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Of The Government Of Royal Arch Chapters

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The first three degrees of masonry are holden under the authority of Grand Lodges, composed of the master and wardens of all the lodges within a certain district,  together with the proper grand officers; the organization of which will be noticed in another part of this work.

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 holden under the authority 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.

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 neighbouring 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 intemperance, who was to restrain them? If the established regulations and 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.

On the 24th of October, 1797, a convention of delegates, from several chapters in the northern states, assembled at Mason’s 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 authorized 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.

COMP. WILLIAM WOART, Scribe.

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 following, viz.

(CIRCULAR.)

BOSTON, OCT. 24, 1797.

“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 Lodges, 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  masons 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 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 established 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 Charter for the said states.

“The local situation of the states before mentioned, the easy and frequent intercourse between their several principal towns and cities, as well as the similarity of habits, manners and customs, as citizen and as masons, which prevail throughout the said states, induce us to believe that a union of all the chapters therein in one Grated Chapter will have the most useful, lasting and happy effects in the uniform distribution and propagation of the sublime degrees of Masonry. 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 January 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 charters within the states therein enumerated (with the exception of two or three chapters only) appointed delegates, who assembled at Hartford, 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.

Thomas Smith Webb - 1813
the Freemason’s Monitor.

 
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