Freemasonry and the Founding Fathers

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The role of Masonry in early American politics is a complex question. As mentioned in the previous introductory article on Freemasonry and American Politics, many of the most esteemed Founding Fathers (including at least nine of the fifty six signers of the Declaration of Independence) were Freemasons. For instance, lodge registers and personal correspondences show that George Washington, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, and Justice John Marshall, among others, were all active members of various lodges throughout the American colonies. Even so, the precise extent to which Masonic philosophies weighed on the political thought of the Founding Fathers is less than clear. Though it may be accurately said that 18th century Masonry was deeply sympathetic with Enlightenment philosophies, and that such philosophies also underpinned the American Revolution and our founding documents, it is difficult to fully isolate the political influence of Masonic doctrines on early American politics from the influence of Enlightenment values in the broadest sense.

20th century occult writer and 33rd degree Mason Manly P. Hall takes a rather extreme view on the issue. Hall asserts that the American Revolution was the culmination of a secretive humanitarian scheme by Masonic organizations to install a democratic civilization on the American continent according to Enlightenment principles. Hall's theory hinges on the supposed role of philosopher Sir Francis Bacon – Lord Chancellor, royal counsel to several English monarchs, and an alleged occult initiate – in executing the American colonization project according to a carefully laid philosophic plan. Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin, he claims, deliberately labored to build this long-prophesied utopia – the New Atlantis – in America:

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