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Of the government of Royal Arch Chapters.
It has already been satisfactorily shewn in the preceeding part of this work, that the first three degrees of masonry, are conducted under the immediate authority of grand lodges, which is composed of the installed officers of all the subordinate Lodges within a certain district; generally speaking, the jurisdiction of a grand lodge is confined to the particular state in which it is held.
In like manner chapters of royal arch masons, with power to confer the preparatory degrees of mark master, past master* and most excellent master, are held under the aúthority of grand chapters, composed of the three principal officers of all the royal arch chapters within a certain district together with the proper grand officers.
Grand master Webb, informs us that, “until the year 1797, no grand chapter of royal arch masons was organized in America. Previously to this period, a competent number of companions of that degree possessed of sufficient abilities, under the sanction of a master's warrant, proceeded to exercise the rights and privileges of royal arch chapters, whenever they thought it expedient and proper; although in most cases the approbation of a neighboring chapter was deemed useful if not essential.”
This unrestrained mode of proceeding was subject to many inconveniences; unsuitable characters might be admitted; irregularities in the mode of working introduced; the purposes of the society perverted; and thus the order degraded, by falling into the hands of those who might be regardless of the reputation of the institution. If differences should arise between two chapters, who was to decide upon them? If unworthy characters, who for want of due caution had gained admission, should attempt to open new chapters for their own emolument, or for the purposes of conviviality or intemperanee, who was to restrain them? If
See introduction to the degree of Past Master, page 197.
In England, Ireland and Scotland, numerous as the members of this society are; they acknowledge since the union of ancient with modern masons, but one supreme head or grand lodge, who, however, find it convenient to delegate their authority to what are there called provincial grand masters, whose jurisdiction extends over one or more colinties as occasion may ren. der necessary.
the established regulations of ancient landmarks, should be violated or broken down, where was there power sufficient to remedy the evil?
“Sensible of the existence of these, and many other inconveniences to which the order were subjected, the chapters of royal arch masons, in various parts of the United States, have, within a few years past, taken the proper and necessary measures for forming and establishing grand royal arch chapters, for their better government and regulation.
In the year 1797, a convention of representatives from the several chapters in the state of Pennsylvania, met at Philadelphia; and after mature deliberation came to a resolution of forming and opening a grand royal arch chapter," which was accordingly accomplished in good harmony. . Actuated by similar motives, on the 24th of October, 1797, a convention of committees, from several chapters in the northern states, assembled at Masons' Hall, in Boston; being appointed (as expressed in their credentials) “to meet with any, or every chapter of royal arch masons, within the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode-Island, Connecticut, Vermont, and New-York;'or with any committee or committees, duly appointed and authorised, by any or all of said chapters, and to deliberate upon the propriety and expediency of forming and establishing a grand chapter of royal arch masons, for the government and regulation of the several chapters within the said states."
M. E. Thomas Smith Webb was chosen chairman.
The convention having taken the matter into consideration, came to a determination to forward to each of the chapters within the six states before mentioned, a circular letter, expressive of their opinions on the subject, which letter was in the words followilig, viz.
(CIRCULAT) 6.COMPANIONS-From time immemorial, we find that Grand Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons, have been established wherever masonry has flourished; for the purpose of granting warrants for instituting private louges, as well as for establishing certain general rules and regulations for the government of the same.
“It is an opinion generally received, and we think well authenticated, that no grand lodge of master inasons can claim or exercise authority over any convention or chapter of Royal Arch Masons; nor can any chapter, although of
standing immemorial, exercise the authority of a grand , 1 chapter: we therefore think it highly expedient, for the regular government of all chapters within the said states, who exercise the rights and privileges of Royal Arch Masons; and to prevent irregularities in the propagation and use of those rights and privileges, that there should be a Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons established within the said states: and whereas this convention has received official information from our companions at Philadelphia, that the several chapters within their vicinity, have recently assembled and es. tablished a Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons for their government; in conformity to their example, we think it our duty to recommend to the several chapters within the said states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, and New-York, to unite and form a Grand Chapter for the said states,
«The local situation of the States before mentioned, the easy and frequent intercourse between their several princi• pal towns and cities, as well as the similarity of habits man.
ners and customs, as citizens and as masons, which prevail throughout the said states, induce us to believe that a union of all the chapters therein in one Grand Chapter, will have the most useful, lasting and happy effects in the uniform distribution and propogation of the sublime degrees of Ma. sonry. They therefore take the liberty of recommending to the consideration of your Most Excellent Chapter, the propriety of appointing one or more delegate or delegates, to represent your chapter, at a meeting of the several chapters before mentioned, to be holden at the city of Hartford, in the State of Connecticut, on the fourth Wednesday of Jan. uary next ensuing; investing them with full power and authority, in conjunction with the other delegates, to form and open a Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, and to establish a Constitution for the government and regulation of all the chapters that now are, or may hereafter, be erected within the said States."
In consequence of this address, the several chapters within the states therein enumerated, (with the exception of two or three chapters only) appointed delegates, who assembled at Ilartford, on the fourth Wednesday in January, 1798, and after several days deliberation upon the subject, they formed and adopted a constitution for the government of the royal arch chapters, and lodges of mark masters, past masters, and most excellent masters, throughout the said states; and having elected and installed their grand officers, the grand chapter became completely organized:
Powers vested in the Grand Officers. AGREEABLY to the General Grand Royal Arch Constitution, Grand Royal Arch Chapters were established in the the several northern States, where there were royal arch chapters existing; and in every instance the private chapters have united with, and acknowledged the authority of the said grand chapters.
The long desired and necessary authority for correcting abuses, and regulating the concerns of royal arch masonry, in the northern states, being thus happily established, the sublime degrees soon became flourishing and respectable. Royal arch masons in the southern states, (where there were no grand chapters) observed with pleasure and satisfaction the establishment of grand chapters in the northern states, under the autbority of a general constitution, and became desirous of uniting with them under the same authority. Applications were accordingly made for the privilege of opening new chapters in the southern states; but there being no provision made in the constitution for extending its authority' beyond the limits first contemplated, the state grand chapter took the subject into consideration, and passed a decree vesting power and authority in the three first general grand officers, or any two of them, conjointly, to grant and issue letters of dispensation for the institution of lodges of mark masters, past masters, most excellent masters, and chapters of royal arch masons, within any state in which there was not a grand chapter established. By virtue of this authority, on the first day of December, 1804, the general grand officers granted a letter of dispensation for forming and holding a chapter of royal arch masons, in the city of Savannah, in the state of Georgia, by the name of Georgia Chapter; and on the first day of March, 1805, they granted a letter of dispensation for forming and opening a new royal arch chapter in the town of Beaufort, in the state of South Carolina, by the name of Unity Chapter. " At the succeeding meeting of the general grand royal arch chapter, the powers before mentioned were confirmed and made permanent in the general grand officers, by the ninth section of the first article of the general constitution.
On the ninth day of January 1779, the grand chapter of the northern states met, by adjournment, at Providence, in the state of Rhode Island, and revised their constitution.
The second section of the first article of the constitution as revised, directed that the general grand chapter should
convene septennially for the choice of officers, and other business. A meeting was accordingly holden at the city of Middletown, (Conn.) commencing on the 9th of January, A. D. 1806,
PRESENT_Representatives from the respective grand chapters of the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, NewYork, and Vermont.
At this Chapteral communication among others were the following proceedings.
Resolved, That the next septennial meeting of the general grand chapter, be holden in the city of New York, on the second Thursday in September, A. D. 1812.
The general grand chapter proceeded to a choice of offi. cers, agreeably to the constitution, when the companions whose names follow, were elected to the offices annexed to their respective names, viz. M. E. Benjamin Hurd, jun. Esq. of Charlestown, (Mass.)
General Grand High Priest. M. E. Thomas S. Webb, Esq. of Boston, (Mass.) General
Grand King. M. E. Ezra Ames, of Albany (N. Y.) General Grand Scribe. E. Otis Ammidon, of Providence (R. I.) General Grand
Secretary. E. James Harrison, of Boston (Mass.) General Grand
Treasurer. E. and Rev. Jonathan Nye, of New Fanc (Vermont) Gene
ral Grand Chaplain. E. Joseph Huntingdon, of Norwich (Conn.) General Grand
Marshal. The general grand chapter then resolved itself into a committee of the whole upon the general grand royal arch constitution, when sundry alterations and amendments were proposed and considered, and afterwards ratified and confirmed.
The last meeting of the general grand chapter was held in New York, on the 6th day of June 1816, when the general Grand Royal. Arch Constitution, was again considered, amended and adopted, wbichi, constitution, as revised and confirmed, is in the words following, to wit: