A Vehicle for Change: Freemasonry and the American Revolution

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A Vehicle for Change: Freemasonry and the American Revolution

By | November 2012
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A Vehicle for Change: Freemasonry and the American Revolution

The American Revolution was a period of transformation and experimentation in republican government. This period is characterized by a discussion of ideals including things such as natural law, sovereignty, and the nature of government. It was a time of uncertainty and debate, not knowing what was to become of this new union of states; these characteristics remain to this day. President Ronald Reagan said that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” This idea was embodied in the newly formed American people; they knew its importance, and the threats to their freedom. Reflected in this time of change and experimentation was a group of men called freemasons. While the group originally began in Europe, it made its way to the Americas in the 1730s and adapted to the circumstances it found there. The fraternity of men used the group as a tool, and it quickly became part of the historical beginnings of the United States.1 Therefore, freemasonry is a great way to study the American Revolution to see how each influenced the other. I hypothesize that the transformation of freemasonry during the Revolution reflects what the American colonists found to be important. Through the exploration of primary sources from the period of the late 18th century and the contemporary writings of Stephen Bullock and others, I will examine the changes that affected freemasonry to show the importance of the institution as a vehicle of change which allowed the great American experiment to flourish through the use of debate.

Freemasonry was introduced in the American colonies sporadically and unsystematically and was used as a means of solidifying a man’s social status.2 Much of the first appeal of the Masonic organization came from the fact that it was...

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