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THE INITIATION OF JOSÉ MIGUEL CARRERA
by R.W.Bro. LEON ZELDIS
José Miguel Carrera was one of the leading officers fighting against the Spanish forces in Chile's war of independence. Many Masonic authors have claimed that he was a Mason initiated in Cadiz, southern Spain, or in London, in the "Lautaro" or "Caballeros Racionales" lodge, founded by the Venezuelan patriot Francisco Miranda.
At the end of 1811, Carrera had taken power at the head of Chile's interim government (the title of President was not used at the time), which had started moving towards independence from Spain on 18 September 1810; Carrera's hostility towards Bernardo O'Higgins, another leader of the independence forces, fully reciprocated by O'Higgins, probably contributed to the defeat of the Chileans by Spanish troops in 1814, putting an end to the first period of the wars of independence, known as the "Patria Vieja". After crossing the Andes cordillera and escaping to Argentine, Carrera traveled to the United States with the purpose of recruiting volunteers and purchasing weapons, intending to assemble an expeditionary force to land in Chile and regain power. Although he received the assistance of Joel R. Poinsett – who had befriended Carrera while stationed in Chile as the United States first Consul in the newly-independent Republic  –, his project ended in failure, for the two ships he chartered, after sailing to Buenos Aires, were impounded by the local government and in the end Jose Miguel Carrera was executed by the Argentineans on 4 September 1821.
Carrera's Masonic membership was never in doubt, because in his diary, kept during his visit to the United States, from November 1815 to October 1816, he wrote the following:
Wednesday, 21 February (1816):
"I spoke formally to be admitted in the Lodge of Saint John. This step may result in some advantage for my projects."
Saturday, 24 February:
"… At 7 P. M. I have been received in the St. John's Lodge N° 1. My godfather has been Mr. Shaw. They gave me the 3rd degree. Later Mr. Hoffman has been received also. I wrote my name in my own hand on the Lodge's Book…"
And later, on Thursday 11 April:
"I don't go to the invitation because of the weather. At night I attended the Lodge of Saint John, paid 25 pesos for the reception and another 25 for Mr. Hoffman. I gave a 100-pesos bill and they gave me back 50 in bank drafts; Hoffman takes it to cash it."
Some historians, however, interpreted Carrera's words that he "received the 3rd degree" as proof that he was already a Mason, initiated in Cadiz, and that in New York he was only raised to the Master's degree. 
A copy of the minutes of Lodge St. John N° 1 of New York, obtained through the good offices of Bro. Thomas M. Savini, Director of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York, makes finally clear the manner in which the Chilean independence hero, José Miguel Carrera, was made a Mason.
The minutes of Lodge St. John prove that Carrera was not a Mason previously to 24 February 1816, when he received the three degrees of Craft masonry one after the other. His friend, Phillip H. Hoffman, was also initiated, passed and raised the same night, following Carrera. A curious detail is that Carrera paid his initiation fee, and also Hoffman's, only six weeks later.
The minutes of the lodge are written in the script of the time, using several abbreviations in addition to the customary ampersand. I have transcribed the text as faithfully as possible, keeping the original capitalization and inserting between brackets the meaning of some abbreviations, to facilitate reading.
Another document held in the New York Grand Lodge library is a copy of the lodge by-laws with the signatures of the brethren, and Carrera's clear name is found there, signed as José Miguel de Carrera, to indicate his noble ancestry.
This is the text of the lodge minutes:
"At an extra meeting of St. John's Lodge held at this L. Room Tammany Hall the 24 – a. L. 5816.
Present - G. Carroll W.M.
J. Sigman S.W. Pro tem
J. H. Davidy– J. W.
W. C. Sparks – Treasurer
John B. Spicer, Sec.
The Brethren assembled - a. E. A. L. was opened in due form – Resolved that the minits [minutes] of our last extra be dispensed with. The Standing Committee having reported favorably of Don Jose Miguel De Carrera & Phillip L. Hoffman – A dispensation having been provided for the purpose of Conferring on Don Jose Miguel De Carrera & Phillip H. Hoffman the severall degrees of E. A. – F. C. and M. M. Resolved that this L. proved to act on the same –
Don Jose Miguel de Carrera being duly and truly prepared came forward & reced [received] the first degree of Masonry in ancient form.
E. A. L. closed & F. Craft opened Brother Carrera continuing worthy & well recommended was brought forward & recied [received] the Degree of F. C., F. C. Lodge Closed & M. opened, Brother Carrera whas [whereas] having served as an E. A. and wrought some time as a fellow Craft, Came forward & Recied [ Received] the Sublime degree of a M. M. -- P. L. Hoffman being duly prepared came forward & recied [received] the degree of E. Apprentice. The A. L. closed & F. C. opened. Brother Hoffman Recid [Received] the Degree of F. C. F. Craft Lodge Closed and M. opened Brother Hoffman continuing worthy & well recommended Recied [Received] the Sublime Degree of M. M. in ancient form. Not more business L. Closed to meet next Regular.
[two words that cannot be understood] Bill $7.50
[signed] John B, Spicer, L."
The meeting place of the lodge, Tammany Hall, was home to a fraternal and political society connected with the Democratic Party. Later into the 19th century it became famous as the center of the Tweed political machine that controlled New York politics until well into the 20th century. This may be significant when considering Carrera's first comment concerning the assistance he expected to secure for his projects. Several New York lodges used its facilities to hold their meetings.
The fact that Carrera was a regular Mason when he returned to South America has other implications. If – as has been claimed – some of the other main revolutionary leaders of Argentine and Chile were Masons initiated in a lodge in Cadiz or London, it would hardly be plausible that they would put Carrera to death as they did, thus betraying their Masonic obligations. The conclusion is that they were not members of the Fraternity, but had joined instead revolutionary societies that only appropriated the name of "Lodge" (such as the Lautaro Lodge) and some Masonic terminology, but were not Masons enjoined to assist and protect each other. This supports the opinion of Bro. Seal-Coon regarding other leaders of South American independence, who in his view never joined our Fraternity. 
 Poinsett was a Mason, although we do not know when he was initiated. He is recorded as being Past Master of two South Caroline lodges: Recovery Lodge #31, Greenville, and Solomons Lodge #1, Charleston. He served in Chile as Consul General from 29 December, 1811 until 1814. See may paper "What One Man can Do", California Freemason, Winter 2004.
 Carlos Wise Pozo, "Documentos Masónicos referentes al General José Miguel Carrera y sus hermanos Juan José y Luis", Revista Masónica de Chile, N° 5-6, 1982.
 Bro. F. W. Seal-Coon, "Spanish-American Revolutionary Masonry", AQC 94 (1981), pp. 83-106.