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


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Masonic Museum Is A Snapshot of Spain's Anti-Masonic Past

While many Masons today have at least a passing familiarity with the persecution of the fraternity under the Nazi regime, far less is widely known about similar actions under Spain's long-ruling dictator, Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde. The Spanish Civil War (often called the dress rehearsal for World War II) raged between 1936 and 1939, resulting in Franco and his Nationalist Party's ascendency to power. The two big name fascist dictators of the period, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, both fell in 1945. But Franco ruled in Spain all the way through his death in 1975.

Under Franco and his (largely Catholic) Nationalists, Freemasonry was outlawed, and Masons were often arrested solely for their membership. In the wake of Franco’s victory in the civil war, many Freemasons, some of them well-known figures, were either exiled, imprisoned or, in some cases, shot. As was done throughout Europe under the Nazi occupation forces, Franco's regime seized the property of Masonic lodges throughout Spain and occasionally set up spooky museums of Masonic artifacts as propaganda exhibits to frighten the population. In a way, you can blame some of the modern day European distrust of Freemasonry on generational fears first stoked by these attempted exposés under the fascist regimes in the 1930s and 40s.

Franco spared no expense in stamping out Freemasonry in Spain. In 1949 the Spanish government included nearly $100,000 in its budget for ongoing maintenance of a special tribunal to suppress Masonry.

The Generalissimo never tempered his anti-Masonic sentiments. Henderson and Pope's book Freemasonry Universal claims that under Franco's almost 40 years in office, more than 10,000 Freemasons were arrested for their alleged membership, and the Grand Orient of Spain went into exile in Mexico. Even in his final speech before his death in 1975 given from (where else do dictators speak from?) the balcony of his Royal Palace, Franco railed against the imaginary "Jewish-Masonic Conspiracy". 

After Franco died, Spain finally began a slow transition to democracy, but it wasn't until 1979 that the laws against Freemasons were lifted - and only then after their High Court overruled the Interior Ministry’s ongoing refusal to allow Masons to again organize.

A Masonic lodge in Gijon, Spain was plundered by the Spanish Nationalists in 1938, and a propaganda museum was created that year to display its symbols and artifacts in the creepiest manner possible. The exhibit was created by Marcelino de Ulibarri, a member of Franco’s government with the intention of frightening the public with the "dangers" of Masonry. But according to an article on the Atlas Obscura website, the museum was never officially opened during the war. It wasn’t until 1993 that it finally opened to the public as a part of a historical exhibition in the town of Salamanca’s Barrio Antiguo district, housed in a 17th-century building at Saint Ambrose College.

Chamber of Reflection at the Salamanca museum exhibit
From the article:

On display in the temple, you’ll find books, medals, jewelry, documents, ceremonial clothing, Masonic symbols, and a reproduction of a Masonic Chamber of Reflection used by new members. The most shocking details, such as skulls or black masks, received special attention with the aim of shocking the public of the 1930s. Today they look like your usual Halloween decoration.
Ulibarri made sure to include any spooky imagery he could dig up, populated it with black-hooded mannequins and skulls, and prominently displayed an apron showing a severed head.

It is of interest to Masons today in part because of this dark episode of persecution across Europe. But it is also a unique snapshot of Spanish Freemasonry from the pre-1940 era, as long as you bear in mind the sensationalistic nature of the way it's presented. 

The Masonic Lodge Museum today is located inside the National Archives building in Salamanca, Spain at 2 Gibralter in the Barrio Antiguo.  

There's a great story about Franco and American Freemasons that happened in the 1950s. This was in an article from the Spanish El Pais website called "Why did General Franco hate the Freemasons so much?":

Fall 1958, the Pardo Palace in the outskirts of Madrid: Franco’s official residence. Two US senators, along with a high-ranking military man, are received by Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Their mission is to sound out the dictator about a possible visit by the then president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. What kind of reception would he get? Franco is delighted at the prospect, and begins expanding on the need to eradicate once and for all the Communist threat, and is willing to help the United States in its fight against the Soviet Union, hoping to win the support of the West in the process – after all, it had only been admitted to the United Nations in December 1955.
Carried away in his euphoria, Franco also declares that freemasonry must also be done away with. At which point, one of the senators politely interrupts: “Sir, President Eisenhower is a protestant, I’m a mason, and my colleague here in the Senate is Jewish. We would all be in jail if we lived in Spain.” The military man, Eugene Vidal, an old-school Yankee blueblood and head of aeronautics at West Point military academy, drove home the point with a certain degree of sarcasm: “No, no my dear sir, I’m also a mason and I too would be shot here.” The story of the meeting was told many years later by US writer Gore Vidal, the son of Eugene Vidal and the grandson of another US senator, Thomas P. Gore...
Freemasonry has slowly recovered in Spain. The Gran Logia de España today is widely recognized as regular throughout the Masonic world, and has about 2,700 members and 185 lodges.

(All Museum photos from the Atlas Obscura site)

Congresswoman Introduces Bill To Remove Pike Statue in D.C.

Washington DC's non-voting delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, introduced a bill in Congress Tuesday officially calling for the removal of a statue of the Scottish Rite's sage Albert Pike from Judicial Square in Washington, D.C. The 11-foot tall bronze sculpture by Italian artist Gaetano Trentanove was erected in 1901 and donated to the city by the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction to commemorate their 100th anniversary. 

The original 'House of the Temple' was actually a series of three connected brownstones diagonally across the street from the statues' present location, which is why Pike is placed there today. In 1901 it stood on a tiny triangular sliver of land next to 433 Third Street NW, at the intersection of Third and D Streets. Because the Federal District is owned and operated by the Congress, it required an act of Congress to place the statue there 118 years ago. It now requires another such act to move or remove it.

Original House of the Temple at 433 Third Street NW in Judiciary Square.
Now demolished.
Out of their first 90 years, Albert Pike had served as the AASR-SJ's Sovereign Grand Commander for 32 of them—over a third of the Supreme Council's entire lifespan at that time. The original House of the Temple held their headquarters, their auditorium for putting on degrees, their vast and growing library, and Albert Pike lived and died there. So did his TWO successors. That makes this particular corner historically significant.

As the National Parks Service describes it, Pike is portrayed: 
“...in civilian dress and presented as a Masonic leader rather than a military man. Pike stands 11 feet tall upon a high granite pedestal. Below his feet about halfway down the west face of the pedestal, sitting on a ledge, is the allegorical Goddess of Masonry, holding the banner of the Scottish Rite. The figure is in Greek dress and posed as looking down. Pike holds a book in his left hand, perhaps his popular Morals and Dogma of Scottish Rite Masonry.”
There are eight inscriptions around the corners of its granite base: Author, Poet, Scholar, Soldier, Philanthropist, Philosopher, Jurist, and Orator. On the front is a Latin phrase, Vixit Laborum Ejus Super Stites Sunt Fructus. ("He has lived. The fruits of his labors live after him.") Despite the fact that detractors object to it on the grounds that Pike had served very briefly in the Confederate Army, making it the only statue of a former Confederate soldier in the District, the sculpture does not depict him as a Confederate soldier. There are no references to the Confederacy, and the banner in the hand of the Grecian figure is not a Confederate flag or symbol, but a Scottish Rite one featuring the double-headed eagle. It is purely a Masonic statue.

This current campaign by Norton to remove it dates back to August 2016 at the height of a national call to hide, move or destroy countless Confederate statues commemorating the Civil War. Nevertheless, Norton's bill is only the latest attempt to have Pike scraped off of this historic corner. The statue has been controversial for the last 30 years or more. Fringe politician Lyndon Larouche made an unsuccessful but noisy, high visibility attempt in the 1990s, and it is a frequent target of vandalism.

In 2016, D.C. radio station WTOP reporter Amanda Iacone interviewed Art de Hoyos for a follow up story:

“I think that people have misunderstood the intent of that statue,” said Arturo de Hoyos, grand archivist for the Scottish Rite in D.C.
The Scottish Rite is the largest branch of Freemasonry in the world. And the regional headquarters for the southern half of the United States is based on 16th Street at the House of the Temple, where Pike is interred.
His statue, erected at the dawn of the 20th Century by the Scottish Rite, celebrates his contributions to Freemasonry and his life as a civilian after the war, de Hoyos said.
Still, the organization will support whatever decision is made regarding the statue’s future, he said.
“We certainly don’t want a monument, which was really placed there to honor the fraternity, to be a divisive point within the community on racial matters,” de Hoyos said.
De Hoyos described Pike as a “man of his times,” who was known to abandon ideas and views over the course of his life. That included his views on slavery and he later developed a friendship with a leader of Prince Hall, a black Freemason society.
“Before and during the Civil War, he accepted slavery as a social institution …. He was a person who actually looked forward to a time when slaves would be free men,” de Hoyos said.
Norton’s full statement on the removal of the statue is included below:

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes NortonOn the Introduction of a Bill to Remove the Statue of Confederate General Albert Pike
July 30, 2019
Madam Speaker.
I rise to introduce a bill to require the removal of a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike from federal land near Judiciary Square in the District of Columbia. This statue was authorized, not by the District, but by Congress in 1898, when the District had no home rule. The statue was constructed using both federal and private funds. The Freemasons, of which Pike was a member, donated the majority of the money needed to build and install the statue in 1901. I oppose tearing down Confederate statues, because I believe they should be moved to more appropriate settings, like museums, to avoid erasing an important part of history from which Americans must continue to learn.
Pike was a Confederate general who served dishonorably and was forced to resign in disgrace. It was found that soldiers under his command mutilated the bodies of Union soldiers, and Pike was ultimately imprisoned after his fellow officers reported that he misappropriated funds. Adding to the dishonor of taking up arms against the United States, Pike dishonored even his Confederate military service. He certainly has no claim to be memorialized in the nation’s capital. Even those who do not want Confederate statues removed will have to justify awarding Pike any honor, considering his history.
After meeting with the Freemasons, I believe that the best course of action is to remove the statue and find a more appropriate place for it. The Freemasons themselves support the statue’s removal, given its divisive nature. The D.C. Mayor and the Council also support the removal of the statue.
My bill clarifies that no federal funds may be used to remove the Pike statue. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

There is much misinformation in her statement, and I discussed the statue, its history, and Pike's past in a much longer article in 2016. See Albert Pike, Statues, History and Hysteria. At the time I wrote that long, long diatribe, the country was enmeshed in statue removal fever, and locally we had just had a spate of bored teenagers vandalizing area statues using the excuse of political "offense" to justify getting drunk and breaking things. A deliberately provocative newspaper "reporter" had even published a helpful list of 'Indianapolis Statues You Might Find Offensive' so they could be more easily targeted for destruction.

The sad truth is that almost no one in America outside of perhaps 1/3 of current US Freemasons - a few hundred thousand at best - know or care who Albert Pike is anymore, including the tiny handful of Masonic members in Congress. In 1901, those numbers were legion. Not anymore. If we're honest, looking out over the back parking lot of the House of the Temple is probably where Pike's statue really belongs today. Although I can convincingly argue its current location is useful to mark the historic location of the former HOT and where he actually lived, worked, and died.

Or as an old indecisive ad executive I used to know frequently waffled, "I feel strongly both ways..."

H/T Mark Tabbert

Monday, July 29, 2019

A 'Masculinity Crisis' and the McGuffey Readers

A month ago, I wrote a post about the effects of the elimination of the McGuffey Readers on America's 'civic virtues,' and especially how they affected Freemasonry and similar voluntary associations – along with almost everything else.  (See How the 1960s Really Killed American Freemasonry's Future).

This idea is getting around.

It turns out I'm not the only one who was struck by Charles Murray's observations in his brilliant 2012 book Coming Apart. Have a look at this essay from last July by Jon Miltimore on the Intellectual Takeout website that talks about the 'code of manhood' that the Readers used to reinforce that stopped when the books were phased out.

Miltimore's concentration is on what he describes as the "disappearance of manliness" in America, and he was just as taken with Murray's fascination with the McGuffey Readers as I was. From A Code of Manhood for a Generation Suffering a ‘Masculinity Crisis’:
For generations, every child who attended school was taught codes of behavior, usually through McGuffey Readers, of which about 120 million copies were sold between 1836-1960. As the National Park Service explains, the books were far more than a compilation of textbooks; they essentially framed the country’s morals and shaped American character:
“The lessons in the Readers encouraged standards of morality and society throughout the United States for more than a century. They dealt with the natural curiosity of children; emphasized work and an independent spirit; encouraged an allegiance to country, and an understanding of the importance of religious values. The Readers were filled with stories of strength, character, goodness and truth. The books presented a variety of contrasting viewpoints on many issues and topics, and drew moral conclusions about lying, stealing, cheating, poverty, teasing, alcohol, overeating, skipping school and foul language.”
Even after circulation of McGuffey Readers declined, the code essentially survived for some time and was still being communicated to boys. For a boy growing up in the early 50s, as Murray did, the code went something like this, he writes:
“To be a man means that you are brave, loyal, and true. When you are in the wrong, you own up and take your punishment. You don’t take advantage of women. As a husband, you support and protect your wife and children. You are gracious in victory and a good sport in defeat. Your word is your bond. Your handshake is as good as your word. It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. When the ship goes down, you put the women and children into the lifeboats and wave good-bye with a smile.”
Some will read these lines and see it as a series of banal platitudes. That, Murray would say, is the whole point. The fact that these clichés existed demonstrated that boys had a clear model to which they could align their behavior. This code of behavior was taken seriously enough by the people who ran America that it was propagated in its institutions. Those days are gone.
“If you see or hear any of those clichés used today among the new upper class, it is probably sarcastically,” Murray writes. “The code of the American gentleman has collapsed, just as the parallel code of the American lady has collapsed.”
What has replaced the code? “A mushy set of injunctions” Murray calls “ecumenical niceness.”

But Coming Apart was published in 2012. Since that time, much has changed. One suspects Murray might have a different answer today.
Social justice morality has become a new religion of sorts in American institutions, embraced and propagated by schools, corporations, libraries, and universities. The problem with social justice morality—well, one of them—is that it tends to emphasize what boys should not do and largely ignores the classical virtues and religious values emphasized in McGuffey Readers.
This is the product of what Murray calls nonjudgmentalism. Timeless values like temperance, hard work, and self-denial are often practiced by the cultural elites who design America’s systems but almost never preached, presumably because this would be viewed as a sort of judgment upon the have-nots...
Read the whole article HERE

H/T John Nagy

Sunday, July 28, 2019

'Illuminated: the True Story of the Illuminati' Premieres Tuesday Nationwide

There is a recurring character that permeates the world of conspiracy theories in the same way that the nefarious butler dominates old mystery novels. Just like "the butler did it" has become a catchphrase for bad detective stories, ever since the end of the French Revolution "the Illuminati" has been a generic, all-purpose boogeyman for any imaginary, unnamed group of Unseen Masters who control the world, rig the banking system, manipulate global politics, arrange wars, eliminate or erect borders like a game of Risk, move immigrants around like chess pieces to deliberately alter demographics, dominate the music recording industry, and monopolize the market on $6 coffee joints on every street corner until "Phase One is complete." 

If someone holds court on the New World Order, the Bilderbergers, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Club of Rome, the World Government Summit, the Bohemian Grove, the Freemasons, or any other purportedly elite puppet masters who arrange the world like a deliberately planned game of three-dimensional chess, sooner or later they'll utter the word 'Illuminati.' It's popular because people desperately want a chaotic and unpredictable world to be more easily explained with a simple set of white-hatted good guys and black-hatted (or hooded) bad guys, like an old Western. But it just isn't true, and it never has been.

There really was a genuine organization called the Illuminati, founded in 1776 in Ingolstadt, Bavaria by a young university professor of Canon law named Adam Weishaupt. That original group never attracted more than about 2,000 members across Europe in its heyday, and it really did die out by the mid-1780s after being publicly exposed. Weishaupt and his co-creators left behind reams of writings that detailed their lofty goals, their evolution, and even their secret rituals. And thanks to a dedicated group of researchers in the last twenty years, much of that information that has always existed in the German language has been translated into English and given wider circulation.

But reality has never kept a good scary monster story down.

Johnny Royal
Filmmaker and musician Johnny Royal's new motion picture, Illuminated: the True Story of the Illuminati, may be the very best onscreen treatment of the storied Bavarian Illuminati ever made. If you know nothing about the Illuminati, or even if you think you know everything about them, you need to see it. 

The film premieres at select theaters around the U.S. on Tuesday, July 30th.

Royal is a tremendously talented filmmaker, and Illuminated is a combination of documentary and re-creation that results in a concise, yet atmospheric, telling of the organization's authentic history and rituals. He has interviewed some of the top experts on the topic, including Josëf Wäges, Reinhard Markner, Adam Kendall, and Olaf Simons, among others. Significantly, Wages and Markner have recently published the translated rituals of the Illuminati, along with an extensive collection of Weishaupt's philosophical writings, making them accessible to a wide audience at long last.

This is a thoughtfully crafted film from top to bottom. In addition to Johnny Royal's direction, Daryl Gilmore's stunning cinematography also deserves strong mention. Illuminated differs enormously from the usual spate of bad History or Discovery Channel exposés because it is not out to be sensationalistic. Just the opposite. There are no breathless cliffhangers or hyperbolic claims designed as the video version of clickbait to lead you on until the last seven minutes of factual information. It chronologically and methodically explores Weishaupt's life and philosophy, the Enlightenment-era political, literary and religious world he inhabited that spawned his group in the first place (originally called the Perfectibilists), their goals and methods, their fans and detractors, and the development of the various Masonic-influenced degrees they created. All of that needs to be seen and comprehended in context before anyone can properly understand just what the Illuminati really was, and why it came about when it did.

Once it goes into wider release as a DVD, screening the film will make an outstanding evening of education for your lodge. But if Illuminated is playing near you, make the effort to see it in theaters. Watching it on a computer screen alone does a disservice to the film, as it deserves to be seen on a big screen, and with an audience.

Sadly, the true believers that The Illuminati™ still exists today, pulling the strings on the world from behind their velvet curtain, will continue to delude themselves about the death of the group. It's almost tragic these days that every time I post a story in this blog that mentions the word Illuminati, I get deluged with scores - and often hundreds - of spam messages attempting to separate a gullible public from their cash with promises of actually joining them. They promise untold riches, power, influence, physical beauty (!), unbridled success, and the secrets to Life, the Universe and Everything if only the starry-eyed, duped pigeon just forks over some cash - often lots of it. It's not true, it's never been true, and those "Join the Illuminati" messages in your incoming messages are the modern-day update of the old Nigerian email scams.

Hopefully, Illuminated will finally provide more people with the true history and reality behind this shadowy set of boogeymen instead of the pop culture image that's been cultivated ever since the day they were disbanded.

We can at least hope.

 Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies for Dummies

Saturday, July 27, 2019

English Masons in Essex See Record Interest

Members of the newly formed Cornerstone Rugby Lodge
Here's an interesting Masonic membership announcement you don't see every day.

This Is Local London UK news website featured an article on Thursday that signals what can only be described as an enormous increase in interest in joining Masonic lodges in and around Essex in England. 

The county of Essex is immediately northeast of London, and sits on the North Sea to its east.

From Waiting list to become a Freemason in Essex reaches five-year record high' by Hannah Hastings:
In the last four months more than 300 enquiries from people wanting to know more about the organisation and is expected to increase throughout the next year. 
There are almost 9,000 Freemasons in Essex meeting at 305 separate Lodges, based in 27 different Centres across the County. 
Some Lodges have reported that they now have a two-year waiting list following the surge of people keen to sign up. 
Rodney Bass OBE, provincial grand master for Essex Freemasons, said: “Society has changed dramatically in recent years and we are now seeing a growing situation where more men of all ages are seeking to belong to an organisation where standards and principles have remained constant. 
“Kindness, integrity, honesty and many other facets such as support for charities might seem a little old fashioned, but it is striking a chord with those looking to put something back into their communities.” 
Freemasonry in the UK celebrated their three-hundredth anniversary in 2017 famed for being a secret society who pride themselves being good law-abiding citizens. 
Such is the interest in become a Freemason has resulted in new Lodges being launched in order to meet the high demands.
Provincial Grand Lodge of Essex
Essex is one of the 'home counties' that surround London, and has a population of about 1.8 million. Having to tell potential petitioners that the waiting list to join some of  their more than 300 lodges is up to two years now is a pretty good problem to have. 

English Masons have retained the philosophy that bigger lodges are not better ones, which is why they have so many compared to areas of comparable geography and population in the U.S. It's not uncommon for an English lodge to have just two or three dozen members, and they charter new ones instead of growing to an impersonal size.

For more about Essex Freemasonry visit. www.essexfreemasons.net

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Atlantic Asks Massachusetts Brethren What It's Like To Join The Freemasons

Brothers Jim Gonyea, Rob Lajoie and Chris Lapierre
of Joel H. Prouty Lodge in Auburn, Massachusetts
I'm not a regular reader of The Atlantic magazine, but they've had a handful of articles in the last year or two that touch on subjects I've been researching lately - namely fraternalism, our civic society, and how Freemasonry can benefit our communities on a wider scale again. 

If you didn't catch it, last November's Atlantic article, Americans Aren’t Practicing Democracy Anymore by Yoni Applebaum is well worth reading. The author made the strong connection between the 'Golden Age of Fraternalism' and the greatest level of civic engagement in American history. Whether we all knew it or not, the Freemasons, the Knights of Pythias, the Odd Fellows, Kiwanis, the Elks, Eagles and many more were all teaching Americans how to govern our Republic. We're currently living out the downside what happens when democratic people all decide "I'm not much of a joiner." The loss of interpersonal relationships that used to solve community concerns and forged strong neighborhood bonds has been devastating across America, and the middle and lower classes of Americans are measurably more isolated, alienated, and feel more hopeless than at any time in recorded modern history. 

Well, Atlantic author Julie Beck has been contributing a weekly series called The Friendship Files that's sort of an extension of Applebaum's article - or rather, regular looks at the practical extension of some of the topics in that original article. Beck has been interviewing groups of friends about their personal relationships and what makes them work. It turns out that joining organizations like church and civic groups, gaming clubs, and Masonic lodges is just what our communities need again — and for all the very same reasons it was a good idea in the very beginning.

This week's Atlantic entry is What's it Like To Join The Freemasons, and Beck spoke with Brothers Jim Gonyea, 47; Rob Lajoie, 50; and Chris Lapierre, 46 of Joel H. Prouty Lodge in Auburn, Massachusetts. These three Brethren had known each other before joining their lodge, and decided to petition the fraternity at about the same time, back in 2007. 

You'll find the piece refreshingly free of hyperbole, condescension or baseless accusations of nonsense. Here are a few excerpts:
Beck: If it did, how did joining the Masons change your friendship?
Rob: I don’t know if [Masonry] changed it so much as it provides a weekly night out where we get to see each other. This is also true with Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a reason to go out and physically be with friends. I say physically because nowadays [friendship] seems to be getting less [physical] with everything being online.

Jim: When I first had kids, I was very focused on the family end of things, and I didn’t go out and interact with Rob as much as I had previously. I really started to withdraw and drop the friendship. It picked back up for a while when I was introduced to Chris. Then I got into computer programming, which took up a lot of time, and I have a three-hour commute, on average, every day. Between commuting and long hours at work, you don’t engage with people. You get home, you’re tired, and you don’t necessarily want to go out. Having the lodge—that shared space—and that need to physically go out, it’s strengthened things. We spend more time together than I think we otherwise would have.
Beck: How many people are in your lodge?
Jim: We have maybe 15 or 20 guys who show up on a regular basis. Our total membership roster is about 150.

Beck: How do you feel about having the lodge be a male-only space? Has that been an advantage, having that in your life?

Jim: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. Two things that get guys into trouble are politics and chasing women. In Masonry, we’re not allowed to talk politics, we don’t talk religion, and we’re not competing over the affections of the opposite sex. Masonry gives guys an opportunity to be around other guys without having to deal with politics or competition. One of the things that we like to teach people is that the only competition in Masonry is to see who can be the better person. There’s no machismo going on; it’s not like a locker room. It’s more adult conversations in a very open and relaxing atmosphere.
Rob: My wife knows where I’m going; she knows I’m going to be around a group of really great guys. She’s met almost all of them. She knows that the focus is not only on improving ourselves, but also on helping out others in the community. For me, it’s having a night out where she doesn’t have to worry about anything.

Beck: Is there anything that you have learned through your experience with Freemasonry that changed how you think about friendship and community?

Chris: Right after I joined, I was helping out a co-worker who was really struggling at Christmastime. I convinced another co-worker to [help], and he was like, “You know what? Ever since you became a Mason, you’re a better person.” I always thought I was a pretty good person anyway, but to hear somebody recognize the change in me—I was pleasantly surprised. You’re told, “You’re a master Mason; you need to act as such.” It changes you in that sense.
Jim: Much like Chris, I guess I do hold myself to a higher standard now. The other thing that I have found is that because we can travel to other lodges and meet new people, it’s easier to make new friends. If I meet somebody who’s a Mason, I automatically have something in common with them.
Rob: If you’re surrounding yourself with good people who have the greater community in mind, it builds on itself. If you’re surrounded by people who are always talking about how to improve things, it rubs off on you. It’s not zero-sum—rather, everyone improves.
Read the whole interview HERE.

Stories like these brethren tell are far more effective than any canned speech memorized from some grand lodge brochure. When somebody asks you "What are the Masons about, anyway?" DON'T say "It's a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." 

They'll look at you like you've got lobsters growing out of your ears. 

Tell someone why YOU joined a lodge, why YOU come back every week, why Freemasonry is important to YOU. Because that's what they want to know - why a man he works with, or likes, or admires bothered to join this fraternity that he knows nothing about.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Scottish Rite Masons Rule, Dudes

The press and the chattering classes all have this picture's meaning wrong today

It's clear that some savvy Freemasons used the President's onstage public event to subtly promote a Scottish Rite Golf Outing. Note the double headed bald eagle and the golf clubs gripped in its right talon.

I'll claim it for the NMJ, because we know you SJ guys aren't this nimble. 


Well played, Illustrious Brethren. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Barber and the Brethren

When I was doing research for my book Heritage Endures in 2016-17, one of the sections that gave me the most fits was about the genesis of what eventually became the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Indiana. I was writing about joint recognition here and throughout the U.S., but the problem was that there wasn't a good, detailed history of their grand lodge in Indiana to be found. There was a severe lack of written information that could be trusted as being anything but anecdotal, unsupportable, apocryphal, or all three — often depending on who was writing it, when, and why. So I found myself having to write one myself out of necessity. 

In hunting the earliest days of Indiana’s Freemasonry among its black citizens, I recently came across more detailed information about John G. Britton, the founding Grand Master of the Independent Union Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana. It was the predecessor of what eventually became the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana. 

After publishing Heritage Endures in January of last year, I wish this could have been included in my Prince Hall chapter. Sadly, deadlines for our 1818-2018 Bicentennial of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana were immovable. I'd like to tell more of the story here. So, think of this as an addendum to the chapter.

by Christopher L. Hodapp

Today, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana has 31 active lodges throughout the state with about 1,000 members. But Indiana's Prince Hall Masons of today stand upon the shoulders of men from a very different time, and they can thank the dedication of one particular Vincennes barber in 1832 with a wry sense of humor for what transpired over the next few decades.

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Most Masons today don't give much thought as to how 'Negro Freemasonry' developed across America after Prince Hall and his fourteen brethren were famously made Masons by former British sergeant John Batt in the late 1770s. In the early to mid-1800s, free black men who had received their Masonic degrees back east in lodges that were chartered by or descended out of Prince Hall's African Lodge in Boston were slowly spreading across the growing country. Because of the segregated nature of nearly every single aspect of American society and cultural institutions both before and after the Civil War, it's nearly impossible to determine if any black men were regularly admitted into the white, 'mainstream' lodges before the late 1840s because lodge records rarely mentioned the race of attendees. 

Prince Hall's African Lodge 459 received a regular charter from the premiere Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) in 1787, and shortly began to establish daughter lodges in the northeast by issuing them copies of its charter (a practice that, while irregular today, was not uncommon during the period). 

Forty-five years after African Lodge's official chartering, Freemasonry among African-Americans was still exceedingly rare. By 1832 it was the height of the Anti-Masonic period, but there were other more threatening issues for these particular Masons. In the slave states where Abolitionists hadn't taken hold, Freemasonry among black men — free or slave — was deemed a dangerous ‘secret society’ that could endanger white society by inciting rebellion in their private meetings. Consequently, Freemasonry among African-Americans was outlawed in those states, and in some states whites could be jailed (or worse) for conferring degrees upon them.

But up north, black Masonic lodges were slowly descending out of Prince Hall’s original African Lodge in Boston. Prince Hall himself had insisted that the terms 'black' and 'negro' carried dehumanizing connotations of slavery, property, and ownership. Consequently, he referred in print to the Masons of his lodge and others who descended out of it be known as 'African Masons.' By 1832 they had chartered daughter African Lodges in Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. 
Pittsburgh was about as far west as those lodges were organized when the 1826 William Morgan Affair in New York had all but called a halt to the fraternity in America. 

At the time, the predominantly white "mainstream" grand lodges were not mentioning any black members, at least in print, if they existed at all. But by the 1840s and the growing fights between pro- and anti-slavery forces America in the slow buildup to the war, you will start to find records about white Masons seeking clarification from their grand lodges on the question of whether or not they could initiate or even admit black men. Arguments ensued over the "freeborn" requirement and the endless parsing of that word. The recently 'United' Grand Lodge of England, by contrast, had altered its requirement in 1835 to simply the word "free" after the merger of the Moderns and Antients.

Because of the divide in places our settlers had originally come from, Indiana's population was pretty evenly split between pro- and anti-slavery opinions. Indiana had achieved statehood in 1816, and outlawed slavery in the state by 1818. Free or not, the black population of the Hoosier state was still quite small by 1832. By law, blacks were not allowed to vote or serve in the militia, and couldn't testify in court cases involving whites. After 1831, black settlers in Indiana were required to register with county authorities and to post a $500 bond as a guarantee of good behavior to receive an official "Certificate of Registration." The ostensible goal of this financial penalty had been to prevent Southern slaveholders from importing black slaves into Indiana by making it an expensive proposition to do so. But it had an enormously burdensome effect on free blacks wishing to move into the state. 

It would have been extremely unusual to find a black man in Indiana at that time who declared himself to be a Mason. Even the white Masons were laying low in the 1830s because the Anti-Masons were attacking lodge meetings, locking known Masonic preachers and congregants out of churches, and even openly attacking them in the streets. The Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana itself was nearly ready to close down, as Michigan's had. 
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The newspapers all over the country frequently reported hostile Anti-Masonic activities, and it was almost unheard of for pro-Masonic sentiments to find their way into print. But in the April 14, 1832 issue of the Vincennes Gazette, there appears this announcement:

Betwixt the finger and the thumb, I’ll clamp the nose
And cut the stiffest beard that grows
The subscriber begs leave to inform the citizens of Vincennes and its vicinity that he has opened a new and splendid Barber’s Shop on Market Street, next door to the office of Martin Robinson, Esq. and directly opposite the store of John K. Kurtz, where he will be ready at all times to SHAVE, CUT HAIR, & in the first style; and flatters himself that from his experience, the result of many years’ practice, he will be enabled to nullify the most unbending beard in Christendom, and to modify the Kingdom of the Anti-masons, as to render the subjects thereof glad to escape with their lives.

John G. Britton

March 20, 1832
John G. Britton had been a former slave from Ohio, and in 1832 he appears in Vincennes, Indiana opening his barber shop with this florid and remarkably un-subtle advertisement. The wording makes it clear that, if he wasn’t already a Freemason in 1832 (for which there is no record I can find), he certainly was willing to support and defend them from the Anti-Masons who were making lots of noise around the country.

Indiana's first chartered Masonic lodge had been established by the Grand Lodge of Kentucky in Vincennes in 1809. One can confidently surmise that the prospect of a negro man with a razor in his hand, held at the throat of an Anti-Mason, and who had so openly vowed in print to make such zealots “glad to escape with their lives” immediately found great approbation among the white Masons in Vincennes at that troublesome time. Better still, I suspect that Anti-Masons in the Vincennes area who had formerly been lodge members found themselves suddenly very concerned that someone in town was taking Masonic penalties to be quite literal, and he was issuing a dark warning.

There's no way of knowing, but Britton may have miscalculated the amount of business he could attract with his openly pro-Masonic strategy. He left Vincennes by the next January and tried setting up business again in Richmond, Indiana on the far eastern edge of the state. It's clear from his ads in the Richmond Palladium between 1833-35 that John Britton had an eloquent and dramatic way with words, mixed with his sense of humor. The offer to scare the wits out of Anti-Masons apparently hadn't worked well in Vincennes, and no longer appeared in his new establishment's announcements:

His Imperial Highness, alias J.G. Britton, Autocrat of all the tonsoratical operations of the western realm, hereby makes known to his liege subjects, that he has returned from a brief sojourn at the head quarters of his Hoosier Province, and is now prepared to receive at his palace royal (south side of Main street two doors west of Washington street) all such of his loyal subjects as will manifest their fealty by placing their noses between his digits. To oblige his friends he will remove such tonsile appendages from their persons as they may desire, and he especially requests that his daily levees may be well attended. Given at our Imperial residence the 10th day of the month of full grown whiskers.


J. G. Britton, Barberissimo of the Hoosier ville of Richmond, may be found at his office, between the National Hotel and Union Hall. He does not shave as many gougers do, bank notes &c. but operates on the face in a judicious and scientific manner. He is emphatically a gentleman of the strop. He is the barber of barbers, the greatest barber that ever barberized a barberee in this barberously barberized world. In the room adjoining his office he has all kinds of "kisses" sweet and beer strong, cakes and all kinds of sweetmeats, for sale.
Unfortunately, even beer, candy and cakes weren't able to secure his tonsoratical success in Richmond, either. By 1836 Britton had relocated again, this time to Indianapolis.

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In 1821 Alexander Ralston, a Scottish architect and planner for the brand new capitol of Indianapolis, came to the clearing in the woods that would be the site of the future city. He had been one of Pierre L'Enfant's assistants at the design of the Federal City of Washington, and Ralston was hired because Indiana's legislators wanted their new state capitol to be a similarly planned city that would also rise from the wilderness. Plus, Ralston was cheaper and easier to work with than L'Enfant. It is Ralston's orderly 'Mile Square' design with its distinctive central circle that we still have here to this day. 

Alexander Ralston was a bachelor without any family, but he brought with him a clerk and a 21-year old housekeeper described as “a mulatto woman named Chaney Lively.” 

Chaney Lively had been born a slave in Kentucky, and Ralston had purchased her in Louisville when she was 15 or 16. Slavery in Indiana was outlawed by the state Constitution in 1818, but emigrating slaveholders from other states could evade the law by calling them indentured servants. Nevertheless, Chaney Lively was listed the census as a "free woman of color," and articles and documents describe her as an important and respected member of Ralston's household. When they arrived at the future site of Indianapolis in 1821, he bought two plots of land from the new land agents - one for his home, and one next door that was deeded to Lively at the corner of Meridian and Maryland Streets.

Ralston died in 1827 and provided for Chaney in his will. By the mid 1830s she was known quite well throughout the city as "Aunt Chany" [sic]. And in 1836, she married none other than John G. Britton, formerly of Ohio and Vincennes, barber, and the future first Grand Master of the Independent Union Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana.

"[She] was universally respected by the pioneer ladies of the place who often took tea with her. She always behaved herself with propriety, and never took advantage of the attention shown her by them to be in any ways saucy. She was married to a well known barber named John Britton."
Nowland later describes Britton as "one of our most respectable colored citizens."

An extensive article about Chaney Lively was written in February this year by Laura McPhee for Nuvo, and it has more details about her and her future husband John Britton:
"When Chaney moved into her own home in 1827, there were less than 60 people of color—men, women, and children—living in Indianapolis out of a population of a little more than 1,000. She was the only Black female head of household in the 1830 census, and the first woman of color to own property in the city, most likely the first person of color, male or female, to do so.
To make a living after Ralston’s death, Chaney took in boarders. As construction on the National Road got underway and labor camps sprung up nearby, she also made money by cooking and doing laundry for the workers—particularly African American laborers who were increasingly unwelcome in other parts of town.
"After living on her own for nearly a decade, Chaney married one of those men in March 1836. In his diary entry that day, Calvin Fletcher notes that he heard of the wedding and made a special trip to Chaney’s house to offer the couple his best wishes.
"There is little record of Chaney’s life outside her relationship to Ralston. And in later years, she rarely made headlines. Fortunately, her new husband John G. Britton did make the papers, and his activities offer us glimpse of what her life was like in the 1840-50s.
"Britton came from Ohio in 1835 [sic]. He was also a former slave, keen to set up shop as a barber—one of the few “respectable” businesses for Black men at the time. Within a few years of marrying Chaney, he was widely known in Indianapolis as what we’d now call a community organizer and was remembered as “a very reputable colored man, who kept a barber-shop and accumulated some property” by historian Jacob Piatt Dunn in his 1910 history of the city."
John Britton did indeed make the papers. In 1842, he organized 'Colored Conventions' in Indianapolis and Terre Haute to discuss the educational needs of black children in Indiana, who could not attend the growing number of public schools in the state. He also became a proponent of the 'Back to Africa' movement to resettle American blacks in Liberia. The couple would eventually move to 230 W. Michigan Street.

The Brittons had been founding members of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in 1836 with a handful of members who met in a log cabin on Georgia Street. Bethel AME is the oldest African-American religious congregation in Indianapolis. It quickly became active in the anti-slavery movement and supported the Underground Railway. In 1847, the Brittons' Bethel AME Church petitioned the state for funds to create schools for black children, but was turned away. By 1848 the congregation had grown to 100 members and was meeting in a small frame church. The congregation would eventually establish its own school at the church in 1858.

In 1848, John Britton was a delegate from Indiana to Frederick Douglass' Colored National Convention in Cleveland. It's entirely possible he may have been made a Mason while in Ohio where Masonry among black men was beginning to quickly expand, but I have yet to find any details of his initiation or degrees. There were enough African Masons and African Lodges there that the (Colored) Grand Lodge for the State of Ohio F&AM was established the very next year, in 1849.

Despite the best efforts of civil rights leaders like Douglass, Britton, and scores more, anti-black laws were getting more commonplace in the country in the decade before the Civil War, and Indiana was no exception. The federal Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850 and required that escaped slaves be returned to their owners, even if they were found living in a free state. States north of the Ohio River became a battleground as fleeing slaves often crossed the river at towns like Cincinnati in Ohio, or Madison and New Albany in Indiana, and were chased by slave hunters. Anti-slavery states were now compelled by law to assist them.

Indianapolis Masonic Hall (1850)
John Britton's petitions and activities on behalf of the state's black citizens fell on deaf ears in the Indiana General Assembly. He had been one of the representatives of Indiana’s 10,000 negroes at the 1851 state constitutional convention, which had convened in the brand new Indianapolis Masonic Hall at the corner of Tennessee (now Capitol Avenue) and Washington Streets, across from the Statehouse. 

Despite Britton's and others' passionate objections, Article XIII of Indiana's newly revised Constitution was adopted in 1851. It stated that "No negro or mulatto shall come into, or settle in the State, after the adoption of this Constitution." Section 2 provided, “...any person who shall employ [a] negro or mulatto, or otherwise encourage him to remain in the State, shall be fined in sum not less than ten dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars.” Section 3 provided that money from fines taken from illegal black migrants be used to defray costs of sending blacks in Indiana to Liberia. Additional legislation required all blacks already living in Indiana to register with the clerk of the circuit court. 

Article XIII was ratified by over 60 percent of the white voters in the state, and by law, Indiana's black citizens were not permitted to vote. After this and other laws quickly passed in the wake of the 1851 Constitution, Indiana had the national distinction of having the most restrictive racial settlement laws outside of the slaveholding South.

It was in this atmosphere that Prince Hall-derived African Freemasonry in Indiana began to organize and grow. African Masonry officially planted its banner in Indiana in 1849 when the new (Colored) Grand Lodge for the State of Ohio F&AM issued a charter for Union Lodge 5 in Indianapolis. It still exists today, known as Central Lodge 1, and is the oldest Prince Hall lodge in Indiana.
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By 1850, African-American Masons who worked the Ohio River boats and steamers from Cincinnati and as far east as Pittsburgh began to spread the degrees of Freemasonry to other black men across the Mason-Dixon Line in Louisville. These new brethren in Kentucky wanted to establish an African Lodge in their own city, but knew it was unsafe for them at that time. 1850 was a menacing year. So, black Masons crossed the river to New Albany, Indiana where they established their Ohio-chartered Kentucky lodge, Mount Moriah 1. There, they rented a furnished lodge room from the Grand Lodge of Indiana’s white New Albany Lodge 39, whose members had just moved into a new Masonic hall of their own. It was actually safer for Louisville’s black Freemasons to cross the river into free Indiana for their regular meetings until they found a secure location in Louisville three years later. But New Albany’s white Masons acting as their landlords was far from openly acknowledging them on the level as Brothers. 

That would require another century and a half.

On June 22nd of 1855, the African Masons held their first known Indiana public procession in Indianapolis, with fourteen lodges represented, and visitors from as far away as New Orleans. The Richmond (Indiana) Palladium reported that the event was followed by an "elegant dinner in the [Indianapolis] Masonic Hall." There was just one Masonic Hall in Indianapolis in 1855. It had been built by the white Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana as its headquarters and meeting hall for lodges and York Rite bodies in the city five years before. As in New Albany, race clearly wasn't an issue when their black Brethren needed a place to meet. Despite Freemasonry's strictures against political or religious discussions during its tyled meetings, in the coming years the Indianapolis Masonic Hall would also be the site of political meetings and heated presentations by anti-slavery speakers. As late as 1868, John Britton would organize a State Colored Man's Convention that was held at the Masonic Hall on Emancipation Day.

By 1856, there were five African Lodges chartered in Indiana by the (Colored) Grand Lodge in Ohio. In 1856 those five lodges formed the Independent Union Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana, electing none other than former Vincennes barber John G. Britton as their first Grand Master, who served from 1856-59.

After his years as Grand Master, John Britton would continue to serve Indiana's black Freemasons with great distinction well into the 1880s as their Grand Lecturer.

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James S. Hinton, Indiana's
first black State Representative and
second Grand Master of Independent Union grand Lodge.
His bust is on display in the Indiana State House.
John G. Britton was just the first of many prominent black Masons in Indiana. The Independent Union Grand Lodge's second Grand Master from 1859-64, James Sidney Hinton, became a Union Army recruiter of African-Americans for the Massachusetts 54th and 55th United States Colored Regiments during the Civil War. He returned to Indiana to organize the Indiana 28th United States Colored Troop forming in Indianapolis. 

After the war, James Hinton was later elected in 1880 as the first African-American State Representative to the Indiana General Assembly.

(There's more to this story. For the purposes of this blog post, I'll skip the establishment of the National Compact of black grand lodges, of which Indiana's 'African Masons' became part for a while. The ensuing two decades get more complex until they resolve their differences. This is where the division between PHA and PHO Prince Hall grand lodges comes from, but it's a complex tale of its own. I outline it in Heritage Endures, and other authors like Alton Roundtree have examined the National Compact in far greater detail than I needed to do.)

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African-American Masons would ultimately enjoy greater prestige and provide more leaders within their own community than other later black fraternal groups, despite having fewer members than others. By 1892 there were 24 of what we call today Prince Hall Affiliated lodges in Indiana, and by 1900 they had chartered 68, with a total membership of almost one thousand. 

The “Great Migration” period when massive numbers of African-Americans from the economically depressed South relocated into the industrialized North after World War I brought tremendous growth to Prince Hall Freemasonry throughout Indiana, especially in the northern part of the state around Lake Michigan and its numerous factories.

Nationwide, Prince Hall Freemasonry reached its peak membership by the late 1960s with 310,000 members in 5,100 lodges. 

Indiana Freemasons Unity Day 2019
Beginning in 1989, the 51 mainstream state grand lodges in America and the Prince Hall grand lodges began individual negotiations around the country to at last achieve joint recognition between the two historically segregated Masonic traditions. This was largely seen by Prince Hall Masons to be preferable to merging the two groups in order to preserve their own unique, longstanding history and traditions. In 1999, the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana agreed to jointly recognize each other, and today enjoy reciprocal visitation. 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of that historic agreement.

Heritage Endures