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Freemasonry in Federalist Connecticut, 1789-1835

Freemasonry in Federalist Connecticut, 1789-1835

Dorothy Ann Lipson
Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 392
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    Freemasonry in Federalist Connecticut, 1789-1835
    Book Description:

    Freemasonry prescribed for its members a supra-religious, supra-national philosophic universalism. Dorothy Ann Lipson examines its reception and adaptation in America, where its rapid spread was one index of increasing local diversity and cultural change.

    After tracing the English origins of Masonry, the author focuses on its development in post-Revolutionary Connecticut, where the Calvinist churches and the state had been supported by an unusually homogeneous population. As a counterculture or form of dissent, the fraternity provided its members with a variant religious experience, a source of serial distinction, a stable reference in times of change, a means of education, and an ethically licensed form of recreation. The author considers its role in these areas as well as the implications of such a fraternity tor the lives of women. The confrontation of the Masons and anti-Masons in the first part of the nineteenth century receives special attention as it dramatized political, religious, and cultural diversification.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7008-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    By the turn of the nineteenth century the American republic, surprising the world and itself by its survival, had developed some social institutions as akin to their English models, and yet as different from them, as were its political institutions. American Freemasonry was one of them.

    By 1800, forty-five lodges of Freemasons had been chartered by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, and their number grew to seventy-five before the Antimasonic movement of the late 1820s and early 1830s decimated the fraternity. Membership in a lodge had become part of the lives of thousands of men, and the lodge a familiar...

  5. I The Invention of Freemasonry
    (pp. 13-45)

    Speculative Freemasonry, assembled or invented in England in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, spread to America a few years later without significant change. The circumstances surrounding the establishment, modification, and spread of the fraternity suggest that those who were most active in setting up modern Freemasonry consciously attempted to create a useful social institution.¹ They were heirs of a century of multiple revolutions in England, anxious to stabilize their world by adapting received traditions to the changing times. For some of the same reasons, the men who joined Masonic lodges in America in the course of the late...

  6. II The Americanization of Freemasonry
    (pp. 46-79)

    Different social conditions before and after the Revolution governed the appeal of Masonry in America. In 1733, about a decade after the social architects of Masonry had gained control of the Premier Grand Lodge in London, Henry Price became “Provincial Grand Master of the Craft in New England,” and lodges were soon organized in the colonies.¹ Initially the pattern of Masonic lodges followed English trade routes and military deployments. In most places Masonry was part of a colonial culture, and one of its main attractions was the special ties it afforded with the fraternity at “home.”² Membership in an exotic...

  7. III Masonry and the Standing Order of Connecticut
    (pp. 80-111)

    In Connecticut in the 1790s Freemasonry stood at the intersection of two kinds of social anxiety. The fraternity came to be linked to an anticlerical latitudinarianism and to Jeffersonianism. Connecticut was then witnessing, many thought, a great degeneration of moral standards, accompanied by the rapid growth of a variety of denominations. American Enlightenment thought had seeped through the barriers of orthodoxy in a pervasive deism, unthinkingly incorporated into religious and political thought, unconsciously changing the values and mind set of the Revolutionary generation.¹ Yet no matter what their differences, the orthodox Calvinists, the sectarians, the deists, and the unchurched all...

  8. IV The Structure of Masonic Dissent
    (pp. 112-149)

    Since all aspects of social life in Connecticut around the turn of the nineteenth century were influenced by the established church polity, and since the doctrines, format, and purposes of Freemasonry were parareligious, the increasing popularity of the fraternity around the turn of the nineteenth century was a matter of both religious and political concern. Between 1789 and 1835 fourteen hundred men representing seventy-five lodges attended meetings of the Grand Lodge in Hartford or New Haven.¹ Almost half of them were active in the Grand Lodge, in the sense that they attended several meetings over a period of three or...

  9. V The Dynamics of Masonic Dissent: Putnam Lodge
    (pp. 150-186)

    When Putnam Lodge was established, various currents of Enlightenment thought influenced social as well as religious life and had moved from the cities to the towns of Connecticut. In Pomfret, for example, a church controversy about the ordination of a new minister epitomized the social changes prerequisite to the local establishment of Masonry. Opposition to the ordination of Oliver Dodge in the First Church of Pomfret led to a pamphlet war between Zephaniah Swift, Dodge’s champion, and the Reverend Benjamin Welch, the spokesman of religious orthodoxy. Masonry soon institutionalized the pattern of values that Swift described and Welch resisted. The...

  10. VI Masonry, Manners, and Morality
    (pp. 187-227)

    Freemasons as moral educators found themselves in harmony with their time in Jacksonian America. Morality was, as one observer put it, “the cant and crack word” of society: “If you go to our fashionable churches, you will hear the fashionable clergyman preach ‘morality’; if you visit a private gentleman’s house, he is sure to entertain you with ‘morality’ if you attend a public meeting, the ‘moral’ speaker will address his ‘moral’ fellow-citizens on the subject of ‘public morals.’ . . . Morality seems to be the great lever of society; the difficulty only consists in finding the fulcrum.”¹ Freemasonry rested...

  11. VII The Masonic Counterculture: “That Which Is Not Bread”
    (pp. 228-266)

    Exclusiveness, secrecy, and a pseudoaristocratic style continuously attracted members to Masonry. Another explicit attraction, and a largely unformulated source of antimasonry, was the fact that the fraternity served in part as a leisure activity, representing a subsystem of ideas and values at odds with the Calvinist tradition. In 1829, when the inhabitants of the First Ecclesiastical Society of Woodstock presented a memorial to the Reverend Ralph Crampton listing fourteen objections to Masonry, most of their concerns were theological, but they could not forbear to criticize some cultural aspects of the Masonic alternative. If Freemasonry was a religious institution, they said,...

  12. VIII “The Great Moral Shock”: Antimasonic Organization
    (pp. 267-311)

    Masonry flourished and antimasonry was dormant in Connecticut after the turn of the nineteenth century. The establishment of Masonry and the disestablishment of the Congregational churches had deprived unorganized orthodox antipathy to the fraternity of political religious leadership. However, in 1826 a series of criminal acts by Masons in upstate New York transformed local antipathies into widely shared antagonisms, organized into active, open opposition to the fraternity. An Antimasonic movement spread to several states, including Connecticut.¹

    In September of 1826 William Morgan of Batavia in upstate New York was abducted by a group of Masons shortly after he announced the...

  13. IX “The Grand Inquest of the Nation”: Masonry Recapitulated
    (pp. 312-340)

    Although the growth of lodges and the diversity of their membership showed that Freemasonry in post-Revolutionary and Federal Connecticut served many individual and social uses, a substantial fraction of Connecticut’s citizenry thought that the fraternity epitomized a system of values repugnant to Connecticut’s heritage and America’s ideals. The impetus of Antimasonry in Connecticut, even when the movement was politicized, was primarily religious.¹ Antimasons tried to organize a “grand inquest of the nation,” to expose its evils and dangers, and to gain a popular verdict against the fraternity.² Some of the Antimasonic arguments, examined here in local detail, reveal not only...

  14. APPENDIX I The Structure of Freemasonry
    (pp. 341-341)
  15. APPENDIX II Officers of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, 1789–1835
    (pp. 342-343)
  16. APPENDIX III The Biographical File of Putnam Lodge Members, 1801–1835
    (pp. 344-350)
  17. APPENDIX IV Population Tables on Putnam Lodge and its Territory
    (pp. 351-355)
  18. APPENDIX V Some Bibliographic Observations
    (pp. 356-368)
  19. Index
    (pp. 369-380)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 381-381)