Vol. XX No. 8 — August 1942

Seven Great Masons

From a Digest of The Masonic Service Association (November 5, 1941) containing short biographies of ninety-eight Masons whose services to the fraternity made them noteworthy, these excerpts are taken. Choice was dictated by the fact that Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia are the ancestors of all the grand lodges in the United States.

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Henry Price was born about 1697 in London and came to New England about 1723, returning later to England. It is recorded in the minutes of the Grand Lodge of England that in 1730 he was a member of Lodge No. 75, meeting at the Rainbow Coffee House in York Buildings, London. He is mentioned as being in a lawsuit at Boston in 1733 and was in business there as a tailor. During 1733 Governor Jonathan Belcher appointed him Cornet in his Troop of Guards with the rank of Major. The office was that of Standard Bearer. The executors of Price allude to him in 1792 as Major Price. He carried on business for some time at the Sign of the Brazen Head on Cornhill, near the present No. 36 Washington Street, about half-way between Water Street and State Street in Boston. He adhered to the Church of England and attended Trinity Church. He died on May 20,1780.

April 30,1733, the Right Honorable and Right Worshipful Anthony Lord Viscount Montague, Grand Master of England, issued a Deputation appointing Henry Price as Provincial Grand Master of New England. Price was authorized to appoint his Deputy Grand Master and Wardens, and “to constitute the Brethren now Residing or who shall hereafter reside in these parts, into One or more Regular Lodge or Lodges, as he shall think fit, and as often as Occasion shall require.”

On Monday, July 30, 1733, Henry Price convened at Boston the following Brethren: Andrew Belcher, Thomas Kennelly, John Quane, Henry Hope, Frederick Hamilton, John McNeall, Peter Hall, Matthew Young, John Waddell, and Edward Ellis at the house of Edward Lutwych “at ye Sign of the Bunch of Grapes in King Street.” This celebrated inn was situated on what is now the corner of State and Kilby Streets, and on the westerly side of the last named street. Brother Price produced his deputation appointing him Provincial Grand Master of New England. By virtue of this deputation he formed and opened a Provincial Grand Lodge, appointed Right Worshipful Brother Andrew Belcher as Deputy Grand Master and Worshipful Brothers Thomas Kennelly and John Quane as Grand Wardens pro tempore. Several Brothers were then made Freemasons. Then, “granting the prayer thereof, he then and there in the most solemn manner according to ancient Rt. and Custom and the form prescribed in our printed Book of Constitutions, constituted the Brethren into a regular Lodge, in manner and form.” Henry Hope was chosen Master and he nominated Frederick Hamilton and James Gorder as Wardens. These being presented to Grand Master Price, he “caused them to be duly examined, and being found duly qualified, approved and confirmed them in their respective stations by investing them with the implements of their office, giving each his proper charge, and admonishing the Brethren of the Lodge to do obedience and submission, according to our printed Book of Constitutions, Charges and Regulations, and so forth.”

Thus Masonry began in New England.

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New York

Robert R. Livingston, Chancellor of the State of New York, jurist, statesman, scientific agriculturist, promoter of invention and industry, encourager of the fine arts, essayist, and orator, was installed Grand Master on March 3,1784. He held that office for the longest period any man has ever held it — seventeen consecutive years.

When he ascended the Grand East, grand lodge could count on the allegiance of only a handful of scattered lodges; its future was gloomy and obscure. When he turned over the gavel to his successor in 1801, there were more than ninety lodges on the roster and the future was safe. The seventeen years of his grand mastership in the Empire State formed a bridge between an epoch of Masonic anarchy and one of orderly government.

The chancellor was one of the most gifted men of his generation. He thought profoundly, possessed extraordinary skill in marshalling facts, was ingenious as well as sound in argument, and combined dignity with grace in discussion. He was steeped in classical lore and the literature of the ancients. In his time judges gave their opinions orally and there were no law reporters. Consequently there is no way of comparing the chancellor’s legal opinions with those of his successors, but Chancellor Kent has given eloquent testimony of his ability.

As Chancellor of New York it fell to him to administer the inaugural oath to George Washington as first President of the United States, using the altar Bible of St. Johns Lodge No. 1 (then No. 2) in the ceremony. In the trying years of 1781-83 he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Perhaps his most important gift to Freemasonry lay in the contribution of his personal influence and prestige to the delicate and difficult task of bringing the Moderns and Ancients, the upstate and city Masons of New York, into one harmonious brotherhood. Infinite tact and patience were necessary to settle problems of working and precedence, and to pacify local jealousies. Lines of demarcation were clearly drawn between the wishes and interests of upstate lodges on the one hand and the city lodges on the other. Friction begotten of the long struggle for independence was complicated by the exigencies of a new and little-tried system of government in which partisanship ran riot.

Most Worshipful Brother Livingston died at Clermont on February 26, 1813. He left his country, his state and his fraternity inestimably the richer because he had lived.

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Benjamin Franklin was not merely a lodge member content with that and nothing more, but a Freemason intensely interested in his Craft, willing to give his enormous powers for its welfare, and leaving an indelible impress upon its history.

Franklin was initiated in 1731 and probably at the February meeting of St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia. From an old and extraordinarily interesting account book, the famous Liber B, we know the Lodge was in existence as early as December 8, 1730. In his Gazette Franklin published story after story about Freemasonry in America in general and Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in particular; these have become foundation stones on which is erected the early history of Freemasonry in this nation.

His whole life of public service, his boundless courage, which led him to express himself roundly on the non-popular side of many questions, his tremendous ability, would naturally bring him to the fore. It is not surprising that he was very soon (1735) elected secretary, an office he held until 1738. What is surprising, supposing our early brethren were as conservative as are we, is to find him a member of a committee to draft by-laws of his lodge in 1732; to this happening we are indebted for certain pages in Liber B in the handwriting of the great patriot.

Still more amazing in these days of lengthy six years of service before a brother receives any recognition in grand lodge, is his appointment as junior warden of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania on St.John the Baptist’s Day, June 24, 1732 and election as grand master in 1734.

The first or Mother Grand Lodge was formed in London in 1717. Six years later Anderson’s Constitutions was first published. The second edition did not appear until 1738, and by 1734, the edition of 1723 was long exhausted. This was an opportunity — who better might print the Constitutions for American Masons than the grand master? In August 1734 the “Masons’ Book” was ready; seventy copies were sent to Boston, others to Charleston, and still later, more to Boston. Some fifteen copies of this Masonic rarity are still cherished in Masonic libraries.

According to old Masonic and family traditions, the cornerstone of the statehouse in Philadelphia (Independence Hall) built while Franklin was grand master, was laid by him and the brethren of St. Johns Lodge.

Among his first actions in France, when he appeared as Ambassador, were affiliations with Masonic lodges. In 1777 he was elected a member of the famous Loge des Neuf Soeurs (Lodge of the Nine Sisters or Nine Muses) of Paris, and in 1778 he assisted in Voltaire’s initiation into this Lodge. The following year (1779) he was elected master of the Lodge of the Nine Sisters; it is not definitely known how much he actually served or if he was but an honorary master. In 1782 he became a member of Loge de Saint Jean de Jerusalem, and the following year was elected Venerable d’Honneur of that body. The same year he was elected honorary member of Loge des Bans Amis (Good Friends), Rouen.

April 17, 1790, Benjamin Franklin passed to the Grand Lodge above.

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John Marshall, Grand Master 1793-95, when grand lodge met quarterly, never missed a communication. He is one who aided much in useful activities of grand lodge. Shortly after his day in grand lodge, not only Virginia but also other jurisdictions were getting into the education field. Six months or so before Marshall’s death in 1835, he was named chairman of a committee to “devote the Grand Charity Fund to the purpose of educating Orphan Children of Master Masons and to prepare a Memorial to the General Assembly of Virginia, for an Act ‘Resolved, That the appointment of thirteen Trustees be provided for said act of incorporation, with power to fill any vacancy in their own body, and that the first Trustees be, Brother John Marshall.’” Eleven other names follow.

The report indicated handling the fund such as educational loan funds are now handled, that is, to provide money to send boys to labor and literary schools, and several colleges are named, with the tuition of each.

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North Carolina

William Richardson Davie, third grand master, outstanding educator and governor, was born in England, June 20,1756. When William was about seven years of age, he was taken to the Waxhaw Settlement.

While William was a student at Princeton, the American Revolution broke out. Although an Englishman, he placed his services, along with other Princeton students, at the disposal of New Jersey authorities. He saw his first fighting in New Jersey in the summer of 1776. Shortly after his arrival in Salisbury, the war reached that part of the country. In 1777 he cast aside his law books and buckled on his sword, signing with the troops under General Allen Jones who was preparing a journey for the defense of Charleston, South Carolina.

He helped to organize a troop of cavalry in Rowan and Mecklenburg Counties. Davie advanced rapidly in his military career. He was promoted from lieutenant to captain and soon afterwards he was promoted to the rank of major. His leadership brought honor to his regiment and fame for himself. He was wounded in the Battle of Stone Ferry, near Charleston, South Carolina, June 20,1779. That was a severe blow to the cause of the colonists, since his wound prevented his serving in the army for several months.

To attempt to enumerate all of the battles in which Davie took part would be out of the question, however, all of his battles were marked by one characteristic; his attacks were always unsuspected by the enemy. At the Battle of Hanging Rock, near Waxhaw, was a boy thirteen years of age. This boy, Andrew Jackson, was elected twice to the Presidency of the United States and served as Grand Master in Tennessee. Jackson called Davie the best soldier he had ever known.

At the close of the war, Davie moved to Halifax and opened his law office. In reasoning and illustrative powers, Davie had no superior. In appearance he was tall and graceful. He had an analytical and logical mind, his style of speech was clear, and he often soared to heights of eloquence. He was the first lawyer in the country to advance the opinion that the court had the power to declare an act of the General Assembly unconstitutional.

Davie was initiated December 24, 1791, and on December 11, 1792, not quite one year, was elected grand master. A significant fact worthy of mention is that until a man had either presided as worshipful master over a lodge or received the Past Masters Degree he could not become a member of grand lodge; hence assuming Davie was automatically declared a member of grand lodge without any mention made in minutes, then the earliest he could have been a member was at the communication at which he was nominated grand master (December n, 1792). He was not present to be installed December 30, 1792, but he did preside at the annual communication December 14, 1793. His first visit after. He did not serve his lodge as master, since he was made a Mason in an occasional Lodge. In fact, it is believed that he was not a member of any lodge when elected grand master.

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South Carolina

The great American Masonic historian and jurist, Albert Gallatin Mackey, has had so profound an effect upon Freemasonry the world over that it is difficult, even after the many years which have passed since his death in 1881, properly to evaluate his labors.

Bom at Charleston, March 12, 1807, he graduated with honors from Charleston Medical College in 1834. He practiced his profession for twenty years. But then the magic of the pen and the voice of the Craft called him from scalpel and medicine to paper and ink, and the rest of his life was devoted almost wholly to Freemasonry.

Raised in St. Andrews Lodge No. 10 of Charleston in 1841, he affiliated with famous old Solomons Lodge No. 1, and was elected its Master in 1842. From 1843 to 1866 he was grand secretary of the grand lodge of his state, and also foreign correspondent. Eighteen fifty-one saw him a founder member of Landmark Lodge No. 76; much later, after removing to Washington, D.C., he affiliated with La Fayette Lodge No. 19.

Meanwhile, in spite of his Blue Lodge labors, his restless energy demanded other avenues; they were found in Capitular Masonry, in which he rose to be Grand High Priest (1855 to 1867) and finally General Grand High Priest (1859 to 1868). Eminent commander of South Carolina Commandery No. 1, in 1842, he was later honored by being made past grand warden of the Grand Encampment of the United States.

Crowned with the 33rd and last degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction, he was an active member of the supreme council and served as secretary general for many years. It was during this time that he was closely associated with Albert Pike. Of the many works which Dr. Mackey contributed to the Craft, probably an almost universal judgment would list the Encyclopedia as of greatest importance. Previous to its publication there was no authoritative work of equal scope anywhere in the world — indeed, no other Encyclopedia since has approached it in thoroughness.

Mackey’s great work on jurisprudence has well stood the test of time. He is quoted often as a final authority. His clear-cut and cleanly phrased principles are written into practically all grand lodge codes and constitutions. He laid down in terms so distinct there can be no misunderstanding, the relation of a Master to his lodge, to his grand lodge, the function of Masonic law, the foundation stones on which the legal system of Freemasonry is built. To his labors American Masons owe much of the justice of Masonic procedure in trial and punishment and practically all of the parliamentary practice of Masonic bodies.

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William S. Rockwell was born at Albany, New York, in 1804, and died in Maryland in 1865. He came to Georgia as a young man, and made his home in Milledgeville, then the capital of the state, where he entered on the practice of law, and for many years occupied a high position at the bar of his adopted state.

He was a man of deep learning, with a familiar acquaintance with several languages, both ancient and modern, and was well versed in the sciences. Archeology was his favorite study. In 1848 he was induced by the great Egyptologist, George R. Gliddon, to direct his attention particularly to the study of Egyptian antiquities. Already well-acquainted with the philosophy and science of Masonry, he applied his Egyptian studies to the interpretation of the Masonic symbols with interesting results.

Brother Rockwell was a Masonic writer of note. William R. Singleton, in his salutatory to History of Freemasonry (Albert G. Mackey) says:

In the conclusion of the admirable Historical Sketch of the Order of Knights Templar by Theodore S. Glurdin, of Charleston, S. C., in 1855, he says: “The history of our Order remains yet to be written. It cannot be attempted by an American, alone and unaided. But this great work can and ought to be undertaken by the Templars of the United States. Let them select a brother who, from his great learning and his thorough knowledge of the principal modern languages, as well as the dead, is fully qualified for the work. I know but two brethren in the United States who are qualified to execute the work proposed: Brother Albert G. Mackey, of Charleston, S.C., and Brother William S. Rockwell, of Milledgeville, Ga.”

He was the author of an Ahiman Rezon for the Grand Lodge of Georgia, published in 1859, which displays abundant evidence of his learning and research. He also contributed many valuable articles to various Masonic periodicals, and was one of the collaborators of Mackey’s Quarterly Review of Freemasonry.

He served the Grand Lodge of Georgia as its grand master in the years 1857 to 1862 inclusive. Endowed with a brilliant intellect as well as a vigorous and practical mind, his leadership made this a golden period in the history of Georgia Masonry.

The Masonic Service Association of North America