PRINCE HALLS ORIGINAL CHARTER
Know all men by these presents:
Thus were we greeted by the Grand Lodge of England, on the 20th day of September A.L. 5784, A.D. 1784; the following
said Greeting and warranted 459, granted by the Grand Lodge of England on petition of Prince Hall, Boston Smith, Thomas Sanderson,
and several other Masons, of Boston, constituting them into a regular Lodge for Free and Accepted Masons.
To all and ever our Right
Worshipful and loving Brethren, we, Thomas Hall, Earl of Effingham, Lord Howard, etc., etc., etc.; acting Grand Master under
the authority of His Royal Highness, Henry Frederice, Duke of Cumberland, etc., etc., etc., Grand Master of the Most Ancient
and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, send Greetings:
Know ye, that we, at the humble petition of our right trust and well beloved
Brethren Prince Hall, Boston Smith, Thomas Sanderson, and several other Brethren residing in Boston, New England, in North
America, do hereby constitute the said Brethrren into regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, under the title or
of the African Lodge, to be opened in Boston aforesaid, and do further at their petition hereby appoint the said Prince Hall
to be Master, Boston Smith, Senior Warden, and Thomas Sanderson, Junior Warden, for the opening of the said Lodge, and for
such further time only as shall be thought proper by the Brethren thereof, it being our will that this our appointment of
the above officers shall in no wise affect any future election of officers of the Lodge, but that such election shall be regulated
agreeably by such by-laws of said Lodge as shall be consistent with the general laws of the Society, contained in the Book
of Constitution and we hereby will require you, the said Prince Hall, to take especial care that all and everyone of said
Brethren are, or have been regularly made Masons, and that they do observe, perform and keep all the rules and orders contained
in the Book of Constitutions; and further, that you do, from time to time, cause to be entered in a book kept for the purpose,
an account of your proceedings in the Lodge, together with such rules, orders, and regulations as shall be made for the good
government of the same; that in no wise you will omit once in every year to send to us, or our successors, Grand Master, or
to to Roland Holt, Esq., our Deputy Grand Master, for the time being, an account in writing of your said proceedings and copies
of all such rules, orders and regulations as shall be made as aforesaid, together with a list of the members of the Lodge,
and such sum of money as may suit the circumstances of the Lodge, and reasonably be expected toward the Grand Charity.
Moreover, we hereby will and require you the said Prince Hall, as soon as conveniently may be, to send an account in writing,
of what may be done by virtue of these presents.
Given at London under the hand and seal of Masonry, this 20th day
of September A.L. 5784 A.D. 1784.
By the Grand Master's Command
Witness:Wm. White, G.S.
R. Holt, D.G.M
BY BRO. GEORGE DRAFFEN OF NEWINGTON, P.J.G.D., P.M.
Depute Grand Master,
Grand Lodge of Scotland
Fellow The Phylaxis Society
(13 May 1976)
In the United States of America, in Canada and in the Bahamas there are some forty Grand
Lodges of Prince Hall Freemasonry. There is also in Liberia a Grand Lodge of Prince Hall origin. These Prince Hall Grand Lodges
exercise authority over more than five thousand lodges. They claim descent, directly or indirectly, from the Prince Hall Grand
Lodge of Massachusetts which, in turn, is the offspring of African Lodge No. 459 warranted by the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns)
on 20 September 1784. The great majority of these Prince Hall Grand Lodges incorporate the words 'Prince Hall' in their title.
This was done following upon a recommendation made at a conference of Prince Hall Grand Masters held at Hot Springs, Arkansas,
in January 1944. The object of adding the words 'Prince Hall' to the titles of the Grand Lodges was to overcome the confusion
which had arisen among African-American members of the community in the United States where African-American freemasonry had
been subjected to an interminable number of schisms and clandestine 'Grand Lodges' - all aimed at the gullible. While the
Prince Hall Grand Lodges are not recognized by the Grand Lodges in the United States they are regarded by most of them as
having a certain authenticity as opposed to the spurious and clandestine African-American Grand Lodges which have sprung up
from time to time.
THE PRINCE HALL TRADITION
The traditional story regarding Prince Hall is published annually in the Prince Hall
Masonic Year Book, an official publication sponsored by the Grand Masters' Conference of Prince Hall Masons of America. It
must, therefore, be assumed that this traditional history is regarded as correct and accurate by the various Prince Hall Grand
Lodges of the United States of America. As printed in the Prince Hall Masonic Year Book the official story of the gentleman
known as Prince Hall runs thus:
Prince Hall was born at Bridgetown, Barbados, West Indies, about September 12, 1748.
He was freeborn. His father, Thomas Prince Hall, was an Englishman and his mother a free coloured woman of French extraction.
In 1765, at the age of 17, he worked his passage on a ship to Boston, where he worked as a leather-worker, a trade learned
from his father. Eight years later he had acquired real estate and was qualified to vote. He was religiously inclined and
later became a preacher in the Methodist Church with a Charge at Cambridge. On March 6, 1775, Prince Hall and fourteen other
free Negroes of Boston were made Master Masons in an Army lodge attached to one of General Gage's regiments, then stationed
near Boston. This lodge granted Prince Hall and his brethren authority to meet as a lodge, to go in procession on St John's
Day, and as a lodge to bury their dead, but they could not confer degrees nor perform any other masonic ‘work'.
For nine years these brethren, together with others who had received the degrees elsewhere,
assembled and enjoyed limited privileges as masons. Finally, in March 1784, Prince Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England,
through a Worshipful Master of a subordinate lodge in London for a warrant or charter. On September 20, 1784, the warrant
was issued. It was not delivered, however, until three years later, owing to the fact that the brother to whom the matter
was entrusted failed to call for it. It was delivered, however, on the 29th day of April 1787, by Captain James Scott, a sea-faring
man and, incidentally, a brother-in-law of John Hancock, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
On May 6, 1787, by virtue of the authority of this Charter, African Lodge No. 459 was
established and began work as a regular masonic body.
In accordance with masonic usage of that time, a General Assembly of Colored Masons met
in Masons' Hall, Water Street, Boston, Massachusetts, on June 24, 1791, and formed African Grand Lodge with Prince Hall as
its first Grand Master; which office he held until his death in December 1807.
On June 24, 1808, pursuant to a call from Nero Prince, the Deputy Grand Master, representatives
of the three then existing lodges met in Boston and changed the name of the Grand Lodge to M. W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge,
F & A M of Massachusetts, in memory of Prince Hall.
There is no indication in the Prince Hall Masonic Year Book as to the author of
this traditional story, but from its contents it is evident that the author drew very heavily upon Grimshawl and Davis. It
is greatly to be regretted that an official publication should include a biography which is both woefully inaccurate and,
in some cases, manifestly untrue. This can only be derogatory of a man whose life required no false vindication.
WHO WAS PRINCE HALL
The statement by Grimshaw, which has been repeated many times by other writers on the
subject of freemasonry among the African-American people in the United States of America, that Prince Hall was born 'about
September 12, 1748' does not stand up to any examination. Even Davis admits in his book that Grimshaw was inaccurate in respect
of Prince Hall's birth. Prince Hall's death was reported in the Boston Gazette for Monday, 7 December 1807:
DEATHS. On Friday morning, Mr. Prince Hall, aged 72, Master of African Lodge. Funeral
this afternoon at 3 o'clock from his late dwelling in Lendell's Lane; which his friends and relations are requested to attend
without a more formal invitation.
Dying at the age of seventy-two would infer a birth date of about the year 1735. We have
some confirmation of this possible date in a letter written by Dr Jeremy Belknap, a founder of the Massachusetts Historical
Society, with regard to a survey he had undertaken on the history of slavery in Massachusetts. Dr Belknap interviewed Prince
Hall to whom he refers as 'one of my informants . . . a very intelligent black man, aged 57. He is the Grand Master of a LODGE
of free masons, composed wholly of blacks, and distinguished by the name of African Lodge. It was begun in 1775, while this
town was garrisoned by British troops; some of whom held a lodge and initiated a number of Negroes.' If this statement by
Dr Belknap is accurate then Prince Hall would have been born about the year 1738. Apart from these two points, no evidence
of any kind has ever been produced to support Grimshaw's statement that Prince Hall was born in Barbados in 1748.
Grimshaw states, again a statement repeated ad nauseam by subsequent writers, that Prince
Hall was freeborn. The fact is that he was not. There exists in the Boston Athenaeum Library, among the notarial papers of
one Ezekiel Price, a Certificate of Manumission, dated 9 April I770, and signed by William Hall, together with three other
members of the Hall family, giving Prince Hall his freedom. This document states that he (Prince Hall) had worked with the
Hall family for twenty-one years, i.e. since 1749. The fact that Prince Hall was a slave rules out the extraordinary statement
by Grimshaw that he was the offspring of a union between a free African-American woman of French extraction and an Englishman.
That statement by Grimshaw shows him at his most inventive.
Prince Hall seems to have always referred to himself as an ‘African'. And probably
with some pride for, in my view, he was an African, having been seized in some part of West Africa as a lad of between eleven
and fourteen and brought to New England by a slave-trader and sold as a slave. It is not impossible that he was actually sold
to William Hall and it is also likely that he took the ‘Hall' from the family which he served so faithfully for twenty-one
years. This is impossible to prove but is, I submit, a likely inference.
There is no doubt that Prince Hall was, as the official story says, ‘religiously
inclined' - but the facts are not as recorded in the Prince Hall Masonic Year Book. In a Deposition, which is recorded
in the Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Register of Deeds, made by Prince Hall in August 1807, just a few months before he died,
he stated that he was a leather-dresser by trade; that he was 'about seventy'; that in November 1762 he had been received
into the full communion of the Congregational Church which had its meeting place in School Street, Boston. There is no record
of Grimshaw's flight of fancy that Prince Hall ever held a Charge at Cambridge.
Prince Hall married five times - according to the official records of the City of Boston.
The details are:
(1) 2 November 1763, Sarah Ritchie (or Ritchery).
(2) 22 August 1770, Florah Gibbs.
14 August 1783, Affee Moody.
(4) 28 June 1798, Nabby Ayrauly.
(5) 28 June 1804, Zilpha (?Sylvia) Johnson.
Zilpha, or Sylvia, Johnson was Prince Hall's executrix in an estate amounting to $47.22.
She herself died in Boston in 1836. So far as is known there were no children from any of the marriages.
Prince Hall is buried in Copp's Hill Burying Ground in Boston in the same grave as his
first wife. The monumental stone carries the inscription:
Here lies ye body of Sarah Ritchery, wife of Prince Hall, died Feby the 26th, 1769, aged
On the back of the stone, added some time later, is the inscription:
Here lies the body of Prince Hall, First Grand Master of the Colored Grand Lodge of Masons
in Mass., died Dec 7, 1807.
Whoever cut this last inscription took as the date of death the date of the announcement
in the newspaper (7 December) and not the actual date of death (4 December). It is a little curious that Prince Hall should
be buried in the grave of his first wife; one would have thought that his last wife might have had other ideas, but perhaps
Prince Hall owned the plot in the cemetery. This cannot be checked for the interment records are missing.
As an individual, Prince Hall took a great interest in the welfare of the African-American
people in Boston and in Massachusetts. He continually badgered the city fathers of Boston and also the Senate and House of
Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in respect of the proper provision of schools for the education of the
children of the African-American population. He was well read himself and his Letter Book shows that he was familiar with
the works of Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen and other Fathers of the early Church. He had, too, correspondence with Lady Huntingdon
(1707-91), the head of the sect of Calvinistic Methodists known as the 'Countess of Huntingdon's Connection'.
PRINCE HALL'S MASONIC CAREER
The exact circumstances surrounding Prince Hall's admission into freemasonry are obscure.
According to the traditional story he and fourteen others were made Master Masons on 6 March 1775. This is one statement by
Grimshaw that is very probably accurate. The earliest record of freemasonry among African-American people in the United States
is to be found on a sheet of paper in the archives of African Lodge in Boston. The document is dated 6 March 1775 - the final
digit is only just legible - and has the heading:
By Marster Batt wose made these brothers
At the foot of the sheet are certain figures which would seem to show that on the same
date, or previously, some fourteen men were made 'Marsters', three ‘Crafts' and thirteen 'Prentices'. A second sheet
shows payments Of 45-1/2 guineas which would indicate an initiation fee of approximately three guineas. There is nothing to
indicate whether or not all three degrees were conferred on 6 March 1775 but even if this were so it would be nothing to cavil
at. It was quite customary for a lodge to confer all three degrees at one meeting in those days, and if the lodge was a military
lodge then it might be almost essential for the lodge to confer all three degrees at one meeting-who could tell when the lodge
would next be able to meet? The date, 6 March 1775, is important for it was but a few weeks before the first shot of the War
of Independence was fired at Lexington, itself but a few miles from Boston.
There is no record in the archives of African Lodge as to the actual lodge in which Prince
Hall was initiated. From outside evidence, however, it would appear that Prince Hall and his fourteen companions were admitted
to freemasonry in an Irish lodge, No. 441. In support of this one must examine the details of the regiments under General
Gage's command in and around Boston in 1775. The Ministry of Defence tell me that they have no official list of these regiments.
However, in the first volume of Henry Belcher's The First American Civil War there is an appendix, which he compiled from
regimental histories, giving, as far as is known, the names of the regiments engaged in the various actions in the War of
Independence. From that appendix I have compiled a smaller list (see the appendix to this paper) of those British Army units
which were stationed in or near Boston in 1775 and which had in them lodges under any of the British Grand Lodges.
There were fourteen military lodges in and around Boston in 1775. Of these one was English,
four were Scottish and the remainder were Irish. There seems to be very little doubt, having consulted the Grand Lodge Registers
that Irish Lodge No. 441, in which John Batt was a member, was the lodge in which Prince Hall was initiated. John Batt is
registered as a member of Lodge 441 in the register in Dublin under the date of 2 May 1771.
Lodge 441 was warranted on 4 July 1765 to meet in the 38th Regiment of Foot (1st Battalion
South Staffordshires). The lodge warrant was subsequently, in 1840, returned to the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The number 441
was later, in 1918, reissued to the T.W. Braithwaite Lodge, meeting in Belfast. Any minutes of the lodge while working as
a military lodge are lost and it is impossible to say if John Batt was the Master in 1775. It is equally impossible to say
whether or not the meeting at which Prince Hall was initiated was held regularly under the lodge warrant or was a clandestine
affair with John Batt 'initiating' some gullible Negroes and pocketing the money they paid him. None of those made masons
by John Batt on 6 March 1775 are recorded as being members of the lodge in the registers of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. I
do not say that this is what happened, merely that it is possible. On the other hand the difficulties of communication with
Dublin in the middle of a civil war were enormous and the fact the Prince Hall and his friends were not registered in Dublin
is, in itself, no proof that their admission was not perfectly regular.
John Batt is recorded in the Muster Rolls of the regiment from 1759 until his discharge
from the British Army when stationed in Staten Island in 1777. There is some faint evidence that after his discharge he may
have enlisted in the rebel forces.
The detractors of Prince Hall Freemasonry have frequently stated that his initiation
by a military lodge was in direct conflict with Regulation XXVII of the Constitution & Laws of the Grand Lodge of Ireland,
which regulation forbade the initiation in a military lodge of any person living in a town where there was a town lodge. The
regulation is in the following terms
Regulation XXVII of 1760
No Army lodge shall for the future make any Townsman a mason where there is a lodge held
in any Town where such lodge do meet; and no Town's lodge shall make any man in the Army a mason, where there is a warranted
lodge held in the Regiment, Troop or Company, or in the Quarters to which such man belongs. Any Army or other lodge making
a mason contrary to the rule to be fined One Guinea.
This regulation could, of course, only apply to lodges under the Grand Lodge of Ireland
- and there never was a 'Town lodge' in Boston nor, indeed, anywhere else in Massachusetts, under the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
The regulation is specific in its penalty for breach - a one guinea fine on the lodge.
There is no statement whatever that any mason so made is clandestine or irregular. That would be excluded under the legal
maxim expressio unius exclusio alterius, a maxim which English judges have applied to enactments as far back in history
as 1601 (e.g. The Poor Relief Act, 1601). The maxim means that anything expressly stated excludes anything not expressly stated
and that applies particularly to anything penal.
Apart from the legal maxim, however, the minutes of the Grand Lodge of Ireland record
breaches of the regulation. Lodge No. 10, held in the Louth Militia, complained that lodges 240, 382, 703 and 971 had all
initiated members of the regiment. Grand Lodge ordered that a 'fine be inflicted for this offence unless the lodges can account
for their conduct against the next Grand Lodge meeting'. There is no ruling the Grand Lodge minute that the masons so made
were either clandestine or irregular.
No other evidence has been produced to show that Prince Hall's initiation was in
any way irregular and it must be presumed that he became a mason in the normal and regular way according
to the customary manner of the times.
Back in Boston, Prince Hall and his fellow masons continued to meet as a 'lodge' for
some years. They had a 'Permet' to walk in Procession on St John's Day and to bury their dead, although there seems to be
some doubt as to who gave them this `'Permet'. The traditional story says, as does Grimshaw, that the 'Permet' was issued
by the lodge which had initiated them, and that would not be at all unusual. On the other hand when Prince Hall sent in his
petition for a warrant in June 1784 he stated that the 'Permet' had been issued by 'Grand Master Row' (sic). John Rowe was
appointed Provincial Grand Master for North America is March 1768 and he died in 1787. His appointment was made by the `Modern'
Grand Lodge - that to which Prince Hall sent his petition.
Grimshaw states that Prince Hall was appointed Provincial Grand Master for North America
on 27 January 1791, presumably in place of John Rowe. Grimshaw goes so far as to print the text of the alleged Patent. The
Patent is said to have been signed 'Rawdon, Acting Grand Master'. The Masonic Year Book Historical Supplement shows Francis,
1st Marquess of Hastings, as Acting Grand Master from 1790 to 1813. According to Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerages the
Barony of Rawdon was conferred upon Francis, eldest son of John, 1st Earl of Moira, on 5 March. He did not succeed to the
title of Earl of Moira until 1793 and was created Marquess of Hastings on 7 December 1816. It follows that the alleged Patent
of Appointment of Prince Hall as Provincial Grand Master for North America was correctly signed, for 'Rawdon'. would have
been the proper signature of the Acting Grand Master at that time. Davis expressed grave doubts as to the existence of this
Patent and there is, of course, no record whatever in the archives of the United Grand Lodge of England of the issue of such
a Patent. Davis goes on to say: `Furthermore, there is no evidence that anyone ever saw the original deputation. It is strange
indeed that such an important document was not exhibited to the masons of that day in Boston. Prince Hall was on friendly
terms with a number of Boston's leading masons. He freely exhibited the Charter and Book of Constitutions to white brethren
in that city, and mentioned their receipt in the daily press. It is hard to believe that Hall would withhold such an important
document from his friends - a document which would be of supreme importance to the little band of colored masons then in Boston,
and of equal importance to Prince Hall himself, conferring, as it did, great honor and dignity upon him, and elevating him
to a rank equal to that of any American mason of his day.'
Equally difficult to understand is the complete absence of any mention of such a Patent,
or 'Deputation' as it was called in those days, in Prince Hall's Letter Book. Prince Hall's methodical methods are well illustrated
in his Letter Book and the very issue of such a Patent would require some correspondence. The alleged Patent cites an application
- and this could hardly escape some reference in his Letter Book.
Davis is not the only African-American mason to express doubts as to the authenticity
of the Provincial Grand Master's Patent. Davis states: `The late W. T. Boyd, Past Grand Master of Ohio (Prince Hall) and Frederic
S. Monroe of Massachusetts (PH), both careful investigators in the historical field of Negro masonry, expressed strong dissent
on the validity of the alleged Patent.'
I think we must take it that the alleged Patent appointing Prince Hall as Provincial
Grand Master for North America is another of Grimshaw's inventions. It must be said, however, that the inventor was astute
enough to have the correct signature appended to the text. It might here be noted that Grimshaw was appointed a library attendant
in the Library of Congress on 1 October 1897 and as such would have had access to books dealing with the English peerage.
Francis, 1st Marquess of Hastings would only have signed 'Rawdon' between 1783 and 1793. The titles became extinct on the
death of Henry, 4th Marquess, on is November 1868.
To return to the 'Permet'. No matter by whom it was issued it was certainly used. In
the issue of Monday, December 1782 of a Boston newspaper published by Draper & Polson, the following item appears
On Friday, last, 27th, the Feast of St John the Evangelist, was celebrated by St Black's
Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, who went in procession preceded by a band of music, dressed in their aprons and jewels
from Brother G . . . pions up State Street and thro Cornhill to the House of the Right Worshipful Grand Master in Water Street,
where an elegant and splendid entertainment was given upon the occasion.
This paragraph brought forth a riposte from Prince Hall in a letter which indicated that
they had not had a 'splendid entertainment, we had an agreeable one in brotherly love'. He signed the letter, addressed to
Mr Willis, presumably the editor of the paper, thus Prince Hall Master of African Lodge No. 1 Dedicated to St John.
The signature is interesting as showing that the brethren considered themselves to be
a lodge, albeit as yet without a warrant. I do not know what significance there is in 'No. 1'. Presumably it would indicate
a position on some Register or Roll.
Prince Hall remained the Master of the lodge until his death when he was succeeded by
THE WARRANT TO AFRICAN LODGE NO. 459
In 1784 Prince Hall wrote two letters to a Brother Moody in London seeking his help in
obtaining a warrant for his lodge. Brother Moody was a member of the Lodge of Brotherly Love, No. 55, meeting at King's Head
Tavern, Holborn. He later became Master of the Perseverance Lodge, No. 398, meeting at The Fleece, Old Palace Yard, Westminster.
Prince Hall's first letter was dated 2 March 1784 and his second 30 June 1784. The first letter is printed in A QC (vol. 73,
p. 56) and the second is reprinted in Davis (pp. 33-4). I reproduce the second:
Wm M. Moody, Most W. Master.
[I omit the opening paragraph which is not relevant to the petition.]
I would inform you that this Lodge hath been founded almost this eight years and had
no Warrant yet But only a Permet from Grand Master Row to walk on St John's Day and Bury our dead in form which we now enjoy.
We have had no opportunity till now of aplieng [sic] for Warrant though we were prested upon to send to France for one but
we refused for reasons best known to ourselves. We now apply to the Fountain from whom we received light for this favour,
and Dear Sir, I must beg you to be our advocate for us by sending this our request to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland
Grand Master, and to the Right Honourable Earl of Effingham acting Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master and Grand Wardens
and the rest of the Brethren of the Grand Lodge that they would be graciously pleased to grant us a Charter to hold this Lodge
as long as we behave up to the Spirit of the Constitution.
This our humble petition we hope His Highness and the rest of the Grand Lodge will graciously
be pleased to grant us there.
Though poor yet sincere brethren of the Craft, and therefore in duty bound ever to pray,
I beg leave to subscribe myself.
Your loving friend and Brother
Master of African Lodge No. 1
June 30, 1784 In the Year of Masonry 5784
In the name of the holl Lodge
The petition was successful and the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) issued a warrant
to African Lodge No. 459 on 20 September 1784. For a number of reasons the warrant did not arrive in Boston until April 1787.
Its arrival was announced in the Columbian Centinal, a Boston newspaper dated 2 May 1787, in the following words: 'By Captain
Scott, from London, came the charter, etc.' According to Grimshaw, the lodge was erected on 6 May1787, but we are left in
the dark as to the manner of its erection and by whom it was carried out. Prince Hall also received a copy of the Constitutions
of the Grand Lodge and they contained a requirement that each lodge must be properly constituted. To what extent that requirement
was observed by lodges overseas is open to doubt; if there was another lodge in the area or near at hand there would be little
difficulty in complying with the rules. If it was an isolated lodge, strict compliance may have been impossible.
The date of the petition, 30 June 1784, is important in that the War of Independence
had finished and a Peace Treaty had been signed in 1783. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was no longer a British Colony
but a State in the United States of America. Was the issue of this warrant to African Lodge an infringement of jurisdiction?
It has been held by many writers that the issue of this warrant was, in fact, an infringement
of jurisdiction - but they fail to say whose jurisdiction for there were, at that time, two Grand Lodges in Massachusetts.
And in any event the British Grand Lodges have never accepted the American doctrine of exclusive jurisdiction. On this latter
point I would refer to my paper on this subject in A QC volume 88. The issue of this warrant was the last granted by the Grand
Lodge of England (Moderns) to a lodge in what is now the United States of America. The Grand Lodge of England (Antients) granted
a warrant, No. 236, to a lodge at Charleston, South Carolina, on 26 May 1786, although a Grand Lodge had been formed in that
State in 1777.
At the time of the issue of the warrant to African Lodge the American doctrine of exclusive
jurisdiction had not been promulgated and does not seem to have been arrived at until the1800s.
As I have already stated there were two Grand Lodges in Massachusetts when African Lodge
received its warrant. There was the Massachusetts Grand Lodge, which had been the Scottish Provincial Grand Lodge over which
Joseph Warren had presided. Joseph Warren was killed at the battle of Bunker Hill and this led to the Provincial Grand Lodge
declaring itself an independent Grand Lodge on 8 March 1777. There was the St John's Grand Lodge which had been the English
Provincial Grand Lodge (Moderns) with John Rowe as Provincial Grand Master. These two Grand Lodges continued to exist independently
of each other until they were united on I9 March 1792 to form the present Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. If there was any invasion
of jurisdiction it is a moot point as to whose jurisdiction was invaded. This may be the place to point out that St Andrew's
Lodge at Boston, holding its charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and a founding lodge of the Scottish Provincial Grand
Lodge refused to join the new Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. At a meeting of St Andrew's Lodge held on 21 December 1782 the
lodge voted 30 to I9 against giving up its allegiance to Scotland and against joining the new Grand Lodge. St Andrew's Lodge
remained under the Grand Lodge of Scotland until 1809. It is clear that the doctrine of exclusive jurisdiction was not operating
at the time African Lodge's warrant was issued.
AFRICAN LODGE AS A GRAND LODGE
The exact date at which African Lodge assumed the powers of a Grand Lodge is impossible
to pinpoint. That it functioned as a normal lodge for some years and made returns to the Grand Lodge of England with fees
to the Charity Fund is beyond dispute. It was finally struck off the Register of the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) at the
Union in 1813 because no returns or fees had been made for many years. In that respect Prince Hall's Letter Book shows a certain
laxity on the part of the secretariat of the Grand Lodge, for his letters to Grand Secretary contain numerous complaints that
his correspondence is not being answered. Doubtless there were transmission difficulties but one cannot think that all his
letters to Grand Secretary were never received.
If the criterion for being a Grand Lodge is the exercising of the right, de jure or de
facto, of issuing warrants for the erection of a lodge, then African Lodge can be said to have acted as a Grand Lodge from
the year 1797. If the criterion be that of a declaration of independence and surrender of allegiance then African Lodge did
not assume the functions of a Grand Lodge until 1827 when the Boston Advertiser Of 26 June carried an official declaration
of independence over the signature of John Hilton, then Master of the lodge. Between these two dates much had happened.
In 1797 Prince Hall received a letter from a Peter Mantone who lived in Philadelphia.
This letter is reproduced at length in Davis and to save space I do not reprint it here. The letter recited that Peter Mantone
and ten other brethren were desirous of having a warrant for a lodge. They had made application to the white masons and had
been refused a warrant on the grounds, Mantone said, that the white masons were afraid that 'blackmen living in Virginia would
get to be Masons too'. Mantone did not say to which Grand Lodge he had applied. The Grand Lodge of Virginia was formed in
1778 and the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1786.
In his reply to Mantone Prince Hall agreed to issue a warrant to the brethren in Philadelphia.
In doing so Prince Hall was doing no more and no less than what Lodge Fredericksburg, Virginia, had done in 1757 Lodge Fredericksburg
was self-formed in 1752 and did not get a warrant of its own (from the Grand Lodge of Scotland) until 1758. In 1757 it issued
a Dispensation to Lodge Botetourt to meet at Gloucester, Virginia, and that lodge subsequently obtained a warrant from the
Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) as No. 458 in 1773. We have here a lapse of sixteen years between the granting of a Dispensation,
by an unwarranted lodge, before the obtaining of a warrant. Lodge Fredericksburg is now No. 4 under the Grand Lodge of Virginia
and was George Washington's lodge. Lodge Fredericksburg was not content with the issue of one Dispensation but, in 1768 (by
which time it had been warranted by the Grand Lodge of Scotland), it issued a further Dispensation to Falmouth Lodge in Stafford
County, Virginia. Of these activities of Lodge Fredericksburg the late Hugo Tatsch states: "It chartered lodges at Falmouth,
Virginia (no longer in existence), and Botetourt Lodge, Gloucester County, Virginia. The right of Fredericksburg Lodge to
issue these charters was recognized by the Craft during that period.", If Fredericksburg Lodge possessed, and had exercised,
the right to issue charters then that same right cannot be denied to African Lodge No. 459.
In reply to Peter Mantone's request Prince Hall wrote
Mr Peter Mantone,
Sir, I received your letter of the a which informed me that there are a number of blacks
in your city who have received the light of masonry, and I hope they got it in a just and lawful manner. If so, dear Brother,
we are willing to set you at work under our charter and Lodge No. 459, from London: under that authority, and by the name
of African Lodge, we hereby and herein give you licence to assemble and work as aforesaid, under that denomination as in the
sight and fear of God. I would advise you not to take in any at present till your officers and Master be installed in the
Grand Lodge, which we are willing to do, when he thinks convenient, and he may receive a full warrant instead of a permit.
This letter clearly shows that African Lodge proposed to function as a Grand Lodge -
or at least to exercise rights similar to those of which Lodge Fredericksburg believed itself to be possessed. It further
agreed to install the Master and officers in the new lodge in Philadelphia. All this time African Lodge was still writing
to London, in its capacity as a private lodge under the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) and sending in returns and fees.
Lane records that the last payment of fees was made in 1797.
On 15 June 1802 Prince Hall wrote yet again to Grand Secretary White and said,
I have sent a number of letters to the Grand Lodge and money for the Grand Charity, and
by faithful brethren as I thought, but I have not received one letter from the Grand Lodge for this five years, which I thought
somewhat strange at first; but when I heard so many were taken by the French, I thought otherwise, and prudent not to send.
Prince Hall's Letter Book contains a copy of yet a further letter, of 16 August 1806,
to William White complaining that he had not received any answers to his letters since 1792. From that it is clear that Prince
Hall and African Lodge were still of the view that, as late as in í8o6, African Lodge was still a private lodge under the
Grand Lodge of England. William White seems either to have neglected to answer Prince Hall's letters - or possibly never to
have received them. In this latter respect one can hardly suppose that all Prince Hall's letters failed to reach their destination.
It might be supposed that the silence from London over a period of some twenty years
would have caused African Lodge to give up all hope of continuing as a private lodge under the Grand Lodge of England. But
not a bit of it. On 5 January 1824, the then Master, Samson H. Moody wrote:
To the Right Worshipful, the Grand Master, Wardens and Members of the Grand Lodge of
Your Petitioners, Samson H. Moody, Peter Howard, Abraham C. Derendemed, John I. Hilton,
James Jacson, Zadock Lew, Samuel G. Gardner, Richard Potter, Lewis Walker and other Companions who have been regularly exalted
to the Sublime degree of Royal Arch Masons, send greeting:
Our worthy and well beloved Brethren, Prince Hall, Boston Smith, Thomas Sanderson and
several Brethren having obtained a Warrant from your Honourable Body, on September 29, 1784 AD, AL 5784, when, under the Government
of Thomas Howard, Earl of Effingham, Lord Howard, etc., etc., acting Grand Master under the authority of His Royal Highness
Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, Grand Master of the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons.
This Warrant allowing us to confer but the three Degrees, and finding it injurious for
the benefit of our Body by having no legal authority to confer the other four degrees. And understanding that the seven degrees
is given under the Warrant from the Grand Lodge, we, therefore, humbly solicit the renual of our Charter to ourtherise us
Legally to confer the same, as we are now getting in a flourishing condition. It is with regret we communicate to you that, from the decease of our Well Beloved Brethren
who obtain'd the Warrant we have not been able for several years to transmit Monies
and hold a regular Communication; but, as we are now permanently Established to work comformable to our Warrant and Book of Constitutions. We will send the monies as far as circumstances will admit, together with the money, for a new Warrant,
Should your Honourable Body think us worthy to receive the same. We remain,
Right Worshipful and Most Worshipful Brethren,
With all Due Respect, Yours fraternally
H. Moody WM
Peter Howard SW
C. A. DeRandamie JW
Given under our hands at Boston, in the year of our Lord 1824 January 5th (5824)
William J. Champney, secretary.
It is not clear from this last letter whether or not the members of African Lodge were
seeking a Royal Arch warrant or whether they had, in some curious way, heard of the Rite of Seven Degrees. This seems unlikely
for the Rite of Seven Degrees had ceased to function many years before this letter was written. The statement that the petitioners
were Royal Arch masons need not surprise us. Referring to Lodge No. 441, I. C. Gould states: ‘The records of No. 441,
in the 38th Foot, afford an illustration of Irish practice. The working of the Royal Arch degree was resumed in the Lodge
[Gould's italics] in 1822, when a letter was read from the Deputy Grand Secretary, of which the following passage appears
in the minutes: "There is not any warrant issued by the Grand Lodge of Ireland other than that you hold; it has therefore
always been the practice of Irish lodges to confer the Higher Degrees under that authority.
While the earliest records in the possession of African Lodge make no mention of the
Royal Arch degree having been conferred, either by ‘Master Batt' or any other brother, it is not impossible that that
degree was given at some later date.
At the date of this letter, 1824, African Lodge were still under the impression that
they were on the Register of the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns). They do not seem to have been informed of the change of
number from 459 to 370 at the renumbering in 1792. Neither would they seem to be aware of the union of 1813 and their own
removal from the register of the new United Grand Lodge of England.
The petitioners of 1824 received no warrant of any kind from the United Grand Lodge of
England and in 1827 declared their independence from any masonic authority.
As has already been stated, African Lodge - by a Declaration dated 18 June 1827 and published
in the Boston Advertiser of 26 June 1827 - declared itself to be 'free and independent of any lodge from this day'. The one-sided
connection with the United Grand Lodge of England was finally severed. Prince Hall had been succeeded on his death by one
Nero Prince as 'Grand Master'. The minutes of African Lodge show that he was raised in the lodge on 20 August 1799. Grimshaw,
in one of his wilder stretches of imagination says that Nero Prince was a Russian Jew. Nothing is further from the truth.
He is shown in the Boston Assessors Tax Books for 1800 as a bread baker. He married, in 1803, Nabby Bradish of Henniker, New
Hampshire. In 1810 he went to Gloucester, became a sailor and made at least two voyages to Russia with a Captain Thomas Stanwood
In 1812 Nero Prince entered the service of Princess Purtossof and later became one of
the staff at the court of the Emperor Alexander. He died in Russia in 1833.
By the time that the declaration of independence was made African Lodge had warranted
two lodges; one to brethren in Philadelphia on 24 June 1797 and a second to Hiram Lodge in Providence, Rhode Island, on 25
June 1797. From these three lodges and others subsequently chartered by them or their descendants the whole of the present
'regular' Prince Hall Grand Lodges have arisen. This is not the place to discuss or deal with the question of the recognition,
or non-recognition, of the Prince Hall Grand Lodges by the more widely-recognized Grand Lodges of the United States of America.
That is a matter that can only be dealt with by the United States Grand Lodges and is completely outside the scope of this
paper, which confines itself to the origins and not the subsequent history of the Prince Hall Grand Lodges.