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Supreme Council

The Supreme Masonic authority of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite is called a Supreme Council. A Supreme Council claims to derive the authority for its existence from the Constitutions of 1786. We have no intention here of entering into the question of the authenticity of that document. The question is open to the historian, and has been amply discussed, with the natural result of contradictory conclusions But he who accepts the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite as genuine Freemasonry, and owes his obedience as a Freemason to its constituted authorities, is compelled to recognize those Constitutions wherever or whenever they may have been enacted as the fundamental law--the constitutional rule of his Rite. To their authority all the Supreme Councils owe their legitimate existence.

Dr. Frederiek Dalcho, who, in the opinion of Doctor Mackey, may very properly be considered as the founder in the United States, and therefore in the world, of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in its latest form as the legitimate successor of the Rite of Perfection or of Herodem, has given in the Circular written by him, and published December 4, 1802, by the Supreme Council at Charleston, the following account of the establishment of Supreme Councils: "On the 1st of May, 1786, the Grand Constitution of the Thirty-third Degree, called the Supreme Council of Sovereign Grand Inspectors General, was finally ratified by his Majesty the King of Prussia, who, as Grand Commander of the Order of Prince of the Royal Secret, possessed the Sovereign Masonic power over all the Graft. In the new Constitution, this high power was conferred on a Supreme Council of nine Brethren in each nation, who possess all the Masonic prerogatives, in their own district, that his Majesty individually possessed, and are Sovereigns of Masonry."

The basic law for the establishment of a Supreme Council is found in these words in the Latin Constitutions of 1786: "The First Degree will be subordinated to the Second, that to the Third, and so in order to the Sublime, Thirty-third, and last, which will watch over all the others, will correct their errors and will govern them, and whose Congregation or Convention will be a dogmatic Supreme Grand Council, the Defender and Conservator of the Order, which it will govern and administer according to the present Constitutions and those which may hereafter he enacted."

But the Supreme Council at Charleston derived its authority and its information from what are called the French Constitutions; and it is in them that we find the statement that Frederick invested the Supreme Council with the same prerogatives that he himself possessed, a provision not contained in the Latin Constitutions. The twelfth article says: "The Supreme Council will exereise all the Masonic sovereign powers of which his Majesty Frederick II, King of Prussia, was possessed." These Constitutions further declare (Article 5) that "every Supreme Council is composed of nine Inspectors-General, five of whom should profess the Christian religion." In the same article it is provided that "there shall be only one Council of this degree in each nation or kingdom in Europe, two in the United States of America as far removed as possible the one from the other, one in the English islands of America, and one likewise in the French islands " It was in compliance with these Constitutions that the Supreme Council at Charleston, South Carolina, was instituted. In the Circular, already cited, Dalcho gives this account of its establishment: "On the 31st of May, 1801, the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree for the United States of America was opened, with the high honors of Masonry, by Brothers John Mitchell and Frederick Dalcho, Sovereign Grand Inspectors-General; and in the course of the present year (1802) the whole number of Grand Inspectors-General was completed, agreeably to the Grand Constitutions." This was the first Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite ever formed. From it has emanated either directly or indirectly all the other Councils which have been since established in America or Europe.

Although it now exercises jurisdiction only over a part of the United States under the title of the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, it claims to be and is recognized as "the Mother Council of the World." Under its authority a Supreme Council, the second in date, was established by Count de Grasse in the French West Indies, in 1802; a third in France, by the same authority, in 1804; and a fourth in Italy in 1805. In 1813 the Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States was divided; the Mother Council establishing at the City of New York a Supreme Council for the Northern Jurisdiction, and over the States north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi, reserving to itself all the remainder of the territory of the United States. The seat of the Northern Council is now at Boston, Massachusetts; and although the offices of the Grand Commander and SecretaryGeneral of the Southern Council have been in the City of Washington, whence its documents emanate, its seat has continued constructively at Charleston, South Carolina.

On their first organization, the Supreme Councils were limited to nine members in each. That rule continued to be enforced in the Mother Council until the year 1859, when the number was increased to thirty-three. Similar enlargements have been made in all the other Supreme Councils except that of Scotland, which still retains the original number. The several officers of the original Supreme Council at Charleston were designated: a Most Puissant Sovereign Grand Commander, Most Illustrious Lieutenant Grand Commander, Illustrious Treasurer- General of the Holy Empire, Illustrious Secretary-General of the Holy Empire, Illustrious Grand Master of Ceremonies, and Illustrious Captain of the Guards.

In 1859, with the change of numbers in the membership, there was also made a change in the number and titles of the officers. These now in the Mother Council, according to its present Constitution, are:

1. Sovereign Grand Commander 2. Lieutenant Grand Commander 3. Secretary-General of the Holy Empire 4. Grand Prior 5. Grand Chancellor 6. Grand Minister of State 7. Treasurer-General of the Holy Empire 8. Grand Auditor 9. Grand Almoner 10. Grand Constable 11 Grand Chamberlain 12. First Grand Equerry 13. Second Grand Equerry 14. Grand Standard-Bearer 15. Grand Sword-Bearer 16. Grand Herald The Secretary-General is properly the seventh officer, but by a decree of the Supreme Council he was made the third officer in rank "while the office continues to be filled by Brother Albert G. Mackey, the present incumbent, who is the Dean of the Supreme Council." Doctor Mackey held this position until his death. The officers somewhat vary in other Supreme Councils, but the presiding and recording officers are everywhere a Sovereign Grand Commander and a Secretary-General of the Holy Empire.

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