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Freemasonry and Democracy

Its Evolution in
North America
By: Allen E. Roberts
Just prior to his death Allen E. Roberts completed
Part I of his book entitled "Freemasonry and
Democracy. " Part II has been written by a Canadian
Mason, Wallace McLeod.
This digest traces the evolution of Democracy in both
the United States and Canada and will be available in
June of 1997.
Freemasons played prominent roles in helping to
form democratic governments in both countries, a
legacy of which every Freemason should be proud!
This STB is a prelude to the digest and describes the
events leading up to the American Revolution which
set in motion the chain of events leading to
What the world knows as "The Con-
stitutional Convention" of the United States
had a long prelude. Much of this was tragic.
It was made possible by events long forgot-
ten, if ever really considered. It took brave
and unselfish men and women to bring it to
A national holiday commemorates the dis-
covery in 1492 of a "new Land." What isn't
celebrated are the early attempts to colonize
this new world. The first known attempt was
in 1585 when Sir Walter Raleigh founded a
colony at Roanoke Island. What happened to
the settlers is still unknown.
In May 1607, 105 passengers of four ships
from England landed at what became known
as "Jamestown" in a colony called "Virginia."
These colonists were led by Captain John
Smith. Their luck proved better than their
predecessors'. They survived and prospered.
So much so that on July 30,1619, representa-
tives from each of the eleven settlements met
in the first representative assembly in the new
world. It adopted statutes based on English
common law. Later in 1619 they and their
progeny celebrated a day of Thanksgiving at
Berkeley Plantations along the James River.
With this success another group of settlers
set out from England for Virginia in 1620.
They missed their destination and landed in
what became known as "Plymouth" in what
would become the colony of "Massachusetts."
For over 150 years these settlers continued
their close ties with England. They even
adopted and followed laws they had consid-
ered repressive when they fled their mother
country. Actually, some of their leaders
became even more audacious than were those
they had left behind. (This continues to the
present day!) Many more empathic leaders
took those who would follow them to other
areas and formed new colonies. One of the
most notable of these was Roger William's
who founded the colony of Rhode Island.
This became the first colony to keep the polit-
ical forces in a state from determining which
religion should be practiced.
Even as the thirteen original colonies came
into being, England kept a firm grip on them.
The citizens of this new world appeared to be
evenly divided in their allegiance to the gov-
ernment overseas and to their leaders who
were advocating more freedom from Eng-
land's rule. In spite of their feelings, however,
the colonists fought along side the British
during the French and Indian Wars.
It was during this period, 1670-1759, that
Freemasonry seriously came to North Amer-
ica. English, Irish and Scottish Military
Lodges brought it with them. Its concepts
slowly caught on with the thinking men in the
colonies. Its firm belief in the brotherhood of
man under the fatherhood of God found fer-
tile ground in those who believed in the free-
dom of man. This would become evident
within the next several years.
The philosophies of the various colonies
and their leadership became more varied as
the years went by. In each of them there was
a faction that considered the acts of the King
and Parliament in England repressive. This
group argued for independence the other
wanted things to continue as they were.
This loyalty to England was particularly
true of many in the New England colonies.
They had become an important and prosper-
ous trading center. The ports in New England
thrived because all shipping had to be han-
dled in English vessels. In addition, the
colonists were forbidden by England to do
any manufacturing. Raw goods had to be
shipped to Britain for this purpose.
These restrictive acts were accepted,
although in many cases, reluctantly, by the
colonies. But, England, deeply in debt,
demanded more and more from the strug-
gling colonists. The restraints on manufactur-
ing were tightened, and taxes were increased.
When a "Writ of Assistance" was enacted by
Parliament in 1761, rebellion was imminent.
This writ gave the Crown the "right" to
search any home or business in the colonies.
James Otis, the General Advocate of
Massachusetts, a member of St. John's
Lodge, refused to enforce the Writ. In Faneuil
Hall in Boston, he encouraged the colonists
to "breast any storm of ministerial vengeance
that their resistance might cause." He con-
cluded his five-hour speech by saying: "To
my dying day will I oppose with all the power
and faculties God has given me, all such
instruments of slavery on the one hand, and
villainy on the other." He then handed the
General Advocate his resignation.
British troops were sent to Massachusetts
to enforce the taxes. Along with them came a
"Quartering Act," forcing the inhabitants to
provide housing for the soldiers. Then came
the "Stamp Act" in 1765. This caused several
reactions. The group known as the "Sons
Liberty" was born many ladies in Rhode
Island determined to ignore the intentions of
any man supporting the Stamp Act Virginia
adopted the "Virginia Resolves."
The circulation of the "Resolves" brought
mixed reactions. New Yorkers considered
them too treasonous to publish New
Englanders were pleasantly surprised
because they had considered Virginia the
most loyal of the Loyalist colonies.
Parliament quickly dissolved the Stamp
Act, not because of sympathy for the
colonists, but because of the English mer-
chants. Their business declined drastically.
The King fired the Prime Minister, and
through a series of events Charles Townshend
became the power in the government. The
acts he forced into enactment in 1767 enraged
the colonists.
His action in forcing through these laws
along with previous suppressive acts, and
others that would follow, would be vividly
recalled twenty years later in Philadelphia.
All the soldiers from Britain weren't advo-
cates of the acts of their politicians. In 1768
Dr. Joseph Warren, Master of St. Andrew's
Lodge in Boston, worked with three Military
Lodges in the British forces to form a Grand
Lodge for the "Antients" in Massachusetts.
Warren was appointed Provincial Grand
Master by the Grand Lodge of Scotland on
May 30, 1769.
The Townshend Acts were partially abol-
ished in 1770. The crisis was diminished
Then in June 1772 the British custom
schooner Gaspee ran aground near Provi-
dence. About 150 Rhode Islanders board
her and burned her to the water line. It would
no longer interfere with the smuggling trade
But taxes and repression grew worse among
them was a threepenny tax placed on tea by
the short-sighted Crown.
Tempers flared, especially in Boston. They
reached a crescendo on the night of
December 16,1773. From the Green Dragon
Tavern, home of St. Andrews Masonic
Lodge, and the Sons of Liberty, and other
places, "Mohawk Indians" tramped. They
boarded the East India ships, tossing 342
chests overboard, turning the harbor into a
giant teapot.
(It has been highly publicized that the min-
utes of St. Andrew's Lodge ended with a large
'T', and it didn't hold a meeting because not
enough members were present. Actually, the
minutes ended with a scroll mark, in no way
distinguishable as any letter of a known alpha-
bet.) The port of Boston was closed by the
British. The news of "the Boston Tea Party"
and the repression by England spread
throughout the colonies. They began to train
for war in earnest. A group of volunteers
called the "Minute Men" was born. Men were
chosen to meet in what would be called the
"First Continental Congress."
This Congress began its meetings in
Philadelphia on September 5, 1774, with
Peyton Randolph, a Virginia Freemason, as
its president. In England, Edmund Burke, a
Freemason, pleaded with the Parliament to
stop its repressive taxation, and work for a
peaceful settlement. He was ignored.
Lord Dunsmore suspended the Virginia
Assembly and it moved to Richmond where it
met in St. John's Church on March 23, 1775.
There Patrick Henry (not a Freemason) made
his "give me liberty, or give me death" speech.
A provincial congress in Massachusetts
adopted 53 articles of war on April 5,1775.
The British General Thomas Gage
marched on Concord to destroy what his
spies informed him was a large store of mil-
itary supplies. Bostonians were expecting
some such move. When it was made a signal
was flashed from the Old North Church by a
Freemason. This sent Paul Revere, a member
of St. Andrew's Lodge, and others, to warn
the citizens.
At dawn on April 19, 1775, the British
force of 700 troops arrived at Lexington
where they found a band of militia blocking
their passage. Someone fired, but who is still
unknown. Ten Minute Men were killed the
British marched to Concord. War had begun.
Volunteers arrived in Boston to form a ring
around the town. Ethan Allen and Benedict
Arnold, a Freemason, with a force of militia
seized the British forts at Ticonderoga and
Crown Point.
The Second Continental Congress began
meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia. On
July 15, George Washington, a Freemason
from Virginia, was elected Commander-in-
Chief of the Continental Forces. Without
question, he was the logical man for the posi-
tion. Events would prove this beyond a doubt.
He immediately left for Boston, where the
Battle of Bunker Hill (really Breed's Hill) was
fought, and where Joseph Warren was killed
fighting for the Patriots.
What happened next has been covered at
length. But problems with the Congresses
had, and have, often been glossed over. The
Articles of Confederation proved ineffective.
It was clear that these had to be revised if the
United States was to survive. Wisely, for a
change, the Congress called for a convention
to propose necessary changes.
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