Say "Anti-Masonry" to the average American Mason and he will think you speak only of the Morgan affair of 1826. So many books have been written on this, so many speeches made about it, so many study clubs have discussed it, that it is pretty much in the class with political oratory - interesting once, but as bore when much repeated!
Anti-Masonry neither began nor ended with the Morgan affair. The Fraternity has always had its enemies and, unless the world reforms spiritually, doubtless always will. BUT WHY?
Doubtless there are many answers. Many roads may wind around a mountain - they must meet at the top. No matter how many separate causes for the hatred, dislike, enmity which men have conceived - and some still do - for the Gentle Craft, all these mistaken ideas may be referred to one cause.
Examine just a few of the exhibitions of anti-Masonry, other than the Morgan affair - which was a sporadic explosion, not a deep - rooted and poisonous plant.
Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Stalin could not permit the existence of a society which is predicated upon the brotherhood of man; they were, and are, too much committed to a society predicated upon a police power which knows no mercy and has but one object; the destruction of people, ideas, and organizations which do not believe that man is nothing, the State (and its ruler or rulers) everything.
Mussolini's anti-Masonic feeling was expressed in his doctrine of conflict, which does not even mention the Craft:
"Humanity is still and always an abstraction of time and space; men are still not brothers, do not want to be and evidently cannot be. Peace is hence absurd, or rather it is a pause in war. There is something that binds man to his destiny of struggling, against either his fellows or himself. The motives for the struggle may change indefinitely, they may be economic, religious, political, sentimental, But the legend of Cain and Abel seems to be the inescapable reality, while brotherhood is a fable men listen to during the bivouac and the truce."
General Erich Ludendorff wrote a booklet against Freemasonry of which more than a hundred thousand copies were sold. Too long to quote here, the reader may get an idea of its contents from some of his words.
"Masonry brings its members into conscious subjection to the Jews...... it trains them to become venal Jews.... German Masonry is a branch of organized international Masonry, the headquarters of which are in New York.... there also is the seat of Jewish world power...."
Ludendorff blamed Freemasons for bringing America into World War I, helped by the Jesuits, B'nai B'rith and the Grand Lodge of New York! This, he stated, was done to destroy Austria Hungary, a Catholic world power. Had it not been for Freemasonry, Germany would have won the war - Kaiser Wilhelm and Czar Nicholas lost their thrones because they were not Freemasons - and so on and on and on for eighty-two pages of "Annihilation of Freemasonry Through Revelation of its Secrets!"
Not all anti-Masonry has had causes so fundamental, which lie so deep; small jealousies and little rascals have started anti - Masonic movements; several religions have fought and, indeed, now fight the Craft, as sinful and ungodlike. The opposition of the Catholic church, based on the Papal Bull of 1738, many times renewed, expanded, explained and emphasized, is well known. The Lutheran church as a whole has been unfriendly to the Craft and certain Synods rabid against it. The Mormon church has been anti-Masonic ever since hundreds of Mormons were expelled from Masonry by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Even the Gentle Quakers have opposed Freemasonry and not always gently!
When organized religion has disputed with Freemasonry, it is largely because of the thought that Masonic teaching of "that natural religion in which all men agree" might take the place of that which it espoused; knowing that the Fraternity operated by means of a secret ritual, obligations, religious beliefs and the doctrine that all men of whatever faith might worship a Great Architect of the Universe around a common Altar, Freemasonry became a rival! Just as science disputes with no religion, so Freemasonry does not now and never has questioned any man's faith. There has never been an anti-clerical party composed only of Masons; there have been anti-Masonic parties in many clerical circles. As late as 1896 an anti-Masonic party convened at Trent. In the BUILDER, April, 1918, George W. Baird, P.G.M. District of Columbia, reports that the general and particular aims of this council were to wage war on Masonry as an institution; on Masons as individuals, in all countries and places where the order exists; to wage war on Masonry as a body, by collecting supposed documents and facts; assertions of perjured Masons as evidence and thus bring to light or rather to coin, by means of the press or special publications, all the misdeeds of the fatal institution; all the demoralizing influences it exercises; through obscene or sacrilegious rites, corruption and occult conspiracies of man and civilization; to wage war on individual Masons by opposing them in every phase of their existence, in their homes, in their industries, in their commerce, in their professional vocations, in all their endeavors to participate in public life, local or general, etc.
The first anti-Masonic campaign - if it an be called that - in the American Colonies occurred in 1737. According to an account published in the Pennsylvania Gazette (Benjamin Franklin's paper) an apothecary duped a young man (Daniel Reese) who had expressed a desire to be a Freemason, into a false and ridiculous ceremony, ending in a scene in which the devil was supposed to appear. When the young man refused to be frightened, the "devil" became angry and threw a pan of flaming spirits on the candidate, who died of burns three days later.
Freemasons, though innocent, were blamed and the incident (if death can be called and incident!) spread far and wide to the serious but not too lengthy embarrassment of Masons of the City of Brotherly Love.
There were a few sporadic attacks in the Colonial press against Freemasonry, including one in Boston in 1751, but no real opposition of any moment in this nation until the Morgan affair of 1826. (See Short Talk Bulletin of March 1933 and February 1946.)
But the Colonies were not to escape prejudice, even if unorganized, for Pritchard's Masonry Dissected (1730) and Jachin and Boaz (1762) both had wide circulation, the latter pamphlet being reprinted here more than a dozen times; one edition was printed in Spanish in Philadelphia as late as 1822.
These "expose's" purporting to print the ritual, ceremonies and "secrets" of Freemasonry (invaluable now as giving clues to practices and words otherwise lost in the mist of the years) were then intended as body blows at the Ancient Craft. In early days all Freemasonry was kept secret; place of meeting; men who belonged; candidates proposes, were all considered to be "esoteric". Hence there was a great curiosity on the part of the public and a large circulation of pamphlets designed to injure the Fraternity by "exposing" its charter, ritual and secrets. Today, few would look at and less would buy such a pamphlet on a newsstand - then, the public demanded these in quantities.
Like all such, the motive of their publication--whether revenge for fancied slights or avarice - kept them from being too seriously considered by the better educated and thinking class.
In England, Pritchard's "Masonry Dissected" raised a storm when it was published, and was reflected even in the songs of the day. An actress in 1765 offered the following, as coming from the anti - Masonic Scald Miserable Masons:
"Next for the secret of their own wise making,
Hiram and Boaz and Grand Master Jachin;
Poker and tongs-the sign-the word-the stroke
'Tis all a nothing and 'tis all a joke!
Nonsense on nonsense! Let them storm and rail
Here's the whole history of the mop and pail*
For 'tis the sense of more than half the town
Their secret is-a bottle at the Crown!" *
* An allusion to the tiler's implements with which he erased the designs drawn upon the lodge floor for the instruction of candidates.
Although inspired by the Morgan affair, the letters of John Quincy Adams had an anti-Masonic effect long after Morgan was forgotten. President Adams was never a Freemason; we have his own words as proof of that. That he was an implacable enemy of the institution is shown by his "Letters on the Masonic Institution" published in book form in Boston in 1847. His enmity of the Fraternity sprang from his belief in the reality of the "murder" of Morgan, the activities of the anti-Masonic party and his own great credulity and strong prejudice. His character as a man, his service to his county, his exhaustless energy made serious his attacks on Freemasonry, even though he displayed a woeful ignorance of the Order, its principles, practices, history and accomplishments.
John Quincy Adams is long gathered to his fathers. His "letters" remain largely unread in libraries and in the minds of historians. He did the fraternity harm once, but, judged by the perspective of a century, it was without permanent effect.
These are but the slightest thumb-nail sketches of a few of the outbreaks against Freemasonry. In all countries since the organization of the Mother Grand Lodge, there have been these ebullitions of passions and prejudice; in some lands, tortures and burnings; destructions of Masonic property, imprisonment of Masons, especially in World War II.
These persecutions have had a hundred underlying causes; avarice, jealousy, desire for notoriety, disappointment, envy, the belief that he climbs high who climbs ruthlessly, the need for a scrape-goat: the list is endless. But all, in the last analysis, boil down to one cause. As the greater swallows the less, the large encompasses the little, the race includes all its blood strains, so the reason for the enmity of Freemasons and Freemasonry, encompassing all of many causes, is simple.
There is always a conflict between any two opposing beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, religions, philosophies, political systems. For hundreds of years organized religion fought science; the doctrine of the divine right of kings ran headlong into the doctrine of the equality of man; today we see democracy and Communism in a cold war to the death; less spectacular but none the less real has been the split of Lincoln's famous words, resulting in the opposition of those who believe in government by the people, to those who believe only in government of the people, by the governor!
Freemasonry is a philosophy which cannot exist side by side with certain ideologies. Either the latter must sink or Freemasonry must be banished. Wherever men have believed that one man or some men are above the law which applies to the many; wherever as government is by men and not by law, Freemasonry is anathema, must be persecuted, thrown out, dispersed, done away.
Freemasonry stands and has always stood for freedom of political thought; for freedom of religious thought; for the dignity, importance and worth of the individual. In Freemasonry there is neither high nor low-"We meet upon the level". In Freemasonry is no compulsion; a man must come to it and be of it "of his own free will and accord." In Freemasonry is no religious sect: men of all religions or of no religion, join hands in kneeling about a common Altar erected to the Great Architect of the Universe, by which name each can worship the God he knows.
Such a plan, such a doctrine, such a brotherhood, cannot but be inimical to the selfish, the crooked, the power-hungry, the dictator, the religion which opposes any doctrine but its own, the self-seeking, the envious, the coward, the prejudiced, the passionate and the dishonest.
The reason for all the attacks on Masonry, no matter how attempted or by whom accomplished, can be expressed in a word...