America's Founding Influences, particularly the Three Eras of Masons

America's founding and questions answered about an institution with a changing definition.

With varying levels of official endorsement, most countries at the time of America's founding had established Churches:

Sweden had established the Lutheran Church;

Scotland had established the Church of Scotland;

Holland had established the Dutch Reformed Church;

Russia had established the Russian Orthodox Church;

Serbia had established the Serbian Orthodox Church;

Romania had established the Romanian Orthodox Church;

Greece had established the Greek Orthodox Church;

Bulgaria had established the Bulgarian Orthodox Church;

Finland had established the Finnish Orthodox Church;

Ethiopia had established the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church;

Switzerland had established Calvin's Ecclesiastical Ordinances; and

Italy, Spain, France, Poland, Austria, Mexico, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Vatican City had established the Roman Catholic Church.

England had established the Anglican Church;​

The colonies in America were initially founded by settlers from different countries with different Christian denominations.

​In 1607, Virginia was founded by Anglicans;

In 1620, Massachusetts was founded by Pilgrim Separatists & Puritans;

In 1626, New York was founded by Dutch Reformed;

In 1633, Maryland was founded by Catholics;

In 1636, Rhode Island was founded by Baptists;

In 1636, Connecticut was founded by Congregationalists;

In 1638, New Hampshire was founded by Congregationalists;

In 1638, Delaware founded by Lutherans;

In 1653, North Carolina was founded by Anglicans;

In 1663, South Carolina founded by Anglicans;

In 1664, New Jersey was founded by Lutherans;

In 1682, Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers;

In 1732, Georgia was founded by Protestants.

GREAT AWAKENING

After the French and Indian War and prior to the Revolutionary War, the Great Awakening Revival lessened emphasis on particular denominational doctrines, and instead promoted general Christian doctrines.

Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, Congregationalist, Lutheran, Methodists and Baptist preachers spread a renewed spiritual enthusiasm.

Great Awakening preachers included: Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent, Ebenezer Pemberton and James Davenport.

Evangelist George Whitefield drew crowds of thousands with Ben Franklin publishing his sermons and distributing them across the colonies.

Commenting on these revival preachers, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Miles King, September 26, 1814:

“Nay, we have heard it said that there is not a Quaker or a Baptist, a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian, a Catholic or a Protestant in heaven; that on entering that gate, we leave those badges of schism behind...

Let us not be uneasy about the different roads we may pursue, as believing them the shortest, to that our last abode; but following the guidance of a good conscience, let us be happy in the hope that by these different paths we shall all meet in the end.

And that you and I may meet and embrace, is my earnest prayer. And with this assurance I salute you with brotherly esteem and respect.”

PATRIOTIC INDEBTEDNESS

Though during the colonial era, it was largely one denomination per colony. Many had the attitude, if you do not like our denomination, fine, start your own colony.

During Revolution, this began to change.

Citizens from different denominations who had fought together against the King of England, afterwards had an attitude of indebtedness towards each other.

​Many came to the view, we may not always agree on religion, but you were willing to fight and die for my freedom, therefore, I need to let you practice your faith.

A closer examination as to how this change took place is helpful.

The Anglican Church had been the established Church in the colonies of Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Maryland at the time of the Revolution.

Citizens in these colonies were expected to attend the established church where they heard Anglican pastors defend the King.

After the church service was dismissed, they went outside, picked up their guns and fought the King.

As the Revolution progressed, citizens gained enough courage to filter out of the established churches and venture into dissenting and non-conformist churches.

DISESTABLISHMENT

After the Declaration of Independence, the new States rewrote their old colonial charters into State Constitutions where they disestablished the preferred denominations.

Like a racetrack with 13 lanes, different States expanded religious tolerance at their own speeds, with Pennsylvania and Rhode Island out in front and Connecticut and Massachusetts in the rear.

Connecticut kept the Congregationalist denomination established until 1818 and Massachusetts till 1830.

It was a new experience for many citizens not to be forced by the government to adhere to a particular set of denominational beliefs.

As the new Federal government was being formed, many States were concerned the Federal government would follow the example of Europe and choose one particular Christian denomination as the national one.

STATE CONSTITUTIONS

The Constitution went into effect June 21, 1788, when 2/3’s of the States ratified it.

What acknowledgments of religion were in the State Constitutions at the time those States ratified the U.S. Constitution:

DELAWARE - 1st to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1776 State Constitution:

“Every person...appointed to any office... shall...subscribe... ‘I...profess faith in GOD THE FATHER, and in JESUS CHRIST His only Son, and in the HOLY GHOST, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.’”

PENNSYLVANIA - 2nd to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1776 State Constitution, signed by Ben Franklin:

“Each member, before he takes his seat, shall...subscribe...'I do believe in one GOD, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and the Punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.'”

NEW JERSEY - 3rd to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1776 State Constitution:

“All persons, professing a belief in the faith of any PROTESTANT sect, who shall demean themselves peaceably under the government...shall be capable of being elected.”

GEORGIA - 4th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1777 State Constitution:

“Representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county...and they shall be of the PROTESTANT religion.”

CONNECTICUT - 5th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, retained its 1662 Colonial Constitution, which was established PROTESTANT CONGREGATIONAL, till 1818:

“By the Providence of GOD...having from their ancestors derived a free and excellent Constitution...whereby the legislature depends on the free and annual election... The free fruition of such liberties and privileges as humanity, civility and CHRISTIANITY call for.”

MASSACHUSETTS - 6th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1780 State Constitution, written by John Adams:

“Any person...before he...execute the duties of his...office... [shall] subscribe...'I...declare, that I believe the CHRISTIAN religion, and have a firm persuasion of its truth'....The legislature shall...authorize the support and maintenance of public PROTESTANT teachers of piety, religion and morality.”

MARYLAND - 7th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1776 State Constitution:

“No other test...ought to be required, on admission to any office...than such oath of support and fidelity to this State...and a declaration of a belief in the CHRISTIAN religion.”

SOUTH CAROLINA - 8th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1778 State Constitution:

“No person shall be eligible to a seat...unless he be of the PROTESTANT religion...The CHRISTIAN PROTESTANT religion shall be deemed...the established religion of this State.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE - 9th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1784 State Constitution:

“No person shall be capable of being elected...who is not of the PROTESTANT religion.”

VIRGINIA - 10th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1776 State Constitution, Bill of Rights, written by James Madison and George Mason:

“It is the mutual duty of all to practice CHRISTIAN forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”

NEW YORK - 11th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1777 State Constitution:

“The United American States...declare...'Laws of nature and of NATURE'S GOD...All men are created equal; that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable rights...Appealing to the SUPREME JUDGE of the world...A firm reliance on the protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE'...People of this State, ordain...the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination... Provided, That the liberty of conscience, hereby granted, shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness.”

NORTH CAROLINA - 12th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, stated in its 1776 State Constitution:

“No person, who shall deny the being of GOD or the truth of the PROTESTANT religion, or the Divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding...office.”

RHODE ISLAND - 13th to ratify the U.S. Constitution, retained its 1663 Colonial Constitution till 1843, which stated:

“By the blessing of God...a full liberty in religious concernements...rightly grounded upon GOSPEL principles, will give the best and greatest security...in the true CHRISTIAN faith and worship of God... They may...defend themselves, in their just rights and liberties against all the enemies of the CHRISTIAN faith.

(see the book, THE ORIGINAL 13 - A Documentary History of Religion in America's First Thirteen States http://www.americanminute.com/store/product.php?productid=7&cat=1&page=1 )

“POLITICAL” RELIGION

At this time a type of “political” religion began to take shape.

Many citizens jealously held to their particular denominational doctrines, and churches often split over seemingly minor points.

Politicians wanted to side-step these religious landmines as they wanted to get the most votes possible.

To avoid religious hotbed arguments, politicians would make their mentions of faith acceptable to the majority of potential voters.

Political rhetoric led to religious references being in the lowest common denominator terms.

The more generic the reference the more votes.

VALUE OF JUDEO-CHRISTAIN ETHICS

Some politicians distanced themselves from the spiritual aspect of religion by emphasizing the political usefulness of Judeo-Christian ethics in maintaining order in society and in civilizing Indians on the frontiers. (Jefferson, Franklin, etc.)

This was an extension of enlightenment philosophers who explained how self-governing republics were dependent upon social morality, such as John Locke, who wrote in A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity, 1695:

“He that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers and compare them with those contained in the New Testament will find them to come short of the morality delivered by our Saviour and taught by His disciples...

Such a law of morality Jesus Christ has given in the New Testament...a full and sufficient rule for our direction, and conformable to that of reason...

His morality has a sure standard...and reason can not gainsay nor question; but both together witness to come from God, the great Lawgiver.

And such a one as this, out of the New Testament, I think, they would never find, nor can anyone say is anywhere else to be found...

Our Saviour's great rule, that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, is such a fundamental truth for the regulating of human society, that, by that alone, one might without difficulty determine all the cases and doubts in social morality.”

DENOMINATIONAL DRIFT

Various denominations placed less emphasis on the exposition of Scripture in their church services.

An example of this was the Quakers, or Society of Friends.

Beginning in England, where most original members had a background in traditional orthodox Anglican doctrine, the Quaker “Friends” meetings did not focus on expounding Scripture.

Instead, they adopted a loose meeting format where members would sit and wait for someone to be moved upon by the Spirit to speak.

Over time, there was a gradual drifting from what was considered orthodox doctrine.

NEW DENOMINATIONS

This occurred with some of the new denominations, which formed holding Scriptures as authoritative, but increasingly embraced unorthodox beliefs. (ie. Unitarians, Universalists, and later a variety of cults.)

ARRIVAL OF IMMIGRANTS

Then there was the arrival of large numbers of immigrants, particularly Catholic and Jewish.

Their beliefs were initially resisted, but then were gradually accommodated.

SECOND GREAT AWAKENING

The Second Great Awakening Revival focused attention less on denominationalism, and more on the importance of an individual, personal relationship with God.

Andrew Jackson wrote March 25, 1835:

“I was brought up a rigid Presbyterian, to which I have always adhered. Our excellent Constitution guarantees to every one freedom of religion, and charity tells us (and you know Charity is the real basis of all true religion)...judge the tree by its fruit. All who profess Christianity believe in a Savior, and that by and through Him we must be saved. We ought, therefore, to consider all good Christians whose walks correspond with their professions, be they Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist or Roman Catholic.”

“Camp meetings” drew thousands and “the altar call” was first used in services to call individuals to make public their personal commitment to follow the Lord.

This revival started a missions movement, a welfare movement, and eventually a social justice movement which moved toward political activism.

FRENCH INFIDELITY

Also in the early 1800s, French infidelity made its way across the Atlantic Ocean to America.

Because the French aided in the American Revolution with leaders such as Lafayette, Rochambeau, and DeGrasse, there were many American patriots who had an affinity to everything French, being called 'Francophiles.'

Franklin had been ambassador to France during the Revolution and Jefferson was ambassador to France after the Revolution.

As France society began to devolve prior to their French Revolution, an attitude of moral looseness, called French infidelity, came into vogue, being led by writers such as Voltaire.

This grew into ridicule of Judeo-Christian beliefs, followed by open attack.

These changing beliefs reputedly began to infiltrate the Masons.

MASONS

Volumes have been written on the subject of Masons and their influence on American and world politics.

This short article is admittedly an incomplete oversimplification, but nevertheless it provides a valuable perspective.

The Masons, which existed in Europe for centuries, went through three general eras.

FIRST ERA OF MASONS

The FIRST ERA of Masons were Medieval stone workers.

During the Middle Ages, masons were individuals who built cathedrals, walls, bridges and castles.

Their “secret knowledge” was geometry and construction techniques.

Since European kingdoms were always at war, masons were invaluable.

They were allowed to guard their secrets with the same diligence that nuclear defense secrets are guarded today.

SECOND ERA OF MASONS

The SECOND ERA of Masons included political dissidents who met in secret to plot against kings.

As mason meetings were places where construction techniques could be secretly shared, it also became a place where political complaints could be secretly aired.

With political boundaries continually changing, Masons shared not just technical but also political information with their counterparts in other countries.

Secrecy was essential, for if it became public that someone spoke against their king, they could be convicted of treason and executed.

Mason lodge meetings became places where individuals voiced dissatisfaction with their king without fear of being killed.

This was the situation in colonial America.

The hesitancy of America's founders to speak out publicly against King George III was evidenced by the 1,500 pamphlets written by revolutionaries signed with pseudonyms, such as:

John Dickinson signed “A Pennsylvania Farmer”;

Thomas Paine signed “Common Sense”;

John Adams signed “Novanglus,” “Clarendan” or published anonymously;

Baptist minister Benjamin Austin signed “Candidus”;

Baptist minister John Leland signed “Jack Nipps”;

Catholic Bishop John Carroll used the alias “Pacificus”;

Benjamin Franklin wrote as “Silence Dogood,” “the Busy-Body,” “Obadiah Plainman.” “Robin Good-fellow,” “Poor Richard” and “Richard Saunders;

and John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton later shared the name “Publius.”

Another indicator America's Founders hesitated being publicly identified as opposing the King was the elapse of six months from the time the delegates approved the Declaration of Independence to the time it was finally published.

John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, secretary, signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Most other delegates signed the specially prepared engrossed copy on August 2, 1776.

It was not until January 18, 1777, that the last signer signed and it was published.

Once it was published, they were on record of committing treason and faced the death penalty if caught.

Indeed, many were immediately hunted down.

REJECTION OF KING'S CHURCH

Rebellion against the King was twofold, as the King was not only the head of British military forces, but was also the head of the Anglican Church.

In Mason lodge meetings, opinions were expressed not just against the King, but also against the abuses of the King's Church, building on Protestant Reformation criticism of the Roman Catholic Church.

An attitude developed that was critical of all 'organized' religion, claiming they had incorporated 'corruptions' through centuries of church hierarchy.

The teachings of Jesus himself, though, continued to be held in high esteem.

On April 21, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson wrote to Henry Fry:

“I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught but I hold in the most profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invented.”

On March 23, 1801, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Moses Robinson:

“The Christian Religion, when divested of the rags in which (the clergy) have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of its benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind.”

On November 4, 1816, John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson:

“I see in every page something to recommend Christianity in its purity, and something to discredit its corruption.”

Benjamin Franklin is attributed to have stated in a letter to the French ministry, March 1778:

“Whoever shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.”

After the Revolutionary War, Mason membership in America dropped off, as there was no reason to secretly organize against the King.

THIRD ERA OF MASONS

The THIRD ERA of Masons involves a discussion of the French Revolution.

Initially, after the American Revolution, many Americans were enamored by everything French, due to the help provided by French leaders Lafayette, Rochambeau, and DeGrasse.

Jefferson, who had served as ambassador to France, returned to America as a “Francophile,” someone loving France.

At this time, France's loose morals, called French infidelity, came into vogue.

French writers, such as Voltaire, openly ridiculed Judeo-Christian beliefs, not realizing that this weakening of the country's moral foundation would in a short time lead to a blood bath of thousands of deaths.

What precipitated the French Revolution?

King Louis XVI had incurred much debt to France by sending his army and navy to help with the America's Revolution.

France gained no financial benefit from helping America gain independence.

Wanting to be an example of tolerance, the King allowed citizens to print and distribute their political opinions, even those attacking him.

Then France had a few years where their crops failed. The King was blamed.

Instead of cracking down on his critics, King Louis naively let them organize.

They eventually chopped off his head and the French Revolution turned into a Reign of Terror.

Rebellion against the King graduated into a rebellion against the King's established church, then eventually against all organized churches, then a rejection of all Judeo-Christian traditions.

It became an intentional campaign to de-christianize French society and replace it with a civic religion of state worship.

Robespierre was the head of the Committee on Public Safety - France's version of a Department of Homeland Security.

He put a prostitute in Notre Dame Cathedral, covered her with a sheet, and declared her as the “goddess of reason.”

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg was turned into a “Temple of Reason.”

Churches were closed or used for "immoral," "lurid," "licentious," "scandalous" "depravities."

France did not want their new Republic done “in the year of the Lord” so they made 1792 the new Year ONE.

Embracing a “cult of reason,” they did not want a seven day week with a Sabbath rest, so the came up with a 10 day week.

Each day had 10 decimal hours, with 100 decimal minutes to each hour, and 100 decimal seconds to each minute.

“Ten” was considered the number of man - having ten fingers and ten toes - so they invented the metric system where all measurements were divisible by ten.

Crosses were forbidden;

Religious monuments were destroyed;

Public and private worship and education outlawed;

Priests and ministers, along with those who harbored them, were executed on sight;

Graves were desecrated, including the grave of Ste. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, who had called citizens to fast and pray when Attila the Hun was headed toward the city in 451 AD.

JACOBINS

The most radical group embracing French infidelity were called “Jacobins,” a left-wing revolutionary party.

The Masonic lodges in Europe were reputedly infiltrated by these Jacobins who networked to pursue subversive political agendas.

Eventually, they spread to America, though not all Masons became aware of this.

An illustration of how this may have worked is to imagine a multi-level marketing organization with a well-established down-line. Someone can introduce a new product and it is simply marketed through the existing down-line.

“French Infidelity” or deism is said to have subtly spread within the existing system of Mason lodges in the western world.

THOMAS PAINE

One of the many individuals influenced by Jacobin French infidelity and rationalism was popular writer Thomas Paine.

Many of America's founders rebuked Thomas Paine for writing the book Age of Reason.

Samuel Adams wrote in his last letter to Thomas Paine, November 30, 1802:

“When I heard you had turned your mind to a defense of infidelity, I felt myself much astounded and more grieved, that you had attempted a measure so injurious to the feelings and so repugnant to the true interests of so great a part of the citizens of the United States.

The people of New England, if you will allow me to use a Scripture phrase, are fast returning to their first love. Will you excite among them the spirit of angry controversy at a time when they are hastening to amity and peace?

I am told that some of our newspapers have announced your intention to publish an additional pamphlet upon the principles of your Age of Reason. Do you think that your pen, or the pen of any other man, can unchristianize the mass of our citizens, or have you hopes of converting a few of them to assist you in so bad a cause.”

Vice-President John Adams wrote in a diary entry retorting Thomas Paine, July 26, 1796:

“The Christian religion is, above all the Religions that every prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity, and Humanity.

Let the Blackguard Paine say what he will, it is Resignation to God, it is Goodness itself to man.”

On behalf of Patrick Henry's family, Reverend Dresser wrote:

“It is stated, in an article, which I saw some time ago, from the Protestant Episcopalian, and I presume, from one of you, that Patrick Henry was once an infidel, & c. His widow and some of his descendants are residing in this country, and I am authorized by one of them to say that the anecdote related is not true.

He ever had, I am informed, a very abhorrence of infidelity, and actually wrote an answer to 'Paine's Age of Reason,' but destroyed it before his death.

His widow informed me that he received Communion as often as an opportunity was offered, and on such occasions always fasted until after he had communicated, and spent the day in the greatest retirement. This he did both while Governor and afterward.

Had he lived a few years longer, he would have probably done much to check the immoral influences of one of his compatriots, whose works are now diffusing the poison of infidelity throughout our land.”

Benjamin Franklin wrote to Thomas Paine in 1790 regarding the manuscript of The Age of Reason:

“I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundation of all religion.

For without the belief of a Providence that takes cognizance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection.

I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion that...the consequence of printing this piece will be a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits into the wind spits in his own face.

But were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it?... Think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue...

I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any person... If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without it?

I intend this letter itself as a proof of my friendship.”

Jedediah Morse, the father of telegraph inventor Samuel F.B. Morse, wrote in an “Election Sermon” given at Charleston, Massachusetts, April 25, 1799:

“All efforts to destroy the foundations of our holy religion ultimately tend to the subversive also of our political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings that flow from them, must fall with them.”

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, on of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, described Thomas Paine's work as:

“...blasphemous writings against the Christian religion.”

After Thomas Paine's popularity plummeted, an unverified attribution had him stating in his later years:

“I would give worlds, if I had them, if The Age of Reason had never been published. O Lord, help! Stay with me! It is hell to be left alone.”

MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE

In 1826, exactly 50 years after America's Declaration of Independence, Marquis de Lafayette visited America.

As he had helped with the American Revolution, he was welcomed as a returning hero.

Marquis de Lafayette was a Mason.

His visit brought a resurgence of Mason membership in the United States.

In fact, Mason membership grew so fast that it created a backlash with America's first “third party” being formed in 1826 - the “Anti-Mason Party.”

As a Mason in France, Marquis de Lafayette helped organized against King Louis.

He briefly participated in the French Revolution, but when he tried to stop the county's slide into debauchery, he was imprisoned and his wealth confiscated.

FRENCH REVOLUTION

In 1790, France imposed a Civil Constitution of the Clergy, giving the State control over the Church.

Between 1793-1794, Robespierre and the Jacobins beheaded an estimated 40,000 citizens in Paris.

Between 1793-1796, secular atheists conducted a brutal persecution against religious Catholic area of France called the Vendée:

women were beaten on their way to Mass;

churches were closed;

church property was confiscated;

sacramental vessels stolen by soldiers;

priests and clergy were imprisoned;

people were forbidden to place crosses on graves.

It was a 'scorched earth' policy that resulted in farms being destroyed, crops trampled, forests burned, and villages razed to the ground.

An estimated 300,000 men, women and children, irregardless of age, political affiliation, or combat status, were mercilessly killed.

GEORGE WASHINGTON & MASONS

During this time, retired President George Washington received a book from a Rev. George Washington Snyder.

It was John Robinson's Proofs of a Conspiracy Against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies, Collected From Good Authorities (New York: George Forman, 1798).

The book argued that the Jacobins, also called Illuminati, had infiltrated the Masons for the purpose of overthrowing all religions and all governments.

The author of the book, John Robison (1739-1805), was a Scottish scientist and a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Shocked by the French Revolution's bloodshed, John Robison used as sources Alexander Horn (1762–1820), a Scottish Benedictine monk, and Abbé Augustin Barruel (1741-1820), a Jesuit priest who wrote Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire du Jacobinisme (1797) in which he held Jacobins and Illuminati responsible for the violent excesses of the French Revolution.

Jedediah Morse delivered three sermons in New England, beginning on May 9, 1798, in which he supported John Robison's book Proofs of Conspiracy, and expressed his fears that the French Jacobin-Illuminati might infiltrate the anti-Federalist party in America.

Indeed, the second highest leader of the Illuminati from 1780 to 1784 was Baron Adolph Knigge, who purportedly admitted at a Wilhelmsbad Congress in 1782 that the Jacobin-Illuminati desired to infiltrate Freemasonry.

On August 22, 1798, George W. Snyder wrote to George Washington asking him if he was aware of claims John Robison made in his book Proofs of a Conspiracy:

“To His Excellency George Washington.

Sir,—You will, I hope, not think it a Presumption in a Stranger, whose Name, perhaps never reached your Ears, to address himself to you, the Commanding General of a great Nation.

I am a German, born and liberally educated in the city of Heydelberg, in the Palatinate of the Rhine.

I came to this Country in 1776, and felt soon after my arrival, a close Attachment to the Liberty for which these confederated States then struggled.

The same attachment still remains not glowing, but burning in my Breast.

At the same Time that I am exulting in the Measures adopted by our Government, I feel myself elevated in the Idea of my adopted Country, I am attached, both from the Bent of Education and mature Enquiry and Search to the simple Doctrines of Christianity, which I have the Honor to teach in Public; and I do heartily Despise all the Cavils of Infidelity.

Our present Time pregnant with the most shocking Events and Calamities, threatens Ruin to our Liberty and Government.

The most secret Plans are in Agitation; Plans calculated to ensnare the Unwary, to attract the Gay irreligious, and to entice even the Well-Disposed to combine in the general Machine for overturning all Government and all Religion.

It was some Time since that a Book fell into my hands, entitled ‘Proofs of a Conspiracy, &c. by John Robison,’ which gives a full Account of a Society of Free Masons, that distinguishes itself by the name of ‘Illuminati,’ whose Plan is to over throw all Government and all Religion, even natural; and who endeavor to eradicate every Idea of a Supreme Being, and distinguish Man from Beast by his shape only.

A Thought suggested itself to me, that some of the Lodges in the United States might have caught the Infection, and might co-operate with the Illuminati or the Jacobin Club in France.

Fauchet is mentioned by Robinson as a zealous Member; and who can doubt Genet and Adet?

Have not these their confidants in this country?

They use the same Expressions, and are generally Men of no Religion. Upon serious Reflection I was led to think that it might be within your Power to prevent the horrid Plan from corrupting the Brethren of the English Lodges over which you preside.

I send you the ‘Proof of a Conspiracy,’ &c. which I doubt not, will give you Satisfaction, and afford you matter for a Train of ideas, that may operate to our national Felicity.

If, however, you have already perused the Book, it will not, I trust, be disagreeable to you that I have presumed to address you with this Letter and the Book accompanying it.

It proceeded from the Sincerity of my Heart, and my ardent Wishes for the common Good.

May the Supreme Ruler of all Things continue You long with us in these perilous Times: may he endow you with Strength and Wisdom to save our Country in the threating Storms and gathering Clouds of Factions and Commotions!

and after you have completed his Work, on this terrene Spot, may He bring you to the full Possession of the glorious Liberty of the Children of God,

is the hearty and most sincere Wish of

Your Excellency’s very humble and

devoted Servant,

G.W. Snyder.

Fredericktown, (Maryland) Aug. 22, 1798.”

George Washington replied from Mount Vernon to George W. Snyder, September 25, 1798:

“Sir, Many aplogies are due to you, for my not acknowledging the receipt of your obliging favor of the 22d. Ulto, and for not thanking you, at an earlier period, for the Book you had the goodness to send me. (John Robinson's Proof of a Conspiracy against All the Religions and Governments of Europe.)

I have heard much of the nefarious, and dangerous plan, and doctrines of the Illuminati, but never saw the Book until you were please to send it to me.

The same causes which have prevented my acknowledging the receipt of you letter have prevented my reading the Book, hitherto; namely, the multiplicity of matters which pressed upon me before, and the debilitated state in which I was left after, a severe fever had been removed.

And which allows me to add little more now, than thanks for your kind wishes and favorable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my Presiding over the English lodges in this Country.

The fact is, I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice, within the last thirty years.

I believe notwithstanding, that none of the Lodges in this Country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the Society of the Illuminati.

With respect, I am & c.”

(Washington, George, 1732-1799. The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library)

George Washington wrote again from Mount Vernon to George W. Snyder, October 24, 1798:

“Revd Sir: I have your favor of the 17th. And the letter instant before me; and my only motive to trouble you with the receipt of this letter, is to explain, and to correct a mistake which I perceive the hurry in which I am obliged, often, to write letters have led you into.

It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States.

On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.

The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavored to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of separation.)

That Individual of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a separation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.

My occupation are such, that but little leisure is allowed me to read News Papers, or Books of any kind; the reading of letters, and preparing answers, absorb much of my time.

With respect, etc.”

YALE PRESIDENT TIMOTHY DWIGHT

Timothy Dwight, the President of Yale from 1795 to 1817, wrote of the Jacobins, Illuminati and Masons in a address printed in the Encyclopedia Britannica's Annals of America series.

Timothy Dwight was the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, the New England minister and President of Princeton University who helped lead the Great Awakening Revival.

(Timothy Dwight is not to be confused with his grandson, also named Timothy Dwight, who was President of Yale from 1886-1898.)

During his presidency at Yale, Timothy Dwight, Sr., was instrumental in bringing the Second Great Awakening revival to Yale's New Haven campus.

His efforts resulted in a large percentage of the class not only professing Christ, but entering the ministry.

On July 4, 1798, President Timothy Dwight delivered an address in New Haven titled, The Duty of American's at the Present Crisis, Illustrated in a Discourse.

In it, he referred to: “Adam Weishaupt...formed...the order of Illuminati... originated by himself and grafted on the ancient Masonic institutions.”

Tiimothy Dwight's address stated:

“About the year 1728, Voltaire, so celebrated for his wit and brilliancy and not less distinguished for his hatred of Christianity and his abandonment of principle, formed a systematical design to destroy Christianity and to introduce in its stead a general diffusion of irreligion and atheism.

For this purpose he associated with himself Frederick the II, king of Prussia, and Mess. D'Alembert and Diderot, the principal compilers of the Encyclopedie, all men of talents, atheists, and in the like manner abandoned.

The principle parts of this system were:

  • The compilation of the Encyclopedie: in which with great art and insidiousness the doctrines of natural as well as Christian theology were rendered absurd and ridiculous; and the mind of the reader was insensibly steeled against conviction and duty.

  • The overthrow of the religious orders in Catholic countries, a step essentially necessary to the destruction of the religion professed in those countries.

​ -The establishment of a sect of philosophists to serve, it is presumed as a conclave, a rallying point, for all their followers.

​ -The appropriation to themselves, and their disciples, of the places nd honors of members of the French Academy, the most respectable literary society in France, and always considered as containing none but men of prime learning and talents.

In this way they designed to hold out themselves and their friends as the only persons of great literary and intellectual distinction in that country, and to dictate all literary opinions to the nation.

​ - The fabrication of books of all kinds against Christianity, especially such as excite doubt and generate contempt and derision.

​Of these they issued by themselves and their friends who early became numerous, an immense number; so printed as to be purchased for little or nothing, and so written as to catch the feelings, and steal upon the approbation, of every class of men.

​ - The formation of a secret Academy, of which Voltaire was the standing president, and in which book were formed, altered, forged, imputed as posthumous to deceased writers of reputation, and sent abroad with the weight of their names.

These were printed and circulated at the lowest price through all classes of men in an uninterrupted succession, and through every part of the kingdom....”

Nesta Helen Webster wrote in Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (p. 149) that beginning in 1743:

“French Freemasonry degenerated the most rapidly. The Order was soon invaded by intriguers.”

Timothy Dwight continued:

“While these measures were advancing the great design with a regular and rapid progress, Doctor Adam Weishaupt, professor of the canon law in the University of Ingolstadt, a city of Bavaria (in Germany), formed, about the year 1777, the order of Illuminati.

This order is professedly a high order of Masons, originated by himself, and grafted on ancient Masonic institutions....

In societies of Illuminati, doctrines were taught which strike at the root of all human happiness and virtue; and every such doctrine was either expressly or implicitly involved in their system.

The being of God was denied and ridiculed....

The possession of property was pronounced robbery.

Chastity and natural affection were declared to be nothing more than groundless prejudices.

Adultery, assassination, poisoning, and other crimes of the like infernal nature, were taught as lawful and even as virtuous actions.

To crown such a system of falsehood and horror, all means were declared to be lawful, provided the end was good....

The great and good ends proposed by the Illuminati as the ultimate objects of their union are the overthrow of religion, government, and human society, civil and domestic.

These they pronounce to be so good that murder, butchery, and war, however extended and dreadful, are declared by them to be completely justifiable if necessary for these great purposes.

With such an example in view, it will be in vain to hunt for ends, which can be evil.

Correspondent with this summary was the whole system.

No villainy, no impiety, no cruelty can be named which was not vindicated; and no virtue which was not covered with contempt.

The means by which this society was enlarged and its doctrines spread were of every promising kind.

With unremitted ardor and diligence the members insinuated themselves into every place of power and trust, and into every literary, political, and friendly society;

engrossed as much as possible the education of youth, especially of distinction;

became licensers of the press and directors of every literary journal;

waylaid every foolish prince, every unprincipled civil officer, and every abandoned clergyman;

entered boldly into the desk, and with unhallowed hands and satanic lips polluted the pages of God;

enlisted in their service almost all the booksellers and of course the printers of Germany;

inundated the country with books replete with infidelity, irreligion, immorality, and obscenity;

prohibited the printing and prevented the sale of books of the contrary character;

decried and ridiculed them when published in spite of their efforts; panegyrized and trumpeted those of themselves and their coadjutors;

and in a word made more numerous, more diversified, and more strenuous exertions than an active imagination would have preconceived....

Where religion prevails, Illumination cannot make disciples, a French directory cannot govern, a nation cannot be made slaves, nor villains, nor atheists, nor beasts.

To destroy us therefore, in this dreadful sense, our enemies must first destroy our Sabbath and seduce us from the house of God.

Religion and liberty are the two great objects of defensive war.

Conjoined, they united all the feelings and call forth all the energies of man....

Religion and liberty are the meat and the drink of the body politic.

Withdraw one of them and in languishes, consumes, and dies.

If indifference to either, at any time, becomes the prevailing character of a people, one half of their motives to vigorous defense is lost, and the hopes of their enemies are proportionally increased.

Here, eminently, they are inseparable.

Without religion we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears, and wolves, but not the freedom of New England.

If our religion were gone, our state of society would perish with it and nothing would be left which would be worth defending.”

Masons have discounted these accusations as unfounded.

MEXICO

Masons reputedly played a significant role in Mexico's many revolutions and anti-clerical wars of reform, from Santa Ana to Benito Juarez to Plutarco Elías Calles.

SECRECY

Though most Masons view the order as a fraternity of friendship, social service and business networking, the fact remains that the organization's structure lends itself to secrecy – a situation where not everyone within the organization know what others may know.

CONCLUSION

In recapping, three eras of Masons could be identified as:

First, medieval stone workers who built defense works for kings;

Second, revolutionary political dissidents who met in secret to plot against kings;

Third, after France's Revolution, unspecified influences of French infidelity, Jacobins, and Illuminati, though not of cognizance to the general membership.

This brief article is admittedly an incomplete examination of the America's founding and the varied influences that followed, but it is hoped that it will shed some light on these important ingredients in America's development and stimulate the reader to further investigate the:

  • Great Awakening,

  • Patriot Indebtedness to each other

  • Disestablishment,

  • “Political” Religion,

  • Value of Judeo-Christian Ethics,

  • Denominational Drift,

  • New Denominations,

  • Arrival of Immigrants,

  • Second Great Awakening,

  • French Infidelity,

  • Jacobins,

  • French Revolution, and

  • the Three Eras of Masons.

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