History of Freemasonry
Throughout the World
GOULD, the author, was the Thucydides of Masonic history. The Masonic histories before his day belong on
the shelves with books of mythology and fairy tales. Gould also inspired real historical research and study.
Vast stores of information have been uncovered since his times which correct some errors made by Gould, and
add tremendously to the real story of the past of Freemasonry. Moreover, much has transpired since then. All
this requires the present revision.
Outside of its own membership, Freemasonry is to-day little understood and much misunderstood. At
the outset, let us get a clear idea of what Freemasonry is, of its purposes, and a few of its major
Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational, and religious
secret society, adhering to its own peculiar Ancient Landmarks. Its methods of recognition and of symbolic
instruction are secret and thereby a test of membership is provided, though a Brother be travelling in foreign
countries and among those who would otherwise be strangers.
Freemasonry has probably been the greatest single influence toward establishing the doctrine of
liberty of conscience. In the midst of sectarian antagonism, our Fraternity's first Grand Lodge was organized
in 1717, by four Lodges then existing within the "Bills of Mortality" of London, England. It almost
immediately reached out, planting new Lodges and successfully establishing systematized Grand Lodge control
over all Lodges, including those which had theretofore met "according to the old customs"; that is to say,
without Charter or Warrant but by the authority inherent in members of the Craft who, finding themselves
together in a locality, met and Worked.
In 1773, the Constitutions of this Mother Grand Lodge of the World were published. These declared
"Concerning God and religion. . . . Though in an¬cient Times Masons were charged in every Country to be of the
Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought more expedi¬ent only to oblige them
to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves."
The Bull of Pope Clement XII in 1738, and other later Papal Bulls and
Edicts, one as recent as 1884, have scathingly denounced Freemasons and Freemasonry. Of the reasons assigned,
two are based on fact; one, that Freemasonry is tolerant of all religious creeds; the other, that oaths of
secrecy are demanded. All other reasons given are incorrect; so wrong, indeed, that we of the Craft wonder how
it was possible that anyone could have been persuaded to pro¬claim or even believe them.
Many members of the Roman Catholic Church have held Masonic membership
and office. Until they were ordered out of our Fraternity, one-half of the Masons in Ireland were of that
A Papal Nuncio, as a Freemason, laid the corner-stone of the great altar of the
Parisian Church of St. Sulpice (1733).
Some eminent Catholics have held the highest possible office in the gift of the Craft, that of
Most Worshipful Grand Master
(e.g. the Duke of Norfolk, 1730¬31;
Anthony Brown, Viscount Montacute, 1732-33;
Benedict Barnewall, Viscount Kingsland, Ireland 1733-34;
Robert Edward, Lord Petre, 1772-77).
If that Church sees fit to bar its members from belonging to our
Fraternity, it has a perfect right to do so. It is the sole judge of the qualifications of its own members.
Freemasonry, however, does not bar an applicant for its Degrees because he is a member of that or of any other
Whether or not he can be true both to his Church and to the Fraternity
is a question the applicant's conscience must determine. Belief in his sincerity and fitness will be determined
by the ballot box.
If within the power of Freemasons to prevent it, no sect, atheistic,
agnostic or supremely religious, will be permitted to dominate, dictate or control civil government. Freemasonry
has never attempted to do this, and would not if it had the power.
When no Roman Catholic in England was allowed civil or military rights,
or even to worship according to the ceremonies of his own religion, Freemasonry joined hands with the Catholic
Committee in persuading England to grant them the rights of citizenship and to worship God according to the
dictates of their consciences. One of the greatest leaders in this movement was the Seventh Lord Petre, Grand
Master of Masons in England and the leading member of the Catholic Committee.
In Colonial America, Freemasonry was the most important inter-colonial
network—indeed, almost the only thing which the Colonies had in common, save hatred, not of the British people
but of the British Crown of that day. Freemasonry exercised a greater influence upon the establishment and
develop¬ment of the fundamental principles of this land of ours than any other single institution.
Neither general historians nor the members of our Fraternity have realized how much that
civilization of which we are a part owes to Freemasonry. Its intangible accomplishments can never be measured.
The dollars which it has spent in charity are tangible, as is its numerical strength; but numbers and dollars
are not the criteria by which to estimate the value or accomplishments of Freemasonry.
These are the ideals and an indication of the accomplishments of the
greatest Fraternity the world has ever known. Such a Fraternity should have its history recorded in order that
its own members, as well as the profane, may know the part which it has played, is playing, and should play in a
world which more than ever needs its wholesome influence.
This is my purpose in sharing in the compilation of this history.
Melvin M. Johnson.