In order for the United Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to have even commenced its work required a most extraordinary act. Under the guidance of Most Worshipful Brother Moses Michael Hays of the Massachusetts Independent Grand Lodge, and Right Worshipful Brother John Cutler, acting as deputy for the late John Rowe, the last regularly installed Grand Master of St. John's Grand Lodge, the most prominent officers of each governing body had resigned their offices en masse in preparation for a union of the two under a constitution and laws that they had considered for several months before.
It was a singular deed, one which might have never come to pass if not for the American Revolution and its aftermath. The Provincial Grand Lodge of Massachusetts - granted its charter in 1769 by the Grand Master Mason of Scotland, the Earl of Dalhousie - had resolved to become independent in 1777 and had been sustaining itself in the turbulent years since. St. John's Grand Lodge, which had held its Grand Charter since 1733 – longer than any other such body in North America – had gone through its own difficult times, including the loss of Grand Master Rowe in February 1787, and was prepared to end the years of division and rivalry. "Such a union," wrote Rt. Wor. Samuel Parkman, the Grand Secretary of St. John's Grand Lodge, "would be for the benefit of Masonry in General, and for the happiness of the Lodges in this Commonwealth in particular." (I-223) And it was so voted.
Thus, on March 5, 1792, a joint group of electors was chosen to determine "the first Officers of the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons For the Common Wealth of Massachusetts." Rt. Wor. John Warren, Past Grand Master of Massachusetts Grand Lodge, was in the chair for the election of:
- Most Wor. John Cutler Esq. as Grand Master;
- Rt. Wor. Josiah Bartlet(t) as Senior Grand Warden;
- Rt. Wor. Mungo Mackay as Junior Grand Warden;
- Rt. Wor. Samuel Parkman as Grand Treasurer;
- Rt. Wor. Thomas Farrington as Grand Secretary.
Grand Master Cutler's first duties during this year were to inform the Brothers of the Lodge of St. Andrew of the union of the two Grand Lodges. This lodge, chartered in 1752, had stood aside from both St. John's and the Massachusetts Grand Lodge; indeed, a split among the brethren in 1784 had led to the founding of Rising States Lodge, which had come under the aegis of Massachusetts Grand Lodge in 1784. Despite the desire for unanimity in the jurisdiction, the Grand Master made no effort to coerce this lodge into inclusion, nor to isolate it from Masonic correspondence or communication – but it did not ultimately come under the Grand Lodge's authority until 1809, when its charter was endorsed by Grand Master Isaiah Thomas.
The year 1792 was significant in other ways for the Grand Lodge, as it instituted its own set of Constitutions and Laws (which appear at the very front of Volume II of the Proceedings); it established a standard form of lodge charter (shown on page II-22); and exchanged friendly correspondence with the most distinguished living Mason in North America, George Washington. By the end of the year, the new Grand Lodge had sent its Constitutions to all of its neighbors, put its record-keeping in place, and granted a charter and three dispensations for charters. At its annual communication on 10 December, the Grand Lodge re-elected John Cutler for a second year along with all of his officers.
From TROWEL, Fall 1995, Page 15:
The Merger of the Grand Lodges by R. W. James T. Watson, Jr.
After years of guiding the destiny of St. John's Grand Lodge, first Grand Master Henry Price died in 1780. Previously, in 1776, some of its members had left Boston and gone to New York with the British, while others went to Canada. With the increased actions of the patriots, this Grand Lodge continued to be active, but with more restraint.
By 1787 Massachusetts Grand Lodge formed a committee of five, including John Warren, Paul Revere and William Scollay, to consult "the other Grand Lodge" about the feasibility of a merger. A month later, in April, a committee of seven was appointed to work with a similar committee from St. John's Grand Lodge to plan the union of the two Grand Lodges.
It was not, however, until Massachusetts Grand Lodge again voted at its quarterly meeting of December 5. 1791. to form another committee of seven to confer with the Officers of St. John's Grand Lodge, that action started to take place. On January 18, 1792, St. John's Grand Lodge established its own committee of seven to meet with the one from Massachusetts Grand Lodge. Their goal was to promote the union of the two Grand Lodges on true Masonic principles.
When the committee met a month later on February 10 at the home of Samuel Parkman. it agreed that a union would benefit Masonry generally and in Massachusetts. The committee voted to meet its counterpart as soon as possible to agree on the manner of union.
On March 5 the Massachusetts committee reported that the joint committee had agreed on a constitution and laws for associating the two Grand Lodges, and that St. John's Grand Lodge had approved the plan. Massachusetts Grand Lodge ratified the plan unanimously as well. Brothers Warren, Scollay and Lowell were to list possible officers for the united Grand Lodge and to select seven electors.
The 14 electors met with Paul Revere as chairman, examined the two lists of candidates and unanimously chose the following as the first Officers of the united Grand Lodge: R. W. John Cutler, Grand Master; R. W. Josiah Bartlett, Senior Grand Warden: R. W. Mungo Mackay, Junior Grand Warden; Samuel Parkman. Grand Treasurer; and Thomas Farrington, Grand Secretary.
On March 19 a meeting was held at Concert Hall Boston, to install the Grand Master and establish the Grand Lodge of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The R. W. Bro. John Warren installed the Grand Master, with a speech for the occasion, before placing him in the seat of Solomon and investing him with his jewel. The Grand Master then announced R. W. John Lowell as his deputy and his other appointments for the year, investing them with their jewels.
After the Grand Master was installed the brothers formed a procession in their order of rank to pay their respects and offer congratulations, a custom which still exists. This united Grand Lodge began with 11 lodges constituted by St. John's Grand Lodge and 11 by the Massachusetts Grand Lodge. St. Andrew's Lodge #82, chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, was not one these 22 lodges.
The Grand Lodge wrote to St. Andrew's Lodge on April 2, 1792, to reassure the Lodge that it would not try to influence it and to offer warmest wishes. St. Andrew's Lodge became a member of Grand Lodge at the December, 1809, annual meeting of Grand Lodge.
The new constitution and laws of the united Grand Lodge consisted of 26 paragraphs in ten sections and were read before the installation of officers. The document covered many aspects of Grand Lodge, many of the guidelines being in effect after 203 years.
Lodges established prior to the new constitution were to retain their original charters, the Grand Secretary maintaining a list of the lodges by date and the Grand Lodge which issued the charter, precedency being by seniority. Thus, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is unique as the only Grand Lodge without numbers for its Lodges.
This constitution was dedicated to our first president and illustrious Brother George Washington. Beyond the new constitution the document contained the history, of Masons, the history of Masonry in the Commonwealth and two collections of songs and epilogues. The book is now in the library of the Boston Athenaeum.
- 06/21 (Concert Hall, Boston): II-21;
- II-21: Request for lodges to provide member lists.
- II-22: Proposal for design of charter.
- II-26: Postponement of September 1792 Quarterly due to smallpox epidemic.
- 12/10 (Concert Hall, Boston): II-27;
- 12/27 (Concert Hall, Boston): II-32;
- II-32: Committee appointed to examine Grand Secretary accounts.
- 03/19 (Concert Hall, Boston): II-12;
- II-12: Installation of Most Worshipful Brother Cutler and other officers.
- II-14: Address by the Grand Master on "true Masonic principles."
- 04/02 (Concert Hall, Boston): II-15;
- II-15: Letter to St. Andrew‘s Lodge.
- II-17: Committee formed to create a Book of Constitutions.
- 06/01 (Bro. Coleman's, Boston): II-18;
- II-18: Petition in Wiscasset (Maine) for "Zion or Rising Star Lodge"(name changed: recorded as "Lincoln" on p. II-19, p. II-28)
- II-19: Committee to write charter.
- 06/25 (Concert Hall, Boston): II-24; (R.W. John Lowell, Deputy Grand Master, presiding.)
- II-24: Feast of St. John the Baptist ceremonies.
LIST OF LODGES IN MASSACHUSETTS: 1792
Note: This list of lodges extant in Massachusetts in December 1792, ranked "according to their seniority", appears on page II-28.
|No.||Location||Lodge||Precedence Date||Chartering Body|
|1||Boston||St. John's (Boston)||07/30/1733||St. John's Grand Lodge|
|2||Boston||Master's||01/02/1738||St. John's Grand Lodge|
|3||Boston||Rising States||11/30/1756||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|4||Marblehead||Lodge at Marblehead||03/25/1760||St. John's Grand Lodge|
|5||Portland (Me.)||Lodge at Portland||03/30/1762||St. John's Grand Lodge|
|6||Newburyport||St. John's (Newburyport)||07/17/1766||St. John's Grand Lodge|
|7||Gloucester||The Tyrian||03/02/1770||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|8||Boston||The Massachusetts||05/13/1770||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|9||Nantucket||Union (Nantucket)||05/27/1771||St. John's Grand Lodge|
|10||Newburyport||St. Peter's||03/06/1773||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|11||Stockbridge||Berkshire||03/08/1777||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|12||Lancaster||Trinity||02/15/1776||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|13||Machias (Me.)||Warren||09/04/1778||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|14||Ipswich||Unity||03/09/1779||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|15||Charlestown||King Solomon's||09/05/1783||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|16||Northampton||Hampshire||01/30/1784||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|17||Williamstown||Friendship||07/23/1785||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|18||Boston||Harmonic||12/08/1790||Massachusetts Grand Lodge|
|19||Salem||Essex||06/11/1792||Grand Lodge of Massachusetts|
|20||Wiscasset (Me.)||Lincoln||06/01/1792||Grand Lodge of Massachusetts|
|21||Hanover||Old Colony||12/10/1792||Grand Lodge of Massachusetts|
|22||Blandford||Federal||12/10/1792||Grand Lodge of Massachusetts|
|1||Boston||Lodge of St. Andrew||11/30/1756 Chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland|