ROBERT LLOYD STEADMAN 1926-2016
From TROWEL, Summer 1997, Page 5:
Regarded by his legal contemporaries as a judge full of valor and in kindness, princely in both, retired Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court Robert Lloyd Steadman of Hanover was Grand Master Arthur E. Johnson's choice as Deputy Grand Master for 1997. Last August he had been elected by the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite as the Deputy for Massachusetts.
In acknowledging his appointment, Brother Steadman told his audience that "You can have all the talent in the world but you still have to perform or play best. You can have the finest organization in the world but nobody will know about it unless you are able to talk intelligently about it. Our greatest failing is not giving our Brethren information that will give them the ability to talk with non-Masons about our Craft. If they cannot talk with non-Masons (about our Craft) we are derelict in our duty."
A native of Cambridge and a graduate of that city's Rindge High School, he is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School and had been a trial lawyer for 27 years in Boston. He received an honorary doctorate of laws in 1991. A partner in the law firm of Steadman, Williams and Jackson from 1952 to 1979, he received notoriety as a skilled trial lawyer. In 1979 he was appointed to the bench of the Superior Court, the oldest trial court in the United States.
In 1985 Brother Steadman became Regional Justice of Plymouth County. He was inducted Chief Justice of the Superior Court in 1988, a position he held with distinction until his retirement in 1993. He continues to do consulting work for the courts. There were 72,000 suits pending in the Superior Court when Judge Steadman took over and due to his standards, it was reduced to 43,000 suits when he retired. Reflecting upon Judge Steadman's days as chief justice, Judge J. Rouse said "Steadman led by example. The days of delay and backlog came to an end. He really brought the Superior Court to a new age."
Chief Justice Robert A. Mulligan lauded the Hanover resident as "a whole man, a complete man, who approached every duty with vigor. Bob Steadman is. in his essence, his core, a trial judge." That opinion was expressed in Brockton when Judge Steadman's portrait was hung next to a portrait of his good friend Judge Robert S. Prince of Brockton who had retired from the Superior Court bench in 1988 and was present at the unveiling.
What do you say to a man who every court officer he came in contact with holds him in deep affection? What do you say to a man who every court stenographer holds in regard and says, 'Thank God." (when he was the presiding jurist) because he appreciated their problems. Members of the Probation Department held him in esteem and court maintenance personnel would always gain his (Steadman's) recognition. "We thank you. Judge Robert L. Steadman, for being the man you are," said Judge John J. O'Brien.
Raised in Orphan's Hope Lodge where he was the Worshipful Master in 1965-66, he served as the District Deputy Grand Master of the Quincy 26th in 1977 and 1978. He holds York Rite membership with Pentalpha Royal Arch Chapter, Temple Council of Royal and Select Masters, South Shore Commandery No. 31, Knights Templar, all of East Weymouth, and St. Bernard Commandery, No. 12 of Boston and is a member of Aleppo Temple, Shrine. His Scottish Rite affiliations are with the Valley of Boston.
An Honorary Legionnaire of Honor in DeMolay, Brother Steadman holds the Joseph Warren Medal and in March was presented with the Henry Price Medal by Grand Master Johnson.
Married to Elaine Rosa Nickerson since 1953, they are parents of Robert Lloyd Steadman, Jr. and Angela Mae Steadman. By his own admission his crowning accomplishment in life and source of great pride is being the grandfather to David R. Steadman. They are members of the Old South Union Church of Weymouth where Brother Steadman has served as moderator and trustee. He also has served as a Sunday School teacher.
Judge Steadman is a member of the Norfolk County Bar Association which presented him with the Man of the Year Award in 1988; Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys from whom he received the Jurist Award; the American, the Massachusetts and the Boston Bar Associations. He was a United States Air Force Cadet and Lieutenant s.g. in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
From massfreemasonry.org, June 2016:
The roll of the workmen has been called and one Master Mason has not answered to his name.
R. W. Robert L. Steadman (Weymouth United Masonic Lodge, Weymouth) passed to the Celestial Lodge on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. He was 90.
M. W. Arthur E. Johnson, Past Grand Master, 1996-1998, appointed Brother Steadman Deputy Grand Master for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1997. In 1996 he was also elected Deputy for Massachusetts by the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite.
Brother Steadman was retired Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court, 1988-1996. A native of Cambridge, he graduated that city’s Rindge High School. He attended Suffolk University as an undergraduate and received his J.D. from the Law School in 1951. He received an honorary doctorate of laws in 1992. A noted trial lawyer, he was a partner in the law firm of Steadman, Williams and Jackson from 1952 until his appointment to the bench of the Massachusetts Superior Court in 1979.
Raised in Orphan’s Hope Lodge, Weymouth, Brother Steadman served as Worshipful Master in 1965-66; he was District Deputy Grand Master of the Quincy 26th in 1977 and 1978. He held York Rite membership with Pentalpha Royal Arch Chapter, Temple Council of Royal and Select Masters, South Shore Commandery No. 31, Knights Templar, all of East Weymouth, and St. Bernard Commandery, No. 12 of Boston and was a member of Aleppo Temple, Shrine. His Scottish Rite affiliations were with the Valley of Boston.
An Honorary Legion of Honor in DeMolay, he held the Joseph Warren Medal and the Henry Price Medal.
Married to Elaine Rosa Nickerson since 1953, they are parents of Robert Lloyd Steadman, Jr. and Angela Mae Steadman. They are members of the Old South Union Church of Weymouth where Brother Steadman served as moderator and trustee. He was also a Sunday School teacher.
From the Boston Globe, June 27, 2016:
In a New Bedford courtroom, Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Robert L. Steadman weighed the unfathomable crimes of pedophile former priest James R. Porter against claims that the Catholic Church hierarchy had enabled Porter’s sexual abuse of dozens of children in the 1960s.
The depths of the church sex abuse scandal had yet to be exposed on that December day in 1993 as Judge Steadman heard 22 of Porter’s victims describe shattered childhoods, suicide attempts, and lost faith. Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Porter to serve 36 to 50 years in prison. The defense argued Porter was a repentant sex offender who needed treatment, not jail.
“The defendant stands before me today as an effigy, representing all the other named and unnamed child abusers,” Judge Steadman said, according to a New York Times account. “Yet justice requires that James Porter, the symbol, be cast aside and that James Porter, the man, be judged.”
Porter had shown “complete disregard of the physical, spiritual, and psychological impact” of his crimes, said the judge, who ordered Porter to serve 18 to 20 years for sexually assaulting 28 boys and girls.
Judge Steadman, who spent 17 years on the Superior Court bench and was named chief justice in 1988, died June 14 in the Pat Roche Hospice Home in Hingham from complications of a recent fall. He was 90 and lived in Hanover.
Colleagues said he left a legacy of wise decisions and a Superior Court greatly improved by his leadership. He spearheaded the court’s shift from paper dockets to computers and reduced case backlogs through “radical operational changes,” including setting time standards for how long cases should require, former Superior Court chief justice Robert A. Mulligan said.
Judge Steadman’s reforms cut the pending civil caseload in half over five years, Mulligan said, and he launched a written evaluation process for Superior Court judges that was later adopted by other court departments.
“Bob, tall, strong John Wayne-type (he probably would prefer Cary Grant), was invariably kind, solicitous, cheerful, a natural leader beloved by his judicial colleagues, and I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that he was a man of heroic virtue,” Mulligan said in a statement.
Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey called Judge Steadman “a caring, thoughtful, and fair-minded judge, with a strong intellect and an equally strong sense of justice, which he displayed throughout his long and distinguished judicial career.”
Ruth E. Brady, who was a court administrative assistant for many years, said Judge Steadman always sent flowers on Secretary’s Day. “The chief always gave — never took,” she said. “He will be remembered not only as a brilliant jurist, but also for his kindness to others, his intelligence, his compassion and understanding, his love of people, his quick wit and sense of humor, and his love and devotion to family.”
Born in Cambridge to Canadian immigrants, Judge Steadman did not come from a life of privilege. His father, James C. Steadman, was a laborer and later sold cars. His mother, the former Mary Ellen Carew, was a housekeeper for Harvard University. She died from cancer when her son was a junior in high school.
Recounting the challenges of the Great Depression to his own children, Judge Steadman said his family survived on a monotonous diet of turnips. He joined the Army immediately after graduating in 1944 from Rindge Technical School, which later became Cambridge Rindge and Latin, and reveled in receiving three varied meals a day in the military.
“He thought that was luxurious,” said his son, Robert Jr. of Mansfield.
With the help of the GI Bill after the war, Judge Steadman graduated from Suffolk University in 1948 and from Suffolk University Law School in 1951. He held a variety of jobs while going to school, including butcher and TV salesman, his son said.
After law school, Judge Steadman launched his own firm in Boston and practiced law for 27 years until Governor Edward King nominated him to the Superior Court bench. He took a pay cut to become a judge. “He was not driven by money,” his son said. “He spent his whole career in the law, and to him becoming a judge was the pinnacle of his profession.”
Judge Steadman was married for 63 years to the former Elaine Nickerson. She recalled that they met on a blind date when she was studying nursing and worked at Children’s Hospital.
Judge Steadman enjoyed taking his family on power boat excursions up the coast aboard the Stormy Angel. He also was a longtime member of the Masons and was named deputy grand master for the Grand Lodge in Massachusetts in 1997.
He rarely brought the misery of the criminal court home with him, his family said. “He certainly had a share of the high-profile murder cases, but he didn’t necessarily talk about the big cases,” said his daughter, Angela of Boxford, who is an attorney.
“He liked to talk about the little things, the interesting people he saw,” she said. “He’s someone who would say, ‘This guy is such a hard worker,’ or ‘That person has a big heart.’ ”
Arthur Sharp, a close friend through the Masons, marveled at how Judge Steadman maintained his relentlessly positive disposition over the years. “I didn’t know how he could carry some of the burdens he was carrying,” Sharp said.
A service has been held for Judge Steadman, who in addition to his wife, son, and daughter leaves two grandsons. Burial will be private.
Roderick MacLeish, an attorney who represented victims of the church sexual abuse scandal, recalled appearing in Judge Steadman’s courtroom many times, including the day of Porter’s sentencing.
“Judge Steadman listened to victims intently and with compassion,” MacLeish recalled, though he noted that some of the victims were disappointed Porter did not receive a life sentence. Porter died of cancer in 2005.
MacLeish said Judge Steadman “was an intellectually gifted judge and was a giant among the many outstanding Superior Court judges at that time.”
After mandatory retirement from the bench at age 70, Judge Steadman worked as a mediator and also lectured about trial advocacy.
“He was a consummate gentleman, a talented trial judge, and an empathetic yet strong chief justice who inspired countless judges to be the best judges they could be,” former Superior Court chief justice Barbara J. Rouse said.
FEAST OF ST. JOHN, DECEMBER 1990
From Proceedings, Page 1990-175:
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Grand Officers, Distinguished Guests and Brethren All:
An introduction like that makes me think of an introduction between Masons that is one of my favorite stories. It goes back some number of years to Brother Chauncey DePew who was a member of Courtland Lodge 34, Peekskill, New York, and a United States senator from the great state of New York and an outstanding orator and public speaker, one of the finest of his generation. I'm sure many of you have had occasion to read some of his outstanding speeches.
On the occasion of introducing a Brother Mason, Brother William Howard Taft, 26th President of the United States, who was a member of Kilowanic Lodge in Cincinnati, proceeded to introduce his good friend and brother, President Taft, in the most glowing and in the most eloquent terms to the great pleasure of the President of the United States. And then he ended with these words. "It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the President of the United States, President William Howard Taft." Now history will recall that President Taft was a giant of men with an enormous belt size. DePew could not resist himself as President Taft started that long trek towards the speaker's platform, and DePew remarked, "The president is obviously pregnant with integrity." Taft, being the type of man he was, continued slowly to the platform, and DePew looked down and again he couldn't withhold himself, DePew remarked, "The president is obviously pregnant with sincerity." Taft then reached the speaker platform and accepted that introduction with the following remarks: "I thank the learned senator from the State of New York for his kind remarks, and I promise that if I am pregnant and I have a son I will call him integrity. If I am pregnant and have a daughter, I will call her sincerity. If, however, it's nothing more than gas, as I suspect it is, I will call it Senator Chauncey DePew."
I love some of these Masonic anecdotes. Here's one about Alice Roosevelt Longworth. She was the daughter of the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. You recall that the President Roosevelt was a member of Matcook Lodge. I think it's in Long Island, New York. She had a husband, Nicholas Longworth, who was a Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and he, too, was blessed with a wonderful sense of humor, as most Masons are. Perhaps his most crushing rejoinder was directed at a presumptuous, young, upstart Congressman who passed his hands over Longworth's bald head and remarked "Feels just like my wife's bare bottom." Longworth passed his hand over his own head and said thoughtfully, "By golly, it does."
Those were two Masonic anecdotes. There's one more I can't resist. Arthur Sharp will probably get mad at me for saying this, but, incidentally, during the course of my presentation I will be discussing some of the great work that Right Worshipful Arthur Sharp has done on the subject matter that I hope to discuss. But all of these stories, as you know, are based on truth.
Arthur is now an outstanding yachtsman. Some time ago, when he was a relative newcomer to the yachting community, he decided to cruise downeast and experience the adventures offered by the fogbound coast of Maine. I had been boating off the Maine coast for over twenty years, and I admired his courage. I had left Turn Harbor Marina in Weymouthport the first week in August and worked my way up north to East Harbor where we spent a week with my wife and family on board. I knew Arthur was heading down, but I had no idea where he was. 1 couldn't raise him on the radio which is not unusual. When I went up there the weather was extraordinary.
When I left East Harbor on August 20th I proceeded under the worst of weather conditions, and after an eight-hour cruise with radar and loran, without seeing another boat on the water including lobstermen, nor a seagull on the wing, I finally arrived at my destination.
I learned later on the same day that Arthur had headed south from Camden in that abysmal fog, but he did not have radar. I had no idea of his destination. Again I tried to raise him on the radio without success. I worried until we finally did make radio contact, and he assured me that he was alright, indeed he was on his last leg into the harbor. He said the Maine fog was no challenge to him and his trusty compass and his trustee loran and his superior helmsmanship and that he had conquered the worst that the Maine coast had to offer. He had, he informed me, with mathematical certainty charted a meticulous course to his predetermined destination.
As I sat at the dock on my boat I suddenly saw a shadow break through that pea soup fog and, indeed, it was The Sharp One, that was the name of his boat, on a course right to the marina. Now to get into this port one had to navigate with absolute certainty. This required a skilled sailor. I was surprised but delighted that someone new to the coast and without radar had managed that outstanding feat.
I saw Arthur at the wheel and he smiled as you would expect as he approached the dock. I eyed him and he recognized me and he smiled and said, "God is good and my navigation is superb. It's great to have reached Portsmouth Harbor right on schedule." I replied, "Arthur, God indeed is good and your navigation is superb, but I regret to inform you that this is not Portsmouth Harbor. This is Boothbay Harbor, Maine."
One of our four cardinal virtues is justice. We are taught in our Lodges that justice is that standard or boundary of right which enables us to render unto persons his or her just due without distinction. We're admonished this is consistent with design, and human law is the very cement and support of our civil society. Just due means that which is owing, that which is payable, that which is unsatisfied, and that which is outstanding.
As a Chief Justice of the Superior Court, the great and historic trial court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I bear a responsibility for the quality of justice to all members of this society, regardless of race, creed, religion or ethnic origin. My commitment to justice and my affection for the Fraternity has led me to make inquiry well beyond my level of expertise into the realm of Masonic philosophy.
Now the exploration I propose is whether we as Masons are discharging our responsibility to the Fraternity, and as a natural extension of that inquiry, whether the Masonic institution is discharging its avowed responsibility to the society in which we live.
I claim absolutely no scholarly right to speak on this or any other Masonic subject, and, of course, I do not dare speak for our cherished institution. I am, however, with purity of motive and, perhaps as usual, with more courage than wisdom, at liberty to stimulate your concern, if I can, to generate your interest, if I may, and activate your curiosity regarding our duty to the uninitiated. I am motivated to discuss this sensitive and controversial issue with you because of persuasive evidence developed by Right Worshipful Arthur Harry Sharp, a Past Deputy Grand Master of this Grand Lodge, in his series of articles in The Northern Light. I'm sure most of you have been exposed to those articles. If not, you just ask me and I'll see you get a copy.
You need only read this learned treatise with an open mind to conclude, as he does, that Masonry has experienced what has been described as a severe decline in membership, manifested by shortages of line offices and in some cases the closing or consolidation of Lodges throughout the country. The avoidable conclusion is that men are less motivated to join our Fraternity now than they were earlier in our history. While the great loss is theirs, in failing to take advantage of the teachings of our craft, Masons may be negatively impacted by the avoidable decline.
I suggest for your consideration that the increased decline in membership is not the fundamental problem, but in reality decline is a symptom of the real problem that confronts our beloved Fraternity.
Brother Dudley Wright wrote back in 1924, "The strength of Freemasonry, like that of any other built on fraternal lines, lies not in its numerical power, but to the extent to which its tenets are put into practice. So we should have less concern about membership per se than about the cause for that decline."
Now let there be no mistake at all. Masonry is still the best fraternal order that the world has ever known or will ever know. Masonry is as strong as you are or as weak as I am. We have nothing to fear except complacency and egotism. The greatest, the wisest, the best men in every country have been brothers and still are and will continue to be, so long as we are able to learn and exemplify the great lessons taught in our ritual and as portrayed in our symbolism. The answer to our membership dilemma is not evasive, not compound, not complex. Nothing that requires more than perseverance and persistency to Masonic teachers. A simple adjective: persistence.
But as President Calvin Coolidge wrote, "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common that unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. The world is full of educated derelicts."
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has always solved and will always solve the problems of the human race. So we as Masons must press on with persistence without fear of contradiction. I submit that men join Masonry for pure and beneficent purposes as we did with few exceptions. They believe as you do and as I do that Masonry stimulates our humanitarian interest in the world we inhabit, the nation in which we reside and the communities in which we dwell.
Masonry endows us with the desire to be serviceable to our fellow man, to soothe the unhappy, compassionate their miseries and restore peace to their troubled minds. Isn't that what Masonry tells us is the grand aim we have in view? What a magnificent philosophy. What an extraordinary ideology.
When one reaches this point in the analysis there is a terrible temptation to select a nice, comfortable solution to the problem that will avoid confrontation with reality. It's human nature. We generally say, as I have often said, it's not us, it's the culture in which we live. Be patient. What goes around comes around. Persevere. The pendulum is on it way back and times will change. You may be right, but what is the cost of being wrong?
Logic dictates we examine periods of Masonic decline to see if there is a common thread that will help us unravel the mystery of the apparent abated interest in the fraternity. Perhaps, a look at our history might be productive.
The anti-Masonic period, the first period Arthur Sharp made reference to in his article, was between 1826 and 1846. The Morgan incident began the anti-Masonic period, fired by well-meaning, but misguided church leaders. The decline was explained because of the Morgan incident, and solutions were found.
The second period that Right Worshipful Sharp makes reference to is 1929 to 1939, the Great Depression, when the country was in chaos and society was concerned with survival and not fraternalism. That decline, too, was explained and solutions were found. The third decline, the one we are in at the present time, started in 1959 and remains with us to the present time, without explanation so far and without solution.
There is a probable explanation for the decline that I would like to explore with you in our search for a solution.
Remember the famous proverb, "Beauty is as beauty does"? Fairly simplistic, isn't it? Let us ask ourselves what have we done in the last thirty years as an institution to carry out our beautiful Masonic mandate of brotherly love, relief and truth. Now, respectfully, I do not mean just between Masons. I mean between Masons and the society in which we live.
Think, my brothers. Have we as an institution been an emblem of industry such as is represented by our beloved craft? We are taught to be industrious and never sitting down contented while our fellow creatures around us are in want. Our fellow creatures around us are in want, and it is within our power to relieve them. Is the fraternity in good faith compliant with this teaching and has it developed that outreach program that satisfies the requirement of that important tenet? A threshold inquiry you may want to explore is whether as an institution we should be doing something dynamic and creative to translate our Masonic philosophy into Masonic reality.
Albert Pike of Boston, a Masonic philosopher, in 1859 wrote, "It is a Mason's part to protect the feeble against the strong and the defenseless against the rapacious craft, and to secure and comfort the poor and be the guardian under God of his innocent and helpless wards."
Now public relations experts tell us, and many of you are probably relations experts and will know more about this than I, they tell us that a product, in this case Masonry, does not exist unless it reaches the consumer. Brotherly love, relief and truth is the finest product in the world, but the consuming public has no way to know.that we are a major distributor. We have a saying in the judiciary that the law is not what the courts say it is; it is what the public believes that it is. We are, therefore, that which the consuming public believes us to be, and the only way they know us is by our deeds.
I know that here in Massachusetts we have a wonderful, outstanding Masonic Home at Charlton and we have an active blood program of which we are all justly proud and support. From the public perspective, however, these are not outreach programs and may not be the fulfillment of our Masonic commitment to all mankind. What do we as an institution in this jurisdiction or, better still, across jurisdictional lines, do to persuade the society in which we live that we are not self-centered or self-seeking, but that we do share a real concern and affection for our uninitiated neighbors?
Brother Edward Markham around 1890, an outstanding poet and a member of our Acadia Lodge in California, wrote, "He drew a circle that shut me out. Heretic rebel a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle that took him in."
1 would be remiss if I did not make mention of the heroic work being done by our Grand Lodge's Masonic Awareness Committee. That is certainly a seed that has been planted in fertile soil and has always produced a rich harvest of good results and should be built upon. Mention should be made of our individual brothers who without credit exemplify on a daily basis the teachings of Masonry and who are pillars of their communities. The charitable efforts of individual Masons remain unparalleled in the lives of our neighbors and the lives of our friends. We give unsparingly of ourselves for the better good of mankind, but is that enough to satisfy the demanding attributes of our Fraternity?
I suggest for your consideration that, while exemplary, the individual approach does not suffice and there should be an institutional demonstration of the teachings of Masonry in order to bring new life into our relationships with the consuming public. Remember the old saying, if a large oak is felled in the forest and there is no one to hear, does it make a sound? Well, it really doesn't make much difference, does it?
I submit sound is irrelevant unless there are ears to hear. And brotherly love, relief and truth are irrelevant unless communicated to those in need.
Why should there be a compelling interest in joining our Fraternity if we are perceived as secret and silent, unless there is some outward demonstration by the craft to persuade the uninitiated that we are productive members of society and that we are as Masons committed to the public good.
We could perhaps take refuge in the work the Shrine has done in making its institution recognized worldwide as a fun loving public benefactor motivated by love for children of every race, creed and religion. The Shrine, of course, has won the hearts of the consuming public because it practices the tenet of our profession, of Blue Lodge Masonry. We all, of course, delight in the success because we are all Masons and take vicarious pleasure from helping the unfortunate. Has the Masonic Fraternity won the hearts of the same consuming public?
But, alas, it might well be that our problem is becoming theirs. Our membership decline impacts upon their ability to maintain their ranks and may result in a decline that is feared. This has alarming impact on the harmony of the Masonic family because there exists a small but vocal faction in Shrinedom that suggests non-Masons be allowed into membership to help in their charitable and important work. While I find myself critical of this vocal faction, I nonetheless recognize their visceral and sincere desire to continue their meaningful social outreach.
Let us this day accept the challenge and begin the exciting process of generating a new vitality to Masonry. Now this is best done, perhaps, by deciding first where we want to go and then charting a course that will take us there. Seneca Huns years ago said, "If a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable." Might I suggest a Masonic course that will require a skilled helmsman, a courageous crew and a worthy ship.
But before we embark upon this venture, let us all enter into a pact. And that's important to do because we have ultraconservatives in Masonry and we should have them who are concerned about the term progress. But let us make a pact that we will do nothing that will offend against the tenets of our institution and we will maintain and preserve the universal, unalterable and unrepeatable fundamentals of Masonry that have existed from time immemorial.
With that in mind let me test the waters with an example of the type of outreach program that might find acceptance in your mind. I'm sure that the collective wisdom of all of you Brethren and of this Grand Lodge is far superior to mine in identifying an appropriate social adventure for consideration. But, again, with more courage than prudence, let me examine with you the following. There are many social problems that blight all of our communities and have a devastating impact on our youth. Some that come to mind are drugs, alcohol, child abuse, illiteracy, racial and ethnic prejudice and many others society has not been able to resolve.
Right Worshipful and Brother Oscar Guinn last evening at the Grand Master's Dinner made reference to what he and his family have been doing with young people in need and youngsters, children, babies who have had the effect of drugs at birth and the devastating consequences, again the heroic efforts that Reverend Guinn has put in.
Should we as an institution become involved in one or many of these youth destructive social problems? Well, 1 don't mean the easy way. I don't mean donating funds and let others do the work. I mean the old fashioned way. I mean hands-on involvement. The Pontius Pilate approach will not work because society in general and Masons in particular cannot without shame wash its hands of these blights and expect to come out clean.
We are told the battle against drugs, alcohol, child abuse, illiteracy, racial and ethnic prejudice will be won in the classroom. I guarantee you it will not be won in the courtroom. The scholars tell us that education is the answer to most of our social ills. If anyone in this country has the power and can develop a statewide educational road show to bring the healing message to every classroom in America it's the Masonic Fraternity. We have the organization, we have the expertise, we have the resources, and we will have the support of every Mason and non-Mason in this courageous, soul searching outreach.
There is an alternative. We can do nothing. Such a tragedy. With just a little bit of help there could be survivors. Many could be saved. The communities are circling the wagons, but alas there is no hope. I can't stop here with wagons being circled. I don't like tragedies.
This week I turned off a TV. program about the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I'm entitled to literary license, and I want a happy ending, a Masonic ending. Here goes.
Wait. Can you hear that sound? It's over in the distance. But the sound is becoming clear. By God, I can hear it now. The clarion call of the bugle sounding attack. It's the cavalry, the Masonic cavalry, Brothers, with a mission. Their blue banners with gold star and compasses shining in the sun, armed with faith, hope and charity and willing to fight with freedom, fervency and zeal.
Isn't that a better ending than leaving those wagons circled in your communities? Our motives ought not to be the sole purpose of generating membership, although that will happen. Our reasons must be to strengthen the root. We are mindful, however, that the world loves a winner, and while winning isn't everything, losing is nothing. Or to put it in perspective, increased membership is a natural by-product of success.
Our Brother Roscoe Pound, dean of Harvard, said back in 1924, "Our strength and success lie in the depth and strength of the root. For the deeper and stronger the root, the more sturdy and flourishing will be the plant." Perhaps, we can take strength from the difficult outreach programs undertaken by our forebears.
Our Masonic history records when the British Royal Troops reached Lexington Common our friend and brother, Captain Parker, gave his famous command to the minutemen, "Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." Seventy militia faced six hundred trained British soldiers in the gray dawn of an April morning in 1775. Brother Amos Doolittle of New Haven wrote, "Too few to resist, too brave to flee." The British pressed on to Concord where there was fired the shot heard round the world, and the minutemen gave them ball for ball as the regulars retreated to Boston in confusion.
Dare we on this day in Boston charge that cannon that will fire a shot that is heard around the Masonic world? Do we here have the courage, leadership and commitment of our brothers at Lexington Green or the Concord River to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Dare we immortalize our modern day Masonic pride and perpetuate it for our children and those who follow? We ought not try to live in the glory of our colonial brothers, but in our own glory of self-accomplishment for the better good of mankind without fear of failure. The thing that always stops us from going forward is the fear of failure. What a distraction.
Brother Theodore Roosevelt, our 25th President of the United States and a member of the craft, wrote some years ago, "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or default."
If I have offended any of your sensitivities, my brothers, by anything that I have said, then I have failed and I apologize. That was not my intent. But if by chance, by any chance, I kindled your interest in Masonic activism, then I have not tasted failure this day.
Bishop Fulton Sheehan, an orator of renown, once said, "There are three parts to a public address: faith, hope and charity. If the audience applauds when you get up to speak, that's an act of faith. If the audience applauds during your talk, that's an act of hope. If by some wild chance they applaud when you finish, that's an act of charity." Thank you.
FEAST OF ST. JOHN, DECEMBER 1996
From Proceedings, Page 1996-313:
Thank you, Grand Master. Lou, I told you about this. As Mark Anthony said as he approached Cleopatra on the banks of the Nile River and stormed into her boudoir, I didn't come here to talk.
The Grand Master has asked that I read this disclaimer before I speak to the Brethren. I am reluctant to do so, but I recognize the chain of command and the limitations on freedom of speech. Here goes:
"Neither the Grand Master, the Grand Lodge, nor the Officers, directors, trustees, or other members of this Grand Lodge are responsible in whole or in part for any statements, assertions, claims, or opinions, made by the speaker. Indeed, as to any such remarks, Grand Lodge denies its involvement and specifically reserves the right to strike them from the record before publication."
I should be offended, but that is essentially the same disclaimer that the Governor of the Commonwealth made me sign before my appointment as Chief Justice of the Superior Court.
It is awesome to look out and see the real leadership of Masonry in Massachusetts, leaders representing all of the Lodges of the Commonwealth. I salute you. Our Grand Master has frequently said, when speaking of leadership, "that you can lead a horse to drink, but you can't make him water". Or was it "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Well it really doesn't make a great deal of difference, I never had the horse sense to understand the saying anyway. Suffice it to say, that all of us here are leaders, and I am delighted to be part of this exciting leadership team.
It is with a great deal of apprehension (in view of the disclaimer) that I share with you some Masonic thoughts and observations, gained, not from the fountainhead of knowledge, but from a lifetime involvement with Masonry. Without fear of serious contradiction, I am confident that we can all agree that Masonry represents the moral high ground of this troubled society, the ethical plateau of our communities, and the conscience of our neighborhoods. This moral high ground remains our domain-but only for as long as we exemplify, by word and deed, the tenets of our Masonic Philosophy.
By design, our forebears, Masons, are and will continue to be, a God-fearing, patriotic, family- oriented college of friends and brothers. Our communities are and should be better places to live because there is a Masonic Temple in Town attended by family men who are linked as one, by a firm belief in a Supreme Being. But, notwithstanding the purity of our motives, sometimes we are misunderstood because we have not articulated who and what we are, and that is unfortunate. Ought we not evaluate how we are viewed by society, and make sure that stands in the way of educating the public as to the true picture of a Mason.
We are not a fraternity without some problems; we recognize our institutional problems. We are working to solve them, and we will. But at the same time and with equal vigor, we should take pleasure in our magnificent attributes. Take those magnificent attributes and "Go Tell It On The Mountain". Please, never be discouraged in your Masonic endeavors, but if you are tempted to think negative thoughts about our order, let me suggest that you pause and look to the positive, dynamic, forward-thinking leadership of our Grand Master Arthur E. Johnson, and your doubts will disappear.
My Brothers, we need your help. No efforts to advance Masonry are insignificant, no labor unworthy, and no contribution unimportant - so long as it tends to bind us together in an indissoluble chain of sincere affection.
We must be active, not passive, in this permissive world, in our lodges, in our families, in our churches, synagogues, mosques, in our communities and in our neighborhoods. You can make a difference-only you can make a difference.
God Bless our Grand Master in his labors and God Bless the Masonic Fraternity.
FEAST OF ST. JOHN, DECEMBER 2002
From Proceedings, Page 2002-205:
The Feast of Saint John is a special way for us to celebrate who we are and what we stand for. What an honor it is to have so many visiting Brethren with us from other Grand Jurisdictions. I have not met all of you yet but I pray that failure on my part will be remedied quickly. Thank you for joining with us.
I am delighted to play a small role in this celebration and I thank you, Grand Master, for giving me the opportunity to talk about the part Masonry has played in my professional career as a trial Judge and as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court, the great and historic Trial Court of the Commonwealth.
I had hoped to start out in the traditional way with a humorous story, but Judges are simply not noted for their sense of humor. Trial Attorneys have told me that when it comes to being funny, Judges come in fourth behind Proctologists, Urologists, and Dentists. Though, I thought we were funnier than (this won't hurt a bit) Dentists, but perhaps not.
As you will see, I am a sensitive man and I am serious about my Masonry, and very serious about dispensing Justice. I would like to share with you the profound effect Masonry has had on my professional life and why it has become an important part of who and what I am today. I am going to go back almost fifty years and with your permission, I am going to take you with me. You have all been there and perhaps we can reflect together on what happened to us on that memorable day when we were made a Mason. See if it strikes a cord with you.
I was a young attorney with a major Boston Law Firm looking forward to a career as a trial lawyer. There were no Masons in my family and I knew nothing about the Fraternity other than what I had gleaned from others. From what I had been told by some, it was awe-inspiring. From what I had been told by others, I was skeptical. From the stories told, it was hard to divide the truth from the fiction.
With the reservations usually present when facing the unknown, I made application for membership and apparently I was successful, because a few months later I received a letter from the Lodge Secretary requesting that I appear at 7:00 P.M. at the Masonic Temple to take my First Degree. I obediently appeared, precisely on time (as was my custom) and I was ushered into a small room where I met three other candidates who were strangers to me.
A man I later found out to be Al King, (the owner and operator of a large service station in the town), was the Mason in charge and he, without so much as a "by your leave" unceremoniously told all four of us to take our clothes off and don some, one-size-fits-all, non descript white garments. So much for my gray flannel suit and power tie.
I had heard some strange stories about Masonry while making my inquiry about their degrees, but paid them no mind until I was standing there in a small room, blindfolded, dressed in a white, ill-fitting garment, with three strangers and a cord around my neck. My concerns were now magnified.
My conductor said, "Trust me", and took me by the arm and led me down a long corridor to a door. I guessed it to be the Lodge Room. I felt alone and it was not unlike passing from the security of the real world to the insecurity of a strange but peaceful environment where you relied on unseen others for refuge.
I had a thoughtful companion with me but unknown to me until that evening. I didn't know why, but I trusted him, and that trust was not violated. I was prepared for whatever was to come. I wondered how this would play out and when or if I would be made a Mason. He escorted me to the door of the Lodge room, assuring me with every step that I was not in danger. I felt perfectly safe. He knocked at the door and I heard some mumbling inside. Finally the knock was returned. Al King was asked who I was, he identified me and we were told that he would check with the Master to see if it was all right to enter.
I was surprised they didn't know who I was. They should have known. They knew I was coming. I got a letter inviting me to be in attendance that evening. It took a few minutes, but finally, I received permission to enter.
That, my Brothers, was the beginning of a marvelous adventure, a learning experience that changed who I was and changed my approach to life, the practice of Law and later on, my career in the Judiciary.
At the end of that evening, I was made a Mason. I was not the same neophyte whom Al King escorted into the Lodge Room that night. I was a different person, I had just had a life altering experience. At that point in time, if asked, I would not have been able to put into words what that change was.
Can you image a lawyer admitting to the inability of putting anything into words? That was true at the time, but after living Masonry for nearly half a century, I would like to try to express, in some meaningful way, the metamorphosis, the profound change in my life, that started on that day and continues to the present.
The lesson unfolded before me reinforced my unalterable belief in a Supreme Being and provided me with the additional moral fiber to practice and adhere to the lessons contained in the four cardinal virtues: temperance, fortitude prudence and justice. For me, The First Degree remains the most memorable of all three degrees, and that opinion has never change. Nor do I suspect, it ever will.
The four cardinal virtues are not unique to Masonry, but that evening, the words took on a broader and more significant meaning. They were not just words but a formula for living. What made it tremendously impressive to me was the way it was presented that evening. I have not heard it done as well since.
The presiding Master of the Lodge gave the lecture. He was a grand old Scot named George Imlack, who had a burr that could cut down an oak tree. I hung onto every word, listening with the critical ear of a young, know it all, skeptical, overly suspicious, young trial lawyer. I was totally focused on what my new responsibilities were, as a man, as a Mason, as a Lawyer and as a Judge. I knew then that I had to make adjustments in my professional philosophy that was more consistent with my new found Masonic ideology. When Worshipful George Imlack came to the virtue of Justice, his burr became more pronounced and it struck its mark.
There were three other candidates that evening but it was clear - crystal clear - that he was talking to me, just to me - no one else. Justice, he said, is that standard or boundary of right, which enables us to render unto every man his just due, without distinction. He told me that - This virtue is not only consistent with divine human laws, but is the very cement and support of civil society. He reminded me that as justice in great measure constitutes the real good man, so should it be the invariable practice never to deviate from the minutest principle thereof. It keeps coming back to me NEVER DEVIATE FROM THE MINUTEST PRINCIPLES THEREOF. What a magnificent Credo, particularly for a Jurist.
My Brothers, there is a nice distinction between law and justice. The law parts of the equation are the enactments of our Great and General Court, the lawmakers, the legislature. The Justice part of the equation originates from the individual Judge, in the way that he or she administers and applies that law to the facts of the case.
Davy Crockett (The King of the Wild Frontier) wrote in his biography that when he was a magistrate his decisions were fair because he did not know "the law" but he knew about "common justice and honesty". There is no better source of common justice and honesty then the tenets taught in the First Degree of Masonry.
My adherence to the Four Cardinal Virtues has been tested many times by the unpredictable dynamics of the courtroom drama and on some occasion, most regrettably, I came close to deviating from the standards I was taught. To help me make my point, let me tell you about a frustrating case that tested me severely.
On my very first criminal sitting as a Superior Court Judge, I was presiding over a case involving a very attractive young lady who said the accused raped her. The defendant was a giant hulk of a man, who (according to his record) appeared to be without redeeming graces. Little did I know that my first criminal sitting would test my adherence to the lessons taught me in the First Degree.
The distraught victim was on the stand testifying and at the same time bravely fighting back her tears. The courtroom was deathly still as she courageously delineated the horrid events of this tragic moment in her life.
She came to the point in her testimony where she was detailing what the defendant did to her. She got to the dramatic and pivotal point of the questioning and all eyes and ears focused on her. The jury was frozen in place. I noticed the defendant start to squirm-and then he snapped. He made an unintelligible high-pitched scream. He had my attention.
In one leap he was out of his chair, knocked over a court officer, leaped on top of my clerk's desk. (My clerk sought asylum under his desk leaving me to my own devises). The defendant jumped again and landed on the top of my bench and was glaring down at me, when reinforcements arrived.
He was set upon by a swarm of court officers who wrestled him to the ground and put him in shackles. I was cocky and thought to myself, "He was lucky that the court officers came when they did." You can see my courage returned immediately after he was in custody.
I was outraged. My immediate thought was vengeance and to get even with him for his outrageous conduct in my courtroom. I was hurt and offended. He had made this personal. Or was it I that made it personal? I ordered the jury out of the court room and I retired to my lobby to stew, fume and plot my revenge - and it would be sweet. I thought about a life sentence to Walpole or perhaps a public hanging on the Boston Common. Yes, that is it!!!
Then I said to myself, "Steadman, stop right there." What a terrible thought. Here was a defendant who appeared before me seeking justice, a man who had not been found guilty of any charge and I am considering hanging him on the Boston Common. Who do I think I am? I am supposed to be a Judge - not Judge, Jury and Executioner.
I knew right away that there was no temperance in my outrageous thoughts of vengeance. There was no fortitude in my lack of courage in facing this unique challenge. There was no prudence in my failure to seek a judicious resolution to this dilemma, and more importantly, there was no justice in my unrighteous thoughts of retribution. Once I tested my thoughts, words and actions against the criteria of the Four Cardinal Virtues, I found I was wanting.
I now knew that my initial management of the defendants untoward conduct was inappropriate and I quickly reversed course and used my mind instead of my emotions to devise an appropriate response to the defendant's uncontrollable conduct. I had regained my senses. Worshipful George Imlack's lecture on the First Degree would not be lost on me.
My Plan: I ordered the defendant to be returned to the courtroom (without the jury present) with full security. But before he was returned to the courtroom I ordered him cloaked in double cuffs and double waist and leg irons. I was amazed that he was able to stand, much less walk. I informed the defendant that I was going to complete the trial of his case and that he can be tried dressed as he is now, in iron from head to toe, or he can be tried as a man, with some dignity and his chains removed.
The decision is his but be assured, one way or the other, this case will be tried.
He was calm now. He thought for a moment and said "Judge, I am sorry. I would like the chains removed." I said, "If I take them off, do you promise to behave yourself during the rest of this trial?" He said that he would and I said, "I will take your word for it," and I ordered all the cuffs and body chains removed.
They were removed without incident and he conducted himself with the utmost decorum during the remainder of the trial. He gave his word and he kept it right up to the verdict. He was found guilty and the sentence I gave him was no different from the sentence I would have given any other defendant for the crime for which he stood convicted.
I did not add a single day to his sentence because of his conduct in my courtroom, because that was not the crime he was charged with and tried for. The defendant learned his lesson that day and I learned mine, and became a better judge because of it.
Anecdotally, when he was taken from the court house by the transportation officers, he told them to tell the Judge that, "He is an O. K. Judge." Nicest thing that was said about me up to that day, come to think about it, up to now. My jury rendered a reasoned verdict, which I happened to concur with. But that doesn't always happen.
I can remember one occasion where a Judge just finished trying a murder case, sent the jury out to deliberate. He thought to himself, "The jury won't be out long. This defendant is guilty as sin."
The jury was out for half an hour as the Judge suspected. With confidence the Judge asked the Jury for their verdict and to his shock and chagrin, they responded, "Not Guilty." The judge was clearly shocked and asked, "Mr. Foreman, what possible excuse could you have for acquitting the defendant in this case?" The Foreman replied, "Insanity, Your Honor." The Judge stood up and said, "What? All twelve of you?"
I have tried many horror cases over the years in my career as a trial Judge. I have learned first hand about Man's inhumanity to Man. I have seen the ugly world of crime that sums up the worst atrocity men can commit against each other. I can draw you pictures of men and women who have committed these vicious acts, who are so easy to hate, that you would love to hate.
A Judge does not have that luxury of hating, despising or demeaning any defendant that appears before the court. I can hate and despise the act, but not the person. WHY? Because that will interfere with a Judge's responsibility to afford to every defendant that appears before the Court a fair and impartial trial. In a word, it's called JUSTICE. Judges must exercise their power to assure a fair trial regardless of the nature or ferocity of the crime. Speaking of the power of the judiciary, Judge Rehnquist, the chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, tells this story: It seems a judge and Bishop were arguing over their relative importance, power and stature.
The Judge said. "I'm more powerful than you are because I can say, 'You be hanged!' The Bishop said, "Nay, not so, I am more powerful than you because I can say, 'You be damned!'" "But," replied the Judge, "when I say 'You be hanged', You are hanged."
I have often wondered how our Ancient Grand Master, Solomon, King of Israel, would view the hundreds of cases that I have tried and the verdicts and sentences I have rendered. But then, I never claimed to possess Solomonic wisdom.
What I am more concerned about is whether or not I have met with the rigorous standard taught to me by that Grand Old Scot, Worshipful George Imlack, who taught me the real lesson of Justice on my first day as a Mason. I pray that it will.
Please know that the lessons he taught were not limited to the Judiciary, but are the Masonic requirements for all of our relationships with our fellow man. Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.
Oops I just saw two people at the long table in the middle of the room looking at their watches. I get the message. Let me leave you with a parting wish: "As you slide down the banister of life may the splinters never face the wrong way." Goodnight.
TROWEL ARTICLE, WINTER 2005
From TROWEL, Winter 2005, Page 4:
JUSTICE: the Province of All Citizens, Particularly Masons
Masonic Virtue — Moral Excellence and Good Works
by Rt. Wor. and Justice Robert L. Steadman
The structure of modern Freemasonry as we know it today started in 1717 with the formation of the first Grand Lodge in London. The year 1400 may be taken as a point of departure from which to measure English Masonic history, both forward and backward. Before that time, and probably for a considerable period before then, operative Masonic Guilds existed in England with their substantial literary traditions and customs established by immemorial usage. These guilds continued to exist for another 300 years with relatively little change in either customs or traditions. The surviving units, or "lodges," participated in the eighteenth-century movement that centered on the formation of the first Grand Lodge, from which Speculative Freemasonry dates its present form of existence.
Operative Masons carefully guarded the secrets of their trade, including their methods of construction and the passwords used to identify the workmen who sufficiently advanced to receive those secrets. These stonemasons instructed apprentices and journeymen in the arts and sciences, including geometry and the use of the 24 inch gauge, common gavel and other tools and instruments of architecture. These secrets of the trade gave rise to the building of magnificent historic edifices, such as the buildings of the Acropolis in Athens or the Forum of Pompeii in Italy, and gave rise as well to the underpinning of Speculative Masonry and its requirement that every Mason be a man of virtue.
What then is this mysterious claim of Masonic Virtue? Its origin dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers who defined virtue as moral excellence, or the habitual and well established readiness or disposition of a man to do good. Aristotle treated these qualities as examples of the idea of the "Golden Mean" or as a principle of ethics. He said: '*...we err when we go to extremes, but are virtuous when we strike the proper balance."
The Latin word virtus literally means manliness from "vir," (man) in the masculine sense or as chastity in the feminine sense. The Greeks opined that the more properly called "habitual excellence" should be praised at all times and must be practiced continuously in order for any person to maintain oneself in virtue. This philosophy helps us. as Masons, to understand that the requirement of virtue has not become trite over the years but still applies to Masons today, with increased vigor. Virtue remains the taproot of Masonry, the root that anchors us to our moral and ethical values.
Aristotle the Greek, born in 384 BC. tells us that justice is a virtue and a mean between two extremes. He went on to say. "'just is what is lawful and fair, and the unjust is what is unlawful and unfair, and thus the just man takes not too much, nor too little, of what is his share."' In this sense, the just man is additionally choice worthy, as his actions prove to be virtuous. In fact, as Aristotle argues, justice is regarded as the highest of all virtues and "In justice every virtue is summed up."
The virtue of justice is not the sole province of lawyers, judges or juries but of all citizens, particularly Masons, who bear the responsibility to apply this virtue to our every act and deed. The practice of justice is often seen as the continued effort to do what is "right."
In most cases what a person regards as "right" is determined by logic, or in the case of religion by divine authority. In a civilized society justice is considered making the person follow the law and if not. be punished. It was the basis for the ancient code duellos that regulated "fair rights" and thus helped to prevent vendettas between families and other social factions. Common justice assures that non-violent means of reaching agreement are exhausted.
Davey Crockett (The King of the Wild Frontier) was not a lawyer but wrote in his biography that when he was a magistrate his decisions were fair because, although he did not know "the law." he knew about "common justice and honesty." There is no better source of common justice and honesty then the tenets taught in Masonry.
The question must be asked, have we Masons become unjust because of our silence on issues that concern the moral, ethical and social fiber of the communities in which we live, and that are irreconcilable with the tenets of our fraternity? Baltasar Gracian, a seventeenth-century Jesuit scholar succinctly wrote, "Things do not pass for what they are. but for what they seem. What is invisible might as well not exist." Are we invisible in our communities, as well as silent?
The moral values of our culture have changed in the last fifty years and the changes have, in great measure, been inconsistent with our Masonic teachings as well as the doctrinal beliefs of every major religion. We know we have a drug infested and aids inflicted society; we know that church and synagogue membership and attendance is in serious decline, as they are in Masonry. Social scientists argue that it is because of our permissive society; others say that this too will pass. Barbara DaFoe Whitehead wrote an interesting research article in the prominent Atlantic Monthly a few years back. She said. "Survey after survey shows that Americans are less inclined than they were a generation ago to value sexual fidelity, lifelong marriage, and parenthood as worthwhile personal goals."
The Preamble to our Grand Constitutions provides "...Freemasonry seeks to improve the community. Thus it impresses upon its members the principles of personal righteousness and personal responsibility, enlightens them as to those things which make for human welfare, and inspires them with the feeling of charity, or goodwill towards all mankind..."
We have a Masonic responsibility to individually or collectively address the serious problems that affect our communities, or at least discuss them, or at a minimum recognize that they exist. What have we done in the last fifty years to teach or advance in our communities the Masonic virtues of Temperance. Fortitude. Prudence and Justice, or any of the other tenets of the Fraternity? Are our cities and towns better off for having a Masonic building in the center of town or would the communities be just as well off without them? Has our voice been heard or do we have a voice at all, and would we be missed if we ceased to function: if so, how? Have we made known our positions on these and other social ills? Are we now prepared to have a strong voice in our communities or have we lost the moral high ground that our Masonic forefathers in the country captured for us and gave their lives to perpetuate?
With great trepidation, let me ask a hard and more ominous question—are we relevant at all in today's society? Bro. Dudley Wright, recognized back in 1924 the importance of putting our words into action when he wrote, "The Strength of Freemasonry, like that of any organization, built up on fraternal lines, lies not in its numerical power, but to the extent to which its tenets are put into practice." Our ancient forebears did practice what they preached and their Masonic tenets were put into practice. I suggest they would act. take back the moral high ground, and make it clear to society that Masons intend both individually and as an institution to reclaim their leadership position.
Bro. Albert Pike of Boston, a learned, albeit controversial Masonic philosopher and past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite. Southern Masonic Jurisdiction, wrote in 1859, "It is a Mason's part to protect the feeble against the strong, and the defenseless against rapacity and craft; to succor and comfort the poor, and be the guardian, under God, of His innocent wards." What say you?
Would the scholarly lawyer Bro. James Otis, one of the exciting "Sons of Liberty" and a member of St. John's Lodge in Boston, have spoken out on today's moral and ethical issues? He had the courage in 1761 to talk about justice for the colonists and stood up against the crown and condemned the unreasonable search of their homes and the seizure of their goods. He spoke out, at risk of his life, and he was heard.
Bro. John Hancock, another member of the fearless Sons of Liberty, spoke out when it counted. In his search for justice, he became the first signer of the Declaration of Independence— his signature is legend. When asked why he wrote his name so bold, he sarcastically replied, "So that George the Third may read it without putting his glasses on." He led the way with his historic signature and sent the king a message that was loud and clear. Are we prepared to send a message that Masons will be heard and will practice what we teach? There are many more historic events where Masons came to the forefront at risk of their lives and property to protect the most vulnerable, to right a wrong, or simply to see that good triumphs over evil. Let us accept the challenge and begin the exciting process of generating a new vitality in Masonry. Let us first decide where we want to go and then chart a course that will take us there. Roman philosopher and statesman Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC-65 AD) exclaimed that "if a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable."
Let's set a new course, get this ship out of the doldrums and head her up into the wind. I suggest that we set a Masonic course that will require a skilled helmsman, a courageous crew and a worthy ship. Before we embark on this venture, let us enter into a pact. We will do nothing that will offend the principles of our institution and we will maintain and preserve the universal, unalterable and unrepealable fundamentals of Masonry that have existed from time immemorial.
There are many social problems that blight all of our communities and have a devastating impact on our youth. We are told the battle against drugs, alcohol, child abuse, illiteracy, starvation, racial and ethnic prejudice will not be won in the courtroom. I like to think that it may be won in the lodge room. We have, or can acquire, the resources and the support of every Mason and non-Mason in this courageous soul saving outreach. We have the membership and the moral and ethical courage to strike a blow against immoral, unethical and un-Masonic social behavior; and on behalf of the needy, the downtrodden, the poor, the abused and the disenfranchised.
Dudley Wright wrote of his deeply held belief that the health of Freemasonry is dependent upon our practice of the Masonic tenets in our daily lives and relationships. He said, "Our strength and success lie in the depth and strength of the Masonic root, for the deeper and stronger the root, the more sturdy and flourishing will be the plant." Bro. Roscoe Pound, a recognized scholar, former Dean of the Harvard Law School (1916-36) and a past Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, advanced the "theory of social interests" in law, asserting that law must recognize the needs of humanity, and take contemporary social conditions into account. Ought we not do the same?
Let us clean up our image, open the doors of our temples, raise the blinds, part the drapes, let the sun in. par ticipate, speak up and be heard ... and become a pro active participant in the life of our communities. There is an alternative — we can do nothing.
275TH ANNIVERSARY OF GRAND LODGE, JUNE 2008
What a glorious afternoon! And, in the words of the poet Robert Browning, God is in his heaven - all’s right with the world. This is the special day the Good Lord has made to celebrate who we are and from whence we came. I am delighted to have the opportunity to join with all of you to help celebrate the 275th Anniversary of the birth of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.
We are twice blessed in sharing this exciting birthday with the equally historic birthday of Trinity Church that too was founded in 1733. As you look around you it becomes eminently clear why it is acclaimed as a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture – we share in that acclamation. Thank you Trinity for sharing this historic birthday with us.
I can’t help but admire the impressive and classic architecture of this church and the magnificent symbols of Christianity. They are not only religious symbols, but beautiful works of art that have a story to tell and a message to bring to the inquiring eye and the attentive ear.
Similarly, Masonry has its historic and meaningful symbols. The square and compasses, the point within a circle, the hourglass, the common gavel, and so many others that grew out from early Western Culture as well as the building of King Solomon’s Temple. They serve to remind us that we have a sworn responsibility to those who knelt with us at the sacred alter of Masonry, as well as a moral obligation to every man, woman and child wheresoever dispersed.
As you may know, “Masonry teaches by a system of allegories and symbols handed down from the ages which we study for their historic significance and reflect on the lessons they teach.” In other words, Masonry does not offer us predigested food. “It offers us the ancient historical facts surrounding our history and then asks each brother to digest the symbolism for him self.”
For instance the square and compasses on our rings and lapel pins are cryptic, symbolic guidelines that we use as an aid in our search for brotherly love, relief, and truth. The “square" teaches Masons to be moral and ethical in all dealings with our fellow human beings. The “compasses” teach us to circumscribe our desires, to control our passions, and to be temperate. No secrets, just good old fashioned common sense and an outward display of the respect we have for the members of the society in which we live.
It is true that many of Freemasonry’s symbols and teachings date back to the biblical King Solomon, known for his wisdom and whose crowning achievement was the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Some credit our symbolism to Euclid, a Greek mathematician best known for his treatise on geometry; and yet others to Pythagoras, the philosopher of Samos. They are all correct – up to a point. We Masons, like most people, try to learn from history, even ancient history – rather than have the wisdom of the ages lost in antiquity. We have learned much from our forbears and we are enriched by their moral and ethical teachings.
Some well meaning critics seem to suggest that Masonry is a religion and is in direct competition with Churches and other Religious Institutions for membership. Let me clear the decks and put that notion to rest. No! Emphatically no! Freemasonry is not now, has never been, and has no intent or desire to become a religion. We have not in the past nor will we in the future compete with any Church, Synagogue, or Mosque for members.
Without interfering in anyone’s religious beliefs, we expect and encourage a Mason to follow his own faith and to place his duty to God above all other duties. Its moral and ethical teachings are, or ought to be, acceptable to all religions. Masonry teaches and encourages its members to choose his pathway to God; and, quite properly, to get spiritual guidance from his own denomination, which he is encouraged to support with both his energy and his personal finances.
Freemasonry’s marvelous philosophy of life has inspired millions of people throughout the world regardless of race, color, or creed for more than three centuries; it has attracted famous personalities from around the world, and is the largest fraternal order in the world. We have accomplished much without any hocus pocus and we have been accepted by each generation on a very simple credo – “brotherly love, relief, and truth” – no, not just to Masons, but to all of mankind. And, our Grand Lodge calls upon each of us, no, demands of each of us, to practice and teach this universal philosophy until time shall be no more.
While some well meaning academics continue the interesting debate on the origination of speculative masonry, we in the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts still cherish our symbolic attachment to the builders of King Solomon’s Temple. We view with academic delight the continued interest in our origin, particularly as it relates to King Solomon and his magnificent temple at Jerusalem. It is no coincidence that the Wisdom of Solomon is cited with regularity in the Jewish Torah, the Christian Bible, and the Islamic Koran – and his sage judgment has become the symbol of wisdom and a recognized source of intelligence.
Nonetheless, we look not to King Solomon as the primary source of our roots; but, to the humble tailor, Brother Henry Price, as our progenitor, founder, and the originator of Masonry in America. No smoke, no mirrors, no hyperbole.
Our friend and Brother, Price was a prominent tailor and store keeper who was born in 1697, not in the temple at Jerusalem, but most humbly in the city of London. He immigrated with his needles and threads to Boston in 1730, and there is credible evidence that he was a Mason when he arrived here from London. He opened his own tailor shop on what is still Washington Street, between State and Water Streets. He prospered as a tailor of fine men’s clothing, purchased real estate, and lived as a man of wealth. Brother Price returned to London on a business trip and while in London he made application to Lord Viscount Montague, the Grand Master of Masons in England, for the deputation of a “Provincial Grand Master of New England.” His application was granted and he was issued a warrant from the newly formed Grand Lodge of England appointing him as Provincial Grand Master over all of North America. Masonry’s super numero uno. The go to guy in the Americas.
During this time period, the center of early Boston culture was the Bunch of Grapes Tavern, known locally as the “Freemason Arms.” It stood on King Street, now State Street, at the upper corner of Kilby Street. There were gilded wooden clusters of grapes dangled over the door to entice the eye of the passer-by. It was a stones throw from the site of the infamous Boston Massacre.
This unlikely tavern became the resort and headquarters of the high Whigs, a term used to describe those opposed to the religious policies of Charles II. Here the Royalists found a cool, cool reception, while the patriots were welcomed with open arms.
275 years ago, on Monday, July 30, 1733, an extraordinary historic meeting was held at this notable tavern. It was no mistake that Henry Price selected the Bunch of Grapes Tavern to grant a group of eighteen handpicked Masons a charter empowering them to work as a Masonic lodge in Boston. He read his deputation and organized the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. He appointed Andrew Belcher Deputy Grand Master and Thomas Kennelly and John Quann as Grand Wardens. The first order of business was to make eight candidates Freemasons.
The second act of business was to receive and act on the petition of eighteen brethren, all Free and Accepted Mason who wished to be formed into a regular Masonic Lodge. The petition was granted in accord with all the ancient customs and as provided for in Anderson’s Book of Constitutions.
Thus was formed Saint John's Lodge, the first duly constituted and chartered lodge in the Americas and the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. Masonry has not changed much over the years. It was then and is now a fraternity made up of men from every race, religion, opinion, and background, who are joined together as brothers to develop and strengthen the bonds of brotherly love, relief and truth. Let there be no mistake, we were then and are now linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection than can not be broken – a chain without missing links.
What an extraordinary, meaningful, and yet simple philosophy of life that is absolute and without qualification. It was with that as a foundation that our harmonious fraternity was created in this country – with Boston as its place of birth.
But – alack and alas – with lingering nostalgia – and I might add an unquenchable thirst – let us leave the friendly Bunch of Grapes Tavern and the warm reception provided to our ancient brothers, and walk over to the Green Dragon Tavern, referred to by the British as the “Headquarters of the Revolution” and “a Notorious Bed of Sedition.” It was located on a lane off Union Street near the shores of the Old Mill Pond in Boston.
It was from here that Most Worshipful Brother Joseph Warren sent Brothers Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Dr. Samuel Prescott on the celebrated ride to Lexington with a coded message to warn the colonists that the British were coming.
The Green Dragon Tavern was the home of Saint Andrew’s Masonic Lodge and the meeting place of the Sons of Liberty, who are forever linked with the revolutionary spirit of the patriots and their Masonic roots. Saint Andrew’s was the first “antient” lodge in Boston and was organized at the Green Dragon Tavern in 1752 and granted a Masonic charter in 1756. The Tavern was described by historians as the “Cradle of Rebellion” where the revolutionary masterminds organized a successful resistance to British aggression on the liberties of the colonies. How much “treason” was hatched under the roof of Saint Andrew’s Lodge will never be known.
The membership of Saint Andrew’s was composed chiefly of merchants and seafaring men, mechanics, dock workers – the tough guys from the North End. It was no coincidence that it was at the Green Dragon Tavern that the leaders of the Boston Tea Party met and planned their amazing bit of political chicanery.
The Masonic-oriented Sons of Liberty struck on December 16, 1773 – about 8,000 Bostonians gathered to hear Sam Adams tell the patriots that the then Royal Governor Hutchinson would not allow the ships out of the harbor until the tea taxes were paid. Not surprisingly, that was the very night the Boston Tea Party occurred. History records that colonial activists disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians and boarded the ships that night to the great dismay and surprise of the ship owners.
The work of the evening lasted well into the night and was quick, thorough, and efficient. By dawn, over 342 casks – or 45 Tons of tea worth an estimated 10,000 pounds – had been consigned to the waters of Boston Harbor. What is remarkable (perhaps suspicious) is that nothing was damaged or stolen (except the tea) and no one was injured! The only exception was a single padlock that was accidentally broken and anonymously replaced the following day.
The Tea Party was one of the most carefully premeditated public activities of pre-revolutionary Boston: planned in advance, carried out with efficiency, and directed exactly at its target. When John Adams heard the news in Braintree, he wrote in his diary, “This is the most magnificent movement of all. There is a dignity, majesty, sublimity, in this effort of the patriots that I greatly admire.”
Does any one here believe that the outrageous Boston Tea Party was plotted, planned, and carried out by the members of Saint Andrews Lodge? A review of their records appears to be most incriminating, though a tad unclear – perhaps intentionally so. I suggest that if the Secretary of Saint Andrew’s Lodge was with us here today in Trinity Church and asked, “What say you Brother Secretary? Did your Brethren, or did they not, dump the tea?” – I submit, my friends and Brothers, he would decline to respond on the grounds that the answer might tend to incriminate the Lodge members.
While the Boston Tea Party made an important political statement that will never be forgotten, the Battle of Bunker Hill was, and continues to be, the most sacred shrine of Massachusetts Freemasonry. It was at Bunker Hill that Most Worshipful Joseph Warren, a past Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts and an active leader of the Sons of Liberty, met his tragic death.
In his not-so-private life Brother Warren was a Harvard educated doctor and the family physician to the Adams, the Hancocks, and many other distinguished families.
Because of his impressive leadership abilities, he was commissioned a Major General in the militia. Three days before the battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, both Brother and General Putnam, and Brother and General Prescott, signified their readiness to take orders from Brother Warren; but he refused, saying that he had come as a volunteer to take a lesson in warfare. As a general in the colonial militia he could have taken the easy way out and simply not placed himself in a position of danger. But that is not who he was.
The first volleys were fired around 3:00 P.M. Brother Prescott yelled out the now familiar war cry, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” The British troops were stopped dead in their tracks. On the second or third attack, even though running short of ammunition, Warren remained determined that the British would not be permitted to take the high ground. He was only a few yards from the redoubt when the British, in spite of his heroics, took full possession of the hill and he was killed instantly with a musket ball in the head. “Oh, Lord God! Is there no help for the widow’s son?”
The battle was a pyrrhic victory for the British. They suffered more than 1000 casualties. British general Henry Clinton remarked in his diary that "a few more such victories would surely put an end to British dominion in America." He was proven correct.
The body of our Grand Master was found in the aftermath of the bloody battle, by friends and Brothers who hastily buried him in an unmarked grave on the spot where he fell. After the British evacuated Boston, the body of Most Worshipful Brother Warren was exhumed. A year later our Grand Master was buried with military honors including a marvelous oration delivered by our well known Brother and accomplished orator, Perez Morton.
His funeral oration has been compared to Mark Anthony’s speech over the body of Caesar. Morton said, and I quote, “our Grand Master fell by the hands of ruffians, but afterwards rose in honor and authority. We searched the field for the murdered son of a widow and found him buried on the brow of a hill.” In the language of Hayden, “this was the first grand offering of Masonry at the alter of liberty and the ground floor of her temple was blood-stained at its eastern gate.”
When the news of the battle of Bunker Hill reached Brother George Washington, he asked, “Did they stand their ground under fire?” When he was told that they did he said, “Then the liberties of the country are safe.”
Masons, like Brother Warren, were then, are now, and will continue to be unreservedly patriotic Americans who are proud to say that we love this country. We love our great flag and what it stands for. If the occasion arises, as it has in the past, we are willing, as we have in the past, to make the supreme sacrifice. We follow in the footsteps of other great American Masons of history, who were proud of that flag as was our Grand Master Joseph Warren, and Brothers John Hancock, Patrick Henry, James Otis, Paul Revere, and yes, George Washington.
In more modern times, in the lives of men like Brother and General James Doolittle, most famous for his audacious B-25 bombing raid on Tokyo in the opening months of our entry into World War II; Brother Douglas MacArthur, the “Hero General” who successfully commanded the southwest Pacific Theater in World War II. Later in Korea, as you will recall, he was retired from service by President and Brother Truman. He brought tears to my eyes and many others when, as he stepped down from command, he quoted from a famous old Army poem – I can still hear it – “Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.” How about our Brother General Omar Bradley? As commander of the 12th Army, the largest U. S. Force ever placed under one general, he oversaw European operations until the German surrender. And they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Masonry has not changed much over the years. It was then and is now a fraternity comprised of men from every race, religion, opinion, and background who are bound together as brothers to develop and strengthen the bonds of brotherly, relief and truth. We are still promised to soothe the unhappy, sympathize with their misfortunes, compassionate their miseries, and to restore peace to their troubled minds. It was then and is now the Grand Aim we have in view. What a meaningful yet simple philosophy of life. That shall never, never die.
Now, like that Old Soldier of Rhyme, it is my turn to just fade away.
But first, as no great or important Masonic undertaking should ever begin or end without the blessings of God – let us pray:
We pray, Lord, that you will continue to bless our Great Country, her people, and the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. Watch over us, test us, guide us, direct us, and challenge us as we continue to strive under your guidance to provide liberty, justice, and equality for all Mankind – wheresoever dispersed.
We pray Lord that we as Masons may always be cognizant of the needs of the orphan, the widow, the downtrodden, and those in destitute circumstances. Give us a generous heart that reaches out to others especially in these uncertain times.
May we always cherish freedom and may we continue to work to make your kingdom a reality here on earth. And, may we never forget nor forsake the memory of the men and women who have given their lives for this country so that the rest of us might live free. All this and more, we ask in your name. So mote it be.