Birth of American Freemasonry

RICHARD H. RYDER (JANUARY, 2017)

We say that Freemasonry started in the east and traveled to the west, which brings us to the first chartered lodge in the western hemisphere. It was in the Massachusetts Bay Colony that the Grand Lodge of Masons in England granted a charter to Henry Price in 1733. A bronze plaque situated on State Street in Boston marks the location where those first American colonists met as a formal, sanctioned Masonic entity. To this day, the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, currently located at the corner of Tremont and Boylston streets, is recognized as the third oldest Grand Lodge in the world, preceded only by The Grand Lodge of England and The Grand Lodge of Ireland.

Throughout history the tenets of Freemasonry – brotherly love, relief and truth – have inspired like-minded men toward greatness. Holding the same desire for truth and understanding, guided by the spiritual influence of a supreme architect, men have been moved to improve themselves and society. No wonder that at a unique point in history the seeds were sown for both fraternity and freedom in America.

Freemasonry teaches equality and rectitude of life, where men are judged not by their outward appearance or worldly wealth, but by their internal characteristics. America, like its citizens, is not perfect. As a nation and as men we have many imperfections. And so, in each lodge room, there exists both a rough and a perfect ashlar – granite stones – that represent the journey we take as Masons, from our rough and imperfect state to that state of perfection where we all hope to arrive.

Today, this same journey and rich tradition is shared with all Masons, including colonial icons such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere. The guiding principles they followed, interwoven with the Masonic lessons of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice are manifested in the words they penned on the documents that define our nation. Theses parchments of history serve as windows into the very character of the men who formed America, several of whom became leaders in the newly formed fraternity of American Freemasonry. It is no coincidence that men who sought and attained greatness in our nation also gravitated toward Freemasonry. Presidents, justices, generals, adventurers, artists of all kind, sports figures, and many others have benefited from Freemasonry. History is peppered with tales of inspiration between men of opposite backgrounds, combatants on the battlefield, and between father and son.

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