Organizational rules, called Old Charges, from groups or guilds of European stonemasons date back to the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries according to some historians, while others date these guilds as far back as 1057 in Scotland and 1220 in England. The first records of the speculative organization called Freemasonry did not appear until the sixteenth century.
The first written record of an initiation into Freemasonry was the initiation of Elias Asmole (also spelled Ashmole) in 1646. Since he was initiated into an existing lodge, other unrecorded initiations must have already happened. Asmole was well known for other reasons as well. He was an alchemist, astrologer, and Rosicrucian, in addition to being a Freemason, and the Asmolean Museum at Oxford was named for the collection he left to the university. Asmole was also one of the early members of the Royal Society. His fellow Royal Society members sometimes shared his interests. Sir Robert Moray was a Freemason, Christopher Wren was initiated, though we do not have a record of his participation, and Isaac Newton had similar interests, but did not join the Freemasons.
[...] Conclusion In the 500 years of its history Freemasonry has survived surprisingly intact and continues to thrive in a new era all through Europe and North America. It also continues to attract a large enough number of members and enough influential people to have a real impact on the societies in which it exists. As a morally based fraternal organization and a philanthropic organization it has done a lot of good, while continuing to attract attention and opposition as a dangerous secret society. [...]
[...] In America, Freemasonry became more Christian than it had been in Europe, and, despite the openness of early Freemason teachings, enforced racial segregation. A man named Prince Hall established African American Freemasonry in the U.S. Mainstream Freemasonry is no longer completely segregated, but there are still lodges that do not recognize Prince Hall Masonry. Freemason reputation was severely damaged in a scandal in 1826. A New York man named William Morgan joined the Freemasons and took the usual oaths of secrecy about the teachings and rituals. [...]
[...] Because Freemasonry was a moral organization and members were screened for their character, business owners in the American colonies sometimes used Masonic symbols in advertising to assure the public of their reliability. Freemasonry did not play a significant role in the American Revolutionary War, because Freemasons were heavily represented on both sides of the battle. George Washington, the Revolutionary Commander in Chief, was a Freemason, as were most of the British commanders and many of the officers in both armies. [...]
[...] Many people have claimed that Freemasonry influenced the formation of the new government in the U.S., and Freemasonry certainly did have a major influence on the people who wrote the Constitution and set up the new government. By the time that the Revolutionary War was finished, organizations like the Sons of Liberty had faded, and Freemasonry had become the leading fraternal organization. Thomas Jefferson, writer of the U.S. Constitution, was not a Freemason, but the Constitutional Convention of 1787 decided on the contents of the document. [...]
[...] Many of the best known and best loved British writers were also Freemasons: Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Anthony Trollop, Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Rudyard Kipling. III. Freemasonry on the Continent Freemasonry spread from Britain throughout Europe and the rest of the world, but the eighteenth century was a difficult time for Freemasonry in much of Europe. In 1738 Pope Clement XII issued a Bull against Freemasonry. Freemasonry had secret teachings and swore members to secrecy. [...]
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