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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Examining the Political Mackey

Albert Gallatin Mackey, M.D., (22 March 1807 - 20 June 1881) is probably one of the most, if not the most, referenced and quoted Masonic author and historian. Like so many others, I often turn to him when doing my own research - especially since he is one of the best sources for information on the early history of my own Grand Jurisdiction. There is very little easily available information, however, about Albert G. Mackey’s personal life. What was he like beyond his Freemasonic pursuits?

Personally, I have always thought it strange that Mackey was never elected as the Grand Master of his Grand Jurisdiction in South Carolina. He served as its Grand Lecturer for many years and as its Grand Secretary for twenty-three years (1843 – 1866). He was Past Master of the oldest Lodge in South Carolina, Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, and was a most prolific Masonic writer – his works being read throughout the world. He also served as the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Ancient and Accepted Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States. It would seem that he was the perfect candidate for election to the position of Grand Master. Why didn’t that happen? Did he decline such a position because he did not desire such responsibility? Maybe there is another reason – a political reason.

We know that Mackey left his native South Carolina in 1870 and moved to Washington, DC. This move followed his defeat in a run for a U.S. Senate seat in 1868. This may be the first clue that something was amiss, from the perspective of a majority of his fellow South Carolinians, when it came to Dr. Mackey’s political leanings. Why would a native South Carolinian want to move to the seat of government of an occupying nation, which is how most South Carolinians viewed the United States in those early years following the defeat of the Confederate States of America - during the so-called “Reconstruction?”

Mackey was a Unionist. He was opposed to the secession of his home state from the Union and he actively participated in the Reconstruction efforts of the North following the end of the War Between the States. He was even appointed as Collector of the Port of Charleston, SC, by the President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, following the end of the War. This undoubtedly did not sit well with the majority of his fellow South Carolinians.

Did Mackey’s Unionist position influence the fact that he never became a Grand Master? We may never know for certain, but it does give us something to think about.


Justa Mason said...

I highly doubt it, Bug. It sounds to me that he was too busy as Grand Secretary of two bodies to aspire to anything else.

He may have turned down the opportunity for all we know. I am Secretary of an organisation and have been since we started eight years ago. At the outset, I was asked to stand for an office that would have had put me in the chair ages ago but declined.

Justa Mason

Wayfaring Man said...

This is very interesting... wonder if the Temple Library in DC would have any of his personal papers that might shed light on this.

You would think he would have been a perfect candidate for the Grand East...

The Palmetto Bug said...

In his "History of Freemasonry in South Carolina," published in 1861, Mackey mentioned nothing about any possible nominations for his election as GM, DGM, SGW, etc. Being that he wasn't shy about mentioning himself in that work, I suspect that he would have made note of anything along those lines. Of course, he could have made it very clear, at an early time, that he had no desire to lead his GJ.

He was also not very shy about expressing some of his opinions in the previously mentioned book. Based on this, it is my guess that he would have relished the opportunity to sit in the Grand East.

I think his move to the D.C. in 1870 is very telling. He was basically retired at that point and I don't think he went up there for that city's "balmy climate." It ain't exactly a golf course in Florida.

When I get a little extra time, I'm going to go back and read some of his poems. Poems often tell much about what a man is thinking.