Freemasonry is a fraternity of men across the world joined by two common links: belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, and the desire to aid their fellow being. These links bring good men together in meeting places called Lodges to share friendship and plan their activities. We don't seek public notice for our works; Masons usually prefer to let the work we do in charitable and assistance activities stand for itself; and that work is substantial and worldwide in scope. (The common estimate that Masons contribute a million dollars a day to charity is not far from the truth.) And that work has been going on for a very long time....
The Craft traces its lineage in tradition to the building of King Solomon's Temple, and uses the symbology of the working tools of stonemasons to teach lessons of morality and service to its members. Freemasonry in modern times dates from 1717, when four Lodges in London, England banded together to form a Grand Lodge for various purposes. Since that time, the world has known Freemasonry in a more public sphere. The Craft spread with the movement of the British across the globe, both as private citizens and as practicing military men. Lodges may be found today in almost every country, where men of good will meet together, crossing boundaries of religion and politics in one fraternal goal: that of service to their fellow man and aid to distressed Brethren and their families.
Many notable men in American and world history have been Freemasons. Patriots and freedom fighters seem to have been naturally attracted to the Craft; the best-known American Mason has probably been George Washington, the nation's first President. A Mason for a large part of his life, he served as Master in laying the cornerstone of the U. S. Capitol with Masonic ceremonies. Other Brothers of a similar occupation included Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones and the Marquis de Lafayette in the United States. Simon Bolivar in South America, Benito Juarez in Mexico and Guiseppe Garibaldi in Italy are notable Masonic freedom-fighters elsewhere in the world.
More notable world leaders of many different careers have sat in their Lodges: Harry S Truman; both Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt; Gerald Ford; Sir Winston Churchill; several kings of England, as well as Frederick the Great of Prussia, George I of Greece and Haakon VII of Norway; Field Marshall Sir Claude Auchinlech of England; Generals Mark Clark, Omar Bradley, George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur of the United States; composers from John Philip Sousa to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; authors from Mark Twain to Rudyard Kipling.
Freemasonry is not a religion, in any way, shape or form. Though the primary requirement for membership is a belief in a monotheistic Supreme Being, each man is allowed to worship Deity in his own way, and discussions of a specific religion or sect of a religion are forbidden in Lodge. Also, Masonry is not a political movement; such matters are also forbidden within the precincts of a Lodge meeting.
Hopefully the above has whetted your appetite for information on the history of Freemasonry. More information may be found at your local library, or by exploring the links leading from this site.