Monday, March 30, 2015

About the Masons

From What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howe. Many of our founding fathers were Freemasons, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. But an incident in 1826 brought about the demise of the movement. In 1826, a man named William Morgan attempted to publish a book about the secret rituals of Freemasonry, much to the horror and strong objections of the masonic community. After his home was ransacked for the manuscript, Morgan disappeared. His kidnappers, including the Sheriff of Niagra County, were Freemasons who were never fully prosecuted, due to the protection and collusion of other Masons. Thus began the rise of Antimasonry as the first "third party" in American politics.

"Freemasonry, introduced into America from Britain in colonial times, had been an important force in the young republic. Its members had constituted a kind of republican elite, with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington prominent among them. The international Masonic brotherhood satisfied longings for status, trust, and metropolitan sophistication in an amorphous new society; its hierarchies and secret rituals offered a dimension lacking in the stark simplicity of much of American Protestantism. Freemasonry promoted the values of the Enlightenment and new standards of politeness. Its symbols of the pyramid and the eye had been incorporated into the Great Seal of the United States. Its ceremonies graced many public occasions, including the dedication of the United States Capitol and the construction of the Erie Canal. But in the Morgan episode, Masonic commitments of secrecy and mutual assistance led to disastrous consequences. To be sure, the Masonic brotherhood succeeded in the short run, protecting members from legal punishment and preventing Morgan from publishing all but the first three degree rituals, which appeared in print a month after his disappearance. But, as American Masonry's most recent historian has shown, 'it lost the larger battle in the court of public opinion.' During the decade after the Morgan affair, thousands of brothers quit the order and hundreds of lodges closed. Although Freemasonry recovered its numbers after the Civil War, it never recovered the influence it had wielded in the first fifty years of independence.”

This excerpt is from which sends e-mails about a variety of books.  Sometimes I just skim, but this one was an interesting part of America history about which I knew nothing, except I’d always had a negative view of the Masons. As we say in libraries, to the victor belongs the archives. 


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