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That Religion in Which All Men Agree

That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture

David G. Hackett
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 329
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  • Book Info
    That Religion in Which All Men Agree
    Book Description:

    This powerful study weaves the story of Freemasonry into the narrative of American religious history. Freighted with the mythical legacies of stonemasons’ guilds and the Newtonian revolution, English Freemasonry arrived in colonial America with a vast array of cultural baggage, which was drawn on, added to, and transformed during its sojourn through American culture. David G. Hackett argues that from the 1730s through the early twentieth century the religious worlds of an evolving American social order broadly appropriated the beliefs and initiatory practices of this all-male society. For much of American history, Freemasonry was both counter and complement to Protestant churches, as well as a forum for collective action among racial and ethnic groups outside the European American Protestant mainstream. Moreover, the cultural template of Freemasonry gave shape and content to the American "public sphere." By including a group not usually seen as a carrier of religious beliefs and rituals, Hackett expands and complicates the terrain of American religious history by showing how Freemasonry in American has contributed to a broader understanding of the multiple influences that have shaped religion in American culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95762-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Modern Freemasonry emerged from a milieu of early eighteenth-century London clubs, salons, and similar societies that were coming into existence in private, outside the control of the state. In 1709 the influential British social theorist Anthony Ashley Cooper, the third Earl of Shaftesbury, wrote a letter to a friend describing the emergence of these new forms of social life. Gentlemen who had previously upheld the “Sacred Truths” of the royal court, he recounted, were now meeting in “private” societies. There they engaged in wide-ranging conversations, “unravelling or refuting any Argument” so that greater truths might prevail. These “polite” societies, the...


    • CHAPTER 1 Colonial Freemasonry and Polite Society, 1733–1776
      (pp. 19-54)

      At sunrise on the morning of December 27, 1738, the “firing of guns from several ships in the harbor” to announce the festival of Saint John the Evangelist awakened the people of Charleston, South Carolina. At ten o’clock, the city’s Masons, clothed in jewels, aprons, white gloves, and stockings and preceded by a small band, paraded through the streets to the site of their Grand Lodge meeting, at the home of James Graeme, the soon-to-be chief justice of the province and their provincial grand master. At eleven o’clock, the brotherhood processed to the Anglican church, where they sat in their...

    • CHAPTER 2 Revolutionary Masonry: Republican and Christian, 1757–1825
      (pp. 55-83)

      Historians of religion point to republicanism and democratization as central developments in American religious life in the revolutionary era. Beginning in the 1760s, a new republican ideology that incorporated both Christian and Enlightenment ideas into its hegemonic framework expanded Christian ideas of liberty and community to encompass not only the church but the nation as well. Though American Protestantism was not constitutionally connected to the legal structure of the state, it did come to align itself with the new American nation. At the same time, a host of evangelical populists led a religious revolt against the learned clergy, decorous congregations,...

    • CHAPTER 3 A Private World of Ritual, 1797–1825
      (pp. 84-110)

      In the early nineteenth century, American Freemasonry developed an extensive ritual life. The perfunctory ceremonies carried out in rented rooms of colonial taverns now took as much as several hours to perform, in elegantly decorated sanctuaries in permanent lodge buildings. Ceremonial dress, dramatic action, sensual imagery, mysterious symbols, and symbolic objects now came into play. This was especially true of the new Royal Arch degrees, which were higher than those previously available and whose initiatory steps advanced a select few along a path of moral and spiritual enlightenment toward the discovery of ancient wisdom. These rituals led the brotherhood back...

    • CHAPTER 4 Anti-Masonry and the Public Sphere, 1826–1850
      (pp. 111-124)

      By the 1820s, American Freemasonry had created a space for itself apart from the authority of established churches and civil government and between the social worlds of public and private life. Surveying the American scene in the 1830s, the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville contended that in a nation devoid of established hierarchies, the abundance of voluntary organizations contributed to the stability of democracy. “In order that men remain civilized or become so,” Tocqueville remarked, “the art of associating must be developed and perfected among them in the same ratio as equality of conditions increases.”¹ Early nineteenth-century Freemasonry was among a...

    • CHAPTER 5 Gender, Protestants, and Freemasonry, 1850–1920
      (pp. 125-148)

      Over the last half of the nineteenth century, the chastened Masonic fraternity recovered its losses in membership and grew at a pace that resulted in more than 5 percent of the adult native white male population joining the brotherhood by the century’s end.¹ This occurred within a large burgeoning of all manner of fraternal orders in what came to be called the Golden Age of Fraternity.² As the century progressed, industrialization, urbanization, and immigration shattered well-established patterns of family, work, and religious life. Outside the home, women and men sought new gender-defined associations, African Americans and new immigrants responded to...


    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 149-150)

      Freemasonry responded to the needs and desires of American men both within and beyond the white middle class. Though dominated by native born European American men from Protestant backgrounds, throughout the fraternity’s sojourn through American culture it attracted Catholics, Jews, Native Americans and African Americans who appropriated the Masonic framework for their own purposes. Catholics were the original operative Masons, working on the great stone castles and cathedrals of the medieval period. Jews were admitted to the eighteenth century “modern” fraternity. In nineteenth century America, both these groups created from the Masonic template their own orders to respond to the...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Prince Hall Masons and the African American Church: The Labors of Grand Master and Bishop James Walker Hood, 1864–1918
      (pp. 151-174)

      In the late nineteenth century, James Walker Hood was the bishop of the North Carolina Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the grand master of the North Carolina Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons. In his forty-four years as a bishop, half of that time as the senior bishop of the denomination, Reverend Hood was instrumental in planting and nurturing his denomination’s churches throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. The founder of North Carolina’s denominational newspaper and college, the author of five books, including two histories of the AMEZ Church, the appointed assistant superintendent of public instruction and...

    • CHAPTER 7 Freemasonry and Native Americans, 1776–1920
      (pp. 175-191)

      The story of Freemasonry and Native Americans begins in 1776, when the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant joined an English Masonic lodge.¹ As an Indian leader and Loyalist ally, Brant traveled several times to England, where he discussed the role of the Iroquois in the Revolutionary War. While in London, he was entertained by the Prince of Wales, had his portrait painted, and joined a Masonic lodge. In his lifetime, the Mohawk chief learned English, gained a Western education, joined the Anglican Church, and translated the Bible into his native language. At the same time, he was a member of the...

    • CHAPTER 8 Jews and Catholics, 1723–1920
      (pp. 192-218)

      Jews and Catholics have long been members of the Masonic brother-hood. Jews were first admitted shortly after the publication of the modern fraternity’s 1723 constitution, which stipulates that membership cannot be denied on the basis of religious affiliation. Subsequent Jewish involvement in Freemasonry corresponds with the history of Jewish participation in European and American society. In America, the first Jewish Masons were prominent members of their colonial coastal settlements. After the Revolution, Jews rose to leadership in the fraternity, though their presence was at times unsettling. Some founded “Jewish lodges” in greater conformity with Jewish religious practices. Others borrowed Freemasonry’s...

    • Epilogue
      (pp. 219-228)

      Like many American voluntary societies, Freemasonry expanded and then contracted in the twentieth century. Between 1900 and 1930, Masonic membership grew from about 850,000 to 3.3 million.¹ The fraternity’s new emphases on efficient business practices, community service, social auxiliaries, and a patriotic, middle-class Anglo-Saxon identity attracted many young men. In the Great Depression, however, membership plummeted by 25 percent. Between 1927, the membership peak, and 1997, it decreased 71 percent. This was part of a larger decline in chapter-based associations. Robert D. Putnam has demonstrated that between 1951 and 1997, the membership rate in thirty-two such national organizations dropped by...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 229-302)
  8. Index
    (pp. 303-317)