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Masonic Service Association of North America

Focus - December 2010

Facts About Freemasonry

            Several years ago the Masonic Information Center prepared a series of Fact Sheets explaining different aspects of Freemasonry. With the continuing interest being shown by the general public in our fraternity it seems a good time to remind our readers that this source of information is still available on our website at www.msana.com

            The Fact Sheets cover a wide range of subjects that deal with frequently asked questions about the fraternity, such as: The History of Freemasonry; Freemasonry and Secrecy; Freemasonry and Brotherhood; The Organization of Freemasonry; Freemasonry and Religion; The Youth Orders.

            The History of Freemasonry is reprinted on the reverse side of this issue of Focus. To review the entire series please go to www.msana.com

Twain Award

            The 2010 submissions of Twain Award material by the lodges who entered the program is well underway. The MIC wants to congratulate those lodges who made the commitment to self-examine what they are doing in the way of Masonic Awareness both within and without the lodge.

Empire Of Liberty

            Gordon S. Wood, Professor Emeritus, Brown University and Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution, continues to be one of America’s most distinguished historians. Not a Freemason, he has recognized the significant role Freemasonry played in the founding and development of the United States. In his most recent book Empire of Liberty he said about Freemasons:

            “Everywhere institutions and organizations were burdened with the responsibility of imparting virtue and knowledge to the citizenry. Freemasonry, for example, came to see itself principally as an educational instrument for promoting morality. “Every character, figure, and emblem, depicted in a Lodge,” declared a Masonic handbook, “has a moral tendency to, and inculcates the practice of virtue.” But Masonry was not content with educating only its members; it sought to reach out and affect the whole society. Masonic brothers were involved in a multitude of public ceremonies and dedications – anointing bridges, canals, universities, monuments, and buildings. In 1793 President Washington himself, wearing a Masonic apron and sash, laid the cornerstone of the new United States Capitol in the planned Federal City. Masons, many of whom were artisans, architects, and painters, placed the fraternity’s emblems, signs, and symbols on a wide variety of objects, including ceramics, pitchers, handkerchiefs, liquor flasks, and wallpaper – with the didactic hope of teaching virtue through the simple and expressive visual language of Masonry.”

History of Freemasonry

No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons’ guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity’s rituals come from this era. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on are more complete.

Within thirty years, the fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies. Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America. George Washington was a Mason, Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones. Another Mason, Chief Justice John Marshall, shaped the Supreme Court into its present form.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.

During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social "safety net". The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.

Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $1.5 million each day to causes that range from operating children’s hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes.

The four million Masons worldwide continue to help men and women face the problems of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.

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