To the South Carolina Masons
[Charleston, c.4 May 1791]
I am much obliged by the respect which you are so good as to declare for my public and private character—I recognise with pleasure my relation to the Brethren of your Society—and I accept with gratitude your congratulations on my arrival in South Carolina.
Your sentiments on the establishment and exercise of our equal government are worthy of an Association, whose principles lead to purity of morals, and beneficence of action—The fabric of our freedom is placed on the enduring basis of public virtue, and will long continue to protect the Posterity of the Architects who raised it.
I shall be happy on every occasion to evince my regard for the Fraternity, for whose happiness individually I offer my best wishes.1
Df, in the hand of William Jackson, DLC:GW.
A convention of the masters, past masters, and wardens of the five lodges of Ancient York Masons in South Carolina instituted a Grand Lodge in March 1787, which became the rival of the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons (“Modern”), the regular successor to the Provincial Grand Lodge instituted in 1736. The two Grand Lodges, both of which were incorporated by the state in 1791, did not unite until the nineteenth century, and only the “Ancient” Grand Lodge addressed GW during his tour (Mackey, History of Freemasonry in South Carolina, description begins Albert G. Mackey. The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina: From Its Origin in the Year 1736 to the Present Time. 1861. Reprint. Charleston, S.C., 1936. description ends 68–69, 73).
1. An address, signed in Charleston on 2 May 1791 by Grand Master Mordecai Gist, was presented to GW by the Grand Lodge officers after a levee on 4 May at GW’s lodgings in Thomas Heyward’s mansion and before GW’s dinner at four o’clock with the Society of the Cincinnati. See Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:130n; Sachse, Washington’s Masonic Correspondence description begins Julius F. Sachse. Washington’s Masonic Correspondence as Found Among the Washington Papers in the Library of Congress. Philadelphia, 1915. description ends , 57–58 and note 41; Lipscomb, South Carolina in 1791, description begins Terry W. Lipscomb. South Carolina in 1791: George Washington’s Southern Tour. Columbia, S.C., 1993. description ends 31. The address reads: “Induced by respect for your public and private character, as well as the relation in which you stand with the brethren of this Society, we, the Grand Lodge of the State of South Carolina, Ancient York Masons, beg leave to offer our sincere congratulations on your arrival in this State. We felicitate you on the establishment and exercise of a permanent Government, whose foundation was laid, under your auspices, by military achievements, upon which have been progressively reared the pillars of the Free Republic over which you preside, supported by wisdom, strength and beauty, unrivalled among the nations of the world. The fabric thus raised and committed to your superintendence we earnestly wish may continue to produce order and harmony, to succeeding ages, and be the asylum of virtue to the oppressed of all parts of the universe. When we contemplate the distresses of war, the instances of humanity displayed by the Craft afford some relief to the feeling mind; and it gives us the most pleasing sensation to recollect that, amidst the difficulties attendant on your late military stations, you still associated with and patronized the Ancient Fraternity. Distinguished always by your virtues more than the exalted stations in which you have moved, we exult in the opportunity you now give us of hailing you, brother of our Order, and trust from your knowledge of our institution, to merit your countenance and support. With fervent zeal for your happiness, we pray that a life so dear to the bosom of this Society, and to society in general, may be long, very long preserved; and, when you leave the temporal symbolic Lodges of this world, may you be received in the Celestial Lodge of light and perfection, where the Grand Master Architect of the universe presides” (Mackey, History of Freemasonry in South Carolina, description begins Albert G. Mackey. The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina: From Its Origin in the Year 1736 to the Present Time. 1861. Reprint. Charleston, S.C., 1936. description ends 84).