George Washington as Mason


from books in Stanford's Green Library

By Peter Y. Chou

Marsha Keith Schuchard, Restoring the Temple of Vision,
Cabalistic Freemasonry and Stuart Culture
, Brill, Leiden, 2002, 845 pp.
[Stanford: HS.595.A5.S38.2002]

    Throughout the 18th century, the "ancient" Stuart traditions were maintained in clandestine Jacobite lodges in Britain and in the Écossais lodges of the Stuart diaspora. As I will demonstrate in future books, the Jewish associations were carried on by Francis Francia (the "Jacobite Jew"), Dr. Samuel Jacob Falk (the "Baal Shem of London"), Martines de Pasqually (the "Élu Cohen"), and Count Cagliostro (the "Grand Cophta"); the Swedish- Stuart loyalties were preserved by Carl XII, Carl Gustaf Tessin, Carl Gyllenborg, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Gustaf III; the Scottish architectural agenda was transmitted by William Bruce, the Earl of Mar, James Gibbs, and the Earl of Burlington; the Cabalistic-Hermitic mysticism was expressed by Swift, Pope, [John] Byrom, Ramsay, Casanova, St. Martin, Goethe, Herder, Lavater, Oetinger, Loutherbourg, Cosway, Blake, Novikov, and Mozart. The Stuart Masonic belief in religious toleration was affirmed by Theodore I in Corsica; stanislaus Leszczynski, Czartorisky, and Kosciusko in Poland; Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Lafayette in France; Frederick the Great in Prussia; Franklin, Paine, Jefferson, and Washington in America.
    Thus, when Mozart portrayed a chorus of Egyptian priests who escort the initiate
into the Masonic Temple of Wisdom, and when Washington imported Scottish stonemasons
to construct the American Capitol as a Temple of Liberty, they bore the fruits of
a Masonic tree planted long ago in the stony soil of Israel and Scotland. (p. 793)

Eugen Lennhoff, The Freemasons,
The History, Nature, Development and Secret of the Royal Art
A. Lewis (Masonic Publishers) Ltd., London, 1978, 375 pp.
Original in German Die Feimaurer (1930)
translated by Einar Frame, Methuen, London, 1934
[Stanford: HS.395.L43.1978]

    But the spiritual leaders of Freemasonry were to be found chiefly in the Independence camp. The large majority of the men who rendered the country such memorable service at this time wore the masonic apron, and it has been computed that out of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, so magnificent in its liberal conception and of such great importance to Europe, no less than 53 were Freemasons... In the 'long room' of the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston, which was later described by many historians as the headquarters of the struggle for independence— it actually was the meeting place of a large number of political clubs and 'sons of liberty'— a Lodge, the St. Andrew's Lodge, also had its Temple, which was attended by the most eminent men of the city and many of the most prominent patriots... Its first Grand Master, General Joseph Warren, was later— at the battle of Bunker Hill— the first to lay down his life in the cause of freedom. Warren was also the spiritual force behind the 'Caucus Pro Bono Publico' Club, whose members were Freemasons, which conceived the idea of the 'Boston Tea Party' and many other plans that actually brought about the American Revolution. When the British General Gage received report of Warren's death, he said that his death meant more than if 500 other rebels had fallen.
    Of the many Freemasons whose names are inscribed on the Roll of Honour of the American War of Independence, let us here mention the following: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Otis, who when only a young Boston advocate, was the first to plead for the inalienable natural rights of man in a brilliant speech before the Court; Samuel Adams, the man of the people, whose words at the Boston Town Meeting: 'This assembly can do nothing more for the deliverance of the country' acted like an alarm signal and led to the storming of the tea ships lying in the harbour; Alexander Hamilton who, as a member of the legislative body of New York, drafted the Constitution of the United States and created the foundations of the public treasury; Patrick Henry, the 'orator of the revolution'; John Marshall, not only the highest, but also the greatest judge of his time; James Madison, who, with the latter and Hamilton, built up the new political structure; Washington's heroic generals and fellow-combatants Nathaniel Greene, Lee, Sullivan, Lord Stirling, and the two Putnams, the German Baron Steuben, who having served and received his training under Frederick the Great, made the army ready to take the field again after many defeats; Lafayette, Montgomery, Jackson, Gist, Henry Knox, Ethan Allan; and also Paul Revere, the Spanish Grand Master of Massachusetts, who, when the Freemason John Pulling caused the signal lights to blaze up on the tower of the ancient North Church of Boston to announce the landing of the English at Cambridge, threw himself on his horse and gave the alarm to the patriots on his daring ride through the night from Charlestown to Lexington. (pp. 169-170)
    Most of these men were active Masons like Benjamin Franklin, and notably Washington himself, who was initiated in the 'Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4' in Virginia, and later became the Worshipful Master of the 'Alexandria Lodge No. 44' in Alexandria. One of his biographers, Sidney Hayden, wrote of the General:
        The key to Washington's public and private life is to be found
        in his character as a Freemason. Through his whole life is
        discernible the practice of the sence coined by himself:
        "The virtues that ennoble mankind are taught, nourished, and
        fostered in the halls of the Freemasons; they encourage domestic
        life and serve as a standard for the highest duties of the State."

W. Kirk MacNulty, Freemasonry,
A Journey through Ritual and Symbol,
Thames & Hudson, London, 1991, 96 pp.
[Stanford: HS.403.M32.1991]


John Hamill & Robert Gilbert (Eds.), Freemasonry,
A Celebration of the Craft,
Salamander Books Ltd., London, 1993, 256 pp.
[Stanford: HS.395.F74.1993f]


Steven C. Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood
Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order 1730-1840
University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, 1996, 421 pp.
[Stanford: HS.523.B85.1996]

    Philadelphia's Masonic lodges did not participate in the 1790 funeral of brother Benjamin Franklin. Twenty thousand people watched the funeral procession— "a concourse of Spectators", judged the Pennsylvania Gazette, "greater than ever was known on like occasion." The Society of the Cincinnati, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council and Assembly of the state all took part as did "all the Clergy of the City, including the Ministers of the Hebrew Congregation."
    The city's Masonic lodges, however, completely ignored the event, failing even to note the death of one of the first Freemasons in America and the former head of the order in Pennsylvania. By 1790, Franklin was simply the wrong sort of Freemason for the Philadelphia brothers. Their refusal to acknowledge his death underlined the social and institutional transformation that had occurred within the fraternity the 60 years Franklin had been a member. While Franklin lived abroad (virtually the entire period between 1757 and 1785), a new set of men took over Pennsylvania Masonry. The new group's first lodge had already been organized in 1757 when he left Philadelphia for England. Its founders, drawing upon English example, called it "Ancient" to distinguish it from previous lodges that, Ancient brothers claimed, had profaned the fraternity's sacred traditions. By the title and their labeling the older ground as "Moderns", the new Masons laid claim to priority and precedence despite their later organization. (p. 85)
    When General Joseph Warren, grand master of the Ancient grand lodge of Massachusetts, died at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775, the British threw his body into an unmarked grave. British evacuation the following March allowed recovery of the body and a funeral organized by Warren's Masonic brothers... Even before the Declaration of Independence, the Ancient St. Andrew's Lodge had faced problems that plagued American brothers during the war and afterward. Simply continuing to meet proved difficult. Hindered by British occupation, the lodge stopped meeting in April 1775 just before Lexington and Concord. It revived only in the following year. The issue of Revolutionary loyalty further weakened the lodge. While General Warren led American troops at Bunker Hill, his lodge brother Dr. John Jeffries aided the British. Jeffries and a number of other members left with the British in 1776— after he revealed the location of his grand master's body...
    Grand master Warren had helped lead such Whig groups as the North-End Caucus and the Sons of Liberty in meetings held at the Ancients' Green Dragon Tavern. Later, St. Andrew's members would even claim that the Boston Tea Party was planned at their hall. Whether or not this was the case, lodge minutes reveal a close connection with the event. St. Andrew's convened for its annual election the night before the first public meeting discussing the tea's arrival, but adjourned because of low attendance. "Consignees of TEA", the secretary noted, "took the Brethen's time." On the night of the event itself, the lodge also held a scheduled meeting. The group conducted some business, but the minutes perhaps suggest a desire for an alibi to prevent connecting lodge members with the activities in the harbor. Only five members attended that night: the master, the two wardens, and the two deacons. (pp. 110-111, 113)

John J. Robinson, A Pilgrim's Path
Freemasonry and the Religious Right
M. Evans & Co., NY, 1993, 179 pp.
[Stanford: HS.517.R6.1993]

    Consider the diverse nature of the men who had embraced the Masonic philosophy. Today, we lump them together as "patriots", but they differ in their education, occupation, and social background. Paul Revere was a silver craftsman. John Hancock was a merchant. George Washington was a wealthy planter. John Warren, who died leading his men at Bunker Hill, was a medical doctor. John Paul Jones was a Scottish seaman. Benjamin Franklin was a printer, the Marquis de Lafayette a French nobleman. What did these, and hundreds of other patriots, have in common? Nothing, except that they were all Freemasons. They were attracted to Freemasonry because its philosophy of individual freedom matched their own convictions. It gave them a common bond and a gathering place for the meeting of minds that they otherwise would not have. Perhaps it was no coincidence that in Philadelphia in 1775, while the local Masonic lodge conducted its business on the upper floor of Tun Tavern, their Masonic brother Samuel Nicholas was seated at a table on the ground floor, encouraging men to sign up for a totally new colonial military force, to be called the Corps of Marines. Appointed to the rank of captain, Brother Nicholas became the first commandant of the Marine Corps.
    No one should be surprised that the Freemasons feel a special involvement with the American Revolution. On the military side Freemasons Washington, Jones, and Nicholas commanded the army, navy, and marines. Off at the distant frontier, their Masonic brother George Rogers Clark led a force of Kentucky pioneers and woodsmen hundreds of miles across rivers, through deep woods, and across a treacherous swamp to take the British forts of Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes.
    The senior statesman of the Revolution, Benjamin Franklin, drew on the help of his Masonic brothers in France to gain audiences at the French court to seek assistance against a common enemy. The legend persists that a meeting of St. Andrew's Lodge in Boston was cut short to give the members ample time to join the Boston Tea Party; disguised as Indians, they hurried to the harbor to throw the tea overboard. Some say it is more than mere legend: The original minutes of that evening's business indicate a very short meeting. Masons like to remember the Junior Deacon of that lodge, Paul Revere, waiting in the darkness beside his horse. He was watching anxiously for one of his Masonic brothers to hang one lantern or two in the tower of the Old North Church, so that he could ride off to warn the neighboring rebels of the approach route of the British troops. (pp. 25-26)

Alexander Piatigorsky, Who's Afraid of Freemasons?
The Phenoenon of Freemasonry
The Harvill Press, London, 1997, 398 pp.

[Stanford: HS.403.P53.1997]

    On the eve of the Revolution, there were between 90 and 110 Lodges with between 1350 and 1500 members in the 13 Colonies. This numerical insignificance is offset by the influential position of a number of leading Masons. As well as the 16 signatories of the Declaration of Independence, 30 members of the first Constitutional Assembly were also members of the Craft. (p. 169)

William J. Whalen, Christianity and American Freemasonry,
3rd Edition, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1998, 213 pp.
[Stanford: HS.495.W5.1998]

    Masonic orators and writers sometimes get carried away and assert that most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons, but the evidence of Masonic affiliation for many of these signers is flimsy or nonexistent. A publication of the Masonic Service Association identifies only nine of the 56 signers as Freemasons, and some historians put the figure at eight. (Masonic Signers of the Declaration, Masonic Service Association, Silver Springs, MD, 1975, p. 4)
    Many of the founders of the Republic were Deists rather than orthodox Christians. Deism, a product of the Enlightenment, maintained that everything could be known by reason alone, and it acknowledged no debt to divine revelation. The God of the Deists was the master clock builder who wound up the universe and watched it tick away. He could also be viewed as the Great Architect, so it was understandable that many Deists found the religious and philosophical stance of Freemasonry to be congenial. Neither Thomas Paine nor Thomas Jefferson was a Freemason, but as Deists they shared the rationalist orientation of the Craft; some have called them "Masons without aprons". (p. 19)

Jasper Ridley, The Freemasons,
Constable, London, 340 pp.
[Stanford: HS.403.R53.1999]


Arturo de Hoyos & S. Brent Morris (Eds.), Freemasonry in Context,
History, Ritual, Controversy
Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2004, 348 pp.
[Stanford: HS.403.F74.2004]


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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: peter(at) (12-19-2006)