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Prince Hall Masonry Recognition details

UGLE (England) report

Report From The United Grand Lodge of England
Prince Hall Masonry and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts


1. Annex A states the Board’s view of Regularity and recognition.

2. Annex B is a short history of Prince Hall Masonry.


3. By the standards of today, the formation of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was irregular. In the 18th Century, however, three Grand Lodges in North America were formed by not three but two Lodges, and the Grand Lodge of New Jersey was formed simply by a Grand Convention of Masons. By standards then prevailing, the formation of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts could have been seen as merely eccentric, and of acceptable regularity.

4. Notwithstanding the unusual transformation of its original Lodge into a Grand Lodge, the philosophy and practice of Prince Hall Masonry today are of exemplary regularity.


5. Some Grand Lodges in North America have recognised Prince Hall Grand Lodges, and others allow inter-visitation between their Brethren and Brethren of Prince Hall Grand Lodges in their territory. Both sorts are dealing with what the Board sees as irregularly-formed bodies. Grand Lodge’s initial reaction was to stop Brethren of the English Constitution visiting Lodges in the affected jurisdictions.

6. In 1988 the Board was unable to support an application from the Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, seeking recognition for his Grand Lodge (and in ultimate effect on behalf of some 300,000 Prince Hall Masons in jurisdictions descended from his).

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7. The Board has been reconsidering the application for over three years, and it believes that the proper course is now to ignore the unusual formation of the African Grand Lodge and to recommend instead that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts should be deemed to be and accepted as regular, and recognised. This is not intended to set a general precedent, but the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, which was the African Grand Lodge’s forerunner may also merit special consideration.

8. If the problem of regularity were to be solved in this way, the State Grand Lodge of Massachusetts would have no objection to the United Grand Lodge of England recognising the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, both-Massachusetts Grand Lodges having sovereign jurisdiction over the Brethren and Lodges of their Constitution in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Recognition of other Prince Hall Grand Lodges descended from African Lodge might follow similar lines.

9. The Board recommends that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts be recognised.

10. An appropriate resolution will be moved, and appears at item of the paper of business.

11. The administrations of the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland have been kept informed of the Board’s deliberations. They agree in principle that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts should be recognised and are aware of what might follow.


A. Regularity and Recognition

B. Short History of Prince Hall Masonry


1. The regularity and recognition of Grand Lodges are separate but allied subjects. Unless a Grand Lodge is regular, it cannot be recognised. Unless a Grand Lodge is recognised, its Brethren cannot (or should not) be met as Freemasons by Brethren of regular and recognised Grand Lodges.


2. The “Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition” were adopted by Grand Lodge in 1929. This was a codification, and not a statement of new principles. summarised the tests which the United Grand Lodge of England had applied and would apply in recognising regular Grand Lodges throughout the World. Eight principles are set out in ‘the Book of Constitutions, and restated in Grand Lodge’s leaflet “Freemasonry’s External Relations” To be eligible for recognition, a Grand Lodge must

a. be regular in its origin (see paragraph 3 below)
b. be truly independent and self-governing (see paragraph 4 below)
c. adhere to ‘landmarks’ (a landmark is an essential characteristic of regular Freemasonry), viz:
(I) its Brethren must believe in a Supreme Being (the GAOTU);
(ii) Obligations must be taken on or in full view of the VSL;
(iii) it must display the three Great Lights of Freemasonry when it or its Lodges are open;
(iv) discussion of religion and politics in its Lodges must be prohibited, and
(v) its membership must be male, and it must have nothing to do with mixed or women’s Lodges.


3. The original Grand Lodges (England, Ireland and Scotland) were formed by private Lodges which had formed themselves Time immemorial Lodges, in English parlance. the 18th Century, three State Grand Lodges in the United States of America were formed by two Lodges, and one was formed by a Grand Convention of Masons Subsequent Grand Lodges follow the modern rule in paragraph 4.

4. A Grand Lodge must have been established by: a) a recognised Grand Lodge, or b) three (nowadays) or more regularly constituted private Lodges, formed in accordance within the rules and customs of a regular Grand Lodge.

5. A Grand Lodge must have undisputed authority over Craft (or basic) Freemasonry within its jurisdiction, and not be subject in any way to or share power with any other Masonic body.

6. This principle is expressed overseas as exclusive Territorial jurisdiction, but has recently been qualified as being “subject to exceptions” This qualification means the principle is not violated if Grand Lodges agree to share territory while remaining authority over Brethren under their jurisdiction (e.g., our recognition of four Grand Lodges in Colombia; the acceptance of the Grand Lodges of New Zealand and South Africa (etc.) of Lodges under the UGLE (etc.) in their territory, and the fact that Lodges under the Grand Lodge of the State of Washington work in the territory of the Grand Lodge of Alaska). Agreement by one Grand Lodge to share its territory with another does not imply license for other Grand Lodges to insert Lodges into the territory of the first Grand Lodge.

7. England’s view, of jurisdiction over the Brethren in its constitution regardless of where their Lodges meet, has the merit of simplicity, and is compatible with the territorial view described above. In practice, England does not ignore territorial sovereignty when it considers recognition.


8. Recognition is a series of bi-lateral relationships between Grand Lodges. If a Grand Lodge seeks recognition from England, and in due course is recognised, the mutual recognition between it and England cannot bind a third Grand Lodge.

9. England’s recent policy on recognition has been described as needing to be convinced that it should be granted, rather than noting an absence of reasons why it should not.


1. On 29 September 1784 a warrant was granted by the premier Grand Lodge of England to 15 men in Boston, Massachusetts (including Bro Hall, whose first name was Prince) forming them into African Lodge, No. 459 on the English Register.

2. African Lodge contributed to the Charity Fund until 1797 and was in correspondence with the Grand Secretary until the early 19th Century. Grand Lodge’s letter books for this period are, however, incomplete and it is not impossible that correspondence on both sides may have seemed to have been ignored. After 1802, largely due to effect on transport to and communications with North America of the Napoleonic War, contact was lost.

3. In 1797 African Lodge, contrary to the terms of its warrant and the English Book of Constitutions by which it was bound, gave authority to two groups of men to meet as Lodges: African Lodge No. 459B to meet at Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and Hiram Lodge (without a number) to meet at Providence, Rhode island. Authority may have been given to others after 1808.

4. At the amalgamation of the two Registers after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in England in 1813, African Lodge (and many others at home and abroad) was omitted from the register, there having been no contact for many years. African Lodge was, however, not formally erased.

5. What is now the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was formed in 1815.

6. In 1827, having been refused acknowledgment by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, African Lodge declared itself to be an independent Grand Lodge, the African Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. African Lodge was then (or later) disbanded.

7. In the 1830s and 1840s the new Grand Lodge and other Lodges which it had formed made various unsuccessful attempts to form a National African Grand Lodge. The style “Prince Hall Grand Lodge” became current in the 1840s, Prince Hall Grand Lodges were formed and survive in most of the United States of America. Some Lodges work overseas, especially in the West Indies.

8. All Prince Hall Grand Lodges are descended from what is now the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts


10. Visitors and visiting R.125 of the Book of constitutions requires Masters of our Lodges to ensure that visitors are from Grand Lodges recognised by the UGLE. This requirement is the subject of an annually repeated article in “information for the Guidance of Members of the Craft” (1991 Edition, p.6). The corollary is the annual notice on “Attendance at Lodges overseas” (Ib. p.5), which should be printed once a year in every Lodge’s summons and which includes advice to withdraw from accidental contact with Brethren from unrecognised Grand Lodges. (Note: This is to avoid potentially difficult and possibly unharmonious situations, and is not an attempt to impose any particular view on Grand Lodges overseas.)

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The Grand Registrar to move that, notwithstanding its unusual formation, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts should now be accepted as regular, and be recognised.

[This resolution was adopted by the United Grand Lodge of England in December 1994.]

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