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September 2008

What is a Knights Templar Conclave?


Originally meetings of Knights Templar were called conclaves and those of the national organization, Grand Conclaves.  In the United States, these meetings or conventions are now called commandery, Grand Commandery, and Grand Encampment.

In the collections of the VGW Library and Archives is an example of the use of the older term conclave.  In 1880, the Knights Templar Twenty-first Triennial Conclave took place in Chicago, Illinois.  We hold a copy of the Daily Illustrated Conclave Souvenir published by P. W. Barclay & Company (MA 001.065). These souvenirs were produced every day during the conclave—August 16 through 19, 1880.  They gave a description and featured engraved illustrations of what had happened the previous day during the Chicago Conclave. Our copy of the August 18, 1880 souvenir gives details about August 17, 1880. Each copy cost 10 cents in 1880.

On August 17, 1880, the Knights Templar had their Grand Parade and Review by the Most Eminent Grand Master, Vincent L. Hurlbut.  Then the procession headed toward Lake Michigan to Lake Front Park where the Sir Knights had laid out tents for their lodging during the conclave (upper left).  In the afternoon, excursions aboard steam vessels had been arranged.  Later that evening there was a Grand Musical and Dancing Reception at the Grand Exposition Building (shown below).


The Daily Illustrated Conclave Souvenir also includes short articles about the decorations put up by Knights Templar in the city of Chicago, competitive drilling or marching, and important Knights Templar of the time period including Albert Pike, Albert Mackey, and Robert Morris.  There are also many other illustrations, including the dining room facilities in the Grand Exposition Building, and various views of the Grand Parade.

A couple of books from our library collection that might be of interest are:

Brown, William Moseley. Highlights of Templar History. Greenfield, Indiana:  William Mitchell Printing Co., 1944.
Call number: 14.5 .B881 1944

Carson, Enoch Terry. History of the Organization of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States in 1816.  Dayton, Ohio: Press of the Groneweg Printing Co., 1895. 
Call number: 17.973 .U58k C37 1895

New and recommended books on elections and politics

We've been busy adding new and interesting titles to our collection.  For a more complete list of books acquired and cataloged this summer, on topics related to Freemasonry and American history, click here

But, for special consideration, as the 2008 presidential campaign gets into full(er) swing, we offer these titles to distract and inform...

Larson, Edward J.  A Magnificent Catastrophe: the Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign.  New York:  Free Press, 2007.
Call number:  E 330 .L37 2007
There's nothing like finding out about another contentious election, even if it was over 200 years ago, to feel better about the present.  John Adams and the Federalist Party vs. Thomas Jefferson and the Republicans made for an epic struggle that had it all: intrigue, drama, broken friendships, differing ideologies, and even an electoral challengeYears later, Jefferson characterized the 1800 election as "a revolution in the principles of our government."

Seale, William.  The President’s House.  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.
Call number:  F 204 .W5 S43 2008
A 2-volume work detailing the design, building, renovations and occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue through the years.  Numerous photographs of the house along with most of the Presidents and their families.  Lots of interesting personal stories and anecdotes about the presidential families, their staffs and lifestyles.

Warda, Mark.  200 Years of Political Campaign Collectibles.  Clearwater, FL: Galt Press, 2005.
Call number:  NK 3669 .W37 2005
Though organized as a guide to collectible artifacts from political campaigns and movements (with ranges of prices included), this book is really a history of American politics.  Arranged chronologically by campaign, the various buttons, pins, stickers, postcards and posters -- some iconic, others less well known -- are each displayed, mostly in color.  Though my personal favorite, 'Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts', the bumper sticker that appeared during the height of Watergate in 1973 is missing, what makes this even more useful are the resources in the back, including a checklist of every party candidate in every election since 1789.

Wright, Jordan M.  Campaigning for President: Memorabilia from the Nation's Finest Private Collection.  NY:  Smithsonian/Collins, 2008.  Call number:  E 176.1 .W948 2008  The author began collecting when he was ten and a Robert Kennedy for President headquarters was nearby.  Though he believed in the candidate, he also liked that each week new buttons, posters and bumper stickers appeared, all for free!  His current collection is over an million items and housed in the Museum of Democracy

These are just a few of our latest acquisitions.  Additional materials on elections, campaigns, debates, and more, may be found by searching our online catalog.

The Anti-Masonic Party's First National Convention

People who know a bit about the history of U.S. presidential politics are familiar with some of the third-party candidates that have made bids for the office of President: Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, William Wirt.

William Wirt? That's right. Wirt is actually the first name in a long line of third-party candidates for U.S. President. Now that the 2008 major-party conventions are behind us, it seems like a good time to take a brief look at the introduction of the first third-party candidate in a U.S. presidential election, as well as the first nominating convention for a political party in the U.S.

Cast your mind back to the late 1820s and early 1830s...

Antimasonic_national_convention_web The Anti-Masonic Party (yes, that was its official name) had its roots in a moral crusade in upstate New York, which was the direct result of the so-called Morgan Affair. In September 1826, William Morgan, who was planning to print an exposé on Masonic rituals, was believed to have been kidnapped and murdered by Freemasons supposedly intent on making sure that Morgan did not reveal any Masonic secrets. (Morgan's book, Illustrations of Masonry, by One of the Fraternity Who Has Devoted Thirty Years to the Subject, was published shortly after his death.)

The Morgan murder was never solved and although some men were tried and convicted, the investigation dragged on for a few years with no satisfying conclusion. Many non-Masons began to fear that there was a great Masonic conspiracy to cover up the murder of Morgan and to let the alleged murderers - all supposedly Freemasons - off the hook. This incident occurred at a time when hostility toward Freemasonry and other secret societies was starting to rise to the surface, in part due to the effects of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. Although there are many reasons why anti-Masons perceived Freemasonry as a threat, and why the Anti-Masonic Party took shape when it did, William Preston Vaughn sums it up well when he writes:

"Morgan's abduction and probable murder occurred at a crucial time in New York state politics. The Adams-Clay party was in a rapid state of decline, and [Dewitt] Clinton had affiliated with the Jacksonians, leaving many of his followers in a quandary, for most of them could hardly follow Clinton into a party controlled on the state level by Van Buren and the hated Regency. Conditions were ripe for creation of a new organization that would submerge factional differences and would unite voters behind a platform pledged to defend democracy and equality before the law. It was no accident that this party evolved in January 1827 from a series of local conventions that met while the first trial of Morgan's kidnappers was taking place."

The first national nominating convention held by the Anti-Masonic Party - in fact, by any political party in the United States up until that point - was held on September 11, 1830. The date was a resonant one: it was the four-year anniversary of the abduction of William Morgan. Although much took place at the first convention, it was not until the second convention, in 1831, that a candidate was nominated for the party. That candidate was William Wirt, who had served as U.S. Attorney General from 1817 until 1829.

Wirt was a reluctant candidate. When first offered the nomination he declined, but was eventually convinced to run for the party. Curiously, Wirt himself had been a Freemason thirty years before. Instead of harboring any grudges toward Freemasonry, Wirt appears to have been, instead, simply not very interested in it. In his letter accepting the nomination from the Anti-Masonic Party, he admits that he had been initiated in a lodge, but that he had never taken the Master Mason degree. In this same acceptance letter he wrote that his lack of interest in Freemasonry in not attaining the Master Mason degree "proceeded from no suspicion on my part that there was anything criminal in the institution, or anything that placed its members in the slightest degree in collision with their allegience to their country and its laws."

Massachusetts_antimasonic_conventio Wirt even gave the Anti-Masonic Party a way out, stating that if, after reading his views they wanted give the nomination to someone else, then he would "retire from [the nomination] with far more pleasure than I should accept it." (You can read the entirety of Wirt's acceptance letter here.) Even after accepting the nomination, Wirt tried to get out of it. Between October 1831 and February 1832, he tried to withdraw from the nomination, but was unsuccessful. Despite all of this, in the general election held in the autumn of 1832, Wirt still managed to get seven electoral votes and carry Vermont, a state that, as we noted in earlier post, was a particular hotbed of anti-Masonry at the time.

In our collection, we have several books, pamphlets, proceedings, and newspapers that were published during the late 1820s and through the 1830s, and serve to document a time when anti-Masonry was at its height. We'll be addressing more of those items in the future. Below we've listed some of the Proceedings of various Anti-Masonic Party conventions that are in our collections. As you can see, there were many state conventions that took place before the national convention first met in September 1830. And if you're interested in learning more about the Anti-Masonic Party and its candidate, William Wirt, a great overview is the only full-length book on the subject, which we list first, before a selection of various proceedings:

Vaughn, William Preston. The Antimasonic Party in the United States, 1826-1843. Louisville, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1983.
Call number: 19.2 .V371 1983

The Proceedings of the United States Anti-Masonic Convention, held at Philadelphia, September 11, 1830 : Embracing the Journal of Proceedings, the Reports, the Debates, and the Address to the People. Philadelphia: I. P. Trimble; New York: Skinner and Dewey, 1830
Call number: RARE 19.61 .U58 1830 [You can find a digitized version here.]

An Abstract of the Proceedings of the Antimasonic State Convention of Massachusetts, held in Faneuil Hall, Boston, Dec. 30 and 31, 1829, and Jan. 1, 1830. Boston : John Marsh, 1830.
Call number: RARE 19 .M414 A631 1830

Proceedings and Address of the Pennsylvania Anti-Masonick State Convention, held at the Court House in Harrisburgh, June 25 and 26, 1829. New-Port, R.I. : Printed by Allen and Folsom, 1829.
Call number: RARE 19.2 .A631 1829

Proceedings of the Antimasonic Convention for the State of New York : Held at Utica, August 11, 1830 : with the Address and Resolutions. Utica, N.Y. : William Williams, 1830.
Call number: RARE 19 .N567 A631 1830

The Frenzy of Anti-Masonry in Vermont

Last week we mentioned some of the anti-Masonic collections in our Library & Archives. Today, we'll be looking at some interesting archival material from our collections that relates to anti-Masonry in Vermont in the 1820s and 1830s.

When anti-Masonry took hold in the Northeast of the U.S. in the late 1820s, Freemasonry became suspect in most states and the effects were felt strongly. Because of societal, religious, and political pressures, many Masons left their lodges during this time period. In fact, so many men left their lodges during the 1820s and 1830s that many Masonic lodges closed. In New York State, out of 480 lodges, only about 75 lodges remained open. In Massachusetts only 56 were still active out of 108. However, in the state of Vermont no lodges were active during the immediate aftermath of the Morgan Affair.  Lodge after lodge in Vermont surrendered their charter to the Grand Lodge, until every lodge was charterless or dormant. For a short time the Grand Lodge of Vermont itself ceased to have meetings.

Why was there such a frenzy of anti-Masonry in Vermont?  There are a number of reasons. 

First, there was politics. There were national leaders and statesmen who were deeply devoted to the National Republican Party which had controlling influence in Vermont.  The people of Vermont followed these political ambitions as well as aligning themselves with the Anti-Masonic Party.

Second, there was economics. William Preston Vaughn (in The Anti-Masonic Party in the United States: 1826-1843) has ventured that it's possible that Freemasonry was doing "too well" in Vermont during the period leading up to the Morgan Affair. He writes:

"Masons in Vermont seemed to be drawn mainly from the wealthy and prominent men of the town, and this discrimination rankled with poor farmers and villagers. A careful examination of Antimasonry in the Green Mountain State shows that the movement and party became the strongest in the poorest villages - those with the lowest tax assessments and property valuations per lot and dwelling...Because most of the prominent legislators and lawyers were Masons, and these men dominated both the National Republican and Democratic parties, the disadvantaged flocked to the banner of Antimasonry."

And, finally, there was religion. The ministers of Vermont preached vigorously against Freemasonry and about the supposed un-Christian nature of Masonic lodges. This was further fueled by the perceived threat of Freemasonry to many of the congregations. Masonry, to the clergy, could be seen as a potential surrogate religion and could possibly lure congregants from the church to the lodge (this, despite the fact that many Masons were also members of churches). Churches and their Boards of Deacons closely reviewed their membership and required Masons to renounce their membership in various places of worship. Even before the Morgan episode, there were accounts of antagonism against Freemasonry in Vermont churches.  It took only the events surrounding the disappearance of William Morgan to spark older, deep-rooted conflicts.

In the collections at the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, there is an interesting group of manuscripts which illustrates this frenzy of anti-Masonry in Vermont very well.  The collection, the Thetford Congregational Church Documents, 1829-1833 (MM 023), is a sequence of manifestos, petitions, resolutions, complaints, and protests concerning the members of the Congregational church in Thetford, Vermont which documents the congregants arguments both for and against having Freemasons as church members.   

A96_007_001_thetford_manuscripts_we The manuscript seen here, "Manifesto of Free-Masons" (MM 023), dated 1829, at Thetford, Vermont is what started the difficulties within the Thetford congregation.  In this manifesto, the Freemasons of Thetford proclaim the harmony in both being a member of one's church and of one's lodge.

Despite the attempts of the Masonic members of the Thetford Congregational Church, another group of members of the Congregational Church wrote a number of petitions back and forth from 1831-1833 to the church stating that, with much grief, they could not agree that the church values and Freemasonry were in agreement. 

In 1833, a group of 32 members of the Thetford Congregational Church withdrew in protest over all the unresolved issues between Freemasons as church members.  In 1833, the church members and pastor, Elisha G. Babcock, finally asked an Ecclesiastical Council to assist them in deciding about whether the values of Freemasons and the church could co-exist.  The Council decided after much deliberation that Freemasons who were members of churches should refrain from all Masonic proceedings.

Of course, Freemasonry in Vermont eventually recovered. By 1846, The Grand Lodge of Vermont reported that there were now ten working lodges in the state.

Next time: how anti-Masonry during the 1820s and 1830s affected national politics.

Here are some suggestions for further reading related to the history of 19th-century anti-Masonry in Vermont:

Palmer, John C.  The Morgan Affair and Anti-Masonry. Washington, D. C.: Masonic Service Association, 1924. 
Call number: 61.L778.1924 v. 7

Spargo, John.  The Rise and Progress of Freemasonry in Vermont the Green Mountain State, 1765-1944. Burlington, Vt.: Grand Lodge of Vermont, A. F. & A. M., 1944.
Call number: 17.9789.S736 1944

Vaughn, William Preston. The Antimasonic Party in the United States, 1826-1843. Louisville, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1983.
Call number: 19.2 .V371 1983

Anti-Masonic Collections

Some people are surprised to find that our Library & Archives holds an extensive collection of anti-Masonic material. Why do we collect this material?

The subject of anti-Masonry - especially in early 19th-century America - is important to understanding the history of Freemasonry in America. Anti-Masonic material is collected by us in order to cover the breadth of topics related to Freemasonry, but specifically because, as the Masonic scholar William L. Cummings states in the foreword to A Bibliography of Anti-Masonry:

The events which followed the abduction of and mysterious disappearance of William Morgan in September, 1826, form an important chapter in American history, not alone on account of their effect upon the Masonic Institution, but also because of their influence upon the social, political and religious affairs of a large part of the country, some of these effects existing down to the present day.

While the disappearance of Morgan was not the only cause of the Anti-Masonic excitement of 1826-1840, it was the immediate incident which kindled the fire, the fuel for which was already laid.

Because of its importance from both a Masonic and a political standpoint, what is commonly referred to as the "Morgan Affair" has maintained its interest over the years that have passed since it occurred.

Morgan_abduction_antimasonic_alma_9Cummings's take on the Morgan Affair may sound like an overstatement to those not familiar with American political history in the 1820s and '30s. But as those who are familiar with U.S. presidential election history know, the 1832 U.S. presidential election included the nomination of the first “third party” candidate in a United States presidential election, the Anti-Masonic Party's nominee, William Wirt. We'll talk a bit more about Wirt and the Anti-Masonic Party in an upcoming post.

In addition to manuscript and archival material pertaining to anti-Masonry, we have many anti-Masonic books, pamphlets, newspapers, and sermons in our collection. These include John Quincy Adams’ Letters on the Entered Apprentice’s Oath (Boston: Young Men’s Antimasonic Association for the Diffusion of Truth, 1833), Letters on Freemasonry (Hartford, CT: Joseph Hurlburt, 1833), and Letters on the Masonic Institution (Boston: Press of T.R. Marvin, 1847). We also have numerous early editions of William Morgan’s exposé Illustrations of Masonry, first published in 1826, as well as several early years of Edward Giddins’s The New England Anti-Masonic Almanac, published in Boston beginning in 1829. We also have a collection of anti-Masonic newspapers, including 227 issues of The Banner and the Anti-Masonic Champion, both published in New York State in the years 1829 – 1833, as well as a number of individual anti-Masonic newspapers, published around 1831, in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, illustrating the geographical spread of anti-Masonry during this period. Much of our anti-Masonic material was once owned by the Masonic scholar William L. Cummings, who used much of his own personal collection for compiling his Bibliography of Anti-Masonry. Cummings's anti-Masonic collection came into our collection when we acquired his entire library.

Next time: The frenzy of anti-Masonry in Vermont.

If you're interested in bibliographies that deal with anti-Masonry, a great place to start are the first two titles listed below.

Cummings, William L. A Bibliography of Anti-Masonry. 2nd ed. Revised and enlarged. New York: Press of Henry Emmerson, 1963.
Call number: 04.4 .C971 1963

Walgren, Kent Logan. Freemasonry, Anti-Masonry and Illuminism in the United States : 1734-1850: A Bibliography. Worcester, MA : American Antiquarian Society, 2003. 2 volumes.
Call number: REF 04 .W165 2003

Today's illustration of the abduction of William Morgan comes from Edward Giddins's Anti-Masonic Almanac for the Year 1833. Utica, NY: William Williams, 1832.
Call number: RARE 19.3 .G453 1833