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Location: Port Au Prince, Haiti

Dispensation presented to: Arthur D. Prince, September 1920

Current Status: dispensation declined.


In September 1920, a letter and petition was received from a group of expatriate Masons located in Port Au Prince, Haiti, requesting that the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts grant a dispensation for a lodge to be located there. The putative Master, Mr. H. M. Pilkington, wrote a letter dated 26 August which read in part:

During the course of an all too brief but enjoyable visit here of Brother Ralph Osborn, I mentioned to him the fact that I had underway the organization of a Lodge of American Masons and that I had filed a petition for Charter from the Grand Lodge of Haiti, of which I am an Honorary Member. Considerable criticism has developed since, relative to the inadvisability of establishing the precedent of permitting a White Lodge to be under the obedience of a Colored Lodge and tho I feel that this objection can have no Masonic value, it is the concensus of opinion that we would all feel more at home under the wings of good old Massachusetts . . .

It is my belief that by maintaining her ancient prerogatives, the Grand Lodge of Mass. is spreading the finest character of American propaganda throughout the world, wherever she grants a charter. I have consented to act as Master of the Lodge during the formative period . . .

In the matter of recognition of the Grand Lodge of Haiti, for which I have applied to New York and New Jersey, I have thought it wise to suspend action until such time as a White Grand Lodge may {be} formed here, which Grand Lodge could more appropriately be recognized than a colored Grand Lodge . . .

The letter was accompanied by a petition for dispensation, signed by fifteen (presumably white) American Freemasons.

On September 16, 1920, after the Quarterly Communication, R. W. Frederick W. Hamilton, Grand Secretary, replied to Pilkington's letter, saying in part

The prevailing opinion in our Grand Lodge is that we ought to satisfy as far as possible the desires of our Brethren for congenial association in York Rite Masonry. We have, however, to make sure that our path is clear, Masonically, and that we do not interfere with any existing Grand Lodges with whom we are in relation or communication. . . We neither recognize not correspond with the Grand Lodge of Haiti. . . As you are in close touch with them it may be possible for you to bring this about without the Grand Lodge asking any favors.

There is no mention of the letter in the Proceedings, but Bro. Osborn was present at the September communication (he was introduced during the session), and the matter must have been discussed in private. In any case, there does not appear to have been any action on the petition, or any response other than Hamilton's letter quoted above.


At the time of the petition, the country was under occupation by the United States, which had intervened in 1915 following the assassination of its president, Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. The American occupation force had forced the election of a pro-American president, Philippe Sudré Dartiguenave, and the creation of a police force (the Gendarmerie) which soon acquired a reputation for brutality and oppression. In 1921, a select Senate committee was established to investigate abuses; H. M. Pilkington was called to testify as a "technical expert" and vice president of the American Development Company of Haiti, a corporation that invested in the sugar industry.

His comments were revealing; he was disdainful of the general class of Haitians, though he did note that the lower classes were an "amiable, docile, tractable, and completely amenable people. They are naturally and inherently cultivators of the ground and with a very slight outlay of patience and a very slight exercise of friendly discipline, they became exceptionally good plantation operators to the extent of planting, cultivating, and cutting the cane . . ."

Pilkington moved in the higher classes of Haitian society, and was on speaking terms with President Dartiguenave. Without any further knowledge of the man (other than his Masonic membership), it is possible that M. W. Bro. Prince and R. W. Bro. Hamilton (as well as R. W. Bro. Osborn) simply had no interest in planting the Massachusetts flag anywhere in Haiti, which had had a Grand Orient since 1824 but was not recognized by many white Grand Lodge until well into the twentieth century.


Grand Master Prince

Massachusetts Lodges