|Rivista di Massoneria - Revue de Franc-Maçonnerie - Revista de Masonerìa - Revista de Maçonaria|
|History Literature Music Art Architecture Documents Rituals Symbolism|
by Bro. S. BRENT MORRIS 33° G.C.
AMERICAN FREEMASONS AND THE SPIRIT OF FREEDOM
Grand Lodge takes pride in the accomplishments of its famous members: The names
of brothers Rudyard Kipling, Wolfgang A. Mozart, Johann W. von Goethe, Simón
Bolívar, Henry Ford, and George Washington are just a few that immediately come
to mind. American freemasons, however, take particular pride in some of their
early members, like Washington, because of their dedication to the spirit of
freedom. It is an infectious spirit that has infused all of the craft and has
spread around the world, making freemasonry feared by tyrants, dictators, and
those who would deny people their basic rights.
was colonized by men of widely different backgrounds and motives. Generally
speaking the northern colonies were founded by those in search of religious
freedom, while the southern colonies attracted entrepreneurs seeking their
fortunes in agriculture. There were few institutions that transcended colonial
borders, and freemasonry was one of those. In 1776 the American colonies
declared their independence from England. Many—but certainly not all—of the
prominent revolutionary leaders were freemasons, and their lodge memberships
provided a useful point of commonality.
list of prominent American revolutionaries must begin with George Washington,
"The Father of His Country." He served as Commander-in-Chief of the
Continental Army for eight years, ultimately defeating the English, and was
elected the first President of the United States of America, the first modern
democracy in the world. He declined becoming king of the new nation, and by the
example of his personal conduct, political restraint, and modest ambitions he
established the principles of a civilian controlled military and of a peaceful
transfer of political power. His integrity set the standards for future American
presidents and the leaders of all democracies.
became a Master Mason in 1753 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Grand Lodge of
Pennsylvania nominated him as "Grand Master General for the Thirteen United
American States," which he declined. He did serve as the Charter Master of
Alexandria Lodge No. 39, Alexandria, Virginia, 1788 and was reelected in 1789.
There is no record of Washington presiding as Master. The high point of his
Masonic career came on September 18, 1793, when he laid the cornerstone of the
U.S. Capitol with full masonic ceremonies.
love for freedom began when they left the known world and traveled across the
ocean to establish a new country. Whether they came to escape religious or
economic or political restrictions, they came for freedom. As relations steadily
worsened with England, the colonial leaders decided the time had come for
action. The Declaration of Independence was signed by fifty-six freedom-lovers,
nine of whom were freemasons. The first and most prominent signature of this
document is that of Brother John Hancock who used large, bold writing "so
that King George III may read it without putting on his glasses."
five years of bitter war, General Washington defeated Lord Cornwallis at
Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781 and independence was secured. In that same year an
interim form of government for the new country was established when the
thirteenth and last colony ratified the Articles of Confederation. Nine signers
of this weak document were brothers. Despite the best intentions of the
drafters, the Articles did not provide enough authority to the central
government. By 1786 there was general agreement in the Congress that repairs
were needed, and a Constitutional Convention was called for the next year. The
delegates assembled in Philadelphia, and after spirited debate produced the
Constitution of the United States of America. Of the fifty-five delegates, nine
signers were freemasons, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Five
other masons were delegates but did not sign the Constitution, and six signers
later joined the fraternity.
addition to the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of
Confederation, and the Constitution, thirty-three general officers of the
Continental Army were freemasons. Benjamin Franklin, Ambassador to France during
the American Revolution, had been Deputy Provincial Grand Master of
Pennsylvania. Paul Revere, whose "midnight ride" has been
immortalized, went on to become Grand Master of Massachusetts. The Americans'
cause of freedom attracted supporters for other countries, including two of
Washington's general officers: the Marquis de Lafayette and Friedrich W. A. von
Steuben. The "father of the American Navy," Admiral John Paul Jones,
was a craftsman, as was, alas, General Benedict Arnold, the traitor. It is often
claimed that Thomas Jefferson was a freemason, but no credible evidence exists
to support this.
men of this prominence supporting the revolution, it was no wonder that
Americans came to accept freemasonry at the exemplification of ideals of
freedom. The capitol of the new nation, the city of Washington, had the support
of freemasons at its birth. The first boundary stone of the ten-mile square city
was laid at the southern corner by Alexandria Lodge of Virginia in 1791. A year
later the brethren of Lodge No. 9 of Georgetown, Maryland, (now Potomac Lodge
No. 5 of the District of Columbia) laid the cornerstone of the "President
House," which is now known as the White House. (It was later painted white
to cover up the smoke stains left when the British burned it during the War of
1812.) The most famous masonic cornerstone laying occurred in 1793 when George
Washington, assisted by Alexandria Lodge of Virginia and Maryland's Lodge No. 9
of and Lodge No. 15 (now Federal Lodge No. 1 of the District of Columbia), laid
the cornerstone of the United States Capitol.
masonic revolutionary leaders are well-known, but national service by masons
does not stop there. Fourteen presidents of the United States of America have
been Master Masons: George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James K.
Polk, James A. Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James A. Garfield, William McKinley,
Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Harry S. Truman, and Gerald R. Ford. (Lyndon B. Johnson became an Entered
Apprentice in 1937, but did not advance further.) These men served their country
and fraternity with pride. Two presided as Grand Master of their Grand Lodge:
Andrew Jackson, Tennessee, and Harry S. Truman, Missouri.
of the essentials principles built into the American form of government is the
“separation of powers”: executive, legislative, and judicial. There have
been over one hundred Justices of the United States Supreme Court, at least
thirty-four of whom were Masons. (The exact number is imprecise because
eighteenth-century records are scanty and incomplete.) These jurists are the
final “line of defense” against those who would challenge freedom. Their
sworn duty is to preserve the Constitution against all enemies, domestic and
foreign. It takes a special bravery to make unpopular decisions to protect
liberty. The first Chief Justice, John Jay, was a Mason, as were six others to
hold that position. John Blair, Jr. and John Marshall were Grand Master of
Virginia, and Earl Warren was Grand Master of California. (During the
Anti-Masonic Period, Marshall was not proud or enthusiastic about being a
addition to Washington’s general officers, some of America’s famous military
leaders, who risked their lives for freedom at home and abroad, have also been
masons. Generals Douglas MacArthur, James H. Doolittle, Omar Bradley, John J.
Pershing, George C. Marshall, Admiral Arleigh A. Burke. Freedom is not
maintained only through military might. It is preserved also in the spirit of
adventure, as exemplified by Astronauts Edwin E. “Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr., Virgil
Grissom, John H. Glenn, and Walter S. Schirra, Jr., among many, and aviator
Charles A. Lindbergh
of freedom may be inborn, but it requires careful nurturing to blossom. The
American public schools are vast in their offerings of universal educational
opportunities. Freemasons were among the organizers and planners of this amazing
system, and they still staunchly support it. It is part of the heritage of
freedom that is preserved for and transmitted to the nation’s children.
the spirit was best described by Brother Hubert . Humphrey, Vice-President of
the United States: “Freedom is the most contagious virus known to man.” When
citizens can meet freely and talk freely, when religious expression and economic
endeavor are unfettered, when all can share in life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness, there can be no turning back. American Freemasons have fought for
these rights for themselves and others, and are proud of their accomplishments.
Paul M. www.bessel.org
Henry W., et al. Coil's Masonic
Encyclopedia. New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1961.
Ronald E. Masonic Membership of the
Founding Fathers. Silver Spring, Md.: Masonic Service Association, 1974.
S. Brent. Cornerstones of Freedom: A
Masonic Tradition. Washington: Supreme Council, 33°, 1993