George Washington Papers

To George Washington from St. John’s Masonic Lodge, Newport, R.I., 1785

From St. John’s Masonic Lodge, Newport, R.I.


The Petition and Request of the master wardens and members of Lodge St Johns in the City of Newport Sheweth that said Lodge was Constituted in the year 1753 by Francis Axnard Esqr. then Presideing Grand master of north america1 and that sd Lodge flourished from that time to the breaking out of the late warr, haveing Increas’d to a very Respectable number of the first Characters and Stood equal in reputation to any Lodge upon the Continent when the beauty & harmony of their happy Connnection was Disturbed & finally entirely broken up by the Enemy takeing possession of this Port, which Occasiond such a Distribution of the Officers and members as to render it impractacable for them to Call a Sufficient number together to form a lodge and that the Said lodge from its Respectability had Sufficient Influence to Obtain a Charter from the General Assembly of this State by which they were Incorporated a Body Politick. So Special and uncommon an Indulgence being worthy our Serious attention we Cannot but feel the most anxious desire that the sd lodge of St Johns may be reinstated to its former Powers & Consequence as some woud Suppose the Charter to be Obsolete from its laying So long dormant. his Excellency is hereby informd that the Lodge has lately been revived by the late master Samel Brenton and his former Wardens &c.—but that a doubt shoud not remain on their minds in respect to the Validity of their proceedings in their endeavours to Increase the lodge & for the promotion of love and harmony among its members it is therefore most Sincerely wishd that your Excellency woud Interfere in our behalfs and from your well known Goodness render that assistance to your petitioners as their Case requires. it is wish’d that your Excellency woud Confirm the present master—with Power of Constitutg Lodges within the State⟨s⟩ as was the Power of the former master Robert Jenkins2 and your Petitioner as in Duty bound will ever pray &c.

Jeremiah Clark S. } Wardens Samel Brenton master
H.J. Dayton John Handy Secretary3

DS, DLC:GW. Dots are scattered throughout the document; only those that logically serve as periods have been retained.

This petition has been identified as the one enclosed in Samuel Brenton’s letter to GW of 21 Jan. 1785. The St. John’s Masonic Lodge of Newport, R.I., was organized in 1750 and reorganized in 1753 after its first master acted in a manner “unbecoming a Mason” (Tatsch, Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies, description begins J. Hugo Tatsch. Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies. New York, 1929. description ends 168–69). The lodge was inactive during the Revolution, and on 7 June 1780 a second lodge, King David’s Lodge, was organized in Newport. According to Tatsch, some of the Newport Freemasons sought aid from GW when he was in Newport in March 1781 (ibid., 174–75). A revived St. John’s Lodge had merged with King David’s Lodge before GW visited Newport in 1790 and on 17 Aug. received an address from the Freemasons of King David’s Lodge.

1Thomas Oxnard (1703–1754), born in England and made a Freemason in Boston in the 1730s, became Grand Master of the Freemasons in North America in September 1743.

2Robert Jenkins (c.1700–1773) was a Newport merchant.

3Jeremiah Clarke (Clark; 1734–1815) of Newport reached the rank of lieutenant during the Revolution. Henry Dayton (1751–1792) was recruiting officer for Newport during the Revolution and captain of the Light Corps (Bartlett, R.I. Records, description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends 7:555–56, 8:299, 9:121, 186). John Handy (1756–1828), who read the Declaration of Independence on the Newport courthouse steps in July 1776 and again on 4 July 1826, reached the rank of brigade major during the Revolution and after the war became auditor of accounts for Rhode Island (ibid., 8:268, 512, 10:33; Mason, Reminiscences of Newport, description begins George Champlin Mason. Reminiscences of Newport. Newport, R.I., 1884. description ends 22).

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