Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Independent Means Independent: A Fresh Look at the Formation of the National Grand Lodge

Source: Record of African Grand Lodge: The Rolls (microfilm)

Yes, it has been a while since I last posted and having gotten a few things off my plate, we're back at it.
Don't panic! there is no shifting paradigms here. We are just as staunch on the dissolution of the National Compact in 1879 as ever; upcoming submissions will provide my arguments and evidence regarding my position.

Intrigued by a discussion in the Social media constellation regarding African Lodge No. 459 and lodges that originated from her, inspired me to get back to combing through the microfilm of African Lodge No. 459 records and answer a few questions.

Upon a days pull from the records I came across a most impacting and inspiring record dated January 12, 1846, which provided a starting point for this post. I will like to post those minutes here now:


Boston Jan 12th 1846
African Grand Lodge No. 459 met and opened on the first degree of masonry for the dispatch of business.
[listing of members present]
the old Code of bye Laws which had been lost was produced and read by the Master. the committee chosen to wright a new code presented the lodge with their doings
motions [unintelligble] Batter that the new code be received and laid on the table for further consideration. Motion by Br A Gaul that the Lodge be governed by the old code at present
next page


an article was read from the FreeMasons Monthly Magazine Vol 5th No 2 edited by C W Moore Dec 1st 1845 stating that the African Grand Lodge was not a Legal Lodge. a history of the whole transaction was given by the Master to the satisfaction of the Lodge
the Master gave notice that the Lodge must find a room as the one now in use must be disposed of
motion by Br Gaul secd by Br Batter that a committee of three be appoint by the chair procure a lodge room 
appointed as committee Br Aaron Gaul Br George Gaul Br Joseph Russell
Motioned by Br G Gaul that the fee of membership   be one dollar noted in motion the the assessment be for each member be 12 1/2 cents
Lodge closed in due form
this last motion is not according to the bylaws___

Records of African Lodge  Roll (microfilm)

While the recovery of the Code book is a matter for another post, I have emboldened the portion of the minutes that is the topic of this post:

"an article was read from the FreeMasons Monthly Magazine Vol 5th No 2 edited by C W Moore Dec 1st 1845 stating that the African Grand Lodge was not a Legal Lodge. a history of the whole transaction was given by the Master to the satisfaction of the Lodge"

I will now post the actual article from C.W. Moore cited by the minutes as it appears in the Freemasons Monthly Magazine for that date:

The portion I want to focus on in this article is the meeting between C. W. Moore, then Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and Grand Master John T. Hilton; Moore gives the accounts as thus:

"We have called the reputed Master of the Lodge, and asked permission to examine its Charter. He refused to grant the permission, and gave us distinctly to understand that he and his Brethren did not wish to have any communication with the white Masons:-that they were an INDEPENDENT BODY, deriving their power FROM THE HIGHEST AUTHORITY."

GM John T. Hilton refused to allow RW C. W. Moore to view the Charter and that begs the question of why?

Could it have been because the charter was now void by the declaration of independence by African Lodge No. 459 and assuming the powers of a Grand Lodge in 1827?

Could it have been to preserve and protect the charter for fear that if seen and located that it may be a target of theft or vandalism?

Could the answer lie in the monumental declaration of June 1827?

Source: Daily Advertiser (Boston) June 28, 1827

African Grand Lodge was a creation of necessity and a statement to the masonic world that African Americans were worthy of our place in masonic affairs. Independent as the chosen adjective wasn't just a clarity on status, but a subliminal message to a slavery-infested society that FREEDOM is the RIGHT and PROPERTY OF ALL PEOPLE.

Both African Grand Lodge (Boston) and First Independent African Grand Lodge (Philadelphia) had been in operation for 20 and 29 years respectively. They did so, chartering lodges and expanding Freemasonry among African Americans without a single bit of assistance or support from "white Masons". No Grand Lodge had handed them any olive branches or extensions of amity. This we know, because this was not the first time white Grand Lodges had dealt with the issue of "Negro Masonry". After 20 years of active service among the people that they had failed to recognize and embrace as human beings, they now were at the doors of African Grand Lodge asking them to submit to an examination for "approval"?

We understood that we were legal, we had the charter. Why would we have to submit to a test and examination for legitimacy? what would be the result? recognition? approval? We needed none of those, because none of them equated to what had already been established and pronounced in the possession of the Charter.

With all of this being stated and contemplated, I began to take a fresh look at the reasoning behind the formation of the National Grand Lodge-National Compact.

I can now see an underlying intent in the formation of the National Compact. It wasn't just to create uniformity in Freemasonry or to unify rival factions, but rather to create a fortification for African American Freemasons and the jurisdictions they were affiliated with. It was a move to preserve the Order among us while we lived in a society (at that time) that failed to live up to the principles espoused in their masonic rhetoric.

Something amusing and enlightening then emerged from the January 16th 1846 minutes. After the reading of the article, GM John T. Hilton then laid out the whole encounter, the Lodge agreed and they moved right on with the next order of business. MESSAGE!


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