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tv   The Presidency Mark Tabbert A Deserving Brother  CSPAN  October 17, 2022 12:30am-1:31am EDT

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good evening, everyone. my name is kevin butterfield. i am the executive of the washington library here at, mount vernon. welcome to our forward evening
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book talk. for the month of july on behalf of the mount vernon ladies association. of course, the ford motor company that's been funding these free and open to the public talks for quite some time. welcome. this is something that i am particularly excited to do because. i have i've known mark talbot some time and before that i knew his work. mark talbot is, the director of collections and a great curator masonic collections at the george washington masonic national memorial in alexandria. he's been an active for more than 20 years and in nearly all that time he's been an active historian of american ism. in to the work we'll be discussing tonight his i think monumental work american freemasons centuries of building communities is a massive step forward in our understanding of masonry in american civil society. a book i used to crib from and writing my own lectures when i taught at the university of oklahoma. and i told mark this. mark is a past president of the masonic and museum association,
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fellow and past board member of the masonic. a cubs fan and a past secretary of the masonic restoration foundation. mark worked his book while a member of the 2018 2019 class of research here at the washington library, mt. vernon. he joins us tonight to discuss his new book, a deserving brother george washington and freemason. and rick, please join me in welcoming mark tabard. so, mark this is something i think a lot of people, george washington and freemasonry. they might know that he was a freemason might know that he was part of an important masonic serum only here or there, but you're. your book really dives on. let's go back to the very beginning, though. what is freemason and where did it come from? did it begin? okay. so freemasonry is a fraternal organization. there was founded in great
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britain, but specific, more specifically scotland in the and it's basically nobody knows where it comes from. exactly. there's not one founder like there like paul harrison invented the rotary club or. you know, walt disney created the walt disney company. so freemasonry grows over time out of scotland from roughly. 1599 when out of stonemasons guilds into the 1720s where it's formally organized into a grand lodge in london. and during those decades, it's obviously british society and scottish society went through great transformations. but essentially turned into a club and became sort of part of the enlightenment and as a means new information and new scientific, new discussions about, politics, whatever growing and a growing middle class. they needed a place to meet and freemasonry became that form of club that was organized and then it developed more towards self improve and benevolent purposes.
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by the 1730s as it came into the north american kind of and spread through the through the british empire. so the first lodges of freemasons formed in boston and philadelphia in the 1730s and 20 years later is when george washington joined the lodge in fredericksburg. so you mentioned the guild and the stone masons guild and you mentioned the emerging world of clubs, societies in great britain and england and into great britain and 17th and 18th centuries. why? why would stone masonry give a good sort of, i don't know, sort of foundation for a club like that? i'm sure curious about the nature of stone, masonry and freemasonry. sure. so stone masonry in scotland guild system. and if you've been to scotland, everything is built out of stone. but as the trade declined in the 1600s and 1600s, the stonemasons were losing business and they were losing authority over the trade.
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so they started to invite gentlemen stonemasons to provide into their into their guilds to give patronage and support. stone masonry has, a set of bylaws and constitutions that we call the ancient charges, like all guilds would have according to their membership join in a stone masons. you would start as an apprentice and you would become fellow of the craft, and then you would become a master craftsman. and that was that that process were called degrees or advancement. and that structure both. and then later translated into a larger area such as scotland or england and then international. so stone masonry provided the structure upon which freemasonry wrote its grand constitutions. and the ways to organize. so freemasonry is modeled after and based upon stonemasons. guilds structure and rules and regulations and a lot of those symbols that we see when we see masonic regalia, we see compasses, we see kids walking
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through a little bit of the symbolism. so the symbols of freemasonry come from stonemasons guilds and from stonemason. me. so the level teaches us to be equal or on the level to to be teach each other equally, the plumb is directed to to life, to be operated all things in the square. teaches us to square our actions by the square of virtue. so you these symbols that represent some of abstract ideas but they remain a sort of a concrete concept concrete and then they're rearranged in different forms order to instruct the in the apprentice or the fellow or the master as they go through the degrees. and that provides, again, a structure and allows a form of interest instruction to the candidates in. those principles of the fraternity, such as brotherly love, relief, truth, temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice. right. so why i hope i'm not i don't sound silly here, but why would george washington have been
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interested in becoming a freemason? all this stuff sounds great. but why would george washington have thought it out? so in the 1730s and forties and fifties. freemasonry is a phenomena that spreading the british empire. it's throughout its as far as india by the 17th thirties it's up and down the eastern seaboard. it's in south, it's in the scandinavia, in russia it's it's everywhere and it's phenomenon. and so if you're out on the in virginia, if you hear of that or you meet men who have been to england or come from england englishmen and they are freemasons. that's something that's curious to them. so curious to you and you and as you're circulating, washington is with the fairfax family. you're receiving news from england. this is something that's coming your way in the same way of any other kind of fad or phenomenon. and as a young man, washington would see that as another avenue of into british society. so as he's contemplating,
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enjoying the military, as he's traveling to barbados with his sick half brother, as he's moving into bigger circles amongst, the fairfax's or other people in northern virginia, this is something that as a young man might do in the same way, the same way that, you know, if a young man or young woman was aspiring to be a. to get a corporate job or to be a corporate executive, you would maybe take golf lessons when you're in your early twenties or in college. it's the same sort of notion that you would want to pick up that attribute so you could speak or you could be accepted. those circles who were aware of that organization, you've spoken somewhat abstractly. so i'm curious, does washington ever reflect on why he became a freemason? do you have any sense from him? no. so, you know, he he joins when he comes back from, barbados after his and after his half brother dies, he receives the degrees over a period about eight, nine months. and then after that, he goes off. he has his first mission off to western pennsylvania to go and
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tell the to kindly leave the forks of. so so he's he's in for the next two or three years too caught up in all that other material and then serving in essentially what is french and indian war. and then when he comes back from the war. he marries martha custis, then he is settled here. so there's and then it's 20 years later, before he's active freemasonry again. so there's not really any point in his life where he's reflective that. and i think it just would be part of something that he did in his youth. he he certainly remembered that known by the members of, his lodge in fredericksburg, and then when he appears and as commissioner, the commander in chief, the continental army, people know he's a freemason, but we're not really sure how they knew or why they knew. and that was something that, as he older and went during the war, it was something that he could have denied being a member or could have forgotten. but he clearly embraced it. and when freemasons, members of, the fraternity approached him, he gladly accepted their
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invitations. so let's go back to fredericksburg in those you said nine months across the time of taking those first few degrees november of 1752, when he was initiated and then august of 1753 when he was received his third degree and affirmation. so what would he experienced? i'm not a mason. i taught about this enough to know that we have some sense or a sense that even could talk about it in a public setting. what would he have experienced across those nine months? so the masonic initiation ceremony, while secretive and certainly private, of which freemasons take an obligation not to discuss or to share, was exposed in various forms in various publications, started in the 1720s and is widely disseminated by the 1750s and by the 1790s. the ritual is basically essentially what every fraternal organization, college, greek letter society is based on. freemasonry is the model for that. so the initiation ceremony consists of two parts.
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the first part is coming is received into the lodge. the candidate received in the lodge. his in the sense that we make sure that he is who he says he is and then he is he is takes upon himself an obligation to uphold the rules, the fraternity to to live a good and fair life with his brothers, to care for widows and, orphans, and perform those sort of charitable things, to live under the laws and bylaws of the fraternity. and then second part of the ceremony would be an explanation of what are the tools and symbols, what are the principles of the fraternity as articulated in to the freemasonry, essential allegory, which is the building of king's arm temple in jerusalem. so as you as you were in the engine apprentice degree, there are certain tools and symbols that relate to what apprentices do, such as fashioning the rough stone. if your fellow craft you. there are tools and symbols that relate to fitting the storm to a better use. and then the master mason symbol
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or tools the trial which unites all the stones together so so those tools and symbols tools and symbols most expressive teach those virtues that to the candidate and then later in many cases the is expected to memorize those lectures and then recite that back to the lodge to demonstrate he has learned it before he can proceed to the next degree. i was just about to ask. i know in more recent decades or centuries there there is a lot of memorization with george washington and memorized quite a bit. no, not at that time. i don't think it was a common thing that time. freemasonry degrees and lectures were very, very basic and simple. not simple in the sense of the language or the philosophy they conferred, but complicated. one of the most important things that people often forget, and i think it's one of the why i enjoy fraternities funding for journalism, writing and producing ritual ceremonies, a literary genre.
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so takes a levels of sophistication. and there and rewritten over a period of time. and because freemasonry is a folk way and it grows across country, that's one of the beauties of any fraternal organization. when you go different places, see the ritual performed different ways. so in washington, d.c., we see the initiations so far as we can tell. they are largely lectures given to him by the master of the lodge, who may or may not, which memorized them, but on they are fully memorized. so when i was the master of my lodge in massachusetts, i memorized 15 or 20 minutes worth of rituals for each three degrees and a mass in in virginia to be a freemason. it's all conveyed mouth to ear. there's nothing written down. so all the rituals fully memorized and that ritual memorization process is what helps create a fraternity between the man who's teaching the candidate and the candidate learning. so that's part of the fraternal. yes. i think you've you've able to or historians and including you have been able to understand the
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fredericksburg, the membership list and all that. how many men would have been standing around george washington at this time? very few. so we're thinking in fredericksburg in 1752, 1753, the minute books are astonishing, survived. and when you think about how long those those many books have sat that lodge, this is a larger this continually existed for 200 years 230 years, i suppose. and the minute books are maintained. but the lodge spontaneously joined and as freemasons found themselves on the frontier, only later on, several years after washington was initiated, that they go get a proper charter from the grand. i just got on to formally organize themselves. so there was maybe ten or 12 men in the lodge when washington joined and because it's a frontier society and transient men are coming and going, some men are there, some of them are tobacco merchants or others. so they're going back to scotland, they're coming back depending on the season and the
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trade. and then of course, the the economy. then what's going on, on the frontier related to the war, especially in the 1750s. right. well, i want to skip to a different war, because you mentioned there's a big gap in washington's masonic participation between the 1750s and the era of the american revolution. can you set the stage, the revolutionary war era in of freemasonry? i know there's a great work by a scholar named stephen bullock that dives deep in and says that freemasonry was a key part of holding the continental army together. right. can you help us understand the broader context? and then we'll zoom in on george? sure. so freemasonry, the statistics would be basically, say, in 1750 or so, there's maybe 15 lodges in north america. by 1775, there's 100 lodges up down the east coast. there's maybe five or six in massachusetts, five or six in connecticut, maybe ten in new york or so, ten in philadelphia.
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one one in georgia and only one in georgia for 50 years. and so the fraternity ebbs and flows as far as its popularity and its interests. and it's slowly organizing itself because it's becoming more and more like any other folk. just because you play a banjo this way over a period of time, billy, the way the banjo is played or the styles that the banjo develops over 150 years of playing becomes more and more particular. and that's true with freemasonry. so by the beginning of the revolution, there's about 100 lodges in, north america there, both lodges locally and then regiments in the british army, and then, of course, in the continental army form lodges within the regiment. so and this has been a practice in the british regimental system going back to the 1730s, it was a common thing. so the officers on, the ncos would have their own lodge within the regiment. and again that just maintains a esprit de corps and sense of comradeship and also a form of charity and benevolence in case
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soldier was killed or captured, which i mentioned in the second. so freemasonry at that time is just a means for and immune a means to to move from town to town in the sense and the same way that if you were a member of the union league club, you could go and stay at a union club in philadelphia. you could go to chicago, you could go to new york, wherever the union, the club. it's a similar thing like that. and the level propriety and the level of respectability would be the same because freemasonry then and should be today is very particular about who enters the lodge and you have to ask to join the fraternity. so there is a qualification and to get in, it's a it's a test of being respectability and being a gentleman. certainly in washington today. so the fraternity freemasonry is part and parcel of american society the 1770s. some those men are more loyal to the crown. some men are more rebellious in nature. so for every for every paul revere, who was an active freemason and an open patriot,
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there's plenty of freemasons who were stayed loyal and including george washington's when atrocities. best friends george mercer, who loyal and went back to england when the war happened so and washington was out at george mercer's race in when george mercer received the master masons degree. so the fraternity provides a means for contact. so if you're in a in the connecticut regiment and you're serving in the military and you're at battle or, you come in contact with a regiment from north carolina, you may come across freemasons the same way that members of the constitu the the continental congress were freemasons have different colonies or different states. freemasonry became a means of entrance and sort of a shared philosophy or a point of point to start a conversation that would at least allow the opportunity to become friends before other differences or other differences. opinions may divide people apart and some things like a
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particular religious denomination. it's not that's building on lines that helped divide society. that's right. so one of the one of the strengths of freemasonry is and always has been, is it's it is fundamentally a cosmopolitan organization. so early as the 1720s, there are obviously protestant, anglican christians, but there are presbyterians or -- in the larger catholics in lodges in england. and then throughout the colonies and around the world, men, different faiths have joined the. and so it's not it's not divided religious point of view. it's it's it's trying to unite men of different of view. and that diversity has grown and grown over the centuries. so there are masonic lodges and in every country with every kind of religion and every type of of individual and, those lodges provided that they are of good moral quality. that because of what you had said about the role in colonials of sort of as establishing oneself as a gentleman.
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yes. this is something that's largely confined to the officer corps. well, it broadens across of something like, again, revere. if you think about and this is what's revolutionary. what it what steve bullock talks about and others you know the revolution not just simply a political separation from the british crown. it's a revolution as a republic. so you're you're bringing forth a man of lower status into a higher status. they're charge and responsibilities are taking charge for their communities and lives because no noble patronage and there's no aristocracy anymore. so somebody like paul revere, who was a craftsman in the silversmith, he is rising in society and taking on greater and greater roles. he's not a founding father. the same way that samuel adams or john adams is or john hancock, but he is important in his community in boston and in the 1790s he becomes grand master of the grand lodge of massachusetts. so he becomes quite respectable in lifetime and freemasonry is helping him and that whole class
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younger generation move into those areas of responsibility as you know towns cities and counties and states are setting up governments and functioning in a new and particular way. and that's largely what's in the book. is these letters written by these new citizens right into george looking for patronage, having grown up in an but still trying to meet brothers on the level in a republic. and that's part a large part what stephen board talks about in his book. you mentioned some participation during the war years on george washington's part. can you give us an example? so there's a couple there's washington three lodge meetings during, the war for independence, and he's invited to a fourth, but he doesn't look. he attended. so there's large called american union lodge was formed in connecticut in 1776 amongst the connecticut regiments, they invite washington to to attend. but a couple of different ceremonies in 1779 when in june
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and one in december freemason, we traditionally supports and celebrates the feast of saint john but st john the baptist and saint john the evangelist and freemasonry views those as their patron saints. but it marks sort of the beginning and the end of their masonic year. and that's when officers are elected. so washington attends two of those ceremonies. one is actually a close meeting only for the brothers, and another is sort of a celebration. and they're non masons and wives and other people involved and they, they, they take money for the poor. so washington attends really, you know, as a as general the continental army. he's in town a freemason, and he's there to sort support what's going on. and again, it's a of a form of esprit de corps and than anything else, because it's to celebrate. and the third meeting that he attends is in poughkeepsie, new york. and i believe that's in 1781. and that's an story we've always known that he he attended this lodge and dipsy. but when look in the details, he got a horse with his with a
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comrade rode 17 miles to go to this meeting and then rode back in the evening. it's not really clear why he that far just to go to a meeting where there's literally the minute book show maybe ten people attending ten brothers. so. so it's a it's it's as and then when washington is invited to another lodge there's a lodge another regimental lodge is formed that's actually named after him. that's the first lodge named washington lodge and the history united states in the history in the world. and he's invited to attend lodge, but he's unable to make it as far as we can tell. the last thing i would say about that, the lodge the american union lodge, most of their many of their members of that lodge were captured at the battle of long and the battle in manhattan. and when their prisoners were in manhattan, they formed a large amongst the prisoners and tories, the loyalists in new york city granted that lodge charter. so these men were traitors to the crown. but they were still freemasons.
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and they received a charter and they met as freemasons in the prisoner war camp in new york and this happens on and on and on through the history. there are lodges formed in formal lodges formed in prisoner war camps throughout the history of the western world, and more especially in places, you know, in the philippines and elsewhere during world war two and in japanese prisoner of war camps. so let's follow after the conclusion of the war between 83 and 88, 89, there's i think an interesting chapter in american freemasonry. there's, first of all, a growth in the number of lodges, but there's also a a move towards, i would call, a federalist kind of system state by state. can you talk to us a little bit? what happens immediately after the war right. so by the end of the war, there's about 135 lodges. and in 13 states, by 18, sorry, 90, there's 200 lodges by 90,
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something like that. so there's this rapid growth. obviously, it helps that george as a freemason is known and. numerous other general officers and signers of the declaration of independence, of freemasonry achieves a level of status and support in the new federal society. and again, because it's also increase bridging republican virtues and teaching republican virtues. and the men are freemasons are gaining credibility, legitimacy for them to take on greater roles in society and in their communities. and then the grand lodges, sorry, the several lodges in the various states they were once under provincial appointed from scotland, england, and they start to form their own independent grand lodges, the same way that the anglican church separated themselves from the church of england and became the episcopal church in america. and to do that had to get a bishop who came over from scotland. bishop seabury, who happened to be a freemason. so these in these various states
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formed themselves into grand lodges, and there are different forms of freemasonry from scotland and ireland, and they solely coalesced. and as they coalesced, they wrote their own constitutions, their state constitutions or grand constitutions, and some of those states dedicated and sent those books to george washington as a form of as a sign that they are forming themselves into well-regulated, duly constituted, that are subordinate to a federal system. and most of them are federalist. but in theory they could have created a grand, grand all out of the united states. so they never did. yeah. so there was a discussion at the end of the war about creating a general grand lodge or general grand marshal the united states to oversee all the united states. this had just happened amongst the swedes where they had put the king of sweden as the grand master, all the various types of freemasonry in the kingdom and. the grand lodge of pennsylvania proposed, proposed that as an
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idea but the massachusetts freemasons rejected that pretty much outright because they weren't going to be subordinate to anybody. right. pretty much after. and as far as freemasonry, i can you why but so so that is part of that was that was an attempt to create some sort of but that that office of general grand master his job would have been to charter lodges into new territories like the ohio country and then he would have the right to call conventions to make sure that things were well regulated. and there were masonic organizations like today the, the, the york rite bodies of freemasonry have that sort of confederation. and there are other fraternal organizations that have that sort of a national international headquarters but there are there's authority at the state level, even the national level in moment. it's not related to george washington's masonic story. but we also see the emergence of prince of freemasonry. could you say a word. so a prince of freemasonry is is african-american freemasonry and
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prince hall. it was a true african who lived in boston from the 1730s to 1808. i he's buried on copse hill in north end. he was a leather dresser. i think he was a he was also a chef, a cook he did sort of catering. he was very well known in boston. and he and amongst the free african community there, there's a lot of disputes about this. but more recent scholarship and review in the the documents were a closely he was he and 13 other men were initiated freemasonry in an irregular fashion essentially. there was a sergeant who was on the army who deserted from the army, who was a freemason and he conferred the degrees on these men for a fee, which we call degree pedaling. and that's been going on and still goes on where if you, you know, i've got a secret, if you give me ten bucks, i'll tell you the secret. so so they receive the degrees freemasonry in irregularly but
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were given permission to organized as a lodge by the local freemasons. and then in 1787 served 1778 i'm sorry, 1770, 87 they received a charter from the grand lodge of england. it basically sets them up and duly establishes. so any of the irregulars prior to that disappear because they were actually duly chartered by the grand lodge of england. so from that lodge, these free africans in boston led by prince are those that freemasonry spread to philadelphia were richard allen apps on jones, freemasons, rhode island, new york and then it spreads throughout the country. so there are there are four grand there. grand lodge is a prince of freemasonry throughout the united states. there are lodges throughout the united states in most places in united states, there's a recognition between predominately black and predominately white grand lodges. they meet together. in fact, they just had a great meeting. the oldest lodge in virginia is
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universal lodge here in alexandria, virginia. and they met. they just had a joint meeting at alexandria. watch lodge two in alexandria, which is washington's lodge, too. so there's a greater and greater connection between, predominantly white, predominately black freemasonry. but there's no desire to merge those because they have their same culture and their same identity and their own histories to them in that same period in the 1780s, we also see the emergence of the society. the cincinnati. is there any connection between masonry, the cincinnati? for those who are familiar enough and where the cincinnati a sort of veterans organization that emerges straight out of the war in 1783. right. i think that there is elements of freemasonry, the society of the cincinnati, as are elements and in every fraternal organization that have ever heard of or will ever hear of. but the society is is hereditary based. so you have to be the eldest son of the descendant of that officer who was in the continental or navy. so freemasonry is open to all
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men. you don't have to have any relatives who are a member of the fraternity to join. so and it's not it's not focused on one particular profession such as the military or the navy. so there are elements it and of course, washington was the first president of the society. the cincinnati henry knox is also the first secretary of the society, i believe. and knox is held to be a freemason and and there's some evidence that he was. but it's not strong evidence that he was a freemason before the war. you mentioned the president's of the society. cincinnati. let's go to the presidency of the united states. george, because this is a chapter his masonic history where things change bit what's what's actually you start with the inauguration there is a masonic connection there what we see so the the bible used at the inauguration of george washington came from the local lodge st john's lodge, which dons the bible today that, bible was purchased and used in the lodge for many years before the inauguration. it was later used at the
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inauguration and i'm not going to remember why i believe calvin coolidge, dwight eisenhower and george bush senior all received used the use the obligation took the obligation or oath of office on that bible the so it's it's not a masonic event but there are several freemasons involved who were on the balcony with washington and chancellor robert livingston, who administered the oath of office to washington and was then the grand master of the lodge, ancient provincial lodge, a master of new york at the time, the later grand master of the grandmother of new york when it became its independent. so there are plenty of freemasons involved. the event itself is not a masonic event. it's the first it's the first event on the executive branch of the federal government. here in our region, there is a important masonic event there in washington the presidency with the cornerstone laying ceremony. tell us about that. so that's again, another curious thing. garrett curious event is perhaps the most important event in an american history and certainly
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the most celebrated, though it's not, was never really fully. we do know that there was a cornerstone ceremony done first for a ceremony done for the first milestone at johns point up the river for the district of columbia. and then they did a cornerstone ceremony for the white house when it was to be built. and that was done by the local lodge, which now i think potomac lodge five, if i'm not mistaken, in the district of columbia. but there wasn't really a discussion of doing a ceremony for the the us capitol. one of the commissioners, daniel carroll, was a very active freemason, was interested in that. even his brother was the first catholic bishop of the united states. he was active in freemasonry and they decided really the the caverns to have that ceremony was the yellow fever epidemic that was happened in philadelphia and washington was going to leave to get to take his family from that epidemic, which alexander hamilton got quite sick.
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so when he informed the that it was going to come home here, they decided this would be a good opportunity to to do a ceremony since he was going to be in town. so september 1793, right? that's right. so he so he was here in in mount vernon. they organized parade and they organized the celebration, the freemasons in alexandria and in the district of columbia organized and set up. and the ceremony was done. in washington, attended. there's a conjecture. there's always this kind of belief that he presided as grand master, when in fact he presided primarily as an esteemed and illustrious guest of freemasonry and of course, is the united states. but he and he did participate in the service ceremony by using the working tools to try the stone and that sort of stuff. but he wasn't the grand master pro-tem to the grand lodge of maryland because it's maryland territory masonic to speak and conducted the ceremony the the
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presidency. he when i chatted with you in advance and reading the book, you find out that washington as president has a very different approach or in relationship freemasonry than he would have, say as a younger man. how would you characterize it? right. so when washington was, more especially in washington, returned from the war, 1783, his membership was well known and widely known and was immediately invited both by fredericksburg lodge, his mother lodge and alexandria had just formed here to attend lodge meetings and he later did that. in may of 1784, and he was happy participate in the fraternity as a brother once he became the the united states, he neither asked. he was never asked to attend lodge. nobody ever sit in the lodge because he became the patron of the fraternity. more than a brother, the lodge. and he and he had so many precedents and so many standards he had to set as president. one of those things was he was setting this the separation
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between what he was doing as the president, united states, versus what he would do as an individual in the same way that royalty or that sovereign has a private relationship or a private personality and a the sovereign's personality or. right. so i think that's part of what was going on there. so. washington, when is president he received numerous, numerous letters, books when he traveled through the southern states, was received by delegations of freemasons in all the states. he was happy to receive them. he graciously received their gifts. he nice letters, but he was not going to be subordinate in any fashion, those lodges, but only when came back from the retired. he did return and sit in lodge with the brothers and his friends in alexandria. so the i trying to decide whether i want to ask you about two more masonic moments, but i think i'll just actually go to the very last one. okay. now, because i want to be plenty of time for a conversation with the audience, our virtual audience as well that's likely to ask questions.
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the the funeral ceremony for washington. so we're now in of 1799 when i a here at mount vernon have participated in the observance of that day freemasons play a prominent role. i can talk to us about freemasons engagement with the honoring of george washington in 1799. sure so washington the three of the three attending physicians elijah call him -- was, the presiding master of the lodge here. and gustavus brown, i believe his name from maryland, was also a freemason who later became grand master, the grand lodge, maryland, the third doctor present, james craig, was not a freemason, though he's often cited such. so when washington died. i think it's reasonable assume that elijah colin dix, since he's the master of the local lodge, asked martha or got permission to do a masonic service as part of his funeral, which the widow would have consented on some sort of level. so so you see the many books and
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the many books there's images in the book and then more especially the minute books themselves are sitting in lodge archives at the george washington memorial, where the lodge has a meetings or discussion about, the funeral. they're making sure that they have all their equipment, they're invited, they're sending out invitations. the lodge and the district of columbia, and letting other people know that this is going happen. one brother specifically charged to make sure that they have a traveling case so they can take their charter with them of the lodge, bring it down here to mount. so why would that important what's that? why would bring in the charter members? so it's a curia that's sort of inside baseball stuff but you know so lodges can just open their lodge in their village hall and then travel wherever they want. but it's very clear by the minutes that they that they brought their charter with them and they opened their lodge here probably maybe in the washington study or in the long room at vernon. so they actually open the lodge here. they and that that again it's a folk way. that's the they do it and that's good enough for them.
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so opened up the lodge here and then they they have a prescribe a masonic service that is still largely used today. and if i thought about deep enough because i've done a few masonic ceremony funerals in my time, i could probably remember some of ritual, but essentially, you know, you have washington received a christian burial burial according to the book of common prayer. and then there was a masonic service there, which was the brothers gathering around to remember their departed brothers, to reassure the widow and the family that the fraternity was there in case there was trouble and any kind of need and that that there was sort of a charge to not worry about the bad things or the faults of the brother. but we should focus on the virtues that he exemplified. it his life as a good and faithful brother is a remarkable thing. and of the title of the book that people would be worried about sort of the the the fault
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of george washington rather than the virtues for such a virtuous man. so the ritual then also concludes with a commonly putting a sprig of evergreen on the casket which is a very fact of immortality. and then prayers are given and then so that service was written and organized, part of the grand lodge of virginia's official ceremonies well before washington died. and that service that the of virginia does today is probably my guess is 80% similar to what was done on washington's time and is very similar to what i did when was master of my lodge in massachusetts. so let me ask one more question before we open it up the room and reading this book and it's chapter by chapter. all of the documents related to george washington of freemasonry, many of them there to see in full color images. it's really great achievement, but there are a lot myths that you address sometimes you debunk, sometimes you sort of try to properly and
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contextualize in this book what stands out to you. is there a particular myth you might want to talk about in this room? well, we've already sort of talked about george washington as the grand master, the united states. there's another idea that he declined to be grand virginia during the war, which is not there's not any truth that there's other stories about participating in the fraternity. and i think there's also, especially after his death and in the 19th century, this idea that he renounced freemasonry or they decided he was not a freemason. that's that's clearly not true. he had some concerns about the fraternity. maybe as he got older and he had a lot of concerns about the way the is going as he got older and as he was finishing his second term in office. so it's reasonable to consider that, but he never renounced the fraternity. but he was never again active in it. and this is part of balance that we deal with any kind of organization in a lot of different ways. first of all, we that a member
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of an organization has to be active and they have to be out every night or. they have to give a lot of money to that organization or they have to be seen public as such. you're wearing bumper stickers or pens when in fact most, of those organizations, it's a question exhibiting the virtues and the character of that. so one does not one doesn't need necessarily go to a place of worship week to be a strong person of faith right and so we often try dispel washington because he didn't go it's clear that he only maybe attended eight or nine large meetings in his life, but obviously he exhibited the very virtues that the fraternity has been predicated upon. and and so profoundly did he exhibit those virtues that there's huge, giant memorial built 100 years ago where i work that is dedicated wholly to those that washington exhibited as a man, as a as a an american, as a freemason. yeah. so while stephen and be showing your hands to stephen, who's in the back of the room here, if
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you want to ask a question or and may have a question to add, me ask you very quickly the george washington masonic national memorial. yes, i here. so i see it as a very big, big building. can you tell the world about it? so the george washington masonic memorial association or the memorial was founded in 1910, in conjunction with alexander washington lodge 22. it's an association organized and maintained every freemason. the united states. they raised enough money and enough land to break ground. in 1922 and next february, going to have a large celebration of the hundredth anniversary, the cornerstone ceremony, which which then in 1923 had something like 15,000 freemason. it's next year we hope to have thousands of freemasons show up for the rededication that that memorial was built 1922 and dedicated in 1932 which is the bicentennial washington's birth and. the building has rooms for lodges to meet. but we now have exhibits on washington. we have exhibits, freemasonry, we have items from estate that
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alexander washington, 22, owns, including the used by washington at the cornerstone of the us capitol and the very portrait that washington sat for for the brothers of this lodge. it's on the cover of the book. so we're open. we're trying to be open more than three or four days a week, but we're trying to form more tour guides as we know that can be difficult. but we are we have dedicated our mission is to to educate the public about the virtues and characters of george washington the man the and the father of our country. it's a great and exquisitely beautiful. yes, beautiful building. yeah. thank you. and i see question from the remote audience. yes, we do have some from online. so walter wants to know that in the book cabal by mark edward lundberg. i was shocked learn all of the trouble a so-called brother named horatio gates was behind george washington. did you find any reactions washington or the masons towards the gates horatio scandal?
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oh, no, i vaguely aware of what that scandal is. i'm sorry but you know, freemasonry is an freemasons they're concerned with the concerns the welfare of each individual brothers and their families and maintaining the lodge and the work of the lodge, which is so we're not really interested or concerned with what else is going out in the larger world. so no, sorry. you. i see a question from the room. steven's coming. at one right there. i almost got it there. you go. sorry. in the same vein, you know, i'm curious if if this brotherhood accelerated, perhaps the success of the revolution, when darabont's student, for example arrived at valley forge, he was a brother from a large prussian, george washington, was a brother, obviously, and they had dinner together. washington was very suspicious because this cabal and yet they
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had dinner together. the first ten nights that the baron at valley forge are examples that you've seen where. maybe, you know, masonry accelerated, you know, the success of the revolution. well, i don't don't see any examples of that. i don't know if there's any evidence. i've never seen any evidence that there was any masonic meetings at valley forge. but as i said, i think that freemasonry provides a point of contact. and the same way that i was and raised in iowa, if i meet another i want to talk about they're from in iowa with their family farms or where they went to college. but at a certain point, i don't like all iowans to not all iowans like me. so we may we may move on to a different topic. so i would imagine something like baron von steuben, there would be a lot of talk about military wives. and in washington would be very interested to understand what the what the german army was. the prussian system, frederick the great, all that sort of stuff. so freemasonry might be a point of contact in the same way with lafayette.
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so lafayette was a freemason before. he came to the united states. we're very clear about what lodge he joined in paris, but obviously, you know, such things as war sentiment only goes so far and. freemasonry is fundamentally a sentimental organization and it's based based on brotherly love, relief, truth and to to conduct military operations and try to defeat the greatest military, the power in the world. does it really have much room for sentimentality? it's too brutal an occupation to give command and risk people's lives because you happen to be in the same fraternal lodge. we wouldn't credit that. i wouldn't want to credit that to anybody. and i don't think i think george had seen enough brutality in warfare when he was a young man that he wasn't going to risk any person's life predicated some sort of fraternal handshake, sincere and and profound. it may be it's still you're
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risking lives and you're risking the fortunes of their honors by by that sort of stuff. so there was a there's a fraternal relationship, you know, when the bullets start flying, there's a different type of fraternity that's on and that's fraternity of of whether or not you're competent, fundamentally very competent. yeah, i see. and in the back from the remote audience and we'll come back to the room. yes. so joy green asks, was george washington too familiar? the writings of hannah crocker. joy tells us that she was a in boston who wrote about freemasonry in her series of letters on freemason. yes, george washington would not have known of how hannah crocker matter or matter what crocker know, how that had a crocker matter. so i am i know of her and i know that she was a descendant of cotton mather, and i know that she formed a masonic organization for women in boston. i don't think it lasted than a few years, but yes, so if a larger question is there women who are freemasons? there are women were freemason.
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there are there have been women in freemasonry for 200 years. there. there's a lot of women, freemason and dc of which the husband of one of those women is, was the grand master of the grand lodge, a dc they're called masonic groups. they're anybody who gets a hold of the ritual and anybody can get a hold of the ritual for the last 250 years could call themselves freemason and organize a lodge. but there is a level of recognition according to the standards, an ancient craft freemasonry, which i'm a member of, is for men and not for in the same way. it's not for atheists. you must believe in a supreme being to freemasonry, and it's not for criminals either. so in the opinion of all the attendant lodges, how they get formed and do you mean like you mean like the other, like the scottish rite york right. if freemasonry so freemasonry freemasonry to central allegory is the building of king solomon's temple.
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and of course if you read your and you should, then you know that the temple was destroyed, the babylonian captivity happened. return from babylon, the second temple was built. freemasonry, freemasons took those stories of the destruction, the building, the second temple as other allegories and created more rituals. but again, as i mentioned, early writing and performing rituals is a literary genre that was extraordinarily popular before 1920. and there are literally hundreds of fraternal organizations in the 19th century that performed rituals on any type of legend and story, the same way that there are hundreds of of operas or plays based on all sorts of other stories as well. so freemasonry developed, those rituals that discussed the destruction of the first temple, the babylonian captivity and the building of the second temple, and then also leads into knights templar ism as, a form of christian freemasonry or christians relationship to temple in jerusalem. those degrees and ceremonies
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were generated in the 1760s, 1770s, and came more more in formal nature in the 19th century. the scottish rite of freemasonry that was called scottish is an explosion of rituals in france in the 1700s that coalesced in the united states about 1801 into what is called the scottish under 33 degrees, the 33rd and last degree of which i happen to be a third degree scottish rite freemason. so those degrees just exploded as people enjoyed doing them. the sense that if you read the every day in the 1820s and you got excited seeing those kind of rituals performed, that kind of explanation in the same way that cecil beaton mills made huge numbers of movies and the first great movies made that that were these story biblical stories right up into charleston of the ten commandments and that sort of stuff. so that would have been an exciting thing to do to be able to see those stories that you'd read in the bible your whole
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life acted out in some sort of performance or pageantry and then if there is some sort of secret word and grip that you could pretend that you were like the high priest or that you were like a rubber ball, or you could hold a trial and what hand and a sword on the other as you rebuilt the second temple. that's that's a very romantic and very exciting notion. and that was part of what made those rituals so important before 18, 1930. let's go to a question from the virtual audience, and then i see a question, the front row, stephen. so we actually have a few people asking to comment a little bit more about british and american freemason interaction during and after revolution. more specific, there's a question about whether not you can talk about the return of masonic lodge chests from the continental troops to the british. yes. so as i mentioned earlier that the fact that you had these american soldiers in the continental army who were captured, but they were given a large charter when their prisoners were in new york,
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demonstrates and the story of the regalia being captured during by the british and returned i believe happened and i'm vague this but i believe that happened in new york state in western new york in a battle maybe saratoga. i'm not sure that's attributed to george washington. washington not do that. but i think a british general did. so there examples of that. there are plenty of examples of that relationship amongst freemasons that goes on to this very day. so one of the curious things about the story, about the creation of a general grand master of the united states in 80, is that the idea would be the americans would talk about this. they would come up with a candidate who they would to be the general grand master and. then they would submit that name to the british grand lodge for their approval, which is ironic since their rebellion against the crown. but they're not in rebellion against the grand lodge of of england which or scotland. so there is this conversation that happens after the war about
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how independent they want to be because it is a fraternity, it's a brotherhood why wouldn't we be in one? why we not united and i think that the americans and the after the war for independence hated the british. if they did they would change in the name of prince william county and sorts of other names to like other want to change a day. so i know why. so there wasn't this animosity or hatred towards the british and certainly washington was happy to try and maintain that diplomatic relationship and. we established trade. so it's only in part because i think the american freemasons want to send their dues to england or pay tribute to the grand lodge, maintain their viability that they formed own independent grand lodges. but, you know, one of the interesting questions is those those fraternal relationships continue to grow even the war of 1812 with them, one of the questions i am curious about is how it was free. did freemasonry play a part in a
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diplomatic way when relationships rebuilt after the war of 1812, leading to when prince when, the prince of wales came and visited states in 1860? so freemasonry has its own unique things and their own way of doing things, but it is a fraternal organization. so there a negotiation there just how far independent we want to be and how how close we want to be. that's what we have in, america. that's why we have a democratic republic. you know, i think we'll let that be our last question as we're coming up at the 8:00 hour. thank mark. thanks very much. i was fascinated when you said masonic principles affected cut the sense of america, a republic. could you on that and more to the point were many of the members the constitutional convention pretty. and is there evidence that masonic principles filtered into those discussions and into the structure and content of the founding document as to the
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overall vision? that's right. so a very important british masonic historian named john hammer wrote there's nothing in original freemasonry except the assembly of the several parts. so freemasonry borrows everything from all sorts of other institutions. it borrows from the from the bible, borrows from stone, masonry bibles, borrows heavily and as influential as a product or fruit of the enlightenment period. so the very principles and ideas that are in the constitution are also were being talked about, discussed and part of masonic constitutions going back to andersen's constitution. 1723 so there are something like 13 or 15 signers of the u.s. constitution or freemasons, but the level of commitment and participate in for fraternity varies. and so like anything else any other organization, it's really a question of how much they know. so washington according to the book he had he received several
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books. he was fairly conversant in the in the jargon, the fraternity and the symbols by that. but whether or not it inculcated his mind it influenced him is a difficult thing. and that's always a trouble with anything. so there are plenty of people, you know, my family is half norwegian and i've got about five norwegian words in my head that i can say that my grandmother taught me, but how, but i probably maybe other norwegian characteristics like blue eyes or something like that. so how that how that impacts is difficult to. say i don't i think freemasonry was was a spice or a flavor in that mix but. it wasn't a main ingredient. it was part and parcel of that story. and certainly men were reading those books and and it was part of that literature that of that area. but it wasn't something central to any of those people's lives. benjamin franklin is another example. he was very active in freemasonry when he was a young man. he knew freemasonry better,
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maybe better than, anybody else of his time period because he visited lodges in england and in scotland in when he was and the service there. but he was an extraordinary human being in so many ways that freemasonry was not central his life. so i think freemasonry as i said, was an ingredients that provided a flavor to it. it provides means to begin a friendship and but it's not central. and the way that rousseau voltaire other ideas you know other philosophy is the bible would have impact on that so well mark talbot thank for writing this book on george washington freemasonry. please join me and welcoming and thanking mark talbot to mal vernon, academic.
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