The Twentieth Degree


     There are 29 degrees that comprise a Consistory, each with it's own
history, moral lessons, and obligation.  Of these, one that stands out
is the 20th Degree - Grand Master of All Symbolic Lodges; or Master Ad
Vitam.  In this degree, we learn that the right to govern in a Lodge is
not only acquired by formal selection and suffrage of the brethren and
subsequent installation, but also by the power of Masonic intelligence,
which is attained by patient labor and the study of Masonic Law,
together with a true understanding and ability to teach the tenets,
doctrines and symbolic legends of our Order.

THERE ARE NINE (9) GREAT LIGHTS IN THE LODGE; CHARITY, GENEROSITY,
HEROISM, HONOR, PATRIOTISM, JUSTICE, TOLERATION AND TRUTH.  OF THESE,
THE SEVENTTH, (PATRIOTISM) IS THE MOST REVERED.  THIS SHORT STORY WILL
HELP TO ILLUSTRATE WHY.

              The Time:  December, 1775.  Late Afternoon
      The Place:  Old Vassel or Cragie House, in Cambridge Mass.
Present:  George Washington, MG Richard Gridley, Joshua Wentworth (aide)
Prince Hall, Cyrus Jonbus, Bensten Slinger, Thomas Sanderson & Peter
Best

                                                                                                         The Scene:
Washington and Gridley were poring over a military map and discussing
the need to consolidate their resources and try to prevent another
attack on Boston by the British.  During this discussion, they were
interrupted by Washington's aide with news that several "men of color"
wished an audience to speak on a matter of grave importance.  Even
though Washington was busy planning his defense, he allowed the men to
enter.  Prince Hall, the speaker of the group, petitioned Washington as
the Commander-in-Chief, that free men of color be allowed to enlist as
regular soldiers in the Patriot Army.  Washington, knowing that to allow
this he would be treading on "shaky ground", implored MG Gridley to give
his opinion.

Gridley felt that it would cause major dissent by white soldiers if this
occurred.  Prince Hall stated that he could not understand why.  He
wanted to know what objection ANYONE could have to sharing the burden of
defending one's common land.  He reminded Washington of Crispus Attucks,
one of the first to die in defense of this country.  Washington asked
for Gridley to confirm this and he did.  While doing so, Gridley noticed
that Prince Hall was wearing a Masonic emblem.  He asked by what
authority that he did so.  Hall stated that by due initiation into the
Fraternity, in Lodge #41 of the Irish Registry, assigned to General
Gage, on March 6th of that year.

Gridley was incensed that these men had consorted with the enemy to
receive their degrees and wanted to know what kind of patriots they
could possibly be?  Hall informed him that it was ONLY after several
attempts of petitioning the lodge there in Boston and being denied
continually, did they petition the others and that at the time their
petition was made, the Declaration of Independence had not been made. 
Gridley was adamant however, and said that he could not support them in
their cause.  (Gridley had lost a close friend in a recent battle with
the army led by Gage).  He felt that to advocate the cause of the men he
deemed "not fit" timber for the Masonic Order, would betray his memory
and his friendship, with his dead friend General Joseph Warren, who had
died at Bunker Hill.

Washington, who had been listening to this cold exchange, could not and
did not give his support to MG Gridley and informed Prince Hall and the
others that he would "lay the matter before Congress", while at the same
time granting the request until it was reversed.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Black soldiers have fought in every
war this country has ever participated in and served with valor. 
Crispus Attucks, Benjamin O. Davis (Sr&Jr), Roscoe C. Cartwright, and a
host of others, serving as a shining example of the love that we as Men
and Masons have for this country.  Never forget our heritage, nor let
others forget.
     "Let the great light of PATRIOTISM shine in our lodge:  Patriotism
      willing to sacrifice itself for the common good, even when neither
      thanks nor honor follow it, but does the right without regard to
      consequences; the patriotism of Leonidas, who died to hold       
      Thermoplae; of Curtius, who leaped in the yawning gulf; of       
      Socrates, who died because the law willed it, rather than escape; 
      of all who love the soil that gave them birth enough to die for it 
      unwept, unhonored, and unsung.
                              FIAT LUX!                                                                                                    Bro. Stanley R. Conyer
                                                                                                                                                                                    09/09/91
                                                                                                                                                                                    James A. Mingo Consistory #334

*Adapted freely from the A.A.S.R.