In Italy the Freemasons trace their origin up to the commencement of the sixteenth century. Lodges existed in Venice under the Republic, and in Rome there are seals proving that under the Bourbons and the Popes the brethren held their meetings in Naples and in Rome. The rulers of Italy, however, treated them with much severity. The first Napoleon was a great patron and protector of the Society ; and during the Napoleonic era the Lodges sprung up rapidly everywhere. Joseph Napoleon was Grand Master; Beauharnais, when he came to Milan, was named Grand Master and Commander-in-Chief of the Supreme Council of the thirty-third grade.
With the fall of Napoleon the Freemasons were persecuted even more fiercely than of old ; the rulers of Italy enacted laws against them ; the Popes excommunicated them; an individual suspected of being a Freemason was condemned to ten years of the galleys. The Lodges were of course dissolved, and gradually the Carbonari Society absorbed the the old members, who were called Cousins instead of Brothers.
Still the Freemasons were not extinguished. During the wars and revolutions of 1818 and 1849, Lodges were re-established in all the chief cities of Italy, and again suppressed when "Order" was restored. In 1859 the association revived, especially in Florence, and in 1860 in Naples and Sicily. In Rome, despite the vigilance of the Pope, Freemasons of the Lodge Fabio Massimo met at each other's houses secretly, and with the utmost precaution. When Rome was proclaimed the capital of Italy, it was decided to make it the seat of the Grand Orient, with which were connected 186 Lodges, with about 9300 members.
The Italian Freemasons, according to the rules of the fraternity, were allied with those of the other nations, but, in contrast to their colleagues abroad, they are active in political life. During the period of the Italian Risorgimento the Freemasons enrolled a large number of men under their banner. In a land like Italy where the people dearly love a flavor of mystery, it is natural that an exaggerated influence should be attributed to fhe Freemasons. Others believed, however, that their influence was relatively slight.
Of Garibaldi little need be said save that he was a member of every Lodge in Italy and of many in North and South America, France and England. In June 1860, in the newly conquered Palermo, was Garibaldi raised to the degree of Master Mason and then in 1862 the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, a meeting place for Italian freemasons of republican and radical ideals, gave him the title of Grand Master. The Italian Grand Orient, reconstituted in Turin in 1859 and initially dominated by members close to Cavour, gave, on the other hand, the role of Grand Master to Costantino Nigra and only the honoury title of "First Italian Freemason" to Garibaldi. When Garibaldi died, Freemasonry was, out of the political and social Italian forces, the one, that more than any other, took it upon itself to keep his memory alive and nourish the myth.
Giuseppe Mazzini was unquestionably one of the most distinguished modern Italians. The flight of the pope in November, 1848, and the arrival of Mazzini in Pome in the following February, his presidency of the short-lived republic, his heroic defence of Rome against the French, its capture on the 3d of July, and the return of the pope in April, 1850, under French protection, are picturesque incidents of an exceptionally busy and brilliant period of his life. The successful Sicilian expedition of Garibaldi in 1860 owed much of its organization to Mazzini. In September, 1866, the Italian government rescinded the sentence of death against him; in July, 1868, he was made grand-master of the Italian freemasons. He died at Pisa 10th March, 1872.
Lodovico Frapolli (1815-78), the Italian patriot and diplomat, was Minister of War under Farini in Modena, but retired, and in 1860 joined Garibaldi's expedition to Sicily and entered Naples with him. He was an Italian deputy from 1860 to 1874, an extreme member of the Republican party. He was a leader of the Italian Freemasons and became Grand Master in 1869. In 1870 he again fought under Garibaldi in France. Gen. Frapoli resigned when he went to France to offer his services to the French Republic, fighting against Prussia, as both the Emperor of Germany and the Crown Prince were Grand Masters.
Guiseppe Mazzoni was named Grand Master in his stead. In him the Freemasons have a chief of intelligence, spotless integrity, and stainless patriotism.From his earliest youth ho had taken part in the struggles of the Liberal movement; he was one of the most prominent among the Tuscan pioneers of Italian independence. When the Grand Duke was brought back by the Austrians, Mazzoni was condemned to perpetual imprisonment by default ; but escaped by flight. Mazzoni also was condemned to pay the entire expenses of the trial, and as his property lay in the Grand Duke's domains, he was reduced to absolute poverty, and supported his wife and daughter by giving lessons in Paris. On his return to his native city, in 1859, he remained staunch to his principles. A Freemason of long standing, he was elected Deputy Grand Master at the Constituent Assembly of Italian Freemasonry, held in 1869. In 1872 he was nominated Grand Master, and was confirmed in that office at the following assemblies held in 1874 and 1879. Giuseppe Mazzoni, Grand Master of the Italian Freemasons and Senator of the kingdom, died of bronchitis on May 11, 1880 at Prato, near Florence. Mazzoni had passed his 70th year.
In 1896 Signor Ernest Nathan, an Englishman naturalized an Italian, ex-mayor of Rome, was elected Grand-Master of the Italian Freemasons, in the place of Signor Lemmi, who had resigned. Signor Nathan belongs to a family who gave hospitality to Mazzini when he was a fugitive in England.
European Catholics of the more ignorant classes were ready to believe that Masons had horns under their hats and tails hidden in their inexpressibles. At the bidding of the Jesuits Pius IX signed and gave apostolic authority to the encyclical and catalogue of errors of December 8, 1864. Again at Jesuitical demand he issued the screed of lies against Freemasonry on September 25, 1865. And yet again, under the same guidance, he called the Vatican council, which formulated the reprobations of the Syllabus into dogma, and declared the decrepid pontiff to be, in all that pertains to the spiritual life of humanity, infallible and beyond possibility of error in pronouncing upon faith and morals. Had Satan himself designed to wreck the church, he could not have chosen a policy more likely to destroy for it the respect of thinking men.
In Italy Masonry was driven to extreme secrecy. Yet it became known that upon the day following publication of the allocution twenty-eight new members were received in two lodges in Rome. But a more open and important effect was shown immediately afterward in elections for the Italian chamber of deputies. The Freemasons and their allies threw themselves into the canvass, with result that the liberal party made great gains. Among the members so returned were those notable Italian Freemasons, Garibaldi, Crispi and De Boni. The church and Pio Nono were yet to experience the retaliation of the fraternity, under such leaders. The strength of the papal faction in the election was only sufficient to return a dozen members, out of a total of four hundred and forty-four.
While the pope and cardinals are deluded and happy in the kind of government which they administer, - in the neglect of the many in education, and in the one-sided instruction of the few, - they assert that the improvement in the education and material prosperity of the Italians, formerly so amiable and submissive to the Jesuits, are changed for the worse ; and they attribute these changes to the secret and diabolical agency of a certain class of socialists, called 'i Freemasons." The efforts of Italian Freemasons for the moral and educational regeneration of their country (if they be the organs of these changes) have certainly been effective. Freemasons, however, dare not breathe in Rome; for the Jesuits could not tolerate another secret organization, whose principles they declare to be the very antipodes of their own. The Church of Rome appears to dread the existence and influence of this satanic fraternity. Hence the bitterness and anathemas fulminated against Freemasons in a special article of the famous bull of October, 1869. But the Jesuits, as secret as are their own workings for dominion over society, seem at last to have encountered an obstacle to their progress in Italy in the patriotism of a devoted band of Catholics, who think more of their God and country, and the future liberty, education, and happiness of their children, than they do of the pope or of the confessional.
If the pope be infallible, and the vicegerent of God, the logic leaves nothing for Christendom and heathendom but submission to his clergy. Archbishops denounced public education as atrocious, and declared that every effort of the Roman priesthood should be directed to its overthrow, and to the introduction of a system conducted exclusively by the clergy, because secular education, independent of dogmatic direction, is dangerous to souls, and the interests of the Church.
The laicization of the Church was secretly projected by the Italian Freemasons and publicly presented in the Italian parliament. The first project was put forward before the latter legislative body in 1864 by Minghetti; a second in 1871 was proposed by Minghetti and Peruzzi before the royal commission; and a third project, more detailed and exact, was devised by Cadorna in 1887. It was only the strong opposition of the Catholic press, seconding the pronouncements of Pius IX and Leo XIII, that frustrated the Masonic attempts to secularize the organization of the churches in Italy.
In 1908 the Italian Freemasons - those of the Scottish Rite and those of the Symbolic Rite - held Congresses at the Palazzo Giustiniani, Rome. The report issued by the members of the Scottish Rite frankly declared that they pursue political objects, that one of their aims was to laicise the State, otherwise to banish religion, that "under the special conditions of Italian political life " the sect intended constantly to follow "an intransigent anti-clerical policy," and that it had its views not only on internal affairs, but also on the relations of Italy with foreign Powers. The report of the members of the Symbolic Rite went even farther in the negation of religion. It intimated that the Masonic Members of Parliament who voted in the Chamber against the proposal in favor of godless education had been subjected to attack, and that people who believed that the Freemasons by the use of the words "Grand Architect of the Universe" acknowledged the existence of God, had been in error.
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