|The following is a report that was presented at the Grand Lodge of Virginia’s Annual Communication in November 1999, as posted on a listserv by Jack Canard, who I believe scanned it from the printed version in the Grand Lodge Committee Reports pamphlet.
After the report was presented and discussed a vote was taken on the Commission’s recommendation shown below, by a show of colored voting cards, as is normal in the Grand Lodge of Virginia. This vote by voting cards showed that there was not a majority in favor of the recommendation, although those who were present said the vote was relatively close. This subject may be considered again in the future.
Report from The [Virginia] Grand Master’s Commission On Prince Hall Freemasonry
The Commission consists of five members, all of whom are active Freemasons in the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Members serving are: Most Worshipfuls John Powers Stokes, Chairman, William Munford Johnson, Alan Wayne Adkins, Secretary, and Right Worshipfuls Kenneth Wayne Glass, and Carlton Lee Gill, Jr.
1. The regularity of the said Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia, Free and Accepted Masons, Inc.
On September 29, 1784, a Charter was issued by the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) to a group of men in Boston, Massachusetts, to form a Lodge to be known as African Lodge No.459. Prince Hall was
Having received the Charter, records show that African Lodge was in fairly frequent contact with the Grand Secretary’s office in London until the early 19″‘ century. After 1802 however, the records show no further contact.
Since 1751, there had been two fiercely competitive Grand Lodges in England, known as the “Moderns” and the “Ancients” both of which had established Provincial Grand Lodges in Boston, and had chartered Lodges in America, as had the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
The Revolutionary War caused the American Lodges to sever relations with their British parent Grand Lodges, and after some interim moves, they formed their own Grand Lodges, one of which is now the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. African Lodge was not acknowledged however, and did not become a part of the new Massachusetts Grand Lodge. Not many years later in 1813, the two British Grand Lodges merged, and formed the United Grand Lodge of England. Having lost contact with African Lodge No.459 for some time, it was omitted from the rolls for this new Grand Lodge also, but was not formally erased.
Finding itself out in the cold, African Lodge made the decision to declare itself an independent Grand Lodge in 1827, adopting the name “Prince Hall.” It later chartered other Lodges, which eventually became Grand Lodges, until today there are some forty-four of these descendants of this Massachusetts Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
For the better part of two centuries, the Grand Lodges of what might be called regular Masonry and those of Prince Hall Masonry have been pursuing separate but parallel courses. One of the major causes for this division has been the question of the regularity of origin of the Prince Hall Grand Lodges, this being one of the principal factors in the fraternal recognition process among Grand Lodges.
In 1988, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts applied to the United Grand Lodge of England to recognize its regularity, which was denied at the time. This application and the circumstances involved were carefully reviewed for several years however, and in November 1994, the conclusion was reached that while there were irregularities in the formation of Prince Hall Grand Lodges, there were other Grand Lodges which were also organized under less than regular circumstances, and under the standards then prevailing, the formation of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts could have been seen as merely eccentric, and of acceptable regularity. The review by United Grand Lodge of England concluded that… “the philosophy of Prince Hall Masonry today, is exemplary.”
This recommendation made by the Board of General Purposes was approved by the United Grand Lodge of England on December 14, 1994, and thus the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and its descendants have a claim to regularity of origin.
The first Masonic Lodges for men of color organized in Virginia were Universal, Rising Sun, Morning Star and Eastern Light. These Lodges were formed under the National Grand Lodge (Compact). These Virginia Lodges broke free of the “Compact” and formed the Union Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1866. In 1866, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania chartered three Lodges in Virginia: S. B. Trusty, Virginia, and Abraham. These three Lodges, in turn, formed the Virginia Grand Lodge of F. & A. Ancient York Masons. In 1875, the Union Grand Lodge of Virginia and the Virginia Grand Lodge of F. & A. Ancient York Masons merged and became the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Virginia. At that time, the Union Grand Lodge had seventeen Lodges and the York Masons had eighteen Lodges.
As an outgrowth of an agreement made with the Conference of Grand Masters, Prince Hall Masons, held in 1958 and the incorporation of the organization, the name was changed to The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia, Free and Accepted Masons, Inc. As of today, there are approximately two hundred Lodges and nine thousand Prince Hall Masons in Virginia.
2. The procedures followed by those Grand Lodges which have granted Masonic recognition to Prince Hall Grand Lodges.
Twenty-eight (28) Grand Lodges have granted recognition to Prince Hall Grand Lodges (see exhibit B). The procedure followed in recognizing Prince Hall Masonry, in the majority of cases, was either a report from a Standing Committee (Fraternal Relations, Foreign Correspondence, etc.) or Grand Lodge Resolution to be
Most Grand Lodges, including the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Virginia, followed the standards of recognition set down by the Commission on Information for Recognition (elected by the Conference of the Grand Masters of Masons in North America). They are:
a) Legitimacy of origin.
b) Exclusive territorial jurisdiction, except by mutual consent and/or treaty.
c) Adherence to the Ancient Landmarks – specifically, a belief in God, the Volume of Sacred Low as an Indispensable part of the furniture of the Lodge, and the prohibition of the discussion of politics and religion.
The Commission determines if a Grand Lodge is regular and therefore worthy of recognition. Others followed guidelines established by their respective Grand Lodge for recognition purposes similar to the resolution adopted February 13, 1935 by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Virginia (see exhibit C).
3. The effects of Masonic recognition in those Grand Jurisdictions which have granted such Masonic recognition
The Grand Lodges which have granted recognition to Prince Hall Grand Lodges have experienced very few problems to date. A survey was conducted to solicit information on the type of recognition granted, recognition of more than one Prince Hall Grand Lodge, and general comments about the recognition process. The comments provided to the Commission ranged from good to excellent, and nobody reported any problems. Of the twenty-eight (28) Grand Lodges surveyed, nineteen (19) granted full recognition, six (6) partial recognition and three (3) limited recognition (regular with details to be worked out).
At the initial meeting on May 14, the Commission reviewed the charges put forth by the Grand Master, received an overview of the Commission Manual assembled by the Grand Lodge office, established various assignments/guidelines, and future meeting dates.
On June 3, the Commission met with representatives of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia, Free and Accepted Masons, Inc. Present were Gilbert “Gil” Tyler, Grand Master, Robert E. Harris, Sr., MWPGM, Grand Secretary, and Thomas E. Minor, MWPGM, Chairman on Foreign Correspondence. A list of questions compiled by the Commission was discussed with the delegation of Prince Hall Masons. A harmonious and lengthy dialogue took place.
On July 28, the Commission met to review information received from other jurisdictions which have considered or granted recognition. The Masonic Service Association provided invaluable reports to the Commission in addition to papers and talks on the subject prepared by Masonic authors and Past Grand Masters.
The September 22 meeting was devoted to reviewing the draft report for presentation to the Grand Master and Committee on Foreign Correspondence.
REQUEST FOR RECOGNITION
The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, Inc. in their request for recognition seeks only limited recognition. They are not requesting full recognition, i.e., inter-Lodge visitation, dual memberships, etc. It should be noted that Prince Hall Grand Lodges do not allow dual membership. The
It should be remembered that Prince Hall Grand Lodges are independent from each other, as are all other Grand Lodges elsewhere. Each is free to apply for recognition to any other Grand Lodge it may choose, or may decline to do so for reasons of its own.
In its report of the examination of the Prince Hall matter, the United Grand Lodge of England points out that recognition is a series of bilateral relationships between Grand Lodges, and should they extend recognition to each other, the mutual recognition between them cannot bind a third Grand Lodge.
By the standards of today, the formation of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was irregular. In the 18″ 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
In the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Virginia, at least two Pennsylvania Lodges continued to exist until 1787, and, even today Massachusetts maintains chartered Lodges in the Republic of Panama.
As a Commission we reviewed the origins of the American Doctrine, including inquires made to other Jurisdictions. As a Commission we discussed, from a historical perspective, the current day impact of a strict observance of the American Doctrine. From our consideration of the American Doctrine we noted that events of our time tend to sway us from a concept of strict adherence. Recognizing our limitations, your Commission asked for guidance and input from the Commission on Information and Recognition of the Conference ‘of Grand Masters of North America and other sources.
Following full discussion and consideration, your Commission has accepted as legitimate the origin of what is now Prince Hall Masonry, through its original Charter, through the United Grand Lodge of England. We accept it, not because it can withstand all counter claims and questions, but because Prince Hall Masonry has withstood the test of time. Its continuous history and the acceptance by twenty-eight (28) other American Grand
The words contained in this simple report to the Grand Master and the Committee on Foreign Correspondence are not adequate to describe the positive feeling we have toward one another – those of mutual understanding and trust. We are impressed with those with whom we have become acquainted as citizens and as members of their fraternity. We thank the Grand Master for the opportunity to serve the Craft.
Commission on Prince Hall Freemasonry
John Powers Stokes, PGM, Chairman
EXHIBIT B [it appears that no exhibit A was included with the report]
CANADIAN PROVINCES WHICH RECOGNIZE PRINCE HALL MASONS
OTHER COUNTRIES WHICH RECOGNIZE PRINCE HALL MASONS
Application for fraternal recognition by a foreign Grand Lodge shall be referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Correspondence which shall make a thorough investigation of the application and make a recommendation to the Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge may extend such recognition if it appears to its
The foreign Grand Lodge in question represents a substantial unity of the Freemasons of the territory over which it assumes jurisdiction: i.e., the country, province or state, or else shares such territorial jurisdiction with another Grand Lodge by mutual consent.
It has been lawfully organized by three or more regular Lodges or that it has been legalized by a Grand Lodge recognized by this Grand Lodge.
It is an independent, self-governing organization, having sovereign Masonic authority within its jurisdiction.
Its ritual is fundamentally in accord with the Ancient Landmarks, customs, and usage’s of the Craft. This involves:
It is non-sectarian and non-political: i.e., that its dominant purposes are charitable, benevolent, educational, and moral.
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