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When examining the participation of Freemasons in the American Revolution we should first
remember the Ancient Charges of a Freemason, and especially that charge concerning “the Civil
Magistrates, Supreme and Subordinate,” which enjoins the Mason to be “a peaceable subject to
the Civil Powers” and “never to be concern'd in plots and conspiracies against the peace and
welfare of the nation.” This charge was listed as the second of those contained in the Constitutions
adopted by the Premier Grand Lodge at London in 1723, long before the American Revolution.

How then can we justify the participation of American Freemasons in their rebellion against the
King? The answer can be given in two parts. First, the Masonic fraternity in the American colonies
took no part in the Revolution, following Masonic tradition by taking no official stance. However,
the fraternity’s official neutrality may have owed as much to the divided loyalties of its leadership
as it did to Masonic tradition. Many Masons were Loyalists. And second, rebellion against the
state, whether justified or unjustified, is not a Masonic offense. The Old Charges state clearly “if
a Brother should be a Rebel against the State, ... if convicted of no other Crime, ... they cannot
expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.” This simply means that, in
the case of the American Revolution, many brethren, feeling that the actions of the crown
warranted revolution and independence, were justified in following their consciences without fear
of violating their Masonic obligations or any Masonic law.

As the charge concerning the Civil Magistrates reminds us, “Masonry hath been always injured by
War, Bloodshed, and Confusion,” the fraternity was indeed injured by the war. General Joseph
Warren, Grand Master of the Ancient’s Provincial Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, lost his life at
the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775 and his body was thrown into an unmarked grave. While he
had led the American troops during that battle, his lodge brother, Dr. John Jeffries assisted the
British troops. Nearly a year later, his body was exhumed and identified by another Lodge brother,
Paul Revere.

Even before the Declaration of Independence, colonial Masonry suffered from the disruptions of
the war, and the division of loyalties among its members. Many lodges found it difficult to meet
regularly, and others ceased to meet at all. Many lodges were disbanded as occupying British
forces prohibited private assemblies, and loyalist Masons fled the country or joined the British

Although the Masonic fraternity played no part in the Revolutionary War, it can easily be shown
that in many ways the revolutionary ideals of equality, freedom, and democracy were espoused by
the Masonic fraternity long before the American colonies began to complain about the injustices
of British taxation. The revolutionary ideals expressed in the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of
Independence, and the writings of Thomas Paine, were ideals that had come to fruition over a
century before in the early speculative lodges of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, where
men sat as equals, governed themselves by a Constitution, and elected their own leaders from their
midst. In many ways, the self-governing Masonic lodges of the previous centuries had been
learning laboratories for the concept of self-government.

On September 18, 1793, President George Washington, dressed in his Masonic apron, leveled the
cornerstone of the United States Capitol with the traditional Masonic ceremony. Historian Stephen
Bullock in his book Revolutionary Brotherhood carefully notes the historic and symbolic

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