ADDRESS BY BRO. SERENO D. NICKERSON
Early Masonic History In America
Given before the General Grand Chapter of the United States, June 20, 1906.
From the Proceedings, Page 1906-73ff.
Brethren, I am very glad indeed to meet so many distinguished members of the Fraternity from other jursdictions, and I hope that I shall be able to present some facts which may be new to you in regard to the early history of Masonry in this country, especially in Massachusetts, where we claim that it almost literally had its American origin.
We have the oldest Masonic records that are in existence on this continent. The first volume contains the records of the "Modern" Grand Lodge. which was established by Henry Price, under authority of the Grand Master of England, in 1733. This is the volume (showing to the Brethren the volume referred to). The contemporaneous record commences in 1750. There were certain previous pages left blank for the insertion of documents and items of history which might be presented to the Grand Secretary during his administration, and which he might thiuk it desirable to perpetuate by entering them in the records. They were probably modeled after the records of the Grand Lodge of England. I never saw the latter, but Grand Master Heard, Grand Master in 1857, 1858 and 1859, published in Moore's Magazine an article, reprinted afterwards in connection with the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge for 1871, in which he gave a fair account, I think, of what he found in the earliest records of that Grand Lodge. Their early pages were taken up largely with lists of Lodges, even giving the lists of members of those Lodges. But our records contain nothing of that kind.
The record proper, as I have said, commences in April, 1750, and in the ten or twelve previous pages are the deputations to Henry Price, and two of his successors. There is also some account of the organization, under Price's authority, of the First Lodge in Boston, which he constituted on the thirtieth of August, 1733, a petition therefor having been plesented to him in the previous month.
Following the account of the First Lodge in Boston are brief items of important history from I733 to about the time when the contemporaneous record commences. One of the most important items given in this collection, as we regard it, is under date of June 24, 1734, in which it is stated tbat Benjamin Franklin came to Boston, and, having made the acquaintance of Grand Master Price, upon his return to Philadelphia called the Brethren there together and in their behalf petitioned Grand Master Price for authority for a Lodge in Philadelphia. Some objection has been made to this particular item, especially in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, in the report on Foreign Correspondence of last year, 1905. The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence of that Grand Lodge finds fault with the record of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, because there is a slight erasure in the first reference to Franklin in that paragraph. It is an erasure that would hardly be recognized by the reader, and I think was probably first discovered by holding the page up to the light. It is a very trifling erasure, probably no more serious than are frequently made by secretaries at the present day, because of a slip of the pen. It is perfectly evident what the name is, and the same form exactly occurs twice afterwards in the same sentence, without any erasure whatever. It hardly seems to me that an old record of one hundred and fifty, or one huudled and sixty years should be considered as unreliable simply because a penman of that day made the slight slip to which I have referred.
The histoly of Masonry in Massachusetts, and its progress from here to other States, or provinces as they were in that day, has never, to my knowledge, been seriously disputed except during the last twenty-five or thirty years. Brother MacCalla, who was the apostle of the claim of Philadelphia to have had precedence of Massachusetts. was frequently here during his administration as Grand Master, and on three occasions I offered him these records for examination, but he treated them with perfect indifference. It seemed to me that he did not want to learn anything in regard to the evidence against his special claim. In January, 1874, before he was Grand Master, he published in the London Masonic Magazine a version of the early history of Masonry iu this country almost exactly as I would have written it. Six mouths afterwards, in another article in that magazine, he took a back track and advocated the claim as it appeared to him at that tirne.
At the dedication of the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia in September, 1873, the first six officers of the Grand Lodge of Massacbusetts, and officers of many other jurisdictions, were present, and on that occasion I heard the Address of Brother Lamberton, who was a Past Grand Master. He referred to what has sometimes been called the Henry Bell Letter, He made the first announcement, I think, that any of us had ever heard of that particular item. He simply read it and stated that it appeared, contrary to our previous opinions, that there had been an earlier Lodge regularly warranted than any that were known in Massachusetts, with this very brief comment: that if it were regularly warranted it must have been between the twenty-fourth of June, 1730, and the same month of 1732 because that was the period of the deputation of the only Provincial Grand Master who had preceded Price. After making this comment he went on and described the history of Masonry exactly as we would have described it ourselves, showing that he placed no great confidence in what was called The Henry Bell Letter.
There is an old saying that "Reading makes the full man, speaking the ready man, and writing the exact man." I think I may claim to have at least one of those qualities, for I have been so much interested during the lnst twenty-five or thirty years in this early history of Masonry here that I can fairly claim to be, in this respect at least, full.
When Most Worshipful William Sewall Gardner, Grand Master, on the twenty-seventh of December, 1871, installed me as his successor he delivered what we call "the [Henry Price Address," in which he gave a very full biograpby of our first Provincial Grand Master, showing that for ten years previous the speaker bad been engaged industriously, apparently during his whole leisure time, in collecting items no matter how trivial, in regard to the first Provincial Grand Master of Massachusetts. It was a complete surprise to all of us and was listened to with the greatest attention and interest. He was soon afterwards appointed one of the Justices of our Superior Court, and after service in that capacity for five or ten years was promoted to the Supreme Bench, where he served about as long; and I have always thought that his death was caused by the excessive work and labor involved in that position. He was obliged to resign, and in a few months afterwards died in the year l888. With the exception of Charles W. Moore, who was our Grand Secretary from 1834 to 1867, he probably was the best informed Mason that we had. He waked us all up to an interest in the history of Masonry, not only here, but elsewhere.
Some five years ago, or more, I recollect that an agent for the history recently published, attributed to Brother Mackey, came to me with a prospectus for that publication, and I told him that it seemed to me very strange that Brother Mackey should have been engaged upon so important a work and that none of us had known anything about it. Furthermore, I told him that most of our knowledge in regard to the early history of Masonry had been acquired during the previous twenty or thirty years. Mackey had at that time been dead for twenty years, and I could not see how it could be of any advantage to circulate a history which had been prepared so long previously. But the history wns issued, continued by Brother Singleton, who, in my judgment, though a very excellent man and a very worthy officer, was not a very good authority on historical matters.
In June, 1888, in company with our Grand Master, Henry Endicott, I went to Townsend, and under his direction the grave of Henry Price was opened in the old cemetery in that town, and the few bones that we found were gathered into a small case and deposited in the new cemetery in one of the best lots in that cemetery, under the promise of a Brother who owned the adjoining lot that he and his heirs should keep the Henry Price lot in perpetual care. We found a very few bones only, one of the principal bones of the leg showing that there had been at some time a fracture. We had them carefully sealed up and a little enclosure built around them, and upon that we erected the monument which had been prepared under the direction of the Grand Lodge. The old tablet which had been over the grave of Henry Price from 1780 until that time, 1888, was brought to Boston, because there seemed to be no place appropriate to it in the new lot, and placed in the ante-room here, where it has been ever since.
The record to which I flrst referred runs from 1750 to 1792. This, you will remember, is the record of the Modern Grand Lodge, sometimes called St. John's. It was principally written, probably, by Peter Pelham, who was one of the first engravers we ever had here in New England, who came to Boston from London in 1726. He was probably made a Mason in the First Lodge in Boston. He was succeeded as Secretary by his son, Charles Pelham, who was also an elegant writer, as his father had been, the son probably having learned penmanship from his father. It is exceedingly difficult, I think, to detect the difference between the handwritings, to tell where the record of Charles commences and Peter's ends.
Charles was proposed as a Mason by Henry Price in the First Lodge in Boston, and it was declared at that time that he was to be made a Mason for the purpose of taking up the work of his father, as Secretary. He died in Wilmington, N.C., Dec. 13, 1809.
We have elso the record of the Ancient Grand Lodge, the whole of which is contained in this volume (holding up volume), which has been recently bound. We found that it was falling to pieces. and for its preservation we had a new cover put upon it. This Provincial Grand Lodge was organized by Joseph Warren on the twenty-seventh of December, 1769, under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The Grand Lodge of Scotland was from its inception an Ancient Masonic organization. You know that that the Ancient organization sprang from certain Irish Masons, who, about 1738 or 1740, brought to London the Royal Arch Degree, and they were always very strenuous to have it connected with the Third Degree. The proposal and the ritual that they presented and that they claimed to work did not meet with favor by the old Grand Lodge. The consequence was that, after considerable wrangling and ill-feeling, a new and opposition Grand Lodge was started against the old Grand Lodge. The Grand Secretary, Laurence Dermott, who was a shrewd, able man, took advantage of changes that are said to have been made in the words of the three degrees - the old Grand Lodge having, it is said, transferred the word of the second to the first degree, in order to detect applicants to visit their Lodges who belonged to the new association.
The Ancient Grand Lodge of London was probably organized about 1751 or 1752. The Grand Lodge of Scotland had always been friendly to this new movement, and eventually became known themselves as Ancient Masons.
Joseph Warren organized his Provincial Grand Lodge, as I have said, on the twenty-seventh of December, 1769, and this volume contains the entire record of tbat Body up to the time of the union of the two Provincial Grand Lodges here in Massachusetts, which occurred in 1792. Duriug the period of his Grand Mastership there were forty meetings of his Grand Lodge, and he was present at thirty-six of them. It is remarkable, considering the fact that he was a young physician in active practice, and that he was engaged upon the various committees which were working so industriously here to promote the success of the Revolution, that he should have been able to give so much time as he did to Masonry. He was killed, as you know, at Bunker Hill, on the seventeenth of June, 1775. He presided at the March meeting previous to his death, and about the same time he pronounced one of the orations that were delivered during the period of the Revolution commemorative of what was called The Boston Massacre. The one that he delivered in March of that year is considered very remarkable, from the stand which he took in opposition to the military portion of his audience. You know the story is told of him at that time that, when one of tbe soldiers held up a few bullets in his hand with a view to intimidating him in some of his most impassioned utterances, he quietly took a white handkerchief from his pocket and dropped it on the soldier's hand, covering up the bullets.
General Gage shut up Boston in March, 1775, and it was scarcely possible for people to get in or out of Boston for a whole year. During that year the Battle of Bunker Hill occurred, and Warren was killed. But on the seventeenth of March, 1776, Boston was evacuated on account of the fortifications which had been erected on Dorchester Heights by General Washington. General Howe, with many of the Tories, both official, military and mere citizens, went from here to Halifax to escape the dangers of the Revolutionary War, and immediately after they had left Boston search was made for the body of General Warren and it was found. It was brought to Boston, Charlestown at that time being a town by itself, and on the eighth of April a grand funeral was held, the procession starting from the old State House, at the head of State street - then called King Street - and proceeding to King's Chapel, on the corner of School and Tremont $tteets, where an oration was delivered by the Grand Marshal of that day, Perez Morton. It was considered a most remarkable eulogy, especially when the fact is remembered that he had only two days in which to prepare it. It was published in full at the time, which was quite an unusual thing for those days, and we have in our libraries here copies of the original and of the second edition of that pamphlet. Important as that funeral was considered at the time. it is remarkable that no reference whatever is made to it in this volume of rccords.
The record of the last occasion on which Joseph Warren presided, March 3, 1775, is followed by a record of the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, on tbe twenty-seventh of December, 1776. Then follow three meetings in February and March, 1777. At the third of those meetings the Grand Lodge chose its own Grand Master, all previous authority of that sort having come from Great Britain. By this action, by the choice of Joseph Webb, who had been Deputy Grand Master during the whole period of Joseph Warren's administration, the first independent Grand Lodge on this continent was establisbed. An interesting item in this record you will find under the date of the third of March, 1775. It is stated at the foot of the record that on the nineteenth of April hostilities commenced between the troops of Great Britain and America in Lexington battle, and no meeting was held until December, 1776. But the next record is the one to which I have referred - the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, on the twenty-seventh of December, 1776.
The record of the Modern Grand Lodge ends with 1774, followed by a letter written in 1775 from one of the Brethren in Nantucket. No subsequent record is given until 1787. From the fact that these two records follow on successive pages of the same volume, it has been believed by many historians that the Modern Grand Lodge and its subordinate Lodges did not hold any meetings during that interval. I think this is a mistake. I have found, and have reported occasionally in our printed Proceedings, items which satisfied me that both the Provincial Grand Lodge, and the subordinate Lodges under it, were actually at work, though perhaps not doing as much as they had been doing during tbe few years before.
The reason why this break occurs in the records is that Thomas Brown, who was tbe Secretary of the Modern Grand Lodge, the Provincial Grand Lodge, and also of the Second Lodge in Boston, was a Tory, and he went to Halifax with General Howe and his party and carried with him the records of both those organizations. He claimed that there were certain amounts due him from the Grand Lodge and from the Second Lodge, and he refused to return the records, the regalia, and other matter which he had carried off with him, until that indebtedness was paid. In the year 1787 the Provincial Grand Lodge voted, according to the record we are referring to, that the Grand Treasurer should pay this claim and recover the property it the hands of Thomas Brown. By this means these records were returned.
Brethren may be desirous to know how, during so many untoward events as we have been through here - the Revolutionary War and the many fires which have destroyed Masonic apartments - it is possible that we could have saved these old records. The answer is that for a considerable portion of that time, especially during the period when the fire occurred which destroyed the Masonic apartments on this spot, these old records were in the possession of the Grand Secretary, Rro. Charles W. Moore, at his house - where they ought not to have been, but where, fortunately as it proved, they were. He probably had them at his house for two reasons. In the flrst place, he was the great authority during the period of his Grand Secretaryship among us, and he was frequently in the habit, no doubt, of referring to these records for the material of speeches which he made on his frequent visits to Lodges, and also for the prepalation of articles which he was publishing in his magazine - one of the best Masonic periodicals, I think, that we have ever had in this country, commencing with 1842 and terminating with the month in which he died, December, 1873. In the following month - at that period I was Grand Master - in the hope that I might start a publication which would be a successor to Brother Moore's magazine, I issued the first number of the New England Freemason." That was continued for two years, 1874 and 1875. During the first year I was Grand Master and during the next year I was very much occupied with Masonic affairs, particularly in managing the debt upon the property where we are now located, and I was obliged to discontinue the magazine.
During the first year of Brother Moore's publication he made the acquaintance of a Jewish Mason, who came from London in 1842. and wbo was well posted in regard to the ritual of the Grand Lodge of England, and, as Moore said, furnished him with more information in regard to the English ritual than he had ever obtained from any members of the Fraternity from abroad before. The relation between the two Brethren became quite intimate, and, upon the suggestion of Brother Moore, Brother Norton, the Jew, joined St. Andrew's Lodge, of which Brother Moore was a Past Master. He remained a member for only six or seven years, for the reason that in 1851 he petitioned our Grand Lodge to revise its ritual and strike out what he called its sectarian allusions. The sectarian allusion to which he particularly objected was the dedication to the holy Saints John, whom, as a Jew, he did not recognize; and he also objected to the ascription to Christ by the Chaplain of St. Andrew's Lodge. His petition for the revision of the ritual was referred to a committee, of which Dr. Randall was made the Chairman, which did not report for about six months. In the meantime Dr. Randall had been chosen our Grand Master. He will be remembered by some of the Brethren present as afterwalds the Bishop of Colorado, where he labored very zealously for his church, where he was greatly beloved, and where he died from overwork. In June, 1852, Brother Randall made a most elaborate report upon this petition and concluded by recommending that the petitioner have leave to withdraw. The report was adopted almost unanimously. Upon the strength of that rebuff Brother Norton sent in his resignation of membership in St. Andrew's Lodge, and I think he never afterwards attended any meeting of a Masonic Body in this country. He did on two or three occasions attend meetings of the Lodge in which he had been made a Mason, Joppa Lodge of tondon, and on one occasion he attended a meeting of the Grand Lodge there.
The consequence was that Brother Norton became extremely bitter against the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. There was nothing from that time until his death that he could not and would not say in derogation of the Fraternity of this locality. Brother MacCalla, who then held no official position, but who was publishing a weekly newspaper in Philadelphia having a Masonic department, at Norton's suggestion looked up the Pennsylvania Gazette, published by Franklin in 1730 and the following years, and there found two paragraphs which entirely changed his ideas in regard to the early history of Masonry in this country. He immediately published in his newspaper, called The Keystone, an elaborate article, taking up two folio pages, giving his ideas in regard to this new discovery, as he called it, although what he found in Franklin's paper had been known to well-informed Masons for years. Although not many of them were familiar with the very language, they knew the fact that such items were to be found in Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette. The first item was published in 1730, and in it Franklin stated that there were several Masonic Lodges in Philadelphia. In the same issue he published what had been circulating for some time as an exposure of Masonry. It is very evident from this fact that Franklin was not a member of the Fraternity at the time. Brother Gardner, in his Henry Price Address, had stated that it was not known where Franklin was made a Mason, but it was believed that he was made in London, while he was there a few years before this date, 1730. This hardly met with the approval of Brethren who had investigated the matter, not simply because of the fact that Franklin published this exposure of Masonry, but also from the fact that when he was in London, the time to which Brother Gardner referred, he was a journeyman apprentice, a printer, and he was not at all likely to have fallen into the company of the nobility and gentry who largely composed the Fraternity in London. The matter was, however, settled by the discovery of an account book, in 1880, which was in the possession of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and which came very directly from the heirs and business connections of Benjarnin Franklin himself. It has been rendered quite famous by the publication by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania of a facsimile of certain pages of this account book. It was probably the ledger of the first Lodge in Philadelpbia and has been known to the Fraternity as Liber B, from the fact that the letter B was on the cover of the account, book. In the few pages that were printed by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania occur the financial record of William Allen, who was claimed to have been one of the founders of this Lodge. It is a significant fact, to which the Brethren interested in the facsimile made no reference whatever, that at the head of this account William Allen is described as Grand Master. When you recollect that the account commences in 1730 and runs to 1738, you will be surprised that William Allen could have been named as Grand Master in that jurisdiction, because the deputation to Daniel Coxe was granted by the Grand Lodge of England, running from the twenty-fourth of June, 1730, to the twenty-fourth of June, 1732.
It is hard for us, at least - I don't know but what the Philadelphia Brethren may be able to explain it - but it is hard for us to account for the existence of two Grand Lodges and two Grand Masters in that jurisdiction, one receiving his autholity from the Grand Lodge of England, and the other apparently deriving his authority from the Lodge. We have always claimed that, although Daniel Coxe was the predecessor of Henry Price, in point of time as to his deputation, he never acted under his authority. He was probably, during the whole period to which his deputation extended, residing in London, perfecting a title which he claimed from his father, who was physician to Charles II., to nearly half the continent. In 1722 he published a volume describing what was called Carolana. We have two editions of that publication in our library, one dated in 1722 and one in 1726. During all that time, probably, he was largely interested and employed in tbe perfecting of his title to this great property, and inducing people to come out here and settle upon it. At any rate, there is no evidence whatever that he ever acted under his authority as Provincial Grand Master. The Grand Lodge of New Jersey is quite as much interested in his claim as the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and they have never admitted that there was any evidence whatever that he acted. They have not, it is true, declared that he did not act, but they have admitted that there is no evidence that be ever did act. At the Centennial of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, in 1887, Past Grand Master Cannon delivered an interesting historical Address in which he referred to this matter in the presence of the principal Grand Officers of Pennsylvania, in this way - that Daniel Coxe had a deputation for the period I have named, and in that respect it preceded the deputation of Henry Price; but he admitted that there was no evidence of any action under it, and he said, furthermore, that if there had been any action by Daniel Coxe it would not have been necessary for Benjamin Franklin to ask - as he did in his letter to Henry Price, dated Nov. 28, 1734 - for the confirmation of the privileges of the Lodge which had been established there as early as 1731.
We have always claimed, and I think it cannot be successfully disputed, that there was no warrant for this early Lodge in Philadelphia, that it was merely a chance gathering of Masons who had probably been made in England; most of them, and of a similar character to the Lodges which existed in England previous to the reorganization in 1717. In that year you will remember that the four old Lodges in London chose the first Grand Master and organized the first Grand Lodge. Previous to that the Fraternity had been represented by what was called the General Assembly of Masons, meeting once a year, probably any Brother who was recognized as a Mason having a right to attend the meetings of that Body. But in l717 it was decided that this kind of Masonic gathering was unsafe and irregular, and in the Constitutions which were adopted in 1722, and published in 1723 by Anderson, it was expressly declared that from that time forth it should not be regular for Masons to meet as Lodges unless under the authority of a warrant granted by the Grand Master. The fact that this publication took place in 1723 makes it appear very strange that such an organization as had been common previous to the publication of these Constitutions should have existed in 1731 in a province under the administration of the Grand Lodge of England. We have the fact that Franklin states in his letter to Henry Price: "The condition of Masonry in this province is such as to seem to require the sanction of some authority from home." He was not satisfied with saying that, but he went on and told, just exactly what he thought they needed, i.e., a deputation or charter under the authority of Henry Price from Britain, confirming them in the rights and privileges which they are now enjoying. Those rights and privileges, as we claim, had simply been assumed. They were not granted hy any competent authority.
If the Lodge in which Franklin was initiated in February, 1731, had received a warrant from Daniel Coxe, Franklin, certainly, in less than four years afterwards, would have known whether or not such authority had been granted, and if it had been he certainly would not have applied to the successor of the Provincial Grand Master who issued the authority for any confirmation. Such action would have discredited the authority under which the Brethren in Philadelphia claim the Lodge was then acting.
Franklin was the great man in Philadelphia at that time. For many years he was about all there was of Philadelphia. He was in the habit of coming to Boston frequently. Mr. Robert C. Winthrop, who was one of our most valued members of Congress and h,n excellent orator, in one of his Addresses states that Franklin came to Boston once every ten years, at regular intervals. But our Masonic records show that this statement is incorrect. He was here on several occasions at intervals of less than ten years. In the record of the First Lodge in Boston, which I have here, on the twenty-fifth of May, 1748, he is reported as a visitor. On the eleventh of October, 1754, his name appears in the records of the provincial Grand Lodge; and that record is in some other respects, besides the fact that Franklin was here, an important and interesting record to us. At that meeting tbe death of Thomas Oxnard, provincial Grand Master, was announced, and a committee was appointed to petition the Grand Master of Engltrnd for a depntation for Jeremy Gridley who was the Attorney-General of the Crown, and has often been spoken of in late years as the Daniel Webster of his day. The recommendation was that he should be appointed Plovincial Grand Master. to succced Thomas Oxnard. And, by the way, the Lodge in which Franklin was made a Mason went down, ceased to exist entirely in 1738, and in 1749 the Brethren of Pennsylvania came again to the provincial Grand Master of Massachusetts, Thomas Oxnard, and received authority from him.
At this meeting in 1754, when Franklin was present, Henry Price was in the Chair; taking it by virtue of the fact that the Grand Master was deceased, and that it therefore devolved upon the senior living Provincial Grand Master. I have no doubt that this very volume of records was on the Secretary's desk at the time when Franklin was present on that occasion, and undoubtedly, it seems to me, the history of the two organizations must have been freely discussed between Franklin and Henry Price, and the other prominent Brethren of our organization.
A comnrittee was appointed, as I have stated, to petition the Grand Master of England for a deputation for Jeremy Gridley. The petition which they drew up follows immediately on the record and appears as a part of the record. I do not suppose that it was actually presented at that meeting, but it goes on to recite that Masonry originated here under the authority of Henry Price, who received his deputation in 1733 covering New England, that in the following year it was extended over all North America, and that under that authority, the last, tbe Lodges which are named in the petition, with their dates, were constituted. The first one on that list is 1734, Philadelphia.
All these facts seem to me to prove conclusively that our claim to have had the first regularly-constituted Lodge in this country is sound. That is all we have ever claimed - that the first regularly-constituted Lodge in America received its authority from Henry Price. That Lodge was called the First Lodge in Boston. Often in the records it is described as The Mother Lodge. In 1749 Thomas Oxnard granted a warrant for the second Lodge. In 1783, John Rowe, Provincial Grand Master, granted a charter for these two Lodges to unite, upon their petition, and the charter recites in full the request of these two Lodges, naming the Brethren who were prominent in them and who signed the petition. That Lodge is still in existence, under the name of St. John's Lodge of Boston, certainly the oldest regularly-constituted Lodge existing in this country. It is in a verv flourishing state, one of the largest Lodges in our jurisdiction.
I have not stated a fact, wbich was always a very interesting one to me, that while I was publishing the New England Freemason, in 1874, Brother MacCalla published his wonderful "find" in The Keystone. In the very same month in the New England Freemason I spread the whole of it before the Fraternity of this jurisdiction, aud I gave as a reason for so doing that it contained matter that should be of great interest to the Fraternity, much of it probably not known to many of the readers of the Freemason and because I wished them to be thoroughly informed upon both sides of such a question. In contrast with mv action at that time - you will bear in mind that I was Grand Master at the time - the Brethren of Philadelphia have assiduously circulated documents and small publications in great variety, giving their versions of the early history of Masonry in this country, without making any reference, almost literally without making any reference at all, to the evidence on the other side. I have always claimed that this was unfair and unjust. It was characteristic of Brother MacCalla. Brother Drummond and Brother Carson told me long before MacCalla died that he had been a most unfair debater with them on important matters, so much so that both of them had discontinued all correspondence with him. I found especial fault with Brotber MacCalla that on his first visit to England he delivered an Address on this subject to the Lodge Quatuor Coronati which was then and is now one of our best authorities on Masonic history, in which he sets forth all the claims he had made in 1874 and positively disputed, denied, and sneered at anything in the shape of evidence on our side, even denying that Henry Price's deputation had been extended over North America. Henry Price himself states it in one of his letters which is quoted by Brother Gardner in his "Henry Price Address, and it is referred to two or three times in our records, especially in our record of the meeting in 1754 when Franklin was present. Under these circumstances, I think that our claim in that respect is at least entitled to respectful treatment.
I don't know, Brethren, as I have presented to you all the matter that it would be well to lay before you on such an occasion. There is one other matter, perhaps, that it would be well for me to refer to - that is, to the publication by Franklin of the first Masonic book ever issued in this country. It was published in 1734, a reprint of Anderson's Constitutions. It was probably set up by Franklin's own hands. I think there are not more than ten or twelve copies in existence. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania has two and perhaps three. The copy I now exhibit belongs to to our Past Grand Master Lawrence, and has, for me at least, an interesting history. You will remember that this publication occuued less than four years after Franklin had been initiated, namelv in 1734. After giving the title-page of Anderson's Constitutions with the imprint, he recites that it has been reprinted for the benefit of the Brethren in North America by "special Order." The Library Committee of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, who published the memorial of the Dedication of the Temple in 1873, claimed that by their efforts certain impoltant items in Masonic history had been demonstrated for the benefit of the Fraternity throughout the country. Among all those - there were six or seven that they claimed the credit of having validated - there is only one that they brought to the attention of the Fraternity which had not already been thoroughly well known to us all and especially presented in Brother Gardner's "Henry Price Address". They claim that the special order to which Franklin refers in printing this volume was probably issued by the Lodge in which he was initiated. That seems to me a very lame and impotent conclusion - that that embryo Lodge, whether it had a warrant or not, sbould have issued a special order which would have had any control or power over the Fraternity. I claimed, in reviewing this matter, that the order was probably issued by Henry Price. You will remember that Franklin was here in the same year. Our records state that he received further information in the Royal Art from Henry Price and that upon his return to Philadelphia the Brethren there petitioned for a charter, which was granted. Franklin states in the very letter asking for the charter that he had just learned that the authority of Henry Price had been extended over all North America. It seems to me much more reasonable to suppose that the authority for reprinting Anderson's Constitutions came, if by special order from anybody, from the Grand Master of all North America.
I bought this copy at a sale of the Brinley Library. you will remember tbat there were five of those sales and that the gross amount was $300,000 or $400,000. Mr. Brinley, who was a resident of Hartford, was a great collector, and whenever he came across anything that he thought was unique he sent it to the best binder in London and had it bound in the best manner. This binding probably cost him five pounds. The interest in this book for us arises from the fact that, bound up with the Constitutions, called Franklin's Constitutions, are twenty-five or thirty pages of manuscript relating to the early history of Masonry in the town of Boston. When I saw it reported in one of the New York newspapers that among books to be sold at that particular auction was one of the Franklin Constitutions, containing this manuscript, I was, of course, very anxious to get possession of it, thinking that the manuscript might give valuable information for us. One day when Grand Master Lawrence came into the Grand Secretary's office in 1880, I told him of what I had seen in the paper and that I was thinking of raising a subscription to buy the book. I assured him that it would bring a high price. He reflected for a moment, and then he said, "Oh, that will be a deal of labor. You may go to New York and buy it for me, no matter what it costs." It was started at the sale at $50, which I presume is a fair price for a good copy of the Constitutions. the bids ran along at $5 each, my only competitor being Dr. Moore of the Lenox Library. We competed at the rate of $5 a bid, until we reached the figure of $260. Then I thought I must indicate to him the fact that I intended to have that book, whether or no, and I jumped $15. He stopped. (Applause). I brought it home and submitted the rnanuscript to Mellen Chamberlain, who was then the librarian of our public library. He asked me a great variety of questions, particularly as to when it was supposed to have been written, and by whom, and I told him. He wanted to know who had made the catalogue. I told him it was by Dr. Trunrbull, of Hartford, the librarian of the Watkinson Library of that city, who had stated not positively that it was Franklin's, but that it was believed to be Franklin's. That was the real reason why Dr. Moore wanted the book, because he considered that it was unique. Mr. Chamberlain, after considering the matter quite fully, concluded that if Dr. Trurnbull thought it was Franklin's handwriting, he should be inclined to agree with him. I was not satisfied with that, but I went to Dr. Green, who is the librarian of our Historical Society, and who is also considered a very good authority on rnannscripts and autographs. He asked me nearly the same questions and gave me the same opinion. I was not satisfied then, but I brought it back to the Temple and searched more thoroughly our old records, and I found some of this very same matter in the same handwriting. It is the handwriting of Francis Beteilhe, Secretary of the First Lodge in Boston in 1736. He was the partner in business of Henry Price from that date until 1741. It contains the by-laws of the First Lodge in Boston, a list of the members of that date, 1736, and two letters from Lodges, one in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh, in reply to a letter of introduction which was given by the First Lodge in Boston to one of its members when he was going abroad, in 1736.
I wrote to Bro. D. Murray Lyon. Grand Secretary of Scotland, asking if he would examine the records of those two Lodges and see if he could find the other side of the correspondence. He replied to me in a very short time giving the correspondence of that side, as it appeared in the records of those two Lodges. So now we have both sides of it.
I should like to have the Brethren who take any interest in these matters examine these books and publications of one sort and another which I have brought here, not with the intention of reading from them, but to afford an opportunity to those who take an interest in the matter to verify the statements which I have made. I think that the general opinion of well-informed Brethren of the Fraternity is tbat the claim of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is well founded. I hope I have added something to youl knowledge of this subject and have helped to confirm our claim in that respect. (Applause.)