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THE GRAND LODGE OF LOUISIANA AND ANCIENT YORK MASONRY.
WE are indebted to an intelligent correspondent for the following letter and accompanying Circular, (a copy of which we had previously received from our New Orleans correspondent,) and take pleasure in laying both before our readers. The Circular presents distinctly and clearly the matters at issue between the Grand Lodge of Louisiana and the A. Y. Masons. It is an issue in which the whole Fraternity are interested, and they will look with anxiety for the result.
Edwards, Miss., Jan. 22, 1848.
C. W. MOORE, Esq.-Excellent Friend and Companion :-Whilst in the city of New Orleans, the enclosed Circular was handed to me for examination, and thinking it possible that you may not otherwise see a copy, I take the liberty of sending you this one. I was not aware that any G. Lodge had taken action, until I perused the circular.
I have never seen the Constitution of the G. Lodge of Louisiana, but I know several members of the interdicted Lodges, and some of the members of the committees who sign their names to this circular, and I cannot question for one moment, but that the quotations to exhibit the spirit of said Constitution, are strictly correct. If so, I cannot doubt the propriety of the action of the G. Lodge of Mississippi. There can be, in my humble opinion, but one error in the course of the latter, viz: proceeding without entering into a correspondence and examination with the so-called G. Lodge of Louisiana, as the G. Lodge of Mississippi had resolved to do at its annual convocation in January, 1846.
I have with attention examined the proceedings, and watched the course of events with interest and anxiety. I do not doubt that the G. Lodge of Louisiana was, as she claims, instituted according to the A. Y. rite, in 1812; but it does not follow as a matter of course, that she has held to the ancient landmarks of that rite, whilst she has been trying to adapt herself to the mixed population of Louisiana; nor, though it may be quite benevolent, very charitable and praiseworthy, in one sense, to work so as to produce harmony between the various rites of Masonry, Odd Fellowship and Sons of Temperance, can she well hold her course, if shifting and trimming her sails to every breeze. The report of the G. Lodge in April and May, 1847, would lead a stranger to our time-honored Institution to believe that no one had an interest in that State save citizens of Louisiana; whereas, feeling that there is but one Lodge of Ancient York Masons, and that every one of us is interested wherever a convocation of Brethren be, I do feel that I am interested in Louisiana as much as any Brother in it can be.
I know, from Brethren, that there are usages under the G. Lodge of Louisiana which, as an A. Y. Mason, I must protest against; and if there were no other than that of initiating boys, I must regard it as a sufficient encroachment on the landmarks to justify the censure and discountenance of all true A. Y. Masons. I cannot attempt to tell you in this way, what these obnoxious usages arc, lest I add error to error. I have been taught Masonry by the ear, by the eye, by thought, and have learned much by reading; yet I am at the threshhold.
Suppose it were possible that the G. L. of Louisiana should decide that she would initiate my daughter, because her father and grandfather were Masons, and had been regular Masons from their manhood; and further, that her great-grandfather had been one, and had fought the battles of America-would it not have erred enough, if the practice were persevered in, to be considered as not an Ancient York Lodge? And would not the nearest G. L. have a clear right to work in a field thus vacated? But we have no need of supposing strong cases: the existing facts, in my humble opinion, are strong enough.
The course I would have advised would be, that such a man and such a Mason as our own John A. Quitman, in whom there is no guile, should be delegated to wait upon the G. L. of Louisiana, and earnestly beg and entreat that Lodge to return to the faith. I believe his known urbanity and probity of character would heal all differences. I look on the matter as very unfortunate, and think that we should all strive to prevent unkind feeling; yet, as professed A. Y. Masons, we cannot yield a particle, we must hold to the plumb-line, our work must be square, or it is not right. We can hold to our own correct course, and yet have influence ample to lead others back who have swerved.
The G. L. of Louisiana did cite the Geo. Washington Lodge to appear at a fixed day, and show cause why expulsion should not be visited upon it according to certain written laws; but afterwards expelled said Lodge and all others acting under dispensation from the G. L. of Mississippi, without a hearing, and a month before the day appointed for a hearing!
I am well acquainted with the Masters of two of the interdicted Lodges, one of whom officiated and was Master when I saw the light; no more zealous Mason lives. The other I have known since we were boys. I allude to Brs. W. P. Coleman, and Martin Dudley, and I believe they are not of those who would create dissensions.
At the ensuing meeting of our G. L., I hope and trust that a course of brotherly moderation and firmness will be adopted. Though I believe we are right, yet I hope we will not forget that we deal with Brothers who are as charitable, as generous, as every way noble as ourselves; and that if they have erred, it was through an over zeal in a glorious cause. Let us hope that good may come of this division, that it may result only in bringing us nearer to each other.
To the Grand Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons of the U. States: The undersigned, Committees appointed by George Washington Lodge, Warren Lodge, Lafayette Lodge, Marion Lodge, Crescent City Lodge and Hiram Lodge, of Ancient York Masons, working in the cities of New Orleans and Lafayette, in the State of Louisiana, under dispensations from the M. W. Grand Lodge of the State of Mississippi, to prepare a statement of the causes which impelled the members of these Lodges to repudiate the authority of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, and to seek relief from their grievances, as Ancient York Masons, at the hands of the Grand Lodge of the State of Mississippi, respectfully report
That the Grand Lodge of the State of Louisiana, originally a regular body
of Ancient York Masons, has forfeited all claim to the allegiance of regular A. Y. Masons, by flagrant departures from the ancient landmarks of our Order in many essential particulars; insomuch, as to impose upon us the imperative duty of discontinuing all Masonic communication with that body.
Amongst the departures from our ancient usages, and the innovations in the body of Masonry introduced by that body, we enumerate the following :
1st. She openly exercises the power of granting Charters, authorizing Lodges to work according to the Scotch Rite, and the Modern, or French Rite, as they are called in her Constitution, and admits the officers of such Lodges to sit and vote in her own body as members thereof; thus compelling Ancient York Masons to hold Masonic communication with persons whom we have ever been taught to consider as clandestine Masons; with whose usages and ceremonies we are unacquainted, and whom we cannot recognize as Masons at all by those means which are the only lawful tests of Masonic privileges.
2d. She has, in her own words, "accumulated under her authority and jurisdiction the three riles, say: York, Scotch and Modern," by virtue of power granted to her on the 14th January, 1833, by what she calls the "Grand Consistory of the Sov. Prin. of the Royal Sec. 32d deg. ;" a body, of whose very existence, we, as A. Y. Master Masons, are ignorant; but which body, the Grand Lodge of Louisiana tells us, possesses supreme authority over the three first degrees of Scotch and Modern Masonry; and all this is done by a body pretending to be a Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons!
3d. She expressly permits the sons of Masons, of every rite, to be initiated into our mysteries before they become men of lawful age, to wit: when they are only eighteen years old.-Constitution, Art. 4.
4th. She has established in her body "A Council of Rites," divided into two sections; one composed of three Scotch Rite Masons, and the other of three Modern or French Rite Masons, who have exclusive authority to inquire into all matters concerning those rites respectively; thus excluding the A. Y. Masons of the Grand Lodge from participating in the action of that body on matters over which she, as a body, exercises jurisdiction; while these A. Y. Masons are as ignorant of the work of this Council of Rites as we are of that of the Odd Fellows.--See Constitution, Arts. 15 and 16.
Moreover, this Council of Rites is appointed annually by the Grand Master, who must hence necessarily be both a Scotch and French (or Modern) Mason, to be fully qualified for his office; and hence it also follows that an A. Y. Mason, as such, is disqualified from being elected to preside as Grand Master of an A Y. Grand Lodge. These principles are destructive of that equality which is essential to the continued existence of our Ancient (not Modern) and unchangeable Order.-Constitution, Arts. 54 and 56.
5th. She not only grants Charters of three different kinds to three different Rites of Masons, (as she calls them,) but she grants Charters to Lodges of A. Y. Masons, authorizing them to cumulate the Scotch and French Rites with their own, and to initiate, pass and raise persons in the same Lodge, according to the ceremonies of all and each of said three rites; thus in fact blending all three of the rites together; and this is true, notwithstanding her formal denial of it. See 2d Resolution, passed 27th Nov. 1845.
6th. She has interfered with the religious opinions, and wounded the consciences of many true Masons under her jurisdiction, and has changed one of our ancient usages by prohibiting the installation of the officers of the subordinate Lodges on St. John's day, unless that day happened to fall on a Sunday,
and requiring such installation in all cases to be performed on a Sunday.— Amendment to Constitution, Art. 63, adopted 27th Jan. 1846.
7th. She has violated the ancient Constitutions of the Order by prohibiting all public Masonic processions and ceremonies, even for the purpose of discharging the sacred duty of burying a dead Brother, who has desired to be so interred.
8th. She has destroyed the secrecy of the ballot-box by ordering that the member casting a negative vote shall state his reason to the Master of the Lodge, and curtailed a long established Masonic right by empowering the Master to reject the vote if he does not deem the reasons sufficient.—Art. 68. 9th. She has abridged the rights of the Subordinate Lodges, by ordering that no Master elect shall be eligible to the G. offices, unless he has served a year as Master,—by this means throwing the preponderance into the hands of the life members, since every Master may become such after one year's service.-Sec. 1, Art. 7.
10th. She has abridged the rights of the Subordinate Lodges by the admission of life members as representatives, by means of which the representatives of Subordinate Lodges are outnumbered on every question regarding their interests, and the whole power is thrown into the hands of those whose sole aim is to aggrandize the G. Lodge, and who often have no connection with any Subordinate Lodge.-Sec. 1, Arts. 7 and 8.
11th. She has abridged the privileges of the Subordinate Lodges by requiring the country Lodges, when not represented by their officers, or a member of the Lodge, to choose a proxy out of the existing members of the G. Lodge, and who shall be a resident of the city of New Orleans.-See Art. 11, adopted 27th of Jan. 1846.
12th. Worse than all this, she has permitted and encouraged in the Subordinate Lodges working under her jurisdiction, and in her own body, an innovation in the body of Masonry, which it would be unlawful here to communicate; a procedure not only at variance with our first taught duty as Masons, but wholly subversive of one of the fundamental principles upon which our sacred Institution was founded, and its principal safeguard.
Besides these, there are many other grievances and irregularities of which we have a right to complain, which we cannot commit to writing, but which we know to be subversive of the first principles of our beloved Order.
Your Committee believe that the foregoing facts speak for themselves, and that the illegal measures of the G. Lodge of Louisiana need only to be known to regular A. Y. Masons, to be generally reprobated. And they indulge a hope that when the true state of Masonry in Louisiana shall be known to the different Grand Lodges of the United States, the action of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Mississippi will be approved, and that the Grand Lodge of New York will rescind her rssolutions of the 7th Sept. 1847, and render justice to their oppressed, but true-hearted Brethren of Louisiana, whose only offence is an uncompromising resistance to the introduction of any "changes in the body of Masonry," by any power whatever; and a fixed and steady determination faithfully to discharge all the solemn duties imposed upon them as Ancient York Masons, without being blended together against their consent, with any other societies, whether good or bad. And we do solemnly maintain that French or Scotch Rite Masons, as such, have no greater right to intermeddle with or govern us, than the Sons of Temperance, Odd Fellows, or Knights of the Red Cross have, however good those societies may be. All good societies should be sustained by all good men; but this forms no reason why any two
of them should be united, cumulated, or blended together, particularly against the will of either.
For the truth of the facts asserted in this report, we pledge our faith as Masons, and challenge a personal investigation of them by all regular and enlightened Ancient York Masons throughout the world; to whose judgment alone we are both bound and willing most cheerfully to submit.
FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY.
FAITH! What uncounted comforts lie hidden in that little word! A shield for the unprotected, strength for the feeble, and joy to the care-worn and grief-stricken. Let thy saving and cheering influence descend upon every soul.
HOPE! Thou hast a throne in every bosom, a shrine in every heart. What were the joys of earth without thy cheering light? Beneath thy brilliant beams, the frowns flit away from the brow of despair. Who could contentedly dwell upon the arid wastes of life's desert, did not thy torch-gleams point the way to a happier state? When sorrow plows up the heart with deep furrows, and the ties of life are sundered one by one, thou speakest peace to all within. Let thy beacon-blaze shine on in unclouded splendor, until every darkened path shall be lighted by its cheering rays.
CHARITY! Greatest of all-the crowned queen among the virtues, and the brightest handmaid of religion and love. May thy steps never wax feeble, nor thy heart grow cold. Let us mark thy presence by the mourner's couch, and in every heart made desolate. Teach us to throw thy mantle of compassion over the ignorant, the erring and the guilty. Let thy influence soften every obdurate heart, and reclaim every vicious mind.
FAITH! our pilgrim steps are turning,
To the altar raised for thee,
Where a beacon, brightly burning,
HOPE! before thy shrine, unfaded,
Bud and bloom perennial flowers;