Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms, Freemasonry, and His ''Epistle to a Brother Mason in Affliction'' >> Page 113

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Page 113

Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 113 THE SIMMS REVIEW

One definition of the Freemasons proposed by Masonic author
Henry Wilson Coil (a 33rd-degree Mason, one of the highest orders)
Freemasonry is an oath-bound fraternal order of men;
deriving from the medieval fraternity of operative
Freemasons; adhering to many of their Ancient Charges,
laws, customs, and legends; loyal to the civil government
under which it exists; inculcating moral and social virtues
by symbolic application of stonemasons' working tools
and by allegories, lectures, and charges; obligating its
members to observe principles of brotherly love, equality,
mutual aid, secrecy, and confidence; which has secret
modes of recognition that permit members to recognize
one another as Freemasons; and whose members meet in
lodges, governed somewhat autocratically by a Master,
assisted by Wardens; where petitioners, after inquiry
into their mental, moral, and physical qualifications, are
admitted into the fraternity in secret ceremonies based in
part on old legends of the Craft. (Coil 164)
Though expansive and somewhat dated, Coil's definition still provides
enough of a description of the common beliefs and practices of the
Freemasons today to give those outside of the fraternity a good idea of
who they are and what they do.
Freemasonry made its official entrance into the New World in
1733 when St. John's Lodge was chartered in Boston. By 1735, Masonry
was established in South Carolina with the chartering of Solomon Lodge
No. 1 of Charleston. Since that time—especially during the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries—Charleston has been an especially active
center of Masonic activity. There were thirteen functioning lodges in
Charleston during Simms's lifetime and he would have certainly been
aware of their existence and have had contact with many of their mem-
bers (Mackey, History of Freemasonry 533-79).

Simms's Masonic Membership
Most of the details of Simms's membership in the Masonic
fraternity were lost in the flames of war. The details that we do have
are based on fragmentary and circumstantial evidence. In a letter dated