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Masonry in America

Masonry in America

MASONRY IN AMERICA. Early in the seventeenth century, a society of London stone workers started admitting honorary members as "accepted masons" and initiating them into their secret signs and legendary history. By the early 1730s, lodges affiliated with the grand lodge of London had formed in the colonies. The Philadelphia lodge lasted only five years but was revived in 1749 by Benjamin Franklin. In Boston, the original lodge flourished and another was organized in 1756. They included such men as James Otis, Joseph Warren, and Paul Revere, part of a self-selected group based on shared values rather than on wealth or prestige. Men became Masons for a variety of reasons, "including status enhancement, social mobility, camaraderie, civic-mindedness, the satisfaction of mastering a ritual, or curiosity about the occult" (York). Their belief in the brotherhood of man happened to coincide with the spirit of the American Revolution. Many prominent Revolutionaries therefore happened to be Masons, and the secret nature of their meetings lent itself to radical politics. Washington was initiated in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1752, took the oath of office as president of the United States on his Masonic bible, and used a Masonic trowel to lay the cornerstone of the Capitol building.

The historian Neil L. York has stated: "It is doubtful whether Freemasons qua Freemasons played a significant role in the American Revolution, even as their members joined the Revolutionary movement or stayed loyal to Britain. Masonry as an institution did not figure in the eventual revolt; even so, the ideas and values of Masons may have played a role, along with other beliefs that historians have traditionally linked to the Revolutionary cause."

BIBLIOGRAPHY

York, Neil L. "Freemasons and the American Revolution." The Historian 55 (1993): 315-330.

                           revised by Harold E. Selesky

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