Friday, March 25, 2016

The Charles Wesley Conundrum: A Challenge to the Critics by Brother John L. Hairston

Charles H. Wesley (1891-1987)

Due to the recent "opinions" of a few Brothers who may find disagreement with a book that I will be publishing, starting May of this year, I have chose to place a problem of sorts before the opposition to contemplate. Hopefully before May, we will have some answers from the critics and a resolution to the Charles Wesley Conundrum.

There is not a researcher or historian in the Prince Hall constellation that doesn't know the name, Charles H. Wesley. Any Freemason who has done any background reading on Prince Hall has either read or are in possession of his critically acclaimed work, Prince Hall Life and Legacy. I will not go into any biography of the Prince Hall icon, Charles Wesley, there are too many great biographies that have already been written on him.

Ask any of the many researchers and historians which are the best books on Prince Hall, and they will add Prince Hall Life and Legacy in the top 3, and many as the best book on Prince Hall (maybe even all time).

Prince Hall Life and Legacy was written in 1976 and published in 1977. The book covered the life of Prince Hall and cleared up what was deemed the gross errors of William Grimshaw's work of 1901. The book was touted as the official voice on the life of Prince Hall, and taken on by the United Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, PHA for preservation.

A Second Edition was published in 1983, four years before Wesley's death.

Publisher page to the 1983 Second Edition of Prince Hall Life and Legacy

Between both editions (1977 and 1983), there was only ONE change in the entirety of the ten chapters and 237 pages of the second edition. It was one digit to a date on page 34.

Pg. 34 of the 1977 First Edition of Life and Legacy

In the 1977 First Edition of Prince Hall Life and Legacy, Charles Wesley stated:

"On March 6, 1775, Prince Hall and fourteen other free blacks were initiated in Masonry through John Batt, a representative of the Irish Military Lodge, No. 441, working under the Grand Lodge of Ireland."

In the 1983 Second Edition, Wesley made a most subtle, but dramatic switch, imperceptible to most eyes.

Pg. 34 of the 1983 Second Edition of Life and Legacy

Wesley change the last digit of March 6, 1775, to read March 6, 1778!

And with the change to one digit, the conundrum begins. Charles Wesley was in possession of the same records held by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts (MS), the MWPHGL of Massachusetts, John Sherman, Harold B. Voorhis, and this writer as well.

What is the conundrum, you ask?

Well, I wonder who will declare that Charles H. Wesley's Second Edition is wrong, and provide the evidence that will cause enough protest to have the Second Edition rescinded?


  1. I look forward to following further developments on this discussion.

  2. Interesting indeed. I suppose the feasibility of a typo is out of the question... or is it? Did Bro. Wesley indicate an explanation of this modification at any time after the publication of the 2nd writing? It seems that such a change would have been accompanied by some commentary.

    1. I think I have already addressed that question of a typo in another Social Media outlet. Not all books have New editorial or explanations of their Second Printing. We do know the reasons for a Second Printing, and without an explanation, we turn to what is in the Second printing to determine the reason.

      1. There is NEW INFORMATION presented in the Second Printing that is not in the first.

      2. If the publisher just made a typo in that one place in the manuscript, then why is the typo only THERE? A significant date in Prince Hall history? I highly doubt it. Knowing what I do about the records of African Lodge, the change was made to reflect the ONLY document that reflects an initiation of the Immortal 15, and the date on that document is March 6, 1778.

      3. The Introduction also shows a change in the year from 1977 (year of the first printing) to 1983 (year of the Second printing), which means that to claim a typo in the manuscript on page 34, is to claim the same with the change in the Intro.

      4. If the Publisher was doing a Second Printing to generate more sales for the book, and the reason was not to present new information, then there would be no need to make ANY changes in the manuscript, just the Publisher's Page. So a typo loses credibility on that point as well.

      5. Another possibility is being overlooked to defend an unsubstantiated date of 1775, and that is Wesley made the change, and decided not to mention the fact of the change with a new introduction, which draw attention that an error may have been made in the first printing.

      The fact that we have a change to a significant date in the Second Printing, and no explanation, it is more likely that the change was made deliberately.

      My question to the other person that raised the typo issue was this, "on what are you basing your notion"?

      What about the Second Printing would give you the ability to believe that the March 6, 1778 date is a typo?

      Especially in light of the fact that the date is debated in research circles (March 6, 1775 vs March 6, 1778)...I await your answer to these questions, Andre' B Clark.

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