It is important to revisit the issue of the National Grand Lodge based on propagated misconceptions by the present PHO-National Compact adherents concerning its origins, structure, operation and eventual demise in 1878.
The National Grand Lodge was a sincere endeavor by the members of African American Grand Lodges and Lodges to bring about union in the Craft and secure their survival in a society that had excluded them as men and Masons. According to Massachusetts Prince Hall Grand Lodge:
It is true that a faction of hardliners continued to hold up the banner of the National Grand Lodge, they had lost the majority of their leadership to mergers with Independent Grand Lodges, and even those who were in leadership were left without subordinate Lodges to affiliate with.
Today, the “Prince Hall Origin” National Compact claim to be the direct descendants of the National Grand Lodge, citing that the National Grand Lodge, legally and constitutionally, continued its existence up to this day. They have created a National Historical and Research Society which attempts to preserve and propagate their “continued existence” theory, as well as lay charges to those Independent Grand Lodges, who withdrew from the Compact, that they rebelled against the authority of the National Grand Lodge, and formed an alliance to make victim the National Grand Lodge with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio at the helm.
The Proceedings and pamphlets that were circulated in that day present another story, one that the National Grand Lodge present constituents fail to acknowledge or accept. The members of the Compact were loyal and wanted the endeavor to succeed, it was for our survival. But, once the leadership of the National Grand Lodge, namely Richard Howell Gleaves, William D. Matthews, and George Levere began to create tyranny, oppressing the Grand Lodges, interfering in their affairs and elections, establishing Lodges in territories already occupied by Grand lodges, burdening the lodges with heavy taxation, it became necessary to declare independence and return to the sovereignty from when they came. This article serves to refute one such testimony of a National Grand Lodge official and chairman of their Historical Society, who attempts to forge an account of an Independent Grand Lodge of Ohio as a conspirator against the National Grand Lodge initiative. But, as we will soon discover, his version (or should I say revision) of accounts are attempts to paint the National Grand Lodge as a victim and discredit a Grand Lodge history that bears such greatness and substantial impact on Prince Hall Freemasonry in America.
Mr. Belcher, in a social media discussion, called his style of writing, “rhetorical”, which in this case, is historical revisionism and weak insinuations veiled as rhetorical questions-he believes that this style relieves him of having to produce any real evidence to his “conclusions”. Let’s look at this paper and view the errors and bring light to many of the “rhetorical” questions posed throughout the “work”.
After diligent research of the years leading up to the departure of the Grand Lodge of Ohio from the Compact, we find a LOYAL and FERVENT body of Masons in the state of Ohio-for example, in 1856 there were 5 members from the Jurisdiction of Ohio who held National Grand Lodge seats:
With these facts in view, we can see the assumption of leverage based on numbers dwindle, but it gets more interesting as we go into the Grand Lodge of Ohio’s Proceedings in subsequent years to the 1856 Triennial Session.
In 1861, the Grand Lodge of Ohio had grown 4 Lodges from 18 to 22, and according to their Report from the Committee on Accounts, at the 1861 Annual Communication, they weren’t bringing in much revenue from the Subordinate Lodges under their Jurisdiction.6
In fact, for the year of 1860, the Grand Lodge received $161.75, and paid out $157.43, and ended with $12.32 IN CASH, but $101.00 owed to the Grand Lodge from Subordinates and members.7In the 1861 Annual Communication, the Grand Secretary collected $45.25 in dues from the lodges and $3.00 back dues from Prince Hall Lodge #10, but reported debt of the Grand Lodge at $208.20, of which $83.60 was owed to the National Grand Lodge.8 Further, we find this report given on pg. 16 of said Annual Communication :
In 1862, the Grand Lodge of Ohio didn’t add any Lodges to their rolls, took in $163.10 in revenue, but was in debt for $179.40, of which $107.76 was owed to the National Grand Lodge for “the NATIONAL TAX up to 1862”.10
While Mr. Belcher is coming from a political angle in his allegation of the Grand Lodge of Ohio, a thorough research of the records will provide a more valid FINANCIAL REASON for the departure of the Grand Lodge of Ohio from the Compact.
One excerpt in Mr. Belcher’s article posed this “rhetorical” question:
Sufficient documentation has effectively uncovered the vast error in Mr. Belcher’s position that the Grand Lodge of Ohio left due to the amendment of 1865. In fact, the Grand Lodge of Ohio exhibited considerable loyalty to the National Grand Lodge, in stark contrast to distorted version of events presented by the Chairman of the NGLHRS. PHO attempts to paint the Grand Lodge Ohio as conspirators against the National Grand Lodge, but we have to view the facts objectively, and without prejudice.
In the year 1863, H. W. P. Spencer, Grand Master of the State of Ohio, in the Grand Master’s Annual Address, made a recommendation “that each Subordinate Lodge working under its jurisdiction be taxed in the sum of ten dollars, for the purpose of settling, in part, the present (1863) debt due the M. W. National Grand Lodge.”22
In the year 1865, at the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Ohio, Grand Master, E. A. Fulton, in his Annual Grand Master’s Address, stated that he severed ties with Louisiana for the sake of the Compact.24 In 1866, the Grand Lodge of Ohio passed the following resolution in regards to the Grand Lodges in Louisiana and Missouri (Grand Lodges that didn’t recognize the National Grand Lodge):
Whenever you are receiving the revisionist theories of the PHO camp concerning the events that led to the fall of the National Grand Lodge, we never hear about the loyalty of Ohio, or that they defended the National Grand Lodge Constitution; we only receive the AFTER YEARS version of the accounts. Rather than allow Masonic conspiracy theorists to feed the public gross inaccuracies regarding the withdraw of Ohio from the National Compact; let’s allow Ohio to speak for themselves. Below is the Committee on the Grand Master’s Report, delivered September 21st, 1868, Special Communication28:
Without truly giving thought to his assumption, he places R. H. Gleaves at the helm of the movement to amend the 1856 Constitution. Belcher believes that there was some power moves taking place in the Grand Lodge of Ohio, but AMPLE evidence has already reduced that notion to mere speculation on his part. Why would R. H. Gleaves lead the movement to re-draft the Constitution?
R. H. Gleaves was the National Deputy Grand Master in 1865, going into the Triennial Session that year-next in line to sit in the East. If he could get the Constitution changed to allow the National Grand Master the authority to set up Lodges and Grand Lodges in the other 37 States, where there were no Grand Lodges; if they could set up lodges in the territories where there were lodges ALREADY established by subordinate Grand Lodges, but NO GRAND LODGE at that location, it spelled MUCHO DINERO for the National Grand Master. Let’s take another look at the resolution:
“Therefore, be it Resolved, That it shall not be lawful for any Grand Lodge, or any member thereof, working under the jurisdiction of this M. W. N. G. Lodge, to OPEN or CONSTITUTE ANY SUBORDINATE Lodge or Lodges in ANY PLACE whatever out of their respective districts or jurisdictions, UNLESS BY SPECIAL DIRECTION OF the M. W. N. G. Master be, and W. N. G. Master. And further, that the M. W. N. G. Master be and is hereby AUTHORIZED AND EMPOWERED TO DELEGATE TO ANY ONE OR MORE OF THE M. W. N. G. LODGE OFFICERS, to the M. W. G. Master, or other officer or officers of any Subordinate Grand Lodge, the authority to open and to constitute new Lodges in ANY DISTRICT or PARTS of the UNITE STATES OF AMERICA, where there is not a Grand Lodge working under the Jurisdiction of this M. W. N. G. Lodge.”
R. H. Gleaves is elected National Grand Master at the same Triennial that the National Grand Lodge Historical and Research Society Chairman admits that Gleaves made “counter moves” to amend the Constitution(1865), but what he failed to disclose was that Gleaves as the National Grand Master profited off of the amendment. Gleaves was National Grand Master from 1865-77, and the National Grand Lodge under the amendment moved into 7 new territories, and established 7 more Grand Lodges by 1872.29 Mr. Belcher is right on this point, that Gleaves was a major “player”; the foresight to amass a movement to amend the Constitution to profit him while he sat as National Grand Master-evil genius; there is much that can be found concerning Gleaves and his irregular and sometimes illegal practices. Mr. Belcher then cites this curious fact:
There was NO MOVE to countermove, Ohio wasn’t hurt or helped by the amendment-it was the National Grand Lodge and Richard Howell Gleaves that profited off of the amendment. It wasn’t until THREE YEARS LATER that Ohio withdrew from the National Compact, IF we were to accept Mr. Chairman’s theory, he would have to explain why Ohio waited 3 whole years to withdraw from the National Compact, AFTER THE AMENDMENT OF 1865; Ohio withdrew from the Compact in 1868.
I fault this article published in the Compact organ for not utilizing ALL of the resources available, namely the Proceedings of the very Jurisdiction that you have featured the article on; and for making thinly veiled accusations without thoroughly studying all of the available information. We cannot continue to allow prejudices and indoctrinations to be passed off as viable and accurate accounts of historical events and their outcomes. It is our duty as writers, historians, and researchers to weigh, objectively, all of the facts and render conclusions unclouded by agendas and misguided zeal.
“The Revenue of the of the M. W. N. Grand Lodge shall be derived from the following sources: