Additional Information on Shepheard’s Tavern
Richard C. White, 33° PO Box 61, Goodland, Florida 34140–0061 Shepheard's Tavern in Charleston, South, Carolina, was the birthplace of the Supreme Council on May 31, 1801. The 2001 Biennial Session, September 30 to October 3, 2001, will take place in Charleston to celebrate the Bicentennial of this great historic event. Photo: Detail of painting by Allyn Cox Beginnings. Initial events. The first persons to attain significant achievement. These fascinate us, and rightly so. There is profit in learning who published the first Bible and where; who flew the first airplane and how; who first climbed earth's highest peak and why. For American's Scottish Rite Masons there is a particular and significant first that compels our attention, the opening with high honors on the 31st of May 1801, of the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree for the United States of America in Charleston, South Carolina. Who were the 11 men who conceived of this epic venture? What were their professions, their beliefs, their lives? In what way does their example touch us and influence Freemasonry today? It is, of course, impossible to answer these questions in full. Time and space do not permit. In 1959 when Ill. Ray Baker Harris, 33°, Honorary Member and Librarian of the Supreme Council, approached this task, he devoted years of research and 70 pages of closely written text to the subject. Even this rich work, however, is, as Bro. Baker called it, only a collection of "biographical sketches." As edited by Ill. James D. Carter, 33°, Librarian of the Supreme Council, this portion of the Supreme Council's history was published in 1964, and then Brother Carter continued this epic work with two more volumes from his own pen covering the periods of 1861–1893 and 1891–1921. These were to form the basis of a later, complete history of the Supreme Council. Fortunately, Dr. William L. Fox, 33°, then Grand Historian of the Supreme Council, composed such a definitive work, called Lodge of the Double-Headed Eagle, in 1997. As a result of his thorough and scholarly efforts, our knowledge is richly enhanced. Even now, however, there is real benefit in glancing specifically at these 11 gentlemen in Charleston—their backgrounds, lives, and accomplishments. We can learn from their example and experience honor for all they accomplished for the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. A first point to note is their diversity. Regarding origin, only two were native-born Americans, Dr. James Moultrie, Sr., the only South Carolinian among the Founders, (63)1 and Dr. Isaac Auld who was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania. (55) America has been called a "melting pot" of different peoples and a "nation of nations." Certainly that is true of the remaining nine Founders. The very first Grand Commander of our Rite, Colonel John Mitchell, came from Ireland (13) as did Founder Thomas Bowen. (45) Dr. Frederick Dalcho, who succeeded John Mitchell as Grand Commander, and Abraham Alexander came from London, England. (66) France was the native home of Jean Baptiste Delahogue, and the Count de Grasse was, in fact, born at Versailles, France. Completing the eleven, Emanuel De la Motta came to America from the island of St. Croix in the Danish West Indies, while Moses Levy was born in Poland and Israel Delieben in what is present-day Eastern Europe. Yet by 1801 when the Supreme Council was opened at Shepheard's Tavern in Charleston, South Carolina, all the Founders had lived in America either from early childhood or at least a good number of years, declaring it their home by the laws of the land or by the dictates of their hearts. Colonel John Mitchell and Major Thomas Bowen, in fact, served in the Revolutionary War. Mitchell, a merchant in Philadelphia throughout the 1770s when the ferment of freedom was at its height, was a personal friend of General George Washington, and four months before the Declaration of Independence, on March 5, 1776, he offered his services without compensation to the Pennsylvania Committee on Safety, one of the key forerunners of the Revolutionary movement. Then, during the War of Independence, Mitchell served as Deputy Quartermaster General of the American Army. (15) Such was the intimacy and respect between Mitchell and Washington, that the latter invariably closed his notes to Mitchell with "My best respects to Mrs. Mitchell," (16) and on at least one occasion Mitchell arranged lodgings for Mrs. Washington in Philadelphia when Washington, always considerate of others, declined Mitchell's polite invitation for Mrs. Washington to stay at his home. Major Bowen also served the patriotic cause. He was commissioned on April 6, 1776, at the age of 34, as Adjutant in the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, and during the winter of 1777–1778, he shared the rigors of Valley Forge with his Commander in Chief. Then in October of 1778, he became Paymaster of the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment. (45–46) Later, during the War of 1812, Dr. Isaac Auld acted on his love of America. He enlisted in the local militia and helped erect two fortifications on Edisto Island as a defense of the Charleston area from the British. Born too early to fight on America's side during the Revolution, Count Alexandre Francois Auguste de Grasse nevertheless deeply admired the new nation and often found refuge here during his prolonged attempts to salvage the plantation in Santo Domingo that he had inherited from his famous father. It will be remembered that the latter, Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, had confirmed Washington's victory at Yorktown by bringing French troops from the West Indies in the nick of time to reinforce Brother and Marquis de Lafayette with 3,000 soldiers, thus assuring the defeat of the British. (31) In a letter written to Washington on March 11, 1789, Alexandre de Grasse, the Admiral's son, thanked the General for the gift of "a precious trophy," four cannon taken at Yorktown, calling them a "glorious expression of your independence, and that of the United States" (31) as well as a gift that his family would treasure for ever. Undoubtedly patriots, the Founders were also, like so many Brethren today, successful businessmen, civic-minded professionals, public servants, educators, and men of deep religious faith. Briefly in regard to their professions, John Mitchell, Emanuel De la Motta, Israel Delieben, Moses Levy, and Jean Baptiste Delahogue were merchants. The latter also worked as a planter, as did De Grasse, in addition to being an educator. In Charleston he opened his own school specializing in the education of young gentlemen in French and English, mathematics and, with the help of De Grasse, his son-in-law, fencing. Bowen, like Brother Benjamin Franklin, was a printer. Frederick Dalcho, Isaac Auld, and James Moultrie were medical doctors. Moultrie, in fact, was elected President of the South Carolina Medical Society in 1804. (64) Both he and Auld were avid botanists and together they were responsible for establishing the Botanical Gardens in Charleston. (56) Regarding faith, surviving records suggest that all of the Founders evidenced in their lives a profound reverence for the Creator. Late in his life, Brother Dalcho even abandoned his medical career to become an Episcopalian minister for St. Michael's Church in Charleston. Furthermore, he gained quite a reputation as a historian of religion when his monumental 600-page study of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina was published in 1820. (26) Similarly, Dr. Auld was a lifelong member of the old Presbyterian Church at Edisto. (58) On the other hand, Abraham Alexander, Emanuel De la Motta, Israel Delieben, and Moses Levy were devout adherents of the Jewish faith. An anecdote relevant to Brother Levy underlines the religious strength of these gentlemen. "When he was past four score years of age," a number of well-meaning friends tried to convert him to Christianity. His eloquent, gentle and typically Masonic reply was: "My friends, there are more roads of Heaven than one; if you are right, I in a very short time will know it. At this supper time of life that I have reached, it is scarcely worth while to depart from the spirit of that law which has given me peace through my life." (62) In summary, what do we, as modern Brethren, make of this group? Clearly, the Founders mirror us today. Like many of us, they or their families came from distant lands. Like us, too, they had a deep sense of patriotism and were not reluctant to answer when their country called. Similarly, like contemporary Brethren, they practiced many professions—from business and the military to the ministry, education, and agriculture. Most of all, they share with us their devotion to Freemasonry. Each Founder had a long and illustrious career in the Craft. Each applied our Order's principles to his life and was a better man because of it. More than that, through the establishment on May 31, 1801, of the Supreme Council in Charleston under the Grand Constitutions of 1786, they brought to the New World an ancient Rite that to this day inspires men to achieve feats they never dreamed possible before becoming Masons. In these eleven men, so distant in time and yet so close in spirit, we find ourselves, and we find the motivation to accomplish as they accomplished. The message they carry to us today can be summed up in the words of the great American author Carl Sandburg. Writing in Remembrance Rock, Sandburg says: You may bury the bones of men and later dig them up to find they have moldered into a thin white ash that crumbles in your fingers. But their ideas won. Their visions came through… They live in the sense that their dream is on the faces of living men…. They go on, their faces here now, their lessons worth our seeing. They ought not to be forgotten—the dead who held in their clenched hands that which became the heritage of us, the living.2 1 All parenthetical page attributions in the text are to Ray Baker Harris, Eleven Gentlemen of Charleston (Washington, D.C.: The Supreme Council, 1959). 2 Carl Sandburg, Remembrance Rock as cited by Woodrow W. Morris in The Greatest of These (Richmond: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., 1985), p.74. The above article is reprinted from the October 1989 Scottish Rite Journal in honor of the upcoming 2001 Biennial Session being held in Charleston, South Carolina, to celebrate the Bicentennial of the founding of the Supreme Council, 33°, in Charleston.
Reprinted with permission of the Scottish Rite Journal, June 1999
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