays the same, and his or her names, together with the cause of his or their exclusion, returned to the Grand Lodge.” Again in the fourth By-Law, regarding the election of Master, it requires the Brother elected to be “presented to the Grand Master and his officers for their approbation and confirmation.” The incorporation of such provisions in the By-Laws of this Lodge, appear very clearly to indicate that in 1753, there was in existence a Provisional Jurisdiction, a Grand Lodge, a Grand Master and his officers. The silence of contemporary journals, and the want of official records cannot, as against such presumptive evidence, be taken as proof that the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Carolina, established in 1737, had ceased to exist.
Thus far you have been told only of such Provincial Grand Lodge. I will now again retrograde, and tell of the introduction of Freemasonry into the then Province of South Carolina.
In the Gazette before referred to under date 30th October, 1736, appears this announcement: “Charleston, October 29, last (Thursday, 28th October,) a Lodge of Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, was held for the first time, at Mr. Charles Shepheard’s, in Broad Street, when John Hammerton, Esq., Secretary and Receiver General for the Province, was unanimously chosen Master, who was pleased to appoint Mr. Thomas Denne, Senior Warden, Mr. Thomas Harbin, Junior Warden, and Mr. James Gordon, Secretary.” The Lodge then instituted, was called by the name of Solomon’s Lodge, which name it has retained from thence until now, and bears the proud pre-eminence of being No.1 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina. Brother Mackey says, “it received its warrant from Lord Weymouth, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England, in 1735. It bore the No. 45 on the registry of England, but that of No. 1 on the Provincial registry. It continued uninterruptedly to work until 1811, when it suspended labor. In 1817 it was revived, but again became dormant in 1838,” and was again revived in 1841. The members of this time-honored Lodge owe it to the history of Freemasonry in South Carolina, and to the memories which cluster around the Lodge, that it be continued in its active and successful operation.
In January 1738, there appears to have been instituted another Lodge in Charleston, as will be seen from the following notice in the South Carolina Gazette, 26th January, 1739: “We hear that at Mr. William Flud’s at the sign of the Harp and Crown, is held a Lodge of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, belonging to the Lodge of St. John, Dr. Newman Oglethorpe being chosen Master.” The history of this Lodge is given by Brother Mackey, and there can be little doubt that it derived its warrant from the Provincial Grand Lodge in Boston, the appellation of which was “St. John’s Grand Lodge.” No other trace if it is to be found than the above notice. Brother Mackey says: “In the list of the Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England, which is appended to Hutchinson’s Spirit of Masonry, it is stated that in 1743 the Grand Lodge of England granted a warrant for Prince George Lodge, at Georgetown, in South Carolina. It holds the number of 75 in that registry.” In the before referred to Gazette of 10th January, 1732, the following notice appears: “The 27th ult. Being the Festival of St. John the Evangelist, at 10 o’clock, the members of a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons met at the house of Mr. Nathaniel Greene, at Beaufort, and at 11 went in procession from thence, properly clothed with the ensigns of their Order, to church, to attend Divine service, where, after prayers, an excellent sermon, suitable to the occasion, was preached by their late worthy Master, the Rev. Mr. Peaseley. From church they returned in the same processional order to Mr. Greene’s, where an elegant entertainment was provided, to which all the company of note on the island were previously invited. After dinner and the usual healths drank, the whole was concluded with the greatest order and good fellowship. The procession was saluted by a discharge of cannon from all the vessels in the harbor, both at going to and returning from the church.” Brother Frederick Dalcho, in his Ahiman Rezon, Edition 1822, in telling of the introduction of Freemasonry into South Carolina, after speaking of Solomon’s Lodge says, “three other Lodges were soon after constituted, viz: St. George’s Lodge, Dorchester; Prince George’s Lodge, Winyaw; and Port Royal Lodge, Beaufort.” The earliest positive notice which I have been able to find of St. George’s Lodge, is in an advertisement of 15th May, 1755; but in the Gazette of 29th January, 1754, this notice appears: “On Thursday last died at Dorchester, truly regretted by all that knew him. Dr. Frederick Holzendorff, a man whose diligence and care in his vocation, as well as amiable disposition, behavior and character, had gained him the esteem of every individual. On Friday evening he was decently interred, after the manner of the Freemasons, many of whom attended the funeral in procession during which minute guns were fired.” And from it I draw the inference that he was buried at Dorchester, and by a Lodge existing there. In a previous part of this narrative, I said that during the hiatus there were certainly three, and probably four Lodges in the Province. The foregoing shows the positive existence of three, and the almost certainty of the fourth. And the conclusion which I draw from all these facts, is, that withstanding the absence of information, the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Carolina, was, during the whole period, in existence and working.
Before leaving this account of the earlier Lodges, I desire to call attention to one which received its warrant shortly after the termination of the hiatus, but so nearly contemporaneous as not to indicate the probable active existence of the Provincial Grand Lodge during this period, but also as indicating the estimation in which Freemasonry was held in the Province. On 3rd of May 1755, a petition was presented to the Provincial Grand Lodge for a charter for a Subordinate Lodge, and on 29th May 1755, Union Lodge was constituted. In 1759 this entry appears upon the records of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, viz: “Several Brethren, who were Scots Masons, having erected a Lodge at Charlestown, South Carolina, transmitted five guineas to the Grand Lodge of Scotland for the use of their poor. Grateful for this unexpected instance of benevolence, the Grand Lodge ordered a charter to be instantly made out and transmitted to them by the first opportunity.” After the issuing of such charter, the Grand Lodge of Scotland entered the Lodge upon its registry as Union Kilwinning Lodge, No. 98, of Charlestown, South Carolina. As a matter of course the charter so transmitted could not be acted upon, but the Lodge so honored, adopted the name thus designated, and is now known as Union Kilwinning Lodge, No.4. The Wizard of the North in narrating the journey of Monkbarns, the antiquary, towards Queensferry, tells: “By degrees, however, his wrath subsided; he wiped his brows relaxed his frown, and undoing the parcel in his hand, produced his folio, on which he gazed from time to time with the knowing look of an amateur, admiring its height and condition, and ascertaining by a minute and individual inspection of each leaf, that the volume was uninjured and entire from title page to colophon. His fellow traveler took the liberty of inquiring the subject of his studies. He lifted up his eyes with something of a sarcastic glance, as if he supposed the young querist would not relish, or perhaps understand his answer, and pronounced the book to be Sandy Gordon’s Itinerarium Septentrionale, a book illustrative of the Roman remains in Scotland. Alexander Gordon, the learned writer, thus referred to, removed to South Carolina with his fellow countryman, Governor Glen, some time about 1746; and some time in 1754, died in Charlestown, probably in the house then owned by him, and which is now the site of the late Hon. Mitchell King’s residence, at the northwest corner of Meeting and George streets. In the year after the Constitution of Union Kilwinning Lodge, Alexander Gordon, the son of Sandy Gordon, became a member of that Lodge; to him had been committed by his father the editing and publishing of other erudite works. Am I not then justified in inferring that the Freemasons of South Carolina were among the most respectable of the citizens? And can I not safely suppose that while so esteemed, it was improbable that the Provincial Grand Lodge should have ceased to exist?
In an earlier part of this narrative, you were told that after 1742 a long silence prevailed, interrupted only by the announcement of the celebration at Beaufort. In 1753 this silence was broken and from the South Carolina Gazette, 8th January 1753, we learn that “the 27th past being the Festival of St. John the Evangelist, the Free and Accepted Masons in this town commemorated the same in the usual manner. At Port Royal there was a procession, a grand feast, and at every health drank guns fired. On 10th December, 1753, the following summons appeared: “All the members of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons are desired to meet at Mr. Gordon’s in Broad street, on Thursday, the 27th instant (being St. John’s Day) between the hours of nine and ten in the forenoon, (properly clothed) to elect officers for the ensuing year.” The notice of such meeting appeared on 1st January, 1754, as follows: “Thursday last being St. John the Evangelist’s Day, the members of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons met at the house of Mr. John Gordon, at 9 o’clock, where the Provincial Lodge was formed. After electing Mr. William Burrow, Master for the ensuing year, Mr. James Grindlay, Senior Warden, Dr. John Moultrie, the younger, Junior Warden, Mr. Paul Douxsaint, Treasurer, and Peter Timothy, Secretary, all the Brethren being properly clothed, with the ensigns of their Order, &c., and their flag carried before them, marched in procession to church, where an excellent sermon was preached on the occasion by their Rev. Brother Baron from these words: “For this is the message which ye heard from the beginning, that ye should love one another” I. John: 3-11. After Divine services they returned in procession to Brother Gordon’s where a genteel entertainment was provided for the company. Diner over, the usual toasts were drank, and the remainder of the day was spent in a manner peculiar to the fraternity at all their meetings, or, in other words, in the most perfect harmony and good fellowship.”
Up to this period, with the single exception of the summons on December 10th, 1753, the Craft in South Carolina had not been called to their assemblages by public notice. A new order of things commenced with the following advertisement in the South Carolina Gazette, 5th December, 1754: “By the order of the Grand Master, the Grand Annual Feast and General Communication of the Free and Accepted Masons, is to be holden in Charlestown on Friday, the 27th of December, instant being St. John the Evangelist’s Day. All Brothers are desired to provide themselves with tickets, (as none will be admitted without them,) and to meet that day by 8 o’clock in the morning precisely, at the house of John Gordon, in order to attend the Grand Master and his officers to St. Philip’s Church, where a sermon is to be preached by a Rev. Bro. whence they are to return in procession to the Lodge Room, where a decent and suitable entertainment will be provided. No tickets to be given out after Thursday the 24th instant, till which day they may be had of Samuel Perkins, Egerton Leigh, Henry Laurens, John Stuart, Robert Wells, Stewards of the Grand Lodge.” On January 9th, 1775, the meeting so called, was thus noticed in the Gazette: “A deputation being lately arrived from England, appointing the Hon. Peter Leigh, Esq., to be Provincial Grand Master of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in the Province, his Honor has been pleased to constitute a Grand Lodge in this town, and nominate James Michie, Esq., to be Deputy Provincial Grand Master; Benjamin Smith, Esq., Senior Grand Warden; Mr. William Henderson, Junior Grand Warden; Willaim Burrows, Esq., Grand Treasurer, and Mr. Samuel Perkins, Grand Secretary. And on Friday the 27th ultimo, being St. John the Evangelist’s Day, James Grindlay, Esq., was elected Master of Solomon’s Lodge; Dr. Samuel Carne, Senior Warden; Egerton Leigh, Esq., Junior Warden; Mr. Henry Laurens, Treasurer, and Mr. Thomas Evance, Secretary for the ensuing year. The election of officers over, Solomon’s Lodge went in procession from the house where they had met, to that of the Honorable Provincial Grand Master, where the Grand Lodge was formed, and thence attended his Honor and the Grand Lodge, all properly clothed, &c., to church, where an excellent sermon was preached by their Brother, the Rev. Alexander Baron. After Divine service, the procession continued from church to their Brother Gordon’s Tavern, where they dined and spent the afternoon, to the number of upwards of an hundred, with the harmony and regularity peculiar to that Society. And in the evening they went to the new Theatre, where the tragedy called the Distressed Mother was presented, with an occasional prologue and epilogue, and some Mason’s songs between the acts.
Brother Dalcho, in the historical sketch accompanying his Ahiman Rezon, Ed. 1822, appears to have wholly overlooked the Provincial Grand Lodge of 1737, for he says: “It now became necessary to have a governing body in the Province, and application being made for the purpose, the following deputation was granted, March30, 1754. On the 24th of December, 1754, the Grand Lodge was solemnly constituted in Charleston, under the following officers: the M.W. the Honor Peter Leigh, Chief Justice of South Carolina, Grand Master; the .W. the Honor James Michie, Judge of the Court of Admiralty, and member of His Majesty’s Council, Deputy Grand Master; the R. W. the honor Benjamin Smith, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Senior Grand Warden; the R. W. William Henderson, A. M., Junior Grand Warden; the W. William Burrows, Grand Treasurer; the W. Samuel Stewards: Brothers Egerton Leigh, John Stuart, Charles Pinckney, Henry Laurens, Robert Wells, John Cooper; Brother George Sheed, Grand Tyler.” The advertisement of 5th December of that year, shows that Grand Stewards had certainly been previously appointed, and were exercising the duties of their office. If there were Grand Stewards in office, it is but a natural presumption that the Grand Lodge itself was in organization.
Brother Mackey commences his second chapter of the History of Freemasonry in South Carolina, with these words, “The period of inaction, which marked the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Carolina for some time previous to 1754, and to which I have adverted in the preceding chapter, was in that year brought to a happy conclusion, and was followed by an important reaction.” In the preceding chapter, he had said, “Judging from the evidence which the proceedings of the ensuing year supply, there can be little doubt that the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Carolina, if not absolutely functus offlcio, if it had not ceased to exist for I do not think it had arrived at that result was, at least, in a feeble and languishing condition. After sixteen years of active existence, it had at length succumbed to that outward pressure, which so often paralyzes for a time, the energies of Masonry in particular localities, and under special circumstances. This period of inaction had probably begun some years before, although the silence of the public Gazette, the only authority to which we have access, had kept us ignorant of the morbid condition of the Order. In 1753, we suppose that the disease had come to its crisis, for it will be seen in the next chapter, that regeneration had taken place. A new deputation was issued, and the Provincial Grand Lodge was re-inaugurated under more formal circumstances.” The reasoning of this eminet Brother is not consistent. He had previously assigned a sufficient reason for the silence of the public Gazette. The scant notices which did not appear, do not indicate that the energies of Masonry had succumbed to outward pressure, or been paralyzed. In December 1751, the Festival of St. John the Evangelist had certainly been observed at Beaufort with much eclat. In December 1752, it had been commemorated in Charlestown in the usual manner and at Port Royal by a grand feast, and at every health drank, guns fired. In December 1753, when the Provincial Lodge was assembled in Charlestown, it elected as its Master, William Burrows, who, for many years, held the responsible and highly respected position of Master in Chancery of the Province; for its Junior Warden, Dr. John Moultrie, the younger, afterwards Colonial Governor of Florida; for its Treasurer, Paul Douxsaint, an eminent merchant, and for its Secretary, Peter Timothy, editor of the Gazette, and a man of much local note. And in December 1754, Henry Laurens, afterwards President of the Continental Congress, appears as one of the Grand Stewards. Surely, with such evidences, and when men of such position were taking an active part, there was no reason to presume that Freemasonry in South Carolina, had succumbed or become paralyzed. There was silence in regard to its doings, and we have lost the records of the transactions; but the connection of such men with the Craft, and the contemporaneous references in the By-Laws of Solomon’s Lodge, to the existence and active duties of a Grand Lodge and Grand Officers, furnish duties that silence did not at all imply extinction.
With deference, therefore, to the opinions of these eminent Brethren, I have arrive at a different conclusion. The deputation of 1754 was certainly, not the first organization of a Provincial Grand Lodge in South Carolina, as Brother Dalcho appears to have believed. I do not believe such deputation was occasioned by the cessation of the first Grand Lodge, as Brother Mackey seems to think, and the reasons for my belief have been given. You have learned from the note to Preston’s Illustrations, that unless annual elections of the Provincial Grand Master were made, the Patent of the Provincial Grand Master was no longer valid. The appointment of Deputy Grand Master, and of Grand Wardens, was a prerogative of the Provincial Grand Master, when therefore his office ceased, his appointees necessarily ceased with him.
But a Provincial Grand
Lodge was composed of a permanent membership; the Grand Lodge was required to be
assembled by the Provincial Grand Master or his Deputy. A Provincial Grand
Lodge, it would therefore appear, could be in existence, and yet not be
assembled, by reason of the want of a Provincial Grand Master or his Deputy. The
names of some of the Grand Officers appointed in December 1754 clearly show that
some, at least, of the permanent members were alive and in connection with the
Craft as members of some Lodge within the Provincial District. Up to 1743, from
which time the Gazette ceased the notices, there had been annual elections and
frequent rotation in office, and at the Festival of St. John the Evangelist,
December, 1742, we know as a fact that Benjamin Smith had been elected Grand
Master. The inference which I draw, is, that for some cause to us unknown at
this distant day, there had either been an accidental or intentional omission to
elect a Provincial Grand Master, and hence the necessity for a new Patent or
deputation. Quite possibly it was intentional, since a man of position, who
evidently was a Mason, was about to be sent to fill an important office in the
Province, and his appointment to the office of Provincial Grand Master was
desirable; if the office was filled, such deputation could not be made, and
hence a hiatus in the office was created. At this day, and in the absence of
official records or such direct contemporaneous testimony as would amount to
positive proof, we are necessarily left, in some measure, to conjecture. Brother
Dalcho’s statement has been given, and if, by it, he means to say that a
Provincial Grand Lodge was first organized in 1754, he is clearly mistaken. So
also I have stated the conclusion to which Brother Mackey had arrived, as
regarded the decadence of the First Provincial Grand Lodge, and a new
organization in 1754, and assigned my reasons for arriving at a different
conclusion. You, my Brethren of the Craft, must determine which is the most
probable. In the tangled obscurity of the past, the truth is hidden from the
muse of History. We can only seek to unravel the web as best we may. In a
subsequent part of this address, you will perceive the interest, which attaches
to the consideration of this particular question.
The Hon. Peter Leigh continued to hold the office of Provincial Grand Master until his death, on 21st August 1759, as appears from notices from time to time inserted in the Gazette. In an advertisement of 22nd December 1759, postponing the Communication, in consequence of the prevalence of a war, in which the Province was then engaged the hon. James Michie is styled Grand Master. Probably this was accidental, since he should have been designated as Deputy Grand Master. Quite possibly there was no Communication of the Grand Lodge in 1760, while awaiting a new deputation. The Grand Lodge was summoned to assemble on St. John the Evangelist’s Day, 1761, by order of the Grand Master elect, and in its notice of such meeting the Gazette of 9th January, 1762, says, “As we likewise hear, is a Commission appointing the Hon. Benjamin Smith, Esq., Grand Master of Masons in South Carolina. During the year 1762, and thence on wards, the advertisements for meetings of the Grand Lodge, are usually in language such as follows, which is from the Gazette of 29th May, 1762, to wit: “All present and former Grand and other officers and Stewards of the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in South Carolina, and all present Masters and Wardens of regular Lodges under the Provincial jurisdiction are desired to assemble in Quarterly Communication in the Lodge Room in Charlestown, on the second Thursday, being the tenth day of June, 5762. By the Grand Master’s command.” The persons to whom the summons is addressed, is important since it shews who composed the membership of the Grand Lodge, and appears therefore to add strength to the reasons previously assigned for supposing that the Grand Lodge organized in 1737, had not become extinct. So also is it important in saying, “the Most Ancient and Honorable Society,” for the use of the word Society appears to have been one of the distinctive marks, by which it was distinguished from the Ancient York Masons, of whom I shall presently speak, and which latter used the word Fraternity instead of Society.
The Hon. Peter Leigh then succeeded in the office of Grand Master by Hon. Benjamin Smith, who became such apparently by election, and certainly by deputation, in December 1761. I use the phrase “apparently by election,” because the advertisement made on 19th December 1761 is “By order of the Grand Master elect.”
Benjamin Smith served as Provincial Grand Master from December 1761, until December 1767, when, in consequence of declining health, he declined a re-election, and the Hon. Egerton Leigh, on St. John the Evangelist’s Day, of the latter year, was “unanimously elected Provincial Grand Master” in his place. It is stated in the notice of the St. John’s Day, 1762, which appeared in the Gazette 1st January, 1763, that “Hon. Egerton Leigh was re-elected R. W. Provincial Grand Master,” but this is evidently a newspaper mistake, since in the summons for the Annual Communication, December, 1763, it is “By order of Benjamin Smith, Esq., Grand Master, the Hon. Egerton Leigh, Esq., Deputy Grand Master, and the other officers and members of the Grand Lodge.” This manifest error, would rather confirm the opinion previously expressed, viz: that the silence of the Gazette from 1743 to 1754, furnish no reason to infer that during such period the Grand Lodge of 1737, was dormant or extinct. And to such notice may most appropriately be applied the language of the eminent Mason, M. W. Past Grand Master William Sewall Gardner, who, in his Address to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 27th December, 1871, in commenting upon a notice said: “The looseness of language by newspapers in those days in chronicling Masonic doings, was probably as common as we find it in our time.
The Hon. Egerton Leigh appears to have immediately after his election in December 1767, entered into the office of Grand Master, since the summons in December 1768, is “By the Grand Master’s command.” Brother Mackey states that his deputation was not issued until “the latter part of the year 1769,” but he also states of the Communication of 1767, “the Hon. Egerton Leigh presided at that Communication as Provincial Grand Master, with William Burrows as his Deputy.” In speaking of 1769 he says: “This year closed the Provincial Grand Mastership of Benjamin Smith, although it is not known that he presided over the Provincial Grand Lodge in person since the year 1767, when he gave notice of his intended resignation of that distinguished position.” I cannot concur in Brother Mackey’s statement, but on the contrary believe that Sir Egerton Leigh assumed the office and discharged the duties of Grand Master from December 1767.
Did time permit, it would be interesting to narrate various of the events connected with the administration of the Hon. Egerton Leigh, but I am admonished that in view of what else must be said, these must be passed. The student of Freemasonry in South Carolina will find it better told in the 4th chapter of Brother Mackey’s History of Freemasonry in South Carolina.
In 1776, commenced that revolution in the political affairs of the Colonies, which culminated on the 4th July 1776, in the Declaration of Independence. The Gazettes from time to time give notices of Masonic doings. From these we are not able continuously to trace the meetings of the Grand Lodge, but yet learn enough to show that it was in continual operation. Sir Egerton Leigh, a native of Great Britain, and holding office under the Crown, naturally was opposed to the revolutionary proceedings of the Colonies, and in which the people of South Carolina so fully and actively participated. Accordingly we find that, “on Sunday last, (19th June, 1774,) the sloop Speedwell, John Nash, Master, sailed for Rhode Island, with whom went passengers, Sir Egerton Leigh, Bart, with two of his daughters and some others.” The office of Attorney General, which he held, was filled on 13th April 1776, by the election by the people of South Carolina, of Alexander Moultrie to such office. No record is now to be traced of the Grand Lodge, until 19th December 1776. During this interval of silence, it is scarcely to be supposed that it ceased to assemble, we only have no knowledge of such assemblages. Momentous events had meanwhile occurred. Lexington, and Bunker Hill, and Fort Moultrie had evinced the earnestness with which the apparently feeble Colonies had entered upon, a rebellion against the usurpations of one of the most powerful nations of the world. The Declaration of Independence had proclaimed the thirteen Colonies to be no longer Provinces, but independent, sovereign States. South Carolina, first among her sisters to do so, on 26th March, 1776, had organized an independent State Government, and under the administration of President John Rutledge, and with State troops, struck her first blow in defence of he r asserted independence. On board Sir Peter Parker’s fleet, during the battle of Fort Moultrie, was Lord William Campbell, last Provincial Governor; he was wounded during the fight. Thus did the people of South Carolina, in their character of an independence State, drive out with force of arms, the vestiges of Provincial subjection.
The General Assembly of the State, at first assemblage after such declaration, had begun to use these words: “Be it enacted by His Excellency John Rutledge, Esq., President and Commander in Chief in and over the State of South Carolina, and by the honorable the Legislative Council and General Assembly of the said State, and by the authority of the same.” As appears by an Act of 8th October 1776. By Act of 12th October 1776, the members of the General Assembly were required to take “an oath of fidelity to this State.” During the same month, it issued money, levied taxes and otherwise exercised all the prerogatives of a separate, independent, sovereign State.
The legislative Council and General Assembly, shortly after 26th March, 1776, spoke thus: “We, the Legislative Council and General Assembly of South Carolina, convened under the authority of the equitable constitution of government, established by a free people in Congress, on the 26th ultimo,” &c.
Of the change of government, Dr. Ramsey says: “In this manner, without annihilating the forms of the Ancient Regal Constitution, a new government was in a short time introduced by the consent of the great body of the people.”
Of the influence exerted upon Masonry by this political condition, R. W. Brother Levi Woodbury, in his admirable Address before the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, at the celebration on 8th March, 1877, of “ the one hundredth anniversary of the organization of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge as a sovereign and independent Grand Lodge, “ says: “The Continental Congress formed in 1755, whose declaration in 1776 served the political bonds them to Great Britain, made our separation from the Grand Lodge of Scotland and our distinct organization a matter of political duty in the hearts of most patriots of our Provincial Grand Lodge and its subordinates; and on this day, one century ago, the Massachusetts Grand Lodge set up definitely and forever for herself, and began the construction of that theory of Territorial Grand Lodge Jurisdiction now acknowledged in America, and even in England, as embodying the true line of reason and Masonic light on the subject.” And again he says: “To become independent it was requisite that the lawful Lodges and Brethren here organized as a Grand Lodge should elect and install their Grand Master, by an act of their own will, in lieu of nominating to the Foreign Grand Lodge, and receiving there from the commission for a Deputy to be installed here by the Lodges. Or the Lodges in a State might constitute a Grand Lodge without any regard to Provincial organization or authority.” And yet once more he says: “The Constitutions clearly relieved the Colonial Masons of any necessity to owe a Foreign Masonic allegiance after their State had declared its independence and become a de facto government. On these points the Masons of 1777 seemed well settled in this Grand Lodge.” Brother Dalcho says: “But notwithstanding Freemasonry has nothing to do with particular forms of government, yet it comports with the dignity of the nation and the honor of the Craft, to have her Lodges independent of any Foreign Jurisdiction. As the American Revolution gave sovereignty and independence to the nation, so it produced a reasonable cause for the independence to the nation, so it produced a reasonable cause for the independence of the Masonic Body.” It is true that Brother Dalcho seems to imply that it was not until the successful termination of the American Revolution, that such Masonic independence was consummated; the reasoning of Brother Woodbury appears to be the more consistent. Certainly such was the cotemporances belief of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. And it is equally certain that such was the opinion held by the Masons of South Carolina.
In the South Carolina gazette, 19th December, 1776, the following summons appears: “The Grand Anniversary and General Communication of the Most Ancient and honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in South Carolina, is appointed to be holden in Charlestown on Friday, the 27th day of December, 1776, being the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, when all Brethren throughout this State are earnestly requested to assemble at 10 o’clock in the afternoon, at the Lodge Room at Poinsett’s Tavern, in order to proceed to the business of the day. Tickets, without which no one can be admitted, may be had of any Stewards of the Grand Lodge, viz: Messrs. George Cooke, James Neilson, Richard Holliday, Edward Oats, John Bothwell. By order of the Grand Lodge, John Wells, Jr., G. S. pro tem.”
In all previous summons, the words used had been Province, and Provincial jurisdiction, and “by the Grand Master’s command,” in the above State, takes the place of Province, and it issues “by order of the Grand Lodge.”
The following summons issuing during the terms of Grand Masters Peter Leigh, Benjamin Smith, and Egerton Leigh, will show the use of such terms. December 11th, 1756, “By order of the Most Worshipful, the Hon. Peter Leigh, Esq., Grand Master of Masons in South Carolina, the Very Worshipful the Hon. James Michie, Esq., Deputy Grand Master; the Right Worshipful the Hon. Benjamin Smith, Esq., and Mr. William Henderson, A. M. Grand Wardens, and the other Worshipful Officers and members of the Grand Lodge. The Provincial Grand Anniversary and General Communication of the most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, is appointed to be holden in the Lodge Room at Brother John Gordon’s, in Charlestown, on Monday, the 27th day of December, 5756, being the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, when and where all Brethren then in the Province of South Carolina, are desired to attend by eight of the clock, in the morning, (and particularly all Masters and Wardens of regular constituted Lodges under the Provincial jurisdiction, by themselves or deputies,) on the special business of the day. Tickets, without which none can be admitted, may be had from the 13th till the 23d inst. (but not after,) by applying to the Stewards of the Grand Lodge, viz: Robert Wells, John Cooper, Dougall Campbell, John Basnett, Paul Douxsaint, Samuel Bowman. By the Grand Master’s command, Samuel Perkins, G. S.” December 17, 1763, “By order of Benjamin Smith, Esq., Grand Master, the Honorable Egerton Leigh, Esq., Deputy Grand Master, and the other officers and members of the Grand Lodge. The Provincial Grand Anniversary and General Communication of the most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in South Carolina, is appointed to be holden in Charlestown, on Tuesday, the 27th day of December, 5763, being the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, when and where all Brethren then in the Province, who conveniently may, are desired to assemble by nine o’clock before noon, in the Lodge Room, from thence to proceed with the Grand Master to St. Philip’s Church, and upon the necessary business of the day. Any of the Stewards of the Grand Lodge, viz: Mr. Robert Wilson, Mr. William Guerin, Samuel Carne, Esq., Mr. Robert Rowand, Mr. John Chapman, and Mr. Andrew Cunningham, will accommodate such as apply, and have a right to tickets, for the solemnity. The Stewards give notice that they will issue no tickets after Saturday, the 24th instant. By the Grand Master’s command, Robert Wells, Grand Secretary.” December 19, 1768. “The Provincial Grand Anniversary and General Communication of the most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in South Carolina, is appointed to be holden on Tuesday, the 27th day of December next, being the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, when all Brethren then in the Province are desired to assemble at nine in the morning in the Lodge Room, at Mr. Dillon’s, in order to proceed to church, and on the other necessary business of the day. Tickets, without which none can be admitted, may be had by applying to any of the Stewards of the Grand Lodge, viz: Mr. Alexander Michie, John Deering, Esq., Mr. Brian Cape, Mr. Peter Valton, Mr. Isaac Motte, and Mr. Philip Tidyman. In the Provincial Grand Lodge, November the 24th, 5768. By the Grand Master’s command, Robert Wells, Grand Secretary.” December 5, 1770. “In the Provincial Grand Lodge, November 22, 5770. The Grand Anniversary and General Communication of the most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in South Carolina, is appointed to be holden at Charlestown, on Thursday, the 27th of December next, being the Feast of St. john the Evangelist, when all brethren then in the said Province are desired to assemble at 9 o’clock in the morning, in the Lodge Room at Dillon & Gray’s, in order to proceed to St. Michael’s Church, where a discourse suitable to the occasion, is to be delivered by a Brother, and on all other business of the day. Tickets, without which none can be admitted may be had by applying to any of the Grand Lodge (sic) viz: Messrs. John Owen, John Ward, John Harleston, John Scott, and Daniel Cannon. By the Grand Master’s command, Robert Wells, Grand Secretary.” Using the language of Brother Woodbury, I may say of the Masons of South Carolina, as he does of the Masons of Massachusetts. “On these points the Masons (of 1776) seemed well settled in this Grand Lodge.”
In the same Gazette of 2d January, 1777, appeared the following: “All present and former Grand and other officers and Stewards, of the Grand Lodge of the most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in South Carolina, and all present Masters and Wardens of Regular Lodges in this State, are desired to assemble in Quarterly Communication in the Lodge Room in Charlestown, at Poinsett’s Tavern, on the first Monday, being the third day of February, 5777. John Wells, Jr., G. S., pro tem.
In the Gazette, 11th December, 1777, appears “The Grand Anniversary and General Communication of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in South Carolina, is appointed to be holden in Charlestown on Saturday, the 27th day of December, 5777, being the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, when all Brethren throughout the State, are desired to assemble at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, at the Lodge Room in Poinsett’s Tavern, in order to proceed to the business of the day. Tickets, without which none can be admitted, may be had of any of the Stewards of the Grand Lodge, viz: Messrs. James Nelson, Richard Cole, William Holliday, Edward OATS, Richard Mereem, and Thomas Harper. By order of the Grand Master elect. John Wells, Jr., G. S.” And the notice on 1st January, 1778, in the Gazette, is as follows: “The Ancient Society of Freemasons celebrated their anniversary on Saturday last, being the Festival of St. John the Evangelist, when the Honorable Barnard Elliott, Esq., was installed Grand Master of Masons in this State. The Brethren, in number near 100, dined together, and passed the afternoon in a manner agreeable to the occasion, with that decent joy and harmony so essential to the Craft, and so conspicuous in all the assemblies of true and faithful Masons.” Of all these proceedings, Brother Mackey, in opening his 5th Chapter, says: “Thus was the Independent Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of South Carolina, established in the year 1777, not by a dissolution of the old Provincial Grand Lodge, and the organization by new Lodges of a superintending power, but by a simple resolution to throw off its Provincial and subordinate character, by a refusal to recognize any longer the authority of the deputation, which had been granted to Sir Egerton Leigh by the Duke of Beaufort, when the latter was the Presiding Officer of the Grand Lodge of England, and by the election of a Grand Master, who was installed as “the Grand Master of Masons of the State. The true date of the organization of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina was the year 1777, and its first Grand Master was Barnard Elliott.”
In all which Brother Mackey has so well and forcibly said, I cordially concur. But I may reasonably go further. The action by the Grand Lodge in December, 1776, calling the Communication “by order of the Grand Lodge,” was a distinct and clear assertion of its independent position, a recognition of the propriety of such course as arising from the recently claimed independence of the States. Such action was as positive as if announced in words; in the absence of records, who dare say that such words were not used and became incorporated in the records; if action is the consequence of words, such words may fairly be inferred to have been used. Our Brethren of 1776 were grappling with a great political question involving the birth of a new nation, and hence knew how changes were to be made. It is reasonable to suppose that in Masonic change they followed the precedent of the political change. They also were familiar with Anderson’s Constitutions; in the By-Laws of Solomon’s Lodge, those Constitutions are referred to as the foundations of Masonic law; our Brethren therefore knew that an independent Grand Lodge could be assembled without the presence of a Grand Master, his Deputy or the Senior Wardens; they knew that the Grand Lodge of England had been organized in 1717, with the oldest Master Mason and the Master of a Lodge in the chair. We do not know who was in the chair when independency of the Grand Lodge was determined, but we may reasonably suppose that they organized properly. If my reasoning is correct, upon such facts as we do know, is it unreasonable to say that the Grand Lodge of South Carolina, when it met in Annual Communication on St. John’s Day, December 27, 1776, met as an organized, independent Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts claims its independent organization from March, 1777; if that of South Carolina was in December, 1776, then it preceded Massachusetts by a little over two months. You have here presented to you the reasons which have led me to claim as I now do, that the first independent Grand Lodge of Freemasons organized on the continent of North America, was that of South Carolina.
A Grand Master having been elected and installed as above stated, the next meeting is summoned by his order, as appears by the advertisement of 10th February, 1778, “On Wednesday evening, February 25th, a Grand Lodge will be held in the Lodge Room, at Brother Holliday’s Tavern, when the members are desired to attend. By order of the Grand Master, John Wells, G. S.
In the Gazette of 29th October 1778, this notice appears: “On the 25th day of October, in the strength of his days, departed this life Barnard Elliott, Esq., a member of the General Assembly, and Lieutenant-Colonel of the Continental Corps. Of Artillery in the State. As a man, he was charitable, humane, benevolent; as a gentleman, affable yet unobtrusive; polite yet unaffected. The heartfelt duties of husband and father, he filled in a manner truly worthy of imitation. As a brother, affection and tenderness guided his conduct; as a friend, he was warm, attached, steady and sincere; as a citizen, he was laudable, jealous of civil rights and privileges as a zealous in supporting them; as a soldier, he was manly, brave, spirited and capable; as a Christian he was religious without superstition, devout without enthusiasm. He died with the noble firmness of the first profession, the resignation and confidence of the latter. MDCCLXXVII. His remains were interred on Tuesday, in St. Philip’s Church. A party of military preceded the corpse, which was followed by a long train of mourners, the Society of Free Masons, (of which he was Grand Master) His excellency the President, the Vice-President, Generals Howe and Moultrie, the other officers, civil and military, &c., the whole forming one of the most solemn funeral processions ever seen.”
Except in the notices of the Lodge of Ancient York Masons, presently to be referred to, the Gazettes of the day are silent about Masonic matters for the next three years. The cost of advertising had risen to twenty dollars for a square of eight lines, and this may have prevented the insertion of the summons. The country was going through a desperate struggle, and the columns of the papers are chiefly filled with telling of the progress of the contest. During this period, Charleston had been besieged, had fallen; many of its prominent citizens sent as prisoners to St. Augustine, or kept on the prison ships; the victorious British troops had overrun the State; the State Government was fugitive, and the hopes of the people were kept alive only by the heroic doings of Marion, Sumter, Pickens, and a few other gallant spirits, who were able here and there to rally a little handful of men, and battle for their asserted liberty. Under such circumstances, there is no need to wonder, that we learn so little about Masonic doings.
In the Royal Gazette, 21st November, 1781, there appeared as follows: “The office of Provincial Grand Master being vacant, by the death of Hon. Sir Egerton Leigh Baronet, the Master and Wardens of the several Regular Constituted Lodges throughout the Province, are requested to meet at the house of Brother Jas. Strickland, on Saturday the 1st of December next, at 6 o’clock in the evening, to consider of a fit and proper Brother to fill that high and important station, and of the other matters of greatest importance to the Craft.”
Of this advertisement, it will be noticed that it does not purport to be an official act by the revived Provincial Grand Lodge, and it designates South Carolina as a Province.
But in the same Gazette, 19th December, 1781, there appears an official summons, in which the re-authority of the Provincial Grand Lodge is asserted, it is as follows: “Grand Lodge, December 1, 5781, a Quarterly and General Communication of the most ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, will be held at the house of Brother James Strickland, in Charlestown, on Thursday, the 27th day of December, instant, being St. John’s Day, at 11 o’clock in the afternoon, when and where all former Grand Officers, and the present Masters and Wardens of the Regularly Constituted Lodges throughout the Province, under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Grand Lodge, in particular, and the Brethren in general are desired to attend. By order of the Grand Lodge, John Wells, Jr., G. S. Tickets, without which none can be admitted, to be had of Brothers Robert Baird, Anthony Montell, James Bentham, Edward Legge, John C. Morris, John Hatfield, Grand Stewards. Dinner on the table at 3 o’clock.”
This is an assertion of the re-established authority of the Provincial Grand Lodge, and an equal assertion that the State was again a Province. Whether in the light of after events, and the declarations of the Treaty of Paris, the State, became overrun, thereby again became a Province, will be considered in another place. The summons us “By order of the Grand Lodge,” and the importance of such words will be seen, when considered in connection with the deputation of 1754, and with the establishment of the Grand Lodge of December, 1776. And I desire to call attention to the fact, that the summons is signed by John Wells, Jr., as Grand Secretary, who, when we last met him, called, in like capacity, that Grand Lodge at which Barnard Elliott was installed, “Grand Master of Masons in this State.”
Of the meeting thus called, the Royal Gazette, 29th December, 1781, says: “Last Thursday being the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, the Society of Freemasons held their Provincial Grand Anniversary, agreeably to the notice given in this paper. The Provincial Grand Master’s chair being vacated by the death of the Hon. Sir Egerton Leigh, Baronet, John Deas, Esq., by the unanimous suffrage of the Brethren present, was chosen so fill it. The Brethren, about 60 in number, dined at the Lodge Room, at Strickland’s, and passed the afternoon and evening with the decent joy and harmony so essential to the Craft, and so conspicuous in all assemblies of true and faithful Masons.”
As was before said, after the siege and capture of Charleston in May 1780, the Independent State of South Carolina, was so overrun by British troops, that the British Government styled it again a Province. The brave and fiery General Christopher Gadsden, the Lieutenant Governor, was a prisoner confined in the dungeons at St. Augustine. John Rutledge, the Governor, had been obliged to leave the State. All the machinery of an independent State Government was suspended, and had the revolution not finally succeeded, then it would have been regarded as an abortive rebellion, and the State become relegated back into a Province. The issue of such revolution was success, and by the first Article of the Treaty of Paris, dated 30th November, 1782, “His Britannic Majesty, acknowledges the said United States, viz: New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, and Province Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to be free, sovereign and independent State; that he treats with them as such.” Now let it be remembered that at the time when this Treaty treated with South Carolina as a free, sovereign and Independent State, the British troops were still occupying Charleston its capital. In all official documents of the United States, the independence of such States is dated from July 4, 1776. The fact that at one time during such contest the Continental Congress, the Government, had been driven out of Philadelphia, its seat, and that city occupied by the victorious British troops, has never been and never can be regarded as altering the official date of the independence of the United States. Even when Rhode Island and Province plantations, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey were overrun, the Government of France was making its treaty with them as independent States; and still later when Georgia and South Carolina were in like plight, the State’s General of the United Netherlands, was making with them a like treaty. The independence of the State of South Carolina, notwithstanding that for two years it was overrun by and in the armed occupation of British troops, and in the official proclamations issued by the British officials during that period, was styled a Province, bears its date from 4th July, 1776. And by parity of reasoning, its independent Grand Lodge will bear its date from the time when it asserted and acted as an independent Grand Lodge.
The Grand Lodge of New York appears never to have taken any direct action towards asserting its independence, and from the report submitted by a committee on 6th June, 1787, adopted by the Grand Lodge, certainly regarded no such assertion necessary. The political status has become changed, and the Province became a State, and with its independence had come the independence of the Grand Lodge. From the circumstances connected with the Grand Warrant under which it worked, the date of its action as an independent Grand Lodge, can scarcely be assigned earlier than 19th September 1783. But with the election of William Cock as its Grand Master on that day, there would seem to be room to doubt that it then asserted itself to be and acted as an independent Grand Lodge, fulfilling the conditions so well laid down by Brother Woodbury. This nearly contemporaneous opinion of the Masons of so important a jurisdiction cannot but add strength to the argument, which I have used.
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