"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Paul Revere, Freemason

By sheer accident, I'm in Massachusetts this week, south of Boston in Middleboro. And this happens to be the 244th anniversary of the famous ride of Brother Paul Revere.

In popular culture and what passes for history these days, Paul Revere’s role in the American Revolution has been reduced to a town crier on horseback, albeit a romantic one. Paul Revere, a well-known silversmith, would become immortalized for his nighttime ride as the messenger proclaiming the approach of British troops at Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, when he and fellow Freemason William Dawes succeeded in warning the local militias.

Longfellow's legendary telling aside, author David Hackett Fischer’s 1994 book Paul Revere’s Ride has gone a long way to place him in a much more important position than just Brown Beauty’s screaming jockey. He was a large, burly man, and hardly had the appearance of an artisan skilled in silversmithing and engraving. 

Paul Revere first came to the attention of British authorities and the general public back in 1765 when he began to engrave and publish pro-dissident political drawings and cartoons.  In 1770, he created a notorious (and largely fictitious) engraving dramatizing the so-called 'Boston Massacre' that demonized British troops as murderers of Boston citizens, and proudly signed his name to the work. The famous work cemented the image of English tyranny in the minds of colonists.

Revere was a central figure in all of the many pro-revolutionary groups that met at the Green Dragon Tavern, famed meeting place of Boston's Lodge of St. Andrews. In 1773, Revere was one of the ringleaders of the Boston Tea Party, along with Dr. Charles Warren, as members of the North End caucus. He would serve the lodge as its Worshipful Master in 1770-71, 1777-79 and again for 1780-82. 

In 1775, Paul Revere was the Senior Grand Deacon in the St. Andrew’s Grand Lodge officer’s line and Dr. Joseph Warren’s right-hand man. When the word came in from all over Boston that the British troops were assembling a small fleet of longboats on April 18, 1775, Warren, the Sons of Liberty and the St. Andrew’s members all knew British General Gage’s troops would be on the move.

The events of April 18th and 19th are the shared folklore of America. Revere and fellow Mason William Dawes were dispatched to alert Lexington and Concord to the impending arrival of the British regulars, and to warn Brother Mason John Hancock, Sam Adams, and other members of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress that they were being hunted. The “one if by land” lantern that was hung in the steeple of the Old North Church was placed there by church sexton Robert Newman, who would go on to join Boston's St. John’s Lodge in 1783 and then St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter in 1794.

The long-attributed claim that Revere hollered "The British are coming!" is inaccurate, since technically at the time the Massachusetts colonists were mostly British. His warning was more accurately that "The Regulars are coming out!"

Revere's mission took him through Charlestown and across the Charles River, then onward toward Lexington dodging British army patrols and alerting patriots all along the route.
At Lexington, Revere and Dawes met up with Dr. Samuel Prescott, and headed out to warn Concord, where patriots were storing a large cache of weapons and gunpowder. 

At Medford, Revere was briefly captured by a patrol of British soldiers. Some say he talked his way out of being arrested or shot, but Masonic folklore claims that he gave a Masonic sign and was released by soldiers who were brethren. Revere managed to make it to Woburn, but Dawes was also detained. Prescott managed to get all the way to Concord and completed the mission. Adams and Hancock were successfully warned and hid out in Burlington, escaping arrest.

April 19th brought "the shot heard round the world" and the official beginning of the American Revolution, which is another story for another time.

Paul Revere would serve the Patriot cause throughout the war, and tried his hand as a military commander. After the British evacuated Boston, a regiment of artillery was raised, of which Paul Revere was made Major. Among other things, he restored the cannon to usefulness which the British had put out of commission. Later, in 1776, he was made Lieutenant-Colonel and remained in service throughout the war with mixed results.

Later in the war, he would be the artillery commander at the humiliating Penobscot Expedition, which would go down in history as the greatest naval disaster in American history until Pearl Harbor. But he would continue to serve as a cannon maker and gunpowder manufacturer until the war’s end and even made anchors, spikes, sheathing and pumps for warships like the U.S.S. Constitution. He survived the war, and he fittingly engraved the first Great Seal of the United States. 

Massachusetts' Masonic grand lodge history before and after the Revolution is more hectic than most American states. When the Massachusetts Grand Lodge was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1769, with Dr. Joseph Warren as its Grand Master, the independently established Lodge of St. Andrew was a part of it. Paul Revere served as Junior Grand Warden 1777-79, Senior Grand Warden 1780-83, and Deputy Grand Master 1784-85 and 1791-92.

When a union of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge and the Saint John's Grand Lodge was agreed to, forming the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts in 1792, Revere was its second Grand Master from 1795-97.

As Grand Master, he laid the cornerstone of the Massachusetts statehouse in Boston, with Masonic ceremonies. One of the greatest treasures of the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Massachusetts is small golden urn created by Revere that holds a lock of George Washington's hair (photo).

The Revere Charge

While serving as Grand Master, MW Paul Revere chartered 23 new lodges during his tenure, and installed many Worshipful Masters. In that capacity, he wrote a unique charge for Masters that he delivered at those installations. It is every bit as applicable today as it was 225 years ago:

"Worshipful Master:
"This W. Lodge, having chosen you for their Master and Representative, it is now incumbent upon you, diligently and upon every proper occasion, to enquire into the knowledge of your fellows, and to find them dayly imployment, that the Art which they profess may not be forgotten or neglected: you must avoid partiality, giving praise where it is due, and imploying those ln the most honorable part of the work who have made the greatest advancement, for the encouragement of the Art. You must preserve union, and judge in all causes amicably and mildly, preferring peace.
"That the Society may prosper, you must preserve the dignity of your office, requiring submission from the perverse and refractory, always acting and being guided by the principles on which your authority is founded. You must, to the extent of your power, pay a constant attendance on your Lodge, that you may see how your work flourishes, and your instructions are obeyed: You must take care that neither your words or actions shall render your authority to be less regarded, but that your prudent and careful behavior may set an example, and give a sanction to your power.
"And as brotherly love is the cement of our Society, so cherish and encourage it that the Brethren may be more willing to obey the dictates of Masons, than you have occasion to command.
"And you, the Officers of this Worshipful Lodge, must carefully assist the Master in the discharge and execution of his office; diffusing light and imparting knowledge to all the fellows under your care, keeping the Brethren in just order and decorum, that nothing may disturb the peaceable serenity or obstruct the glorious effects of Harmony and Concord; and that this may be the better preserved, you must carefully inquire into the character of all candidates to this honorable Society, and recommend none to the Master who in your opinion are unworthy of the privileges and advantages of Masonry, keeping the Cynic far from the Ancient Fraternity, where Harmony is obstructed by the superstitious and morose. You must discharge the Lodge quietly, encouraging the Brethren assembled to work cheerfully, that none when dismissed may go away dissatisfied.
"And you, Brethren of this Worshipful Lodge, learn to follow the advice and instruction of your officers, submitting cheerfully to their amicable decisions, throwing by all resentments and prejudices towards each other; let your chief care be to the advancement of the Society you have the honor to be members of; let there be a modest and friendly emulation among you in do ing good to each other; let complacency and benevolency flourish among you; let your actions be squared by the Rules of Masonry; let friendship be cherished, and all advantages of that title by which we distinguish each other, that we may be Brothers, not only in name, but in the full import, extent and latitude of so glorious an appellation.
"Finally, my Brethren, as this association has been carried on with so much unanimity and concord (in which we greatly rejoice), so may it continue to the latest ages. May your love be reciprocal and harmonious. While these principles are uniformly supported, this Lodge will be an Honor to Masonry, an example to the world, and therefore a blessing to mankind.
"From this happy prospect I rest assured of your steady perseverance, and conclude with wishing you all, my Brethren, joy of your Master, Wardens, and other officers, and of your Constitutional union as Brethren.
"Brother Grand Secretary,— It is my will and pleasure that you register this Lodge in the Grand Lodge Book, in the order of Constitutions, and that you notify the same to the several Lodges."
Partially adapted from Solomon's Builders: Freemasons, Founding Fathers, and the Secrets of Washington DC by Christopher L. Hodapp.

For more Masonic information about Paul Revere, see the extensive Masonic genealogy page HERE.


  1. Very interesting. This may serve as inspiration for an LEO presentation soon. Thanks

  2. A great account. More than well done.


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