Parts I, II & III
SP Isaiah Kirk 32º
AASR Valley of Albany, New York
A historiographic interpretation of Freemasonry reveals several thematic trends of investigation. One of the most exciting and academically relevant is the relation between Freemasonry and modern revolutions. With such revolutionary leaders as Giuseppe Garibaldi in Italy, Simón Bolívar in Cuba, Benito Pablo Juárez García in Mexico, and Kossuth Lajos of Hungary, belonging to the Craft, there is strong support for this type of historical analysis. Using the French and American Revolutions as case studies, we will attempt to extrapolate some of the Masonic influences and basic principles that hold relevancy in the French and American Revolutions. Following this, an investigation and historical rendering of Freemasonry in South Africa will be undergone which will highlight a parallel examination between the development of South African Freemasonry and the development of the South African Nation. The summit of this study will be the application of the derived principles from the French and American Revolutions to the historical development in South Africa.
Before undertaking this task, a few disclaimers are necessary. First, no work of this size can do justice to such a complex and complicated investigation. This essay, is not meant to be encompassing, but is rather set forth as a limited example for further and more thorough historical investigation. Secondly, the focus of this work is two-fold, namely the elucidation of the relationship between Freemasonry and Revolutions and the manifestations (or lack of) such tendencies in the history of the South African Nation. This means that a detailed historical discussion on the French and American Revolutions as well as the history South Africa will have to be truncated and dulled down, in order not to become too unwieldy. A general familiarity with the American and French Revolutions will be assumed on the part of the reader.
II) Freemasonry in the American Revolution
An investigation into the role of Freemasonry in the American Revolution is exceptionally fruitful, especially if a cultural historiographic analysis is utilized. The American revolt against British dominance was simultaneous with an American transformation of societal structuring. In Gordon Wood’s The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the transformations from the traditional social hierarchy to the more egalitarian structures of Republicanism are examined. In regards to Freemasonry’s relationship to both of these aspects of American revolutionary transformation, Wood has this to say; “It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of Masonry for the American Revolution. It not only created national icons that are still with us; it brought people together in new ways and helped fulfill the republican dream of reorganizing social relationships. For thousands of Americans, it was a major means by which they participated directly in the Enlightenment.” Masonry affected all stratum of American society during the revolution. Many of the American Revolutionary leaders were Masons. Men such as Ethan Allen, Edmund Burke, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John Paul Johns, Paul Revere and George Washington, were Freemasons. Furthermore, at least 12 signers of the Declaration of Independence have been proven to be Masons.
There are so many connections between the Fraternity and the revolution that it is hard to narrow down the historical data to a manageable size. For example, there was a vast Masonic influence on the Continental Army. In Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 Steven Bullock explains, “The impact of military Masonry…went beyond the officers’ individual situations. Fraternal Ties among the officers helped create and sustain the sense of common purpose necessary for the survival of the Continental Army-and thus of winning the war.” According to the research of Baigent and Leigh, there were no less than 31 Masonic Field Lodges in regiments in America in 1775-1777, with the majority receiving their charters from the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
Another connection lies between the philosophic ideologies and symbols of the American Revolution and those of Freemasonry. For example, as Bailyn pointed out, “the word ‘constitution’ and the concept behind it was of central importance to the colonists’ political thought; their entire understanding of the crisis in Anglo-American relations rested upon it.” What Bailyn did not discuss is how Masonic the focus on a constitution is. The Masonic constitution had been written by Reverend James Anderson under the guidance and direction of the newly formulated Grand Lodge of England in 1723, and updated and expanded in 1738. Consisting of more than merely the rules of the Fraternity it also compiled one of the first historical portrayals of the Craft. After the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, the role of constitutionality and distribution of legitimate Charters began to dominate the politics of Masonry. Brothers would naturally see a constitution as a necessary aspect of the revolution aims of the colonies.
In his work Modern Historical Characters in Freemasonry, John Van Gordon states that “The Masonic tradition…constitutes an important part of American History. Nevertheless, many Masons make the mistake, understandable though it may be, of seeing the history of Masonry in America as identical with the history of the United States.” This is a valid caution, especially if we consider that “In the American War for Independence, Freemasonry was ultimately apolitical, or only incidentally political. There were Freemasons on both sides…But in many people’s minds, Freemasonry had become so closely associated with American revolution and Independence that it began, increasingly, to acquire a radical image. That image, needless to say, was to be reinforced by the French Revolution.”
III) Freemasonry in the French Revolution
The connections between Freemasonry and the French Revolution are almost as numerous as those between the Fraternity and the American Revolution. Much like their American predecessors, the French revolutionaries found several elements in Freemasonry applicable to their situation. The class conflict that ignited the revolution especially resonated with the egalitarian tendencies of Masonry. In A Short History of the French Revolution Jeremy Popkin explains, “The Masonic movement introduced from England in the 1730s and devoted to the moral improvement of its members, became an important form of urban sociability. Masonic lodges propagated an ideology of equality. Members addressed each other as ‘brothers’ regardless of their social rank, even though social barriers limited recruitment primarily to the nobility and wealthy bourgeoisie.” This reflects to a high degree the transformation of the American social structure.
Many of the French revolutionaries were Masons and their relationship with the Craft is reflected in their ideologies. For example, Liberty, Fraternity and Equality echo Masonic sentiments, so much so that the anti-revolutionary Catholic theurgist Eliphas Lévi would later criticize such usage when he remarked that “The anarchist have resumed the (Masonic) rule, square and mallet, writing upon them the words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity- Liberty, that is to say, for all the lusts, Equality in degradation and Fraternity in the work of destruction.” However, as Lynn Hunt points out in Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution, “Freemasonry spun a web of personal and sometimes even ideological ties that gave significant support to the revolutionary movement. But it would be a mistake to identify this elusive network with radical politics, because the influence of the Masons was least apparent during the Terror.” Hunt follows her statement by citing Michael Taillefer’s work that presents data that claims that 38% of the Girondins were Masons, 32% of the Jacobins, and 30% of the royalists. She further states that “The lodges as organizations did not make the Revolution, but membership in them facilitated the access to power of many revolutionary officials.”
Much like the American Revolution the French Revolution had several important Masonic figures including Danton, Voltaire, Condorcet, Mirabeau, and Hébert. Through other Masons like Gilbert Lafayette, connections to the American Revolution can be drawn, although much like Lafayette’s position during the French Revolution, these connections are more conservative and less radical than what occurred during the Terror. Another analogous connection is found in both the American and French revolutionary use of Masonic symbols. Hunt points this out, first by describing the French revolutionary adoption of the Masonic Level of Equality and further by claiming that “From the beginning of the Revolution, much of the most abstract symbolism has been taken, consciously or not, from Masonic sources.” In his opus Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Albert Pike puts it another way, “It (Freemasonry) aided in bringing about the French Revolution, disappeared with the Girondists, was born again with the restoration of order, and sustained Napoleon, because, though Emperor, he acknowledged the right of people to set rulers, and was at the head of a nation refusing to receive back its old kings.”
 Gordon Wood The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York, NY Vintage Books 1991) p223
 Philip Roth Masonry in the Formation of Our Government, 1761-1799 (Kessinger Publishing’s reprint of Milwaukee Wisconsin, Grand Lodge of Wisconsin 1927) p154-164
 Steven Bullock Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC University of North Carolina Press 1996) p122
 Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh The Temple and the Lodge (New York NY Arcade Publishing, 1989) p269
 Bernard Bailyn The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution enlarged edition (Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press 1992) p67
 James Anderson The New Book of Constitutions of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons 1739 (Kessinger Publishing’s reprint of London UK, Ward and Chandler 1738)
 John Van Gorden Modern Historical Characters in Freemasonry (Bloomington Ill, The Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., N.M.J. 1985) p2
 Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh The Temple and the Lodge (New York NY Arcade Publishing, 1989) p263
 Jeremy Popkin A Short History of the French Revolution 4th edition (Upper Saddle River NJ, Pearson/Prentice Hill 2006) p19
 Eliphas Levi The History of Magic [Translated by A.E. Waite] (York Beach, Maine, Weiser Books 1991) p287
 Lynn Hunt Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley CA, University of California Press 2004) p201
 Michel Taillerfer La Franc-maconnerie toulousaine et la Revolution francaise p72 as found in Lynn Hunt’s Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley CA, University of California Press 2004) p201
 Ibid., p201
 Ibid., p113 footnote 58
 It should be mentioned that there is no recorded proof of Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal affiliation with Masonry. Although probably not a Mason himself, several of Napoleons brothers were masons.
 Albert Pike Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (Charleston NC, The Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., S.M.J. 1871) p24
Anderson, James The New Book of Constitutions of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free & Accepted Masons 1739 (Kessinger Publishing’s reprint of London UK, Ward and Chandler 1738)Baigent, Michael & Leigh, Richard The Temple and the Lodge
(New York, NY Arcade Publishing 1989)
Bailyn, Bernard The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution [enlarged edition](Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press 1992)
Bullock, Steven Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC University of North Carolina Press 1996)
Clark, Nancy and Worger, William South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid Pearson/Longman Harlow UK 2004)
Hunt, Lynn Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution
(Berkeley Ca, University of California Press 2004)
Levi, Eliphas The History of Magic [Translated by A.E. Waite]
(York Beach, Maine, Weiser Books 1991)
Pike, Albert Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Charleston NC, The Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., S.M.J. 1871)
Popkin, Jeremy A Short History of the French Revolution 4th edition
(Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearson/Prentice Hill 2006)
Ridley, Jasper The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society
(New York NY, Arcade Publishing 2001)
Roth, Philip Masonry in the Formation of Our Government, 1761-1799
(Kessinger Publishing’s reprint of Milwaukee Wisconsin, Grand Lodge of Wisconsin 1927)
Van Gorden, John Modern Historical Characters in Freemasonry
(Bloomington, Ill., The Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., N.M.J. 1985)
Wood, Gordon The Radicalism of the American Revolution
(New York, NY Vintage Books 1991)
Gershfield, Aaron “South African Freemasonry” , http://www.freemasons.co.za/HISTORY%20OF%20IRISH%20Freemasonry%20IN520NATAL.html
M.’. W.’. Groenewald, George “A History of South African Freemasonry”, http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/1151/page10.html
Bro. Lemmon-Warde, Desmond “Freemasonry-Uniting Men even During Apartheid”, http://www.freemasons-Freemasonry.com/Freemasons-apartheid.html
To Be Continued.....