Monday, May 4, 2015

Memo to Christopher L. Belcher: Your Essential questions have been addressed


Written by
Brother John L. Hairston

On April 16th of this year, Christopher L. Belcher a member of the Prince Hall National Compact group, posted a review of the Lux Et Veritas publication from the Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware (1855). Mr. Belcher stated that he posted the review as a "challenge" to Brother Ralph McNeal to respond and went as far as to provide "Essential Questions" for any to answer. After reading the review (which can be found here) I decided to answer those seven questions for further "lively discussion and debate".

The review was broken down into five parts, but questions appear in only the first three. In order to follow the answers to the questions, I will include Mr. Belcher's comments that preceded the questions in this post. Please read Mr. Belcher's "Part One", then return here for his comments and questions: 

Comments:  It must be noted that Union Lodge No. 4 was established by First Independent African Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. It must also be noted that Union Lodge No. 4 was expelled by First Independent African Grand Lodge in 1818.[7]Union Lodge No. 4 along with Harmony Lodge No. 5 which was expelled by First Independent African Grand Lodge in 1828,[8]formed the Grand Lodge to which the committee mentioned which was the Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The authority to which Hiram Grand Lodge claim a regular lineage, is aligned with a warrant to which they claim was given by the “mainstream” Grand Lodge of Ohio (white).  On July 18, 1845 African Grand Lodge of Massachusetts published a letter from a member of the Grand Lodge of Ohio as well as Mayor of the town of which the members of Union Lodge and Harmony Lodge claimed to have received the warrant denying have issued such warrant. The African Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was of the view that Hiram Grand Lodge was not a regular established Grand Lodge.

Essential Questions:
  1. Jacob Jenkins and Samuel Leary, according to the report of the committee, were made a Mason in Union Lodge in 1826. Considering the cited comments above, it is reasonable to conclude that Jenkins, Leary and others were made to an illegal Grand Lodge (Hiram GL). Is there any way possible to consider these Masons as legitimate?
  2. The Star of the East Lodge No. 12 of Wilmington, Delaware was formed under the jurisdiction of Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware. Hiram Grand Lodge was formed by those who claimed a Warrant from the “white” Grand Lodge of Ohio. If the warrant received from the “white” Grand Lodge of Ohio was “counterfeit”, as reported by the report of the “white” Grand Lodge of Ohio, how can Star of the East Lodge No. 12 be a “legally” constituted Lodge?

Mr. Belcher assumes that the Lux Et Veritas document is a refutation to Joshua Woodlin's, The National Masonic Union, and attempts to discredit the information provided by Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware to bolster the credibility of Woodlin as a source of the events surrounding the formation and dealings of the National Compact, of which he is a current member.

In the opening of his first comment he states:

There is very important information not included regarding the information provided in the details as presented by the Committee in their presentation. The committee fails to present the disposition of Grand Lodge in relations to the information provided above.

This he also does in providing his opinion, because he understands that if he was to continue to present the story, the above two questions would have been answered. Let's deal with the first question:

  1. Jacob Jenkins and Samuel Leary, according to the report of the committee, were made a Mason in Union Lodge in 1826. Considering the cited comments above, it is reasonable to conclude that Jenkins, Leary and others were made to an illegal Grand Lodge (Hiram GL). Is there any way possible to consider these Masons as legitimate?
Yes, we can consider and be assured that Jacob Jenkins and Samuel Leary were both legitimate and regular masons. It is true that Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was formed by rebellion of Union Lodge No. 4 and Harmony No. 5, which eventually led to the formation of the rival Grand Lodge in the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. Now, let's move forward to what happened after the formation of Hiram Grand Lodge (PA).

Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania became more influential than its rival, First Independent African Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. This caused major division in Pennsylvania and threatened to destroy the fabric of Freemasonry among African Americans, because where there is no unity, there is the open field for clandestine groups to form and further put at risk the good name of Freemasonry.

In 1846, John T. Hilton, then Grand Master of Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, wrote a letter to all of the Grand Lodges of color to assemble for a National Grand Convention; this included an invitation to Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, of which Union Lodge No. 4 was a subordinate lodge to. This convention, despite the debate surrounding the events occurring at, produced the National Compact of which Hiram Grand Lodge (which represented all of its subordinate lodges) were signers and party to. Even masonic author, Bro. Alton Roundtree agrees that "whether, Hiram Grand Lodge was adopted or healed at the Boston Convention, it was made regular".[1]

It is also documented that from the alleged date of June 24th, 1847 (alleged date of the formation of the National Compact) to January 19th, 1848, Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and all of its subordinate lodges existed and worked along side of First Independent African Grand Lodge within the state of Pennsylvania as a regular and recognized Grand Lodge, until their eventual merger in 1848. [2] Jacob Jenkins and Samuel Leary were both included in the merger as well. So, "considering the cited comments above" we can consider Jacob Jenkins and Samuel Leary legitimate.  Jacob Jenkins was duly elected the Deputy Grand Master (ensuing GM representing Hiram Grand Lodge)[3] of the Grand Body that came out of the merger between the two Grand Lodges. He couldn't have been any more legitimate. Now for question 2:

  1. The Star of the East Lodge No. 12 of Wilmington, Delaware was formed under the jurisdiction of Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware. Hiram Grand Lodge was formed by those who claimed a Warrant from the “white” Grand Lodge of Ohio. If the warrant received from the “white” Grand Lodge of Ohio was “counterfeit”, as reported by the report of the “white” Grand Lodge of Ohio, how can Star of the East Lodge No. 12 be a “legally” constituted Lodge?
For the status of Hiram Grand Lodge, please refer to the above answer. This being the case, we can conclude that Star of the East Lodge No. 12 received the same status as it's Grand Lodge. The question becomes futile in light of the facts. On to Part Two, Comment and Essential Questions (refer to Part Two of Belcher's work):

Much of the focus of the second part of the book was concerning a report presented by a committee of the United Grand Lodge of New York. The committee consisted of the following: Ransom F. Wake, Jacob Francis and Alexander Elston.  The report was accepted at a “special” Meeting of the United Grand Lodge on July 30,1849. The report directly challenged the authority of the Most Worshipful National Grand Lodge. The Committee claimed that the National Grand Lodge was “self constituted”. It was also reported that the National Grand Lodge made an attempt to expel the United Grand Lodge of New York which occurred on June 26, 1849, four days prior to the committee’s report to the “special” Session of the United Grand Lodge of New York. The New York Committee report gives the impression as if United Grand Lodge was independently organized and was not a member of the National Grand Lodge. The New York committee claimed that a delegation of Philadelphia engaged in meetings in the interim between the 1847 meeting and the 1848 meeting. The New York Committee report claim these meetings to be illegal. The Committee did not cite the proceedings of the said meeting. The New York Committee took a very controversial position to challenge the authority of the African Grand Lodge as being a self constituted Grand Lodge.
Essential Questions:
  1. If the Most Worshipful National Grand Lodge expelled the United Grand Lodge of New York 4 days before it scheduled to have a special meeting, and the New York acknowledged the actions of the National Grand Lodge in its report, can it be concluded that the United Grand Lodge was a member of the National Grand Lodge and the committee’s report a ploy to distance themselves?
  2. According to the Woodlin report, Alexander Elston was a delegate to the 1847 Boston Convention which established the National Grand Lodge.[9] There was no mention of irregularities from 1847 to 1849. Would not New York Committee member Alexander Elston been more credible in his assertions if they were reported prior to the July 30, 1849 “special” meeting of the United Grand Lodge?
  3. Would the committee’s report be more credible if Alexander Elston was NOT a part of the Committee?
  4. Has any documentation of Alexander Elston position prior to the July 30, 1849 “special” meeting been enter into the literature to support the position?
Mr. Belcher, in his first question, attempts to place the United Grand Lodge of New York as part of the National Compact. The New York Grand Lodge claims that they have never been subordinate to the National Grand Lodge at any time in its history. According to Blue-Lite Research Group founder and Grand Historian of the MWPHGL of NY, RW Ezekiel M. Bey:

"In 1848, a majority of the members of Boyer Lodge repudiated the signatures of its three representatives (Alexander Elston, William C. Clark and Lewis Hayden) to the proposal that was made at the meeting in 1847. On March of 1848, Boyer Lodge #1 along with Celestial #2, Rising Sun #3, and Hiram #4 came together and organized under the name United Grand Lodge, F. and A. M. of the State of New York."[4]

According to Articles 5 and 7 of the Articles of Union, resolved by the Convention of 1847, State Grand Lodges were to send in, to the National Grand Lodge, annual returns and the National Grand Lodge was to issue charters to all State Grand Lodges THAT WOULD APPLY to them for one.[5]

My challenge to Mr. Belcher would be to produce an annual return to the National Grand Lodge from the United Grand Lodge of New York, and to provide an application to the National Grand Lodge petitioning a warrant for the United Grand Lodge of New York. This is a valid challenge, because the signers to the Convention Articles of 1847 were members of a LODGE, they were not a Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge did not form until 1848, which means their formation, if they were indeed a Compact Grand Lodge should have been sanctioned by warrant from the National Grand Lodge in 1848, for the Articles had been signed in 1847. And, if New York in 1848 was a Compact Grand Lodge, where is the annual returns they made to the National Grand Lodge. Woodlin's account must be taken with a grain of salt; although New York was added to a Grand Lodge listing in the Proceedings of the National Grand Lodge that Woodlin published in National Masonic Union [6], we find no names from the New York Grand Lodge as delegates to the Meeting in New York, June 24th-25th, 1848. Without this documentation, the only source would be Woodlin's work, and there is ample proof to show that National Masonic Union has many errors, and even a revised letter attributed to Prince Hall. Let's get to the first question:

If the Most Worshipful National Grand Lodge expelled the United Grand Lodge of New York 4 days before it scheduled to have a special meeting, and the New York acknowledged the actions of the National Grand Lodge in its report, can it be concluded that the United Grand Lodge was a member of the National Grand Lodge and the committee’s report a ploy to distance themselves?

The error here is that Mr. Belcher attempts to affirm that the United Grand Lodge of New York was a Compact Grand Lodge because they "acknowledged the actions of the National Grand Lodge in its report." I want to place the paragraph of the Committee report that Belcher uses to claim that New York was a member of the Compact:

"They did, however, in the plentitude of their power, on the 26th day of June, A. L. 5849, (a day we shall ever hold sacred to their memory) attempted to expel the "United Grand Lodge of the State of New York"..."[7]



This is no way indicates that New York was a member of the National Compact. With the absence of annual returns, the application for a Compact Warrant, the existence of a Compact charter for New York and this statement in the very same report:

"WE DID NOT DEEM IT WISE, OR PRUDENT, TO HAVE IT APPEAR THAT THE UNION HAD BEEN EFFECTED, ALTHOUGH WE WERE NOT PREPARED FOR THE FINAL CONSUMMATION...WE HELD THE MATTER AT ABEYANCE UNTIL THE CONGREGATED WISDOM OF THE BRETHREN IN A CALMER MOMENT..."[8]

The word here, as R. W. Ezekiel M. Bey states in, The Hour Glass, is ABEYANCE, which means:

"A Temporary state of disuse or suspension."[9]

The report states that they considered the coming into the National Compact, but held the matter SUSPENDED, until the next time they congregated, which subsequently cause a division in their Grand Lodge in 1849. This gave birth to the Union Grand Lodge (Compact). The United Grand Lodge was at odds as to join or not join. The United Grand Lodge chose to remain independent, and "[f]our of the Lodges of the newly formed United Grand Lodge of New York, and parts of two other lodges of the United Grand Lodge, formed the core of the Union Grand Lodge."[10]

So, the conclusion that United Grand Lodge of New York was subordinate to the National Grand Lodge falters for the lack of evidence. As far as the Committee report being a ploy to distance themselves from the National Grand Lodge is based on the initial faulty premise that they were a subordinate. You can be no more distant than NOT A PART. The second question being:

According to the Woodlin report, Alexander Elston was a delegate to the 1847 Boston Convention which established the National Grand Lodge.[9] There was no mention of irregularities from 1847 to 1849. Would not New York Committee member Alexander Elston been more credible in his assertions if they were reported prior to the July 30, 1849 “special” meeting of the United Grand Lodge?

Mr. Belcher attempts to state that there was no mention of irregularities between 1847-1849, but this is an assumption. If New York did not join the Compact, and the report was compiled and presented, and there was a division in the Grand Lodge concerning the National Compact, then we can conclude that within the walls of their Grand Lodge and among the members there were concerns that existed regarding the National Compact. The report itself proves that there were concerns and the report was adopted by the Grand Lodge. 

Mr. Belcher attempts to make the Report of the Committee an "Elston assertion", when in fact there were two other members of the Committee, and two other delegates that attended the Convention representing Boyer Lodge. The GRAND BODY adopted the report, which means that Elston cannot be the one attributed the content of the report. Whether they reported the incidents before or after the expulsion of the United Grand Lodge of New York doesn't negate the credibility of the report. Keep in mind, New York was in the midst of organizing a Grand Lodge; those affairs, as well as the admitted reason of actually considering the option of joining, may have kept them from making any public statement against the National Grand Lodge. We know from the report and the subsequent actions of those that formed Union Grand Lodge of New York, that the issue was a dividing point within the infancy of the Grand Lodge. When United Grand Lodge refused to join, the National Grand Lodge issued their expulsion letter (for a Grand Lodge that had not yet joined), and New York went public with the what they knew of the Convention and the National Compact. A very reasonable explanation in light of the supporting documentation. The next question was:

Would the committee’s report be more credible if Alexander Elston was NOT a part of the Committee?

No, any statement issued against the National Grand Lodge would have Compact proponents in denial as to the content, regardless of who was on the Committee. That may have even been a point of contention-that no member of the delegation was on the Committee. I am convinced that placing him on the Committee gave credence to the Report, because he was an eye witness. The next question:

Has any documentation of Alexander Elston position prior to the July 30, 1849 “special” meeting been enter into the literature to support the position?

To ask for prior documentation of Alexander Elston's position and account doesn't make sense. The Grand Lodge adopted the report of the Committee (of three, not one), and there is enough documentation to conclude that the issue was discussed and a point of contention in the State since their return from the Convention in 1847. On to Part Three:

PART THREE:
Part three discusses the formation of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania F&AAYM. The committee replicated the same information Woodlin present regarding the establishment of the Grand Lodge. The Committee reported that Star of the East Lodge of Wilmington was warranted under the newly formed Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania F&AAYM. The committee reported that the Lodge received their charter bearing the number 21 and “worked accordingly”. The committee also reported that members of Star of the East Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania F&AAYM to organize another Lodge. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania F&AAYM accepted the petition and in November 1848 Rising Sun Lodge No. 28 was established under its jurisdiction. The committee also reported that in the same year a warrant was granted and Meridian Sun Lodge No. 29 was established under jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The committee reported that those three Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania met in convention and formed the Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware June 9, 1849.
Essential Question:
  1. If all three of the Lodges which formed the Hiram Grand Lodge were under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania F&AAYM, can it be concluded that the Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware was formed with Compact Lodges?
On page 21 of the report there was another interesting statement made. It reads as such:
“Therefore we stand a free and independent State Grand Lodge and acknowledge no other authority superior to a State Grand Lodge. Also we here state the formation of the Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, by a convention.
Names of Lodges:
New Jerusalem Lodge No. 1
Harmony Lodge, No. 5
Union Lodge No. 4”[10]

The committee continued the presentation with information regarding the formation of the National Grand Lodge with replications of information contained within the Woodlin presentation. It was also mentioned by the committee that there was an annual election which elected Jacob Jenkins and subordinate officers. One thing of interest is that there was not mention of the delegates to that “annual” meeting. It should be noted that according to Woodlin, the majority of those in that cabinet were expelled by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania F&AAYM six months later.[11]

First, 
it is necessary to correct Mr. Belcher's interpretation of the formation of Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware. The Star of the East Lodge No. 12 (which became #1) was duly constituted in 1845, BEFORE the newly formed Grand Lodge FAAYM of Pennsylvania (which was organized by merger in 1848). The Lodge received its warrant from Hiram Grand Lodge.[11] The Lodge came into affiliation with the Compact GL after the merger.
Rising Sun and Meridian Sun could be considered true Compact Lodges, because they were chartered by the Compact Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1848.[12] This is of no significance, because in 1849, September 20th, when Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware was formed, they did so with no charter from the National Grand Lodge, and never joined the National Compact. So, whether they were all Compact Lodges or just two, Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware never made a return to the National Grand Lodge, and never petitioned them for a warrant, and were a part of the Eastern Alliance Grand Lodges.[13] I challenge Mr. Belcher to produce a record that would prove the membership of Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware in the National Compact at any time. 
I want to address one last point in conclusion:
It was also mentioned by the committee that there was an annual election which elected Jacob Jenkins and subordinate officers. One thing of interest is that there was not mention of the delegates to that “annual” meeting. It should be noted that according to Woodlin, the majority of those in that cabinet were expelled by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania F&AAYM six months later.

Mr. Belcher fails to recognize the irony of his own words. Jacob Jenkins was the duly elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of AYM of Pennsylvania. He and those Lodges with him left the Compact. It is imperative that we understand that the National Compact was an agreement between Grand Lodges. The jurisdiction of the National Grand Lodge extended to those who voluntarily went under it, so said by Article 7, which was the prevailing rule for that day. If a Grand Lodge petitioned the National Grand Lodge for a Warrant, they could come into the National Compact. If a Grand Lodge chose to leave or not join, the National Grand Lodge had no power to expel them from practicing Freemasonry, because the National Compact wasn't irreversible if a Grand Lodge had a change of heart. That Grand Lodge could exist as a Grand Lodge independent of the National Grand Lodge, because the usages and customs did not make it necessary or mandatory for a Grand Lodge to be a participant or receive a warrant from a "National" anything.
This is was a major point of contention with the National Compact. The National Grand Lodge believed that they had the authority to expel a Grand Lodge from Freemasonry, when they only had the power to expel a Grand Lodge from the National Compact. If a Grand Lodge chose to part ways with the National Grand Lodge (as with the case of Jacob Jenkins and the Eastern Alliance of Grand Lodges), then any expulsion of that Grand Lodge from the rights and privileges of freemasonry was merely an exercise in futility. No Grand Lodge could lose it's right to exist by not being a member of the Compact.
Lewis Hayden, Past Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, delegate to the 1847 Boston National Masonic Convention, and primary source of the Letters of Vindication of the National Grand Lodge, wrote:

"...believing that you will agree with me that it is our duty not to allow the National Grand Lodge to rule us. The State Grand Lodge created the National Grand Lodge to SERVE them, instead of being created by the National Grand Lodge to serve it. That is the creature to serve the creator, and not the creator to serve the creature."[14]
Having, in my opinion, an assurance that all questions have been taken and dispensed with, utilizing documentation from a multiplicity of sources; explained and reasoned with impartiality and grace, I return the discussion from when it came and await any further discussion.

Memo to Mr. Belcher, Your questions and challenge have been met.

Endnotes:

1. Roundtree, Alton. 2010. The National Grand Lodge and Prince Hall Freemasonry: The Untold Truth, KLR Publishing, LLC, pg. 29 Hiram Grand Lodge.

2. Woodlin, Joshua. 1855. The National Masonic Union. Burlington, NJ. ppg. 24-28 

3. Ibid., pg. 27. Hiram Grand Lodge would have provided the next Grand Master for the Grand Lodge and Jacob Jenkins being elected Deputy Grand Master was most likely to be Hiram's choice for Grand Master the ensuing year after the merger.

4. Bey, Ezekiel M. 2012. The Hour Glass: African American Freemasonry in the State of New York. Blue-Lite Publishing. pg.54

5. Report of the 1847 National Masonic Convention. See the Articles of Union between the Three Grand Lodges of Freemasons of Colour, in America, June 24th, 1847.

6. Woodlin, Joshua. 1855. The National Masonic Union. Burlington, NJ. pg. 30

7. Committee on Correspondence report. New York, July 26th, A. L. 5849. Adopted at a Special Meeting of the United Grand Lodge of the State of New York, July 30th A.D. 1849, and of Masonry 5849. This report is also called, The Elston Report.

8. Ibid.

9. Refer to any dictionary.

10. Roundtree, Alton. 2010. The National Grand Lodge and Prince Hall Freemasonry: The Untold Truth, KLR Publishing, LLC, pg.111.

11. Lux Et Veritas. Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware. 1855. ppg. 5-6; also refer to the MWPHGL of Delaware website for their page on History. Review the Legacy tab.

12. Ibid., ppg. 17-18

13. Ibid., ppg. 19-21

14. Hayden, Lewis. Letters in Vindication of the National Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the united States of America. Boston. Press of Edward S. Coombs and Co. 1867






5 comments:

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  2. The clock is ticking!! LOL! Great responses!!

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