History of Freemasonry Throughout the World

History of Freemasonry
Throughout the World

Volume I - Volume II - Volume III - Volume IV


Thucydides of Masonic historyGOULD, 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.

FreemasonryOutside 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 accomplishments.

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.

Grand Lodge 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.

Mother Grand Lodge 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 faith.
A Papal Nuncio, as a Freemason, laid the corner-stone of the great altar of the Parisian Church of St. Sulpice (1733).

Most Worshipful Grand MasterSome 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 church.

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.

accomplishments of FreemasonryNeither 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.