The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, as we know it today, had its origins on the continent of Europe. Its immediate predecessor, known as The Order of the Royal Secret, consisted of 25 Degrees under the Constitutions of 1762. Masonic tradition maintains that Lodges of this Rite, transmitted from Bordeaux in France through the West Indies to the American mainland, were established at New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1763; at Albany, New York, in 1767; at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1781–82; and at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1783. The Grand Constitutions of 1786 provided for an extension of the Rite to thirty-three Degrees, governed in each country under a Supreme Council of the Thirty-third and Last Degree. Its provisions were cited in a Manifesto at Charleston that confirmed the first Supreme Council ever opened under these Grand Constitutions, on May 31, 1801, “by Brothers John Mitchell and Frederick Dalcho.” All regular and recognized Supreme Councils and their Subordinate Bodies today are descended directly or collaterally from this Mother Supreme Council of the World.
In announcing its establishment to the Masonic world in that Manifesto, dated December 4, 1802, the name was given as The Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree for the United States of America. The word Scotch appeared in connection with one of the early Supreme Council Degrees, and Scotish (sic) was included in the name of one of the detached Degrees conferred by The Supreme Council. The name Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite first appeared in an 1804 agreement between the Supreme Council of France and the Grand Orient of France. Beginning with the administration of Grand Commander Albert Pike in 1859, it came into general use in the Southern Jurisdiction and elsewhere. Many Scottish Masons fled to France during political upheavals in the 17th and 18th centuries, at a time when the Degrees of the Rite were evolving in French Freemasonry. This has caused some to think mistakenly that the Rite originated in Scotland. Actually, however, a Supreme Council for Scotland was not established until 1846.
The Grand Constitutions of 1786, in the earliest known text in the possession of John Mitchell and Frederick Dalcho, provided for two Supreme Councils in the United States. The Supreme Council at Charleston sent one of its Active Members to New York and authorized him to establish in 1813 a Supreme Council for the Northern Jurisdiction of the United States of America. With this accomplished, The Supreme Council at Charleston in 1827 ceded to the Northern Supreme Council the 15 states north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi Rivers. The Southern Supreme Council retained jurisdiction over all other states and territories (at home and abroad) of the United States.
The Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction recognizes in its fraternal relations 40 Supreme Councils and four National Grand Lodges practicing the Rites that include the Scottish Rite, in different countries throughout the world. Each regular Supreme Council has declared its general adherence to those Grand Constitutions of 1762 and 1786, but each, being a sovereign Masonic Body, has made variations in its Statutes to meet its own particular needs. This is especially true as to the number of members composing a Supreme Council. Some have retained the original limitations of nine Active Members. In our Jurisdiction the number of Active Members is limited to 33. In other Jurisdictions larger or smaller limitations have been set. To maintain the spirit of international unity, the Mother Supreme Council participates in overseas conferences with other Supreme Councils.