The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Masonic Pride Day: An Observation

I’m somewhat ambivalent about Masonic Pride Day—it smacks too much of the sort of pernicious identity politics so much in vogue these days, where every group that can muster an identity around it gets its own parade, school assembly presentation, and political lobby. But I strongly agree that we Masons in our current incarnation are letting the anti-Masons dictate the terms in which we are received by the world-at-large, and we must do something to define ourselves based on who we are, where we came from, what we have done, and what we continue to do for ourselves, for our communities, for our nations, and for human consciousness in general. This we must do, not in a political manner, not by engaging in a debate with our enemies, and certainly not with an arrogant tone of triumphalism.

I had a train journey to visit relatives this holiday season. To prepare for the train journey, I visited my Grand Lodge library (as every good Mason should do from time to time), and selected Masonry in Texas: Background, History, and Influence to 1846, by James David Carter (1955), as my reading material on the train.

This might seem like a strange choice, since I am not a Texas Mason. Someday, I would like to write a Masonic Western, and this seemed like good research material for a future book. I was expecting the book to be very narrow in its focus, and of limited interest except to someone well-versed in Texas history. I was wrong; the book was extremely entertaining, and well worth reading by any North American Mason.

Carter begins with a history of Freemasonry, and its early days in Britain, France and Spain. Then he gives the history of Freemasonry in Colonial America. What follows is a detailed examination of the role of Freemasonry in the American Revolution, showing the Masons on both sides of that struggle, and the role of Freemasonry in establishing the government of the United States. He then shows something similar taking place in Mexico, but different due to the undue influence of politics in the Mexican version of Freemasonry.

Two hundred pages into the book, he begins to write about Texas, showing the influence of Freemasonry on the original Anglo-Amerrican colonization of Texas, how the Anglo-American Texas Masons interacted with the Mexican Freemasons, and ultimately what led to Texas’ revolution against the newly-independent Mexican state. He finishes with an analysis of Masonry’s contribution to the Republic of Texas, and how Masons led the delicate process of annexation with the USA.

I am going to offer a long quote from the conclusion of the book, as evidence of an author who takes a deep pride in Freemasonry, and wants very much to give our Fraternity its due as a contributor to living history. As you read this quote, try to imagine any Masonic author of the present day using language like this:

The data accumulated in the foregoing chapters seem to justify the following statements:

Among other definitions, Freemasonry is a corporate school of liberal philosophy erected upon the ruins of craft guild masonry from which it drew its principal thesis that the individual was of supreme worth and capable of perfectibility.

As a broad philosophy, Freemasonry qualifies as a vital sociological force and its lodges provide the essential conditions for the formation of a type that can be relied upon to translate Masonic philosophy into conduct in society.

Freemasonry was the only organized philosophic institution common to all the British colonies in North America which became the United States.

The character of the people in the British North American colonies; the environment of the region; the lack of the ability of English authorities to control thought and action in the New World provided a fertile field for the development of liberal thought as taught by Masonic lodges.

Masonry drew the leading citizens of scores of colonial towns and villages into the bonds of unity and brotherhood thereby establishing the mutual trust and confidence that helped to make colonial cooperation possible in a common cause.

Masons provided the leadership for the events that brought about the conflict between England and America.

Masons led the propaganda campaign which nurtured widespread disorder into revolution.

Masons led in the overthrow of royal government in the colonies and erected revolutionary governments.

Masons led in the erection of a loose confederation of the states for united action in the war.

Masons led the army, navy, and marine corps in the battles of the American Revolution.

Foreign aid for the revolutionary efforts was secured partially through the efforts of Masons.

All of the chief leaders of the French forces and the more important foreign officers in the American Revolution were Masons.

Masonry provided a philosophic basis for the justification of the Revolution, not only in America and in France but also in Britain where Masons influenced the government to accept peace terms more favorable to the Americans than the events of the war would seem to justify.

Many of the most important leaders in the development of a federal union—the organization form of Freemasonry—were Masons.

Many of the men who influenced the writing and who wrote the Constitution of the United States were Masons well informed in Masonic philosophy, practice, and organization.

The fundamental principles laid down for the government of the Masonic fraternity in its oldest surviving documents are found to be present in the Constitution of the United States.

Many Masons fostered the formation of a public free school system supported by the state in the United States.

The policy of admitting new states to the union on a basis of complete equality with the old is a policy parallel to that practiced in the creation of new Masonic lodges.

Masons occupied many influential offices in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the United States government in the period of its greatest plasticity.

Freemasonry was one of the earliest institutions to find lodgement on the successive frontiers as the Anglo-Americans moved westward across North America.

Masons were frequently the first to establish churches, schools, newspapers, and other institutions of public service and convenience in the territories opened to settlement by soldier Masons.

No United States territorial or state government was established in the areas considered in this study without the support and participation of Masons and often they were the prime movers.

Masonry was a civilizing force in the raw, half-wild population that contributed a substantial proportion of the Anglo-American colonists of Texas before 1846, as well as a cultural force in the more highly developed areas of the United States that contributed the additional portion.

Though Masonry was introduced into Mexico and contributed to the revolution which established the liberal Constitution of 1824, it failed to secure enough support to insure the permanent overthrow of privileged oligarchy by 1835.

Anglo-American colonization of Texas was permitted and encouraged by a Mexican government in which Masons occupied influential positions.

The Anglo-American colonists of Texas were led by Masons and Texas became a liberal stronghold in the Mexican nation.

There is no credible evidence that Masons entered Texas for the purpose of dismembering Mexico.

Masons led the conservative forces in Texas that sought to maintain the Constitution of 1824 as the basis of the government of Mexico and were supported by a number of Mexican liberals whose most prominent leaders were Masons.

The reactionary Centralist Party in Mexico was led by men who had seized control of the Mexican government through the prostitution of Masonic lodges into nuclei of political parties and then destroyed the lodges to prevent a resurgence of liberalism through Masonry.

The Texas Revolution was an ideological war—a struggle between liberalism and authoritarianism—caused by the failure of the primary liberal revolution in Mexico.

There was little difference in the physical equipment of the peoples of Spanish and English descent for the development of Texas but they were dominated by diametrically opposing philosophies. Those of Spanish descent failed to make material progress in Texas in over one hundred years of possession while Anglo-Americans, with a strong Masonic heritage, made marked progress in the development of the province in fifteen years.

Of the twelve battles and skirmishes of the Texas Revolution treated in this study, ten were won by the Texans. The percentage of Masons in these winning forces ranged from 6.6 to 27.5 per cent. In the two battles lost, the Alamo and Coleto, the percentage of Masons was 3.1 and 2.5 per cent. In all of the battles, Masons constituted a higher percentage of the Texan force involved than their percentage in the population.

Masons constituted a stabilizing and directing force in the confused condition of Texas following the Revolution.

Masons consistently occupied the most important government offices under the Republic of Texas.

Masons were consistent in defending Texas from Mexican incursions and depredations by the Indians.

Masons were prominent leaders in efforts to establish a public free school system supported by the state in Texas.

Masons supported a complete separation of church and state in Texas.

Masonic lodges exercised a degree of social control which strengthened the rule of law and order in Texas.

These factors in the development of American life were not all exclusive to Masonry. Some existed in one institution and some in another. Many forces, economic, social, environmental, intellectual, hereditary, and others, have made their contribution to the sum total of American culture. It appears, however, that historians and political theorists have overlooked a major influence in American history and government. With due regard for the molding influences heretofore identified by scholars of American history, it is submitted that Freemasonry is one of the most powerful intellectual forces that contributed to the shaping of the history of the United States and Texas between 1750 and 1845.

This book is a great read, if you can get your hands on it. We should all give Freemasonry the credit it deserves in building the USA, Canada and Mexico, and elsewhere around the world where it continues to shine a light of freedom and equality, brotherhood and truth. It should be noted that by liberal, the author is using the word in its 18-19th century meaning, and not in its contemporary meaning.

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