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Gönderen Konu: AMERICAN FREEMASONS AND THE SPIRIT OF FREEDOM  (Okunma sayısı 2788 defa)

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Eylül 28, 2006, 11:57:32 öö
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MASONIC PAPERS
by Bro. S. BRENT MORRIS 33° G.C.
AMERICAN FREEMASONS AND THE SPIRIT OF FREEDOM

Every 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.

America 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.

Any 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.

Washington 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.

Americans' 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."

After 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.

In 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.

With 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.

America's 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.

One 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 Mason.)

In 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

Love 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.

Perhaps 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.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bessel, Paul M. www.bessel.org

Coil, Henry W., et al. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia. New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1961.

Heaton, Ronald E. Masonic Membership of the Founding Fathers. Silver Spring, Md.: Masonic Service Association, 1974.

Morris, S. Brent. Cornerstones of Freedom: A Masonic Tradition. Washington: Supreme Council, 33°, 1993
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