Masonic and Anti-Masonic Presidents of the United States
presented at Federal Lodge #1, F.A.A.M., of the District of Columbia
February 9, 1998, by Paul M. Bessel
Which U.S. Presidents were Freemasons?
1 George Washington (Pres. 1789-1797)(MM 1753)
2 James Monroe (Pres. 1817-1825)(MM 1776)
3 Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)(MM 1800?)(Fedl #1 1830)
4 James K. Polk (Pres. 1845-1849)(MM 1820)
5 James Buchanan (Pres. 1857-1861)(MM 1817)
6 Andrew Johnson (Pres. 1865-1869)(MM 1851)
7 James A. Garfield (Pres. 1881)(MM 1864)
8 William McKinley (Pres. 1897-1901)(MM 1865)
9 Theodore Roosevelt (Pres. 1901-1909)(MM 1901)
10 William H. Taft (Pres. 1909-1913)(MM 1901)
11 Warren G. Harding (Pres. 1921-1923)(MM 1920)
12 Franklin D. Roosevelt (Pres. 1933-1945)(MM 1911)
13 Harry S. Truman (Pres. 1945-1953)(MM 1909)
14 Gerald R. Ford (Pres. 1974-1977)(MM 1951)
Discussion: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Lyndon B. Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton
Were Masonic U.S. Presidents active in the Craft?
Harry S. Truman was Grand Master of Missouri, an enthusiastic Masonic ritualist, and Master of lodges while an active politician. He attended Masonic lodge meetings while campaigning, and while he was President of the U.S., and he wrote, “The greatest honor that has ever come to me, and that can ever come to me in my life, is to be Grand Master of Masons in Missouri”
On the other hand, for some of the Presidents who were Masons there is little or no evidence that they attended lodge meetings or said anything about their Masonic memberships.
Were there U.S. Presidents who were actively opposed to Freemasonry?
John Quincy Adams ran for Congress as a representative of the Antimasonic Party. He hoped Freemasonry would disappear from America. He wrote that his father, John Adams, also a U.S. President, decided not to join because “there was nothing in the Masonic Institution worthy of his seeking to be associated with it.”
Why was John Quincy Adams opposed to Freemasonry?
Adams wrote that Freemasonry was tainted by its oaths, penalties, ritual, and the actions of its leaders and members. He was incensed by the evidence that Masons had kidnapped and killed William Morgan in upstate New York in 1826, and by the evidence that Masons helped brethren who were accused of having participated in these crimes.
Adams said Masonic ritual, titles, and practices were childish, ridiculous, foolish, harmful, and against the basic principles of democracy and equality, and respect for the laws of the U.S.
What did Presidents who were Masons say about Freemasonry?
President William McKinley said in 1901 that the brotherhood of fraternal societies was similar to the brotherhood of “equal citizenship” in the U.S.
Theodore Roosevelt, said in 1902, “One of the things that attracted me so greatly to Masonry . . . was that it really did live up to what we, as a government, are pledged to — of treating each man on his merits as a Man”
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The more I come in contact with the work of the Masonic Fraternity the more impressed I am by the great charitable work and the great practical good which we are carrying out.”
How much was George Washington involved in Masonic activities?
George Washington became a Mason at age 20 in 1753. He may have attended about 9 lodge meetings during the remaining 46 years of his life, and probably never presided over any lodge.
However, George Washington wrote letters in which he said he was happy to be a Mason, and also, in 1791, describing Masonry as being “founded in justice and benevolence,” and “the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.”
But, when he was asked more specifically about Freemasonry in 1798, he wrote, “. . . So far as I am acquainted with the principles and Doctrines of Free Masonry, I conceive them to be founded on benevolence and to be exercised for the good of mankind. If it has been a Cloak to promote improper or nefarious objects, it is a melancholly [sic] proof that in unworthy hands, the best institutions may be made use of to promote the worst designs.”
Freemasonry has played a significant role in the history of the United States, so it influenced most or all of our Presidents. Some U.S. Presidents who were Freemasons were great, some failures, and some average.
Presidents have spoken of Freemasonry’s good work on behalf of charity and helping others. George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt also spoke of Freemasonry as an institution that teaches us how to get along in society, with respect for the equality of everyone, tolerance of differences among people, and taking action for that which is right.
Questions to think about and discuss
How well are Masons today carrying on the ideals referred to by Masonic Presidents?
Does Freemasonry now promote equality and tolerance of all races, colors, ethnic backgrounds, lifestyles?
Why do current politicians who are Masons keep that quiet?
Is it true that “Masons today appear to be more concerning with perpetuation of the imagined past than they are with adaptation to a present that is real,” and, “… that Masons in another day … did not hesitate to promote the well-being of mankind, even to the point of putting themselves at the cutting edge of movements organized to achieve social and political change.”
What can we do to promote strong leadership, maintain the best of what we have in the Craft, and reestablish the best of what we were in the past, so we may again have proud Masonic Presidents of the United States?
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