Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Review and Rebuttal of Joshua Woodlin's Masonic National Union Part 1 by Bro. John L. Hairston

Due to attempts by Prince Hall Origin supporters to make Joshua Woodlin's, Masonic National Union, the most definitive and trusted source on the formation and early years of the National Compact, I deemed it necessary to do a review and rebuttal of Woodlin's work; to place its claims in the scales of documented facts and clear up many of its inconsistencies.

An example of this deference for Woodlin's, Masonic National Union, can be found in Chapter 1 of Bro. Alton Roundtree's book, The Untold Story, which argues the "continued existence" of the current Prince Hall Origin-National Compact group. Bro. Roundtree states:

"The only known source that details the formation of the National Grand Lodge and the history of the National Grand Lodge from 1847 to 1855 is Joshua Woodlin...Woodlin was close enough to events as they happened that he is the primary source that should be viewed as accurate unless documented information is provided to the contrary."[1][emphasis mine]

In my course of research, I have found statements like these to be exaggerated and sensationalized by pro-Compact writers. Contemporary writings like Lux Et Veritas, published by the Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware in 1855, as well as CCFC reports and proceedings of the various Grand Lodges (Independent and Compact), provide a more comprehensive view of the formation and history of the National Grand Lodge for the same period. But these works are largely omitted and disregarded by pro-Compact writers, at the expense of a balanced and accurate view of events surrounding this hotly debated topic.

According to the Woodlin Lodge #30, F. & A. M. (NJ) website:

"Joshua Woodlin was born February 15, 1813 in Attleborough, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Embracing Christianity in 1832, ordained a Deacon in 1853 and ordained an Elder in 1858. Reverend Joshua Woodlin from whom Woodlin No. 30 commemorates its name, was one of the most influential men in forming “The Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons for the State of New Jersey and Jurisdiction.” At their Called meeting on June 12, 1848, held in Burlington, N.J., he was elected Recording Grand Secretary. Most Worshipful Woodlin was termed a powerful minister and an earnest Christian. He labored long in the interest of Masonry and his Grand Lodge, culminating, 1850 in his being elected Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge in New Jersey, One of his outstanding contributions to Prince Hall Masonry was a forty-seven page pamphlet, The Masonic National Union, published in 1855."[2]

Joshua Woodlin is also credited as being a member of both the First Independent African Grand Lodge and Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania [3]; as well as the National Senior Grand Warden for the National Compact. Even with this extensive masonic resume' it is still important to note that Joshua Woodlin  was not a delegate at the formation of the National Compact. Neither does Masonic National Union provide information for the most controversial years of the National Compact, which ultimately led to its demise, officially, December 31, 1879. And, of the period in which it attempts to deal with, Woodlin's own words gives evidence that pro-Compact writers and sympathizers may be placing too much stock in Woodlin's account. Woodlin says of his own work:

"The writer has long believed that such a work would be of incalculable benefit to the craft, and has anxiously awaited its appearance from some abler hand, but, disappointed in this hope, he has himself, WHILE FULLY CONSCIOUS OF MANY IMPERFECTIONS, attempted to perform what he believes a necessary work."
[4] [emphasis mine]

While we commend Bro. Joshua Woodlin for his noble intention of filling a void of the day in which he walked, we must still hold his work up to the light of facts and weigh his version of accounts on the scales of truth. This is not done to cast a bad light on a good brother's attempt to provide his perspective; but to place the work in its proper status among sources regarding the National Grand Lodge and the objectives laid out in its introduction:

"The object of this small treatise is to remove the scales and mist of ignorance that has been for a long time cast over the minds of the craft, and has caused many dissensions and rebellions among them, and in yet circulating an influence calculated to destroy the peace and harmony of the craft, for the want of correct information of their origin, to support their dignity as Masons."[5]

It is our hope that we further enlarge upon this objective and provide an accurate critique and clarification of the information provided by our dear Bro. Woodlin in Masonic National Union.


The full title of the work is, The Masonic National Union, A History of the Origin of Freemasonry among the Coloured Citizens of the United States of America. The reference of the Masonic National Union is clearly a reference to the National Compact that gave life to the National Grand Lodge.

The portion referencing it as a guide for the craft regarding the history of Freemasonry is a bit misleading. That history beginning in Chapter 2 does not deal with the initiation of Prince Hall and the 14 other brothers by John Batt in 1778, the subsequent start of African Lodge No. 1, and only lightly deals with 3 specific dates: 1782, 1784 and 1797. It touches the application of the Charter, the issuing of the Charter by the Grand Lodge of England, and the establishment of the first Lodge in Philadelphia in 1797. Woodlin does attempt to speak on a few of the first Worshipful Masters by name, but in all, Chapter 2 can hardly be a true history of the origin of Freemasonry among men of color in America. He provides one sentence to cover Freemasonry's origin in New York and Providence; and a sentence to take us into 1847. The full and illustrious origins of Freemasonry among African Americans in America is stuffed into four paragraphs, that creates more questions than answers. 

After this, Masonic National Union deals heavily with the schism in Philadelphia, which birthed two Grand Lodges in that State; all of this leads into what he deemed the basis of the Boston Convention in 1847, that produced the National Compact. 

In subsequent chapters (12 in all), Woodlin only attempts to refute the claims and choice withdraw of the Compact Grand Lodge in Pennsylvania, in 1850; becoming the third Independent Grand Lodge, after the Boston Convention in 1847, to denounce the National Grand Lodge. Woodlin also attempts to address the "expulsion" of both Jacob Jenkins' Grand Lodge in Pennsylvania and the United Grand Lodge of New York. The booklet proves that it is not truly a history of the origins of Freemasonry among African Americans in this country, but rather an attempt to provide the pro-Compact view of events leading up to the first Grand Lodges leaving the Masonic National Union.

As stated in the title of this article, I intend it to be both a review and rebuttal of the Masonic National Union, and with the vast amount of inconsistencies in the work, due to biases of an obvious pro-Compact writer, we will take the work and deal with each chapter; pointing out the errors and need for clarifications. I will post the work section by section.

Chapter 1 General Remarks

Chapter 1, pg. 1 Masonic National Union

Chapter One opens with grandiose exaltation of itself as a source of facts, but truly served as Compact propaganda and rhetoric of the day. With accusations levied against Independent Grand Lodges for having "caused many dissensions and rebellions among them", Woodlin proves to be a staunch Compact Mason, but not a reliable source for an unbiased view of all the facts surrounding the National Grand Lodge.

It is important to lay out the masonic landscape of 1855, so that the reader may understand the environment in which Woodlin published his work. It is then we can truly recognize the real intention of the booklet.

In 1855, the National Compact and the National Grand Lodge had only existed for close to eight years. They were without a definitive Constitution, besides the Articles of Union, and were already in danger of dissolution. According to extant records, there were 9 Compact Grand Lodges, but in five of the States that held Compact Grand Lodges, there were five Independent Grand Lodges; 3 had never went under the National Grand Lodge.[6]

Out of the 9 Compact Grand Lodges, 4 were replacement Grand Lodges formed by former members of Grand Lodges that were either Independent or had decided to withdraw from the National Compact.

What this tells us is that there was no harmony in the formation of the National Grand Lodge from its very inception. Pro-Compact writers and adherents will have us to believe that the National Grand Lodge was embraced with open arms, and all parties involved were most satisfied with its existence, this is just not the case.

New York, Delaware, and Maryland

The fact is simple, in 1848 at the first meeting of the National Grand Lodge in New York of 1848, the Grand Lodges of African American Masons were split; despite what has been written by Bro. Alton Roundtree in the Untold Story, and other pro-Compact writers. The Grand Lodges that existed at the time of that meeting were: The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania FAAYM, The United Grand Lodge for the State of New York, The Union Grand Lodge of Maryland, Union Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, and Union Grand Lodge of New Jersey.

New York, Maryland (Independent), and the Lodges in Delaware were not party to the National Compact. Bro. Roundtree erroneously places a Compact Grand Lodge in New York in 1848[7]this is an error. The United Grand Lodge for the State of New York never accepted a warrant from the National Grand Lodge, despite the National Grand Lodge's attempt to "expel" the Grand Lodge in 1849. I extend the same challenge to Bro. Roundtree as extended to Mr. Christopher Belcher, when I addressed the issue of the alleged Compact Grand Lodge in New York in 1848. I want to repost an excerpt from the article, Memo to Christopher Belcher:

"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."[8]

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.[9]

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 [10], 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"..."[11]

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:


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."[13]

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."[14]

So, the conclusion that United Grand Lodge of New York was subordinate to the National Grand Lodge falters for the lack of evidence."

So, we see that to place a Compact Grand Lodge in New York in 1848 is erroneous. The Independent Grand Lodge of Maryland never took a warrant from the National Grand Lodge either. I would like to present an article from the New York Age, dated Saturday, August 1, 1936, written by Hon. Harry Williamson:

New York Age, August 1, 1936, Masonic Notes Column, Bro. Harry Williamson

We find in this article the fact there was in Maryland an Independent Grand Lodge of Maryland. Whether that Grand Lodge was formed in 1845 or not is the subject of debate. What we do know for a certainty is that in 1848, there were two Grand Lodges in Maryland. We also find in this article that Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware was also an Independent Grand Lodge, which had aligned itself with the Eastern Alliance, that formerly sent such statement against the National Grand Lodge in 1865:

While this document is dated 1865, it represents a sentiment among Grand Lodges who did not accept the irregular authority of the National Grand Lodge. So, for Joshua Woodlin to deem these Grand Lodges rebellious is propaganda and typical pro-Compact rhetoric of the day. The truth of the matter is, not all Grand Lodges agreed with the formation of the National Grand Lodge from the beginning, and publicly went on record stating such.

Ancient York Masons?

Page six continues with Woodlin asserting that the National Grand Lodge was victim to rebellion, rather than pointing out clearly the issues that Independent Grand Lodges, and subsequent Compact Grand Lodges who joined their ranks, had with the irregular body. In the midst of this sensationalist exposition is a designation given to the National Grand Lodge that is interesting to examine and address as well; the claim that the National Grand Lodge was in the lineage of Ancient York Masonry.

Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons?

There was a question raised not too long ago concerning the claim of PHO-National Compact to being Ancient York Masons. Before we can accurately examine this claim, we must put several things in perspective.

1. Prince Hall never used the style, "Ancient York Masons" for the members of African Lodge #1, #459, or #370.

2. There is no reference to the designation of Ancient York Masons in the records of either African Lodge Boston or Philadelphia.

3. Prince Hall received Anderson's Constitution when he received the charter from the Grand Lodge of England in 1787. The Grand Lodge of England was not using the term for themselves.

4. African Lodge #1 received their alleged permit from John Batt, who was a Mason under the Grand Lodge of Ireland. They were not referring to themselves as Ancient York Masons.

5. African Lodge #1 also received a permit from St. John's Grand Lodge in Boston, under Provincial Grand Master John Rowe. They were of the lineage of the Grand Lodge of England, and were not referring to themselves as Ancient York Masons.

6. The National Compact moved away from Anderson's Constitution and began using the Ahiman Rezon of the Antients in 1847. The Antients at one time were using the designation, Ancient York Masons, but had no actual lineage to the old York Lodge. So, why did the National Compact begin to identify themselves with this designation?

According to the Handbook of Freemasonry, published by the PHO-National Compact group, the title is derived:

Colored York Rite: The word "York" used in connection with Colored Masonry frequently raises a question in the mind of some and challenged by others. Ancient York Masonry is the oldest and the Mother of all Masonry. Its origin dates back 4,000 years before Christ, to the time of Noah and the flood. York Masonry was the mother of National Grand Lodges. If the Grand Lodge of England could organize a Constitutional body, then the organization of a National Grand Lodge, under Grand Master, John T. Hilton, was no new innovation nor did it violate any of the Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry[15]

To this, the National Grand Senior Warden, Cedric Lewis, in the York Rite Bulletin, dated April 2010, added:

When we call ourselves Ancient York Rite, we are in essence stating that we acknowledge the original workings of the degrees; Blue, Royal Arch, Knights Templar. Part of this was our forefathers thumbing their noses at the Grand Lodge of England for not acknowledging them for the many years that African Lodge attempted to communicate with the Grand Lodge of England. The Ancient’s thumbed their noses at the Grand Lodge of England in a similar fashion when they reorganized themselves into Grand Lodges styled Ancient Free & Accepted Masons...The existing Prince Hall Grand Lodges (PHA) has all affixed F&AM to their titles. This did not take place with them until after the year 1944. Prior to that year the PHA Grand Lodges had a host of titles affixed to their Grand Lodge titles, including F&AAYM. Because African Lodge #459 was a lodge chartered by the Modern Grand Lodge of England (F&AM), part of this is accurate. However, the ritual that most PHA and PHO Grand Lodges use is derived from an Ancient practice of the work. Prince Hall masons (National Compact included) are legal/regular by the charter issued by the Modern Grand Lodge of England, but we overwhelming practice the use of an Ancient Grand Lodge ritual.[16]

There is so much wrong and inaccurate with the above quotes issued by the PHO-National Compact group. Firstly, the above explanations prove a lack of understanding the history of Freemasonry. This is plainly seen when one takes LEGEND to be the historical origins of Freemasonry. 

All scholars agree that the true origins of Freemasonry is obscured in time immemorial. There is no true definitive dating. To call Ancient York Masonry, the oldest and mother of all Masonry is absurdity, when Masonry was operative in Scotland, Ireland and other parts of England before we find the first documentations for the York Assembly of 926 AD. 

The Handbook of the PHO-National Compact group claims that York Masonry was the mother of National Grand Lodges. This too is inaccurate and unverified. It is a known fact that the Old York Lodge was in existence at the time when Prince Hall received the charter from the Grand Lodge of England. In fact, it was operating under the name of the Grand Lodge of All England. This body disappeared from Freemasonry in 1792. There was no Grand Lodge or Lodge in American that can claim any lineage to this Grand Lodge, directly or indirectly. The Antient Grand Lodge of England (1751) is the closest, as they were indeed calling themselves, Ancient York Masons, even though they had no direct lineage to the Grand Lodge of York. Noted author and scholar, Ray Baker Harris, in his paper for the Masonic Service Association (1957) wrote:

"When the "Ancient" Grand Lodge of England organized Provincial Grand Lodges in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina, the lodges working under those obediences were known as "Ancient York Lodges". Subsequently the Grand Lodges of these jurisdictions used the term "Ancient York Masons" until, after the union of the "Ancient" and "Modern" Grand Lodges in 1813, the designation was dropped for "Ancient Free and Accepted Masons", or "Free and Accepted Masons", South Carolina today uses the designation "Ancient Free Masons". Since there was no organizational connection with York, the use of the name appears to have been a figurative designation of antiquity."[17]

We see the designation of Ancient York Masons was not sent to America by the authentic and original York Masons, but by a Grand Lodge (Antient) younger than the Grand Lodge of England (Modern), using the name as a matter of defiance of the oldest Grand Lodge in the World. Cedric Lewis' explanation seems a bit more exaggerated, as he attempts to connected it to a Rite that was actually formulated in America. 

The so-called "York Rite" or "American Rite" was not worked in England by either the Modern, Antients or York Masons. According to Ray Baker Harris:

"Freemasonry thrived in the British Isles prior to 1717. This earlier Masonry was of MANY FORMS AND VARIETIES. There was no central authority, and no organization. Operative and Speculative were not then clearly defined."

Cedric Lewis erroneously states that many of the Prince Hall Affiliated and Prince Hall Origin Grand Lodges work the Antient ritual, which is a another gross inaccuracy on the part of the PHO-National Compact group to try to connect itself to something authentic. I have before me the PHO-National Compact ritual, revised 2005, and I can assure you that the ritual is not a Ancient York Ritual nor an Antient ritual, as found in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. The PHO ritual is a variation of the Ecce Oriente, published by Anthony Nizzardini, used by many Prince Hall Affiliated Grand Lodges. 

The earliest documentation we can find connecting the Ancient York Mason designation and African American Masonry is an advertisement in the Gazette of the United States (Pennsylvania) for the parade and St. John's Day celebration of African Lodge #459 Philadelphia on June 22, 1797.

Gazette of the United States of America, June 22, 1797

Many will believe this to be a different Lodge than the one chartered by African Lodge #459 of Boston. We know that the numbering is a misprint, but the officers are the same, except for one, the R. W. Grand Master, P.M. Nixon.

We have in our possession, a handwritten record of a meeting of African Lodge #459 of Philadelphia, dated, Dec. 27th, 1797 (6 months after the above advertisement):

There is no mention of a P. M. Nixon or anyone of that last name or the use of Ancient York Masons in African Lodge of Philadelphia's name. The missing name of P.M. Nixon is a topic of a another paper and discussion.

What is being established is that this is the earliest reference to African American masons being called Ancient York Masons. We know that this is not what this Lodge (African Lodge of PA) designated themselves, but because the white Lodges in Pennsylvania were going by this designation, the publisher designated them the same.

PHO-National Compact's explanation of the connection to York Masonry is flawed, as was the National Grand Lodge of 1847. In their attempt to assert their authority and right to form a National Grand Lodge, they (NGL /1847) claimed an origin in York Masonry. The source of their use of the designation is the Antient Grand Lodge, and they (Antient GL) were much younger than the premier Grand Lodge of England. Furthermore, The Antient Grand Lodge had no direct relation to any of the Prince Hall Grand Lodges existing at the time, as they had, in 1813, been absorbed in the Union of 1813 which birthed the United Grand Lodge of England. How can they (NGL of 1847 or PHO) possibly claim lineage to York or the Antients?

Woodlin's Theory on the Purpose of the National Grand Lodge

I find it amusing when pro-Compact hardliners boast on the fact that the Grand Lodges surrendered their sovereignty to the National Grand Lodge. They attempt to use this point to drive home the concept that the Grand Lodges were no longer sovereign, or were forever subject to the National Compact. There has been dispute as to the true purpose of the Convention in Boston in 1847. As we shall see, the domination and subjugation of sovereign Grand Lodges was not the initial and intended purpose of the National Grand Lodge when it was formed. Here is Woodlin giving us his perspective of the purpose of the National Compact:

The above except from Masonic National Union tells us that the initial purpose of the National Compact was not to make Grand Lodges hostages to the National Compact, but to produce a uniformity in rules, ritual and direction. It was to be the court of appeals when the Grand Lodges found themselves in controversies. They were trying to avoid what had happened in Pennsylvania (First Independent African Grand Lodge and Hiram Grand Lodge) as well as New York.

We can find early disputation by Grand Lodges, that the Convention invitation did not stipulate that they were creating a National Grand Lodge. This is not the point we need to make here. Whether the National Grand Lodge was met with unanimous applause is not the ground to fight on; the National Grand Lodge was eventually formed despite who did or did not join it initially. The question we need to answer is whether it stayed the course for which it was set.

Because there is no trace of the letter written by PGM John T. Hilton, inviting the Grand Lodges to the Boston Convention in 1847, and there being no definitive documentation on the initial purpose of the National Grand Lodge and Compact, we must rely on those who were actually there, and take their word for the purpose and what was in the letter of invitation.

We go first to the Hiram Grand Lodge of Delaware and their publication, Lux Et Veritas, 1856. They reprinted in this publication a statement from the United Grand Lodge of New York, who actually sent delegates from Boyer Lodge. This Grand Lodge was there during the formative years of the National Grand Lodge.

According to New York, the call was to form a permanent relation and Union among the Grand Lodges as a means of quelling the controversies that kept the African American masonic world divided. 

Another significant voice is that of PGM, Lewis Hayden of New York. Lewis Hayden was a member of African Lodge in Boston, and was a delegate to the Boston Convention in 1847. March 8, 1867, Hayden wrote a letter to Grand Master John Jones (Ohio) where he laid out the purpose of the Convention and the National Compact.

This is very important because we get a credible eyewitness to the events of the Boston Convention and the formation of the National Grand Lodge in 1847. Woodlin would not be a more authentic and credible witness than Hayden, Woodlin was not there.

Hayden agrees with Woodlin that the purpose of the National Grand Lodge was to cement, into a harmonious unity, the divided masons of this nation. He even stated that he was speaking from PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE. He implies that the invitation to the Convention was not attached to a call to form a National Grand Lodge. He implies that this was conceived AT THE CONVENTION:


This is in alignment with Boyer Lodge's testimony in the delegation report issued in 1849 (so-called "Elston's Report). This is also in alignment with the Proclamation issued by the National Convention itself:

"The Grand Lodge of Boston, First African Grand Lodge of North America and Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, met in the city of Boston, State of Massachusetts, AND AFTER MATURE DELIBERATION the said Representatives, (the requisite or required masonical number of Grand Lodges being present,) adopted a resolution unanimously, in GOOD HARMONY, to organize and open a National Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons, for the United States of America..."

Pro-Compct writers can attempt any point they would like, but the documentation presents the establishment of a National Grand Lodge that was not subjecting the Grand Lodges to become subordinate to the established body. We have the words of those who were party to the Convention and were eyewitnesses to the events of the day. 

While Woodlin is correct in his assessment of the purpose of the National Compact, he has done damage to his credibility by omitting the fact that those "rebellious" Grand Lodges who were speaking against and withdrawing from the Compact, were doing so because the National Grand Lodge had overstepped its jurisdiction and its leadership had become more divisive that they had ever been prior to the formation of it. This clearly shows that the purpose of the National Grand Lodge had been distorted and there was valid reason to abandon the National Compact.

Chapter 2
Origin of Freemasonry Among Colored Citizens

This chapter opens with speculation, several errors and fabrications on Woodlin's part. Woodlin claims that in 1782 Prince Hall made an application to the Grand Lodge in Massachusetts, and after being denied, they wrote to England. He claims that the warrant empowered African Lodge #459 to open a Grand Lodge, and goes so far as to alter and doctor a letter written by Prince Hall to state that they were a Grand Lodge in 1787.

The very first error is to state that the brethren in Massachusetts under St. John's Provincial Grand Lodge were "Ancient York Masons". This is misleading and inaccurate. The Provincial Grand Lodge of St. John's of Boston was chartered by the Grand Lodge of England (Modern). They were not designating themselves as Ancient York masons. The warrant from the Grand Lodge of England would not have given African Lodge #459 the power to make "Ancient York Masons", because none were made under any warrants issued by the Grand Lodge of England. In fact, here is the actual wording of the Charter for African Lodge #459:

To All and Every:
Our Right Worshipful and Loving Brethren: Thomas Howard, Earl of Effington, Lord Howard, etc., Acting Grand Master, under the authority of his royal Highness, Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, etc., Grand Master of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, send greeting.
Know ye that we, at the humble petition of our Right Trusty and well beloved brethren, Prince Hall, Boston Smith, Thomas Sanderson, and several other brethren residing in Boston, New England, North America, do hereby constitute the said brethren into a regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, under the title or denomination of the African Lodge, to be opened in Boston, aforesaid, and do further, at their said petition and of the great trust and confidence reposed in every of the said above-named brethren, hereby appoint the Prince Hall to be Master; Boston Smith, Senior Warden and Thomas Sanderson, Junior Warden, for the opening of the said Lodge, and for such further time only as shall be thought by the brethren thereof, it being our will that this our appointment of the above said officers, shall in affect any further election said Lodge, but that such election shall be regulated agreeable to such By-Laws of the said Lodge as shall be consistent with the Grand Law of the society contained in the Book of Constitutions: and we hereby will, and require of you the said Prince Hall, to take special care that all and every the said brethren are to have been regularly made Masons, and that they do observe, perform, and keep all the rules and orders contained in the Book of Constitutions; and, further, that you do from time to time cause to be entered, in a book kept for that purpose, an account of your proceedings in the Lodge, together with all such Rules, orders and Regulations as shall be made for the good government of same, that in no wise you omit once in every year to send us, or our Successors, Grand Masters, or Rowland Holt, Esq., our Deputy Grand Master, for the time being, and account of your proceedings, and copies of all such Rules, Orders and Regulations as shall be made aforesaid together with the list of the members of the Lodge, and reasonably be expected toward the Grand Charity.
Moreover, we will, and require of you, the said Prince Hall, as soon as conveniently may be, to send an account in writing of what may be done by virtue of these presents.
Given at London, under our hand and seal of Masonry, 29th day of September, A.L. 5784, A.D. 1784, by the Grand Master's command R. Holt, Deputy Grand Master.
Attest:  William White, Grand Secretary.

What can be readily seen, is the fact that African Lodge was not a lodge of Ancient York Masons, but a "regular [lodge] of FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS." And, we also see that the Constitution that governed the Lodge was not an Antient nor York Constitution, but Anderson's Constitution.

The third highlighted portion has Woodlin making the gross error of claiming that by virtue of the Charter of African Lodge #459, they could form a Grand Lodge:

"According to this commission, the Right Worshipful Prince Hall opened a Grand Lodge in the city of Boston, State of Massachusetts in ample form, under the title of "African Grand Lodge, of Boston, state of Massachusetts..."[20]

Then, to attempt a support for this fabricated assertion, Woodlin reprints a letter written by Prince Hall to Draper and Folsom, where Prince Hall is correcting a report of the Lodge. Woodlin states:

Woodlin's corrupted version of the Prince Hall letter to Draper and Folsom

Woodlin, to support his claim that the Charter formed a Grand Lodge, adds the words, AFRICAN GRAND LODGE. This we can prove without a shadow of a doubt, because we are in possession of a copy of the actual letter written by the hands of Prince Hall himself:
Letter written by Prince Hall between 1787-1789

The portion we need to focus on is this one:

Begin at the third line and you will see the words, "our tittel is not S Blacks Lodge..." 

After that, we find NO AFRICAN GRAND LODGE!

Woodlin's copy

Woodlin either added it to the letter or was copying from a corrupted copy.

Now go to the bottom part, the next to the last line, you read, "Servant Prince Hall Master of the African Lodge No. 1 dedicated to S. Johns"
Go back up to Woodlin's copy. you will find NOTHING after Prince Hall's name.

This is a prime example as to why Masonic National Union cannot be relied upon as the most authentic and unbiased documentation concerning the formation and early years of the National Grand Lodge. We have a clear error on the part of Woodlin, and the attempt to prop it up by doctoring a letter written by Prince Hall.

Chapter 3
Commencement of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania

The above is the entirety of Chapter 3. And, even as brief the chapter is, we find more errors. Woodlin give 7 names he believed to be involved with the letter of Peter Mantore to Prince Hall, dated March 2, 1797. Out of the seven names only two are correct. The others are either NOT mentioned in the actual letter, or are misprinted. The actual letter is reprinted in the Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Vol. 13, in PGM William H. Upton's paper on Prince Hall's Letter book:

I chose this portion of the letter to show the names involved with the Philadelphia petition to African Lodge #459. Woodlin gets only Absalom Jones and Q. Butler correct, the others are either not mentioned (C. Bryson) and the others are misprints. See for yourself.

Chapter 4
Commencement of the rebellion of two lodges....

Chapter 4 begins the story of the two Lodges who left First Independent African Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and began operating under the alleged warrant from a Lodge from mainstream Ohio Grand Lodge.

This yet another very short "chapter", but we can accept all in this "chapter" to be accurate. These two Lodges ended up forming the Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, which takes us into Chapter 5.

Chapter 5
Formation of another Grand Lodge in Pennsylvania...

This chapter is a bit more lengthy and we will deal with the particular section of note. We want to accept for the record, Woodlin's account of the formation of Hiram GL of Penn., which we agree with.

For the record, this writer accepts the fact that Union Lodge #4 and Harmony Lodge #5 were clandestine in their working under an alleged warrant and later forming a Grand Lodge. The formation of that Grand Lodge was indeed clandestine. Many pro-Compact writers and researchers will attempt to get Prince Hall Affiliated historians and writers to argue the legality of Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. We need not argue this point; we can fully accept that Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was clandestine, because in 1847, they were invited to the Boston Convention and eventually made party to the National Compact. They then merged (NOT HEALED) with First Independent African Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, which birthed the Compact Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Whatever illegality the Compact can bring up about Hiram Grand Lodge prior to the Convention, they must concede that Hiram Grand Lodge was legitimized by their participation, allegiance to and eventual membership in the National Compact. They cannot draw any controversy, because that Grand Lodge merged with FIAGL and formed the Compact GL in Pennsylvania.

This last sentence is misleading, because one would come to the conclusion that it was African Grand Lodge of Boston that Hiram was in opposition to, it wasn't. Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was in competition and direct opposition to First Independent AFRICAN GRAND LODGE. This needs to be clarified.
Chapter 6
The African Grand Lodge publishes that the Hiram Grand Lodge as Clandestine and Illegal, etc.

Chapter six provides correspondences that were published by First Independent African Grand Lodge (Pennsylvania), denouncing the actions and existence of Hiram Grand Lodge. Woodlin also publishes correspondence from the Grand Lodge of Ohio (mainstream) denying that the said Lodge that Hiram Grand Lodge subordinates claimed to have received a charter from was forgery. Whether this warrant was forgery or not is not important, because the actions resulted in the Grand Lodge (Hiram) being clandestine. But the pro-Compact writers cannot pitch their tents here, because these actions were not a restriction from this Grand Lodge becoming part of the National Compact. This is necessary for us to grasp. Hiram Grand Lodge did not get healed, nor were they absorbed by their rival in Pennsylvania (First Independent Grand Lodge). Hiram was admitted into the National Compact as a Masonic equal.

Question to pro-Compact historians and writer:

Does the acceptance of Hiram Grand Lodge into the Compact make the National Grand Lodge clandestine?

Is there any documentation from the day that would imply that Hiram was FIRST healed and then accepted?

Did the countenance of the existence of Hiram Grand Lodge by its contemporary Grand Lodges constitute it being a LEGAL and EQUAL party to the initial National Compact?

Chapter 7
Union among all Colored Masons in the United 

Chapter seven opens with Woodlin providing the rationale behind PGM John T. Hilton's call for the Grand Masonic Convention of 1847, Boston, Massachusetts. Woodlin records that Hilton initially made it known that the Convention was for the establishment of the National Grand Lodge. 

This account does not line up with other documentation and a majority of the writers contemporary to the formation of the National Grand Lodge. From, Lux Et Veritas to Lewis Hayden's statements, to the "Elston report", we find that the decision to establish a National Grand Body was made AT the Convention. With the majority of contemporaries standing on that fact, and Woodlin presenting many errors in his pamphlet, we must go with the majority of writers and published documentation until the actual Call to the Convention surfaces.

This is the end of part 1 of this review. Part 2 of the review will resume next month (May).


1. Roundtree, Alton. The National Grand Lodge and Prince Hall Freemasonry: The Untold Truth (2010). Chapter 1 Formation of and Arguments against the National Grand Lodge. pg.9

2. Woodlin Lodge #30 F. & A. M. of the MWPHGL of NJ website: http://woodlin30.org/about/

3. Cox, Joseph. Great Black Men of Freemasonry (2002). pg. 353

4. Woodlin, Joshua. The Masonic National Union: A History of Origin of Freemasonry Among Coloured Citizens of America (1855) Joshua Woodlin. Preface.

5. Ibid., Chapter 1 General Remarks, pg. 1

6. Those Grand Lodges are the United Grand Lodge for the State of New York (1848); Hiram Grand Lodge for the State of Delaware (1849) and the First Colored Grand Lodge of Maryland (1848).

7. Roundtree, Alton. The National Grand Lodge and Prince Hall Freemasonry: The Untold Truth (2010). Appendix 1, pg. 389.

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

9. 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.

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

11. 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.

12. Ibid.

13. Refer to any dictionary.

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

15. Handbook of Freemasonry, by the Most Worshipful National Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Ancient York Rite Masons, National Compact USA (1985).

16. York Rite Bulletin, Issue 2 April 2010, Cedric Lewis, "What's in a Name?" 

17. Baker Harris, Ray. The York Problem, Masonic Service Associaction, Sept. 16, 1957.

18. Ibid.

19. Declaration of the Great National Convention, held at the City of Boston, Mass., June 23, 1847, A.L. 5847.

20. Woodlin, Joshua. The Masonic National Union: A History of Origin of Freemasonry Among Coloured Citizens of America (1855) Joshua Woodlin. Chapter 2 Origin of Freemasonry Among Colored Citizens, pg.10