Saturday, June 26, 2010

Notes on the One Day Class or Grand Master's Class (One Side of the Discussion)

The One Day Class (ODC) whereby several the three Blue Lodge degrees, (or in other cases a group of York or Scottish Rite degrees) are offered by a number of jurisdictions.  Some form or the other has been carried out for hundreds of years.
The all-day affairs are offered in various formats.Champions of the ODC tend to be affinity lodges, military lodges, collegiate lodges, lodges made up of largely young and mid career professionals and lodges that serve a constituency of brothers that tend to be more geographically spread out.  Grand lodges interested in introducing candidates into the Craft with the best quality degree work and a large assembly of brothers often look to the One Day Classes. Whether judged by numbers or retention, the ODC has been successful overall, all told significantly more so than single degree sessions. 
However there are some vocal critics of the practice. Some opponents fail to differentiate between how the ODC degrees are awarded or conducted or whom they are offered to, instead finding that the act of single day scheduling inherently "lessens" Freemasonry. One wonders if in their criticism these Masons considered the many notable Masons who have been "made" in expeditious fashion, including many of our U.S. President Masons, Congressman, high ranking military officers and other distinguished Brothers.
It would seem that critics of the ODC judge the Mason by the time between the taking of degrees instead of the quality of the man brought in.

Perhaps resistance to One Day Classes is to some extent a class and age issue. For some who may be employed at more traditional "blue collar"  9-5 employment or those that are retired there may be a feeling that they give time instead of money and participation in activities outside of the lodge which they cannot afford.  The lodges most likely to use One Day Classes tend to be white or gray collar lodges, especially professional affinity lodges, historic lodges, military lodges, collegiate lodges, and research and scholarly lodges.  If this is the case, the time pressed young and mid-career professional, business owner and member of the managerial class may want One Day Classes but they should be careful not to mistakenly give the impression that their support for One Day Classes has to do with superior social position or a lack of appreciation of the time that others give.  

Though Masons are split with neither group being a majority and most having no opinion, proponents of the ODC tend not to be as vociferous, so here we offer excerpts of correspondence, from the other side of things on the topic of the ODC, or more properly, Grand Master's Class (GMC) particularly as offered in Affinity or Academic lodges:

...As often noted, Masonic jurisdictions continue to lose members, whether through death, non-payment of dues, or demit while the number of new Masons who stay active is relatively small. Some of this may stabilize to some degree; and to that end I have seen some well-rewarded efforts after a certain manner in neighboring jurisdictions, which is why I am inquiring about the Grand Master's class.

We have been directing a number of young men to the Masonic collegiate affinity lodges and programs in surrounding jurisdictions --New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as they use the limited, collegiate Grand Masters Classes. For some in the requisite collegiate fraternities I also have sent to the District of Columbia's  Fraternity Lodge and Magnolia Lodge and for others in the military, military friendly lodges (in D.C. and N.J.), because their schedules and one day classes, tend to actually be easier to accommodate even with travel, and the young men have a chance to meet with individuals nationally. These lodges have superb brother retention for such candidates with their Grand Masters Classes whether they are formal or informal affinity lodges or lodges simply accommodating those with the particular need. 

In all of this one thing has been regrettable for me: that of the many young men, I have not been able to direct them to similar situations in my own Grand Lodge.

As an illustration- the NJGL's Collegiate One Day Class focusing on young men who are attending a four year college that petition a lodge of choice has been remarkably successful not just in numbers or even participation but in spirit. They accept along with the students, any college professor, administrator or other staff member of college, focusing specifically on Rutgers University. This is modeled on the successful Harvard Lodge and Harvard Masonic Club on that campus as well as many like them nationally. W.B. Howard Dumhart with the assistance and support of the DDGM of the NJ's 12th Masonic District, the brethren of Union Lodge, and Philo Lodge, which opens its doors to host the One Day Class petitioners; these men experience a very fine introduction into Freemasonry. It is very encouraging to see their success.

With this approach the young men have the inspiring, invigorating experience of spending a full day with other Masons sharing their background, as well as with veteran Masons from various lodges and districts.  They are able to observe and participate in first-rate ritual and learn first-hand about genuine friendship, fellowship and brotherly love with a larger gathering. Otherwise the young men often first encounter a limited number of brothers, most or all of whom are decades older who may struggle to put on a ritual due to so many lodges having very limited numbers of active, proficient brothers.

Their education, youthful energy and idealism provides them knowledge of the historical and philosophical ideas presented in Masonry.  Crucially, they have a proficiency that we see far too seldom in reviewing the degree: reading with understanding.  It is good that this is being appreciated by having a small program that facilitates things for these candidates, in terms of the special dispensations for the size and single day scheduling.

Structurally I think, many lodges are not equipped to process this number of men who want to come into a lodge together due to the limits on men undergoing degrees at one time and the ability of lodges to put on degrees. (There are exceptions of course but this seems to be the general rule.) This creates an obvious "catch 22".

Lodges now might continue to be flexible and expeditious (as with the Grand Master's One Day Class) at a time when young men are most likely to need expeditious scheduling-- fellows in new jobs, and graduate school and /or working. It is a perfect time for these young men- without extensive family obligations, etc. to commit their energies. 

These young men however find themselves at a time when scheduling is more complicated, working for corporate employers who require extended hours during the week or attendance in law or medical schools where exams come up. (It becomes then easier to take a full weekend day with good advanced notice than multiple days with little advance notice during the week.)  In lodge culture where so much time can be wasted in agenda-less meetings, is it not better to tighten up the time?

Interest (even in the face of such waiting) among these young men continues because that the core group provides a natural basis for "recruitment" and familiarity. These candidates are usually much better informed than the average candidate. Candidates are often already familiar with the brothers and Masonic ritual (it is all public today for good or bad) and thus the candidates have contemplated their decision and are whole-heartedly committed, and they have a lodge with familiar faces to join, even if right now most of them are being separated as I mentioned, to suburban lodges in four jurisdictions.

As with the Lodges mentioned, it also helps that they have clubs to form the basis of unusually successful convivial calendar (with dinners, mixers, cocktail parties, nights out, family nights, business networking, job boards, discussion groups and internet forums.) Surely to practice Brotherhood does more than reciting words about it.

This in my humble opinion is why lodges who have taken the approach of Grand Master's Classes, particularly for this demographic have been so successful and why this or any jurisdiction does well in embracing it. 

Following is a discussion on the topic of Grand Master or One Day classes. A Mason who rails against the "GMC" or "ODC" receives responses.

[Square & Compasses]

Bro. Klaus Replies

Dear Bro.,

WOW! I'm impressed by such a rapid reply! Thanks!

I thoroughly appreciate your thoughtful reply. In many ways I think our positions are pretty close together, if they are on opposite sides of this issue.

Yours are very much the arguments I understand were presented during the (time) it took to amend the Masonic Code of Iowa to include these classes. Here I can't speak from personal experience because I had not yet joined the fraternity when these discussions occurred. I have, however, had in-depth discussions with many of the "movers and shakers" on both sides of the issue in Iowa, and feel I have at least a partial handle on the situation.

As I understand things, declining membership was only one of a number of issues involved. Like so many Grand Jurisdictions, Iowa's death rate among Brothers exceeded the initiation rate for a number of years. Over a decade or so, several changes were put in place. The first two were actually more important than the institution of ODCs. The first to occur, as I understand it, was the removal from code of the injunction against "recruitment." Indeed, many of my senior Brethren here are still suspicious of the notion that we may now discuss Masonry--with several proscriptions, of course--with non-Masons.

The days when Lodges were prominent in almost every city and village in Iowa are, sadly, long past. Moreover, the days when many residents of a given community had deep family and business roots in their places of residence have disappeared in proportion to our society's increasing mobility and our less-secure job market. In addition, and probably because of greater mobility, men are less inclined to ask the "right question" about how they may join a Lodge--there seems simply to be greater reticence about discussing such matters with mere acquaintances.

At the same time, there are indications that the present generation of men between the ages of (approximately) 18 and 30 are actually MORE potentially inclined toward Masonry than any generation since WWII veterans returned to civilian life. (I recently attended a very interesting seminar presented by M.W.B. Bob Conley, P.G.M. in Michigan, who suggests rather convincingly that the present generation of young men has more in common with men at the beginning of the twentieth century than with any generation between them.) Whatever the reason, we in Iowa are seeing a significant increase in interest among younger men. Being able to approach men openly and honestly to discuss Masonry is, in my opinion and experience, a very good thing.

The second important change to our code is the institution of the "Invitation to Petition." Because of Masonry's decline in Iowa (and this applies rather specifically to my home Lodge), there were often well-known, highly-respected, highly-qualified men in communities who had never considered joining a Lodge. In Iowa, these men can now be brought up in open Lodge and discussed prior to their petitioning for admission. Three Brothers in good standing sign the Invitation to Petition. They must have known the potential candidate for at least two years. I have attached the form in PDF format. While we certainly do not use this method indiscriminately, it has been a very valuable tool: when one can approach a friend after he has already been "approved" by the Lodge, it has proved generally to be viewed by the potential candidate--as it should be--as a great honor.

And then came the ODC. In my experience, your credit-card analogy has not proved accurate, at least in our Lodge. As I noted previously, in three years we have probably Raised about 20 new MMs in ODCs. Of these, one is now serving in the Mid-East. Several have moved out of the area. A couple of them have not been very active. One has demitted. However--and I just went through our membership list--fully 15 of these Brothers are actively involved in the activities of our Lodge, attend the majority of Communications and participate actively, serve on committees, assist enthusiastically in community service projects, and so forth. Several have also joined the Scottish Rite (more active in this area than is the York Rite) and are equally as active in the Consistory. One is presently serving as Venerable Master of our local Knights of St. Andrew chapter as well as being Junior Deacon in our Lodge.

Thus my personal experience has been that we have Raised some really good Brothers via the ODCs, and most of these neophyte Masons have involved themselves enthusiastically in our Lodge's work. Moreover, I know for a fact that at least five of these enthusiastic new Masons WOULD NOT have joined us had the ODC not been available; two of these had dropped out previously, one after the Entered Apprentice Degree, and one after the Fellowcraft.

In short, and arguing from a huge sample of a single, rather rural, small Lodge, the Iowa ODC has breathed new life into our Lodge. In a Lodge with a total membership of 83, with only about 40 within a cable tow, this is a major turn-around. Interestingly enough, it is the OLDER Brethren who seem most reinvigorated by this influx of "new blood." Our oldest active member is 91, never misses a meeting, has served several times in every chair, saw his Lodge reach the brink of extinction less than a decade ago, and now can't stop grinning about belonging to such an active and enthusiastic Lodge. His joy alone is enough to make this worthwhile. (Can you tell he's a dear friend?)

Meanwhile our in-Lodge Degrees have probably tripled in number, In 1999, two years before I did my work, our Lodge had NO degree work. The next year two candidates went through the work. This year we have already Raised five Brothers in-Lodge, and have several still on the agenda. So, far from diminishing our local work, the ODC seems to have increased it, since some of these candidates had ODC members as top-line signers. Increased in-Lodge work, of course, increases the frequency of our ODC Brothers to see--and participate in--Degree work regularly, and that was NOT available before, simply because there WAS almost no Degree work.

Yes, technically speaking, the old "sponsor system" was supposed to enroll new Brothers. Here, at least, it didn't, probably because there was no real structure. The enlightenment course HAS structure, but it is open-ended; it probably raises more questions than it answers, and leads easily, in my experience, to more extended discussions.

As you know very well, the more one explores the craft, the more excited--and committed--one becomes. So I think it's not so much having the MEC replace sponsorship, but rather the structure of the MEC. The MEC is now required by Iowa code, as is its mentoring structure; not to follow this procedure with some care is thus potentially a Masonic offense. In almost every case, the top-line signer serves as mentor. And all too often in the past, it seems to me that rote memorization of obligations was simply that: rote without reflection. The MEC forces reflection and discussion. Curiously enough, many of our newer Brothers have CHOSEN to memorize the Q & As and the obligations, and I find that vastly superior to rote.

And yes, we probably DO remove some individual attention with the ODC. In fact, some of our local and active ODC Brothers have some regrets about having taken the ODC route. HOWEVER, this is with hindsight--and they freely admit this. WITHOUT the ODC, they would never have become Master Masons at all. So, when they discuss joining the fraternity with their friends, they often recommend doing the work in-Lodge. Interestingly, they don't really feel they were "cheated," only that, knowing what they now know, they'd have stayed at home and joined here.

And since there does seem to be some correspondence between the institution of the ODC and an increase in in-Lodge work, the ODC Brothers have a greater opportunity to see and participate in work at home than was the case before. The ones with time problems--and I maintain that these can be very real, having spent a career in a job that often required 90 hours of my time per week--are eternally grateful for the ODC.

So it's a mixed bag. I do not feel, speaking only for myself, that the GL has cheated our ODC Brethren or ourselves. Like the Invitation to Petition and the ability to recruit, the ODC is a tool. It doesn't work for every job, any more than a screwdriver can drive a nail better than a hammer, but then, a hammer's pretty ineffective at driving a screw too... I don't feel, again arguing from a sample of one, that we have somehow "swindled" our ODC Brethren. Several of these new Brothers are close friends of long standing. We regularly discuss Masonry over coffee (sometimes even over a snort!).

Their experience in the INITIAL stages of Masonry is certainly different from yours or mine. Because I haven't been in their shoes, I can't say whether that's good or bad. What I DO know is that these are good Brothers, vitally interested in and involved in our craft. They are accumulating libraries of books on Masonry, and reading them. They follow to the letter the admonition to discuss Masonry with their senior Brothers. They can participate in MANY more local degrees than they could have just a few years ago. And, because they were raised with Brothers from all over the state, they are more excited about attending state-wide functions, such as the annual GL Communication, if only to renew friendships formed during the ODC.

The mentoring program is, as noted, a part of Iowa Masonic Code, and was instituted prior to our ODCs. Thus the two issues are divisible. And, with all due respect for your point of view, and while the mentoring program is, in fact, very successful, it does NOT address several concerns the ODC addresses head-on: isolation of individual Lodges, dangerously declining membership numbers, the PERCEPTION of the amount of time required to become a Mason, and introduction of a truly state-wide (and, by implication, world-wide) brotherhood. Attending the first-ever ODC in Iowa at the Des Moines Scottish Rite Temple, candidate in tow, with 400 prospective Brothers and 600 Brothers present, was an awe-inspiring experience, even for my jaded world-view. That kind of cumulative fraternity simply cannot occur is a Lodge with 15-20 Brothers present. 1,000 male voices singing the National Anthem, accompanied by a noteworthy pipe organ, beats our local Pledge of Allegiance all hollow! And the ritual was--and has continued to be--excellent. The degrees are, of course, somewhat longer, because there are appropriate pauses in ritual for the mentor and candidate to exchange signs of recognition and so forth. EACH candidate repeats the obligations, with the Book of Holy Law held by his mentor.

I paint a rosy picture. I genuinely believe the ODC has been a very good thing FOR THIS JURISDICTION, and certainly for Mount Vernon Lodge. It does NOT work for every Brother--but then, I submit, neither do in-Lodge Degrees. Who knows how many potentially excellent, committed Brothers we may have lost in the past? I think it's a tool, not a revolution... After all, most Lodges no longer have a box of cigars on the Tyler's table, or spittoons spread around the Lodge, nor do most Lodges have their own supply of wine and Scotch to use following meetings. Do we cheat those Brothers who anticipated their monthly fine cigar with such glee? (Sorry! Those analogies are also unkind!) Ed Note: Lodges would do well to return to such provision of fine wines, Scotch, cigars as well as taking the time taken to enjoy them together!

Thanks so much for the discussion! It's almost as invigorating as our area outdoor Third Degree last night, where one of our own local Brothers was Raised by the Grand Lodge. The ritual, food, and fellowship were as good as it gets!

Sincerely and fraternally,
John M. Klaus
Junior Warden, Mount Vernon Lodge No. 112
Past Grand Musician, Grand Lodge of Iowa

Brother John Noted the following in his other correspondence:

1. Inability to memorize long examinations is a genuine problem, at least in Iowa, and has been the reason some otherwise well-qualified men have "dropped out" after the First or Second Degree. As noted above, we have reclaimed several Brothers locally who fall into this category.

2. The question of time—or at least the PERCEPTION of the time required—can also be a very real one. There is certainly a perception among the "profane" that becoming a Master Mason is a long, arduous journey. Certainly this is the case, if one is truly to become a Master Mason (it takes more than a lifetime), but the opportunity for me to assure a potential Brother than he can, in fact, become a full member of our Lodge by completing a One-Day Class and completing the enlightenment course can be a potent recruitment tool. During the enlightenment course I have the opportunity—indeed, the obligation—as the new Brother's mentor to explore what it means to be a Mason, and to discuss these matters for as long as he wants to talk.

3. Far from diluting our in-Lodge Degrees, the One-Day Class seems actually to have increased this work. Now that a potential Brother can CHOOSE either the One-Day or the more personalized in-Lodge approach, many have opted for the more personal in-Lodge approach. The important thing—at least for us—has been his OPPORTUNITY to choose.

4. A palpable excitement and enthusiasm for the Fraternity has been apparent at all One-Day Classes I have attended...

5. One-Day Classes have, if anything, improved our local proficiency in conferring Degrees, perhaps because the classes have afforded many of our local Brethren the opportunity to see excellent ritual and to encourage them to a higher level of proficiency.


Some words from various jurisdictions about the GMC or ODC:

The Washington State Grand Lodge Proceedings for 2001 (pages 50-52, Grand Secretary's report from several years ago comes to mind. He said of the work:

(1) The quality of the work is uniformly good.

(2) The candidates are placed in an environment where they are assured of
success and generally free from criticism.

(3) The instruction offered candidates between degrees is generally to the point, well
delivered, and does not give the candidate any opportunity to slide off
into the distant world.

". . . The one-day conferral is a lot like going through basic training with a rather kindly SDI. And that is  why it works. Most Lodges virtually ignore candidates between Degrees. As a generality we put emphasis on the presentation of the material. That is, we focus all of our attention on the ability of the guy  conferring the Degree, giving the lecture . . . Many of them do a flawless job but the real purpose of the exercise is to communicate to  and with the candidate what Masonry is all about and how he - the candidate - fits in the Lodge. In the one-day conferral the candidate is surrounded by people, made to feel important, and humanely indoctrinated in the tenets of Masonry. . . . the rate at which one day Degree recipients proved up exceeded the rate at which Lodge conferrals proved up. I would earnestly recommend, therefore, that at least four one day conferrals be scheduled annually."

I know many individuals who have also spoken highly of the practice in the District of Columbia GL that since 1992, has held a Grand Master's Class. In most years this has consisted of conferring all 3 degrees conferred several times a year. In DC the 1-day class is done in an manner so that each and every candidate goes through almost all the ceremonies of each degree. (Each candidate is dressed the same as all candidates in traditional degrees, each is received in lodge in the same manner as in traditional degrees, each is conducted by a personal conductor for that candidate alone, each has a separate area of a table (altar) with a separate copy of the 3 Great Lights, each takes the obligations exactly the same way as at traditional degrees, and each goes through the 2nd section of the 3rd degree in exactly the same manner, with the same raising, as in traditional degrees.) Many of the members of these classes form a bond, and many have become officers of their Lodges and Grand Lodge.

A brother once asked me, “Since over the hundreds of years, the ritual has changed, lectures added, the number of degrees have changed, the rules for candidates have changed, what then remains the same.’  His reply, “The brotherhood has not changed”.  So we are doing things that assist the brotherhood that causes no change except in our routine and way of thinking.

Some want membership to include difficulties-  if they could they might introduce physical torment and exercises in mental dexterity and duress that even would surpass their own endurance but of course would have nothing to do with Masonry and Brotherhood or quality of the candidate. What these Brothers may be ignoring is that in Freemasonry it is for us to choose the best candidate and to improve that already worthy and well qualified individual by involving him in the work of lodge toward building Brotherhood. The sooner we get our well chosen brothers active in the business of the lodge the better.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

American Freemasonry from 1730 to 1830 (abbreviated from lecture by S.B. Morris)

1730: The Beginnings of American Masonry

        Like so many Masonic events, the first American appearance of Freemasonry is not precisely known. Jonathan Belcher (1681–1757), a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts and later Governor of the Colonies of Massachusetts and New Hampshire from 1730–41 and the Colony of New Jersey from 1747–57, was made a Mason in London ca. 1704.

       It is possible he held private Lodges at his residence before time-immemorial or chartered Lodges appeared. On 5 June 1730, the premier Grand Lodge appointed Daniel Coxe (1673–1739) Provincial Grand Master for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, giving the first official Masonic recognition of the English colonies. Bro. Coxe does not seem to have exercised his authority, even though he lived in New Jersey from 1731–1739. 

       The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania possesses a book marked “Liber B” which contains the records of the earliest known Pennsylvania and American Lodge. The first record is for 24 June 1731, and in that month Benjamin Franklin (1705–1790) is entered as paying dues five months back. Franklin’s entry implies Lodge activity from at least December 1730 or January 1731.  No earlier Lodge records exist in the United States, though there are suggestive comments in newspapers.

       Provincial Grand Masters were appointed after Daniel Coxe from 1733 through 1787: twenty-two by the moderns, six by the ancients, and four by Scotland.

     In 1775 John Batt initiated fifteen free African-Americans in Boston. Batt was Sergeant in the 38th Regiment of Foot, British Army and Master of Lodge No. 441, Irish Constitution. When the Regiment and Lodge departed in 1776, the fifteen new Masons were left with a permit to meet, to walk on St. John’s Day, and to bury their dead. They in turn applied to the Grand Lodge of Moderns for a warrant and were chartered as African Lodge No. 459 on 29 September 1784 with Prince Hall as the first Master.

      In 1792 when the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was formed, African Lodge did not join but remained attached to England. This could be due to loyalty to the premier Grand Lodge or to racism from the newly formed Grand Lodge. However, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts also didn’t recognize St. Andrews Lodge, which had a Scottish charter. There is evidence that white Masons visited African Lodge and that England relied on Prince Hall for information on Boston Lodges. In any event African Lodge continued its separate existence until 1813 when it and all other English-chartered American lodges were erased from the roles of the newly formed United Grand Lodge of England. Then in 1827 officers of African Lodge declared themselves independent and constituted themselves as a Grand Lodge. From these origins grew the large Masonic organization known today as “Prince Hall Masonry.”

 Most American Lodges originated from one of the British Grand Lodges—England, Scotland, and Ireland, though Germany, France, and other Grand Lodges issued charters. Traveling British military Lodges spread Masonry through much of North America as they initiated civilians in the towns where they were stationed. Also imported from England was the rivalry between the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges. Many states had competing Grand Lodges that eventually merged after the Union of 1813 in London, though South Carolina did not see Masonic unity until 1817. Modern Masons tended to be conservative in promoting the fraternity, prosperous, and loyalists, while Ancient Masons were aggressive in expanding Lodges, working-class, and revolutionaries.

      The early forms of Masonic ritual in the United States are less known that those in England and France. We do not have the large number of 18th century documents—Gothic constitutions, manuscript catechisms, memory aides—that can be found in Europe. Presumably the first rituals were transmitted mouth-to-ear, and Lodges may have patterned their ceremonies after some of the exposés, either imported or printed domestically. 

     The first American exposé was Benjamin Franklin’s 1730 reprint of The Mystery of Freemasonry (intended as an attack upon rivals), but there do not seem to have been any exposés of American ritual practices until the anti-Masonic period, ca. 1826–1840.

The Influence of Itinerant Masonic Lecturers

      With a diversity of ritual sources, the work in American Masonic Lodges must have been variegated during the 1700s. This began to change in 1797 when Thomas Smith Webb (1771–1819) published The Freemason’s Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry. It acknowledged that “The observations upon the first three degrees are many of them taken from Preston’s ‘Illustrations of Masonry,’ with some necessary alterations” to make them “agreeable to the mode of working in America.”

Webb was the first and most prominent of several Masonic Lecturers who toured the country teaching a uniform of ritual to Lodges, Chapters, and any other body they could convince to pay their fees. These lecturers often had “side degrees” available for sale or as gifts. Webb trained Jeremy Ladd Cross (1783–1861) who succeeded Webb as the generally recognized chief ritualist. Cross’s great contribution was his 1819 The True Masonic Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor. It was largely Webb’s Monitor with a few small textual changes and one major visual addition: forty-two pages of engravings by Bro. Amos Doolittle.

Doolittle’s engravings did more than illustrate Cross’s text, they provided a memory map for students learning the ritual. Each image on a page was a milestone in the lectures. By associating an image with a portion of ritual, it was possible to mentally review an entire lecture by thumbing through a few pages of Cross’s Chart. The book was very successful and has influenced the artwork in almost every subsequent American Masonic monitor.

      Other Masonic lecturers trained by or with Webb and Cross include John Barney (1780–1847), James Cushman (1776–1829), David Vinton (d. 1833), and John Snow (1780–1852). They each seemed to concentrate on a different part of the country, much as salesmen have defined territories. There was some cooperation among the lecturers and not a small amount of competition.

The Royal Arch

     The first “high degree” to appear in America was the Royal Arch Degree. In fact, the first recorded conferral of this degree anywhere occurred in December 1753 at Fredericksburg Lodge in Virginia, where George Washington (1731–1799) was initiated an Entered Apprentice in 1752. The American Royal Arch ritual is based upon the story of Jeshua, Zerrubabel, and Haggai and the rebuilding of the second Temple in Jerusalem. The degree began to spread steadily throughout the colonies:
1758—organization of Jerusalem Chapter in Philadelphia;
1769—organization of St. Andrew’s Chapter, Boston;
1790—organization of Cyrus Chapter Newburyport, Massachusetts;
1792—organization of a Chapter in Charleston, South Carolina;
1794—organization of Harmony Chapter, Philadelphia.
Other unrecorded or forgotten degrees and chapters doubtlessly occurred. In 1795 the First Grand Chapter was formed in Pennsylvania, and in 1797 the first national American organization was created—the General Grand Chapter of the New England States, which is today the General Grand Chapter of the United States. Additional Grand Chapters quickly followed in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island in 1798. By 1830 there were twenty-one Grand Chapters in the United States. 

       The early conferral of the Royal Arch Degree seemed to be based on the authority inherent in the charter of a Lodge. Not surprisingly, it was Ancient Lodges that were most likely to see this high degree authority inherent in their charters. Royal Arch Chapter in the United States, in contrast to their English counterparts, quickly organized themselves into state Grand Chapters and, with the exception of Pennsylvania and Virginia, quickly placed themselves under the authority of the General Grand Chapter.

     A quirk of American Royal Arch Masonry is worth noting: (unlike elsewhere) the American presiding officer is not the King, representing Zerrubabel, but the High Priest, representing Jeshua. 

The Growth of the Chapter Degrees

      As Lodges had a “chair degree,” the Past Master’s Degree, it only made sense that the Royal Arch should have one too, and so the Order of High Priesthood came into being. It is not mentioned in Webb’s 1796 Monitor, but it is in his 1802 edition as well as Cross’s 1819 Chart. It is usually conferred on High Priests before they can assume the Oriental Chair of Solomon. The degree, still worked today, may have had European ancestors, but its genealogy is uncertain.

       As in England the Royal Arch Degree in the United States can only be conferred on Past Masters. American practice soon required the conferral of the chair ceremony to qualify candidates as “virtual Past Masters.” The Chapter degree seems to have contained the essential elements of the Lodge degree, but the candidate was given humorous trials and tribulations to endure. 
The Growth of the Chapter Degrees

      The earliest record of the Mark Degree is in 1783 at the Royal Arch Chapter in Middleton, Connecticut. Soon the Mark was adopted by Royal Arch Chapters as the first in their sequence of degrees. This is in contract to most European jurisdictions where the Mark is independent and controlled by its own Grand Lodge.

The Most Excellent Master Degree, a uniquely American degree in origin, first appeared by name at the Middleton Chapter with the Mark Degree in 1783. Its legend revolves around the completion of the Temple of Solomon and the placement of the keystone in the Royal Arch. It may contain elements from older European degrees, but its current organization is unique to the United States. Thomas Smith Webb published a description of this degree in his 1797 monitor as the third of three degrees leading to the Royal Arch, and it has remained in that position until today. 

The sequence of degrees conferred in American Royal Arch Chapters since then (except for Virginia and West Virginia) is
1. Mark Master Mason,
2. Past Master,
3. Most Excellent Master,
4. Royal Arch Mason,
      5. Order of High Priesthood for High Priests.

The Cryptic Degrees

The Degrees of Royal and Select Master seem to have originated as side degrees available from itinerant Masonic lecturers. They are known collectively as the “Cryptic Degrees” or the “Cryptic Rite” because their legend deals with the secret vault or crypt beneath King Solomon’s Temple. 

Cross included these two degrees in his popular 1819 illustrated monitor, producing a nine-degree system extending from Entered Apprentice to Select Master. The degrees were some times conferred in Royal Arch Chapters, but slowly emerged as independent Masonic bodies, governed by state Grand Councils of Royal and Select Masters and a national General Grand Council. The earliest independent Councils were formed in
1810—New York City,
1815—New Hampshire,
1817—Massachusetts, Virginia, and Vermont,
1818—Rhode Island and Connecticut.

      By 1830 there were Grand Councils in ten states. Under the influence of Cross’s Chart and other monitors, the Select Master’s Degree came to be viewed at the culmination of “Ancient Craft Masonry,” even if Councils were found in only a few metropolitan areas and their degrees available to only a few. This is probably the beginning of the American “York Rite,” consisting of the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, Council of Royal and Select Masters, and Commandery of Knights Templar.

Knights Templars and the American York Rite

       The first reference to a Masonic Templar degree is found in the minutes of St. Andrews Lodge, Boston, an Ancient Lodge, when on 9 April 1769, William Davis received the Excellent, Super Excellent, Royal Arch, and Knight Templar Degrees. In 1796 the first Commandery (or Encampment or Priory) was established in Colchester, Connecticut, and eventually received a charter from England in 1803.  

Today in America a Commandery of Knights Templar confers the Order of the Red Cross, the Order of Malta, and the Order of the Temple on Christian Masons. In 1816 the Order of Malta was placed as the last degree in the series until 1916 when it returned to second place. 

The Red Cross legend is similar to the Knight of the East and Prince of Jerusalem detailing the return of Zerubbabel from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. It is entirely out of place among Christian chivalric orders. Nonetheless it remains and provides an important part of the York Rite legends.

      Taken together, the Craft Lodge, Royal Arch Chapter, Royal and Select Council, and Knights Templar Commandery form the American “York Rite.” The name is inexact as the degrees did not originate in York, England, but then again the Scottish Rite did not originate in Scotland. 

       Reflecting the widespread belief that the York Rite was the purest and oldest form of Masonry, some American Grand Lodges originally styled themselves, “Ancient York Masons” (A.Y.M.)

 The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite

     A high degree event in the United States occurred on 31 May 1801 when John Mitchell (ca. 1741–1816) elevated Frederick Dalcho (1770–1835) to the 33rd Degree, and they then elevated another seven until there was a constitutional number to open a Supreme Council. Their actions were announced to the world in a circular dated 4 December 1802. The opening of the first Supreme Council 33° was preceded by considerable “Scottish” activity.

Etienne Morin (1693?–1771) received authority in 1761 from Paris or Bordeaux to promote Masonry throughout the world. This included propagating a rite of twenty-five degrees, sometimes known as the Rite of Perfection. Morin moved to San Domingo and soon appointed six Inspectors General.  The most successful of these was Henry Andrew Francken (d. 1795), from whom fifty-two Inspectors descended, though he only appointed six. 

After Morin’s arrival in America, bodies of his rite were soon established:

1764—Loge de Parfaits de Écosse, New Orleans, Louisiana;
1767—The Ineffable Lodge of Perfection, Albany, New York;
1781—Lodge of Perfection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
1783—Lodge of Perfection, Charleston, South Carolina;
1788—Grand Council, Princes of Jerusalem, Charleston, South Carolina;
1791—King Solomon’s Lodge of Perfection, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts;
1792—Lodge of Perfection, Baltimore, Maryland;
1797—Sublime Grand Council, Princes of the Royal Secret, Charleston, South Carolina;
1797—La Triple Union, Chapter of Rose Croix, New York. (17)
Inspectors propagated the degrees of this rite with little organization, often for the fees they could negotiate. The Supreme Council’s motto, Ordo ab Chao, is indeed appropriate for the situation. 

Webb’s Monitor had monitorial instructions for the ineffable degrees, which served to make American Masons aware there was more than the York Rite. Thus when the Mother Supreme Council formed itself in 1801, it did not operate in a vacuum.

In August 1806 Antoine Bideaud, a member of the Supreme Council of the “French West India Islands,” visited new York City and found an opportunity to make a little extra money. 

He conferred the Scottish Rite degrees on four Masons for $46 each and then created a “Sublime Grand Consistory, 30°, 31°, and 32°.” Bideaud’s authority was for the islands only and certainly did not extend into New York, which was under the jurisdiction of the Charleston Supreme Council. (18)

In New York City in October 1807, Joseph Cerneau (d. 1827?), a jeweler from Cuba, constituted a “Sovereign Grand Consistory of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret.” Cerneau was a “Deputy Grand Inspector, for the Northern part of the Island of Cuba” under Morin’s rite. His patent limited him to confer the 4° through 24° on Lodge officers, and the 25° once a year. Early records are sufficiently vague that it cannot be determined if the original members of Cerneau’s Consistory thought they had the 25° or the 32°. With even less authority than Bideaud, Cerneau launched his foray into high degree Masonry in New York. 

      The Bideaud organization was “healed” by Emmanuel de la Motta, Grand Treasurer of the Mother Supreme Council on 24 December 1813. This group assumed control of what is today known as the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. 

        The Cerneau Consistory ignored de la Motta’s actions, but decided they had to expand their degrees to thirty-three to “keep up with the competition.” They eventually claimed jurisdiction over the “United States, Their Territories, and Dependencies.” Thus in 1830 there were three competing Supreme Councils in the United States. All three became dormant during the anti-Masonic period.

Side Degrees
        The last category of pre-1830 degrees is “side degrees,” conferred under irregular circumstances with little formal authority. They sometimes were communicated by itinerant lecturers, sometimes by Masons who possessed the degree, sometimes for a fee, sometimes for free. 

        Some of these degrees could have coalesced into a rite if anti-Masonry hadn’t crushed them. There is scant information on them, sometimes little more than a title mentioned in passing. A search of all American Lodge minutes before 1830 might yield a few more names, but probably no more rituals.

Some of our information comes from two exposés from the anti-Masonic period, David Barnard’s 1829 Light on Masonry and Avery Allyn’s 1831 A Ritual of Freemasonry. Both authors seemed to been originally motivated in “saving” the American public by exposing the “evils” of Freemasonry. However, general interest in Masonry was spurred on by the public conferral of the degrees by anti-Masonic troupes. 

This interest, in turn increased demand for exposés, especially those complete with passwords and grips. Bernard obliged this demand by adding the secret work from Delaunaye’s Thuileur, without regard for whether it matched the American degrees he described.  It is often difficult to know if the degrees described were widely worked, if at all. Of these many degrees, only the Heroines of Jericho seems to be an American original. It survived and is worked today by Prince Hall Masons.

         Another source of pre-1830 side degrees is a series of newspaper articles, “Recollections of a Masonic Veteran,” by Robert Benjamin Folger (1803–1892). Published in 1873–74, these articles describe his fifty years in Masonry with a few comments about side degrees. Finally, there is tantalizing evidence that Zorobabel Lodge No. 498 in New York City worked the Rectified Scottish Rite and may have conferred the fourth degree, Scottish Master. 
Pre-1830 American Masonic Side Degrees:
Knight of the Christian Mark Bernard, Allyn
Knight of the Holy Sepulchre Bernard, Allyn
Holy and Thrice Illustrious order of the Cross Bernard, Allyn
Knight of the Three Kings, Allyn
Knight of Constantinople Allyn, Folger
Secret Monitor Allyn, Folger
Ark and Dove (RAMs only), Allyn
Mediterranean Pass Folger
Knight of the Round Table (fun degree), Folger
Aaron’s Band (similar to High Priesthood), Folger
Master Mason’s Daughter (for women), Folger
True Kindred (for women), Folger
Heroine of Jericho (RAMs, wives and widows), Allyn

1830: The End of the First Era of American Masonry

        As early as March 1826 a New York Mason named William Morgan began plans to publish the “secrets of Freemasonry.” This created quite a stir in his small town of Batavia, New York. Neither Morgan, nor his potential readers, nor the local Lodge seemed aware that ritual exposés had been available in the United States since at least 1730 when Benjamin Franklin republished The Mystery of Freemasonry. Masons tried to purchase the manuscript from Morgan’s publisher, David Miller, a former Entered Apprentice Mason. When this failed, Miller’s printing company was set on fire twice, presumably by Masons.

Morgan, a ne’er-do-well in frequent debt, was jailed in Canandaigua, New York, for a debt of $2.00 assigned to Nicholas G. Chesbro, Master of the Lodge at Canandaigua. On the next day, 12 September 1826, Chesbro appeared at the jail with several other Masons and discharged his claim against Morgan. They escorted Morgan outside and into a waiting carriage. Before entering the carriage, Morgan was heard crying during a scuffle, “Help! Murder!” He was driven north to Niagara County and held in the old Powder Magazine at Ft. Niagara until 19 September. Morgan was never seen thereafter. 

Morgan’s abduction, disappearance, and presumed murder set off a social and political crisis in the United States. Many came to believe that Freemasonry was a secretive power behind the government, murdering those who dared cross it. Soon the fear of Masonry manifested itself in the creation of the first major “third part” in American politics: the Anti-Masonic Party. The party attracted reformers, abolitionists, and idealists, but its primary purpose was the destruction of Freemasonry and other “secret societies.” From about 1826 to 1840 the anti-Masonic movement swept across the country. The northeastern states, where the Craft was most prosperous, endured the worst destruction, but few parts of the country was spared. By the time the Anti-Masonic Party collapsed as a political force in 1840, Freemasonry began to reemerge, but as a more conservative organization.