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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Freemasons and the Hidden Hand of History

Americans shy from talking about, or even thinking about, the role secret societies sometimes play in shaping our world.  I think this is because Americans tend to believe what they read, and tend to think history is largely transparent.  Latins, in contrast, tend to distrust what they read, and believe history is shaped by conspiratorial forces.  (Or else, why would a book like Galeano's "The Open Veins" be so popular?) 

Here's an entertaining and knowledgable piece on freemasonry by an accomplished historian of religion. I post it in large part because it is so unusual to see anything posted on it in a mainstream website. 

In France and Latin America you can read about the masons from time to time.  Knowledgable Africanists like to point to the still-important role freemasonry plays in cementing West African elites to the political class in France.

Freemasonry probably motivated at least some of the Sons of Liberty before the revolution.  Many of the founders, like George Washington, were Masons in "blue" lodges. (They didn't have the 33 degrees of the Scottish Rite.)  In the fun movie "National Treasure," the Declaration signer Charles Carroll was incorrectly described as being a mason. (He was a Jesuit-educated Catholic.)

The strong mason influence in the early Republic provoked the founding in New York of the Anti-Masonic Party, the first "third party" movement in the United States.  Some Anti-Masonic members later helped found the Whig Party in the 1830s.  (The Mighty Whig himself bears no grudge against freemasons.)

Joseph Smith was a freemason in NY before founding his church. 

Masons founded the Texas Republic.  An obelisk near the San Jacinto battlefield commemorates all the masons responsible in the founding, a who's who of early Texas history.  Santa Ana's freemasonry may have spared him his life after being captured in that battle. 

My guess is the 1830s represented the peak of masonic influence in the U.S.  But on the darker side of things, don't ignore the role masonry played in founding the Ku Klux Klan, especially during its great revivial in the 1920s.  (Driven to a large degree by the rise of Catholic influence in the Democratic Party and the candidacy of Al Smith in 1928.)

In 1995 Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan launched his "Millon Man March" on Washington DC.  During his speech, Farrakhan alluded many times to the Masonic founding of the Republic.  (Nation of Islam has unmistakable masonic influences; its founder Wallace Fard Muhammad was a Prince Hall mason.)

Supposedly, the Republican presidential ticket in 1996 featured two masons, Bob Dole and Jake Kemp.  The hidden hand didn't help them.

Anyway, I could go on...

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