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U.S. Recognition of French Grand Lodges in the 1900s
[published in Heredom: The Transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society -- volume 5, 1996, pages 221-244]

by Paul M. Bessel, 32°

[HEREDOM, vol. 5, 1996, page 265 says: Paul M. Bessel, 32°, is a lawyer in the Washington, D.C., area and a member of the Valley of the District of Columbia. He is the 1997 Master of Skidmore Daylight Lodge No. 237 and of the Civil War Lodge of Research No. 1865, both in Virginia. He is the Librarian of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, chairman of the Library and Museum Committee of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, and Secretary of the Masonic Library and Museum Association. He is Assistant Grand Secretary of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the District of Columbia, and Secretary of Mount Pleasant Chapter No. 13 in the District. Paul is also the Executive Secretary of the Masonic Leadership Center founded by the late Allen E. Roberts, 33.]

Nothing seems to cause as much dispute among American Freemasons as the subject of recognition and regularity (with the possible exception of race and freemasonry).1 Yet masons need more facts to understand these subject. The purpose of this article is to provide some of these facts about the recognition of French grand lodges by United States grand lodges in the 1900s, and to suggest questions for further thought and research.

There are many grand lodges in France.2 According to the 1996 edition of Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, the largest is the Grand Orient of France (GOF) with about 27,000 members. The second largest, with about 22,000 members, is the Grand Lodge of France (GLF), which Coil's says is the "fastest growing grand lodge in France … its membership has doubled in size over the last ten years and the rate of growth itself is rapidly increasing."3 The third largest is the National Grand Lodge of France (GLNF), which has about 13,000 members and is the only French body currently recognized by American grand lodges.4 All three claim an honorable masonic history and say they are active and important in today's masonic world.5

[p. 222] Some claim that the GLF and the GOF are irregular and clandestine,6 alleging they do not have the Bible on lodge altars; do not require their candidates to express a belief in God; have women members or visitors; engage in political activities; and do not use masonic ritual. Some say that even if the GLF and GOF may claim these things are not true, they are not being truthful,7 and if they have rules such as requiring lodges to have the Bible on lodge altars, they do not enforce them adequately.8 It is widely believed by American masons that in 1877 the GOF abandoned the "regular" masonic requirements concerning the Great Architect of the Universe and Bibles on altars, that American grand lodges then withdrew recognition of the GOF, and that in 1913 some French masons saw the error of the ways of the GOF, and of the GLF, and, in a "miracle," they broke away to form the GLNF, which today is the only acceptable grand lodge in France.9

The facts show that this description is misleading at best, and in some respects completely inaccurate. The major issue to be explored in this article is recognition of the GLF and GOF by U.S. grand lodges in the 1900s, long after the GOF changed its rules about religious requirements. How did United States grand lodges justify these actions, in view of the comments made by some about the lack of "regularity" of the GOF and GLF, both in the past and today?

U.S. Recognition of the GLF and the GOF in the 1900s

It will probably surprise most American masons to find out that during the 1900s the GLF was recognized, or mutual visitations by members were approved, by twenty-three -- almost half -- of all United States grand lodges.10 Since the GOF is said to be totally outside the pale of freemasonry and "flagrantly irregular"11 since the 1870s, it is even more surprising to find that twelve -- more than a quarter -- of United States grand lodges recognized or approved mutual visitations by members with the GOF during the twentieth century. Tables showing which United States grand lodges were in each of these categories are included at the end of this paper.

Recognition of both the GLF and GOF

Both the GLF and the GOF were fully recognized by eight grand lodges starting at the time of World War I. This could have been the result of the War and the desire to support our French allies, as that is mentioned in a July 20, 1917, letter from four GLF officials to United States grand lodges which was written "to extend to your Grand Lodge an invitation to enter into official relations with us and to cement those relations by an exchange of representatives."12 [p. 223] However, many American grand lodges considered and rejected recognition, and many that granted recognition did so only after detailed study and careful consideration. It is clear that grand lodges in the United States made thoughtful and serious decisions on this subject.

Appropriately, Louisiana led American grand lodges in recognizing the GLF and re-recognizing the GOF. Louisiana had caused the other American grand lodges to break their ties with the GOF fifty years earlier.

Grand lodges in the United States withdrew their recognitions of the GOF after 1868, when the GOF recognized a masonic group called the "Supreme Council of the A. and A.S. Rite of the State of Louisiana," which was not recognized by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana. The Louisiana Grand Master called this a "strange perversion" by the GOF. The Grand Lodge of Louisiana considered this an invasion of its territory, withdrew its recognition of the GOF, and called on other grand lodges to do the same.13 It is very significant, when we remember the time period of this action, that the GOF decree and report, as printed in the Louisiana Proceedings, states that one of the reasons the GOF recognized this "Supreme Council of … Louisiana" is because that group allowed the initiation of men "without regard to nationality, race, or color." The GOF report mentioned "civil and political equality … between the white and colored races," opposition to slavery, and the necessity of its abolition.14 "The split of French Masonry with that of America actually came in 1869 when the Grand Orient [GOF] passed a resolution that neither color, race, nor religion should disqualify a man for initiation."15

Since Louisiana had caused other United States grand lodges to sever their relations with the GOF in 1868, it was especially significant that the Grand Lodge of Louisiana enthusiastically recognized the GLF and re-recognized the GOF on February 5, 1918.16

The adoption of the resolutions restoring fraternal relations with the Grand Orient of France and recognizing the Grand Lodge of France was followed by an outburst of applause, the national colors of the United States and France being displayed, one on each side of the station of the Grand Master, and national airs of each of the countries pealed forth from the Cathedral organ.17

Other grand lodges that followed the Grand Lodge of Louisiana in recognizing the GLF and re-recognizing the GOF were New Jersey (April 17, 1918),18 Rhode Island (May 20, 1918) which said that the United Grand Lodge of England and other grand lodges also recognized the GLF,19 and Iowa (June 2, 1918) which said the masonry of the GLF is "legitimate and regular." Iowa's Grand Master's address in 1918 contains detailed information about French masonry, [p. 224] well worth reading to understand this subject better.20 The Grand Lodges of Nevada (June 12, 1918),21, Alabama,22 Arkansas,23 and North Dakota (June 17, 1919)24 also recognized both the GLF and the GOF. The Grand Lodge of Alabama specifically found that the GLF is a "regular, legitimate and independent governing body of symbolic masonry,"25 and the Grand Lodge of North Dakota recognized the GLF and GOF "by a large majority" after a discussion that was described as "interesting and spirited."26

Intervisitations with both the GLF and GOF

Grand lodges from four states approved intervisitations between their jurisdictions and both the GLF and the GOF: New York (September 10, 1917),27 Kentucky (October 16, 1917),28 Colorado (May 1, 1918), which printed a very good report about this subject,29 and Wyoming (September 11, 1918).30

Recognitions of the GLF but not the GOF

The GLF, but not the GOF, was additionally recognized by eight United States grand lodges, starting with the Grand Lodge of Texas (December 4, 1917),31 and the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. The District recognized the GLF on December 19, 1917, without a single dissenting vote, saying it is sovereign and no more connected with the GOF (which the District of Columbia and some other grand lodges felt should not be recognized) than grand lodges in the United States are with each other.32

In 1918 the GLF was recognized by the Grand Lodges of South Dakota (June 11, 1918),33 Oregon (June 14, 1918),34 and California (October 9, 1918). The Grand Lodge of California said the GLF "recognizes the existence of God, requires the 'Book of the Law' upon its altars, prohibits religious and political discussions, and exercises jurisdiction over only the three degrees of Symbolic Masonry."35 California also pointed out that in Latin countries each Grand Body is sovereign and supreme not throughout the territory it occupies, but over its subordinate lodges and their members; American grand lodges have no more right to demand that they use exclusive territoriality than they can demand we accept concurrent jurisdiction.36

Other states that followed in recognizing the GLF, but not the GOF, were Minnesota (January 21-22, 1919), and Utah (January 22, 1919). Utah first considered, and then printed, an extensive survey of what other American grand lodges had done and why.37

While all the recognitions mentioned so far took place in the World War I era, the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin recognized the GLF on June 9, 1958.38

[p. 225] Intervisitations with the GLF, but not the GOF

Another group of United States grand lodges approved intervisitations of members with the GLF, but not the GOF: Florida (January 15, 1918),39 Georgia (May 1, 1918),40 and Indiana (May 29, 1918).41

Some of the grand lodges that eventually recognized the GLF and GOF, or just the GLF, initially approved intervisitations with one or both of them. For example, the Grand Lodge of Utah approved intervisitations January 15, 1918, and then recognized the GLF and GOF a year later, and Rhode Island's grand lodge allowed visitations with both French grand bodies November 19, 1917, and recognized them May 20, 1918.42

Other Grand Lodge Positions on the GLF and GOF

Some other American grand lodges took positions that are of interest. The Grand Lodge of Connecticut considered the issue of recognition of the GLF and the GOF and adopted a motion on February 6, 1918, saying that if those two bodies would require the Bible on the altars of their lodges and their candidates to believe in God, a special meeting of the Connecticut grand lodge would be held to consider, and likely grant, recognition.43 The Grand Lodges of Maine44 and Montana45 looked into this subject carefully, producing reports with majority and minority views, indicating that these issues received careful attention, but did not result in changes in their policies.

Other grand lodges that considered their relationships with the GLF and GOF, without changing them, were Arizona,46 Massachusetts,47 North Carolina,48 Tennessee,49 Washington,50 Nebraska,51 Oklahoma,52 and Vermont.53 The Grand Lodge of Virginia rejected recognition or intervisitation of members with the GLF on February 12, 1918, based on an obvious mistake. Their Proceedings contain a letter which the Virginia Committee on Foreign Correspondence said showed that the GLF claimed to be an integral part of the GOF, but the letter clearly does not include any such claim.54

As this review shows, there were many U.S. grand lodges that recognized or allowed intervisitations of members with the GLF and the GOF, or with just the GLF, long after the GOF eliminated required references to God in its ritual and to the use of the Bible by all its lodges. Some of these recognitions, of the GLF in particular, lasted for many decades. This raises some questions.

Regular, Irregular, Clandestine, and Recognized

First, there are questions about definitions. What is regular versus irregular? What does clandestine mean, and who does the recognizing?

[p. 226] Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia defines a regular lodge as one that has been legally constituted and conforms to the laws of "a recognized" grand lodge. Every grand lodge is recognized by some grand lodges, so does this mean every lodge that complies with the rules of any grand lodge is "regular?" Almost every attempt to find a clear definition of a "regular" lodge or grand lodge leads to such complexity that the word confuses rather than clarifies discussions.

"Regular" might mean a grand lodge follows the ancient landmarks of freemasonry, the ones said to be unchangeable. But what are those ancient landmarks? Every grand lodge has a different answer. Some list dozens of landmarks ( Kentucky has fifty-four, Nevada thirty-nine, Minnesota twenty-six, Connecticut nineteen), some list just a few (Vermont has seven), and some do not have any list but say that masons should observe the landmarks without saying what they are (sometimes adding that they are unchangeable, while at the same time considering and sometimes adopting changes in them).55 In some grand lodges it is simply unclear, even to Grand Secretaries, what the policy of that grand lodge is concerning the ancient landmarks.56 If there is no agreement on what are the ancient landmarks of freemasonry, and if "regular" means grand lodges that follow the landmarks, there cannot be universal, or even close to universal agreement on what constitutes regular masonry.

Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia defines "clandestine" as a body that does not hold a charter from a superior body having power to grant it, but makes it clear that this word is often misleading and certainly unclear.57 The Freemasons' Guide and Compendium says a clandestine lodge is one that has not been properly warranted or chartered by any grand lodge.58 Thus, a lodge could be regular in its workings, but clandestine because it was not chartered properly. Or, it could be irregular because in someone's eyes it does not follow "proper" masonic practices, although it is not clandestine because it was properly chartered by a grand lodge, even if it is a grand lodge that a particular other grand lodge does not recognize.

There are no clear rules that allow anyone to decide which grand lodges are regular or irregular, or clandestine, and use of these words simply confuses reasonable discussions. Each grand lodge makes its own decisions about which grand lodges it will recognize, based on various considerations. The only useful terms are "grand lodges that are recognized by a particular grand lodge at a particular time" and those which are not.

GLF and GOF Rules about the Bible and Belief in God

The GLF says it has a strict requirement that the Bible must be open at all its lodge meetings, that all candidates must express a belief in God, and that they [p. 227] adhere to the other landmarks generally recognized by American grand lodges.59 Their Constitutions begin with a Declaration of Principles which states in its first Articles, "(1) The Grand Lodge of France works to the Glory of the Grand Architect of the Universe; (2) In conformity with the tradition of the Craft, Three Great Lights are placed on the Altar of the Lodges: The Square, the Compass and the Volume of the Sacred Law." This Declaration of Principles also appears on the standard application form, so all petitioners are aware of it. The GLF requires that each of its lodge meetings begin with the reading of a verse from the Bible. The "declaration of Lausanne" of the GLF says, "The Freemason reveres God under the name of the Grand Architect of the Universe. Whatever religion he may profess, the Freemason practices the most complete tolerance towards those who have other convictions."60

The GOF is different. They say they have a diFferent view of the power of a grand lodge than United States grand lodges do, and some grand lodges agree with the GOF on this point. The GOF view is that each lodge should make its own decisions and not have their grand lodge set all policies. If a GOF lodge wants to have the Bible on its altar and require candidates to express a belief in God, they can do that, just as other GOF lodges can have diFferent policies. Americans are not used to this, as our grand lodges make almost all the important rules for each lodge, but this is not the universal masonic practice. In England, each lodge decides what ritual to use, while American lodges must strictly follow every word in the ritual set forth by their grand lodge.

The GOF and some other grand lodges say its attitude toward the Bible and religion is more in keeping with Anderson's 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons than that of grand lodges in England and the United States today. The great principle of freemasonry in the 1700s was that it allowed men much greater freedom of conscience than most institutions had until that time, and this included tolerance of all religious attitudes within masonry.61 It was not until 1760 (forty-three years after the premier grand lodge was formed ) that the Grand Lodge of England changed its rules to require the Bible on lodge altars (until then Anderson's Constitutions was acceptable), and originally candidates were not asked to express a belief in God ("the laws and ritual of the original Grand Lodge in 1723 required no more of its initiates on the subject of religion than that they should be good men and true, men of honor and honesty, obeying the moral law").62 A California grand lodge committee said the inclusion of the Bible in masonry, "as dear as this alleged landmark is to the hearts of American masons," was an "innovation in the body of Masonry."63 The GOF went along with this "innovation" in 1849, but changed back to the original language in 1877, after France had undergone several savage foreign and civil wars, with French religious leaders often siding with the oppressors.64

[p. 228] Grand lodges in England and America were upset by the GOF action in 1877, but the post-1877 GOF rules were the same as its pre-1849 rules about the role of religion in freemasonry, and English and American grand lodges had recognized the GOF in the earlier period.65 The GOF was surprised that English and American grand lodges were so very upset with them for merely returning to their earlier language, which had been acceptable to the English and Americans. The Grand Secretary of the GOF wrote to an English brother:

The Grand Orient of France has not abolished the masonic formula, "To the glory of the Great Architect of the Universe," as you appear to believe, still less have they made profession of atheism. In their general assembly of September, 1877, they purely and simply proclaimed absolute liberty of conscience as a right belonging to every man, and out of respect for this liberty they expunged from their Constitution a dogmatic formula, which seemed to a great majority of the members to be in contradiction with liberty of conscience.

In modifying an article of its statutes the Grand Orient of France by no means intended to make profession of either atheism or materialism, as would seem to be understood. No alteration has been made either in the principles or the practice of Masonry; French Masonry remains what it has always been -- a fraternal and tolerant brotherhood.66

According to the Grand Lodge of Alabama Committee on Foreigh Correspondence, the inclusion of the Bible in masonic lodges was an innovation in the body of freemasonry, and we are often told that no such innovations are permissible. Moreover, in masonic lodges the Bible is used as a symbol, masons are not required to believe its teachings, and some other book may be substituted for it. Therefore, "the removal of the Bible and replacing it with some other symbol of Truth may surely be done without altering the essential character of the Fraternity. The Grand Orient did not, therefore, place itself outside the masonic pale by substituting for it the Book of Masonic Law."67

In any event, no matter what one feels about the GOF's position on this, the GLF's policy is different from the GOF. The GLF follows the same rules as American grand lodges concerning the Bible in lodge rooms and candidates' required statement of belief in God.

Female Members and Visitors

The GLF Constitution, Article 1, says, "Freemasonry is an initiatic order consisting of men.…" The GLF does not permit women to become members of their lodges or to visit. In France, and in many other countries (including the United States), there are some lodges performing masonic ritual and promoting [p. 229] masonic philosophy that are exclusively for men, some exclusively for women, and some that have both men and women as members.68 The GLF and GOF do not have women as members or visitors in their lodges, because women in France can Find other grand lodges that will accept them.

Some also point out that in the United States it is acceptable, even encouraged, for men and women to meet together in the Order of the Eastern Star, and ask how this is different from men and women meeting together in masonic lodges. Even Albert Pike attempted to create a female branch of freemasonry in the United States.69 Also, if some American masons are fearful that women might attempt to bring pressure or start lawsuits to force masonic lodges to accept women (and this is a reasonable fear in view of court decisions),70 one way to deflect this pressure is to have recognized branches of masonry for men only, for women only, and for men and women jointly, so everyone would have a choice and none could be said to be left out.

The Doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction

The doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction is often misunderstood. First, only in the United States is it mentioned as a rule. Other grand lodges take it for granted that they will recognize more than one, sometimes many grand lodges in a territory.71 Even in the United States, grand lodges today and in the past recognized more than one grand lodge having jurisdiction in a geographic area, such as in Alaska, where the Grand Lodges of Alaska and Washington both have lodges, and in the twenty-five states (as of July 1997) where grand lodges recognize Prince Hall Grand Lodges that have their own lodges in the same states.72 Stewart W. Miner, Past Grand Master of Virginia and currently the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia and the Secretary of the Conference of Grand Secretaries of North America, made the following observations about the doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction: "(a) that the Doctrine, as originally conceived, no longer exists; (b) that the historic application of the Doctrine, especially in the 19th Century, has been selective; (c) that inconsistent applications of the Doctrine have encouraged challenge, and (d) that when it has seemed prudent, American grand lodges have modified their interpretations of the Doctrine to satisfy challenges at hand. This process, I believe, is irreversible, and despite the attempts of a few grand lodges to stem the tide by punitive action, their efforts will fail, in the long run, and change will unquestionably prevail."73

What does this doctrine really say? The most influential American group dealing with this subject is the Commission on Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America. The [p. 230] Commission has existed since 1952, making recommendations on standards for recognition as well as specific suggestions about whether grand lodges in North America should or should not recognize each foreign grand lodge.74 The Commission's definition of the doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction is different from what most masons think it is.

There can be no question about Exclusive Jurisdiction. It is a basic principle that a Grand Lodge must be autonomous and have sole and undisputed authority over its constituent Lodges. This cannot be shared with any other Masonic council or power. But the question of exclusive territorial jurisdiction is not so clear cut. In some European and Latin American countries, a geographical or politically self-contained unit may be served by two or more Grand Lodges. If these Grand Lodges and hence their constituent Lodges are working in amity, and both are worthy of recognition in all other respects, this joint occupation of a country, state or political subdivision should not bar them from recognition.75 (Emphasis added)

In other words, exclusive territorial jurisdiction means that all the Lodges under a grand lodge give their loyalty only to that grand lodge. There can be several grand lodges in a single country, all with many lodges under them, each giving its loyalty to only one of the grand lodges, and the doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction is not violated, according to the Commission. The Commission did add, "If these Grand Lodges and hence their constituent Lodges are working in amity.…" and neither the GLF nor the GOF and the GLNF are in amity. Still, that did not stop many United States grand lodges from recognizing both the GLF and the GLNF at the same time for several decades. In 1960, the Grand Lodges of Alabama, California, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Vermont, and Wisconsin still recognized both the GLF and the GLNF.76 Many of these grand lodges recognized the GLNF after they already recognized the GLF, yet today some claim it is not possible to recognize the GLF since the GLNF is already recognized. Why was this permissible one way a short time ago, but not the other way now? "It is evident … that 'exclusive jurisdiction' no longer means that all lodges within a defined territory must belong to the same grand lodge."77

Past Grand Master N. Dean Rowe of Vermont said, "We should yield to many of the customs and usages of the country where each [Grand Lodge] is located. We base our decisions on legitimacy rather than injecting our own theories of 'exclusive jurisdiction' into the picture, which we feel is of minor importance. Finally, our belief is that the main object of recognition is to extend the right hand of fellowship to all legitimate Masons without being hidebound by technicalities."78 (emphasis in original)

[p. 231] The doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction does not prevent any grand lodges from recognizing more than one grand lodge in any state or country. Any grand lodge that wants to recognize both the GLF and the GLNF at the same time could rely on a good deal of masonic precedent for its actions.


The subject of recognition of foreign grand lodges is much more complicated that most masons think at First. There is no clear definition of which ones are regular, irregular, or clandestine, and the use of these terms can lead to personal vituperation and useless fighting among freemasons. Rather than claiming that some grand lodges are irregular or clandestine, which only raises questions and arguments about what those terms mean to different people, and whether they are insulting, the only thing that can or should be said about the relation between grand lodges is that certain ones are recognized, as of now, by my grand lodge (or yours, or someone else's).

Every grand lodge in the United States has its own standards for recognition (written or unwritten, strictly followed or not so strictly, unchangeable or often changed), and each has its own list of which grand lodges it recognizes, and these lists change every year.79 Some American grand lodges have withdrawn recognition of other United States grand lodges, for various reasons. Louisiana withdrew recognition from Connecticut in 1989,80 and Oregon in 1991 took away its recognition of Idaho in a bitter dispute.81

The GLF and the GOF should be dealt with separately. The GOF does not require (but allows) use of the Bible in its lodges, and does not require its candidates to say they believe in God. They, and some masonic writers and American grand lodges in the past, have said this is in conformity with original masonic Constitutions and with the original fundamental masonic principles before innovations were introduced, and some U.S. grand lodges in the past have recognized the GOF.

The GLF requires the Bible on its lodges' altars, requires candidates to express a belief in God, and has males only in its lodge meetings. The Commission on Information for Recognition said, "There can be no question as to the regularity of both of these Grand Lodges in France [GLNF and GLF], apart from the regrettable circumstance of the relations of the Grand Lodge with the Grand Orient of France."82

The relationship between the GLF and the GOF was the reason given for withdrawal of recognition of the GLF, on the recommendation of the Commission on Information for Recognition, by the nine U.S. grand lodges that recognized the GLF until the 1960s, when the GLF and the GOF were said to [p. 232] have agreed to exchange some limited information, such as the names of rejected candidates.83 But neither the Commission nor any of the grand lodges list as a requirement for recognition that a grand lodge not be in communication with another grand lodge that is not recognized. If that were the case, since every grand lodge in the world has a different list of recognized grand lodges, no grand lodge could recognize any other. Unless the reason is that the GOF is so much worse than any other grand lodge, and is outside the pale,84 that merely talking or having anything to do with them is cause to de-recognize a grand lodge. That raises additional questions.

Hitler and the Nazis had a particular hatred of freemasonry, and they attempted to wipe it out during the 1930s and 1940s. When the Nazis conquered France they persecuted masons, sometimes putting them in concentration camps, not stopping to ask or care whether they were with the GOF, GLF, or GLNF.85 The Nazis arranged large well-attended exhibits to whip up antimasonic feelings which were already strong and deep among the French people.86 After the War some French masons considered it reasonable to talk to and to be cordial with those in the GOF, in view of their common persecution under the Nazis, while other masons considered it improper to have anything to do with the GOF even under these circumstances. It is very difficult for anyone who did not suffer this unimaginable persecution to say who is right.87

*  *  *

Discussion of grand lodge recognition is often emotional because it defines what freemasonry is and ought to be. Since freemasonry encourages all masons to learn, and explore all ideas, we should be enthusiastic about finding out more facts on all subjects to help us make reasonable conclusions. The purpose of this paper has been to provide more facts and to suggest more areas for thought and research.

A study of grand lodge proceedings shows that American grand lodges initially withdrew their recognition of French masonry in the 1800s because of a jurisdictional dispute, not because of a later change in the GOF's policy concerning the place of religion in freemasonry. About fifty years later, a large number of U.S. grand lodges recognized the GLF, and a significant number also the GOF, long after the GOF had changed its policy on religion, and the American grand lodges made detailed studies and were fully aware of the policies of the French bodies they were recognizing. Many U.S. grand lodges continued to recognize the GLF, and some the GOF, from the 1920s through the 1960s, while those French bodies had policies and ritual that are the same as the ones they have today.

The GLF ritual includes references to the Great Architect of the Universe, requires its candidates to express a belief in a Supreme Being, requires the [p. 233] Bible on its lodge altars, and even starts its meetings with readings from the Bible. The GOF, on the other hand, allows each of its lodges to establish their own rules, and historically its position is probably closer to the original masonic practices (and less of an innovation) than those used today in many other lodges. Neither the GLF nor the GOF permits women members. And, the doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction does not, and never has, prevented grand lodges, even in the United States, from recognizing more than one grand lodge in a particular territory. Many U.S. grand lodges recognized the GLF first, and later recognized the GLNF while continuing to recognize the GLF.

It would be useful if more masons explored these areas of research, and if more thought about the important subjects of who should be recognized, and the closely related question of who should be considered a Freemason.

Acknowledgments. Grateful acknowledgment is given to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, and its Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Donald M. Robey, for the use of its excellent library , and to the Supreme Council, Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, House of the Temple, and its librarian, Joan Kleinknecht, for their assistance in the research for this article.

[p. 234]

U.S. Grand Lodges that Recognized or Approved Intervisitations

with the GLF and/or the GOF during the 1900s

Grand Lodge Action Date Reference
Alabama recognized GLF and GOF Dec. 4, 1918. 1918 Proceedings, pages 89-105
Arkansas recognized GLF and GOF Nov. 19, 1919 1919 Proceedings, pages 68-73
California recognized GLF Oct. 9, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 159-179
Colorado intervisitations with GLF and GOF May 1, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 70-71
Dist. of Col. recognized GLF Dec. 19, 1917 1917 Proceedings, pages 82-83, 100-102, 334
Florida intervisitations with GLF Jan. 15, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 121-122
Georgia intervisitations with GLF May 1, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 27-46
Indiana intervisitations with GLF May 29, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 167-168
Iowa recognized GLF and GOF June 12, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 22-34
Kentucky intervisitations with GLF and GOF Oct. 17, 1917 1917 Proceedings, page 88
Louisiana recognized GLF and GOF Feb. 5, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 106-110, 140
Minnesota recognized GLF Jan. 21-22, 1919 1919 Proceedings, pages 46-49
[p. 235]


recognized GLF and GOF June 12, 1918 & June 12, 1919 1918 Proceedings, pages 52, 58, 71-72, 81-82, and 1919 Proceedings, page 65
New Jersey recognized GLF and GOF Apr. 17, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 62-66, 144-145
New York intervisitations with GLF and GOF Sep. 10, 1917 1918 Proceedings, pages 26-27, 268
North Dakota recognized GLF and GOF June 17, 1919 1919 Proceedings, pages 290-291, 256-257, 281-282
Oregon recognized GLF June 14, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 36-37
Rhode Island recognized GLF and GOF May 20, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 26-27, 52, 106-109
South Dakota recognized GLF June 11, 1918 1918 Proceedings, page 196
Texas recognized GLF Dec. 4, 1917 1917 Proceedings, pages 20-21, 171
Utah recognized GLF Jan. 22, 1919 1919 Proceedings, pages 43-44, 54
Wisconsin recognized GLF June 9, 1958 1966 Proceedings, pages 46-47
Wyoming intervisitations with GLF and GOF Sep. 11, 1918 1918 Proceedings, pages 262-263, 240-241

[p. 236]


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Brodsky, Michel. "The Regular Freemason: A Short History of Masonic Regularity," Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 106 (1993), p. 103.

Brown, Walter Lee. Life of Albert Pike. 4 vols. Unpublished ms. Washington, D.C.: Supreme Council, 33°, S.J.

Burrin, Philippe. France Under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise. New York: The New Press, 1996.

Coil, Henry Wilson, et al. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia. Rev. ed. Revised by Allen E. Roberts. Richmond, Va.: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1996.

Commission on Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America. Grand Lodge Recognition: A Symposium on the Conditions of Grand Lodge Recognition. New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1956.

Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America. "Reports of the Commission on Information for Recognition." Annual reports, for the years cited in this article.

Denslow, Ray V. Regular, Irregular and Clandestine Grand Lodges: A Study in Foreign Recognitions. Washington, D.C.: Masonic Service Association, 1956.

------. Freemasonry in the Eastern Hemisphere. [Missouri]: The author, 1954.

Duncan, Robert L. Reluctant General: The Life and Times of Albert Pike. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1961.

Granstein, Nat [Assist. G.M., GLNF]. "Speech delivered at the Conference of Grand Secretaries in North America, February 20, 1996."

Haffner, Christopher. Regularity of Origin: A Study of Masonic Precedents. Hong Kong: Paul Chater Lodge of Installed Masters No. 5391, E.C. and Lodge Cosmopolitan No. 428, S.C., 1986.

Hamilton, Charles G. "Freemasonry, A Prisoner of War: Part V, Freemasonry in France," The New Age, Mar. 1949.

[p. 237]

Jacob, Margaret C. Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe. New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991.

Jones, Bernard E. Freemasons' Guide and Compendium. New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1950.

Mackey, Albert G. Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. 3 vols. Rev. and enlrg. Revised by Robert I. Clegg, with supp. vol. by H.L. Haywood. New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1946.

Masonic Service Association. Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry: As Adopted, Followed or Undecided by the Fifty Grand Lodges of the United States. 6th ed. Silver Spring, Md.: Masonic Service Association, Sept. 1983.

Morris, S. Brent. "Landmarks and Liabilities," The Philalethes, Jun. 1991, pp. 8-10.

Parker, William E. "French Freemasonry, 1913, and the Future," The Philalethes, Jun. 1996, pp. 57-59, 67.

Pantagraph Printing & Stationery Co. List of Lodges--Masonic. Bloomington, Ill.: Pantagraph Printing & Stationery Co., annual.

Pound, Roscoe. Masonic Addresses and Writings of Roscoe Pound. New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1953.

Roy, Thomas S., ed. Information for Recognition: Reports on Grand Lodges in Other Lands. Ed. Thomas S. Roy. New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1958.

------. Recognition Lists of World Grand Lodges. 1960.


1. Friendly discussions about "regularity," who is "clandestine," who is entitled to be called a "Mason," etc., usually degenerate into angry exchanges on the Compuserve Masonry Forum, the Philalathes "listserv," and other places where masons discuss issues using their computers.

2. An Internet "web page" at http://www.franc-maconnerie.org/acacia/loges.html lists eleven "Ob1diences & Fraternelles" in France: FDH--Fed1ration du Droit Humain; GLFF--Grande Loge F1minine de France; GLF--Grande Loge de France; GLMF--Grande Loge Mixte de France; GLMU--Grande Loge Mixte Universelle; GLNF--Grande Loge Nationale de France; GLTSO--Grande Loge Traditionnelle et Symbolique Opera; GODF--Grand Orient De France; [p. 238] LNF--Loge Nationale Française; OITAR--Ordre Initiatique et Traditionnelle de l'Art Royal; RAPMM--Rite Ancien et Primitif de Memphis-Misraïm. In many countries there are several grand lodges operating at the same time and in the same territory, such as France, Germany, Mexico, and Brazil. The American concept of saying there can only be one recognized grand lodge in a geographical area, known as exclusive territorial jurisdiction, is discussed later in this article.

3. Henry Wilson Coil, et al., Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, p. 268.

4. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, p. 268. Also see William Parker, "French Freemasonry, 1913, and the Future," The Philalethes, Jun. 1996, p. 57.

5. Also see Alain Bernheim, "A Brief History of French Freemasonry."

6. See, for example, "French Freemasonry, 1913, and the Future," p. 67, and a speech by Nat Granstein at the Conference of Grand Secretaries of North America, February 20, 1996.

7. Report of the Commission on Information for Recognition, in Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America 1965, pp. 40-41.

8. See, for example, California Proceedings 1962, p. 208.

9. "French Freemasonry, 1913, and the Future"

10. This and other statements may not be precisely accurate because a) even the best masonic libraries are often missing some volumes of grand lodge Proceedings; and b) masonic Proceedings are sometimes unclear in describing exactly what was agreed to at grand lodge meetings. Every effort has been made by the author to be as precise as possible.

11. See, Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America 1965, report of the Commission on Information for Recognition, p. 41; and Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America 1957, p. 62.

12. Reprinted in The Builder magazine, Jan. 1919, p. 15, and in several grand lodges' Proceedings.

13. Louisiana Proceedings 1869, pp. 15-16, 76-80, 145-146. Further discussion and analysis can be found in Iowa Proceedings 1918, p. 22-34; and The Builder magazine, Jan. 1919, p. 13.

14. Louisiana Proceedings 1869, pp. 76, 78.

15. Ray V. Denslow, Freemasonry in the Eastern Hemisphere, p. 170.

[p. 239]

16. See The Builder magazine, June 1919, pp. 153-158, for an excellent article on this subject.

17. Louisiana Proceedings 1918, pp. 140, 106-110. Also see Louisiana Proceedings 1917, pp. 148-149; and Louisiana Proceedings 1919, pp. 19-20.

18. New Jersey Proceedings 1918, pp. 62-64, 144-145. Also see The Builder magazine, June 1919, p. 153.

19. Rhode Island Proceedings 1918, pp. 26-27, 52, 106-109.

20. Iowa Proceedings 1918, pp. 22-34, 127-129.

21. Nevada Proceedings 1918, pp. 52, 58, 71-72. Also see Nevada Proceedings 1919, p. 65.

22. Alabama Proceedings 1918, pp. 89-105. Also see Alabama Proceedings 1917, pp. 85-86, Alabama Proceedings 1965, p. 78.

23. Arkansas Proceedings 1919, pp. 68-73. Also see Arkansas Proceedings 1918, pp. 87-90.

24. North Dakota Proceedings 1919, pp. 256-257, 281-282 (where it was reported the GLF and GOF had already been recognized by the Grand Lodges of N.J., Iowa, Calif., Minn.; the GLF had been recognized by Tex., D.C., S.D., Nev., Oreg., R.I.; visitation was permitted by Fla., Ga., Ind, N.Y., Ky., Ala., Utah, Colo., Wy.; recognition was refused by Mo., Conn., Va., Wisc.; under consideration by Mass., Ark, N.C., Tenn., Okla., Maine, Nebr., Wash., Vt., Idaho, Ill.; no action by Del., Miss., Ohio, W.V., Md., S.C., Penn., Ariz., Kans., N.H., Mich., N.M., Mont.), and 290-292. Also see North Dakota Proceedings 1918, pp. 80-81.

25. Alabama Proceedings 1918, pp. 89-105.

26. North Dakota Proceedings 1919, pp. 256-257, 281-282.

27. New York Proceedings 1918, pp. 26-27, 268.

28. Kentucky Proceedings 1917, p. 88. Also see The Builder magazine, June 1919, pp. 153-155, where it was reported that as of that date the GLF and GOF had both been recognized by La., N.J., Ia., Calif., Minn., Utah; the GLF had been recognized by Tex., D.C., S.D., Nev., Oreg., R.I.; intervisitations with the GLF and GOF had been permitted by N.Y., Ky., Ala., Colo., N.D., Wyo.; intervisitations with the GLF had been permitted by Fla., Ga., and Ind.; any measure of recognition of the GLF or GOF had been rejected by Mo., Conn., [p. 240] Va, Wisc.; action on this subject was postponed by Mass., Ark., N.C., Tenn., Okla., Maine, Nebr., Wash., Vt., Idaho, Ill; and the subject was not mentioned, or hardly so, in Del., Miss., Ohio, W.V., Md., S.C., Pa., Ariz., Kans., N.H., Mich., N.M., Mont. Review of Proceedings reveals some different interpretations of actions in some states.

29. Colorado Proceedings 1918, pp. 70-71, 1919, pp. 91-101. Also see Colorado Proceedings 1919, pp. 91-101; and Colorado Proceedings 1920, p. 90.

30. See The Builder magazine, June 1919, p. 154.

31. Texas Proceedings 1917, pp. 20-21, 171, 228-229. Also see Texas Proceedings 1918, pp. 14-15.

32. District of Columbia Proceedings 1917, pp. 82-83, 100-102, 334. Also see District of Columbia Proceedings 1953, pp. 48-50. Also see Iowa Proceedings 1918, p. 30.

33. South Dakota Proceedings 1918, p. 196. Also see The Builder magazine, June 1919, pp. 153-154.

34. Oregon Proceedings 1918, pp. 36-37

35. California Proceedings 1918, pp. 159-179, especially p. 169. Also see California Proceedings 1917, p. 566; and California Proceedings 1919, pp. 40, 99, 117.

36. California Proceedings 1918, p. 174. Also see The Builder magazine, June 1919, p. 153.

37. Utah Proceedings 1919, pp. 43-44, 54.

38. See Wisconsin Proceedings 1966, pp. 46-47.

39. Florida Proceedings 1918, pp. 121-122. Also see The Builder magazine, June 1919, p. 154.

40. Georgia Proceedings 1918, pp. 27-46, especially p. 39. Also see Georgia Proceedings 1917, pp. 75-76; and Georgia Proceedings 1919, pp. 90-100.

41. Indiana Proceedings 1918, pp. 167-168. Also see The Builder magazine, June 1919, p. 154.

42. Utah Proceedings 1918, pp. 59-66, 85; Rhode Island Proceedings 1918, pp. 26-27; and The Builder magazine, June 1919, p. 154.

43. Connecticut Proceedings 1918, pp. 81-85, 109. The GLF then and now said in the GLF, "All Masonic work is therefore done I.T.N.O.T.G.A.O.T.U. [in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe]. All initiates are required to express their faith or trust." Oklahoma Proceedings, 1914, p. 65.

[p. 241]

44. Maine Proceedings 1919, pp. 244-255. Also see Maine Proceedings 1918, pp. 40-42.

45. Montana Proceedings 1918, p. 98; Montana Proceedings 1920, pp. 80-81; and Montana Proceedings 1921, pp. 141-142.

46. Arizona Proceedings 1918, p. 303.

47. Massachusetts Proceedings 1918, pp. 108-109.

48. North Carolina Proceedings 1918, pp. 30-31, and North Carolina Proceedings 1919, p. 74.

49. Tennessee Proceedings 1918, pp. 91, 190-191; Tennessee Proceedings 1919, p. 91; Tennessee Proceedings 1920, p. 72; and Tennessee Proceedings 1921, p. 89.

50. Washington Proceedings 1918, pp. 213-216, 241-247; and Washington Proceedings 1919, pp. 422, 449-452, 480.

51. Nebraska Proceedings 1919, pp. 230-233; and Nebraska Proceedings 1921, pp. 619-620.

52. Oklahoma Proceedings 1919, pp. 63-66, and Correspondence p. 2.

53. Vermont Proceedings 1919, pp. 4-27.

54. Virginia Proceedings 1918, pp. 56-57. The Virginia Committee on Foreign Correspondence printed a July 12, 1917, letter from the GLF extending an invitation to enter into official relations, and described the letter as saying the GLF is an "integral part" of the GOF. What the letter actually says, as printed in the Virginia Proceedings, is "As an integral part of the A. & A.S.C.…" Of course, the A. & A.S.C. was and is not the same as the GOF, but the Virginia Committee said it was.

55. In 1953 the Vermont grand lodge rescinded its earlier adoption of Albert Mackey's somewhat discredited list of twenty-five ancient landmarks, and instead adopted a short list of seven. See Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry, p. 38; and S. Brent Morris, "Landmarks and Liabilities."

56. MSA, Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry. Also see Elbert Bede, Landmarks of Freemasonry, and Roscoe Pound, Masonic Addresses and Writings of Roscoe Pound.

57. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, p. 132. "… recognition among Grand Lodges is almost chaotic, except within the English-speaking circle, where it is often merely illogical or inexplicable."

[p. 242]

58. Bernard E. Jones, Freemasons' Guide and Compendium, p. 347. Also see Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, pp. 132-133; and Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, vol. 1, pp. 208-209.

59. See Information for Recognition, pp. 101-102.

60. Alabama grand lodge committee report on French masonry, The Builder magazine, March 1919, p. 80.

61. See Margaret Jacob, Living the Enlightenment, p. 55.

62. See The Builder magazine, March 1919, pp. 82-83.

63. Quoted in The Builder magazine, Jan. 1919, p. 17.

64. See Iowa Proceedings 1918, pp. 25-29.

65. See The Builder magazine, Jan. 1919, pp. 13-15.

66. "California's Recognition of French Masonry," in The Builder magazine, Jan. 1919, p. 14.

67. Alabama grand lodge Committee on Foreign Correspondence report, quoted in The Builder magazine, March 1919, p. 82.

68. Lodges of men and women together are referred to as Co-Masonry, and descend from the Droit Humaine of France. In the United States there are two different grand lodges of Co-Masonry, which in 1997 are engaged in a legal dispute. In England, Belgium, France, and other countries, there are grand lodges with large memberships that are for women only. Female-only lodges are also developing in the United States.

69. Pike wrote a Rite of Adoption for women masons, and he conferred the degrees on his close female friend and platonic lover, the sculptress Vinnie Ream. See Robert L. Duncan, Reluctant General: The Life and Times of Albert Pike; and Walter Lee Brown, Life of Albert Pike. Also see Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, vol. 1, p. 32.

70. See "State Power and Discrimination by Private Clubs: First Amendment Protection for Nonexpressive Associations," 104 Harvard Law Review p. 1835 (1991), and court cases dealing with New York private mens' clubs at 487 US Reports p. 1 (1988), Rotary Clubs at 481 US Reports p. 537 (1987), Jaycees at 468 US Reports p. 609 (1984), Princeton eating club at 120 NJ Reporter p. 73 (1990), Moose at 407 US Reports p. 163 (1972), and Elks at 382 F. Supp. p. 1,182 (Conn 1974).

71. The List of Lodges--Masonic, published each year, shows that the United [p. 243] Grand Lodge of England and others, including Massachusetts and Washington state, maintain lodges in geographical areas where other, recognized grand lodges exist.

72. As of July 1997, recognition of Prince Hall Grand Lodges has been adopted by the Grand Lodges of 1) Connecticut, 2) Nebraska, 3) Washington, 4) Wisconsin, 5) Colorado, 6) Minnesota, 7) North Dakota, 8) Idaho, 9) Massachusetts, 10) Vermont, 11) South Dakota, 12) Wyoming, 13) California, 14) Ohio, 15) Hawaii, 16) Kansas, 17) New Mexico, 18) Maine, 19) New Hampshire, 20) Arizona, 21) Utah, 22) Alaska, 23) Michigan, 24) Pennsylvania, 25) Oregon; also by Canadian grand lodges in 1) British Columbia, 2) Manitoba, 3) New Brunswick, 4) Nova Scotia, 5) Prince Edward Island, 6) Quebec, 7) Alberta; and by grand lodges in 1) France, GLF, 2) England, 3) Ireland, 4) Netherlands, 5) Belgium, 6) Australia, Queensland, 7) Germany. For further details, see the Prince Hall Recognition information web site at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/1799/pha.html.

73. Stewart W. Miner, "The American Doctrine: A Concept Under Siege," 1992 Transactions of the Virginia Research Lodge No. 1777, pp. 11-25 (paper delivered at that lodge on March 28, 1992). Stewart Miner described at least thirteen instances when American grand lodges ignored the doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction.

74. Grand Lodge Recognition, pp. ix-xiii.

75. Conference of Grand Masters of North America, 1975, Report of the Commission on Information for Recognition, p. 142.

76. See Recognition Lists of World Grand Lodges, pp. 2-59. Also see Conference of Grand Masters of North America, 1957, p. 60.

77. Christopher Haffner, Regularity of Origin, p. 79.

78. Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America 1961, pp. 43-44.

79. The List of Lodges--Masonic attempts to indicate which grand lodges are recognized by each grand lodge, but that book does not list all that are recognized by some United States grand lodges. For example, the Grand Lodge of Paraguay is recognized by twenty-two United States grand lodges and is listed in that publication, but the Grand Lodge of Nicaragua, which is recognized by thirty-six is inexplicably not in that publication. The Masonic Service Association publishes an annual chart, which is produced for MSA by Donald M. Robey, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, which provides more information than the annual [p. 244] List of Lodges -- Masonic. Robey's chart is so complicated that he has to use computer software designed for engineers to produce it, demonstrating again the complicated nature of recognition among masonic grand lodges.

80. "The American Doctrine," p. 22.

81. "The American Doctrine," p. 24.

82. Information for Recognition, p. 105.

83. See report of the Commission on Information for Recognition, in Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America 1965, pp. 39-41; District of Columbia Proceedings 1965, pp. 41-42; District of Columbia Proceedings 1966, pp. 15-17; Louisiana Proceedings 1967, pp. 99-100, 152; Wisconsin Proceedings 1966, p. 116.

84. See report of the Commission on Information for Recognition, in Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America 1965, p. 41

85. See the speech delivered by Bro. Charles Riandey, Grand Chancellor of the GLF, at the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America 1955, pp. 124-127. Also, Freemasonry in the Eastern Hemisphere, pp. 174-178; and "Freemasonry, A Prisoner of War: Part v, Freemasonry in France," in The New Age magazine, March 1949, p. 149.

86. The Germans boasted that they made the French "see that the freemasons and the Jews were responsible for the misfortunes of their country and that its recovery could only be achieved by eliminating them." More than 1,000,000 French visited these antimasonic exhibits. "The subject of freemasonry was more popular than that of antisemitism or even anticommunism.…" In 1940, the Catholic bishop of Nancy, France, expressed "particular gratitude to the German authorities for eliminating freemasonry." Philippe Burrin, France Under the Germans (New York: The New Press, 1996), pp. 293, 296, 219. As early as 1935 some French politicians formed an organization that declared, "The hour has come when Free Masonry must be struck down. A struggle to the death has been begun against it and the national forces must now fight without truce or respite." Charles G. Hamilton, "Freemasonry, A Prisoner of War: Part V, Freemasonry in France," The New Age, Mar. 1949, p. 149.

87. See Information for Recognition, p. 105.



Link to an article about recognitions by the District of Columbia Grand Lodge
of Masonic Grand Bodies in France


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