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That Religion in Which All Men AgreeFreemasonry in American Culture$

David G. Hackett

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780520281677

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520281677.001.0001

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Colonial Freemasonry and Polite Society, 1733–1776

Colonial Freemasonry and Polite Society, 1733–1776

(p.19) 1 Colonial Freemasonry and Polite Society, 1733–1776
That Religion in Which All Men Agree

David G. Hackett

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

The first chapter of part 1 begins with the grand arrival of Freemasonry in coastal cities as part of the anglicization of colonial life. The origins and multiple meanings of the society prior to its arrival are reviewed before considering the influence of Masonic ideals and practices within the polite societies of the colonial elite. Crossing political, ethnic, and religious boundaries, the fraternity’s social ideals and initiatory practices provided the basis for common ground among elite European American men. Moreover, the brotherhood contributed to the rational religious discourse of the nascent public sphere. At the same time, drawing from Christian and non-Christian sources, the Masonic worldview provided resources for the larger religious world inhabited by many eighteenth-century Americans.

Keywords:   Freemasonry, practices, European American, men, rational, polite, public sphere, Christian

At sunrise on the morning of December 27, 1738, the “firing of guns from several ships in the harbor” to announce the festival of Saint John the Evangelist awakened the people of Charleston, South Carolina. At ten o’clock, the city’s Masons, clothed in jewels, aprons, white gloves, and stockings and preceded by a small band, paraded through the streets to the site of their Grand Lodge meeting, at the home of James Graeme, the soon-to-be chief justice of the province and their provincial grand master. At eleven o’clock, the brotherhood processed to the Anglican church, where they sat in their separate section of pews and listened to their brother the Reverend Mr. Durand praise the fraternity’s values of mutual love and benevolence. “In the same order” they then marched on to the house of Thomas Shepherd, a leading attorney, for “a very eloquent speech on the usefulness of societies” and an “elegant” dinner. This was followed by an invitation to a brother’s ship, where several toasts were given, “saluted by the discharge of 39 guns.” The evening concluded “with a ball and entertainment for the ladies.”1

In the second quarter of the eighteenth century, reports of grand parades of gentlemen Masons began to appear in the newspapers of colonial coastal cities. In New York, the order of procession was carefully described:

First walked the Sword Bearer, carrying a drawn sword; then four Stewards with White Maces, followed by the Treasurer and Secretary, who bore each a crimson damask cushion, on which lay a gilt Bible, and the Book of (p.20) Constitution; after these came the Grand Warden and Wardens; then came the Grand Master himself, bearing a truncheon and other badges of his office, followed by the rest of the Brotherhood, according to their respective ranks—Masters, Fellows Crafts, and ’Prentices, to about the number of fifty…. We hear they afterward conferred a generous donation of fifteen pounds from the public stock of the Society to be expended in clothing the poor children belonging to our charity school; and made a handsome private contribution for the relief of indigent prisoners.2

In Philadelphia, the officers and members of the Grand Lodge procession included the governor, the mayor, a chief justice, a college provost, the secretary of the Provincial Assembly, other leading men of Pennsylvania, and Deputy Grand Master Benjamin Franklin.3 For colonial spectators, these “very grand show[s]” carried out with “grandeur and decorum” announced the elite social standing of Freemasons.4

The immediate impetus for these conspicuous displays came from the instructions and actions of the London Grand Lodge. James Anderson’s The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, modern Freemasonry’s founding rules and principles, printed in America in 1734 by Benjamin Franklin, instructs the brethren to hold the “Annual Communication and Feast, in some convenient place on St. John Baptist’s Day, or else on St. John Evangelist’s Day, … in order to choose every year a new Grand Master, Deputy and Wardens.”5 As early as 1721 the London Lodge enacted these instructions through elaborate public processions. Jewels, swords, and other regalia were adopted by the lodge or given to it as gifts by the noble grand masters.6 The origins of these and other eighteenth-century public processions have been traced to late medieval towns where large religious parades involving most of the inhabitants displayed the hierarchical structure of their leadership. After the Reformation, those processions that continued to exist relegated the townspeople to spectators of the urban oligarchy of town leaders parading to church or court. Carried out with a theatrical self-consciousness—complete with ornamented clothing, polished gestures, and the new civic authority symbols of swords and maces—the processions of eighteenth-century England were designed to separate the townspeople from their leaders by exhibiting the power and structure of the new elite. Along with these public displays came similar ritual appearances in church and occasionally a gala ceremonial to stage grand displays of the rulers’ generosity.7 Colonial American Masonic festivals emulated all of these activities, though in somewhat different circumstances.

(p.21) The appearance of the American Masonic fraternity accompanied the eighteenth-century development of colonial commercial cities. Between 1690 and 1740, the older seaport towns of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York and most of the newer coastal market hubs of Charleston, Savannah, Baltimore, Annapolis, Albany, New Haven, and Portsmouth experienced an expansion of trade that gradually drew them into the Atlantic marketplace. By midcentury, American coastal towns had become comparable to British provincial ports in economic activity.8 Led by a growing demand for colonial exports, linked to an expanding commercial empire, protected and promoted by a strong imperial system, and endowed with an abundance of natural resources, the economy of British colonial America created an affluence capable of supporting an urban social order that was becoming more British. Social differentiation in America was always less developed than in Britain, and the colonies certainly had nothing comparable to the legally privileged English aristocracy. Yet as early as the 1720s in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia and by the 1760s in the newer colonies, a noticeable elite of merchants, lawyers, and government officials began a selfconscious effort to imitate British institutions, values, and culture rather than celebrate their American traits.9

Freemasonry was part of this Anglicization of colonial life.10 Between 1733 and the revolution, the United Grand Lodge of London warranted more than one hundred lodges in the colonies’ seaport towns.11 By 1772 the fraternity’s membership was about five thousand, including several hundred of the coastal cities’ most important men.12 As Steven C. Bullock has demonstrated, nearly all of Boston’s and Philadelphia’s Masons came from the most prestigious and highest-paying occupations. The majority (more than 60 percent) were merchants, responsible for the colonies’ rapid commercial development. Professionals—including lawyers, government officials, physicians, and a few ministers—made up the secondlargest group (14.4 percent in Boston and 21.2 percent in Philadelphia). The number of eighteenth-century lawyers and government officials grew in tandem with urban development and the increase of imperial authority. Less than 10 percent of Boston’s and Philadelphia’s Masons were artisans, and most of these worked at high-end crafts, such as clockmaking and silversmithing, which brought them into sustained contact with gentlemen.13

Meeting in genteel taverns apart from the common people, going in groups to the theater, and emulating the stylish new houses, dress, and manners of their British counterparts, Freemasons participated in a (p.22) “refinement of America” that brought European styles and customs to the upper reaches of eighteenth-century American society. The new social code was signaled in such words as polite, civil, and urbane and manifest in the appearance of large, richly furnished homes with central staircases and many rooms. Along with these elegant houses came balls, tea parties, and formal entertainments where men and women of similar background and breeding met to display the dress, manners, and speech characteristic of the English upper class.14 Masons displayed such genteel behavior in their studied arrivals and exits from church and in the formal, selfconscious displays of their processions. Within these elegant homes and well-appointed taverns, new private societies began to emerge. Variously devoted to literature, the arts, theater, or just good eating and free conversation, “polite” societies helped to create common bonds among the elite. What David S. Shields has described as a nascent public sphere of free conversation among relative equals first emerged in America among these societies in emulation of similar developments in England.15

The social ideals and organization of Freemasonry contributed to this great project of civility that enabled men of varied ranks and callings to set aside their differences and join together in polite conversation and common activities. More than an exclusive club within polite society, however, Freemasonry was the most successful colonial organization in crossing political, ethnic, and religious boundaries among leading affluent white men. By creating no formal membership barriers based on religion or politics, the colonial brotherhood helped buffer the divisive forces that threatened the social order of the new commercial centers. Moreover, in embracing freedom of thought and religious toleration yet requiring faith, the fraternity contributed to the rational religious discourse of the emerging public sphere. At the same time, by continuing to include elements of its pre-Christian past, Freemasonry participated in the broader supernatural world that encompassed colonial religious life. Before looking more closely at colonial American Freemasonry, a review of the origins and multiple meanings of the society prior to its arrival in America is necessary for understanding its beliefs and practices as they were called on, transformed, and created anew in the fraternity’s journey through American culture.

English Origins

When Freemasonry first came to America from England, in 1733, it had already taken on the character of a noblemen’s club while retaining to (p.23) some degree the traditional features of a medieval institution connected to an artisan culture. The modern history of the society begins with the establishment of the premier Grand Lodge of England, in 1717. By this time the membership of Masonic lodges had shifted decisively from “operative” tradesmen skilled in the craft of masonry to “non-operative,” “accepted,” “admitted,” or “speculative” noblemen and gentry.16 Abandoning the regulation of the building trade, the new Masonic fraternity now met in taverns and contributed to articulating the ideas of the English Enlightenment. Members of the Royal Society, created to foster the new sciences, played a key role in organizing the modern fraternity and accounted for more than one-quarter of lodge membership in its first decade.17 At the same time, Freemasonry retained myths of origin and secret rituals of initiation. To understand the fraternity’s multiple meanings, it is necessary to briefly consider its early history.

The craft guild of Freemasonry began in Britain around the time of the Norman Conquest (1066), when kings, nobles, and church leaders embarked on building stone castles and cathedrals.18 As fully qualified craftsmen free to enjoy the rights and privileges of the guild, masons were referred to as freemasons, much as other skilled tradesmen were sometimes called, for example, free carpenters or men granted the rights of citizenship in a town were called freemen.19 Like the members of other guilds, freemasons had a mythical history stressing the antiquity and importance of their craft, held banquets on their fraternity’s patron saint’s day, initiated new members into their fictive brotherhood, and limited entry to the trade to men who had been properly trained in its mysteries, its skills and techniques.

The constitutions and ordinances from London’s fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Mason’s Company describe a hierarchical organization of apprentices and master craftsmen who retained a distinctive clothing (apron and gloves) and religious practice. Persons admitted to the fellowship were “to be clad in one clothing … convenient to their powers and degrees” and were to wear it every year when attending Mass on the Feast of the Four Crowned Martyrs, after which they were to have dinner or “honest” recreation. This feast day honored the martyrdom of four Roman stoneworkers killed by Diocletian for refusing to abandon Christianity.20 Other masonic guilds were known to celebrate the feast day of Saint John the Evangelist or Saint John the Baptist.21 All versions of the company’s constitutions, moreover, contained a provision demanding secrecy, such as the following: “You shall keep secret the obscure and intricate parts of the science, not disclosing them to any (p.24) but such as study and use the same.”22 These were trade or technical secrets intended to enforce membership requirements against the growing number of competitors in a time of building expansion.

Although nearly all early modern trades asserted high standing and great antiquity, the fact that masons created the vast stone cathedrals, arguably the most awe-inspiring human works in the Middle Ages, distinguished their claims from those of other medieval craftsmen. Unlike workers whose tools and products tied them to a local market, the masons involved in such large-scale projects were drawn from a relatively wide region. Assembling this regional labor force on a local work site necessitated the drawing up of detailed rules that would help to create shared values and standards of behavior both on and off the job. Among other things, these codes of conduct stipulated how masons should treat one another. For example, their requirements included not taking work from others or underpaying fellow masons, choosing only suitable persons to be apprentices, and respecting confidences and trade secrets.23

In the available manuscript constitutions, these charges follow an elaborate legendary history of the guild that traces the origin of masonry to geometry—the source of all knowledge. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, this mythical prehistory was intended to be read out or recited at meetings, especially when entrants were admitted to the craft. The manuscripts open with brief invocations or prayers addressed to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The narrator then characteristically launches into the subject by presenting the “worthy Craft of Masonry” as rooted in “Geometrye,” which is the foundation of “the seven Liberall Sciences.” The origins of geometry are then traced to the children of Lamech, mentioned in Genesis. The founder of geometry was Jabel, Lamech’s son who, fearing God’s punishment, inscribed his discovery on stone pillars that could survive fire or flood. After the Great Flood, Hemarynes (Hermes), a great-grandson of Noah, discovered the pillars and from them retaught the sciences to humanity. Next, Abraham and his wife Sarah went to Egypt and taught the seven sciences to the Egyptians, including Euclid. Euclid then instructed King David during the latter’s sojourn in Egypt. On his return to the Holy Land, David gave these charges to the masons who began building the Jerusalem Temple, whose construction continued under his son Solomon. Solomon sent for workers from other countries, whom he charged to spread the craft to France and England (later rites of initiation took place in an allegorical Solomon’s Temple). Eventually, it was said, the (p.25) English king Edwin compiled both this prehistory and the guild’s codes of conduct, and his books became the constitutions themselves.24

In the seventeenth century, Scottish masons working from these constitutions created catechisms for their rituals of identification and initiation, which collectively became known as the Mason Word. Although it was customary for craft guilds to maintain constitutions detailing their rules and legendary histories, masons not only had extensive codes of conduct and an elaborate legendary history but also, unlike other guilds, evolved an extensive ritual life. Again, this may have been due to the prominence of the craft and the need to guard trade secrets among a regional labor force. The early Scottish catechisms dealt with the admission of candidates to the two grades of mason known as Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft. These rites probably existed prior to that time and may have been created out of earlier practices of the craft.25 Though fragmentary and diverse in their contents, the surviving catechisms usually include questions and answers to ascertain the identity of another craftsman, culminating in the recognition of a secret or words, and rites of initiation that instructed the two grades of masons in the secrets of the Word.26

Both rites of initiation were said to involve a “great many ceremonies,” which the surviving catechisms keep largely hidden from outsiders’ view. Emphasizing secrecy, the Entered Apprentice investiture involved the recitation of the craft’s legendary history, while the Fellow Craft rite explained the significance of the letter G—for both geometry and God—and its place in the Temple of Solomon. The ceremonies took place within the Mason’s lodge, which could be their guild, their workplace, or the setting for their ritual return to ancient Egypt.27 Though the scattered evidence of the catechisms does not give a clear picture of the early rites, the “work” to which the master put the masons in the lodge presumably symbolized the building of the temple. Among religious people of that time, “building the Temple” meant creating the kingdom of God.28 Post-Reformation influences also appear to be present, in the use of the singular form of word. Scotland’s new Calvinist churches emphasized the truth of the “Word of God” as revealed in scripture. Scripture itself was often referred to as “the Word.” Such phrases as “in the beginning was the Word” invoked powerful sentiments of mystery and ultimate truth. In the Wisdom of Solomon, a favorite among Masons, “God made all things by his Word, and his Word killed all unbelievers.”29

References to building the temple and the Mason Word, David Stevenson has suggested, also intimate that the rituals of seventeenth-century (p.26) Scottish Freemasonry may have emerged partly as a reaction to some of the changes that the coming of Protestantism brought to Scotland. As is well known, the Reformation fundamentally changed Christian religious beliefs and practices. Catholicism sanctifies life’s passage with seven sacramental rituals that give social significance to the stages of life’s journey. Protestantism shifts the emphasis from the ritualization of life’s journey to particular beliefs and individual faith. Compared to the richness of Catholic ritual life, the practices of the new Protestant churches were barren. This was particularly true in Scotland, where there was a decisive break with the pageantry of the old church. By suddenly eliminating so much of the ritual and spectacle of the Catholic Church, the Scottish Reformation of 1560 may have created a profound sense of loss in many people.30

It is noteworthy, then, that the appearance of the Mason Word in Scotland coincided with the Calvinist Church’s destruction of the religious aspect of trade guilds. For members of trade guilds, the pageantry and processions that marked the feast days of their organizations’ patron saints were the high points of the year. The Protestant leader John Knox sneered at the “priests, friars, canons, and rotten Papists, with tabors and trumpets, banners and bagpipes,” who processed through Edinburgh in 1558 on Saint Giles’s Day. Reformation, in one respect, meant the suppression of the guilds’ religious practices. Though their members continued to attend church in groups and begin meetings with short prayers, the guilds no longer participated in the religious festivals of the Christian year nor maintained altars dedicated to their saints. This reaction against ceremony may have contributed to the counterreaction of the majority of Edinburgh’s leading craftsmen, who steadfastly remained Catholic following the 1560 Reformation. It is probably more than a coincidence, moreover, that within two generations an elaborate pageantry and ritual life emerged within Scottish Masonry.31

Aside from the innovations of the Mason Word, by the seventeenth century, secrecy was increasingly associated with the Scottish lodge. This was partly a legacy of the craft’s medieval past, when it kept the mysteries of its operative trade to itself, but also reinforced by the late Renaissance passion for ancient, esoteric truth.32 Though belief in the power of occult knowledge was declining by the eighteenth century, many educated Britons still believed that ancient mysteries might be retrieved and so reveal God’s deeper truth.

It was from within the broader environment of hermeticism and Rosicrucianism that nontradesmen started to seek out the Masonic guilds. (p.27) Hermeticism began with the interweaving of metallurgical traditions and ideas gleaned from Gnosticism, Platonism, and Egyptian theology in Greco-Roman Egypt. Its magical practices were believed to have the power to turn base metals into gold and mere humans into immortals. The Renaissance recovery of ancient texts led to a new exploration of the supposed revelations of the divine being Hermes. Combining hermeticism with tales of an occult brotherhood, Rosicrucianism sparked the search for secret tablets, originally discovered in the tomb of the mystic Christian Rosencreutz, whose inscriptions revealed ancient mysteries.33 Early seventeenth-century Scottish Masons, in particular one William Schaw, the master of the king’s works, were imbued with the reforming and mystical hermeticism of the late Renaissance. Schaw was an intimate of the Stuart court of the 1590s, to which the Renaissance hermeticist Giordano Bruno carried the ancient wisdom. Schaw, in turn, brought hermeticism to the lodges of the 1590s.34 The years around 1600 saw the peak of hermetic striving for spiritual rebirth based on secret knowledge and mystical societies. This was also the time when the legendary history and hidden ritual practices of Freemasonry began attracting large numbers of nonmasons.

What first drew them were statements contained in the old manuscript constitutions.35 The legendary histories traced Masonic origins to both the author of Biblical wisdom, Solomon, and the source of occult knowledge, Hermes. Furthermore, like the ancients, the craft guild transmitted its knowledge not through books but through symbolic language and secret ceremonies. For late sixteenth- and early seventeenthcentury Britons seeking primeval wisdom and occult knowledge, Masonic statements and ceremonies suggested a means of entry into the esoteric truths of the ancients. Elias Ashmole and Sir Robert Moray were among the first nonmasons initiated into the English and Scottish lodges. Ashmole, who was interested in hermeticism and the Rosicrucian brotherhood, joined and eventually became the master of his Edinburgh lodge. A few years later, in 1646, Moray, who had a great interest in alchemy and number mysticism, was admitted to a lodge at Warrington, Lancashire. Both men were founding members of the new scientific organization, the Royal Society.36

The late Renaissance glorification of mathematics and architecture similarly attracted men interested in planning and design. Renaissance thought associated architecture with the articulation of moral values, in the sense that buildings give concrete expression to society’s ideas about how to construct social life.37 For the fraternity, economic reasons (p.28) played a role in the admission of nonmasons. As early as the 1670s, lodges in Scotland and England were offering “honorary” membership in their “ancient” society to prosperous gentlemen willing to offer infusions of capital for renovations and other building projects. Gradually, then, the guild evolved into a society that retained something of the old while adding the interests and values of the higher classes of men who eventually came to dominate it.38

Some of the men behind the founding of the modern Grand Lodge, in 1717, reflected their time of cultural change, when the Enlightenment emphasis on order, rationality, and science existed within an older longing for the deeper truths of ancient knowledge. William Stukeley, an early lodge master, was a fellow of the Royal Society, a member of its council, and a censor of the College of Physicians. He was also an Anglican priest, a cofounder of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and so deeply drawn to the stone circles of Stonehenge that he created his own “temple of the Druids.” This occult yearning drew Stukeley to the “Mysterys of masonry, suspecting it to be the remains of the mysterys of the antients.”39 Similarly drawn to both Enlightenment reason and primeval truth was the scientist Sir Isaac Newton, whom Stukeley claimed as a “countryman” and a friend.40 Newton’s Principia, while establishing the foundations for later mechanistic science, also asserted that all of its discoveries could be found among the mysteries of occult knowledge and biblical wisdom.41 This mixing of traditions was characteristic not only of the London circles surrounding Newton and his Masonic friends but of the larger Enlightenment project too.

The seeming anomaly of Enlightenment thinkers embracing ancient wisdom can be explained by keeping in mind that Enlightenment thought emerged within older cosmic and theological understandings of the world. The Enlightenment effort to identify a finite field of inquiry accessible to the human mind took for granted that a larger field of knowledge lay outside human investigation. John Locke’s pivotal Essay Concerning Human Understanding sought to carve out from this larger metaphysical and divine external world an area limited to only that which the human mind can know. What some have identified as the darker side of the “modern,” “rational” Enlightenment and worked to explain away as the residue of earlier, magical thinking was in fact the larger epistemological world that it inhabited. Galileo’s battle against the church is one obvious example of the new way of thinking existing within an older paradigm. Rather than a progressive movement of order, reason, and science that gradually replaced ancient forms of (p.29) knowledge, the evolution of modern thought is better characterized as shifting between the two opposing impulses of modern reason and ancient wisdom. The persistence of “ancient,” “primitive,” and “antimodernist” thought within and beyond the American Masonic fraternity, as we shall see, is not an anomaly to be explained away but rather a reflection of the Enlightenment’s failure to completely eclipse earlier metaphysical and divine ways of understanding the place of human beings in the world.42

Despite the mixing of new and old knowledge among Newton and the Masons of his generation, the men who created modern Freemasonry came from the next generation, of Newton’s followers, and emphasized modern science over ancient mysteries. These included such men as Jean-Théophile Desaguliers, a Huguenot refugee trained in Newtonian science at Oxford who took holy orders in the Church of England and served as the grand master of the Grand Lodge in 1719.43 Unlike Newton, Desaguliers and his brothers lived in an increasingly cosmopolitan London society, where enlightened thinking and polite social practices led to the creation of a new form of Masonic brotherhood.

The social reasons for the popularity of modern Freemasonry are rooted in large transformations that began in London and reshaped social relations. In the eighteenth century, the city experienced growing social diversity and a threefold increase in population. In this milieu, nobles, gentry, craftsmen, and strangers moved about without the communal or kinship bonds of earlier village life. In response to this anomie, clubs rapidly appeared, providing a means of re-creating the intimacy of local bonds by bringing gentlemen and aristocrats together in private tavern rooms for feasting, discussion, and singing. Lodge meetings, like those of these clubs, often took place amid the food and drink of a private tavern, where members “clubbed” together to cover the expenses.44

The new perception of a natural harmony among the members of this redefined social world aided this easy mixing of nobles, gentry, merchants, professionals, and master tradesmen. By the early eighteenth century, Thomas Hobbes’s despairing vision of a selfish humanity that only coercion could control was losing its power. He produced his description of the Great Chain of Being, in which all of society was ranked and each level was in charge of those below and obeyed those above, amid the conflicts of the mid-seventeenth-century Civil War, but the concept no longer worked in a society driven by commercialization and torn by political and religious dissent.45 The development of urban centers, a widening market, and population growth and movement (p.30) made it increasingly difficult for the monarchy to assert control over the merchants, noblemen, and professionals of the new protocapitalist order. As early as the 1640s, the development of printing allowed for the circulation of previously secret political petitions and the beginnings of public debate.46 Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89, the establishment of the first cabinet government marked a new stage in the development of the state’s parliamentary authority. At the same time, the growing Deist movement and its rejection of the power of revelation increasingly countered High Church Anglican demands for religious obedience and the suppression of dissent. Where Hobbes had asserted that only complete submission to authority would avert conflict, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury and other progressive social theorists saw in human nature a “benevolence” that knit society together through sympathy and a natural desire for community.47 Like the new world of Newtonian science, the new society could rely on simple and natural processes to work.

In 1709, Shaftesbury traced the emergence of this sentiment of benevolence to what he termed “private society.” He composed his treatise in “defence” of the “liberty of the Club” as a letter to a friend of “court breeding.” As recently as 1668, Charles II had sought unsuccessfully to outlaw English coffeehouses, for their association with free thought and political debate. Against the state-controlled ritualistic behavior of the royal court, which sought to fix an authoritarian and court-centered hierarchy of power, Shaftesbury argued for the “polite” behavior of the new private clubs, which were founded on the new freedom of expression.48 “All politeness,” as he put it, “is owing to liberty.” Against the “temper of the pedagogue,” which “suits not with the Age,” the English nobleman endorsed the sociability of the club, where prevailed “a freedom of raillery, a liberty in decent language to question everything, and an allowance of unravelling or refuting any argument, without offence to the arguer.” Through this new polite behavior, club members were able to “polish one another, and rub off our corners and rough sides by a force of amicable collision,” resulting in a greater virtue. Moreover, by titling his treatise “An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour,” Shaftesbury made clear that these attributes, as well as theatricality and satire, had the serious purpose of enabling the expression of ideas under the imposition of the authority of church or state: “If men are forbid to speak their minds seriously on certain subjects, they will do it ironically. If they are forbid to speak at all upon such subjects, or if they find it really dangerous to do so; they will then (p.31) redouble their disguise, involve themselves in mysteriousness, and talk so as hardly to be understood, or at least not plainly interpreted, by those who are dispos’d to do ’em a mischief.” These “speculative conversations,” Shaftesbury further warned, could take place only with the “mutual esteem” of “gentlemen and friends.”49 More coercive forms of social control would be necessary to tame the common people.

By the early eighteenth century, professionals and noblemen were employing the polite behavior and free conversation of private societies to forge a common culture, differentiating themselves from the lower orders. Modern Masonry was an expression of this new elite social vision. The fraternity drew its members from the growing middling ranks of men who had separated themselves from the rest of society through their professional training, education, or greater wealth yet were not among the landed gentry or nobility.50 Its 1723 constitution offered a new way of imagining social relationships, by seeking to inspire “true friendship among persons that must else have remain’d at perpetual Distance.” Unlike the members of a Hobbesian hierarchical society, Masons were to treat one another as equals. Holding their society together was not the coercive power of a patriarch but rather the natural benevolence of brothers. “All preferment among Masons,” the new constitution said, “is grounded upon real worth and personal merit alone.”51

Such equality, however, was reserved for gentlemen, men who could afford the fraternity’s special clothing and expensive fees, and deference continued to be given to nobles. In 1721, “great Joy at the happy Prospect of being again patronized by noble Grand Masters, as in the Prosperous Times of Freemasonry,” met the election of the Duke of Montagu to this post.52 A revision of the guild’s mythic history that posthumously granted the title of grand master to England’s kings reinforced such “memories” of olden times. As with its attraction to both the new science and occult knowledge, the modern fraternity looked forward while retaining something old.

The constitution of 1723 elaborated the new vision of the fraternity and remained, throughout the eighteenth century, the document to which all official lodges subscribed. Written by the Scots Presbyterian clergyman James Anderson, it “digested” the older charges in what he called a “new and better method.”53 Complaining of “gross Errors” in the legendary histories, Anderson updated the list of former grand masters to include not only the kings of England, thereby linking its political history with the development of Freemasonry, but also Augustus Caesar.54 The kings included the first Stuart king of England, James I, (p.32) who imported the Augustan style of architecture from Renaissance Italy. Instead of the medieval architecture celebrated in the old constitutions, which brought to mind the now unfashionable pursuit of occult wisdom, the 1723 history heralds Augustan aesthetics, which suggested the order and symmetry of the Newtonian universe and the new Enlightenment social theory.55

Similarly, the new constitution transformed the guild’s instructions on religion and politics. Previous constitutions began by invoking the Trinity and contained the injunction that masons shall be obedient to God and the Holy Church. Anderson instead makes no specifically Christian belief obligatory. “A Mason is oblig’d, by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine.”56 Taking the latitudinarian view shared by moderate Anglican priests and Protestant dissenters, Anderson pledged the fraternity to a position midway between a parochial High Church Anglicanism and an unbelieving natural religion.57 In doing so, he stepped away from his Presbyterian convictions and his recent sermons decrying both Deists and Unitarians.58 No longer obligated by their fraternity to submit to the religion of the nation, Masons were told to keep “their particular Opinions to themselves” while affirming a common belief in the transcendent.59 By encouraging its members to step outside their religious convictions, the new fraternity proclaimed a religious harmony among all men while prescribing very little. Although the constitutions’ call for men of “whatever Denominations or Persuasions” to join the fraternity suggests that this “religious harmony” was intended to encompass no more than doctrinal differences among Christians, as early as 1731, Masonry’s formerly obedient servants of “the Church” had admitted Jews into their fellowship.60

Political involvement was similarly open. Previous constitutions commanded all masons to “bee true men to the Kinge without any treason or falsehood.”61 Now, aside from an agreement to be “a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers,” no political position was required.62 At the same time, Whig party leaders were among the early members of the modern fraternity, and Anderson’s history reflected their advocacy of a strong constitution and court-centered government.63 Similarly, he, Desaguliers, and their brothers established a Grand Lodge governed by rules and statutes requiring all lodge members to submit to the authority of their elected officers and all lodges to pledge their loyalty to the Grand Lodge.64 Neither wholly subordinate subjects of a king nor dangerously radical liberals, the members of the new fraternity submitted (p.33) to its constitutional government, which embraced social stability while celebrating the brotherhood as a model for a well-ordered, cooperative society.

Presenting itself as a harbinger of the new social vision, the fraternity allowed its members considerable latitude in their political and religious convictions. As Shaftesbury argued, the genius of the private club was that it kept a playful distance from the solemn orthodoxies of state and church.65 Meeting in the King’s Arms, the Apple Tree, and other upscale London taverns, lodge members enjoyed long evenings of ritual toasts, “sumptuous” feasts, “innocent mirth,” entertaining orations, and the business of welcoming “noblemen and gentlemen of the first rank” into their order.66 At the same time, by creating a constitutional society that its members could alter through majority vote, the modern fraternity experimented with the reformation of civil society. It further enhanced its progressive image by embracing the new, liberal spirit of religious toleration. Although popular Newtonianism, with its frequent references to God as the Universal Architect, came to dominate Masonic rhetoric, amid the secrecy of the lodge, members were free to entertain a variety of spiritual perspectives. Like the antiquarian William Stukeley, who said that he entered the fraternity in search of “the remains of the mysterys of the antients,” a wide array of Druids, Deists, Jews, Protestants, and Catholics were members of the English fraternity. On the whole, however, as participants in the liberalizing mainstream of early eighteenth-century English society, the gentlemen and nobles of Freemasonry reinforced the progressive ideals of constitutional monarchy and religious toleration.

Colonial American Freemasonry

The Freemasonry that came to America in the 1730s brought this extensive collection of cultural baggage, which the encounter with local culture reworked and transformed. Between the 1730s and the 1760s, Masonic lodges were one of a variety of “polite” societies that formed in America’s coastal cities. These private clubs included Saint Andrew’s, Saint George’s, and other British immigrant societies; the Beefsteak Society, the Calve’s Head Club, and other eating clubs; various literary, theatrical, and philosophical societies; and predominantly female salons and tea tables. Dedicated to the pleasures of amiable conversation, the arts, and good eating, these societies promoted the common interests of relative strangers in the new public meeting spaces of taverns, coffeehouses, and well-appointed (p.34) homes. At a time when urban social relations were moving beyond the traditional ties of family, ethnicity, church, and local community, Freemasonry was among the new social forms that anticipated the rise of the American middle class.67

Since 1990, several colonial historians have adopted and refined Jürgen Habermas’s theoretical framework of the public sphere to explain these social developments in America while not paying particular attention to religious life. Michael Warner’s The Letters of the Republic (1990) makes the case for the significance of an emerging print media in the establishment of a secular eighteenth-century public sphere. He holds that through a burgeoning array of newspapers, pamphlets, and broadsides, print was both a carrier and an expression of a new republican ideology. David Conroy’s study of taverns in eighteenthcentury Massachusetts, In Public Houses (1995), investigates their role in the creation of secular public space. In Civil Tongues and Polite Letters (1997), David S. Shields argues that colonial polite societies were vehicles for producing horizontal relationships among the elite.68 Taken together, these books suggest that a new language of secular discourse was taking hold through print and the new societies. I argue—in contrast to the secular focus of these studies, a tendency characteristic of Habermas’s European public sphere—that debates over religious ideas suffused the public sphere that emerged in America by the 1740s.69 The late colonial period saw an intermingling of secular and religious discourse.

Although Habermas held that the totalizing worldview of premodern religion stood in an inverse relationship with rational criticism, whereby religion must decline if enlightenment were to progress, his theoretical framework of an exclusively rational public sphere does not sufficiently acknowledge the pervasive presence of religion in the colonial world. There, unlike in England, the metaphysical authority of the monarchy was an ocean away.70 Instead, Reformed Protestant and Anglican establishments held varying degrees of religious authority across the colonies. A flexible Calvinism that was capable of including both the orthodox and the revivalist sides of the Great Awakening informed most eighteenth-century Christianity.71 At one of its extremes was a small minority of Catholics, and at the other the various advocates of Enlightenment religion, while all stood apart from Native American religions and the African gods of eighteenth-century slaves.72 Within this broad religious culture, moreover, magical beliefs and practices, some older than Christianity, persisted.

(p.35) Not only was British metaphysical authority an ocean away, but so too was the English Parliament. Thus colonial assemblies and especially local governments shaped political society. As David D. Hall has argued, rather than cohesively united by the absolute authority of the monarchy, religious and political authority in colonial America were “remarkably local and decentralized.” Moreover, unlike England, eighteenthcentury America had no “broad distribution of printed matter.” As a result, its “social and political criticism were never fully differentiated from the language and practices of radical Protestantism.”73

Timothy H. Breen first described this “religious public sphere” as “an intellectual space in which allegedly disinterested writers employing their reason in the name of the people might criticize and shape popular religious assumptions.”74 Beginning with the controversies that came to be known as the First Great Awakening, Americans engaged in public, print debates over religious matters. Frank Lambert has argued that the itinerant evangelist George Whitefield initiated these disputes by demanding that the forum for religious controversy be moved from the private, clerically controlled pulpit to the public arena of print, where literate men and women could make reasoned judgments and arguments.75 Accusations that the upstart evangelicals spoke in uncouth language while employing rhetoric and emotion rather than reason resulted in their making efforts to dispute in the language and reasoned logic of polite society.76 In moving from the private expression of religious convictions to public, printed efforts to persuade readers of the truth of their beliefs, writers on all sides of the issue learned to frame their arguments to appeal to the common sense of their readers. As the Boston antirevivalist John Caldwell warned, “Understand with your own Understanding; see Evidence before ye believe or judge.”77 Moreover, this paralleled ongoing secular debates over bank fraud and related issues, and in both cases, more and more colonial Americans adapted to polite society’s insistence that individuals make informed, well-reasoned decisions in an expanding marketplace of ideas.78

Whatever the character and significance of the American public sphere, it first appeared among the less than 5 percent of the population that lived in coastal cities.79 By the early eighteenth century, every major port city had at least one coffeehouse or tavern, which served as nexuses for extralocal news and information and, like elegant homes, a site for the new sociability. Within the decorum of this nascent polite society, strangers met, circulated manuscripts and published materials, engaged in and discussed literature and the arts, and entertained alternative visions of social (p.36) and religious life. Gradually, a small but influential number of colonial elites fashioned a new and experimental realm of social life where they worked to bridge differences through civility and congenial conversation and find common cause in a wide variety of pursuits. Sheer joy, entertainment, and the members’ delight in one another’s company, David S. Shields has argued, were as much the purpose of these societies as any other motive. However, while providing a common ground of private pleasures for a coalescing upper class, they foreshadowed, with their multiple forms of communication and social relations, the emerging public.80 By the 1760s, this congenial realm of elegance and polish gave way to the sober reason and morality of a rapidly expanding public sphere, in which the new print media joined growing numbers of citizens in dialogue over questions surrounding revolutionary social change.

Freemasonry established its first American lodge, in Philadelphia in 1733, within the social and cultural milieu of polite society. By the 1740s, Philadelphia and the similarly old and large urban centers of Boston and New York had several lodges, while inland seaports founded their first lodges in the following decades (Albany’s, for instance, in the 1760s). Masonic membership was a means of entry into polite society. Lodge meetings were held in the elegant private rooms of upscale taverns, where gentleman habitually gathered for dinners and entertainment. Deliberately expensive fees attracted the “man of merit” while discouraging “those of mean Spirits, and narrow, or Incumber’d Fortunes.”81 Those who were “well known” by the brothers were immediately admitted to candidacy; others were required to wait one month while “proper inquiry” was made into their character and behavior. James Anderson’s Constitutions instructed lodge members to “avoid all slandering and backbiting and talking disrespectfully of a person” and instead to treat one another “with much courtesy.” Individual lodges required members to appear in “decent cloathing” and refrain from obscene language, excessive drink, and indecent behavior. They were to participate in lodge rituals with the utmost “solemnity” and offer the master of the lodge “due reverence.” An escalating series of punishments, beginning with fines and culminating in banishment, met infractions of this gentlemanly code.82 Though Freemasonry was a society with secrets, entry into the fraternity was intended not as a withdrawal into private life but as an opportunity for gentlemen to demonstrate and refine the social manners of the upper class.

Freemasonry also helped to shape the structure and discourse of the emerging public sphere. In its efforts to harmonize the divisive forces of (p.37) nationality, religion, and politics, the fraternity helped to create a new social order that brought together leading affluent white men of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. The social philosophy and organization of Freemasonry were part of the “new civility,” which enabled persons of different ranks, callings, origins, and occupations to put aside their differences and engage in congenial communication and common activities. The fraternity’s encouragement of free thought and religious toleration yet requirement of faith, moreover, contributed to the rational religious discourse of the emerging public sphere. Civility involved not only improved taste and manners but also a mutual tolerance and open-mindedness that encouraged individuals to employ reason and evidence to arrive at their religious convictions. At the same time, Masonic Christianity shared with much of the colonial religious world a faith laced with magical and mystical elements of archaic origin. Amid its movement toward Enlightenment forms and ideals, the brotherhood maintained elements of its ancient past.

Freemasonry in Colonial Albany

The early history of the first Masonic lodges in Albany, New York, provides a window onto the emergence of this community-wide organization. Prior to the 1760s, Albany was an overwhelmingly Dutch settlement over whose economic, social, and political life merchant family networks maintained control. Arising in vertical relationship to the town’s horizontal social order were those inhabitants who mediated between the largely homogeneous town and the increasingly heterogenous provincial population.83 Most of the inhabitants traced their origins to the arrival of a large group of Dutch settlers in the 1660s, whose descendants primarily determined the beliefs and practices of the town through the 1760s. Beginning with the English takeover of the Netherlands’ colony as part of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, however, members of the Schuyler and Cuyler families, among others, took the lead in learning the English language and mediating between the town and extralocal commercial and political interests. They and others in the province “who brought with them the French and English languages, soon acquired a sway over their less enlightened fellow settlers.”84

Although polite society barely took hold in Albany (which had no institutionalized private societies of any description prior to establishment of the Masonic lodge in the 1760s), Anne Grant’s Memoirs of an (p.38) American Lady traces its emergence.85 Grant’s recollections of her childhood in the Albany of the 1760s portray colonial Dutch Albanians as “children of nature” who, unfortunately, lacked “good breeding.” In conversation, for example, they were “limited in regard to subjects.” Of the “substantial luxuries of the table … they knew little.” Dominating the town’s moral framework was the Dutch Reformed church, which stood at its center and counted nearly all of the townspeople as members. Grant observes that public worship was often “mechanical,” though the townspeople never doubted the “great truths of revelation.”86

Indeed, participation in the beliefs and practices of Reformed Calvinism was the most enduring collective social action of the colonial Dutch community. Estate inventories of Albany’s Dutch householders reveal catechisms written by the town’s ministers, the Bible, and little other reading material. As late as 1771, the town’s persistent old ways included the occasional and rudimentary schooling of children; the lack of newspapers with knowledge of the outside world; and a determination to keep out of town those who might undermine its way of life.87 Though certainly not “elegant and polished,” Grant concluded, the Albany Dutch “were at least easy and independent.”88

Providing the leaven of polite society in Albany were the Schuylers and several other interrelated “inhabitants of the upper settlement,” who once a year went to New York City. There, “at a very early period a better style of manners and polish prevailed … than in any of the neighboring provinces.” This “pleasing and intelligent society” was most in evidence around the British governor, where “a kind of a little court kept.” Grant favorably describes Sir Henry Moore as a “show governor” whose “gay, good natured, and well bred, affable and courteous” demeanor seemed primarily intended “to keep the governed in good humor.” The government house was the scene of frequent “festivities and weekly concerts.” Within this circle, Grant describes the Schuylers and other leading Albany families as “conscientious exiles,” allied through intermarriage and upbringing to the “primitive” Albany settlers yet committed to the “liberality of mind and manners which so distinguished them from the less enlightened inhabitants of their native city.” Grant praises Catalina Schuyler, the matron of the Albany Schuyler home, for the “singular merit” of being able to move between “this comparatively refined society” and “the homely good sense and primitive manners of her fellow citizens at Albany, free from fastidiousness and disgust.”89

The locus for polite society in Albany and the site of an emerging public sphere was the Schuyler home, called the Flatts, which was a few (p.39) miles outside town. The house was “an academy for the best morals and manners.” In 1709, Philip Schuyler, Catalina’s husband, had returned from London with a small library of newspapers and books that were apparently read throughout the extended family. Catalina was said to begin and end each day with Scripture and spend no less than several hours in “light reading, essays, biography, poetry, etc.” Under the supervision of Catalina and Philip, the family hosted meetings with provincial leaders, strategy sessions with British army officers, and assemblies where peace treaties or alliances were worked out with various nations. In these endeavors, Grant recalled, the Schuylers pointedly mixed “serious and important counsels with convivial cheerfulness, and domestic ease and familiarity.” Dinner parties regularly included the family, close friends, visitors “of worth or talent,” military guests, and “friendless travelers.” The talk around the table was “always rational, generally instructive, and often cheerful.” Frequently a “new set of guests” arrived in the afternoon for tea. Catalina and Philip also presided over a “Lyceum” at their home, where “questions in religion and morality, too weighty for table talk, were leisurely and coolly discussed; and plans of policy and various utility arranged.” The larger purpose of social life at the Flatts, Grant acutely observed, was to employ “the rays of intellect … to unite the jarring elements of which the community was composed, and to suggest to those who had power without experience, the means of mingling in due proportions its various materials for the public utility.”90

Despite the incubation of polite society in the Schuyler home, as late as the 1740s, Albany remained a place where, according to the visitor and Master Mason Alexander Hamilton, “there was no variety of choise, either of company or conversation.”91 Large-scale change began in 1754 with the arrival of refugees from the French and Indian Wars, who almost doubled the town’s population, from eighteen hundred to three thousand. The arrival of as many as fourteen hundred officers and soldiers, all of whom were quartered in Albany homes, followed in 1757.92 Among these troops were officers who were “younger, and more gay,” and, Grant tells us, encouraged the formation of “a sect … among the younger people, who seemed resolved to assume a lighter style of dress and manners, and to borrow their taste in those respects from their friends.” This rustling of polite society among his younger church members “alarmed and aggrieved” Theodorus Frelinghuysen Jr., the town’s Dutch minister. The eldest son of the Dutch minister who had helped begin the Great Awakening in New Jersey, Frelinghuysen focused his wrath on the manners and entertainments of the young British officers, who “were (p.40) themselves a lie” and therefore deeply threatened the “truth” of Dutch life. In keeping with his Reformed Calvinist convictions, Frelinghuysen declared that those who, in the name of politeness, gave themselves over to the vainglory of fashionable display, the levity of wit, the consumption of luxurious goods, and the idleness of dancing and gaming faced the terrors of divine judgment.93 The Common Council efforts to get rid of these invasive people, through unequal taxation and selective enforcement of laws, aided the minister’s crusade.94

Nevertheless, a 1760s wave of Scots-Irish and English immigrants and subsequent economic growth transformed the community from an isolated trading post into a bustling commercial center. These developments provoked new economic tensions between wealthy “gentlemen” and landless poor; social and religious divisions among the town’s three ethnic churches (Presbyterian, Anglican, and Dutch Reformed); and political divisions between the newcomers and the largely Dutch Common Council. Albany’s two colonial lodges were the first cultural institutions outside the churches to appear in the community. What became Union Lodge in 1765 was originally a British military lodge, which had arrived with the troops quartered in the city over the winter of 1757–58. Masters Lodge was founded in 1768. The new fraternity attracted leaders from throughout the community, though it drew heavily from British newcomers.

Though more than two-thirds of Albany’s prewar Masons were of British descent—including the most prominent Scots-Irish and English merchants, some of the non-Dutch members of the Common Council, and the ministers of the Presbyterian and the Anglican churches—a number of Dutch merchants, aldermen, and church members joined them. For the members of the two Reformed churches, joining the lodge, with its freedom of thought and religious toleration, meant setting aside denominational convictions. At the same time, the inclusion of Presbyterian, Anglican, and Dutch Church members in the fraternity, where only a generation earlier the Dutch had steadfastly resisted the imposition of an Anglican church on their town, was a watershed of interethnic cooperation and a harbinger of postwar interreligious fellowship. Although the more affluent and older Dutch were less willing to join the lodge than their English, Scots-Irish, and Yankee peers, Albany’s Masonic fraternity was the first local society to bridge the community’s ethnic and religious divisions.95

The membership of Albany’s first Masonic lodge suggests Freemasonry’s emergence as part of the town’s expanding public sphere. Richard (p.41) Cartwright was the master of the first lodge, which met in his tavern, the King’s Arms, one of only two in town. He had been a British soldier stationed in Albany, and after completing his service, he joined its Saint Peter’s Anglican Church and established his tavern. The King’s Arms was a focal point for the postal service, land and lottery sales, the boarding and stabling of visitors, political meetings (including the first meeting of the Sons of Liberty), and monthly gatherings of the Masonic lodge. Entering into this largely British social setting were younger-generation Dutchmen, such as Leonard Gansevoort. Descended from one of the original Dutch families and having married up into the affluent and polite Cuyler family, Gansevoort was a Dutch Church officer and later a member of the local Committee of Correspondence. The brotherhood also welcomed men like the Scots-Irish immigrant Matthew Watson, who came to Albany in the 1760s, worked as a tailor, and became an elder of the Presbyterian church, and the Boston-born merchant John W. Wendell, who became a member of the Common Council and served as a trustee of the Presbyterian church. Despite the Calvinist convictions of their respective Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian churches, men such as Gansevoort, Watson, and Wendell entered Freemasonry in Albany. The democratizing social practices and benevolent social philosophy of the “polite” society nurtured in the Schuyler home had foreshadowed this mixing together of established British soldiers, Scots-Irish and Yankee immigrants, and the rising generation of Dutch town leaders. In 1768, the members of this newly formed brotherhood, some of whom would play key roles in the Revolutionary War, paraded their importance to the community in a Saint John’s Day march from the King’s Arms to Saint Peter’s Church.96

Though Albany Masons could be found on either side of the emerging revolutionary fervor, together they displayed a heightened civic consciousness. Beginning in 1766 with the violent local reaction to the British imposition of a new tax on newsprint and continuing with the formation of the local Sons of Liberty and the later election of a Committee of Correspondence to the Continental (p.42) Congress, Albany Masons held leadership positions in opposing British rule. Similar to the Masonic constitutions, the constitution of the Sons of Liberty of Albany pledged allegiance to “his most sacred Majesty King George the Third” while reserving the right to democratically elect the group’s officers.97 Prominent Dutch and British Masons, including the young Leonard Gansevoort and the alderman Peter W. Yates, were elected to the Committee of Correspondence. Yates also served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and, after the war, become the town’s most famous anti-Federalist. Members of the local lodges were similarly conspicuous in the leadership of the Albany militia and the town’s Continental Army regiment. Tory sympathizers could also be found among the lodges’ members. They included former British soldiers, whose lives their Masonic brothers on the Albany Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies scrutinized for Loyalist activities, most notably Richard Cartwright, the innkeeper who hosted the first local lodge meetings. He fled to Canada in 1778 after refusing to take a loyalty oath. While the majority of Albany’s Masons supported the American side, most significant here is the active participation of lodge members in debates over the direction of their civil society.98

Polite Christianity

The social history of Albany’s Masons offers one example of Freemasonry’s widespread success in creating common ground across political and religious boundaries among elite white men. By the middle of the eighteenth century, market expansion, population growth, and non-English immigration had intensified political disputes, which the religious divisions that developed following the Great Awakening further exacerbated. Throughout the seaport towns of colonial America, Masonic lodges worked against this factionalism by including in their membership elite men of different backgrounds. One Anglican cleric and Masonic leader said, “When our master christ shall come again to reward his faithful Workmen and Servants; He will not ask whether we were of luther or of calvin? Whether we prayed to him in White, Black, or Grey; in Purple or in Rags; in fine Linen, or in Sackcloth; in a Woollen Frock, or peradventure in a Leather Apron. Whatever is considered as most convenient, most in Character, most in Edification, and infringes least on Spiritual Liberty, will be admitted as good in this Café.”99 Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Anglicans, Catholics, and even Jews, among others, were admitted to Freemasonry.100 Although not all of the elite joined—both the Quakers of Philadelphia and the Puritans of New England were less evident among the brotherhood—no other late-colonial institution, notably political parties and Christian churches, encouraged so many white male political and religious adversaries to find common ground.

Part of the attraction of Freemasonry to the newly cosmopolitan elite was the fraternity’s embrace of Enlightenment ideals of sociability and (p.43) benevolence. Its belief in promoting friendship “among men that otherwise might have remained at perpetual distance” suggested that human beings naturally enjoyed one another’s company because of their innate sentiments—perhaps even a sixth sense—of benevolence, what Shaftesbury called a “moral sense.”101 What mattered most, according to John Locke’s widely read Some Thoughts Concerning Education, was “respect and good will to all people.”102

In setting aside religious differences in favor of “that Religion in which all Men agree,” Masonic thought also resembled the latitudinarian movement in the Anglican Church.103 Influential clerics sought to include a wide range of nonconformists in their fellowship by emphasizing rational religion as a basis of agreement and minimizing the importance of revelation. Missionaries whom the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) sent to America were to begin instructing their charges with the principles of reason and natural religion.104 The common colonial Masonic practice of processing into an Anglican church and listening to a sermon prepared for the occasion suggests a substantial overlap in the Masonic and Anglican world views.

The Church of England was the established church in six of the original thirteen colonies and second only to New England Congregationalism in number of churches through much of the eighteenth century. Anglicans were most heavily concentrated in the populous Chesapeake Bay provinces and the Atlantic coastal towns stretching from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Savannah, Georgia. There the church’s welfare was assured not only by the authority of the crown, parliament, and a long tradition but also by the support of those who found in its broad and generous orthodoxy a religious home that allowed for a society with more culture and tradition than the rest of America afforded at the time. By the middle of the eighteenth century, Anglicanism, the pursuit of knowledge, and religious toleration were commonly linked.

Colonial ministers and adherents of the Church of England believed that God habitually conveys his goodness through the proper order of society and the moral behavior of his people. The missionaries of the SPG and the books distributed by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge spread such values of the moderate English Enlightenment as free will, reasonableness, and correct moral behavior to the colonists. These placed Anglicans at odds with Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, and other Calvinist churches, whose teachings were far less optimistic about human ability and the (p.44) possibilities of individual salvation. Similarly, the Church of England’s embrace of liturgy, sacraments, authority, and correct formulations of dogma resulted in tensions with the simplicity, democracy, and egalitarian spirit of the Quakers, not to mention the enthusiasm and disorder of the First Great Awakening. Obedient to God, king, and the “proper” ordering of church and society, the colonial Church of England provided American colonists with close ties to English culture, customs, and Enlightenment ideals.105

The agreement to worship in Anglican churches and listen to Anglican clerics on Saint John’s Day suggests that many members of the colonial brotherhood were also members of the established church.106 Trinity Church in Boston, Christ Church in Philadelphia, and the other new, grand Anglican churches, with their high steeples, organs, and rich interior decorations, were the favored sites for Masonic services. Samuel Seabury, the first American bishop, and William Smith, a rector of Christ Church, were among the many Anglican Masonic clerics who extolled the virtues of the lodge. Some, such as the Reverend Samuel Howard of Maryland, delivered the Saint John’s Day sermon while serving as a lodge grand master. Others, such as Charles Inglis of New York, never joined a lodge but willingly addressed Masonic audiences.

The Saint John’s Day sermons continued the medieval heritage of divine worship on patron saint’s days and the Anglican custom of the charity sermon. In Britain the charity sermon was a well-established institution by the middle of the eighteenth century. Freemasons and other benevolent organizations set aside a day for these festivities, selected a popular preacher (when one could be induced to undertake the task), and supported the event by assuring a large congregation of members—and a consequently large offering for the poor, the needy, and the sick. The well-known evangelist George Whitefield preached the first American Masonic charity sermon, on June 24, 1738. “I was enabled to read prayers and preach with power before the Freemasons,” he wrote in his diary, “with whom I afterward dined.” Whitefield preached at Solomon’s Lodge at Savannah to raise funds for an orphanage. The earliest printed Masonic sermon was Reverend Charles Brockwell’s Brotherly Love Recommended, delivered at Christ Church, Boston, on the Festival of Saint John the Evangelist in 1749 and published the following year.107 Brockwell, who served as “His Majesty’s Chaplain in Boston,” had been a Mason since 1740 and rose to senior grand warden by 1753.

The fifteen Saint John’s Day sermons published prior to 1780 have a similar structure and content, emphasizing mutual love, charity, and (p.45) the need for virtuous behavior. According to their preachers, the purpose of Freemasonry is to encourage human beings’ innate love for others so that it extends outward in circles of mutual benevolence, transcending divisions, like those of religion, and ultimately including all of humanity. The intention of the society, Rev. Brockwell stated, is “the uniting of men in the stricter bands of love; for men, considered as social creatures, must derive their happiness from each other.” Preaching after the enthusiasms of the Great Awakening, Brockwell cautioned that this love should not grow “hot or cold in our inclinations” but proceed “upon the steady principles of Reason and Religion.”108 Moreover, in contrast with those whose affections diminish according to proximity, extending to family and neighbor but rarely further afield, Freemasons enlarge the operation of their sympathy through mutual bonds. As another orator put it, “Friend, parent, neighbor first it will embrace, / Our country next, and next all human race.”109 Latitudinarian clerics of the seventeenth century also well knew this model of extending social harmony. What distinguished the society of Freemasonry was that it went beyond Christianity in joining all humanity in mutual benevolence. This “blessing of universal love” was especially needed, said the latitudinarian cleric Thomas Pollen of Newport, Rhode Island, to overcome “a monstrous diversity of religious tenets … a furious clashing in worldly interests, and an unchristian enmity between rival families, [that] are rending the very bowels of a society in pieces.”110

Banding together in a brotherhood of cosmopolitan and respected gentlemen, Freemasons presented themselves as a cultivated elite coming together for the common good. Charity flowed from this benevolence and could follow an expansive path. Though the fraternity’s charity was intended particularly for its members, on Saint John’s Days and in times of community distress Masons extended financial aid to those in greatest need. In 1740, the Charleston fraternity gave two hundred and fifty dollars to assist the survivors of a citywide fire; on Saint John’s Day in 1767, a single lodge gave one hundred pounds for the relief of New York City’s poor.111

To differing degrees, all of the Saint John’s Day ministers believed that Freemasonry was a Christian organization. John Rodgers of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, prefaced his remarks by saying that he did not know a great deal about the Masons, yet from what he had read he “presumed” they were Christians. Others, such as Brockwell, saw Jesus as the “Patron of our Society.” Or, as Pollen put it: “This society … (p.46) follows the steps of their master Christ, whose design was in that blessed society himself instituted.”112 The common assumption was that to be a good Mason one must be a good Christian. “For what duties are mentioned in the Gospel, are not adopted in your Book of Constitutions?” argued Zabdiel Adams of Lancaster, Massachusetts. “There you are required to fear God … love the brotherhood, honour all men, and to submit to the government under which you live.”113

Masons demonstrated their commitment to Christianity by carrying Bibles on gilt cushions in their processions and, on occasion, refusing to celebrate the Saint John’s Day festivities without a clergyman present.114 Moreover, virtuous action for Christians and Masons appeared to be one and the same. As “children of the same God, candidates for the same Heaven,” Masons were told that it was their duty to “enlarge the narrowness of men’s understandings, to smooth the roughness of their wills, and to level the unevenness of their passions.”115 Such actions measured their growth in Christ. Nevertheless, what it meant to be a Christian and what it meant to be a Mason was not always clear in colonial society, reflecting not only a confusion in the relationship between moderate Anglicanism and Freemasonry but a larger difficulty in the “polite” society in which both parties participated.

One way of investigating this confusion is to look at the tensions and accommodations between the two kinds of courtesy books that began to appear in colonial libraries and bookshops in the early eighteenth century. These widely read manuals are another indication of the spread of polite society among the elite. Instructions for youth are part of a vast literature in Western civilizations going back to classical times.116 Books on manners and the equally popular books on morals had different origins and intents. Manners books were copies of older English and, before that, French instruction books, which were imbued with instructions for proper behavior in the courts of medieval royalty. Their purpose was to provide instruction in the cultural practices of aristocratic European society.117 The Earl of Chesterfield’s Letters to His Son, one of the first and most popular of these books—published in eighteen American versions prior to 1800—devoted whole chapters to such topics as “the perils of bad enunciation” and “the policy of discreet reserve” as steps in a young man’s minute instruction in proper behavior in polite society. In his book, Chesterfield says little about divine punishment or God as the final judge of bad behavior, rather threatening his son with the hell of exclusion from “what is agreeable and pleasing in society.”118 In contrast, books on morals have a Christian heritage.

(p.47) Richard Allestree’s The Whole Duty of Man, which went through one hundred editions in as many years, is divided into chapters to be read aloud every Sunday.119 It taught young people the virtues associated with a proper Christian upbringing: submission to God, obedience to parents, pure thoughts, continual acts of piety and charity. Acting in a manner pleasing to society and the danger of ridicule for not doing so have no place in it. As Richard Bushman has argued, these two types of guidebooks “stood apart from one another,” leaving the reader to resolve the disparities. In practice, the eighteenth-century elite appear to have created a common moral system from them. At times, as with The School of Good Manners, the two approaches were literally bound together into a single book.120 For the colonial gentry, good manners expressed a Christian regard for the happiness of others. At the same time, as polite Christians, they regulated their piety as carefully as their bodies, to restrain, for example, the emotional excesses of evangelical religion.

In their Saint John’s Day sermons, Anglican clergymen urged this polite model of Christian virtue on the gathered congregations of Freemasons. To them, good breeding entered into the assessment of proper Christian behavior. By cultivating a “courteous, pitiful, and sympathetic temper,” Adams said, you “shall reflect an honour both on your Christian and Masonic profession.” Failure to act in love toward one’s neighbor, another said, was in “contempt of common sense and good breeding” as well as “defiance of the feelings of humanity and the laws of God.” To behave in an “unworthy” manner, Brockwell declared, “casts a reflection” on “the reputation” of not just the individual but the brotherhood as a whole: “People will be very apt to frame their conceptions of it from the conduct and deportment of those who are its members.”121

For the colonial gentleman, to become a Mason was to share in the values and behavior of America’s emerging elite, including a moderate Anglicanism shaped by the courtly manners of polite society. In this period, as affluent people attempted to discipline themselves and their children in the modes of genteel conduct, they divided themselves from all who refused to embrace the new principles. Especially repugnant were those whom Brockwell termed the “vulgar,” who, with their dirty hands, slovenly clothes, and ungainly speech, appeared crude and debauched, a lower order of life. Following the Great Awakening, Brockwell derided the “convulsions into which the whole country is thrown by a set of Enthusiasts … [who] strole about haranguing the admiring Vulgar in extempore nonsense.”122 In contrast to these disruptive (p.48) revivalists, Masonic gentlemen showed polite consideration of their peers and a caring condescension toward their inferiors.

The Religious Public Sphere

One early Masonic encounter with the revivals of what came to be known as the Great Awakening occurred in Charleston, South Carolina.123 On December 27, 1739, that city’s lodge held its annual Saint John’s Day celebration, complete with public processions and an evening of balls and entertainments.124 The following Sunday the itinerant evangelist George Whitefield arrived to conduct several days of preaching. Soon thereafter, he pointedly asked Alexander Garden, the Anglican commissary, if the latter had delivered “his soul by exclaiming against” the pompous “assemblies and balls” held for the entertainment of the town’s upper class. Garden was taken aback by the insubordination of the young Whitefield and admonished him, “Must you come to catechize me?”125 He then tartly told the young preacher that there was “no harm” in these entertainments of polite society, especially when compared with the “Mobb-Preachings, and the Assemblies of his Institution,” where “Men and Women” built “up one another in Conceit of their being righteous” while “damning” the morality of “all others.”126

Over the next several months, in pamphlets and in the pages of the South Carolina Gazette, Charleston Protestants waged a battle over the Great Awakening. Whitefield initiated this debate by challenging Garden to a “public exchange” on the doctrinal validity of the Grand Itinerant’s preaching. As Whitefield put it, “It would be endless to enter into … a private debate,” where each would repeatedly offer his own point of view. Rather, the “publick” should be informed of their positions through “the press.” Then they could let the “World judge” who was right.127 As Frank Lambert has argued, Whitefield’s successful challenge resulted in moving the arena of religious disputes from private conversations among ministers to public, print debates among a literate and increasingly translocal readership.128 In these public debates, Garden in turn demanded Whitefield give reasoned rationales rather than a florid, emotional argument “without sufficient evidence or proof to support it.” The young preacher was too accustomed to using a “jingle of words, not serving to instruct, but to intangle and amuse the minds of the weak and unwary populace.”129 As others dismissed Whitefield as a “Zealot” who “composes not Sermons like a Man of (p.49) Letters,” supporters of the Grand Itinerant came to his defense, arguing that the evangelist’s sermons were “agreeable to the dictates of reason; evidently formed upon scripture; exactly correspondent with the articles of the establishment.”130 Whitefield admitted that in a public debate, his arguments had to be based on reason, even though “what seems a reason to me, may not be deemed so by another.”131 As the debates of the Great Awakening continued through the 1740s, both sides made efforts to frame their arguments in the reasonable, lettered language of polite society. As a result, the religious public sphere that Whitefield helped to create constrained him—and others—by obligating all writers to offer arguments based on reason and objective evidence.

Benjamin Franklin, the printer and Masonic provincial grand master, worked with Whitefield to expand this religious public sphere. Franklin printed more pamphlets for and against the revivals than any other colonial printer, despite the fact that Whitefield’s evangelical revivalism stood at odds with Franklin’s Masonic Christianity.132 An Episcopalian upbringing but little involvement in the Presbyterian church he joined as an adult informed Franklin’s beliefs. His biographers portray him as a moderate Deist, sufficiently religious to propose that a clergymen pray over the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention. “The System of Morals” left to us by Jesus of Nazareth, he told the Yale president Ezra Stiles, was “the best the world ever saw or was likely to see.” Yet Franklin also believed that the Christian moral system had become “corrupted.” Moreover, with regard to Jesus, Franklin had “some Doubts as to his divinity.”133 In contrast to the Philadelphia printer’s lax church attendance and moderate Deism, his Masonic career, which spanned a period of almost sixty years, was extensive. Inducted into Saint John’s Lodge of Philadelphia in 1731, he was elected lodge secretary, junior grand warden, provincial deputy grand master, and grand master of Pennsylvania in his years as a Mason. In 1734, Franklin published the first American edition of James Anderson’s Constitutions. His newspaper frequently included Masonic items. In 1755, Franklin prominently participated in the dedication of Freemason’s Lodge, the first Masonic building in America.134 While serving as an American representative to France in the 1760s, the printer-turned-diplomat became deeply involved in the learned Masonic society known as the Lodge of Nine Sisters.135 This consistent, long-term involvement with the fraternity at least suggests Franklin’s acceptance of Freemasonry’s universal moral teachings. In a 1738 letter to his mother, he defends the fraternity as having “no principles or practices that are inconsistent with religion (p.50) and good manners.”136 Though Franklin and Whitefield stood apart in their religious perspectives, both believed in settling religious disagreements in a public forum, where thinking men would decide the truth of writers’ rational arguments.137

The men attracted to Freemasonry in the midcentury First Great Awakening encouraged the rational communication of the emerging public sphere. These included the printers who, with Franklin, inaugurated the first newspapers in Charleston and Boston. In 1731, Franklin sent his lodge brother and printing apprentice Thomas Whitehurst from Philadelphia to Charleston with a printing press, which soon published the South Carolina Gazette.138 In that same year the Harvard-educated printer and eventual provincial grand master Jeremy Gridley founded Boston’s Weekly Rehearsal. The past grand master Isaiah Thomas states in his History of Printing (1810) that the Weekly Rehearsal “was carried on at the expense of some gentlemen who formed themselves into a political or literary club and wrote for it. At the head of this club was the late celebrated Jeremy Gridley, who was the real editor of the paper.”139 In the 1730s, the printer and Mason Thomas Fleet began publishing the Boston Gazette, which soon carried Masonic news items. In 1739, it ran a defense of Freemasonry that underscored the fraternity’s vital role in the “Search after Truth” through the communication of knowledge. “By exercising our Tho’ts, and by … communicating to our Fellow Creatures we afford them Aid in their Search after Truth…. Let every Lover of Reason … stir himself up, and put forth all his Powers for setting up such Societies for the investing the Mind with Learning and true Knowledge.”140 In the seven short years after the formal establishment of Freemasonry in colonial America, several hundred men in the new lodges of Philadelphia, Boston, Charleston, and New York joined these first colonial printers. Many were in the forefront of colonial efforts to establish institutions of higher learning. They included the Harvard-educated Massachusetts governor Jonathan Belcher, who founded Princeton University; the original members and early trustees of the University of Pennsylvania; the first president of the American Philosophical Society; and the organizers of the Philadelphia Library Company. These were men not unlike Gridley, whose “extensive Acquaintance with Classical and almost every other part of Literature, gave him the first Rank among Men of Learning.”141 Within a religious discourse that embraced rational communication as the basis for moral behavior and the ordering of society, the colonial fraternity taught men how to create a society based on Enlightenment principles. As the public (p.51) sphere rapidly expanded in the 1760s, these habits came to characterize the civic workings of the emerging American society.

“Mysteries and Hieroglyphicks”

Despite Freemasonry’s contributions to colonial society, some continued to question whether it really was Christian. The Reverend John Rodgers pointed to the “strong prejudices … against your fraternity” that were “charged to the … excesses [of intemperance and profanity] said to be committed” at lodge meetings. He went on to say that there are “those among you, who indulge yourselves in the habitual neglect of the known and great duties of religion.”142 Others worried over the Masons’ adulteration of the Gospel with “foreign mixtures.”143 Zabdiel Adams said, “The very notion of your dealing in mysteries and hieroglyphicks is enough to raise cruel suspicions in many persons.”144 These suspicions were warranted.

On June 24, 1734, for example, the Reverend Charles Brockwell argued that not only did Freemasonry predate Christianity but the Christian story veiled Freemasonry’s deeper meaning. He began his oration by informing the members of Boston’s Saint John’s Lodge that Saint Paul was a Mason. This fact, he argued, was clear to the brotherhood but not to “the learned … interpreters of Scripture” who were not Masons and therefore “could not possibly conceive the apostle’s true meaning.” In Corinthians, for example, when Paul mentions his experiences “in the Body or out of the Body” and of the “third heaven or paradise,” he is speaking elliptically about the Masonic degree ceremonies. Rather than reveal the deeper Masonic secrets to outsiders, Brockwell asserted, Paul spoke to his fellow Masons in code through the Christian story. This hidden language of Masonry, moreover, “remain’d unaffected and Intire” when “God confounded the common language of mankind, at the Building of Babel.” This is “a language which none but Masons are capable of learning, a happiness which none but Brethren are capable of enjoying.”145

Most Saint John’s sermons stressed polite Christianity, yet Brockwell’s oration suggests a divergence between it and Freemasonry. Though few outsiders seemed concerned about this at the time, the fraternity had not only its own myth of origin but also its own calendar, which marked time from the creation of the world rather than Christ’s birth. Lodge minutes were dated 5750 rather than 1750, for example, to mark the imagined date, four thousand years prior to Christianity, (p.52) when the world began.146 Secret words, symbols, and rituals enshrouded the lodge in an aura of mystery. The three rituals of initiation—Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason—had little to do with Christianity and continued to be the primary business of lodge meetings. “Working the craft” through these rites gave the assembled brotherhood a common experience that deepened their commitment to one another and to the fraternity’s ideals but perhaps not to the Christian Church. Margaret C. Jacob has suggested that the apparent contradiction between the fraternity’s enlightened Christianity and the emphasis it placed on its pre-Christian past might best be seen as evidence that it was “living” the rise of Enlightenment thought and practice in the colonial religious world. In her view, these heterogenous elements indicate the less than straightforward manner in which Freemasonry, and for that matter the whole of society, became modern.147

By the late eighteenth century, such heterodoxy was more the exception than the rule in the American religious landscape. As David D. Hall has demonstrated, in the seventeenth century, European immigrants lived in a broader, older “world of wonder,” laced with the debris of other systems of thought, some older than Christianity. Witchcraft, apparitions, other unearthly phenomena, and supernatural explanations of natural occurrences such as comets, hailstorms, earthquakes, sudden deaths, and monster births pervaded colonial culture.148 By the beginning of the eighteenth century, this expansive, eclectic early modern view began to give way, especially in the upper classes, to denominational institutions that worked to expand their reach in colonial society while separating Christianity from other magical beliefs and practices.149 The trend toward social consolidation, Patricia U. Bonomi has shown, resulted everywhere in the emergence of religious organizations “as significant centers of stability and influence” and in the enhancement of religious authority.150 The number of churches in the seven largest Protestant denominations increased more than sevenfold between 1700 and 1780, resulting in a widespread sacralization of the colonial landscape.151 Amid this growing Christian consolidation, pluralism, eclectic beliefs, and occult practices persisted.

Given the complexity of the eighteenth-century religious world, it is not clear what hold the rituals and beliefs of the lodge had on colonial Masons. Following the Revolution, a number of new religions did emerge that claimed Masonic origins. As early as 1788, a society of Druids formed within one Masonic lodge by rejecting all forms of Christianity and embracing the sun worship of the ancient Druids.152 (p.53) Later on, the Mormons appropriated Masonic elements.153 Yet it was not until the early nineteenth century that Masonic ritual life in either England or America was standardized. As one Masonic historian wrote, “The ritual was in a more or less fluid condition during this period.”154 In Boston, for example, it was common for members to complete only one or two of the three degree rituals.155 After examining the minutes of several colonial lodges, another Masonic historian concluded that “the ceremonies were brief and possibly not overly impressive.”156 For colonial brothers, consistent procedures and meaningful ceremonies appear to have been less significant than the members’ participation in polite society.

On the eve of the American Revolution, Catalina Schuyler, the doyenne of Albany’s polite society, was increasingly melancholy. Her hopes of a “golden age” in her country now “grew weaker.” Though she shared in the joy of the community on the repeal of the Stamp Act, she noted that this action “produced little gratitude” toward the British authorities. She was chagrined over the behavior of the town’s young people, who had “abandoned their wonted sports” and instead “amuse[d] themselves with breaking the windows and destroying the furniture of … suspected … stamp-masters.” Even more disruptive of her mannered world was the decline in “polite” visits to her home by the provincial gentry, who were now “succeeded by Obadiah or Zephaniah, from Hampshire or Connecticut, who came in without knocking; sat down without invitation; and lighted their pipe without ceremony; then talked of buying land.”157 Because Mrs. Schuyler firmly believed that “increase of wealth should be accompanied with a proportionate progress in refinement and intelligence,” she refused her table to these “petulant upstarts.” As the revolution approached, she saw “nothing on all hands but a choice of evils.”158

By the 1760s, an expanding public sphere characterized by rational communication carried on in print had eclipsed America’s colonial polite society. Balls, plays, and other entertainments now gave way to republican discipline. Private meetings in elegant homes and taverns became less frequent than public gatherings that brought together a broad expanse of the rising generation who would lead the coming war effort. The new print media engaged a progressively larger and more literate population in public dialogue on momentous questions concerning the future of the social order.159 Though some, such as Catalina Schuyler, believed that (p.54) the colonists “had not cohesion nor subordination enough among them to form, or to submit to any salutary plan of government,” others, such as the Freemasons who joined the Albany Committee of Correspondence, created republican organizations devoted to the war effort.160 Masons could be found on both sides of the war question, but all came from an organization that encouraged a new civic awareness. In the revolutionary period, growing numbers of ambitious and politically active men entered the fraternity and worked to identify it with the men and ideals of the newly emerging American society. For many brothers, the order’s old ideals of tolerance and benevolence provided a vision for the new American society. At the same time, new emphases on republican values, morality, education, and Christianity became hallmarks of a once again transformed fraternity.


(1) . South Carolina Gazette, December 28, 1738, reproduced in Albert Gallatin Mackey, The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina, from Its Origins in the Year 1736 to the Present Time … (Columbia: South Carolinian Steam Power Press, 1861; repr., Columbia, Walter, Evans, and Cogswell, 1936), 15.

(2) . New York Mercury, December 31, 1753, reproduced in Jacob Hugo Tatsch, Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies (New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply, 1929), 66–67.

(3) . Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), June 20, 1755, reproduced in Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, Bi-centenary of the Birth of Right Worshipful Past Grand Master Brother Benjamin Franklin (Philadelphia: Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1906), 141–46. Descriptions of similar eighteenth-century Masonic processions can be found in the early lodge histories. See, for example, Edward T. Schultz, History of Freemasonry in Maryland …, vol. 1 (Baltimore: J. H. Medairy, 1884); Mackey, History of Freemasonry in South Carolina; Melvin Maynard Johnson, The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America (New York: George H. Doran, 1924).

(4) . South Carolina Gazette, quoted in Tatsch, Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies, 86 (December 29, 1737), 89 (December 28, 1738). The latter also appears in Mackey, History of Freemasonry in South Carolina, 15.

(5) . James Anderson, The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (1723), reprint of Anderson’s book by Benjamin Franklin (1734; repr., Bloomington, IL: Masonic Book Club, 1971), 68. Hereafter cited as Constitutions (1723).

(6) . T. O. Haunch, “The Formation, 1717–1751,” in Grand Lodge, 1717–1967, (Oxford: United Grand Lodge of England, 1967), 80.

(7) . Peter Clark and Paul Slack, English Towns in Transition, 1500–1700 (London: Oxford University Press, 1976), 131; E. P. Thompson, “Patrician Society, Plebeian Culture,” Journal of Social History 7 (1973–74): 389. See also Steven C. Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730–1840 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 55.

(8) . Gary Nash, “Social Development,” in Colonial British America: Essays in the New History of the Early Modern Era, ed. Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 247.

(9) . Jack P. Greene, Pursuits of Happiness: The Social Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 170–206. See also T. H. Breen, “‘Baubles of Britain’: The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century,” in Of Consuming Interests: The Style of Life in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Cary Carson, Ronald Hoffman, and Peter J. Albert (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994), 444–82; Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690–1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 467–99; Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).

(10) . John M. Murrin first investigated the concept of Anglicization in his dissertation’s description of eighteenth-century institutional changes in Massachusetts: (p.235) “Anglicizing an American Colony: The Transformation of Provincial Massachusetts” (PhD diss., Yale University, 1966).

(11) . John Lane, Masonic Records 1717–1894:Being the Lists of All the Lodges at Home and Abroad Warranted by the Four Grand Lodges and the United Grand Lodge of England, 2nd ed. (London: Freemasons’ Hall, 1895). Although this book focuses on the United States, Freemasonry was part of a larger world of cultural exchange between and among peoples connected by the Atlantic Ocean. As Jessica Harland-Jacobs has demonstrated, the fraternity’s global network facilitated the growth and cohesion of the British Empire. Harland-Jacobs, Builders of Empire: Freemasonry and British Imperialism, 1717–1927 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007).

(12) . This estimate is based on Martin Huss’s statistics that show fifty as the average number of members in Pennsylvania’s nineteen colonial lodges. Huss, The Master Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Grand Lodge, 1986), 286, 291. In 1783, Saint John’s Lodge in Boston suggested that the membership of a lodge not exceed forty, officers included. History of St. John’s Lodge of Boston (Boston: privately printed, 1917), 69. The colonies had 1,462 churches in 1750. Edwin Scott Gaustad and Philip L. Barlow, New Historical Atlas of Religion in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 399. So in 1770 there was likely no more than one lodge for every fifteen churches.

(13) . Steven C. Bullock, “The Revolutionary Transformation of American Freemasonry, 1752–1792,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 47, no. 3 (July 1990): 355–57. See also Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood, 59–63.

(14) . Richard Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (New York: Random House, 1992), 3–203.

(15) . David S. Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), xiv–xxxi.

(16) . Douglas Knoop and G. P. Jones, A Short History of Freemasonry to 1730 (Manchester, U. K.: Manchester University Press, 1940), 61–73.

(17) . Dudley Wright, ed., Gould’s History of Freemasonry throughout the World, 6 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936), 1:262. Enlightenment meant different things to different people in England, from those most sympathetic to traditional religion to those who took a more rational, scientific approach. Beyond the “scientific” members of the Royal Society, English Freemasons had a variety of religious perspectives. For a discussion of religion and the English Enlightenment, see Peter Harrison, “Religion” and the Religions in the English Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

(18) . In their history of early Freemasonry in England, Knoop and Jones observe that the first mention of a mason’s lodge occurs in a 1278 record of Vale Royal Abbey. Lodges probably existed much earlier, “for without them it is difficult to see how a church, abbey, castle of any size and pretension to ornament could have been erected” (Short History, 11–12).

(19) . The several possible meanings of free for Masons include references to freestone, a building material found in Scotland, and freedom from feudal serfdom. The term might also have referred to liberality (as in the seven liberal arts). See Wright, Gould’s History, 1:249–58; David Stevenson, The Origins of (p.236) Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century, 1590–1710 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 11; Douglas Knoop and G. P. Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry: An Account of the Rise and Development of Freemasonry in Its Operative, Accepted, and Early Speculative Phases (Manchester, U. K.: Manchester University Press, 1947), 10–15. For changing meanings of the term in later Freemasonry, see Bernard E. Jones, “‘Free’ in ‘Freemason’ and the Idea of Freedom through Six Centuries,” in The Collected Prestonian Lectures, 1925–1960, ed. Harry Carr, vol. 1 (London: Lewis Masonic, 1983), 363–76.

(20) . Knoop and Jones, Short History, 23–26; Wright, Gould’s History, 1:221–58. See also Henry Wilson Coil, Freemasonry through Six Centuries, vol. 1 (Richmond, VA: Macoy, 1967), 17–118.

(21) . Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, 43; Thomas Paine, “Origin of Freemasonry,” in The Life and Works of Thomas Paine, ed. William M. Van der Weyde, 10 vols. (New Rochelle, NY: Thomas Paine National Historical Association, 1925), 9:179; Alex Horne, “The Saints John in the Masonic Tradition,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 75 (1962): 76–123; Jacob Norton, “The Two Saints John Legends,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 8 (1894): 135–36.

(22) . Knoop and Jones, Short History, 37.

(23) . Ibid., 2–38. Dating from the fifteen through the seventeenth centuries, more than one hundred of these Old Charges or Old Constitutions are known to exist. Though no two are alike, there is substantial agreement among them. Knoop and Jones review and compare their contents in Genesis of Freemasonry, 8–9, 62–86. See also “The Old Charges of British Freemasons,” in Wright, Gould’s History, 1:24–63.

(24) . This synopsis is taken from the seventeenth-century Buchanan MS. See Wright, Gould’s History, 1:55–60. See also Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, 19–21.

(25) . See Harry Carr, “600 Years of Craft Ritual,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 81 (1968): 153–205.

(26) . Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, 135–38; Douglas Knoop and G. P. Jones, The Early Masonic Catechisms (Manchester, U. K.: Manchester University Press, 1943).

(27) . For the derivation of the term lodge, see Knoop and Jones, Genesis of Freemasonry, 37–38.

(28) . Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, 149. See also Harry Carr, “An Examination of the Early Masonic Catechisms,” series of articles in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 83 (1970): 337–57; 84 (1971): 293–307; 85 (1972): 331–48.

(29) . Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, 136.

(30) . Ibid., 120. On the far-reaching religious effects of the Reformation, see Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Scribner, 1971), 88.

(31) . Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, 121–23. See also Michael Lynch, Edinburgh and the Reformation (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1981), 28–29; J. J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984) 20–34; R. Lamond, “The Scottish Craft Guild as a Religious Fraternity,” Scottish Historical Review 16 (1918–19): 191–211.

(32) . Secrecy itself may have been the motive, following Georg Simmel’s belief that people value more the knowledge that is kept hidden. See Simmel, “The (p.237) Secret and the Secret Society,” in The Sociology of Georg Simmel, ed. Kurt H. Wolff (New York: Free Press, 1950), 355–56.

(33) . John L. Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire: The Makings of Mormon Cosmology, 1644–1844 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 8–10, 18–19.

(34) . In the 1960s, Frances Yates, a historian of hermeticism and a biographer of Bruno, hypothesized the existence of this link between hermeticism and Freemasonry. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 274. David Stevenson suggests this link came through Schaw’s contact with Bruno. Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, 85.

(35) . Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, 22, 196–205.

(36) . Margaret C. Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons, and Republicans (London: Allen and Unwin, 1981), 116–17; Wright, Gould’s History, 1:272, 334; Stevenson, Origins of Freemasonry, 219–23.

(37) . Knoop and Jones, Genesis of Freemasonry, 108–128.

(38) . Jacob, Radical Enlightenment, 114–15; Jacob, The Origins of Freemasonry (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 13–25.

(39) . Michael Spurr, “William Stukeley: Antiquarian and Freemason,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 100 (1987): 113–30. Stukeley was one of the most important interpreters of Britain’s Druidic heritage. See Stuart Piggott, William Stukeley: An Eighteenth-Century Antiquary, rev. ed. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1985); Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood, 9–10, 18–19.

(40) . William Stukeley, Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life, ed. A. Hastings White (London: Taylor and Francis, 1936), viii, 4.

(41) . For discussions of Newton and ancient wisdom, see James Gleick, Isaac Newton (New York: Pantheon Books, 2003); John T. Young, “Isaac Newton’s Alchemical Notes in the Royal Society,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 60, no. 1 (January 22, 2006): 25–34; Piyo Rattansi, “Newton and the Wisdom of the Ancients,” in Let Newton Be!, ed. John Fauvel, Raymond Flood, Michael Shortland, and Robin Wilson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 185–202.

(42) . Dan Edelstein, “Introduction to the Super-Enlightenment,” and David Bates, “Super-epistemology,” in The Super-Enlightenment: Daring to Know Too Much, ed. Edelstein (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2010), 1–33, 53–74. On occult knowledge in the eighteenth century, see W. R. Ward, Early Evangelicalism: A Global History, 1670–1789 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). On the persistence of occult practices within the American Enlightenment, see Herbert Leventhal, In the Shadow of the Enlightenment: Occultism and Renaissance Science in Eighteenth-Century America (New York: New York University Press, 1976). Investigating the broader arena from which Enlightenment thought emerged, Leigh Eric Schmidt has creatively explored how religious sounds and the controversies surrounding them were understood during and after the American Enlightenment. Schmidt, Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000). Similarly, Ann Taves has insightfully described how modern thinkers came to understand involuntary religious experiences. Taves, Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).

(43) . (p.238) Samuel Smiles, The Huguenots: Their Settlements, Churches, and Industries in England and Ireland (London: Murray, 1867), 292–94; Jacob, Radical Enlightenment, 100–37.

(44) . Peter Clarke, British Clubs and Societies 1580–1800: The Origins of an Associational World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Roy Porter, English Society in the Eighteenth Century, rev. ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1990).

(45) . Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London: Andrew Cooke, 1651). For a discussion of these changes, see Keith Wrightson, English Society, 1580–1680 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1982).

(46) . David Zaret, Origins of Democratic Culture: Printing, Petitions, and the Public Sphere in Early-Modern England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).

(47) . Anthony Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (London, 1711). For a general discussion, see Stephen L. Darwall, The British Moralists and the Internal “Ought,” 1640–1740 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

(48) . On ceremonial behavior in the royal court, see Norbert Elias, The Court Society, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983).

(49) . Anthony Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury, treatise 2, “Sensus communis: An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour—in a Letter to a Friend,” in his Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, 64–76, 98, 122.

(50) . Peter Earle discusses the momentous changes that this social cohort experienced in his The Making of the English Middle Class:Business, Society, and Family Life in London, 1660–1730 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).

(51) . Constitutions (1723), 48, 49.

(52) . James Anderson, The New Book of Constitutions of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons… (London, 1738), 111. Hereafter Constitutions (1738).

(53) . Constitutions (1723), 59.

(54) . Ibid., 78, 25.

(55) . Ibid., 35–43.

(56) . Ibid., 48.

(57) . Latitudinarianism was a moderate political and religious tendency in the Church of England that employed Newton’s writings to provide scientific validation for a model of religion and society midway between those advocated by Catholicism and religious indifference or atheism. Among many secondary treatments, see especially Martin I. J. Griffin, Latitudinarianism in the Seventeenth Century Church of England (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1992).

(58) . David Stevenson’s explanation for this apparent anomaly is that while working as a Mason, Anderson “was acting in his professional capacity” and so reflecting the position of his fellow Freemasons in putting his more personal “argumentsaside.” Stevenson, “James Anderson: Man and Mason,” Heredom 10 (2002): 93–138. Per Jürgen Habermas’s description of the formation of the public sphere, this is an instance of setting aside narrow positions to forge common ground. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: (p.239) An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger, with the assistance of Frederick Lawrence, from the 1962 German original (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989), 36.

(59) . Constitutions (1723), 48.

(60) . Jacob Katz, Jews and Freemasons in Europe, 1723–1939 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 13–15, 198–99.

(61) . Buchanan MS. (1670), quoted in Wright, Gould’s History, 1:59.

(62) . Constitutions (1723), 48.

(63) . For a discussion of the politics of this period, see Gary Stuart De Krey, A Fractured Society: The Politics of London in the First Age of Party, 1688–1715 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985).

(64) . Margaret C. Jacob, Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 46.

(65) . For an insightful discussion of these private clubs and countercultural activities, see David S. Shields, “Anglo-American Clubs: Their Wit, Their Heterodoxy, Their Sedition,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 51, no. 2 (April 1994): 293–304. See also Jacob, Living the Enlightenment, 23–51.

(66) . Wright, Gould’s History, 4:279–374.

(67) . Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters.

(68) . Michael Warner, The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990); David W. Conroy, In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); David S. Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters. See also Shields, Oracles of Empire: Poetry, Politics, and Commerce in British America, 1690–1750 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).

(69) . As John L. Brooke has commented, “Whether this [i.e., public mingling of religious and secular ideas] constituted a coherent ‘Habermasian public sphere’ may be debated. But it did slowly construct the ground of a civil secular discourse running in parallel and intermingled with the religious.”Brooke, “Consent, Civil Society, and the Public Sphere in the Age of Revolution and the Early American Republic,” in Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic, ed. Jeffrey L. Pasley, Andrew W. Robertson, and David Waldstreicher (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 231.

(70) . Even for seventeenth-century England, as David Zaret has pointed out, Habermas’s formulation “glosses over the relevance of religion for the emergence of the public sphere in politics at a time when religious discourse was a, if not the, predominant means by which individuals defined and debated issues in this sphere.” Zaret, “Religion, Science, and Printing in the Public Spheres in Seventeenth-Century England,” in Habermas and the Public Sphere, ed. Craig Calhoun (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992), 213. See also William J. Meyer, “Private Faith or Public Religion: An Assessment of Habermas’s Changing View of Religion,” Journal of Religion, 75, no. 3 (July 1995): 371–91. On Habermas and public theology, see Don S. Browning and Francis Schussler Fiorenza, eds., Habermas, Modernity, and Public Theology (New York: Crossroads, 1992); Nicholas Adams, Habermas and Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

(71) . (p.240) David Hall, “Religion and Society: Problems and Reconsiderations,” in Colonial British America: Essays in the New History of the Early Modern Era, ed. Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 327.

(72) . On the historiography of eighteenth-century religion, see Charles L. Cohen, “The Post-Puritan Paradigm of Early American Religious History,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 54, no. 4 (October 1997): 695–722.

(73) . David D. Hall, introduction to The Colonial Book in the Atlantic, ed. Hugh Amory and Hall, vol. 1 of A History of the Book in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 10.

(74) . Timothy H. Breen, “Retrieving Common Sense: Rights, Liberties, and the Religious Public Sphere in Late Eighteenth Century America,” in To Secure the Blessings of Liberty: Rights in American History, ed. Josephine E. Pacheno (Fairfax, VA: George Mason University Press, 1993), 60.

(75) . Frank Lambert, Pedlar in Divinity: George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals, 1737–1770 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).

(76) . On changing forms of religious communication, see Harry S. Stout, “Religion, Communications, and the Ideological Origins of the American Revolution,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 34, no. 2 (September 1977): 519–41.

(77) . John Caldwell, “The Nature, Folly, and Evil of Rash and Uncharitable Judging: A Sermon Preached at the French Meeting-House in Boston, New England, July the 11th, 1742,” in The Great Awakening: Documents on the Revival of Religion, 1740–1745, ed. Richard L. Bushman (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969), 160.

(78) . Timothy H. Breen and Timothy Hall, “Structuring Provincial Imagination: The Rhetoric and Experience of Social Change in Eighteenth-Century New England,” American Historical Review 103 (1998): 1411–39.

(79) . Gary B. Nash, The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), vii.

(80) . Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters, xii–xxxii.

(81) . History of St. John’s Lodge, 16. On upscale tavern life in colonial America, see Bushman, Refinement of America, 163–64. Steven Bullock’s analysis has influenced my discussion of Freemasonry and elite colonial society. See Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood, 50–82.

(82) . Charge VI, “Concerning Masons’ Behavior,” Constitutions (1738). Instances of possible infractions are scattered through the Masonic records. See, for example, History of St. John’s Lodge; Schultz, History of Freemasonry in Maryland; Charles T. McClenachan, History of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in New York …, 4 vols. (New York: Grand Lodge, 1888–94). As an institution in polite society, the fraternity was concerned with individual behavior but even more so with the lodge’s public reputation. Members were instructed to work out all squabbles between themselves within the brotherhood and to defend one another’s character outside the lodge, “that we may shew to all the world the benign influence of Masonry.” Charge VII, “Concerning Lawsuits,” Constitutions (1738).


(83) . Darrett Rutman first proposed this vertical-horizontal distinction, in “The Social Web: A Prospectus for the Study of the Early American Community,” in Insights and Parallels: Problems and Issues of America Social History, ed. William L. O’Neill (Minneapolis:Burgess, 1973), 57–88.

(84) . Anne Grant, Memoirs of an American Lady: With Sketches of Manners and Scenes in America (Albany, NY: Joel Munsell, 1876), 32.

(85) . Ibid. In the 1760s, Grant spent her adolescence with the Schuyler family, while her British officer father moved among colonial military forts. Forty years later, as an established Scottish author, she penned her memories of Albany. Though historians have frequently employed her memoir to describe the quaint ways of the colonists, its larger framework of lament for the lost innocence of colonial America has only recently been explored. See Pamela Ann Perkins, “Paradises Lost: Anne Grant and Late Eighteenth-Century Idealizations of America,” Early American Literature 40, no. 2 (2005): 315–40. For a social history of colonial Albany, see David G. Hackett, The Rude Hand of Innovation: Religion and Social Order in Albany, New York, 1652–1836 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 3–55.

(86) . Grant, Memoirs, 49, 73–75, 45.

(87) . Hackett, Rude Hand of Innovation, 3–55.

(88) . Grant, Memoirs, 44.

(89) . Ibid., 47, 108, 47, 109, 134.

(90) . Ibid., 164, 174, 171, 175, 172.

(91) . Alexander Hamilton, Gentleman’s Progress: The Itinerarium of Dr. Alexander Hamilton, 1744, ed. Carl Bridenbaugh (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1948), 63. On Hamilton’s involvement in Freemasonry, see Robert Micklus, “The Secret Fall of Freemasonry in Dr. Alexander Hamilton’s The History of the Tuesday Club,” in Deism, Masonry and the Enlightenment, ed. J. A. Leo Lemay (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1987), 127–36. A leading proponent of colonial polite society, Hamilton employed wit and candor in making fun of political and religious authorities in his The History of the Ancient and Honorable Tuesday Club (repr., ed. Robert Micklus, 3 vols. [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990]).

(92) . Joseph F. Meany Jr., “Merchant and Redcoat: The Papers of John Gordon Macomb, April 1757–1760” (PhD diss., Fordham University, 1990), 49–150.

(93) . Grant, Memoirs, 192–200.

(94) . Hackett, Rude Hand of Innovation, 33.

(95) . McClenachan, History of Masons in New York, 1:151–83; “Manuscript Minutes of Master’s Lodge, Albany 1768–1807,” Albany Grand Lodge.

(96) . See “Masonic Lodge” and (s.v. “Biographies”) “Cartwright, Richard,” “Gansevoort, Leonard,” and “Wendell, John W.” at the Albany Social History project, www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/pcalhindex.html www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/pcalhindex.html.

(97) . “Constitution of the Sons of Liberty of Albany” (includes the names of its signers), American Historian and Quarterly Genealogical Record 1 (1875): 145–46.

(98) . See Hackett, Rude Hand of Innovation, 49–52; relevant entries on the Albany Social History project website, www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/pcalhindex.html www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/pcalhindex.html.

(p.242) (99) . William Smith, Ahiman Rezon … to Which Is Added a Sermon Preached in Christ-Church, Philadelphia … (Philadelphia: Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1778).

(100) . Evidence of the denominational allegiance of prominent Masons is scattered throughout the major proceedings and histories of the regional lodges. For an extended look at the membership of Philadelphia’s original Saint John’s Lodge, see Julius F. Sachse, Old Masonic Lodges of Pennsylvania, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1912), 29–49. As early as the 1730s, Jews were admitted to Freemasonry in both England and America. In Newport, Rhode Island, Jews from Portugal and the Caribbean formed a large portion of the membership. Bernard Kusinitz, “Masonry and the Colonial Jews of New port,” Rhode Island Jewish Historical Notes 9 (November 1984): 180–84. On Jews in colonial America, see Eli Faber, A Time for Planting: The First Migration, 1654–1820 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992). For Jews in English Freemasonry, see John M. Shaftesley, “Jews in English Freemasonry in the 18th and 19th Centuries,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 92 (1979): 25–63. For an extended discussion, see ch. 8.

(101) . Constitutions (1723), 48; Anthony Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury, “An Inquiry Concerning Virtue, or Merit,” in British Moralists, 1650–1800, ed. D. D. Raphael, vol. 1 (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991), 6–63.

(102) . John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1902), 43.

(103) . Robert W. Prichard, A History of the Episcopal Church (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1991), 34–35.

(104) . John Frederick Woolverton, Colonial Anglicanism in North America (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1984), 13–35, 189–206.

(105) . Richardson Wright, “The American Masonic Sermon,” Transactions of the American Lodge of Research 3 (1937): 214–15. This article discusses and provides a bibliography of printed Masonic sermons from 1750 to 1828.

(106) . Ibid., 209–15.

(107) . Charles Brockwell, Brotherly Love Recommended: In a Sermon Preached before the Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, in Christ-Church, Boston … (Boston: John Draper, 1750)

(108) . Ibid., 10–14.

(109) . Simeon Howard, A Sermon on Brotherly Love: Preached at the Old Brick Meeting-House in Boston … (Boston: Brother Thomas Fleet, 1779), 13.

(110) . Thomas Pollen, Universal Love: A Sermon Preached in Trinity-Church, at Newport, in Rhode Island, before the Right Worshipful Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons… (Boston: Green and Russell, 1758), 13. Margaret Jacob’s analysis of Masonic European and American pocket diaries of the late eighteenth century similarly identifies this movement away from specific religious content and toward Enlightenment themes. Jacob, Origins of Freemasonry, 26–46.

(112) . John Rodgers, Holiness the Nature and Design of the Gospel of Christ: A Sermon Preached at Stockbridge … before the Lodge of Free and Accepted (p.243) Masons… (Hartford, CT: Hudson and Goodwin, 1780), vi; Brockwell, Brotherly Love Recommended, 10; Pollen, Universal Love, 15.

(113) . Zabdiel Adams, Brotherly Love and Compassion, Described and Recommended in a Sermon Preached before a Society of the Most Ancient and Honourable Free and Accepted Masons in Lancaster, New England … (Worcester, MA: Isaiah Thomas, 1778), 24–25.

(115) . Brockwell, Brotherly Love Recommended, 14; Pollen, Universal Love, 16.

(116) . Norbert Elias, The History of Manners (New York: Pantheon, 1978).

(117) . On courtesy books, see John Edward Mason, Gentlefolk in the Making; Studies in the History of English Courtesy Literature and Related Topics from 1531 to 1774 (New York: Octagon, 1971).

(118) . Earl of Chesterfield, Letters to His Son: On the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman, vol. 1 (New York: Chesterfield, 1917), 2.

(119) . Richard Allestree, The Whole Duty of Man:Laid Down in a Plain and Familiar Way for the Use of All, but Especially the Meanest Reader; Divided into Seventeen Chapters, One Whereof Being Read Every Lord’s Day, the Whole May Be Read over Thrise in the Year … (London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden, and Welsh, 1657).

(120) . Bushman, Refinement of America, 59–60.

(121) . Z. Adams, Brotherly Love and Compassion, 12, 27; Howard, Sermon on Brotherly Love, 17; Brockwell, Brotherly Love Recommended, 15–21.

(122) . Charles Brockwell to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, February 8, 1742, reproduced in Historical Collections Relating to the American Colonial Church, ed. William Stevens Perry, 5 vols. (New York: AMS Press, 1969) 3:353–57.

(123) . On the First Great Awakening see Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007) and most recently Catherine A. Brekus, Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013).

(125) . In the ensuing months, Garden’s supporters accused Whitefield of, e.g., “Pride and Insolence very unbecoming an unexperienced Youth to a wise Superior.” “A Member of the Church of England,” South Carolina Gazette, July 5, 1740.

(126) . George Whitefield’s Journals (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1960), 401; Alexander Garden, Take Heed How Ye Hear … (Charlestown, SC, 1741), 17–20.

(127) . Whitefield to Garden, March 13, 1739, in Alexander Garden, Six Letters to the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, 2nd ed. (Boston: T. Fleet, 1740), 6–7.

(128) . Lambert, Pedlar in Divinity, 169–71.

(129) . Garden, Six Letters, 8, 33.

(130) . Letter from “Arminius,” South Carolina Gazette, January 26, 1740; George Whitefield, Eight Sermons… to Which Is Prefixed, Mr. Joseph [sic for Josiah] Smith’s Sermon, on the Character, Preaching, etc., of the Reverend Mr. George Whitefield (Glasgow: Paisley, 1741), 12. Turning the table son Whitefield’s (p.244) accusers, Smith reminded his readers that while Whitefield clearly affirmed the teachings of Scripture, others believed that “Faith is a Word of great Latitude, and has various Significations affix’d to it in Scripture and can be determin’d to no precise sense but from the Subject and Scope of the Writer.” Smith, reply to “Arminius,” South Carolina Gazette, February 23, 1740.

(131) . Whitefield’s Journals, 97.

(132) . Frank Lambert, “Subscribing for Profits and Piety: The Friendship of Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 50, no. 3 (July 1993): 529–54.

(133) . On Franklin’s religious beliefs, see Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin (New York: Viking, 1938), 777; Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1965), 44–54; Edwin Gaustad, Benjamin Franklin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 24–26; Kerry S. Walters, Benjamin Franklin and His Gods (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999).

(134) . Julius F. Sachse, “The Masonic Chronology of Benjamin Franklin,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 30, no. 2 (1906): 238–40.

(135) . R. William Weisberger, “Benjamin Franklin: A Masonic Enlightener in Paris,” Pennsylvania History 53, no. 3 (July 1986): 165–80.

(136) . Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin, 135–36.

(137) . Lambert, “Subscribing for Profits,” 529–54.

(138) . Johnson, Beginnings of Freemasonry in America, 121.

(139) . Isaiah Thomas, History of Printing, vol. 1 (Worcester, MA: Isaiah Thomas, 1810), 326–27.

(140) . Philo-Mathes, “To the Publisher of the Boston Gazette,” Boston Gazette, February 2, 1739.

(141) . Johnson, Beginnings of Freemasonry in America, 343. Short biographies of these early Masons are scattered throughout.

(142) . Rodgers, Holiness the Nature, v–vi, 15.

(143) . Thomas Fessenden, A Luminous Shining Character: Delimited and Recommended in a Sermon, Preached before the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons… (Keene, NH: James D. Griffith, 1789), 9.

(144) . Z. Adams, Brotherly Love and Compassion, 22.

(145) . Charles Brockwell, “A Dissertation upon Masonry, Delivered to a Lodge in America, June 24, 1734,” Freemasons’ Monthly Magazine (Boston) 8, no. 10 (August 1, 1849): 289–93.

(146) . Masons most likely adopted this manner of measuring time from the writings of James Ussher (1581–1656), the archbishop of Armagh, primate of all Ireland, and vice-chancellor of Trinity College. Ussher’s treatise on chronology, based on ancient histories and the Bible, gained widespread acceptance after it was incorporated into an authorized version of the Bible printed in 1701. G. Y. Craig and E. J. Jones, A Geological Miscellany (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), 2–3.

(147) . Jacob, Living the Enlightenment. See also her “Exits from the Enlightenment: Masonic Routes,” Eighteenth Century Studies 33, no. 2 (2000): 251–54.

(148) . David D. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England (New York: Knopf, 1989).

(p.245) (149) . Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), 96.

(150) . Patricia U. Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society and Politics in Colonial America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 37.

(151) . Edwin S. Gaustad and Philip L. Barlow, New Historical Atlas of Religion in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 7–8.

(152) . In America, Thomas Paine was among the first to develop the thesis, well known in England, that Masonry descends from the religion of the Druids. See his “Origin of Freemasonry,” in Van der Weyde, Life and Works of Thomas Paine, 9:167–68.

(153) . Brooke, Refiner’s Fire, 194–295.

(154) . Johnson, Beginnings of Freemasonry in America, 383.

(155) . Between 1739 and 1751, for example, 238 men joined Boston’s First Lodge, of whom only eighty-four became Master Masons. Wright, Gould’s History, 4:446.

(156) . McClenachan, History of Masons in New York, 1:444.

(157) . Grant, Memoirs, 309.

(158) . Grant, Memoirs, 205, 316, 332.

(159) . On the decline of colonial polite society in the 1760s, see Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters, 308–28. On the growth of voluntary organizations just before the revolution, see, among others, Richard D. Brown, “The Emergence of Urban Society in Rural Massachusetts, 1760–1820,” Journal of American History 61 (1974): 29–51. On the rise in the volume of print in the 1760s, see Warner, Letters of the Republic, 32.

(160) . Grant, Memoirs, 333; on Freemasonry and the growth of associations throughout American history, see Theda Skocpol, Marshall Ganz, and Ziad Munson, “A Nation of Organizers: The Institutional Origins of Civic Voluntarism in the United States,” American Political Science Review 94, no. 3 (September 2000): 527–46.