Jamestown Evening Journal

Washington As A Mason

Masterly Address by Hon. Parke H. Davis Of Easton

 

The Masonic event of the year at Jamestown was the address Tuesday evening before Mt. Moriah lodge 145, F. & A. M., by Hon. Parke H. Davis of Easton, Pa., a former resident of this city….

Then came the address by Bro. Parke H. Davis who is a brother of Dallas lodge, companion of Easton chapter and knight of Hugh de Payens commandery at Easton, Pa. Mr. Davis formerly resided at this city and it was peculiarly gratifying to his Masonic brethren here to listen to him, especially on the theme of George Washington as a Mason—an address which he prepared at the request of the Masonic lodges of Easton and first delivered at the celebration at that city Nov. 4 of the 150th anniversary of the initiation of George Washington as a Mason. Mt. Moriah lodge, learning of the address at Easton, invited Bro. Davis to come to his former home and repeat it for the edification of the craft here, and his appearance Tuesday evening was in acceptance of that invitation. One of the largest assemblages ever in the lodge room greeted the speaker who was introduced by Worshipful Master Dewey. Several times the speaker was interrupted by lusty applause. In the course of his address he presented to Mt. Moriah lodge a handsome framed reproduction of the Masonic apron made by Marchioness De Lafayette and presented by her husband to George Washington. At the close of the address Worshipful Master Dewey heartily thanked Bro. Davis in behalf of the lodge for the gift, and on motion of Abner Hazeltine a rising vote of thanks was given Bro. Davis for his scholarly and eloquent address…

One fact brought out by the visit of Bro. Davis was that his great grandfather, Paul Davis, was the first chaplain of Mt Moriah lodge, in the early years of the 19th century. Paul Davis was an orderly to Gen. Washington in the Revolutionary war, as attested by documents in the state house of Massachusetts at Boston…

Brother Parke H. Davis's Address.

The first section of Bro. Davis's address was devoted to a personal sketch of George Washington, and a biographical sketch, in which he related the principal features of his great career as statesman, soldier, patriot. The concluding portion of the address is reprinted verbatim, as follows:

Brothers in Free Masonry—On this the 150th anniversary of the initiation of this august man into the mysteries of this ancient and honorable fraternity, our special memorial of him is as a brother of this gentle craft with pride for him who has known, with surprise for him who now learns, the Masonic history of Washington is another glorious chapter in the patriotic history of this nation.

The colonial lodges comprised almost every leading patriot of the day. This circumstance, together with the opportunity offered by the sanctity of the lodge for safe and secret intercourse made Masonry an alma mater of freedom. In the arcana of that day is the record of that nameless but immortal band of brothers who on the night of Dec. 20, 1774, silently issued out of Saint Anthony's lodge, in the old Green Dragon tavern, and threw the tea into Boston harbor. From the circle of the same brothers five months later was selected the midnight rider Paul Revere, whose name that lodge now bears, and from its oriental chair departed Joseph Warren to consecrate the soil of Bunker Hill.

Many years before at the lodge of Fredericksburg, in Virginia, on Nov. 4, 1752, Washington had taken his first step in the mysteries of Masonry. In fancy we still may see that stalwart youth in the ceremonies of that night. Ah. If those ancient brethren with the eyes of seers could have peered far down the years and perceived in that humble apprentice the immortal architect of a great and glorious nation and realized that, the fraternity throughout all time to come would lovingly celebrate each recurring anniversary of the extraordinary labor which they so unwittingly then performed. Four months later, March 3, 1753, Washington was passed a Fellow Craft, and on August 4 in the same year be was raised a Master Mason.

Previous to the French and Indian war the lodges in America worked under the jurisdiction of the Grand lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland, hut the outbreak of the Revolution found Provincial Grand Lodges in seven out of the 13 colonies, that of Massachusetts under Warren and that of Pennsylvania under Benjamin Franklin being especially strong and vigorous. As Oliver Cromwell 100 years before had found in Masonry a mighty influence to strengthen the ties of comrades in arms with the stronger bonds of brotherly love and to erect amid the rudeness and ferocities of war schools of gentleness and philanthropy, so our Grand Masters in 1776 found a similar field for Masonic labor. Accordingly they issued the celebrated traveling warrants, 10 in all establishing military lodges in the regiments of the Continental army The first of these in time was Saint John's lodge, constituted by the Grand lodge of New York, but the first in power and importance was the American Union lodge founded by the Grand lodge of Massachusetts. In these restful retreats our soldier brethren met to teach their comrades the beautiful lessons of the craft, to relax themselves from the toll and dangers of the day, to find in Masonic fountains the fortitude to boldly face the morrow. Hither frequently came Washington to lay aside the trappings of worldly rank, to don the lowly lambskin apron and meet with all in the level courts of their lowly temples. Often were these brothers called upon to practice without those principles of mercy and charity they were taught to revere within, with no distinction between friend or foe. It is related that in the campaign in New Jersey a British captive was taken, Sergeant Kelley by name, in whose knapsack was found a Master's apron and a Templar's sash. Washington, upon learning of the event, ordered the prisoner to be brought before him, whereupon he greeted him kindly and made every possible provision to relieve the rigorous hardships of his condition. A few days later be secured for the man his release upon parole and his return to England. On the death of that man, many years after that of Washington, be bequeathed his sash and apron to Montgomery lodge of New York city, sending with the relics this touching tribute: "A memento to the fraternity and kindness of George Washington to an humble brother and a stranger, and as a testimonial that the 'memory of the just is blessed and shall live and flourish like the green bay tree.'"

The greatest service to the cause of American Independence rendered by these regimental lodges occurred at Valley Forge. When the army there encamped was about to break into irreparable fragments it was the influence of Masonry that maintained the loyalty of the brethren, and the loyalty of the brethren like warp within the wool that maintained the integrity of the army. Here also it was that the cunning but powerful machinations of those who planned to depose Washington and elevate another to gratify jealousy and petty ambition were pierced upon the points of fellowship and fell back a reproach upon their authors.

Between Washington and his foreign allies in every instance brightly gleams the thread of Masonic union. When France reached out across the sea and swept away a crisis her aid was secured through the Masonic relations of Benjamin Franklin with the Masonic leaders at the court of Louis. When Frederick the Great, whose services as a brother of this order are memorialized by the double eagle of the Consistory, sent to Washington the sword with the saying, "From the oldest soldier in the world to the greatest," he also sent his master of minor tactics, the Mason William von Steuben, whose organizing genius in a few short weeks made soldiers out of pioneers and armies out of mobs. Dearest of all, perhaps, in America's heart, as dearest of all he was to Washington, is LaFayette. Tradition, for the record is lost, tells us that this gifted youth was made a Mason in a regimental lodge at Albany and that Washington himself raised him to the sublime degree. Upon his second visit to this country in 1784 he presented to his beloved commander a beautiful Masonic apron, the handiwork of his wife. This emblem was elaborately worked in colored silks upon a field of white satin, exhibiting the familiar symbols of the craft and bearing a bee hive, the mark of Washington. On this anniversary night I count it a most pleasant fortune to be able to present to Mount Moriah lodge a handsome reproduction of this celebrated apron, accurately taken from the original now lovingly preserved in our temple at Philadelphia. I present it not only as a memento of the occasion but as a memorial of the man, the Chevalier de LaFayette, whose sacrifices to our land whose noble services to his own, shall keep his memory among all mankind, like the sprig of an acacia, forever sweet and green.

On Saint John the Baptist’s day, June 14, 1784, Washington became a member of the Alexandria lodge, then belonging to the Grand lodge of Pennsylvania and upon its reorganization ten years later under the Grand lodge of Virginia became its first Master. Of his assumption of that honorable station, it has been handed down by one of his workmen that "he was constant and punctual in his attendance, scrupulous in his observance of the regulations of the lodge, and at all times solicitous to communicate light and instruction. He discharged the duties of the chair with uncommon dignity and intelligence in all the mysteries of the art."

There are two events in Washington's career subsequent to the close of the Revolution which are of great importance in our nation's history and of signal pride to our fraternity. In the spring of 1789 Washington once more departed from Mount Vernon, this time to accept the highest, civil post in the nation which he had founded. His pathway to New York was one unbroken ovation. It led him through gauntlets of uncovered heads, over roadways strewn with flowers and beneath triumphal arches. His journey ended on April 30. 1789. He took the oath of office as president of the United States, the oath being administered by Chancellor Robert R, Livingston, Grand Master of New York, upon a Bible, brought from the altar of Saint John's lodge, the leaf bearing the words "God shall establish." upon which his lips had reverently pressed being turned down in memory, and the book afterward returned to the altar where it is now preserved.

On the 18th day of September, 1793, Washington participated in his last Masonic function, the laying of the comer stone of the federal Capitol After a most imposing procession of Free Masons, surrounded by the dignitaries of the nation and clad in his Master Mason's insignia and regalia. with elaborate ceremony, he squared and plumbed the stone, and solidly set it in its place not in the northeastern angle of the edifice in accordance with the customs of this modern day, but in the southeastern corner, after the ancient traditions of Masonry, the gavel used on that occasion now being the gavel of the Grand Master of Pennsylvania Within the stone was placed a plate bearing the following inscription: "This southeast corner stone of the Capitol of the United States of America in the city of Washington, was laid on the 18th day of September 1793, in the 13th year of American independence, in the first year of the second term of the presidency of George Washington, whose services in the civil administration of his country have been as conspicuous and beneficial as his military valor and prudence have been useful in establishing her liberties, and in the year of Masonry, 5793, by the president of the United States in concert with the Grand lodge of Maryland and the several lodges under its jurisdiction, and Lodge Number 22, from Alexandria, Virginia."

With the completion of his second term of office, although the unanimous choice for further honors, Washington delivered his ever living farewell, and once more along the road over which in years gone by he had fled before the British he now made his final way amid the tears and applause, the blessings and benedictions of the people. His life was near its close. In the remaining days, as though with a premonition of their briefness, he minutely closed his business affairs, he arranged his documents for posthumous service, and then enjoyed his private leisure. On the 13th day of December, 1799, he arose full in the vigor of his three score years and seven and with chain and compass was early in the fields. That night he could not sleep. Toward morning he was seized with fever and through that day he grew steadily worse. At evening it was apparent his mighty soul was soon to burst away. At length he raised his head and to an attendant said: "Sir, I am dying," and later added, "It is well." A tremor passed across his face, his breathing slowly ceased and in the hush as if in gentle slumber he sank into eternal rest. So he lived and so he died, this ideal of nobleness, this pattern of patriotism! Faithfully he toiled, skillfully he wrought, gloriously he built, this immortal brother of our ancient craft, this gentle servitor of the widow's son.


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