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History of Freemasonry in America

The most widely-accepted theory of how the Masonic Fraternity was formed is that the stonemasons' guilds which existed during the Middle Ages lent their language and symbols to the eventual Freemason's rituals. In 1717 four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and within thirty years the Masonic Fraternity had spread through Europe and the American Colonies. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock and Chief Justice John Marshall are all well-known American Freemasons. During the 1700's, Freemasonry was one of the organizations which spread Enlightenment ideals which encompassed the dignity of man, the individual's liberty, the right of humans to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments and the importance of public education. As a matter of fact, the Masons supported the first public schools in America as well as founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged.

Unwanted controversy came to the Freemasons in 1826 when William Morgan disappeared from Batavia, New York following his threats to expose the Freemasonry secrets. Some claimed he had been murdered by Masons, although there was never any actual proof of this claim. Morgan's disappearance sparked a series of protests against the Freemasons throughout the United States. In 1847 John Quincy Adams publicly denounced the Masons in a widely-distributed book titled "Letters on the Masonic Institution." The Freemasons suffered yet another hit in 1877 when the French branch started accepting atheists and women. The Grand Lodge of England found this to be a violation of the Fraternity's ancient landmarks, and most of the English-speaking world followed this lead, although the French Masons remained stubbornly determined to discuss even religion and politics in their Lodges. Many of our twentieth century regimes have viewed Freemasonry as a source of opposition, disliking both the secretive nature of the Masons as well as their international connections and promotion of religious and political tolerance.

Icons

The icons of Freemasonry are composed of a square and compass surrounding the letter "G." The G represents God, the square encourages members to square their actions with all men and the compass symbolizes creating boundaries in life. Freemasons wear a distinctive apron which is decorated with these particular emblems. To be accepted for initiation as a regular Freemason, the candidate must come of their own free will, believe in a Supreme Being, be at least 18-25 years of age (depending on jurisdiction), be of good morals and reputation, of sound mind and body, not be born a slave or bondsman, and be capable of furnishing character references as well as references from current Masons.

Today's Masons continue their tradition of help and support by giving nearly $1.5 million dollars per day to causes which range from the operation of children's hospitals, treatment for childhood language disorders, the treatment of eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service and providing care at Masonic Homes to Masons and their families. There are four million Masons worldwide, who believe in building bridges of brotherhood and fostering ideals for a better future. The turn of the 20th Century saw 860,000 Freemasons in America alone, and by the 1930's there were more than two million Masons in the United States.


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