During the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of various side degrees, or grades, were conferred upon Masons by other brethren in possession of the degrees. However, we do not know where or how the degrees originated. Generally, they were conferred in lodge halls or lodge meeting places.
In 1880 a group of English Masons established a Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees for England, Wales, and territories overseas, which in turn assumed complete control of these various degrees and determined their official ritual, prerequisites, and manner of conferral. This plan proved successful and continues to this day in England. The presiding officer's title was Most Worshipful Grand Master until 1890, when it was changed to Most Venerable Sovereign Grand Master.
The person responsible for bringing the Allied Masonic Degrees to this country was the Reverend Doctor Hartley Carmichael, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, on April 25, 1854 and whose ancestors had migrated to Ireland from Scotland years earlier. He received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Trinity College in Dublin, graduating in 1881.
After a short period in law school, he transferred to an Episcopal seminary. Carmichael was ordained a deacon in 1877, became a priest in 1878, and served several churches in England until he was named rector of the Church of the Ascension in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1882. In 1889 he was called to St. Paul's Church in Richmond, Virginia and received his doctor of divinity, honoris causa, from Richmond College in 1893. He was very active on the national level of the church until he became ill at a national convention in 1898, from which he never recovered. He died in 1903 at the age of 49. He authored several books and was an avid composer of music. As a preacher and as a teacher, he had no peers. It was said that if his health had not deteriorated at age 44, his church would have promoted him to bishop.
Masonically, he was raised a Master Mason in Temple Lodge No. 324 of Hamilton, Ontario in 1888 and affiliated with Metropolitan Lodge No. 11 of Richmond, Virginia in 1889. He was a charter member and the first Worshipful Master of Strict Observance Lodge No. 207 of Richmond. Dr. Carmichael was a member of all York Rite bodies and presided over all four Scottish Rite bodies, receiving his KCCH in 1890 and 33° in 1892. It is thought that Dr. Carmichael witnessed a number of the unattached Masonic degrees while residing in Canada. Records in England indicate he visited their Grand Council of AMD to obtain copies of the rituals and regulations of their AMD. The Earl of Euston, MWGM, appointed Carmichael as their representative and was given the rank of Past Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Council of AMD of England, which gave him some authority to form a Grand Council in the U.S.A. He gathered together a number of leading Masons in the Richmond, Virginia area and proposed the establishment of a Sovereign College in America to control the unattached degrees.
On January 14, 1892 Carmichael constituted the "Sovereign College of Allied Masonic and Christian Degrees in America" with himself as the Sovereign Master. It is interesting to note that they initially controlled the Order of Priesthood, the Mediterranean Pass, and for a time the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, the latter now being a Sovereign body today.
On April 14, 1934 it was approved to strike from the grades controlled by the Grand Council the Order of Priesthood and the Mediterranean Pass, which were also being conferred by the Grand Royal Arch Chapter and the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar. The fee for each degree in 1892 was set at 50 cents per person. This is the only Masonic body that to my knowledge has ever conferred honorary academic degrees; namely, Doctor in Universal Masonry, Doctor in Masonic Law, Doctor in Masonic Letters, Doctor in Masonic Theology, and Bachelor of Masonic Law. The noted Josiah Hayden Drummond, PGM of Maine and Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, was an officer in the newly formed body. Meetings were held in Richmond, Virginia from 1892 to 1902 and in Norway, Maine from 1902 to 1933.
On April 16, 1932 the present Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of the U.S.A. was organized at Salisbury, North Carolina by Brothers William Mosely Brown and J. Raymond Shute, two of the leading Masonic authorities and scholars of their time in the U.S.A. Three Councils were formed, each with seven members, in Monroe, Raleigh, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Membership included eighteen from North Carolina, two from New York, and one from New Jersey. This action was authorized by a dispensation from the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland. In 1933 Brothers Brown and Shute traveled to Norway, Maine, where they entered into articles of union with the Sovereign College of Masonic and Christian Degrees under the name "Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of the U.S.A."
The first roving Council chartered by Grand Council was the Council of Nine Muses No. 13 on February 20, 1934. The Council is limited to nine members who are elected for life. During its 71-year history, only 42 Brothers have served as members of this Council. Officers progress through the various offices until they become Sovereign Master, at which time they are expected to deliver a Masonic research paper of their choosing. After serving as Sovereign Master, they revert to Tiler and start again in the progressive line.
Since the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests was, for a short period, a part of the Grand Council, I feel it is worthwhile to summarize its history.
The HRAKTP was officially introduced into America on October 31, 1931; however, there is evidence that the Priestly Order was being conferred over 175 years ago in this country. The 1829 proceedings of the Supreme Council, AASR, NMJ, recorded two meetings of the High Priesthood—one in Providence, Rhode Island on February 21, 1829 and one in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on February 25, 1829. The records of the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction document a meeting of the said Order in 1840.
Our present Order was founded when Knight Priest Sydney Clifton Bingham of New Zealand certified John Raymond Shute, John Edward Allen, and Luther Thompson Hartsell, Jr., all of North Carolina, as Knight Priests, according to Ancient Constitutions of the Order. Under date of October 31, 1931, warrants were issued for the erection of three tabernacles in North Carolina.
On May 14, 1933 the Preceptors of the three tabernacles met in convention in Raleigh, North Carolina and formed a supreme governing body named "The Great Priory of America, Priestly Order of the Temple". A chapter General was also formed, which we assume was for the purpose of electing Knight Commanders and Knight Grand Commanders. We say elected as we are unaware of any ritual performed for these decorations.
On February 20, 1934 a concordat was entered into by the Grand Council of AMD of the USA to join with the Great Priory to become one body. This arrangement was terminated at a special Ingathering on April 17, 1934, and the two Grand bodies resumed their separate existence after 56 days of marriage.
When attempting to receive recognition from other Grand bodies in the world, our founding fathers were told that the formation was faulty, and they wouldn't grant recognition. Knight Priest John Edward Allen visited England on August 17, 1935 and was formally initiated a Knight Priest in Royal Kent Tabernacle. A warrant of erection was later given by the Grand College of England to United States Tabernacle No. 9. Subsequently, all tabernacles in the U.S. were replaced under the English system. The 1938 proceedings reflect a name change to the Grand College of America, HRAKTP, a name which prevails to this date. It is interesting to note that only the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priest degree is conferred in the United States and England; however, the 1935 statutes state that the Grand College shall control and superintend 33 other degrees, 13 of which have no rituals.
The archives of the Grand Council for the year 1934 contain a letter from the Grand Secretary, K.M. Parham, stating that a Council of the AMD was being formed made up exclusively of bachelors who are members of other Councils. He urged every bachelor to become a charter member. During the same time period, J. Ray Shute was planning a second research group paralleling the first "Council of Nine Muses". This Council would be called "The Bards of Calliope". Their main emphasis would be in the field of Masonic poetry and music. An interesting "Bachelor's Soliloquy" was appended. No further mention was made of the above; therefore, we assume it did not come to fruition.
The annual meetings is usually held each February in Washington, D.C. metro area and are very well attended by Masons from throughout the U.S.A. and Canada with smaller delegations from European and South American countries. We have met in D.C. from 1938 to date and continuously at the Hotel Washington since 1959. Earlier meetings were held in North Carolina and Virginia.
For many years the AMD meetings were held immediately following the annual Conference of Grand Masters in Washington, D.C. However, in recent years the Grand Masters Conference has been held in various states throughout the country from Hawaii to Philadelphia.
It should be noted that the AMD is an invitational-only body with membership limited to 27 in a Council. The prerequisites for AMD membership are being a Royal Arch Chapter member and a student of Freemasonry with special emphasis placed on its history and study. Members are encouraged to write papers on Masonic subjects and to participate in discussions of all Masonic topics. Secondly, we confer the various degrees under our control on special occasions for our members only.
I pray you have learned a little of our AMD history today and that you will marvel as I do at the early Masonic giants who crafted the Allied Masonic Degrees.