- 1 ISAIAH THOMAS 1749-1831
- 1.1 TERM
- 1.2 NOTES
- 1.3 BIOGRAPHY
- 1.4 MEMORIALS
- 1.5 SPEECHES
- 1.6 CHARTERS GRANTED
- 1.7 RULINGS
ISAIAH THOMAS 1749-1831
Senior Grand Warden, 1795-1797
Grand Master, 1803-1805
Grand Master, 1809
INTERMENT, JUNE 1878
From Liberal Freemason, Vol. II, No. 4, July 1878, Page 114:
THE INTERMENT OF ISAIAH THOMAS.
The growth of the city of Worcester having so far exceeded the conception of fifty years ago, that the public interests have long since required the abandonment for purposes of sepulture, of the "burying ground" then provided by the town, and the right of eminent domain has now doomed it to the requirements of the city's interests.
The 24th of June, 1878, will be long remembered in Worcester as a day of especial interest to Citizens and Masons alike, who together observed in a becoming manner, the removal and re-interment of the remains of Isaiah Thomas, LL.D., famous as an Editor, and influential as a citizen in the revolutionary period — and who afterwards became famous as a distinguished Mason. He was Grand Master, as shown in the address of Grand Master Welch; and was Grand High Priest in 1806-1807 and 1808, being elected in September of each year.
Many distinguished visitors were present, as guests of the city, or of the Masonic Fraternity: The Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association, and the Mechanics' Apprentices Library Association of Boston were represented. The Hon. Stephen Salisbury, President of the American Antiquarian Society, of which Dr. Thomas was the first President, gave an Address. The Hon. John D. Baldwin spoke for the Spy, a newspaper founded and edited by Dr. Thomas, July 17th, 1770, as the Massachusetts Spy, published in Boston until April l775, when it was removed to Worcester, chiefly because of the risk it incurred in consequence of its uncompromising stand in behalf of the Colonies. Speeches were made by others, including Bro. Marshall P. Wilder, President of the Massachusetts Genealogical Society.
The Masonic fraternity was represented by the following.
- Grand Lodge:
- Grand Master C. A. Welch;
- Deputy Grand Master A. H. Howland of New Bedford;
- Senior Grand Warden William H. Chessman, Boston;
- Junior Grand Warden I. B. Sayles of Millbury;
- Grand Secretary T. P. Cheever;
- Grand Treasurer John McClellan;
- Acting Grand Chaplain George P. Sanger;
- Senior Grand Deacon J. M. Rodonocanachi;
- Junior Grand Deacon Marlborough Williams;
- Grand Marshal Lyman Winship;
- Grand Sword Bearer H. J. Parker;
- Grand Tyler F. E. Jones.
- Grand Chapter:
- Past Grand High Priest M. E. Alfred F. Chapman;
- Grand R., E. Z. H. Thomas, Jr.;
- Companion H. W. F. T. Stramps, of the District of Columbia.
The exercises of the day began with the marching of the Worcester County Commandery of Knights Templar from their quarters on Pearl Street to the Union Station, to receive the Officers of the Grand Lodge, Grand Chapter, and Grand Commandery. After receiving these guests the Commandery countermarched up Front street and down Main street to Mechanics Hall, receiving the several organizations on Front street, in the following order:
Detachment of Police, Officer Mathews in command.
Gen. Josiah Pickett, Chief Marshal, and Staff.
Worcester Brass Band, T. C. Richardson, leader.
Worcester County Commandery, Knights Templar, David F. Parker, Eminent Commander; R. H. Chamberlain, Generalissimo; R. James Tattnan, Captain General. 107 Sir Knights.
Morning Star Lodge, Albert J. Stone, Worshipful Master; Edwin S. Pike, Senior Warden; Henry A. Southwick, Junior Warden; accompanied by members of Montacute Lodge, Athelstan Lodge, Quinsigamond Lodge, and visiting brethren. 197 men.
Eureka Royal Arch Chapter, W. A. Farnsworth, E. H. P., 42 men.
Worcester Royal Arch Chapter, Thomas Talbot, E. H. P., 46 men.
Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and Grand Chapter of Massachusetts in carriages, and representative of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Bearers in carriages.
Morning Star Lodge, H. A. Richardson, W. M.; Montacute Lodge, W. A. Smith, P. M.; Athelstan Lodge, Samuel T. Bigelow, P. M. Quinsigamond Lodge, H. C. Wadworth, P. M.
(The bearers were all the first masters of the several lodges which they represented, except the one from the Morning Star Lodge.)
Guard of Honor.
F. H. Kelley, J. W. Jordan, Charles G. Reed, Charles Belcher, G. J. Rugg, Geo. W. Brady, Charles H. Fitch, J. B. Lawrence.
Judge Thomas and Family.
His Honor Charles B. Pratt.
Hon. George F. Hoar, Hon. W. W. Rice.
Ex-Mayors and Sheriff.
American Antiquarian Society.
Franklin Typographical Society of Boston.
Other Invited Guests.
After the ceremonies in Mechanic's Hall were completed, the line of march was taken up to Rural Cemetery. Here the exercises were conducted by the Masonic Fraternity, and began with the following address by M. W. Grand Master Charles A. Welch.
GRAND MASTER WELCH'S SPEECH
BROTHERS: We have met to deposit in this resting-place of the dead — this human habitation, "Where friends with friends still meeting, our meeting never greet," — what remains of the mortal frame of one of our most remarkable Grand Masters. Members of other Societies with which he was honorably connected have to-day very impressively commemorated his important services to his country as a printer and publisher, as a writer, as an antiquary, as a patriot; this city, which he selected for his residence, has, through its officers and citizens, borne witness to the good influence which he exerted as a public-spirited member of its community, as a generous and liberal hearted man, who waited not till death to dispense his charities, but willingly diminished a part of the wealth which he had accumulated by his own industry and ability, for the public advantage. It re mains for us, with whom he is united by the sacred tie of the Masonic brotherhood, to show our respect for him as a man and a Mason, our grateful recollection of the services which he rendered us by the courage with which he supported our institutions in its day of trouble, by performing around this spot to which his remains are removed our solemn ceremonies, and thus to offer to his memory before the world the tribute of our Fraternal affection. Brother Thomas was Master of Morning Star Lodge of this city, and was Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts in the successive years commencing Dec 27th, 1802, Dec. 12th, 1803, and Dec. 10th, 1804. The distinguished lawyer and advocate, Timothy Bigelow, was the first of these years Junior G. W. of the G. L., and two latter years Senior G. W. and succeeded him as Grand Master. After Brother Bigelow had served three years, Brother Thomas was again elected G. M. and served one year, and I find that during the four years in which he acted as G. M. his friend and fellow antiquary, Thaddeus M. Harris, was the corresponding G. Sec., of the G. L. Benjamin Russell, a fellow printer and publisher, with whom he had also many other points of sympathy, was a member of the Grand Lodge, and during a part of the time the excellent and venerable Dr. Ripley, of Concord, as well as many others almost equally well-known for their integrity and purity of character, were also members. Bro. Thomas had previous to this, in 1790 or 1792, I think, written, printed, and published in quarto, a History of Masonry, with the Constitution of 1792, a History of Masonry, the Grand Lodge, a second edition of which was afterwards edited by his friend, Dr. Harris.
but this is an occasion in which we can but briefly allude to his services to our Order, when after an active and well-spent life, profitable alike to himself and the community in which he lived, at the ripe age of eighty-two, and in the year 1831, his spirit was about to appear before the Grand Master of the Universe, he bore testimony in his characteristic manner to the excellence of the principles of our Order, and I do not know that I can do better and show more clearly the estimation in which he was then held by the Masonic fraternity than to read to von one of the resolutions which his brethren of the Grand Lodge passed at that time.
"Resolved, 4th, That in accepting the legacy bequeathed to us by our late Past Grand Master Thomas, and in taking charge of the Masonic Records which he has committed to our care, we renewedly pledge ourselves to sustain and extend, so far as in our power, the principles and forms of the Masonic Institution — an institution which We know to be useful to its members and to the world, and which for many years enjoyed the active support, and has now received the dying blessing of that patriotic and distinguished citizen and Mason."
Brethren, the life of Isaiah Thomas, with its hard and laborious commencement, its subsequent useful and prosperous course, and its nappy ending, is full of instruction and encouragement. It shows how the very difficulties through which the young man may have to work his laborious path, may lend to strengthen the mind and form the character, may promote that sympathy with all classes of men which, if united with natural good qualities, will make him a sympathizer and assistant to others in their hardships and difficulties, and give him a sufficient knowledge of the world to properly direct and govern that sympathy, but the qualities I most respect and love in the character of our brother, as portrayed in the various remarks to which 1 have listened to-day, and which, I think, the portrait in our lodge room in Boston in some degree presents to one who observes it attentively, are the truth, frankness and independence of thought; and language, which always seemed to have characterized him. It has been written of him by one who has a natural right to resemble him in these very qualities, that such men, as far as public offices are concerned, are apt to find the post of honor in a private station This meeting of Thomas's fellow-citizens to do him honor, nearly fifty years after his death, the sentiments uttered this day on behalf of so many different bodies of men, the filial respect and admiration with which we, his brother Masons, now assemble around his grave and perform our ceremonial rites, quietly but decisively bear witness thai without public station, a good, upright and able man may do great good to the community in which he lives, may exert a great influence there, secure the permanent regard of his fellow-citizens, and leave a reputation of which his children, however distinguished, may be proud. Knowing then what the character of our departed brother was, we deposit these remains in this place of interment, without tears, without sadness, in the full confidence that —
There is no death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal health
Is but a suburb of the life Elysian,
whose portal we call death.
The other exercises of the usual Masonic Burial Service were conducted by the representatives of the Grand Lodge. At the conclusion a Dinner was served by the Masonic Fraternity of Worcester, to which the visiting brethren were invited, and special courtesies were extended by Brother and Sir David F. Parker.
GRAND MASTER GALLAGHER SPEECH, 1903
- 1903-186: Speech by Past Grand Master Gallagher; biographical information on Grand Master Thomas.
FROM WORCESTER SPY, 1831
Isaiah Thomas. one of our best-known Grand Masters, was born in Boston a generation before the Revolution. He was apprenticed at an early age to a printer in the town, Zachariah Fowle, but his independent spirit ultimately forced him to seek employment elsewhere. Like another famous printer and Mason, Benjamin Franklin (whom he idolized), it had been young Thomas' intention to make his way across the ocean to London to improve his knowledge of the printing trade, but his travels only took him as far as Nova Scotia, where he found employment at the Halifax Gazette. His activities soon showed his political inclinations, forcing him to depart in haste after he published commentary in the newspaper regarding Nova Scotians' opposition to the Stamp Act.
By 1767 Thomas, now 18 years old, had retumed to his native Boston and reconciled with his former master, who employed him as a journeyman. After a brief sojourn south - which resulted, among other things, in his marriage to Mary Dill in Charleston, South Carolina, on Christmas Day 1769 - he returned and established himself in partnership with Fowle. By the fall of 1770 he had bought out Fowle, and was now the sole publisher of a newspaper of his own, lhe Massachusetts Spy, that reflected his own increasingly radical point of view. The paper, and Thomas himself, became increasingly associated with the Sons of Liberty, attracting contributors who favored the Patriot cause and opposed British rule. On April 19, 1775 he even published an account purported to be an eyewitness account of the battles of Lexington and Concord - electrifying news back in Boston. Shortly afterward, it became necessary for Thomas and the Spy to depart Boston; for the next few years both had a somewhat itinerant existence.
Thomas finally settled in Worcester, which thereafter became his home. Despite'the economic hardship of the Revolution, the young printer was able to flourish due to the prodigious output of his "forge of sedition." He made a number of close friends who assisted him in his efforts: prominently, Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, and Timothy Bigelow; Warren and Bigelow assisted him in transporting his press and type to Worcester just ahead of British soldiers, and Revere's engravings appeared in the Spy and even more frequently in the literary publication that would soon be renamed the Massachusetts Magazine.
In 1779 Isaiah Thomas remarried. Unusually for the time, he had been granted a divorce on the justifiable grounds of adultery on the part of his wife. His second wife Mary Thomas Fowle would be a loyal and loving companion until her death in 1818. In 1780 he was conscripted for military service, but his apprentice Benjamin Russell went in his stead and served with distinction. Thomas, meanwhile, built success upon success, establishing himself as the most prominent printer in Massachusetts and ultimately in the entire United States; in addition to his periodicals he began to print almanacs and books, including many children's books and some of the earliest editions of popular novels as well as the original Constitutions and Regulations of our Grand Lodge. In 1789 he acquired the rights to Noah Webster's spelling and grammar books, ultimately a very lucrative investment that helped establish his fortune.
Bro. Thomas' Masonic career began in the old Trinity Lodge in Lancaster, chartered by the Massachusetts (Independent ) Grand Lodge, where he was initiated some time after 1787. His first appearance in the Proceedings is in 1793 at the constitution of Morning Star Lodge in Worcester, where he was the first installed master. He was one of the first District Deputy Grand Masters after the positions were established, and by 1802 he had risen high enough in the Grand Lodge that he was chosen as Grand Master of Masons to succeed Samuel Dunn. His three-year term was extremely active; he granted thirteen charters, including five in the District of Maine and one in the State of Ohio (Scioto Lodge in Chillicothe, which would soon surrender its Massachusetts credentials to help found the Grand Lodge of Ohio).
After Most Wor. Timothy Bigelow's first three-year term, Bro. Thomas returned as Grand Master; his most memorable act was the recognition and welcome of the Lodge of Saint Andrew to Massachusetts jurisdiction, according it the second position of precedence behind only Saint John's Lodge of Boston.
Like his long-time friend Paul Revere, Thomas was well-known outside the fraternity as well as within it. His success as a businessman permitted him to retire in 1802, and gave him ample time to devote his attention to other interests. In addition to Freemasonry, Thomas was a skilled antiquarian; he published the seminal History of Printing in America in 1810, and in 1812 was a principal founder of the American Antiquarian Society, to which he ultimately donated his extensive library. He served as president of that organization until his death in 1831.
The building containing his 1796 printing office is currently located at Old Sturbridge Village; it lies a few hundred yards from the town green, near the stately house of Bro. Salem Towne. The press and other facilities are modest, yet it is the workplace of a skilled craftsman, a master of his trade in a small but growing town. It is in some ways quintessentially American, the sort of humble surrounding from which came the sorts of words that could start a revolution or build a nation. It is a fitting memorial to the indomitable spirit of Isaiah Thomas.
From Boston Masonic Mirror, New Series, Vol 2. No. 45, May 7, 1831, Page 356; Vol. 2, No. 46, May 14, 1831, Page 364:
Isaiah Thomas, Esq., L.L.D., who died in this town on Monday, the 4th instant, was probably the oldest printer in this country, the ancient founder of this paper, and for many years its sole editor and proprietor. He was born in Boston, Jan. 19, 1749. His ancestors emigrated from England in the early settlement of that place. His grandfather Peter Thomas was a merchant who kept near the Town Dock in a store owned by himself, and died in 1746 leaving four sons and two daughters. The second son, Moses, resided for some time at Long Island, from whence he returned with his family to Boston. Upon a voyage to North Carolina he died, leaving a destitute widow and five children, of whom the subject of this notice was the youngest. At the age of six years he was apprenticed to Zachariah Fowle, a printer of ballads in Boston. Instead of being sent to school he was placed in the printing office; and to enable bim to set the types for the small works executed at the press, he was elevated upon a bench raised 18 inches from the floor. The composing stick he then used is preserved with a specimen of this early attempt at typography. Without the assistance of any one, as he himself often declared, in this shop he not only acquired a knowledge of the elementary branches of learning, but was so far competent to write, as that at the age of 17 he was enabled to take charge of a newspaper at Halifax in Nova Scotia to which place he went upon a disagreement with his master.
He remained at this place some months during which time the memorable Stamp Act was to take effect in the colonies. To send out a newspaper with this odious badge of servitude was repugnant to the feelings of the young New Englandman as he was then called. An editorial paragraph caused the printer to be summoned before the public authorities. He exculpated himself by casting the blame upon his apprentice, who had the charge of the paper. A second paragraph induced a call upon the young man himself, who was permitted to extricate himself with a slight reprimand and by being reminded that he was not in Boston. The reams of paper in the office being secretly divested of the stamps, the Gazette was afterwards issued without this obnoxious mark. In March 1767 he left Halifax, and after working sometime in N. Hampshire returned to the employment of his former master in Boston. After separating from him by agreement, he attempted to establish himself at Wilmington, North Carolina. From this place he went to Charleston S. Carolina, where he worked for two years. In consequence of declining health, he abandoned a project in which he was engaged, of going to England to acquire a more perfect knowledge of his trade.
In 1770, he returned to his native town, and in connexion with Z. Fowle, commenced the Massachusetts Spy, a small paper published three times a week. The partnership continued but three months, when he purchased the establishment and published the paper upon half a sheet until December of that year when it was discontinued. March 7, 1771, he commenced the present Massachusetts Spy, which was published weekly upon a large sheet.— Although firmly attached to the popular side in the rising political contest, he permitted his paper to be open to both parties, but the royalists soon withdrew their patronage and the paper was then devoted exclusively to the Whig interest. Overtures were made by the royalists to obtain his influence, but these being rejected an attempt at coercion was made, by an endeavor to embarrass the pecuniary concerns of the establishment. The interposition of friends prevented any trouble from this quarter.
In consequence of an Essay signed Mucius Scavola, published in the Spy of November 1771, he was summoned by Gov. Hutchinson and his council to appear at the Council Chamber. — He promptly refused obedience to the order. His answers to the messenger, which were written down at the lime, discover a knowledge of his personal rights, a resoluteness of purpose, and an intrepidity of character that strongly indicated the course he would afterwards pursue in the coming contest. A defect of authority in this branch of the Government suspended further proceedings until the sitting of the superior Court, when a vigorous attempt was made to procure an indictment, but was defeated by the independent spirit of the Grand Jury. A proceeding by information was the next course but the general intelligence of the people frowned upon this cdious engine of government for shackling the press. In consequence of some supposed libels upon the King the attempts at prosecution were renewed in 1773, but by the assistance of his friends he was extricated from the danger. A proffer of the professional services from the distinguished James Otis, who had withdrawn from active life in consequence of the malady which prostrated the energies of his mighty mind, was gratefully received by Mr. Thomas and manifests the interest felt for his security by the leading patriots of the revolution.
At this period there were three other papers published in Boston, but neither of them had a patronage equal to the Spy. Upon its first publication the subscription list contained less than 200 names, but such was its increase that in two years it had more subscribers than any other paper in New-England.
Questions of political science and constitutional law were no longer confined to the forum and halls of legislation, but became daily themes of discussion in the mechanic's shop, at the farmer's fireside, and in the town meeting. The exigencies of the times called for a Journal conducted by one whose education, habits, and modes of thinking harmonized with those of the gieat body of the people, where every one could find his own feelings and principles reflected without the expositions of the learned. Such a paper was found in the Spy and such an editor in Mr. Thomas. The ability, prudence, and intrepidity exhibited by him in this department gives to his character an elevation and dignity which can be obtained but by few. It is here his name stands out in bold relief and claims the applause of mankind. Considering his youth, his limited means of acquiring learning, and the portentous state of the times, it must have required a mind of no ordinary bearing to have sustained itself in so unequal a conflict. On the one side, was most of the learning and wealth of the province, supported by the patronage of the Government, in favor of the existing state of things and branding with the reproach of sedition and rebellion every movement for liberty; on the other a people of staid and religious habits, enjoying the most unlimited practical freedom contending not against any actual or tangible oppression, but merely for principles and abstract right.
Thus circumstanced, this youthful apostle of liberty took the field. It is true his paper was the medium of communication for some of the ablest writers of the day and was directed in a great measure by the leaders of the popular party, but all the responsibilities were upon the editor and publisher, and a single act of indiscretion might have involved him in serious consequences. That he was indebted for his editorial matter chiefly to his own pen is apparent from an examination of the files of the Spy at that peiiod. Matters of fact without the tinsel of ornament, and plain argument without the sophistry of the schools, were the simple instruments by which the tempest of popular indignation was roused and a virtuous community required no other trident to set bounds to the swelling storm. In a review of that period, he himself observes, "common sense in common language is as necessary to influence one class of citizens, as much as learning and elegance of composition are to produce an effect upon another.— The cause of America was just, and it was only necessary to state that cause in a clear and impressive manner, to unite the American people in its support."
During that period of peculiar gloom when the people of Boston were goaded to resentment by the provisions of the Fort Bill, an act of wanton tyranny unparalleled in the history of this country, the editor of the Spy continued the publication of his paper in that city. The manner of his defeating the attempts to overawe the freedom of the press manifested a fertility of expedients and patriotic integrity that entitled him to the highest confidence. A numerous standing army held unlimited control of the metropolis and brutal outrages upon the part of the soldiery were not discountenanced by the publie officers. Mr. T. had rendered himself obnoxious to the British, and threats of vengeance were thrown out against him and his printing office. Timely information was given him of intended violence, in consequence of which, he privately packed up a press and printing apparatus and transmitted them in a boat across Charles River under the care of Gen. Warren, the martyr of Bunker Hill. Upon the opening of the Spring of 1775, arrangements were made for sending detachments into the interior to destroy the military property that the people were preserving against the approaching contest. The vigilance of the friends of liberty in town, had faithfully transmitted information into the country, of the intended expedition to Concord. The editor of the Spy was concerned in furnishing this information in consequence of which he left Boston at daybreak on the morning of the memorable 19th April and joined the provincial militia in opposing the King's troops at Lexington. The next day he arrived in Worcester, opened his printing office, and recommenced the publication of the Spy in this place May S, 1775. This event formed an era in the history of the country as well as in the annals of this village. It was the first printing ever performed in the interior of New-England. To form an estimate of the importance of this branch of business to the past renown or present prosperity of this place would be no easy task. The influence of a gazette so centrally located under the guidance of such an editor was not lightly esteemed by the patriots of the Revolution.
The Provincial Congress were now in session at Watertown and it was proposed by them to remove this press to that place, but it was afterwards determined that it should remain in Worcester, and that the Spy should be transmitted by post riders to Watertown and Cambridge. Until presses were established in those places, Mr. Thomas executed the printing for the Congress.
In the indulgence of a peculiar poetical fancy, his papers were generally ornamented with curiously significant devices and appropriate mcttos. In 1774 it bore a dragon and a snake, ihe former representing Great Britain and the serpent this country. This latter was separated into parts to represent the different colonies. The head and tail were furnished with strings for defence against the dragon, which were placed in the posture of making an attack. This device extended the whole width of the paper, with the motto over the serpent in large capitals: Join Or Die.
In consequence of an odious excise upon newspapers in 1785, the publication of the Spy was suspended, but its place was taken by a magazine which supplied the same matter without submission to the Stamp Act. The publication was resumed in 1788 after a suspension of about two years. The paper began its numbers March 7, 1771, and the series has been uninterrupted to this day.
The labors of Mr. T. bad not been confined to the Spy. He established the first newspaper in Newburyport as early as 1773, that he soon passed into other hands. In 1774. he published in Itos. toto the Royal American Magazine, a monthly periodical. Br sides the unusual variety of general literature, this work contains a faithful summary of the public transactions in Boston during that eventful year, and great value is added to the work from the public documents preserved in its pages, and which are not elsewhere to be found.
The small amount of property contained in the package sent Across Charles river, upon the flight from Boston, was all that he rescued from five years unremitted toil in the cause of freedom; the residue fell a prey to the soldiery, or was carried off with the plunder of the army.
As noon as the enemy bad evacuated Boston, his enterprising spirit was in pursuit of more extensive business than tiial of conducting a country newspaper. An attempt to form an establishment in Salem, terminated unsuccessfully. The Spy having been leased to two gentlemen of the bar in Worcester for one year, and again for another year to Anthony Haswell, was resumed by its former editor in 1778. In consequence of bad materials and unskilful workmanship, the paper appeared in a wretched dishabille during the continuance of the lease. The general depression of the times also affected the subscription list, which in '79, '80, did not much exceed 300.
In July, '76, he participated in the first cele bration of American Independence in this place. The great charter of Liberty was first publicly promulgated by him, standing upon the porch of the meetinghouse. It was recieved by the united acclamations of a vast number of citizens, who under the open canopy of heaven, superadded to that of Congress their solemn pledge to support it with fortune, honor and life.
After the war when the Government began to assume a more permanent form, he extended his business not only as a printer, but as a bookseller. The first paper mill and bookbindry in this county was established by him. For several years he employed seven printing presses in this town, and with his partner in Boston, Mr. Andrews, furnished business for five in that city and four in other towns. He established the first newspaper in Walpole, N. H. and in Brookfield in this county, at which places as well as Albany and Baltimore he was concerned in extensive bookstores. From these sources much of the literature of the country was supplied. The systematic manner in which the details of these extensive concerns were conducted gave him an elevated character for skill as a merchant. In 1802 the Spy, with a proportion of his other business was transferred to his son, who died a few years since in Boston. Leisure and opportunity were now given him to pursue his literary avocations. In 1810 he presented to the public his History of Printing in two volumes, 8vo., including a history of newspapers, with biographical sketches of the antirevolutionary printers and booksellers in New-England. This work manifested great research, untiring industry and no inconsiderable share of learning. It passed the ordeal of the reviewers both in this country and Great Britain, and is received as a standard work upon the subjects treated of in its pages. During the long period in which he contemplated the preparation of this work, he was continually laying aside for preservation every book, pamphlet, and file of newspapers that came in his way which might aid him in the undertaking. He likewise expended large sums in procuring from abroad valuable materials for the same purpose.
His library now comprises the most valuable collection of American literature to be found in the hands of any individual in the country. Many of his works are rare, and no other copies were to be found. Such a library, he observed, if once dispersed could never again be gathered. Its importance to the future historian was inestimable. The want of it had been sensibly felt by himself in making bis compilation and the inconvenience had been overcome by personal sacrifices that no other individual could make.— He therefore proposed to a number of his friends of American history,principally of his own neighborhood, the establishment of an association for collecting and preserving the materials of our history in every form in which they may present themselves, and he offered to endow the institution with a donation of his collection.
The proposition was readily acceded to and the American Antiquarian Society was incorporated in 1812. Upon its organization he was elected its President and has ever since held the office by the unanimous votes of the members in each successive year. The interest be manifested in its early success, suffrred no diminution in its subsequent progress. Every year be has made liberal donations of books and rare curiosities, obtained both by solicitation from their possessors, and by purchases at an amount not inconsiderable. In 1820 the Society published the first volume of their transactions, with the title of American Archaeologia; the work is enriched by a learned and minute account of the ancient mounds upon the Muskingum and Scioto rivers, with other vestiges of that mysterious race of men who probably were the former possessors of this continent. The subjects were illustrated by diagrams made from actuals surveys and expensive engravings.
These labors which had added to the general stock ol human knowledge and attracted the notice of many learned societies in Europe were wholly at the expense of Mr. Thomas. In the same year he erected a spacious and permanent edifice, fitted with rooms for the accommodation of the Library and Cabinet, appropriated for the exclusive use of the members of the Society. The Library now exceeds 8000 volumes, more than 3000 of which consist of annual files of American newspapers bound in regular series. Nearly all the papers printed before the revolution are to he found among them. The residue of the Library includes history, theology, and miscellaneous literature. One room is appropriated for a cabinet of curiosities, illustrating the manners of the Fathers as well as the Aborigines of North America. For many very valuable donations of books as well as other articles, the Institution enumerates a long list of benefactors. But in whatever has given it character, energy and living principle, the Society is indebted to the untiring generosity of its founder. Nor has his paternal regard been bounded by the present generation, but his desire for bestowing the benefits of historical knowledge has extended to future time, and by bis last will, be has provided for the exigencies of the Institution to an extent it is believed unparalleled in the history of any literary association in this country.
Benevolence was a prominent trait in his character. And the community in which he resided will long cherish his memory as a public benefactor in other departments of life. The land upon which the present County Court House stands, was a donation from him, and the grounds around that building received their present convenient and beautiful form from his direction. For his personal services in this meritorious act he received no compensation but a vote of thanks upon the county records. To the town, he gave the street which bears his name, besides a grant of land which gives the Main street its peculiar beauty.— The square near the jail with the stone bridge that intersects it, were formed principally at his individual expense. The Parish of which he was a member had reason to recollect many acts of his munificence for their benefit. The public clock upon their brick meeting house was his exclusive donation. To almost all the acts of public philanthropy which mark our age, he was a generous contributor, and this without discrimination of party or sect. The unfortunate children of want around him, in the gloom of sickness and distress, will lament his death, for his charities to them had ever been abundant and reasonable. — His estate, which amounted to a large sum for this part of the country, is distributed equally among his descendants and a great variety of public societies, whose objects he wished to promote.
FROM LIBERAL FREEMASON, AUGUST 1878
From Liberal Freemason, Vol. II, No. 5, August 1878, Page 129:
What manner of man was the subject of this sketch, that the Fraternity of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons should honor him? Whence came he, that he should be elevated to the chair of the Grand Master, and that the Mitre of the Grand High Priest should be placed upon his head, as the symbol of his superior station? In the tradition of the family there is no claim to inherited rights, or privileges, or place, or decoration. Fvan Thomas arrived in Boston on the 5th day of June, 1632, as Master of the ship William and Francis, and with him came "about fifty passengers," in speaking of whom, Governor Winthrop named two, "with their families and wany other honest men."
It appears from a Memoir, by the Hon. B. F. Thomas, grandson of Isaiah, that Evan Thomas finally "settled in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay" in 1639 or 1640, and that the first notice of him in the Records of the Colony is under date of September 1st, 1640. "He was admitted a freeman of the Colony in 1641, and a member of the Artillery Company, in 1652." Peter Thomas, grandson of Evan, "the eldest son of George and Rebecca Thomas, was born in Boston, February 1st, 1682. He married Elizabeth Burroughs, daughter of the Rev. George Burroughs, who was hung at Salem, as a Witch, in August, 1692." The Memoir alluded to shows that Mr. Burroughs, after careful research, by Mr. Upham, was found to be without stain or reproach as a man and Christian minister, and that the only evidence of his guilt consisted in the fact that though of rather small stature and frame, he had remarkable physical strength."
It is not necessary to review the fanaticism of that period, or to attempt any defence of Mr. Burroughs; the thinking mind of the present will find evidence in the qualities of Isaiah Thomas, of the integrity and decision of character which doubtless distinguished his Reverend ancestor, and so brought upon him the malice and persecution of the age, and these same qualities are conspicuous in the character of Isaiah, who found frequent occasion to exhibit them.
Peter Thomas was a merchant, and "acquired a good estate." His "fourth son was Moses Thomas, who, though a man of good natural talents, did not seem to possess that steadiness of purpose which characterized others of the family, and who has been alluded to by his descendant, as "soldier, mariner, trader, farmer, and schoolmaster," and no "exception to the adage, he gathered no moss." His father "not relishing the roving life and infirm purpose of his son, made a will, in which he cut him off with five shillings"; and though the son died before the father, the will was not altered in favor of the widow and children. Moses Thomas enlisted "in 1740, as a common soldier in the expedition against Cuba, and escaping the immediate hazards incident to a soldier's life," he, on his return "sailed on a voyage to the Mediterranean." Afterwards,'he was, successively, Schoolmaster, Farmer, and Trader, in Hampstead, Long Island, where he met with and married Fidelity Grant, a native of Rhode Island. He remained at Hampstead three or four years after marriage, where two children were born, and then returned to Boston, where as the Hon. Judge has said, "he wasted a few years," when he went to North Carolina, in which State he died in 1752. On removing from Long Island, the mother consented to leave her two children, born at Hampstead, in the care of relatives there who much desired it. In consequence of imperfect and difficult communication, and inability to bear the expense of travel, she did not so much as hear from them, " f"1 many years together." • i l After the death of her husband, Fidelity placed her three children, born in Boston, "to board in the near country, and devoted herself to their support," and though she managed to save something, she afterwards lost it by converting it into Continental paper, when she, like so many others became one of the victims of paper money; it is pleasant, however, to learn that she was "never reduced to want, but lived to a good old age to witness the success of her son, and to share the fruits of it."
Isaiah Thomas, born in Boston January 19th, 1749, old style, was "the youngest son "of Fidelity and Moses." He was ■brought home to Boston when six years of age, his mother intending that he should have "the common school education of the time, and be trained to some mechanical pursuit." The boy, however, afterwards "used to say that six weeks' 'schooling' was all he ever had, and poor at that."
When the boy was brought home, there was a printer called Zechariah Fowle, on what is now Salem Street, who not having children of his own besought the mother for Isaiah, and promised her that he would treat him as his own; this resulted in regular indentures being signed, by which he was apprenticed, June 4th, 1756, until the age of twenty-one. He was promised "a good school education," and instruction in printing, with the proviso that "if when arriving at the age of fourteen the boy did not choose to remain, he should be at liberty to choose another place and trade." Having thus got possession of the boy, the master put his apprentice to all the servile work he had to do, and though but seven years old, he was mounted on a bench of sufficient length and height to enable him to reach the types. It appears that the master did not fulfill the conditions of the indenture, nor the intentions of the mother; the child was not taught either to read, write or cipher, save a lesson, by rote, on the Sabbath, "in the Assembly's Catechism." From 1758 to 1761, Fowle had a partner, a Mr. Draper, who was of great advantage to the boy; the dissolution of this partnership occurred when young Thomas was twelve years old, much to his regret, and greatly to his disadvantage.
From this out, so long as he remained with Fowle, he seems to have done most of the work of the office, including the making of cuts on wood or type metal, to illustrate the work of his too indifferent master.
Outside of the office he found friends willing to help him, by giving instruction, lending him books, and by such admonitions as seemed essential, to stimulate him to become "a good and reputable printer." These he ever after held in grateful remembrance, none of them more so, than Gamaliel Rogers, a former partner of Fowle, and who afterward kept a little book store or shop, opposite the Old South.
The entrance of the young printer upon life was not an easy one; from infancy to manhood he met with a series of discouragements that might have overthrown older persons; apprenticed in mere childhood, the mother had reasonable assurance that it was to a considerate and prudent man, but her hopes were vain — the master was but a sham — the boy, however, had two strains of good blood in his veins; that of Thomas, had produced successful men, full of vigor, of purpose, and of will; and that of Burroughs, which in his mother's father, had stood up for his manhood, and went down to death in the face of superstition, bigotry and fanaticism, conscious of his own rectitude; and these two united in Isaiah Thomas, who inherited the good qualities of both.
The growth and strength of his character was well exhibited, on June 24th, 1878, in Worcester, by the Hon. John D. Baldwin, the present Editor of the Worcester Spy, a paper founded by Isaiah Thomas, than whom we cannot do better, and quote:
"Isaiah Thomas began public life as a bold supporter of the resisting movements of the colonies against the tyrannical measures of George Third. In this interest the Massachusetts Spy was started m Boston, July 17, 1770. He was then twenty-one years old; but, young as he was, he had already shown his quality, and made mam fest what he would do as conductor of a newspaper. In 1766, when seventeen years old, he went to Nova Scotia to work on the Halifax Gazette, a paper owned by a German named Henry, an easy-going man, who left the printers of the paper to be its editors also. Mr. Thomas became its chief editor, and immediately created a sensation in Halifax, by turning it against the Stamp Act. He was summoned before the Secretary of the Province, who reprimanded him severely, and bade him mend his editorial ways, which he failed to do. A copy of the Pennsylvania Journal, dressed in mourning, and hearing significant devices on account of the Stamp Act, came into his hands. In the next number of the Gazette, he said: "We are desired by a number of our readers to give a description of the extraordinary appearance of the Pennsylvania Journal of October 30th," and he did it by giving Henry's paper the same appearance as nearly as possible. Soon afterwards, the Halifax stamp master was hung in effigy near the citadel. There were new proceedings against Thomas, which, however, did him no harm.
"He left Halifax in 1768, but did not return to Boston until 1770.
"He began publishing the Spy in partnership with Mr. Fowle, of whom he had learned the printers' trade; but after three months he became sole owner and manager. Very soon the Spy was known as the boldest and most influential supporter of the Whigs. It had a Staff of writers which consisted of some of the ablest and foremast patriots of the colony. Mr. Hudson's History of Journalism describes it as 'a quite remarkable newspaper which came into existence at this time (1770), and gave great aid and comfort to the prevailing sentiment of the people.' He adds, 'that some of the contributions in the Spy were very powerful. There were other Newspapers that supported the cause of the people; but there was jno other so able, no other so fearless, no other so intensely hated by the British officials and the Tories, as the Massachusetts Spy.' Mr. Thomas slates in his History of Printing that he began the weekly Spy with 200 subscribers; but the increase was so regular and rapid, that, within two years 'its subscription list was larger than that of any other paper printed in New England.' That he and the Spy had a wide reputation in the colonies is shown by the fact that he was burned in effigy by the Royalists of North Carolina.
"In Boston, the feeling of the Royalists towards Mr. Thomas and his paper became a fierce rage, which sought to destroy them by any means, lawful or unlawful. In 1771, George Hutchinson and his Council held a special session to consider what should be done with Mr. Thomas and the Spy. Finally they ordered him to appear before them, but did not put the order in writing, being conscious that was illegal. Three times they sent a messenger to demand his appearance, verbally, and three times he refused to appear. It was then proposed to imprison him for contempt; but they did not venture to attempt this. Their next movement was to have him indicted by the Grand Jury; but the Grand Jury would not indict him. Several other methods of reaching and crushing Mr. Thomas were proposed by the Royal officials: but, none of them being legal, they were laid aside, after encountering storms of denunciation from the patriots. He was obliged to maintain this fight with the Royalists so long as his office remained in Boston. A timid man would have been daunted; but Mr. Thomas faced their rage with the utmost boldness. Here is one of his replies to their persecutions. It was written and printed in October, 1772: — Should the liberty of the press be once destroyed, farewell to the remainder of our invaluable rights and privileges; we may next expect padlocks on our lips, fetters on our legs, and only our hands left at liberty to slave for our more than Egyptian task masters — or — or— FIGHT OUR WAY TO CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY!
"In 1775, it became evident that the printing of the Massachusetts Spy could not be continued in Boston. Early in the spring it appeared certain that its office would soon be mobbed and sacked by British soldiers. Everybody felt that the beginning of the revolution was near at hand. Therefore Mr. Thomas decided to remove the publication of the Spy from Boston to Worcester. The last number of the paper printed in Boston is dated April 6, 1775. His press and type were packed up privately, taken across Charles River in the night, with the help of General Warren and others, and sent quietly to the new home of the office. "Mr. Thomas tells us that he went to Lexington 'at day break,' on the morning of April 19, 1775, and 'joined the provincial militia in opposing the king's troops.'
"The first number of the Spy printed in Worcester is dated May 3, 1775, and contains an account of the battle of Lexington. 'This was the first printing clone in Worcester. Mr. Thomas could not save his other property in Boston. When he arrived here his office was destitute of printing paper. How he secured his first supply of this indispensable material is told in the following letter addressed by John Hancock to Joseph Warren and the Committee of Safety.
Worcester, 26 April, 1775
Gentn — Mr. Thomas, the Printer, is here, has fixed his Press, and is Ready to go on with Business, but is in want of paper. I undertake tor him to Desire you will order the under-mentioned Quantity to be sent to him from Milton; his being supplied will answer Public Service. We are not likely to have even a Single Person to attend us. Mr. Paine is here; his Townsmen who came with him are returned home. My Servant ____'s house furniture is in Boston. I should not like to he demolished by a Tory, but I must submit to be unnoticed. God bless you.
I am, Gentn, Your Sincere Friend,
Paper for Mr. Thomas:
- 50 reams Crown Printing
- 40 do Demy "
- 20 do Foolscap "
- 5 do Writing "
On the back of the sheet was the following: On Service of the Colony: To Joseph Warren, Esqr., and the Gentlemen of the Committee of Safety, &c, &c, at Cambridge or elsewhere.
"When I copied this letter nineteen years ago, the original was in the possession of Samuel Jennison, Esq., of this city. It is now I presume in possession of some members of the Jenneson family. My sketch ol the revolutionary work of Mr. Thomas must stop here. It musst suffice to add that he did his work faithfully to the end of the struggle; that he was the first man to read publicly in Massachusetts the Declaration of Independence, and that he lived to see the colonies become a united and independent nation."
After leaving Halifax, where he remained about seven months, Thomas sailed to Portsmouth, N. H., where he worked on one of the two papers published in that place; the improvement in the appearance of the paper suggested his whereabouts, and his master, Fowle, invited him back to Boston; but he did not long remain with him, and sailed for Wilmington, N. C. From there he went to Charleston, S. C., where, in December 1760, he married Mary Dill, daughter of Joseph Dill, of the Isle of Bermuda. "The connection was not a happy one, and he was separated from her a few years afterward." His health failing, "he came back to Boston in the spring of 1770," and something of what followed has been told. In all his changes, Mr. Thomas had a constant purpose, that of perfecting himself in the art of printing; for this he had cherished the thought of going to London, and once shipped with that intention, but not liking the treatment by the Captain decided not to sail with him.
On his return to Boston he entered into partnership with his former master under the name of Fowle & Thomas, and in July, 1770 the first number of the Massachusetts Spy was issued, the second on August 7th following. Thomas soon bought Fowle out, and the office of the Spy was removed to School Street, to the site of the Old Horticultural Hall, at or near which was the then Latin School, and from this place it is said to have been removed to Worcester, though we observe that the Honorable author of the Memoir locates the office on Union Street March 7th, 1771, and that he had changed from School Street. We do not know that the latter is not correct. Up to the date mentioned, the Spy was being published twice a week on a half sheet, but on that date it appeared as a weekly, four pages, royal size, folio. It is justly said by the author last referred to that "It was with the publication of this paper that our printer really entered upon his own career of life. It was in this work that he was able to render valuable service to his country, and to connect his name with its history. With it, though its place of publication was changed, he was connected for thirty years, and, after many trials and reverses, it laid the foundation of his fortune."
His business energy may be partially conjectured, especially if due consideration is given to the lack of facilities — when it is remembered that he built a large paper mill and made his own paper, printed, and sold books, those from London as well as his own, established a bindery, controlled sixteen presses, seven of them in Worcester, had five bookstores in Massachusetts, one in Concord, N. H., one in Albany, N. Y., and one in Baltimore.
The book store and printing house of Thomas & Andrews on Newbury Street, now Washington, three doors above Winter Street, established in 1788, had a statue or head of Faust for a sign; this was subsequently on the building erected on the birth-place of Franklin, and was probably destroyed by the great fire in 1872. The old Franklin printing press, now in possession of Major Ben: Perley Poore, was obtained from the heirs of Isaiah Thomas. That Franklin had a high regard for Mr. Thomas is established by the fact that he appointed him Post Master of Worcester, and had visited him there. Thomas also met with, and received attention from Washington when in Worcester, and to whose nephew the illustrious President said, "Young man, your uncle has set you a bright example of patriotism, and never forget that next to our God, we owe our highest duty to our country." Indeed it is said that "few gentlemen passed through Worcester without calling to see the proprietor and his establishment, who never failed to treat them with the most marked politeness."
"In 1802 Mr. Thomas relinquished his business in Worcester to his son, who bore his name and shared his tastes." He was no idler, —in 1810 he published his History of Printing, two volumes, octavo. In 1812 he founded the American Antiquarian Society, and on November 19th was elected its first President. To it he gave a library of three thousand volumes, erected for it Antiquarian Hall at a cost of ten thousand dollars, provided funds for the support of a permanent librarian, and at his death, had probably given fifty thousand dollars to the Institution. It is said by the historian of Worcester, "while his private charity relieved the distresses, his public munificence promoted the improvements of the town."
Mr. Thomas was a member of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, the New York Historical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. He received the honorary degree of Master of Arts from Dartmouth College, and that of Doctor of Laws from Alleghany College, Pennsylvania. The late Governor Lincoln spoke of him thus: "With a strong and vigorous mind and a cultivated intellect, enterprise, energy, and industry in early life gave him wealth, and possessed of this, he lived in courtly style, and with beneficent liberality."
Although Mr. Thomas had much to struggle against in his early life, he was notwithstanding somewhat indebted to good fortune. He established an Almanac, the first number of which is styled Thomas' New England Almanac, or the Massachusetts Calendar for the year of our Lord Christ, 1775. This he carried on until 1803, after which his son continued it until 18l9 inclusive.
It is told in the Historical Magazine for 1862 that when the Almanac for the year 1788 was being prepared, one of his apprentices asked him what he should set before the 13th day of July? Mr. Thomas being busy answered, "Anything you have a mind to," — whereupon the boy set, hail, rain, snow. But to the amazement of the whole country, it did hail, rain and snow on that day, which lucky coincidence gave Thomas' Almanac great notoriety, and brought it into great demand.
In 1780 he was drafted, whereupon Benjamin Russell, then an apprentice to him, volunteered to take his place, and was one of the guard who witnessed the execution of Major André at West Point.
It will be remembered that the antagonism which he bore to the Tories of that time was intense, and this fact was made the occasion of a poem by the Rev. Mather Byles. Thomas once paid a visit to that inveterate punster, who took him to an upper window which he called the observatory, and from which was a fine prospect; now said he to Thomas, "You can observe-a-tory." This Mr. Byles was pastor of Hollis Street Church.
Mr. Thomas died April 4th, 1831. The funeral services were held on the 7th, when an address was delivered by Isaac Goodwin, Esq., of the Worcester Bar, on his life and public services.
The march of improvement made it necessary to remove his remains, and on the 24th day of June, 1878, these were re-interred, with civil and Masonic ceremonies, as has been stated in a former number of this Magazine.
So far as the writer knows, it cannot be definitely stated when Isaiah Thomas was made a Mason. When he came back from Charleston, S. C, he was but a little over twenty-one years of age, therefore it is only possible that he could have been made a Mason prior to that time. It appears by the records of Trinity Lodge, now at Clinton, Mass., that he visited that Lodge, then located at Lancaster, on January 5th, 1784 and was recorded as "Right Worshipful Bro. Isaiah Thomas Past Master."
Unfortunately the early records of that Lodge for a few years, Brother Seagrave of Worcester says four, are lost. We had occasion to refer to those records not long since, on a somewhat similar subject and was then informed by Brother Burditt, a Past Master of the Lodge, of the misfortune; hence we cannot avail ourselves of the important documentary evidence which they would no doubt furnish, on this and kindred questions. It is more than probable that he was a Past Master of that Lodge, but the fact of record having disappeared, no subsequent record was made to remedy what now proves to be an inconvenience, as well as a matter of positive regret.
It has been conjectured that he may have received the decrees in one of the old Boston Lodges, but after consulting the written and printed documents of the three existing at that time, no evidence appears that such was the fact. The Records of St. Andrew's R. A. Chapter, the only one existing in Boston in the last century, are equally silent as to his receiving the Royal Arch degrees, therefore we shall have to look elsewhere, if more specific knowledge is wanted on these two points.
As to the main fact, he must have been a Mason at least two years prior to 1784, he being at that time a Past Master, and was giving then, as he long continued to do, the benefit of his matured judgment to the Institution of Freemasonry.
Brother Geo. L. Boyden has kindly furnished such evidence as the records of Morning Star Lodge, and Worcester R. A. Chapter can give. In those of the Lodge, it appears in its first record that "Rt. Wor. Bro. Isaiah Thomas, W. M. of Trinity Lodge, be invited to be the first Master of the new Lodge." The result of this was that he became a Charter Member, and it Master in 1793, 1794, again in 1797, 1799, 1801 and 1802. By the Chapter records it appears that he was a Charter Member of that Body, but did not take a leading part in its official duties. Inasmuch as the Chapter was not dispensated until September 18th, 1823, it will be readily seen that the age to which Brother and Companion Thomas had then attained was more than sufficient to excuse him.
When our Rt. Wor. Brother first appeared in Grand Lodge is a little uncertain, but it is of interest to note that his habits of industry made him conspicuous there, and at a Special Meeting held in April 1792, he was placed upon a Committee with Paul Revere, Rev. T. M. Harris, and others, to collect and publish The Book of Constitutions for the use of Grand Lodge. This task was completed and printed by him, and reported by the Committee to the Grand Lodge at its meeting in December of the same year.
A copy of this Book was sent to Illustrious Brother George Washington, December, 17th, 1792, to whom it was dedicated in the following language: "To our Illustrious Brother George Washington, The Friend of Masonry, of his Country, and of Man ; the Grand Lodge did themselves the honor to present him the Volume with the following address": "The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to their honored and illustrious Brother, George Washington, President of the United States."
This book getting out of print, a new and somewhat enlarged edition was prepared by Rev. Thaddeus M. Harris, in 1798, and Bro. Thomas was one of a Special Committee appointed by Grand Lodge to examine it. This was also printed by him. Thomas & Andrews also printed the Eulogy delivered by Bro. Timothy Bigelow, by request of the Grand Lodge, on "The Life, Character and Services of Brother George Washington," at the Old South Meeting House, on Tuesday, February 11th, 1800.
In the Grand Lodge, Bro. Thomas was elected Senior Grand Warden December 9th, 1794, and so continued to December, 1797. He was attentive to the duties of this office, and participated in several important ceremonies. On July 4th, 1795 the Grand Lodge assembled in " Representatives Hall, proceeded to the Old South Meeting House, there attended to the usual Oration on that Anniversary, and thence to the site of the new State House, where at the request of Governor Samuel Adams, Grand Master Paul Revere, Dep. Grand Master William Scollay, Senior Grand Warden Isaiah Thomas, and other Officers, gave their assistance in laying the Corner Stone according to Grand Lodge custom. On the retirement of Washington from office, he also signed the address presented by the Grand Lodge and which commenced as follows: "The East, the West, and the South of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons for the Commonwealth of Massa-husctls, to their Most Worthy Brother George Washington." This was dated March 21st 1797, and answered by the Ex-President on the 12th of June following, who among other things said: "My attachment to the Society of which we are members will dispose me always to contribute my best endeavors to promote the honor and interests of the Craft." Bro. Thomas also signed the Charter of Columbian Lodge of Boston June 9th, 1796.
He was elected Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1802, 1803 and 1804. In this high office he served with satisfaction to the Craft, was succeeded by the Hon. Timothy Bigelow, who served three years, when Most Worshipful Brother Thomas was again elected in 1808 and served for that year.
His relations with the Hon. Timothy Bigelow were especially friendly; and in harmony therewith he attended St. Andrew's Chapter in Boston on the evening of Oct. 18th, 1798, on which occasion Brother Bigelow was elected to receive the degrees in the Chapter. This seems to be the only time when his attendance was recorded in that Body.
He first appeared officially in the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts at the meeting of September 9th, 1806, when he served as Deputy Grand High Priest pro tem; at this meeting he was elected Grand High Priest, and re-elected in 1807 and 1808. He afterward served on a Committee with Henry Fowle and Andrew Sigourney to consider and report what Amendments were needed to the Constitution and Regulations, and subsequently served in a Committee on Diplomas.
On retiring from office, he with other officers received by Vote the thanks of the Grand Chapter for services rendered.
That Brother Thomas took an active interest in Freemasonry no one ran doubt, and though he must have been a Mason over fifty years it is apparent that his attachment to it did not abate, for we find him within eight years of his death petitioning for a new Chapter. The various offices he held in Masonry indicate that the principles as well as the forms and ceremonies the Institution were congenial to and approved by him, and being so, his ardent and energetic nature embraced them thoroughly.
To him books wore a source of positive pleasure, and he fully appreciated the advantage they may bring to others. He endorsed the literature of Freemasonry, and acted up to his conviction. The good results attending his efforts are sufficiently verified in the records of the Grand Lodge, wherein it was reported in December, 1795, "that the happy effects of the Union of the former Grand Lodges, and the circulation of the Hook of Constitutions daily became very apparent." This was to be seen in the fact that "the Institution increased much in respectability and numbers." To him books became friends. and these he selected with due discrimination. Among men, he was equally clear in his judgment; his partners in his extensive business were taken very much if not altogether from those who had been apprentices to him, and the results showed that he did not err in the selections. Franklin, Printer like himself, and Mason also, recognized his ability and gave him his official as well as personal approbation. His independent and manly character was a constant exemplification of his inward conviction, that in converting the Colonies into independent States, there neither could be nor ought to be any privileged class, nor element of aristocracy, save that which listed upon moral rectitude and mental superiority. To him Freemasonry was the true republic, and in it he found the true theory and practice of the majority.
Firm of purpose, rugged in nature, outspoken in opinion, but high minded and honorable, and of strong mental capacity, he could not but hold in contempt the obsequiousness of lesser natures, and the assumptions of inferior minds. He inherited from his mother qualities which distinguished her in her widowhood and made her the self-contained and self-supporting woman that she was — and from the line of Evan Thomas there came to him those co-operative elements, which made him conspicuous for force, independence, ambition and honor, and the happy combination of these were well illustrated in the upright man, the honored Grand Master, and the diligent Freemason.
The last days of his life must have been saddened by the apostacy attending the political outburst of Anti-Masonry, but he had the happy rellection consequent on a well spent life, and died in the Mason's hope of a glorious immortality.
FROM THOMAS LODGE CENTENARY, DECEMBER 1896
Some biographical notes in the historical address
FROM NEW ENGLAND CRAFTSMAN, 1950
From New England Craftsman, Vol. XLV, No. 3, March 1950, Page 42:
The printing house of Leo Hart, long famed for its fine printing, distinctive typography, and handsome formats, is now publishing a series, The Printers' Valhalla, "devoted to individuals whose careers contributed to the development of bcokmaking during the five hundred years since the invention of typography."
The second volume in this series is the story of Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) written by Clifford K. Shipton.
Unlike the story of many an 18th century American printer beset by debt, Thomas' story is one of ever-increasing success. He was not himself a writer of any distinction, but he had the genius of enterprise. When the products of his presses became abundant, they were distributed from stores which he set up in various localities. If he was not the father of American printing, as many have claimed, he was perhaps the originator of the first American "chain stores."
His early life and apprenticeship were characterized by restlessness, frequent changes, and considerable travel. But when he began publication of The Spy, a newspaper, and especially after he established it at Worcester, his presses were constantly busy, and expansion followed expansion as all types of material were offered to the public.
Among the Masonic imprints which came from his press was the Constitutions of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, in which he took a personal interest and for which Amos Doolittle made the plate.
Thomas was one of a number of the early American printers who were ardent Freemasons. He was a member of the Lodge at Lancaster, near Worcester, and in 1793 he organized and became first Worshipful Master of Morning Star Lodge at Worcester. He later was Grand Master of Masons of Massachusetts, and devoted a great deal of time to the business of the Fraternity.
Mr. Shipton, who is librarian of the American Antiquarian Society, founded by Isaiah Thomas, includes a number of references to Thomas' Masonic associations but does not present his Masonic activities in any detail. The entire study, of course, is slanted to Thomas the printer, publisher and bookseller rather than to general biography; but since Thomas' life was largely devoted to that art, the result is a very sitisfying and life-like biographical portrait. Mr. Shipton's book is a scholarly piece of work in every respect. -R. B. H.
FROM TROWEL, 1985
From TROWEL, Spring 1985, Page 2:
He Left His Mark on the American Scene
by Robert W. Williams III
Isaiah Thomas was part and parcel of the birth of a new nation whose hopes for independence had flickered many times. Printer, publisher, patriot (rebel), firebrand, astute businessman, dynamic personality, a versatile and sometimes violent man of independence, and twice Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) was a man among those who lived at the right time for the right cause, each playing a particular and necessary role in the making of a new nation.
Some historians have questioned Thomas's motivations in the pre-Revolutionary days. What shaped his political positions? Was he motivated by ideology or by a sense of what was good for business? He fought hard against the Stamp Act even when he went to Nova Scotia. His printed words there excited the wrath of the people who lived under British flag.
The Stamp Act would have levied a tax against newspapers and other publications, and his business was printing. Yet, when he prospered in later life he became a conservative. He acquired aristocratic manners and believed that mobs should be punished. Esther Forbes, in her observation of Thomas, wrote: "There was always an element of opportunism in his politics as well as his printing career. When he first started the (Massachusetts) Spy in Boston he attempted to please both sides. He turned it into a radical scandal sheet when he saw the Loyalist cause was unpopular."
In defense of Thomas and others who tried to appease both sides of the issues facing the colonies, it might be asked of any man who had English blood flowing in his veins: Which side of the issues would you have chosen? Was it easy to be a rebel like Joseph Warren, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others?
In his book Two Men of Taunton, the late Ralph Davol pointed out the lukewarm attitude of Robert Treat Paine toward independence. The Taunton attorney who later opposed the Crown in the case of the Boston Massacre waited until late 1774 before taking his stand with the rebels. Perhaps the raising of the Liberty and Union Flag on Oct. 20, 1774, in his own town convinced him. Paine signed the Declaration of Independence.
PRINTING PRESS — In the hall of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, stands this little press, made in London in 1747, and restored in 1975 by a grant from the Worcester Telegram and The Evening Gazette. From this press was printed the Massachusetts Spy that aroused the ire of the Colonists against the Crown. In the still of the night, April 16, 1775, the press was quietly removed from Thomas's shop in Boston and conveyed by wagon to Worcester.
Bom in Boston on Jan. 19, 1740 (O.S.), the son of Moses and Fidelity (Grant) Thomas, Isaiah was the fifth generation of the Evan and Jane Thomases who came to Boston from Wales in 1640. Moses was bom in 1715 and died in North Carolina in 1752. Isaiah's mother was born in Rhode Island; she died in Isaiah's Worcester home in 1798. She married a second time Ebenezer Blackman of West Cambridge in 1764. Her marriage with Moses Thomas resulted in the births of five children. Isaiah Thomas had only six weeks of schooling, except what his mother taught, during his entire life. In 1755 he was indentured to Zechariah Fowle, printer and peddlar of ballads and small books. Fowle was the typical businessman of his day, showing the boy little consideration. Standing on a box to reach the fonts, Isaiah was put to work setting type at a time when he knew only the letters and lacked the education to put them together to spell words. Fowle never taught the lad to read, write, or cipher, nor caused it to be done by others.
Fowle had a partner for three years (1758-61) named Samuel Draper who was a good printer and kind man. Perhaps it was Draper who counseled the young apprentice. Gamaliel Rogers, once a partner with Fowle, had opened a shop opposite Old South Church in Boston. Thomas was a frequent visitor to the shop where he received kind treatment, education, and suggestions from Rogers. Thomas was said to be a good printer at age 17, was attractive in personality, tall, and handsome.
Following a serious altercation with Fowle, Thomas left secretly for Halifax in 1766. He found employment but his radicalism toward the Stamp Act was shown in his editorials and he soon drew a reprimand and a stern warning from the officials. His continued outward bitterness toward the Crown frightened his employer and after seven months Thomas left for Portsmouth, NH, thence to Boston and a return to Fowle's shop.
An effort to establish a newspaper in Wilmington, NC, failed and he attempted to reach England by working his way, but located in Charleston where he married, in December of 1769, Mary Dill of Bermuda. Whatever problems he had were multiplied during their marriage. She was 19, one year his junior, and the marriage was doomed from the start. She lacked restraint and fidelity and had borne an illegitimate son. In his suit for divorce (May, 1777) Thomas wrote: "Soon after the marriage I learned of the son and that she had prostituted to more than one." The divorce, rare in those days, was granted by the Massachusetts Council. She went south but Isaiah, in a will he drew 20 years later, left $500 to be expended for her at the discretion of their son Isaiah, Jr. The wedlock had produced a daughter, Mary Ann (1772), and Isaiah, Jr., born Sept. 5, 1773.
In 1770 Thomas joined Fowle in printing a newspaper to reach the lower social classes. The first copies were given away free but the Massachusetts Spy would soon become the most sought after publication in town. The shop was moved to Union St. and Thomas bought his partner's share.
For the first few weeks he ran both radical and loyal essays. He apparently shifted to the Whigs when he bought out Fowle. John Hancock had assumed financial responsibility for the press and two radicals, Thomas Young and Joseph Greenleaf, were regular contributors to the Spy. The newspaper's radical reputation spread rapidly and Thomas was asked to establish newspapers throughout the colonies and in Quebec.
He published the Massachusetts Calendar, Thomas's New England Almanac, and the Royal American Magazine. He may have been only lukewarm in his attitude toward a complete break with England because in 1772 he sought financial backing from Bermuda to move his business, but this attempt failed.
In February, 1775, his domestic life deteriorated when his wife ran off to Newport with one Maj. Benjamin Thompson, a British officer, later the Lord Rumford. Their adultery led to the divorce. In her book Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, Esther Forbes wrote: "Thomas wasn't attractive ... printing presses were his absorbing passion. To that and his books he gave his life."
In early April, 1775, Thomas slipped quietly out of Boston (the last issue of the Spy was dated April 6) to confer with Hancock and members of the Provincial Congress. They advised him to move his press into the country where it would be safe. The wooden flatbed press, made in London in 1747, was put into a wagon, along with his type, and with the aid of Joseph Warren and Timothy Bigelow of Worcester, was ferried across the river to Charlestown. We may assume Bigelow helped because he had encouraged Thomas to move to Worcester in order to establish the Spy as the voice of the rebels in opposing the stronger Loyalist feelings. On the night of April 18 Thomas rode with others to alarm the countryside.
He joined the militia at Lexington, was at Medford that night (April 19), and the next day he walked to Watertown, bade his wife and children goodbye, and set out on foot for Worcester where he would begin a new life of printing newspapers, books, Bibles, music, and finally gathering the memoirs of early America that would ultimately be placed in the American Antiquarian Society, chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in January, 1812. His History of Printing in America will never be superseded as the most important single source relating to the early history of printing in America. He had been called the "Baskerville of America." Keenly aware that his own life spanned one of the great periods in the history of printing, he considered himself to be in a unique position to gather and preserve a mass of data which would otherwise be lost to posterity.
In the summer of 1780 he was drafted for military service. His apprentice, Benjamin Russell, always devoted to his "master" and eager for adventure, volunteered and served for Thomas. Russell joined the Continental Army at West Point and was one of the guards who attended Maj. Andre and was present at his execution. This was the same Russell who later published the Boston Centinel and served as Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, 1814-16. It may be that Thomas had an influence in the choice of Russell.
In all, Isaiah Thomas controlled five bookstores, seven newspapers, and the best magazine (Massachusetts) in the country. He was, in fact, the first chain newspaper owner in the United States.
On Feb. 3, 1813, he presented his historical library to the A. A. S. Boston was again in danger from the British (War of 1812) and it was decided to move the library to the Thomas mansion in Worcester. He also purchased the collection of the Mather Library and in 1819 ground was broken for the first Antiquarian Hall. Thomas donated the site, $2000, and 150,000 bricks for its construction. Today one may view the press and the original Greenwood painting of Thomas in the A. A. S., located at the corner of Salisbury and Regent Sts.
Into the busy and checkered life of Isaiah Thomas came a second marriage, with Mrs. Mary Thomas Fowle. From the day of this union in Boston, May 26, 1779, until her death in 1818 she gave to Isaiah unwavering loyalty. A third marriage, on Aug. 10, 1819, to Rebecca Armstrong was short-lived. She had been a cousin, companion, and housekeeper to his second wife. The marriage ended in a separation in 1822 — Rebecca preferring the open road to the open hearth. Young Isaiah lacked his father's business acumen and proved to be virtually incompetent as a publisher, so the elder Thomas fired him and ran the Spy for six weeks until he found another editor. He became a director in the first bank of Worcester, as well as the second, and a partner in a Worcester tannery. He had amassed a fortune of $170,000.
He became intrigued with a turnpike from Boston to Worcester to shorten the traveling time. It seemed a waste of time to spend 15 hours to reach either destination. In 1804 he hired two surveyors and, with them, determined that a relatively straight road over relatively level land could be laid out direct to Shrewsbury. A year later he had the pleasure of riding out to meet the surveyors who had laid out a straight road from the schoolhouse in Roxbury to the Worcester Court House from which, years before, he had read the copy of the Declaration of Independence. Improved travel by railroad caused temporary abandonment of the highway plans but twentieth century automobile traffic created the need for what is now known as Route 9, exactly as planned by Thomas.
It had been assumed that Thomas had joined a Masonic Lodge of which Joseph Warren was a member. But Grand Lodge records show that he became a Mason in Trinity Lodge, 1787-90, when it was located at Lancaster where it was holding meetings in 1778. Morning Star Lodge was the first one chartered in Worcester and Thomas served as the first Master, 1793-94. He presided again in 1797, 1799, and 1801-02. He served as the D. D. G. M. of the 5th District in 1802 and was Senior Grand Warden, 1795-97.
Thomas was elected Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts Dec. 27,1802, for a period of three years, occupying the office again in 1809. When the merger of St. John's (Provincial) Grand Lodge and the Massachusetts (Independent) Grand Lodge was consummated in 1792 into the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, Isaiah Thomas printed the Constitutions of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons. It contained their charges, history, addresses, old records, faithful traditions, and Lodge books with a history of Masonry in the Commonwealth, the constitution, laws, and regulations of Grand Lodge. It was edited by his friend, the Corresponding Secretary and antiquarian. Dr. Thaddeus M. Harris.
ISAIAH THOMAS APRON worn by him when presiding as Worshipful Master of Morning Star. The apron was given to the lodge by an unnamed donor. It was in a trunk that included the gavel used by Bro. Thomas and several other Masonic artifacts now in the possession of Morning Star Lodge.
In an effort to attain some uniformity of ritual and floor work in the Lodges throughout the jurisdiction, M. W. Thomas was the first to appoint Grand Lecturers. The chair used by him as Master of Morning Star Lodge is now in the Worcester Masonic Temple along with his gavel, apron, original charter bearing his signature, and a desk, and at the head of the stairs hangs a copy of Greenwood's painting beside that of M.W. Thomas S. Roy, Grand Master, 1951-53. Thomas's son, Isaiah, Jr., was Raised in Morning Star Lodge.
M. W. Isaiah Thomas died April 4,1831, his last legacy to the Craft being a gift of $500 toward the erection of a temple, together with numerous interesting memorials and valuable records. The library at Grand Lodge houses much correspondence of Bro. Thomas to Paul Revere and others of his day.
In the codicil to his will he alluded to the then great anti-Masonic excitement raised against Free Masons, evidently for political purposes, by self-created inquisitions, and aided by a few unworthy to be made Masons. One of the more vocal opponents to Masonry was the Hon. Pliny Merrick who was married to Mary Rebecca, daughter of Isaiah Thomas, Jr. Merrick had once been a member of the Craft.
Aware of the great imprint Isaiah Thomas made upon the American scene, the Worcester Area Advertising Club established an award in 1950, honoring an outstanding citizen of the Worcester area who volunteers his time and abilities to improve the quality of life. In tangible form the award is a replica of the Thomas printing press and is now awarded in odd-numbered years. Recipients have been George F. Booth, Mrs. J. Herbert Johnson, Harry G. Stoddard, Philip M. Morgan, George N. Jeppson, Everett F. Merrill, George F. Fuller, John Cardinal Wright, F. Harold Daniels, Raymond P. Harold, Richard C. Potter, Milton P. Higgins, Richard J. Rutherford, Edward B. Coghlin, H. Ladd Plumley, Howard B. Jefferson, Cosmo E. Mingolla, Helen A. and Robert S. Bowditche, Edward C. Maher, Anthony A. Borgatti, Jr., John Jeppson, Joseph T. Benedict, Richard C. Steele, and Anthony J. Stevens, Jr.
Isaiah Thomas's devotion to the printed word, the success of his many personal interests, and his great sense of civic responsibility were seeds from which Worcester has grown to become the city of learning, culture, and industry that it is today.
The men of yesteryear were equal to the demands made upon them. The challenge they give us is implicit in their adequacy. Particularly would they have us emphasize the importance and necessity of reality in Freemasonry; that we might sound out as a great bell that our concern is not with a mysterious secrecy that guards words and symbols, which have their values, but with great principles, the universals of life, by which alone men are to live if the world is to find peace.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: To the American Antiquarian Society for use of the transparency and other photos, and for their kind assistance; to Bros. Donald Lundquist, Fred Johnson, David Roche, Robert Shaw, John Barthelemes, Robert Magill, Royal Cooper, Herbert Johnson, Earl Anderson, Carlo Bianchi and others who contributed to this brief story of a man who left an indelible mark on America.
SOURCES: The American Antiquarian Society; Annie Russell Marble, From Prentice to Patron; Marcus A. McCorison, from Isaiah Thomas, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Future; Richard C. Steele, from Isaiah Thomas; Worcester Area Advertising Club; Grand Lodge Proceedings, 1916.
From TROWEL, Winter 1996, Page 13:
A Most Remarkable Grand Master
by R. W. James T. Watson, Jr.
Evan Thomas arrived in Boston in 1632 as master of the ship, "William and Francis," and settled in Massachusetts Bay Colony. From this lineage Isaiah Thomas was born on January 19, 1749 (O. S.). His widowed mother indentured Isaiah at age six to Zechariah Fowle, printer. A self-educated man, Thomas had only six weeks formal education, though he learned much from Samuel Draper and Gamaliel Rogers, fellow printers during his early years.
By the age of 12 he was running the business affairs of the company, and at 17 moved to Halifax, NS, to work for the Halifax Gazette, where he soon became editor. His radical articles disturbed the British-controlled citizens and he soon returned to Boston. Together with Joseph Warren and Paul Revere, and as their close associate, Thomas was dedicated to bringing independence to the American colonists.
In 1770 he began publishing the Massachusetts Spy, which quickly became a weekly and the largest newspaper in Boston. It displayed a snake in nine parts, representing New England and the other colonies, and the motto, "Join or Die." So radical were Thomas' writings that the British dubbed the "Spy" the most daring production published in America. A summons from the Governor went ignored and an indictment for libel by the Attorney General was refused by the Grand Jury.
Thomas assumed total responsibility for the articles published, thus protecting the identity of authors Otis, Warren. Greenleaf and other patriots. Threatened with assassination and being tarred and feathered, it was not until he heard that General Gage was to seize his press and hold him for treason that Thomas arranged with Col. Bigelow, father of a later Grand Master, for his dismantled press, type and paper to be ferried to Charlestown, carted to Worcester and set up in the basement of Bigelow's home.
Two days later, on April 18, 1775, Thomas was one who spread the alarm of the coming attack on Lexington and Concord, then crossed on the ferry with Warren and joined the militia at daybreak to witness the action at Lexington. After visiting his family in Watertown, he continued to Worcester and wrote an article on the battle at Lexington for the May 3rd issue of the "Spy." He was one of the first war correspondents.
When Benjamin Franklin became Postmaster General, he appointed Thomas as postmaster of Worcester (1775-1801), an excellent source of the latest news. There he lived from 1778-1831. building a mansion on Court Hill in 1783. His business became the largest printing establishment in America by 1793. His own large paper mill provided him with paper and he opened a bindery, as well. At one time he had 16 presses and bookstores in Boston. Portsmouth. Albany. New York and Baltimore.
Isaiah Thomas' Masonic life was closely entwined with his business. In 1778 Massachusetts (Independent) Grand Lodge granted a charter for Trinity Lodge in Lancaster, where Thomas spoke in 1779. After the union of the two Grand Lodges, a Charter was granted to Morning Star Lodge of Worcester, where Thomas served as Charter Master in 1793 and continued intermittently until 1802.
Thomas marched in the Grand Lodge procession of mourning for George Washington in 1800. and upon returning to Worcester, wrote the most complete coverage of that event. His publishing efforts extended to the Grand Constitutions of the merged Grand Lodge in 1792, with a second edition in 1798, to which Thomas contributed much of the data and history.
Grand Lodge was the scene of many "firsts" for Isaiah Thomas. Elected Junior Grand Warden in 1794, he was also elected Senior Grand Warden when Paul Revere chose William Scollay as his Deputy Grand Master, the first time anyone had been elected to both offices in the same year. When Thomas was elected Grand Master in 1802 it was the first time one was chosen so far from Boston. He served for three years and in 1809 for an additional year, making him the first Grand Master to succeed his successor. On the night of his installation Grand Lodge Officers installed Past Grand Master Josiah Bartlett as Master of King Solomon's Lodge, a first in this jurisdiction.
Because many Lodges were being chartered, making it impossible for Grand Lodge Officers to constitute them all. Fraternal Lodge in Barnstable was the first Lodge constituted by a District Deputy. Thomas also appointed the first Grand Lecturer to work out differences in ritual at the various Lodges.
When Thomas first became Grand Master he relinquished his printing business to his son, sold or curtailed other enterprises and developed other interests, including a shorter route between Worcester and Boston. The railroad delayed the need for the road a century, but it finally appeared as Route 9.
Writing a History of Printing in America caused Thomas to recognize the need for a library/museum to preserve early writings and historical events. He donated money, bricks and much of his writings and collections for the building and support of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. There one may see Stuart's portrait of Thomas and the press on which he had printed from his childhood on and had rescued from the loyalists. Morning Star Lodge presented another portrait, based on Stuart's, to Grand Lodge in 1875. It hangs in the anteroom of the 5th floor Ionic Hall where Grand Lodge meets.
From TROWEL, Winter 2010, Page 8:
Printers, Patriots, Freemasons
By Rt. Wor. Walter Hunt
As Massachusetts Masons we are passionate about the written word. Among the many factors that contribute to our longevity here in the Bay State is the attachment we have to our own documentary record, which has survived fire and flood and anti-Masonic storm for nearly three centuries, and which brings back the words, and through them, the deeds of those who have gone before us.
It should therefore come as no surprise that two of the united Grand Lodge's earliest leaders were intimately connected with the written word — as writers, printers and publishers — and each played a role in the founding of our United States: Isaiah Thomas and Benjamin Russell. They were associates and friends, and each occupied the Oriental Chair of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts: Thomas for four years (1803-1805 and again in 1809) and Russell for three (1814-1816). During his tenure, each helped shape the fraternity that we know today and each left behind a lasting legacy.
From Spy to Antiquarian
Isaiah Thomas, one of our best-known Grand Masters, was born in Boston a generation before the Revolution. He was apprenticed at an early age to a printer in the town, Zachariah Fowle, but his independent spirit ultimately forced him to seek employment elsewhere. Like another famous printer and Mason, Benjamin Franklin (whom he idolized), it had been young Thomas' intention to make his way across the ocean to London to improve his knowledge of the printing trade, but his travels only took him as far as Nova Scotia, where he found employment at the Halifax Gazette. His activities soon showed his political inclinations, forcing him to depart in haste after he published commentary in the newspaper regarding Nova Scotians' opposition to the Stamp Act.
By 1767 Thomas, now 18 years old, had returned to his native Boston and reconciled with his former master, who employed him as a journeyman. After a brief sojourn south—which resulted, among other things, in his marriage to Mary Dill in Charleston, South Carolina, on Christmas Day 1769—he returned and established himself in partnership with Fowle. By the fall of 1770 he had bought out Fowle, and was now the sole publisher of a newspaper of his own, the Massachusetts Spy, that reflected his own increasingly radical point of view. The paper, and Thomas himself, became increasingly associated with the Sons of Liberty, attracting contributors who favored the Patriot cause and opposed British rule. On April 19, 1775 he even published an account purported to be an eyewitness account of the battles of Lexington and Concord — electrifying news back in Boston. Shortly afterward, it became necessary for Thomas and the Spy to depart Boston; for the next few years both had a somewhat itinerant existence. Thomas finally settled in Worcester, which thereafter became his home. Despite the economic hardship of the Revolution, the young printer was able to flourish due to the prodigious output of his "forge of sedition." He made a number of close friends who assisted him in his efforts: prominently, Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, and Timothy Bigelow; Warren and Bigelow assisted him in transporting his press and type to Worcester just ahead of British soldiers, and Revere's engravings appeared in the Spy and even more frequently in the literary publication that would soon be renamed the Massachusetts Magazine.
Old No. 1 - The press called the "sedition factory" by British authorities, moved from Boston to Worcester by Thomas.
"... a small old printing press at which I worked as an apprentice and which I bought when of age and began business in Boston," wrote Isaiah Thomas.
Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society
In 1779 Isaiah Thomas remarried. Unusually for the time, he had been granted a divorce on the justifiable grounds of adultery on the part of his wife. His second wife Mary Thomas Fowle would be a loyal and loving companion until her death in 1818. In 1780 he was conscripted for military service, but his apprentice Benjamin Russell went in his stead and served with distinction. Thomas, meanwhile, built success upon success, establishing himself as the most prominent printer in Massachusetts and ultimately in the entire United States; in addition to his periodicals he began to print almanacs and books, including many children's books and some of the earliest editions of popular novels as well as the original Constitutions and Regulations of our Grand Lodge. In 1789 he acquired the rights to Noah Webster's spelling and grammar books, ultimately a very lucrative investment that helped establish his fortune.
Bro. Thomas' Masonic career began in the old Trinity Lodge in Lancaster, chartered by the Massachusetts (Independent) Grand Lodge, where he was initiated some time after 1787. His first appearance in the Proceedings is in 1793 at the constitution of Morning Star Lodge in Worcester, where he was the first installed master. He was one of the first district deputy grand masters after the positions were established, and by 1802 he had risen high enough in the Grand Lodge that he was chosen as Grand Master of Masons to succeed Samuel Dunn. His three-year term was Jk extremely active; he granted thirteen charters, including five in the District of Maine and one in the State of Ohio (Scioto Lodge in Chillicothe, which would soon surrender its Massachusetts credentials to help found the Grand Lodge of Ohio). After Most. Wor. Timothy Bigelow's first three-year term, Bro. Thomas returned as Grand Master; his most memorable act was the recognition and welcome of the Lodge of Saint Andrew to Massachusetts jurisdiction, according it the second position of precedence behind only Saint John's Lodge of Boston. Like his long-time friend Paul Revere, Thomas was well-known outside the fraternity as well as within it. His success as a businessman permitted him to retire in 1802, and gave him ample time to devote his attention to other interests. In addition to Freemasonry, Thomas was a skilled antiquarian; he published the seminal History of Printing in America in 1810, and in 1812 was a principal founder of the American Antiquarian Society, to which he ultimately donated his extensive library. He served as president of that organization until his death in 1831.
The building containing his 1796 print ing office is currently located at Old Sturbridge Village; it lies a few hundred yards from the town green, near the stately house of Bro. Salem Towne. The press and other facilities are modest, yet it is the workplace of a skilled craftsman, a master of his trade in a small but growing town. It is in some ways quintessentially American, the sort of humble surrounding from which came the sorts of words that could start a revolution or build a nation. It is a fitting memorial to the indomitable spirit of Isaiah Thomas.
The Isaiah Thomas Sebastian miniature commissioned by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
From Boston Masonic Mirror, New Series, Vol 2. No. 41, April 9, 1831, Page 327:
The venerable Isaiah Thomas is no more!
This venerable and well-beloved man died at Worcester on Monday last. He was the father of American printers; and past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of this Commonwealth. He was born in this city in January, 1749. "He began his career," says Mr. John Russell, in his address to the members of the Faustus Association in 1808, "about the time Franklin was called from the private studies of his office, to fulfil the duties of public minister abroad. On his first entrance into business, he was distinguished for enterprise and ingenuity — and possessing an ardent mind, he pursued tbe natural bent of his enthusiasm in the cause of liberty, by eminently contributing in his private example, and professional ability, as editor of a newspaper, to the progress and consummation of that glorious revolution, which seated the proud empire of America on the throne of independence."
At a meeting of the Council of the American Antiquarian Society, held at tbe house of tho Rev. Dr. Bancroft, on Monday the 4th day of April, A. D.1831, being the day of the decease of the late Isaiah Thomas, L. L. D. and late President of said Society—
- Resolved, That this Society deplore (he death of their venerable President, as a distinguished public benefactor, to whose munificence we are almost exclusively indebted for our valuable literary and other property.
- Resolved, That for a long succession of years he has devoted his valuable services with great zeal to the interests of this Society, and has left to the public in the Library,a legacy for wbicb tbey ought to be grateful.
- Resolved, That this Society will attend his funeral, and request a member of their body to deliver an appropriate address on that occasion.
- Resolved, That Rejoice Newton, Esq. be requested to communicate these Resolutions to the surviving relatives and to make all necessary arrangements.
Attest, REJOICE NEWTON, Rec'g. Sec.
His funeral was attended at the meeting house ef the Second Parish in Worcester, on Thursday last.
ADDRESS BEFORE THOMAS LODGE, SEPTEMBER 1820
From Proceedings, Page 1921-564:
Worshipful Master, Wardens, and Brethren: Since I received the notice of my appointment to this Dissertation, I have frequently revolved in my mind, and anxiously too, what subject would best befit the present occasion. And while I return my thanks to the Worshipful for the honor he has done me, and solicit that candid allowance from the Lodge, which Youth and Inexperience have a claim to, I would submit to you all, what theme can I choose more beneficial, and at the same time more welcome, than that of Brotherly Love. It is not only one of the choicest jewels of our profession, but, in truth and soberness, it may be pronounced the very inspiring soul of our ancient and honorable institution. All Masons are taught to call the Lodge a fraternity, a brotherhood;—I need not have mentioned this, however, when the whole body of our rules and regulations is so evidently framed for a society of brethren, rather than of isolated individuals; when all our sacred lessons so solemnly and repeatedly inculcate a sense of our standing in the fraternal relation one to the other. There is not a Mason, who has entered and been received into our Lodge in form, but was hailed by that venerable voice from the East, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, for Brethren to dwell together in unity! Take away Brotherly Love, and Masonry exists no longer, except in an unmeaning form, as useless and inanimate as the perished clay.
We need not consume much time in attempting to define Brotherly Love; every man of the common feelings of human nature knows what it is by his own experience. The endearing name is no sooner heard, than it calls up our remembrance of those days, and months, and years of fraternal affection, which our childhood and youth enjoyed amid the family circles, in which we were brought up. It is to such scenes that Nature herself refers us, to obtain a heartfelt knowledge of this principle; while she laughs at our coldness and affectation of philosophy in sitting down to analyze and reduce it to some technical description. Where is that cold, selfish heart which has never felt an endearing tenderness, a warmth of friendship, that sets all description at defiance"? Is there one among us, who never has known how divinely pleasant it is to forgive a brother's faults, to guard his reputation, to stand by him when he is oppressed, and to share all the joys that enkindle his soul, and all the woes that settle_on his heart? If there is one vestige of Eden left on earth, it is in the bosom of a virtuous family, whose souls are feelingly alive to each others' welfare. They stand in the tumultuous world, like a green isle in the ocean. The strife that roars around can never invade their sacred home. In days of prosperity they rejoice together. A brother's or a sister 's eye meets them at every look, and tells the cheerfulness that dwells in the heart, while their songs of gladness enliven their dwelling. Does one of their happy number stray from the path of rectitude ? How ready are their fond souls to win him back! Oh, what can withstand the thousand fascinations, unconscious and undesigned, with which their artless tongues will plead for his reformation! Does affliction visit them? Do pinching want and cheerless poverty surround them? Still are they happy in themselves; their mutual affection inspires a serene joy, which this world cannot give, nor its loss take away. And when disease invades the mansion, the bed of the feeble sufferer is surrounded with anxious hearts and watchful eyes that share all his pains, and administer to every rising want. On the faithful bosoms around, he reposes, with confidence, all his weaknesses and failings.
Such, my brethren, is Brotherly Love; such is the feeling, which, as Masons, we have engaged to cherish for each other. We never shall fulfill our relative duty, till we view one another with that peculiar interest, which real brethren feel, as well as with the more general philanthropy, which every amiable, every religious man will exercise towards the whole world. It is by no means enough that we abstain from injuring each other, nor that we entertain each other with a commonplace civility, which even total strangers have an imperious claim to; there must be more of a kindred feeling between us than all this, or the title of brethren is but a sarcasm upon us.
But we should remember, there are many difficulties to be surmounted, and almost innumerable temptations to be resolutely resisted, in the discharge of this duty. The better we know them, the better may we be prepared for them. That brother knows little indeed of human nature, who expects with our particular gratification? Alas, every mortal's cup of woe is sufficiently bitter, without our pouring additional gall into it. Go, and carefully observe your poor victim; mark the rising cares that torment his bosom; count the tears that emotion wrings from him; look over the long catalogue of his baffled schemes, his disappointed hopes, his unsatisfied desires; estimate the sum of misery, to which, as a sojourner in this vale of tears, he is sure heir; and then smile, if you can, at the thought of adding another pang to his sorrows. Ah, we little think, in the moment of malice or wantonness, how many woes have already left their blight on the heart we are about to wound afresh! If we have wronged one of our brethren, let us return with prompt redress. We ought not to be ashamed of doing right; there is not a lovelier object below the skies than a man, voluntarily recompensing where he has injured, and closing up those breaches which have been to long neglected. Does our obstinate pride take alarm at the thought of retracting? That is a perverse pride indeed, unworthy a rational being, unbecoming an accountable creature; a pride, that exults in our own disgrace and condemnation. How much applause does a man expect for his obstinacy, from his own conscience, from his God, and I may add, from the world itself, as sinful as it is 1 Could we but realize how truly honorable the spirit of conciliation appears, we never should be backward to redress an injury of any kind. Were we to describe a man, whom angels would look down from heaven to contemplate with respect and esteem, it would be one who is recalling his acts of injustice, and healing with tenderness all the wounds he has inflicted.
to meet with no clashing interests, even among Masons, to disturb his feelings and try his forbearance. Were we so foolish, when we sought admission into the Lodge, as to suppose it a society of pure spirits, instead of imperfect men ? Why then should we be surprised or disturbed, because offences, which must come, assail us, even in this sacred recess 1 We must expect them, and be prepared for them.
There are a thousand nameless occurrences in life, that engender discord in every society under heaven. Occurrences, too trifling to be particularized; such as are sometimes instantly forgotten, and sometimes remembered forever : an unintentional neglect, a few unbecoming words dropped in a moment of irritation, a petty injury, an interference of concerns, a rivalship in business,—I mean those common events, that take place every day, in all ways and shapes, and kindle into so great and lasting a flame. "lis true, they are all trifles; but he who knows much of mankind, needs not be told that trifles generally vex and irritate them much more than things of importance. We must, therefore, guard against the appearance of evil, in our daily intercourse with one another; and, certainly, when there is an unavoidable clashing of interests, we cannot conduct with too much delicacy and caution. A slight neglect may wound beyond our power to heal. And are our hearts so cold and hard, that we have no sympathy for others? Shall we be utterly regardless of the feelings of our own brother? Are ye so destitute of compassion, of every amiable sentiment, so absorbed in selfishness, as to trample on one another's feelings, without heed or care, whenever they happen to interfere with our particular gratification? Alas, every mortal's cup of woe is sufficiently bitter, without our pouring additional gall into it. Go, and carefully observe your poor victim; mark the rising cares that torment his bosom; count the tears that affliction wrings from him; look over the long catalogue of his baffled schemes, his disappointed hopes, his unsatisfied desires; estimate the sum of misery, to which, as a sojourner in this vale of tears, he is sure heir; and then smile, if you can, at the thought of adding another pang to his sorrows.
Ah, we little think, in the moment of malice or wantonness, how many woes have already left their blight on the heart we are about to wound afresh! If we have wronged one of our brethren, let us return with prompt redress. We ought not to be ashamed of doing right; there is not a lovelier object below the skies than a man, voluntarily recompensing where he has injured, and closing up those breaches which have been too long neglected. Does our obstinate pride take alarm at the thought of retracting? That is a perverse pride indeed, unworthy of a rational being, unbecoming an accountable creature; a pride that exults in our own disgrace and condemnation. How much applause does a man expect for his obstinacy, from his own conscience, from his God and, I may add, from the world itself, as sinful as it is? Could we but realize how truly honorable the spirit of conciliation appears, we never should be backward to redress an injury of any kind. Were we to describe a man, whom angels could look down from heaven to contemplate with respect and esteem, it would be one who is recalling his acts of injustice, and healing with tenderness all the wounds he has inflicted. Nor would angels be his only admirers; his integrity and condescension would attract the veneration of his fellow-men. How soon would his former offenses be blotted out of remembrance, and the scoffs of the heedless rabble subside! Vice itself would behold and confess the loveliness and dignity of such virtue.
But to avoid giving offense is only one-half of the duty of a brother; we must also be ready to bear with each others' infirmities. If our brethren conduct unbecomingly towards us, we must meet them with forbearance. This we certainly shall do if we have any regard for our honor or tranquillity. Who is there that does not scorn that little, captious disposition, which is forever offended about one petty affair or another ? always expecting uncommon attention, and always meeting with most insufferable insults! Are we disposed to harbor the least portion of so despicable, so uncomfortable a spirit ? Let us not degrade ourselves to such littleness. But then, it may be said, Our brother has wronged us,—has meanly endeavored to reduce our standing in society, and to exalt himself. Well, grant it; but of what advantage is it to our affairs or reputation to be tormented, day and night, in envying him for it? It certainly has no influence to retard his prosperity or to add to ours. But then we mean to show a proper resentment; he shall not enjoy our good will. Nor does he wish it, if he is our enemy. If his injury was intentional, he meant we should feel it; he sought this .very gratification of witnessing how well the poison of his arrow would rankle in our bosom. What cares he for our envy? Why, it only flatters his vanity. If we wish to disappoint his wicked hopes, there is but one way; we must return good for the evil he has done us. This will be like coals of fire on his head. We must treat him as we would an offending' brother in a family connection, not with coldness and sovereign contempt, but with gentleness and forbearance. "While he remains a member of our Lodge, we have no alternative; we not only degrade ourselves and act irrationally when we deny him the tribute of fraternal tenderness, but we wholly disregard the very spirit from that of a brother Mason. But it will be said, that we should encourage him in his opposition, by meeting him on friendly terms, till such time as he may reform. This suggestion will receive but a brief answer, for it deserves no more. Everyone knows that if anything will touch the heart of an enemy, and convert him to a friend, it is goodness,—it is a generous kindness; while a haughty reserve only increases his offenses, and excites him to triumph in his insults. We may as well talk of throwing fuel on fire, all honestly, in order to extinguish it, as to pretend that we treat our adversary with disdain, just to reform him, and inspire him with a friendly disposition..
Having spoken of the folly and wickedness of indulging those enmities, which the common occurrences of life too often produce, we may now be reminded of particular causes of distrust and dissatisfaction, to which we are exposed.
There is one, which will be found in every society, which receives its members from different towns and parishes, viz: Local Interest. We must bear in mind, that every circle of popularity is partial to itself. Every town, every village delights to see itself honored and privileged; and the society, which withholds a proper share of its attention to the several communities from which it is composed, will be sure to give something worse than mere personal offense. Is not this assertion verified by the history of all alliances, from those of the most powerful nations, down to those of the most insignificant bodies of individuals? Of what importance is it then, that the brethren keep a watchful eye on this so prolific source of discord! We need not be informed that this Lodge is particularly exposed to Local Prejudices. Not that we would intimate that they already exist, to a reprehensible degree, nor that the proceedings of the brethren have been such as to produce them; but it may be repeated, that our Lodge, from the diversity of its connections, is particularly liable to local jealousies. It is made up from different towns and sections of society which otherwise have no great intercourse with each other. And if a suspicious spirit should rise in these several circles, our harmony, which is our strength, will vanish like a summer dream. We are all equally interested in preserving the whole foundation of our Masonic temple strong and sound. The sacrilegious hand that undermines but one of its corners, is drawing down the whole fabric by a gradual, but sure declension. In the sacred circle of our fraternity, there is no room for an unhallowed rivalship. When we attempt to rise over the depression of any part of our number, the mystic virtue and glory of our institution is departed forever. Its level is broken, its square untrue, its plumb oblique, and the cement that bound the materials together, sifting about in the winds of heaven. To avoid such a dissolution, there is but one course to be followed. Need I name it to you, my brethren, who have so long, and I think, so successfully pursued it, that to this late period, local party spirit is almost, if not wholly unknown in this Lodge? On the one hand, we must pay a deference to the various feelings of our brethren from the several towns; and on the other, we must exercise a mutual forbearance, and that Charity, which thinketh no ill. We should also indulge some rational reflections on this point: those brethren who reside in the neighborhood of the lodge-room must be sensible the greater part of the care of our concerns will fall on them. We might wish an equal distribution of it over the whole territory which our Lodge embraces; but then, nothing is more evidently impracticable. If our central brethren refuse all but just an equal share in this burden we shall find it increasing in perplexity, till through neglect it grows unmanageable, and reduces us to utter confusion. But we must reflect, too, that if theirs be so great a proportion of the burden, theirs also ought to be a liberal share of the privileges and honors of our Lodge. While they are subjected to an incumbrance of extraordinary duties, are they not entitled to a preference in the appointments to offices and dignities? But after all, nothing can be more satisfactory, nothing more becoming, than a magnificent generosity. The noble mind will never fear degrading itself, by yielding those honors, which it might, perhaps without injustice, engross to itself. The Mason whose heart is duly prepared needs not be told, how lovely, how dignified, how Godlike is condescension! It is the invariable attendant of a magnanimous soul. It is the glorious prerogative of a mind exalted over the petty wants and mean fastidiousness of the sordid multitude. What was it which gave our immortal Washington that amiable splendor, which has commanded the unanimous veneration of all the kingdoms of this world ? What raised him above almost all the heroes of ancient or latter days? It was the unassuming, generous disposition of his whole soul. It was this, which finished the climax of his glory, and gave it that engaging hue, which enchants, while it astonishes the beholder. It is this, which will continue him the boasted ornament of earth, till the sun of Eternity drowns, in its effulgence, every star of Time. He fought with courage, skill and success; and we call him a Conqueror. He directed the councils of our embarrassed nation, with the deepest wisdom, and almost prophetic foresight, and we call him a Statesman. But when we see him refusing all reward for his countless sei"vices and perilous toils, laying aside his well earned honors, and returning to the untitled station from whence he rose,— 'tis then we hail him as something more than human,— 'tis then the Conqueror and Statesman becomes the Father of his country, and we his children, and the music of his renown rises to such an immortal strain as will reach the last distant generations ere it subsides. Let us strive, in our little sphere, to imitate so dignified an example : when we have done services, let us not be very nice in determining, as it were by measure and weight, the exact amount of public honors to recompense us. To borrow an inspired exhortation, in honor let us prefer one another. So long as this disposition pervades our Lodge, the demon of discord will seek in vain for admittance here. Brotherly Love, with its angel smile, will shed its radiance on every face; and the dews of Hermon from on high, will descend on our lodge, as on the mountains of Zion. How cheering is the thought! How full of glory is the anticipation of long years of undisturbed friendship within these walls! To think that the acquaintance, which many of us have just begun to form on this sacred spot, shall grow into a sincere affection, increasing, as we walk forward on the level of time, and brightening, as we at last descend towards the dark valley of the shadow of death.
I would introduce to your consideration one more source of mutual enmity, from which we are to apprehend danger, and then leave the subject.
I allude to Sectarian Prejudice. We know that our fraternity is made up of members from the different political and religious parties; parties that frequently seem to think themselves bound by their God and their country to oppose,—I had almost said, to abuse each other. Perhaps there is no greater evil in our land than the confirmed aversion which is established between them. And is it not to be feared that we shall bring some of their animosity and rancor with us into the Lodge ? Is it not too probable that our minds, heated by the perpetual strife of a divided world, will retain a degree of the unholy warmth, when we retire to this sacred recess ? It is impossible to reflect on the state of society at large, without a gloomy apprehension. Look forth into the world, and observe the terrible and extensive commotions, which party-spirit frequently raises; mark the constant jealousies it produces, and the unceasing violence it breeds.
The period is yet fresh in the remembrance of the youngest brother present, when the inhabitants of our beloved country were almost ready to take up arms against each other. Townsmen, and neighbors, and kindred families were chafed into such a frenzy, that, in many instances, the common civilities of life were refused, friendship forgotten, and mutual slander and insult became the order of the day. Two vast parties had divided the whole community between themselves, till there was scarcely an individual, however obscure, but had been enlisted under the banners of one or the other. Thanks to God, this ferment has subsided, and the tempest it raised has rolled by, and left us to the tranquillity of the opening sunshine. For the present we have much less to fear from this quarter than formerly. But our different religious denominations still oppose each other, with almost all their wonted bigotry and prejudice. Bach sect requires of its members an exclusive devotion to its particular interests, and too seldom enjoins the imperious duty of charitable feelings and conduct towards the others. You shall often hear a man applauded for conduct towards a different sect which it would be base to offer to a public enemy. These sects are, in fact, opposing parties that have parceled out our Christian community among themselves and built separating walls between. Such is the political and religious state of the world, from which we have collected together, and here taken on ourselves the obligations of brethren. Ought we not to be most watchful over ourselves, lest the influence of these parties should set our hearts against each other? Our partiality for a party may incite us to support its interest here, where no party is known, and lead us to pursue the cold, calculating policy of a spy, even in the hour that is devoted to Masonry. Against every incentive of this kind we must set our faces as a flint, or we have no business here. Our Institution solemnly professes to make no distinction among our various political and religious sects; the good and the worthy of all it receives with equal readiness and joy, and admits them to its equal love and friendship. If we really think this too liberal a policy, if we cannot feel disposed to act on so impartial a scale ourselves, this is no place for us; the first duty that we owe to our consciences and to our brethren, is an instant renunciation of our Masonic profession, and an eternal adieu to the Institution. The moment that we come to the determination of withholding the least share of our friendship from any brother, merely on account of his political or religious sentiments, that moment do we determine to oppose a constitutional principle of our fraternity. We become a viper in the bosom, an enemy in disguise. With us, there can be no medium between a full acknowledgment of the rights of brotherly love and a total denial of them; we cannot admit a member as half brother and half alien. Indeed, you could not mortify and wound the feelings of a fellow-creature more cruelly than to receive him as a relative into your family, and then treat him as a stranger; to tantalize him with the title of a brother, while you stand aloof from him and manifest your disgust. And who is there, so abject, so mean, as to wish an admittance into the Lodge, if he must be denied an equality ? If he must sit and mark the invidious look, and receive the heartless hand of his own brother and be obliged to content himself with cold formalities, instead of the warm effusions of real friendship which the rest enjoy 1 Oh, give us the heart of a brother, or do not mock us with the empty name.
But perhaps, we may be told, It is giving countenance to what we think false principles, to condescend to a level with their advocates. Were this the case, it would indeed become our duty to discard the whole system of Masonry, and. call no one our brother, nor treat him as such, unless he belonged to our own party; but the suggestion is directly opposed to fact. What man, acquainted with the civil and ecclesiastical history of our country, can suppose that a disdainful treatment is calculated to check the growth of any sect or party? Eight or wrong, if it is denied its inherent social privileges, it will gather unwonted, unnatural strength from the denial. Contempt and abuse will rouse it to tenfold exertions, and create a zeal, so enthusiastic as to blind and infatuate both the possessor and the beholder. Oppression has established many a theory, which if left to itself, would have passed away with the whim of the day; and if we wish to diffuse and confirm any sentiment we may succeed, almost as well by severity against its advocates, as by avowing and supporting it. But on the other hand, by mingling freely with our fellow-creatures, we have every chance of imparting and obtaining knowledge: our passions subside in a friendly intercourse; our prejudices imperceptibly wear away, till, at last, we find ourselves willing to lay our ideas side by side, to examine and compare them. How quickly will Truth triumph over error, and Knowledge over ignorance, when they are fairly brought into the same sphere! Does a wise man fear to associate with the uninformed, lest he himself should become ignorant ? No; it is darkness which retires before the light; it is ignorance which is afraid of knowledge and bigotry which shuns pure religion. But if all this is not satisfactory, then let us take the Son of God for an example; we surely cannot fear to trust his wisdom to direct us in this case. When he came to our earth, to establish truth, and destroy error, he condescended to a level with his offending creatures, though he was Lord of the creation. In the midst of the bigoted and supercilious Pharisees, in the houses of the Publicans and Sinners, or in the fields and on the mountains with his disciples, he was the same meek, benevolent, and unassuming character. And if I may be allowed so bold an appeal, Did not Christ act wisely, in preferring such a method to instruct the ignorant in the truth, and turn the bigoted from their errors ? Why then should we not imitate him?
Brethren, let us fulfill our fraternal obligations, in spite of the difference in our professions. Let not bigotry and party spirit poison our enjoyments, and Masonry will attain the high honor of first realizing that ancient prediction, "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie clown with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and fatling together."
To express the whole in one word: let no temptation draw us from the way of our duty. Let us prefer one another in honor. Let us go and redress any injury we may have committed ; let us avoid the very appearance of evil in our daily intercourse; and be ready to forgive when we are wronged,—and the blessing of God will rest upon us.
It may be nothing but fancy, yet I cannot but indulge the belief that Providence designed our Institution and raised it up for the purpose of affording a refuge to the peaceful and benevolent from the strifes and animosities of this wide world. The world is a troubled sea, where the restlessness of the ambitious, the opposing interests, the discordant feelings of society, and the petty contentions of individuals vex the waters into a perpetual uproar ; and the heart of the good man sickens at the strife. And is there no calm retreat, from this wild commotion—no sacred abode, Avhere the Dove of Peace may find a dwelling-place? Yes, the Masonic Institution appears, amidst the tumult, like the ark of old, hovering on the dread abyss, and with her ensigns of Union unfurled, inviting the social and the generous of every clime and every creed, to join within her sacred covert. It is here that man feels himself divested of his prejudices; and while his heart expands with genial warmth, beyond the contractedness of self, he tramples down all the vain distinctions, which the customs of the world may have placed between him and his brother. Is this fancy, or is it fact ? Methinks I hear the blessing of the unfortunate from every region descending on our Institution. Here comes the poor man, who has seen better days, sits down, a brother, with the wealthy and the prosperous, and forgets his poverty,—forgets his misfortunes. Here comes the friendless victim, whom popular prejudice has devoted to scorn and neglect; he comes, and his heart dilates with unusual joy and hope, in the assurance that he has found affection and esteem once more in the land of the living. The weary stranger approaches, and meets with brethren in a foreign land. The homeless exile, from a distant shore, comes, with his withered form, to cool his fevered heart with the kindness of kindred souls; and here he finds a substitute for that little home, far away beyond the waste of waters, which he never shall behold again. The captive, from his dank and dreary dungeon, gives the token to our fraternity, and the horrors of his imprisonment vanish; the cold mossy walls of his living tomb almost smile at the approach of a brother in an enemy's land.
Such is the Institution, which Heaven in mercy, has given to the children of men. But we must bear in mind, that all its advantages depend on the faithful exercise of Brotherly Love among its members. If this be neglected, no matter from what cause, the soul of Masonry is departed forever. ' Tis not by passing votes, 'tis not by the performance of ceremonies, by pompous parade and show, 'tis not by elaborate and nattering harangues,—Masonry must live in the heart, or not at all. When she is driven thence, she bids farewell to earth, and rises to her home in the skies.
I hereby certify that the foregoing address was delivered September 13, 1820, before Thomas Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons by Bro. Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, Mass. Thomas Lodge was named for Bro. Isaiah Thomas, who presented the Lodge with a set of Jewels and Collars.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand at Palmer, Mass., this Ninth day of March, A.D. 1874, A.L. 5874.
Elias Turner, S. W.
A. P. Spaulding, A. Thayer.
- 03/14/1803 St. John's, Newburyport (endorsed)
- 06/13/1803 Charity, Mendon
- 06/13/1803 Wisdom, West Stockbridge
- 06/13/1803 Pythagorean, Fryeburg (Me.)
- 06/13/1803 Cumberland, New Gloucester (Me.)
- 09/12/1803 Washington Remembered, New Bedford
- 09/12/1803 St. Mark's, Newburyport
- 09/12/1803 American Union, Marietta, Ohio (renewed)
- 12/13/1803 Sheffield, Sheffield
- 03/12/1804 Oriental, Bridgetown (Me.)
- 09/10/1804 Solar, Bath (Me.)
- 06/10/1805 Amicable, Cambridge
- 06/10/1805 Mount Carmel, Lynn
- 09/10/1805 Orient, Thomaston (Me.)
- 09/10/1805 Scioto, Chillicothe (Ohio)