What is the oldest example of American Masonic philanthropy?
Graphic: A detail from a facsimile depicting the closing couplet of The Regius Poem: “Amen, amen so mote it be; so say we all for charity.”
(Masonic Book Club, 1970)
From the March/April 2013 Scottish Rite Journal
Philanthropy or charity has been an important part of Freemasonry from its earliest records. The oldest Masonic document, the Regius Poem
of ca. 1390 ends with these words, “Amen! Amen! So mote it be! So say we all for charity.” The first official book on Masonry, Rev. James Anderson’s 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons
, has this under General Regulation 7:
Every new Brother at his making is … to deposite something for the Relief of indigent and decay’d Brethren, as the Candidate shall think fit to bestow….
The first record of American Masonic philanthropy comes just six years after Anderson’s Constitutions
Every Member shall pay at Least two shillings more per Quarter to be applied as Charity Towards the Relief of poor Brethren.
—“Bylaws, First Lodge of Boston, 1733,” in Melvin M. Johnson, The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America
(1924), p. 106
This is believed to be the earliest records of an American Masonic lodge establishing a charity fund.
The following month, on November 4, , a petition from a member and indigent Brother, John Spottswood, was read, and on motion of the Lodge, he was given one pound 12 shilling and sixpence “to relieve his necessity.”
—R. E. Heaton and J. R. Case, The Lodge at Fredericksburgh
(1975), p. 34
This is believed to be the earliest record of American Masonic charity to an individual.
January 2, 1776: Ordered: That this Lodge take under their care Brother Rind’s two Eldest Boys. That the Right Worshipful Master provide for the Education and support of said children, that he do it in the most frugal and advantageous Manner and that this Lodge will abide by any agreement by him and made for this purpose.
—George E. Kidd, Early Freemasonry in Williamsburg, Virginia
(1957), p. 36.
This is believed to be the earliest record of the care of orphans by American Masons.
May 29th, 1777
Ordered that a sum of money not exceeding £24 be sent to Brother Samuel T. Wright, a distressed prisoner at New York.
Lodge No. 17, held at Queen’s-Town, Queen Ann’s County, Maryland
—Edward T. Schultz, History of Freemasonry
This believed to be the earliest record of American Masonic support to the Armed Forces.