Brief History of the Scottish Rite

The use of the word “Scottish” has led many Masons to believe that the Rite originated in Scotland. There was also a false belief, which persisted for many years that a man had to go to Scotland to receive the 33°. Neither of these statements is true. Actually, the first reference to the Rite appears in old French records where the word “Ecossais” meaning Scottish, is found. During the later part of the 17th Century, when the British Isles were torn by strife, many Scots fled to France and resumed their Masonic interests in that country. It is believed that this influence contributed to the use of the word “Scottish”. In 1732, the first “Ecossais” or Scottish Lodge, was organized in Bordeaux, one of the oldest and most influential Masonic centers in France. The membership included Scottish and English Masons. The years 1738-40 saw the formation of the first “Hauts Grades”or advanced degrees. In 1761, certain Masonic authorities in France granted a patent to Stephen Morin of Bordeaux to carry the advanced degrees across the sea to America. In 1763, Morin established these degrees in the French possessions in-the West Indies. What he established consisted of a system of 25 so called higher degrees which flourished in France and which were known as the “Rite of Perfection”. Within a few years after 1763, other degrees were added, until the Rite had a ritual structure of 33 degrees, the first three being exemplified in a Symbolic Lodge. In 1767, Henry Francken, who had been deputized by Morin, organized a Lodge of Perfection in Albany, New York. This was the forerunner of what was to become the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in the United States. During the Colonial Period, other deputies, appointed by Morin, organized Masonic groups which conferred the advanced degrees at other important cities along the Atlantic seaboard, including Charleston, South Carolina. These groups were independent and without centralized supervision or control. However, they all agreed that their authority came from Stephen Morin in Jamaica in the West Indies. On May 31, 1801, the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third degree for the United States of America, the first Scottish Rite Supreme Council in the world, was founded in Charleston, South Carolina. Its aim was to unify these competing groups and to bring Masonic order out of chaos. The full membership of this Supreme Council consisted of 11 Grand Inspectors General.

On August 4, 1813, Emanuel De La Motta, 33°, of Savannah, Georgia, a distinguished merchant and philanthropist, and Grand Treasurer General of the Supreme Council in Charleston, organized in New York City the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third degree for the Northern District and Jurisdiction of the United States of America. The first Sovereign Grand Commander was III. Daniel D. Tompkins, 33°. He filled this office from 1813-25. He was at the same time, Vice-President of the United States for two terms, under President Monroe. The first Grand Secretary General of this Supreme Council, its Conservator during the era of anti-Masonic attacks, and its third Sovereign Grand Commander from 1832-51, was III. John James Joseph Gourgas, 33°.

Since it is now officially recognized as beginning in 1801 in Charleston, South Carolina, the Scottish Rite has spread throughout the world. At the present time, the Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction officially recognizes and enjoys friendly relations with the Supreme Councils of the Scottish Rite in 39 other Jurisdictions and the higher degree systems (Swedish Rite) administered by the Grand Lodges in the four Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction specifically covers the 15 states east of the Mississippi River and north of the Mason-Dixon Line and the Ohio River, including Delaware. Its headquarters is in Lexington, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The other Supreme Council in the United States is that of the Southern Jurisdiction. It has its headquarters at Washington, D.C., and covers the remaining 35 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories and possessions.

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