Anti-Masons in the U.S. have been thwarted lately. The overwhelming publication of books by mainstream publishers, and the airing of documentaries on Discovery, History, NatGeo, etc., along with Dan Brown's decidedly glowing view of Freemasonry in The Lost Symbol, have all helped to blunt the maniacal claims of of Masonophobes. Only the perennially nervous believe the Albert Pike-Lucifer-Bloody Oath-Dollar Bill-New World Order silliness anymore. No other time in the history of the fraternity has the general public been armed with more truthful information about Freemasonry, readily available, by believable sources.
I don't know what you think of Glenn Beck, pro or con, so please don't barrage me with messages about him. He has a tremendously popular program on Fox News Channel, and on Fridays over the last few months, he has been hosting special programs known as "Founders Fridays." On these, he has been delving into little-discussed people and events from US history, and tying the programs together with a theme that is very familiar to Freemasons, that of "Faith, Hope and Charity."
One of Beck's favorite resources has been evangelist David Barton, who is the founder of a Christian organization called WallBuilders. Barton specializes in collecting original documents from the 1700-1800s, and contends the founders were largely Christian, and the US was founded as an expressly Christian country. WallBuilders is described on its website as "dedicated to presenting America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built." Barton's appearances on Beck have given him much exposure. Look him up, read his views, and decide what you may think of his arguments.
I recently sent a copy of Solomon's Builders to the Beck offices, because each show seemed to be dancing around the obvious connections of many of the founders being discussed and their membership in Masonry. I wasn't certain what Beck or Barton thought of the Masonic influences on Washington, Franklin, Warren, Hancock, Revere and others, because it never came up.
Then came this curious exchange on the Glenn Beck Show on August 6, 2010. (See the video here.)
This is a transcript from the Fox site.
STEVEN, AUDIENCE MEMBER: Did the free masons influence George Washington? And do they still have an influence to this day?
BARTON: Free masons had an influence on George Washington but not what we think of today. There is a big difference between the two. Free masonry today is not what it was at the time of Washington.
It was introduced in America in 1734. Washington entered into what were called field lodges, which was the only way in the British military, the officers and the common guys could meet together.
So it doesn't have the rituals or oaths or anything else that's common today. Actually, by 1799 it began to change. Washington was dead then. 1813 —
BECK: Wait, wait, wait. I have seen a painting of George Washington laying the cornerstone.
BARTON: You bet.
BECK: He was wearing the apron and everything else.
BARTON: You bet. You bet.
BECK: What do you mean there was no —
BARTON: The painting was done in 1976. The painting was done —
BARTON: Yes. The one in the Capitol of Washington standing and laying the cornerstone. Now, there were some in 1840s and '50s.
BECK: I believe I have seen his apron in Mt. Vernon.
BARTON: Oh, he has an apron.
BARTON: But he would not allow himself to be painted as a mason. One guy tried to paint him and he said no way.
BECK: OK. If he had been (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He had the rituals.
BARTON: No, because the rituals didn't come in until much later. 1825 is when the rituals appeared. So there were three simple degrees, no oaths, no rituals, whatever. That came in about 1813 with what is called speculative masonry.
BECK: May I ask — I've always thought the role that masons played in the Declaration or in the revolution in the forming of the nation was the honor of it as it was understood back then.
But that you had a place to where you could go and speak privately, openly and no one would violate the secret.
BARTON: That was more European than it was American. That was the European model, but it was not the American model. And that's the way they hid it from monarchs in Europe.
The American model, when spoke your piece straight out any way, it was not a problem. And you'll find most of Americans — Founding Fathers who became masons did so as British citizens.
And so it wasn't that big a deal for them. Washington records in his last two years and talking about the masonry, that it was a very small influence in his life. He maybe attended 12, 10 lodge meetings over 40 years.
BECK: The Illuminati is going to off him —
BARTON: Oh, yes. They hate this.
Beck was clearly trying to find out Barton's view (for what it's worth, I don't think Beck has an anti-Masonic viewpoint), but see the new wrinkle in what Barton says about it: Masonry wasn't really important to Washington, and in any case, it isn't the same Freemasonry as it became after 1825. No oaths or rituals before 1813-1825? Speculative Masonry didn't begin until 1813? There is no way to ignore the Masonic membership of many of the founders, so Barton explains it away as unimportant, and not really the Freemasonry that is around today. And he makes up dates to sound authoritative about it.
It's sort of like prohibitionists who try to dance around the "Wedding at Cana" story of Jesus making wine by saying, "It's not really wine the way we understand it today. It wasn't alcoholic."
Samuel Pritchard's Masonry Dissected, an exposure of Masonic ritual that includes obligations, was published in 1730. Speculative Masonry officially began in 1717, and was transitioning to it throughout the mid to late 1600s. All in plenty of time to be the Masonry joined by the Founding Founders. Barton's 1813 date is the date in England of the Union between the Moderns and the Antients. As for his 1825 date, I am guessing he is confusing it with the date of the disappearance of William Morgan and the publication of his exposure in 1826. But who knows?
Washington was initiated on November 4th, 1752, passed March 3rd, 1753, and raised a Master Mason on August 4th, 1753, in Fredericksburg Lodge, an Antients lodge in Virginia. It was NOT a "field" lodge (I presume Barton used this term to describe a military lodge). Antients lodges largely aligned themselves eventually (very generally) with the revolutionary side, while the "Moderns" lodges were (again, very generally) more "Tory" in makeup. Here Barton again either misunderstands or mischaracterizes in his estimation that it was somehow not fashionable for post-revolutionary citizens to become Masons. It's just nonsense.
As for Washington not allowing himself to be painted as a Mason?
From the website of Alexandria Washington Lodge No. 22:
In July 1792 Washington turned down a request for a sitting from American artist William Joseph Williams, telling Governor Henry Lee of Virginia: "I am so heartily tired of the attendance which, from one cause or another, I have bestowed on these kind of people, that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them; and have adhered to it; except in instances where it has been requested by public bodies, or for a particular purpose (not of the painters) and could not, without offence, be refused. I have been led to make this resolution for another reason besides the irksomeness of sitting, and the time I loose by it, which is, that these productions have, in my estimation, been made use of as a sort of tax upon individuals, by being engraved, and that badly, and hawked, or advertised for Sale." Williams then offered to paint Washington's portrait for the Alexandria (Virginia) Masonic Lodge No. 22. Lodge officers wrote Washington in 1793 that it would be " a source of the most refined gratification the tracing out and contemplating the various ornaments of his character in the resemblance of his person." Williams's portrait shows Washington as a Virginia past master, with Masonic regalia and jewels. Williams's careful depiction includes a scar on Washington's left cheek, smallpox scars on his nose and cheeks, and a mole under his right ear.
From a history of Alexandria Washington Lodge No. 22 by Charles H. Callahan:
The Lodge desiring a correct likeness of their illustrious First Master passed a resolution requesting General Washington to sit for the painting, obtained his consent and employed Williams, an artist of Philadelphia, to execute the work. At the time the painting was made, General Henry (Light Horse Harry) Lee, representing the Eighth Congressional District, in which Alexandria is situated, in the National Congress, being not only the official representative of their section but a member of the Fraternity, arranged for the sitting and introduced the artist to President Washington. After the work was completed and General Washington had approved it, Williams personally delivered the picture to the Lodge, who officially approved it and paid the artist for his service.
David Barton spoke about the Founding Fathers and the Masons on two episodes of WallbuildersLive.co, which can be found here.
Monday, May 03, 2010
The Question of Freemasonry and the Founding Fathers - Part 1
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
The Question of Freemasonry and the Founding Fathers - Part 2
He is familiar with much of the early history of Freemasonry in the US, which is why his assertions made both on Glenn Beck and on the Wallbuilders broadcast are so creative in his attempt to argue that the Masonry of Franklin, Revere, Hancock and Washington really isn't the same as Freemasonry after 1825 or so. His overarching contention is that the bulk of the Founders were essentially evangelical Christians, not deists. So if Masonry was creepy and required "bloody" and "anti-scriptual" oaths, those godly Founders could never have joined it.
Several years ago, he published a book, The Question of Freemasonry and the Founding Fathers. It is out of print, but I have a copy on the way. On his radio appearances, he seems to object to Masonry because it, in his view, treats all religions equally, and because it requires members to take "oaths" that are scripturally improper. I have not heard him make inflammatory remarks against the fraternity, or really attack it.
However, I was intrigued by his remarks concerning objections some of his own fans had to him "cavorting" with Beck, who is a recent convert to Mormonism.
Read this from his Facebook page (Much too long to quote here.)
Based on that explanation, I would simply ask that Barton, or any evangelical Christians who hold anti-Masonic feelings, would apply his same words to Freemasonry as he does to Beck and the Mormons:
• Recognize that we are, or strive to be, gentlemen of piety and virtue.
• Judge a tree based on the type of fruit it produces, not the label that it bears.
• Don't impede the efforts of others if they are not attacking and trying to injure you, even if those individuals are not part of your particular religious circle.
• If someone is not actively fighting against you, then consider him an ally, not an enemy.