Canadian Masons, and by right of cousinship American Masons also, have a just and lively pride in the fact that the Union of the Modern and Ancient Grand Lodges in 1813 was first begun and carried into effect in Canada; and that whereas it took their English Brothers some fifteen years or so and at a cost of agonized pride and characteristic long delays to effect a reconciliation, it was carried out in Canada with amicableness and promptness; this owing to the fact that Canadian Masons had never seen any excuse for a division which had begun and had always remained rooted in aristocratic prejudices which had possessed only a shadow existence among the democratic men of the Dominion. Since the Canadian first step in Union remained unnoted by English historians of the Fraternity from Gould and Hughan until Bro. Sir Alfred Robbins published his work on the Grand Lodge of England (wherein a new and fresher and less insular and more statesmanlike spirit entered English Masonic historical studies), the long neglected facts have a freshness and novelty, and ought to be set out in full detail in a book-length study. Until that is done students can only content themselves with the one short chapter on the subject in the virile, modern-spirited Early Catalan Masonry; 1759-1869, by Pemberton Smith (Montreal; 1939), a veteran antiquarian, and former president of the Canadian Historical Association.
Canada had possessed since 1759 a Modern Provincial Grand Lodge. The last Prov. Grand Master of it was none other than the American, Sir John Johnson, son of Sir William Johnson, the latter our country’s outstanding man in the generation preceding Franklin’s; and one of the fathers of Scottish Rite Masonry. Bro. Smith makes one of his few mistakes and is less than just to the spirit of fair play in American Masons both during and immediately following the Revolutionary War when, on page 37, he writes: ” Sir John Johnson had been a Mason in New York State [a Colony at that time], but remained loyal to the British Crown [not only to the Tory Party of America] during the American Revolution, and is famous in history for his military exploits on the British side.
[One is reminded of the Cherry Valley Massacre which he planned!] In consequence, United States Masonic historians have little good to say for him; but, removing to Montreal after the war was over, he was welcomed and beloved by Canadian Masons. ” Bro. Smith would find it difficult to name those historians. The two historians of New York, St. Clenachan and Lang, are factual, and are fair to Sir John, as were Masons on the Patriot side at the time; almost their only resentment is that when Johnson fled to Canada he took the Provincial Grand Lodge books and papers along with him, which were not his personal property —and did not return them even after the War. Johnson was appointed Provincial Grand Master of New York by Grand Master Lord Blayney in 1767, was installed after a long postponement in 1771, and served until he ran away with the Provincial Grand Lodgers books.
The ubiquitous and irrepressible Masons of the Ancient Grand Lodge of England were in Canada not many years after that Grand Lodge had sprung to life in London in 1751and came there, most of them, in Military Lodges, the best of Masonic pioneers in that period, which, mothering so much of American Masonry, have not yet received from Craft historians the attention and the renown they are entitled to By 1732 there were three Ancient Lodges in the City of Quebec alone, one of them the famous Merchants Lodge. ‘the Moderns in Stir John Johnson’s Provincial Grand Lodge, who had been officially ordered from London not to fraternize with the Ancient, had only one interest in the latter—the sort of interest the tiger felt in the young lady from Niger. When word came that the Duke of Kent, one of the sons of King George III, was coming to Canada, and would doubtless become Provincial Grand Master, the Moderns were elated; they did not believe that the Ancient, even the Irish Ancient, could resist the allurement of serving under a Royal Head, so they expected to absorb the Ancient. But the Duke himself sprang a prodigious surprise on Sir John Johnson.
The Duke of Kent was one of six sons of George III made Masons one after the other, one of whom was Clarence, Prince of Wales, another of whom was the Duke of Sussex, destined to be the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge for a generation. The Dulse of Kent was initiated in Geneva, in 1790.
He was an extraordinary man; a thorough-going traveler; broadly as well as highly educated; a governor, a military leader, an administrator; but was possessed above every other interest of a passion for architecture which, with a complete lack of Hanoverian sluggishness, he satisfied from almost the moment of his landing in Canada, leaving, as the latest Canadian historian expresses it, a series of imposing and remarkable buildings by which his progress over Canada can be tracked. While governor of Nova Scotia he built almost single-handed the present city of Halifax, at least transformed it out of recognition; and the great Citadel which from its hill looked out Upon the Canadian-American sea and air armadas in World War II had been his doing, as had fortresses, sea-walls, and piers without number. One of his latest biographers says that letters from home told him that the King was afraid he would have no direct heir to succeed him; the Duke thereupon returned, married and his daughter Victoria afterwards became Queen. he preceding her with a Regency; she was the only Queen, at least for which there are any records, who ever became officially the Protectress of the Fraternity. The Duke continued to hold the office of Provincial Grand Master of Canada until the Union of 1813
In a speech to the Grand Lodge of England ma(le after the Union the Duke of Sussex said that his brother Kent and himself had vowed to unite the two Grand Lodges from the time of their becoming Masons; that they discussed ways and means often; that when Kent went to Canada it was agreed that he should there take the actual first step of Union, and thus prove that Union was possible. How this was carried out is told by Pro. Smith succinctly: “To the astonishment of every Mason in Canada, when II. R.- H. Prince Edward (Duke of Kent) arrived in Quebec, he got in touch with the three lodges working under the Ancient regime, had himself ‘made Ancient, and appointed as the first ‘Provincial Grand Master of Canada’ of the Grand Lodge of Ancients.
Graham, an earlier Quebec historian, exclaimed upon recording this unexpected turn of affairs: “A new era. A remarkable impulse was given to Ancient Masonry. ” He says it had a “wonderful effect, ” and that great consequences were “very observable. ” They were indeed, for, to-continue to quote Smith: “As early as December, 1792, at his command, committees were meeting the officers of the Modern lodges, ‘if possible to form a coalition of parties.”‘ The modus operandi agreed on previously by the two brothers in England began to work with a rapidity in this case more Ancient than Modern: “On St. John’s Day the same month (December, 1792), the new Ancient Grand Lodge met at four o’clock to install the Grand Officers elect; and at five o’clock, by the Royal and Right Worshipful Grand Master’s invitation, the present and past Grand Officers, [Ancient] together with the Grand Officers under the H. R. H. the Prince of Wales, [Moderns] met the new Prov. Grand Master of Ancients at dinner at Lane’s Coffee House in Quebec.”
This move, the first of many, and Kent’s vigorous development of Ancient Masonry, resulted not in a formal union but in an absorption, for one after another of the Modern Lodges “went over” to the Ancients and by 1797 not one was left. From this came a new Provincial Grand Lodge. This Second Provincial Grand Lodge of Canada (1792-1813) was therefore to prove to England that differences had become illusory, and that Ancient and Moderns could fraternize with each other in the light as well as in the dark
(American Freemasons were as much gratified at the time by this union as their Canadian Brethren and ever since have shared their pride in the fact that while discussions had already begun in England, the first actual deed of union was done on American soil.
That deed interests them also, less importantly and yet with a vividness, as. one more illustration among the many illustrations in the English system of how Royal and Noble Grand Masters and Provincial brand Masters were able to decide Craft affairs “by command and out of personal and private decisions”; for in the merger of Ancient and Moderns in Canada it was the Duke of Kent who took the lead and made the decisions, on his own personal authority, and without action first being taken by the Grand Lodge’s consent. The custom of calling the Grand East “the throne” was more than a metaphor. It was at this point, one may believe, that the true cause of the division between Moderns and Ancient had its beginning. It was at least the root of the trouble between the two Bodies in Colonies of America before the Revolution.)