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Freemasons

The Masonic Fraternity is an organization of associated societies to which, by common consent, has been accorded the primacy among fraternal orders. The full legal title is, "The Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons and Concordant Orders." Divided into groups of degrees, overlying one another like the foundation and superstructure of a symmetrical building, these constitute the three great rites of universal recognition, namely, English, American and Scottish Masonry. The first and second are acknowledged to compose the great Masonic institution as it exists in Great Britain and dependencies, and in the United States; while the elaborate Scottish Rite of 33 degrees, comprising a more limited membership therein, is the one most widely disseminated in other portions of the world. Each rite is complex in its inter-dependent system of government, and is essentially cosmopolitan, bearing upon its rolls the names of emperors, kings, princes, presidents and governors, together with scholars, statesmen and men of affairs, as well as those of lesser stations in church and state.

During the whole of the Nineteenth Century, to be a Freemason was tantamount to being a champion of democracy. Many of the leaders in the great year 1848, which saw so many uprising against feudal rule in Europe, were members of the Order; among them was the great Hungarian hero of democracy, Louis Kossuth, who found temporary refuge in America. Like Kossuth, another celebrated champion of democracy, Guiseppe Garibaldi, was a thirty-third degree Freemason and Grand Master of the Italian Freemasons. In countries where democracy was a reality, even Royalty belonged to the Order. Both King George VI and the Duke of Kent were Freemasons; so was the Duke of Windsor. His grandfather, Edward VII, was the chief of British Masonry, and he was succeeded in the post by the aged Duke of Connaught. King Gustav V heads the Freemasons of Sweden.

During the 18th and first half of the 19th century Masonic writers laid great stress upon the possible origin of the society in the remote ages of the past. Absolutely without any historical basis of record as were most of these theories, yet men of learning loaned their influence to perpetuate the fables extant concerning the fraternity. Some asserted (a) that the history of the race was the story of Masonry, beginning with the migration from the Garden of Eden; others (6) that it sprang from the Patriarchal period; and still others contended (f) that the society was the successor of the ancient mysteries of the Orient; (d) that the Temple of Solomon was its cradle; (e) that the Crusaders and the Knights Templars carried it forward from their times; (/) that the Roman colleges of artificers and builders of the Middle Ages handed down the craft to posterity; (g) that the civil strifes in Great Britain of the 15th and 16th centuries, and subsequent political events, made the institution possible.

Signs, tokens and words, by which the Masonic craft became differentiated from all other trades than builders, do not appear in the earlier forms. In time, however, this initiation was exclusively its own. The early records show that the lodge system was used from the first as a bond to preserve the art of building as a monopoly. The secret of the organization was then,- in contradistinction to all others, - "the way to build" ; and lodges contributed best toward this end. But, in spite of every precaution, another body of operatives arose,- called "Cowans* by the regulars,- which in spite of its lack of prestige, not being in possession of "Old Charges" and the "mason's word," contrived to prosper, eventually breaking down the monopoly and prepared the way for the "speculative" society of modern times. The term "speculative" has reference to a class of members who were not operatives and had no intention of becoming artisans, but were denominated "accepted" Masons. The opinion now obtains that the architects of the cathedrals and other public edifices in Great Britain, erected during the Middle Ages were the Master Masons of that period,- the divisions among the builders of the operative era being apprentices, journeymen (Fellow Crafts), and Master Masons.

A later class of writers placed its origin to the credit of the Rev. James Anderson, D.D., and the Rev. John Theophilus Desaguliers, LL.D., F.R.S., and their compeers of "The Revival of 1717 A.D. The consensus of reliable historical opinion affirms that the premier Grand Lodge of England, organized 24 June 1717 A.d., is the mother of all regular Masonic lodges of the three craft degrees, and, therefore, peculiar interest centres in the landmarks, legends and authentic narratives pertaining to the English rite itself, as well as in the American rite, the daughter thereof.

Scotland enjoys the honor of "Mother Kilwinning Lodge, No. 0," universally recognized as the oldest in existence. Its records comprise a minute of 1599, and others ranging from 20 Dec. 1642 to 5 Dec. 1758, A.d., and these communications were held in Kilwinning. Traditional history ascribes to the architects of the abbey of Kilwinning the preeminence which inhered to the Masons of York, in England. England became the great central point of Masonry for the whole world," said Charles VV. Moore, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, in an oration on 29 Dec. 1856 at Boston: "From this source have lodges, grand and subordinate, at various times, been established, and exist and flourish wherever in the World the genius of civilization obtained a standpoint, or Christianity erected the Banner of the Cross.

In Freemasonry there are, in addition to what is known as Craft Masonry, which in England and Wales and the Overseas Empire is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England, of which the Duke of Connaught is Grand Master, certain extraneous Masonic associations to which only regularly initiated Freemasons can belong, but which are not recognized by the Grand Lodge. For example, in England Mark Masonry is not recognized by the Grand Lodge of England, although the Duke is also the Grand Master of the Mark Master _ Masons. Royal Arch Masonry is, however, officially recognized by the Grand Lodge of England. The reverse is the case under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which recognizes the Mark but not the Royal Arch Masonry, while in Ireland both are recognized by the Grand Lodge of Ireland.

In France, Masonry has drifted away from the tenets preached and practised among the fraternity in other lands. All Masonic lodges throughout the world except the Grand Orient of France do homage to a Divine Being, symbolized as Horani, the Great Architect of the universe, and in the beginning the French lodge also recognized the designer of the Temple. But in 1877 the Grand Orient formally repudiated the Great Architect and atheism was made a condition of membership.

In Russia Freemasonry first appeared toward the end of the 18th century. Then its activities were mainly of a mystical religious value. The body of its membership was composed of the leading aristocracy of that time. Its rites and influence are vividly set forth in Tolstoy's famous novel, 'War and Peace,' which deals with the War of 1812. It was during the reign of the stern, reactionary Tsar Nicholas I (1825-55) that Masonry began to occupy itself with strictly religious and political questions. After the mutiny in 1825 of the officers of the Guards, known as the Decembrists, in which many prominent Masons took an active part, the lodges of the latter were declared to be political, guilty of political sedition against the Tsar and were but under the ban. In 1913 the party of the Extreme Right in the Duma asserted that Masonry had broken out in the empire again and should be ruthlessly exterminated. Among all the real and imaginary foes of autocracy in Russia none were more feared or more relentlessly suppressed than the so-called "Massonisti."

The rival Grand Lodges in England, together with those of Ireland and Scotland, chartered lodges everywhere, at home and abroad. Patronized by the royal family and nobility of Great Britain the craft acquired greater prestige than history records of any other society, and a system of "military lodges8 fostered expansion. The roll of warrants issued during the 18th century and subsequent to 1730 would make a large volume. From these beginnings Grand Lodges were formed in America, composed of lodges of English ("ancients* and "moderns*), Irish, Scottish and "Army* register, increased in number by those holding Provincial Grand Masters' warrants, together with lodges chartered by the earlier American Grand Lodges in the United States and Canada.

Among the many prominent Americans who belonged to the fraternity besides Franklin were Washington, who was made a Mason while in the service of the Crown, under Gen. William Braddock, and became master of a lodge in Alexandria, Va.; Presidents Jefferson, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Polk, Fillmore, Harrison, Buchanan, Johnson, Garfield and McKinley. Jackson was a Grand Master and McKinley a Knight Templar. Some historians claim Presidents Madison. Taylor and Pierce as Freemasons, but owing to the political disputes of 1826-30 they made no statement as to their connection with the crafty Mr. Taft and Colonel Roosevelt both became Masons after they became President. Other members were Lafayette, Fulton, Montgomery, Sherman, Burr, Rush, Whipple, Paine, Hamilton, Gerry, Steuben, Stark, Livingstone, DeKalb, Warren, Paul Jones, Witherspoon, Revere and Hancock.

The Scottish Rite was formally organized in the US in 1801, as a group of Tory partisans on the losing side of the American Revolution. In the 1820s and 1830s, Masonry was virtually run out of the U.S.A. as a would-be dictatorial grouping, an unwanted ``British underground'' intrusion into America. With British assistance, the Masonic lodges were reintroduced, under the control of the Scottish Rite based in Charleston, South Carolina, as a force for Southern secession.

The most authoritative Masonic writer ever, was held to be Albert Pike (1809-1891). He rose to Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the thirty-third degree (Mother council of the World) and Supreme Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry. Albert Pike was born in Boston, Massachusetts, December 29, 1809, and died in Washington, D.C., April 2, 1891. Although plainly influenced by Coleridge and Keats and Shelley, his poetical work was of such quality that it is regrettable that he did not write more, and strange that what he did write is not better known. He was, however, more of a man of action, perhaps, for in both the Mexican and the Civil wars he played a conspicuous part. In the former he commanded a cavalry company and performed other services: in the latter he was Confederate commissioner to the Indian tribes and also a brigadier general in command of Indians.

Documentation to record Pike's Klan activity is lacking. Some sources report that General Pike organized the Ku Klux Klan in Arkansas after General Forrest appointed him Grand Dragon of that Realm at the convention at Nashville, Tenn. He was also appointed at that time Chief Judicial Officer of The Invisible Empire. He advised in this capacity that the Ku Klux Klan memorize their Ritual and to never make it public. In 1872 Arkansas had two governments operating at one time and civil war was threatened and great excitement prevailed against the Washington Government. General Pike called a mass meeting at Little Rock, Ark., in the Capitol building and appealed to the people to be patient until better times would come and assured them that he would go to Washington and intercede for them, which he did many times. At this meeting General Pike unfurled the Stars and Stripes and in a most beautiful manner, asked the people to follow it, which thousands of them did, promising him to be patient until the Ku Klux Klan could redeem the state.

Immediately after the Civil War he practised law and edited a newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, but in 1868 he removed to Washington, DC, where he devoted himself both to his profession and to free-masonry. He joined Free Masonry in 1850 and in less than nine years became the highest ranking officer in this institution, becoming Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, which is the "Mother Supreme Council of the World" and was founded at Charleston, South Carolina, May 31, 1801, and which office he occupied from 1859 until his death in 1891. General Pike became universally known throughout the masonic world by reason of his activities in promoting the growth of this branch of Free Masonry and it was his genius that evolved the modern rituals of this masonic rite out of the older rituals in use in earlier times.

Albert Pike had a very striking personality. He was quite tall, several inches over six feet in height, and had size to correspond. His face was handsome, lighted up usually with a bright smile. He made friends wherever he went. He had many eccentricities.

The Albert Pike Statue is located at 3rd and D Streets, N.W. in downtown Washington, D.C. It is administered by the National Park Service. Congress authorized the placement of a statue to Albert Pike on Federal land in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 1898. Pike's statue is the only Confederate officer represented among the outdoor Civil War statuary of Washington.



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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:58:45 ZULU