Unanimously adopted by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, December 27, 1833. This text is found beginning on page IV-314 in the Proceedings. (Typography and spelling largely left as recorded.)
To the Honourable Senate and House of Representatives in General Court Assembled.
The Memorial of the Undersigned the Master and Wardens of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons, within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, respectfully represents:
That the said Grand Lodge was established and organized in the Town of Boston in said commonwealth as a voluntary association, on the 30th of July A.D. 1733 - assuming and exercising, all the powers rights and priviledges, which by the ancient laws and usages, recognized by the Fraternity of Freemasons, in their consociated capacity, it was empowered so to assume and exercise: That in the legitimate exercise of those powers, and priviledges, and in its official capacity, as the head of a prosperous and growing benevolent association, by the liberal donations of individual Freemasons, and by the usual contributions of the Subordinate Lodges, it was in time enabled to create and establish the Fund known as the "Charity Fund of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts" subject to the provision that the income thereof should be held in sacred trust for and faithfully applied to charitable purposes, to the relief of the distressed & suffering and your Memorialist[s] have the gratification to believe that the letter and the spirit of this provision have ever been, and they trust will long continue to be scrupulously observed and performed.
Your Memorialist[s] further represent, That from the period of its establishment untill the year 1817 this fund was held by, and under the control and direction of the said Grand Lodge, acting as a voluntary association. This tenure wasnot only thought to be insecure, but the management of the Funds was found to be attended with the various and unavoidable difficulties which are always incident to the conduct of property thus situated. Under these circumstances, and in the belief that an act of incorporation would increase the security of the Fund, and facilitate the distribution of its charities, Francis J. Oliver Esqr. and others members of the said Grand Lodge, petitioned and obtained of the Hon. Legislature on the 16th of June 1817 an act by which the Master, Wardens and Members of the Grand Lodge, were incorporated and made a body politic, authorized and empower'd to take by purchase or gift, grant or otherwise, and hold real estate, not exceeding the value of twenty thousand Dollars, and personal estate not exceeding the value of sixty thousand dollars, and to have and exercise all the priviledges usually given by acts of incorporation to charitable societies. And so far as the knowledge of your memorialists extends, or their experience enables them to judge, they most confidently believe and affirm that all the transaction of the said Grand Lodge (with the single exception hereafter noted) have been conducted with a scrupulous regard to the original purposes of its institution, and with an honourable endeavour to preserve the inviolability of the corporate powers with which it was invested, by the Hon. Legislature of the commonwealth, That in the performance of the interesting duties pertaining to this connexion its members have conducted as honest and peacable citizens recognizing in the following "Ancient Charges" of their order unexceptionable rules of duiy in all their social and political relations "that they have agreed to be good men and true, and strictly obey the moral law; to be peacable subjects, and cheerfully to conform to the laws of the country in which they reside; not to be concerned in plots or conspiracies against government but patiently submit to the decissions of the supreme Legislature; to pay a proper respect to the civil Magistry, to work dillignetly, to live creditably, and act honourably with all men" (Note: Book of Masonic Constitutions) And that confidently relying on the protection guaranteed alike to all classes of citizens by their written constitutions they have rested quietly under their own vine and fig tree, giving just cause of offence to none, and willing to believe they had none to molest or make them afraid.
Such was the condition of the affairs of the said Grand Lodge prior to the summer of the year 1830: when having previously been under the necessity of vacating the commodious apartments which it had for a long term of years occupied in one of the public buildings of the City: and experiencing much inconvenience from the want of suitable permanent accommodations for the transaction of Masonic business it was proposed and determined by an unanimous vote of its members to erect an edifice which while it afforded ample accomodation for the Fraternity, should also be an ornament to the City, and a public convenience. Your memorialists would not disguise the fact, that considerations of revenue contributed to produce the determination on the part of the Grand Lodge. As the depositary and guardian of a Charitable fund the Grand Lodge, held itself morally responsibly to the indigent recipients of the charities accruing from it, and felt boound to see that it was rendered as productive as a proper regard to its security would allow.
Under these circumstances, and not entertaining a suspicion that the Hon. Legislature would refuse, or that the most unyielding among the opponents of Free masonry, could object to such a modification of its act of incorporation, as would enable it to hold a greater amount of real estate and proportionally less of personal estate, than it was then empowered to do the said Grand Lodge, in the autumn of 1830, laid the corner stone of the building known as the Masonic "Temple" in the City of Boston. The original purchase of this estate was far within the amount which the act of Incorporation authorised the Grand Lodge to hold; but foreseeing that the augmenting value of the rising structure, would exceed this amount a petition was presented to the Hon. Legislature, at the winter session of 1831, praying for such a modification of its corporate powers, as would enable it to hold real estate, not exceeding the value of Sixty thousand Dollars, and personal estate not exceeding the value of Twenty thousand Dollars. The petitioners did not ask for an extension of their corporate powers, nor to be invested with any additional ones; but simply for such a modification of the rights and powers which they already enjoyed, as the Hon. Legislature has always shown itself willing to make for the accomodation of other corporate associations; a modification which your memorialists humbly conceive, was calculated to lessen rather than to increase the power of the Corporation; and by which no principle of law or policy was to be surrendered or prejudicially affected.
For reasons which impartial history will doubtless exhibit but the pertinence of which the wisdom of the historian may not easily recognize, the prayer of these petitioners was not granted.
The embarrassment, in which this unexpected result involved the corporation, will readily occur to your Hon. Body. The lnd on which the contemplated building was to be erected, had been purchased; the foundations laid; and the contracts made for its erection. Your memorialists respectfully submit, that there can be no difference of opinion among the ingenuous and unprejudiced portion of your Hon. Body in respect to the course it was proper under these circumstances for the Grand Lodge to pursue. It detirmined to go on with the erection of the building it had commenced, and either to trust to the magnanimity and justice of a future Legislature, for the necessary modification of its act; or to dispose of the property as circumstances might dictate, when it should become saleable. For reasons with which it is necessary to trouble the Legislature, the Grand Lodge have adopted the latter alternative.
Although your memorialists had observed in the proceedings of a former Legislature that certain citizens professing to be jealous of the powers conferred by our act of incorporation or of the manner in which they were exercised, had applied for a repeal of it, we had received no formal notice of any measure for that purpose, untill a few days ago, when a circular purporting to be a copy of a Memorial to your Hon. Body, was addressed and handed to all the principal officers of the said Grand Lodge, by a sheriff. The ultimate object of this petition seems to be, a revocation of the act of Incorporation of the Grand Lodge. On the face of it, however, is spread out a series of direct charges and scandalous insinuations against the principles and practice of that corporation. But as they are true or supposable, only as a faithful representation of the spirit and proceedings of those who originated them, a due regard to the blamelessness and respectability of the said Grand Lodge, as well as a personal sense of self respect alike admonish your memorialists, to refrain from any more particular notice of them. The Grand Lodge can enter into no discussion of the principles of Freemasonry, with prejudiced and abusive partizans; but especially would it avoid the indecorum of obtruding such a controversy into the presence of the Legislature of the commonwealth.
All controversy which may be honourably avoided, is inconsistent with the conciliatory precepts and beneficent designs of our association. We are required rather to suffer undeserved persecution, and injury, than unnecessarily to maintain strife and bitterness. And although as citizens of a government of laws, we can submit to nothing that is clearly wrong; as the friends of peace and order we can persist in nothing that is not clearly right. Actuated by these sentiments, and by a sincere desire to spare the Legislature the annoyance and unprofitable consumption of time, which the political party interested in the petition, may otherwise occasion, the Grand Lodge has determined to make a voluntary surrender of its civil charter: and the undersigned, the present memorialists, have been duly appointed to inform the Hon. Legislature, that by a vote passed at a regular meeting of that corporation, on the evening of December 27th 1833 (a copy of which is hereunto annexed) its corporate powers were relinquished, its act of incorporation vacated, and your memorialists instructed to return it to the Hon. Legislature, from whom it was deried.
Finally, that there may be no misunderstanding of this matter, either in the Legislature, or among our fellow citizens, we beg leave to represent precisely the nature and extent of the surrender contained in this Memorial. By divesting itself of its corporate powers, the Grand Lodge has relinquished none of its Masonic attributes or prerogatives. These it claims to hold and exercise independently alike of popular will and legal enactment not of toleration; but of right. Its members are intelligent freemen, and although willing to restore any gifts or advantage derived from the government, whenever it becomes an object of jealousy, however unfounded; nothing is further from their intentions or from their convictions of duty, than to sacrifice a private institution for social and benevolent purposes - the interests of which have been intrusted to them in order to appease a popular excitement, of which that institution may have been the innocent occasion.
JOHN ABBOT, Master
ELIAS HASKELL, BENJ. B. APPLETON, Wardens
of Grand Lodge of Massachusetts
This document is reproduced on Pages 1916-46 through 1916-50 of the Proceedings, along with a description of the "closing of the incident" written by Charles W. Moore:
MOORE'S SUMMARY AND AFTERWORD
This Memorial was presented to the Legislature, by the Hon. Stephen White, (formerly of Salem), the a member of the House from Boston. The excitement which follwed immediately on its being presented, is not easily described. There was a spontaneous burst of indignation from the antimason in every part of the House. They had been employed during the summer, and had incurred heavy expenses, in circulating petitions throughout the Commonwealth, in which the Grand Lodge and whole Masonic Fraternity were denounced as conspirators against morals and government.
The petitioners asked that a legal investigation of these scandalous charges might be instituted by the Legislature, - to which body the Grand Lodge, as a corporation - and not otherwise, - was, to some extent, amenable for its acts and doings. The petitions were in the trunks of the antimasonic members, ready at the first favorable moment, to be thrown into the Legislature, by hundreds. The surrender of the Act of Incorporation, if accepted by the Legislature, would render them worthless. The time and money expended in procuring signatures to them, would be lost. The torpedo that was to sweep the whole Masonic Fraternity of Massachusetts from the face of existence would be deprived of its explosive power.
Hence its reception - though the very thing the antimasons had demanded, but least desired - was met by coarse and vindictive opposition. But opposition was unavailing. The leading parties in the House were anxious to avail of any favorable opportunity to get rid of the subject. They felt its embarrassment, and the difficulty of maintaining the neutral position they desired to occupy. The voluntary surrender of its corporate privileges by the Grand Lodge presented that opportunity. Both parties could join in a vote to accept this tendered surrender, without committing themselves. They did so; and though a violent opposition was raised by the antimasonic members, the surrender was accepted.
The authority of the Legislature over the Grand Lodge was at an end. The latter was left to pursue the even tenor of its way, regardless alike of legislative interference and antimasonic impertinence. The property had been previously disposed of to an opulent and confidential Brother, and was secure. It was subsequently reconveyed to a Board of Trustees, chosen by the Grand Lodge; and the Masonic Fraternity of Boston still continue to sit under their own vine and fig tree, in the full and quiet enjoyment of a happy prosperity.