Age of Masonic Diversification through Morgan’s Degree Proliferation in America
Part I [this paper is unfinished]
The first half of the nineteenth century brought a basic enlightenment to the American Worker. The printing press emblazoned transcendent words at previously unknown rates. Publishing House owners vigorously sought to reproduce manuscripts that would incite, as well as enlighten. Text was a banquet to many hungry subjects. Typed set works replaced vocal soliloquies and eliminated variations caused by verbal recollections.
The Free Thinking Secularists seized upon this opportunity. Thoughtful printings became the torch in the dark cave for many Americans. By 1830, Voltaire was fully engaged in the social reformation of France, and even unknown laborers were able to cement their ideas into the historical record. The bible was popular in the New Colonies, but shrewd publishers became sensitive for the next bestseller. These fellows realized new ideas of men made old opinions pliable. From tavern to grocery store, people started conversations about these newly etched texts. Printed documentation created brilliant order as well as chaos, and a perfect circle of observational propagation.
William Morgan was a humble stone mason. He achieved basic mastery in creating brick walls, stone foundations, and other more specialized operative works. Morgan had arch and building construction skills at his fingertips. Like many traveling journeymen, a map of the world was etched onto his face. But before he could reap the rewards of his apprenticeship, Morgan vanished. He left behind a wife, Lucinda, a newly born baby, and a peaceful home. He was used to traveling around when work presented itself. But when he decided to write about the square, plumb and level that Speculative Masons understood, his foundational stability disappeared… as well as his physical body.
William Morgan stood 5 foot, 6 inches tall. Average height by today’s standards. He has been described as being muscular, tattooed and of Caribbean complexion. He possessed matted curly grey hair, which also populated throughout his body. He served in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. Morgan finished his service with the title of ‘Captain’ under Andrew Jackson’s command. He then trained to become a stone mason, his next career. After serving his country, and developing a professional skill, he married in 1816. Morgan wed Lucinda Pendleton, daughter of a Methodist Minister. The ceremony took place in Culpepper County, VA.
William Morgan worked as an operative stone mason for two years, meticulously saving his wages. Morgan took his savings to York, Canada [today known as Ontario], and purchased a brewery. Becoming a business owner was near the summit of the social ladder in his day. Unfortunately, his business later caught on fire. Leaving the ashes behind, Morgan moved to Rochester, New York. He was still an Operative Mason, skilled in bricklaying and stonework. He also demonstrated a knowledge of speculative masonry as well. Morgan was versed in its rites and history. Though a property and business owner, he never could produce his references or Masonic Traveler’s Papers. This fact was later used against him by neighbors and Masonic brothers hungry for the knowledge Morgan possessed.
Morgan penned Seven sections of Masonic Ritual Work. He detailed the first three ‘Blue Lodge’ degrees, and what his peers labeled the more exclusive ‘York Rite’ degrees. Each section’s release seemed to erase a part of Morgan’s physical presence. The Anti-Masonic Party structure coalesced, and American Citizens simultaneously forgot the bliss of Eden preached to them. New political platforms were created, and elections were influenced. Masonic membership had tumbled from a place of golden membership because many Freemasons sought to conceal the rituals and any secret from general townsman deemed necessary. Some observers lost faith in the admission criteria, and the quality of character that entered into the lodges. This short period also demonstrated the change in the scale of power, tipping back toward organized religion and outcast politicians.
Morgan’s publications and subsequent physical disappearance would open a communications gate. Though he was unable to harvest this forbidden fruit, the mysteries of his work would re-popularize a hidden path. Others published their rituals and teachings after Morgan’s sacrifice. American Masonry would take seventy-five years to fully reconcile and incorporate this knowledge. William Morgan sacrificed his life to preserve the craft, carrying ritual, and freedom of speech, into the modern era.
That is the basic life outline of William Morgan’s living days. Notwithstanding the ‘why’ chapter on Morgan’s disappearance and demise, this paper seeks to explore how Morgan’s contributions, both printed and documented, preserved interest in American Masonic Membership. William Morgan, like many of his contemporaries at the time, tended to spend free moments in their local pubs. The inflammatory nature of his late texts, and the bounty offered to him for the knowledge contained infuriated masons and non-masons alike. Times like these illustrate why some men’s works need a caretaker to preserve for posterity the critical bravery exemplified. Thomas Paine had Benjamin Offen and Moncure Daniel Conway. The spirit and light of William Morgan’s work was protected by a 30-year-old printer named Thurlow Weed.
Let’s add some quick facts to Morgan’s case profile. August 7, 1826 is the generally accepted date of the first delivery of Morgan’s First Degree of Blue Lodge Ritual. Morgan delivered his second and third by August ninth. None of these three degrees were compensated for any amount close to what was promised. Today, it is illegal to withhold an employee’s paycheck “hostage.” Imagine the increasing pressure of circumstances on the young father, William Morgan.
Morgan’s works are not the first printings of Masonic Degrees. Ben Franklin published a previously penned edition in 1734, prior to his election of Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Masonry Dissected was printed in London four years earlier in 1730. And in 1762, Jachin and Boaz was published by Sam Pritchard. Morgan was not the first to publish Masonic works or ritual details. He just wasn’t liked by the people around him. And townsmen chose to test the power of the printing press and an American’s right to Freedom of Speech.
The Temperance Movement reached critical mass by 1828. Of course, a wave’s peak is preceded by a great force as to move the water’s figurative inertia. Morgan owned a brewery. He also was a hard working man, who enjoyed the company of fellow workers in the local pub. Relaxing with his belly full of spirits and talking about the issues of the day was common fare. Some have pointed to this camaraderie as the working man’s chance to practice speaking and expand thoughts not contemplated during working hours. Spirits provided a lubricity to the mind, and the Temperance Movement sought to stifle free thought, and free thought created during these pub times. Some men silently speculated education belonged to select groups and privileged classes. William Morgan represented a coalescing group of ‘working class values’ which later would challenge existing religious and caste system power structuring. Not everything that flowed out the exit of the pubs was constructive. But the Temperance Movement sought to shut off the taps of flowing thought. With the help of disgruntled men displaced from career politics, church leaders and followers who lost ground during the proliferation of printed and discussed ideas, and old money elitists who frowned upon the upward mobility of the journeying worker, the Temperance Movement took root and applied the brakes to open expression. People just didn’t like Morgan’s type of person, and the educated working class he represented.
Masons in general were under societal scrutiny because of their secretive and fraternal nature. Morgan was an accepted Mason of Blue Lodge education. The Canadian Masonic Research Organization documented that Morgan was initiated into Masonic Rites in 1815, New Brunswick, Canada. He moved around wherever work took him. Lodges like to retain their members, and the unsettled journeying of Morgan’s profession could have upset some Lodge Masters. There is also a note that Morgan belonged to Perry Lodge number 320. This note is firm because he was expelled for un-masonic behavior in July 1826. This date is approximately one month before his first written ritual submission. These facts illustrate that Morgan was indeed an accepted Mason at a point previous to the population’s jealousies and greed. Because all this data is preserved and searchable contributes to the theory that Morgan, his life, writings and his biographical record, preserved masonry during a period of societal riptidal pressures. People of his day did not like Morgan himself, Masons in general, and most importantly, educated working class citizens in total.
Besides the political turmoil churning in the water, William Morgan’s life, and printing activities, is situated between two critical time points in Masonic History. Some scholars point to TWO great Schisms in Freemasonry, 1753 and 1877. A second group split off from the main Grand Lodge of England, choosing to pursue the very extension of masonry that William Morgan wrote about. This group professed an extension of the three main degrees of masonry, adding a resolved set called The Holy Royal Arch. This provided a more complete look at the third degree. Members of this new group called themselves ‘Antients,’ and were typically composed of a more working class and more Christian set of individuals. The remaining original group, now called the ‘Moderns,’ changed some of their secret modes of recognition to differentiate themselves. Another famous mason who fell prey to this schism was Ben Franklin. Author and researcher Steven C. Bullock has stated that because Franklin’s lodge switched to Antient, his Deist religious choices caused his brothers to not give him a Masonic Funeral. *
By 1813, the Grand Lodge of England folded both schools of thought into a combined United Grand Lodge of England. This was done by a meticulous and agreed upon wording of encompassing thoughts. In addition, by 1815, both aristocrats AND working class, education levels, and religious preferences were all allowed to meet on the level.[Christians, Deists, Pantheists, Old English origins; a higher power, later the supreme being concept] *
Changes moved slowly from the epicenter of Schism and Healing. By the time of Morgan’s disappearance in 1826, Masonic differences could have made their way to America, especially through Canada. An additional set of behavior that is witnessed through Morgan’s life is a willingness to discuss religion and politics among Masons, and more particularly, inside the Lodge. In France, lodges moved to a greater acceptance of diversity, choosing to allow atheists to join. The French during this period were more likely to recognize women as masons and co-masons. These factors caused a second fracture point, between 1849 and 1877, in the language admission requirements between the United Grand Lodge of England and the French lodges, known as GOdF. *
A second theory about The Morgan Affair is as mentioned earlier, Ben Franklin previously transcribed a Masonic Text. He also is known to visit French Lodges a few times throughout history. Morgan might have been the sacrificial lamb between the Masons and non-Masons, the developing schools of the Craft, and Protestantism, Catholicism and Atheism. By 1815 UGLE constitutions were changed to accommodate a ‘glorious Architect’ language, although Latin countries were openly pressured to still admit atheists. In 1849 GOdF adopted the ‘Supreme Being’ language. There are also newer Rites created to make reference to a ‘symbol.’ In 1877, the GOdF reverted to the original Anderson’s Constitutions admission requirements. In fact today, in 2013, the Grand Lodge of Connecticut is discussing clarifications to its Landmark’s language. One clarification pertains to the Grand Architect of the Universe’s definition. Morgan could have just gotten caught up in the spin cycle of his day, unable to weather the storm that still stirs to this day… *
William Morgan’s story is retold to this day. It is a basic construct told to all entry level Masons to traditionally teach the values of temperance, caution and respect of the values Masonry teaches. Many texts point to Morgan’s disappearance as an end game of what can happen when rules aren’t followed. Society in general has used dark crayons to stain the real achievement of William Morgan’s works. He was a hard working professional actual operative mason. He proved his ability to communicate verbally and textually through his works. He could adapt to new surroundings quickly, and showed a willingness to preserve his posterity through marriage and child rearing. A regular American guy whose life is ‘caste’ concretely in Masonic and Educational history books.
The greatest achievement of Morgan’s legacy is the fact that we remember him. The man and his attachment to Masonry have outlived The Temperance Movement, American Church Repression, and all those who chose to injure self-perfection and intellectual development. This is the American flag that waves today. Morgan is part of a select group of Americans who challenged all opposing forces. He reminds young men that a higher level of thought exists, and it is what membership in American Freemasonry states it provides arena for. William Morgan helped protect the notion of Masonry from being extinguished and erased from all historical knowledge, as today’s Discovery Channel productions and lighter publications remind us that American Freemasonry is alive and kicking. William Morgan exemplifies many virtues a man should strive for a ctizen on the path towards enlightenment.
End of first section.
All facts verifiable unless otherwise noted in Robert Berry’s The Bright Mason, An American History…
all paragraphs marked by * based upon an article from [http://aboutsociology.com/sociology/Freemasonry#The_two_great_schisms_of_Freemasonry_.281753_and_1877.29]