- "It has been the duty - and the honor - of this Rite to keep the most important city in China functioning smoothly. And we've done the best we can, dividing local Templars as the colonial powers divided Shanghai... But perhaps such divisions have weakened our overall control. And the Nine have notified us we are on probation... in the customary way."
- ―Fessenden to the other Masters, 1927.[src]
Stirling Fessenden (29 September 1875 – 1 February 1944) was an American member of the Templar Order and lawyer who practised in Shanghai, also being the Grand Master of the local Rite. He served as chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council from 1923 to 1929 and later as Secretary-General of the Council from 1929 to 1939.
Following the death of Grand Master Sun Yat-sen in 1925, Fessenden became the new head of the Shanghai Rite. However, the Chinese Templars, now led by Fessenden, had difficulties to appease the political tensions that were quickly growing between the rival factions vying for control over China.
In 1927, at the height of the tensions, the Inner Sactum decided to take control and sent the Black Cross and Darius Gift to help recruit Chiang Kai-shek into the Order. Also offering to the General to replace Fessenden as Grand Master, the Inner Sanctum hoped that under Sun's political successor the Order would be able to once again pacify and rule the country. Chiang and Fessenden accepted the deal, the Templars would help to ciment his power in exchange for his alliegeance.
However, during their meeting, Chiang revealed his true colors to a dumbfounded Fessenden; he accepted their money and influence to get rid of his enemies but never had any intentions of joining them. With the help of Du Yuesheng and his gang, the General launched a purge against the communists, betraying the promises he made to the Order and Fessenden.