Saturday, August 14, 2004

Update on George Washington as a Freemason:

I have only recently taken an interest in George Washington’s status as a Freemason (his and other framers’ involvement with that group, coupled with the Mason's general influence on the times, [just look at the back of the dollar bill], and considering that fundamentalist Christians consider Freemasonry to be occultic and evil, helps to demonstrate that we weren’t founded by a bunch of Pat Robertsons & Jerry Falwells).

There is no doubt that Washington had more than a nominal relationship with the Freemasons. Yet, Washington’s involvement, and the tendency of some crackpots to see a Masonic conspiracy around every door, has lead to some myth and exaggeration.

Here is an interesting site that seeks to set things straight about the Masons. Earlier I had cited Gary North who held that Washington became a Grand Master Mason.

This site says:

Myth: Washington was Grand Master in Virginia.

Fact: Washington never was a Grand Master. At the instigation of American Union Lodge he was suggested for the office of Grand Master of a National Grand Lodge -- a non-existent body. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and some others agreed, but too many others disagreed with the concept of a National Grand Lodge. Washington was appointed Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 in Virginia by Grand Master Edmund Randolph when that Pennsylvania Lodge requested a charter from the Grand Lodge of Virginia. The following year he was elected Master, but there is no record of his installation into this office, nor is there any record of him presiding over this Lodge. To keep the record straight, there is much evidence of his respect, and perhaps even love for Freemasonry. Proof? He was buried with Masonic rites!

Myth: George Washington was Grand Master of Masons in Virginia.

Fact: Washington never was a Grand Master. American Union Lodge, on December 15, 1779, proposed Washington become General Grand Master of the United States! This proposal speaks volumes for the character of the Commander-in-Chief. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania agreed five days later! Too many others were frightened by the concept of a National Grand Lodge. It is highly doubtful that Washington would have accepted such an office.

Washington was appointed Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 in Virginia by Grand Master Edmund Randolph when that Pennsylvania Lodge (No. 39) requested a charter from the Grand Lodge of Virginia. The new charter was dated April 28, 1788. In December of the same year he was elected Master, but there is no record of his installation into this office, nor is there any record of him actually presiding over this or any Lodge.


So Washington was a Master (at least he was elected), not a Grand Master. Yet, some other sites on the Internet claim that Washington was a Grand Master. But the site, in its balance, also goes after those who would downplay Washington’s involvement in the Freemasons:

Myth. George Washington never was interested in Freemasonry. He rarely, if ever, attended Lodge meetings.

Fact. To keep the record straight, there is much evidence of his respect and even love for Freemasonry. True, he seldom attended Masonic meetings. This is understandable when it is realized that from the day he was made a Master Mason until shortly before his death he worked for his country. Did he love and respect the Craft. The ultimate proof -- he was buried with Masonic rites! And this even before the Congress knew of his death. (For further study of George Washington and a complete account of his Masonic activities see George Washington: Master Mason, Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Richmond, VA.)

Myth. George Washington renounced Freemasonry.

Fact. On the contrary he remained a member of the Craft from the moment he was Initiated into the Lodge at Fredericksburg, Virginia (No. 4) until the day he died. Even then his wife, Martha, asked the Freemason of Alexandria, Virginia, to hold and conduct his funeral (see above).

In 1837, at state expense, Joseph Ritner, Governor of Pennsylvania, endeavored to "save" the reputation of the first President. He had published a tract "proving" Washington had never participated in Masonic events. Earlier the Blanchards, father and son and heads of a so-called "Christian" anti-Masonic organization, were among the first "Christians" to "prove" Washington wasn't a Freemason. Much of the anti-Masonic diatribe they promulgated has been carried to the present day by crusading "saints" against "secret" societies.


So I guess in 1837, the then version of the religious right tried to “rehabilitate” Washington’s “Christian” reputation with some lies. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Here are some other interesting sites that I came across in my research. In particular, the following is one of their takes on Washington’s “Master” status:

Some highlights…. In 1778 he was deemed worthy to serve as the first Grand Master of the new Grand Lodge of Virginia -- but was not available. On April 29, 1788, he was appointed the Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 (which is today named Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22), and was serving (at least nominally) in that office when he was inaugurated President of the United States.

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