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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wisdom, Union, Strength

The Seal of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina contains three simple words – Wisdom, Union, and Strength. “Wisdom = Union = Strength” is a phrase often included on documents of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons. I do not presume to be able to read minds and I – therefore – do not know exactly why these three words were chosen to be included in the Seal and serve as a motto of sorts for the Grand Lodge. Let us first examine the historical facts.

In 1807, there existed two Grand Lodges in South Carolina – the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons. Members of the former are often referred to as the “Moderns” while those of the latter are called the “Ancients.” This situation had existed since at least 1787 – or 1783, if one notes the first public mention of Ancient York lodges in South Carolina. At no time did either of these Grand Lodges ever recognize the other as being legitimate. Some Masonic writers have claimed that there was legal visitation between the two bodies, but the historical evidence begs to differ. Albert G. Mackey noted…
Just before the union, Lodge No. 8, an Ancient York Lodge, expelled one of its members for having visited a Lodge of the Moderns, and although this might tend to prove that the Ancients sometimes visited the Moderns, it shows that such visitations were not considered as legal, and that of course there was no reciprocation on the part of the Ancient Yorks, who always strenuously refused to admit the Moderns to visit their Lodges.
When Mackey referenced the union, he was referring to the Union of 1808 – sometimes called the First Union – which briefly united the two Grand Lodges. Mackey went on to state…
It must be confessed, however, the Modern Masons do not appear to have acted with the same scrupulous consistency, and it is possible, or even probable, that they sometimes admitted the Ancients to visit them. But this was certainly in violation of the regulations of their Grand Lodge, and the principles for which they contended when they declared the Ancient Masons to be irregular.
Attempts to create a union between the two grand bodies began in 1807. In September 1808, both Grand Lodges adopted the Articles of Union and – on 17 December 1808 – they met in a joint communication to elect the officers of the “United Grand Lodge.” This united body was formally styled as the Grand Lodge of South Carolina. This First Union began to unravel the very next month – in January 1809. On 3 May 1809, the Ancient York Grand Lodge was revived and the First Union partially collapsed. In 1816, procedures were again put into motion with a goal of uniting the two Grand Lodges. On 26 December 1817, these efforts resulted in the Second Union – the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina – which exists to this day.

An interesting aspect of the process that led to both of the unions is that it never included recognition or discussion of possible recognition between the two Grand Lodges. In other words, the Grand Lodges went straight from considering each other as irregular and – therefore – unrecognized to a state of unification. And this brings us back to the title of this article.

It is my personal belief that the South Carolina Masons of 1808 and 1817 had the foresight and Wisdom to contrive a Union because they knew that was the only way to fully give Strength to the Fraternity in the Grand Jurisdiction of South Carolina.

Note: All historical quotations and information are from: Mackey, Albert G., M.D., The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Steam Power Press, 1861.

2 comments:

Bro. John S. Nagy said...

As always, Masterful!

Coach Nagy

The Palmetto Mason said...

Thanks, Coach.