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B.8.3 The Craft in North America

The origin of the Craft in America occurred in 1730 when Daniel Coxe was appointed Provincial Grand Master for New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Three years later, Henry Price became Provincial Grand Master for New England. He founded lodges in Boston and elsewhere in his “Province”, although the first one, St John, was founded in Philadelphia in 1731 with Benjamin Franklin as a member. In 1755 the first Masonic hall was built in Philadelphia. Many lodges were created in Eastern USA under the leadership of Provincial Grand Master appointed in England, at least until 1775, the starting date of the War of Independence. There were Masons on both sides during the revolution, and this led to claim that they inspired it. Many members of the Craft were also heroes of the Revolution, among them George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, John Paul John, John Hancock and the Marquis de Lafayette. From 1781, after the War of Independence, many Masons became pioneers in the West.

An attempt to create a National Grand Lodge failed and each state had their State Grand lodge. During the nineteenth century Freemasonry in the USA was attacked from different quarters. The murder of William Morgan, a mason who turned against the Craft, led to bad public feelings against the Craft that declined for many years in the North-Eastern States, and it took decades to recover. There were, and there still is, an open state of hostility between the Mormons and the Freemasons. The Grand Lodge of England expelled a Black Americans Lodge in 1813. This lodge created its own independent African Grand Lodge N°1 and sponsored the creation of many more lodges. The problem still exists to day, as they have never been recognised. The American Civil War of 1861 again saw the Masons divided between the two sites. After it ended, the Masons played their part in bringing the nation together again. (9)

Freemasonry and its leadership had a large influence on the American and French revolutions. The so-called “Boston Tea Party” was organised by a local lodge that had important people such as Samuel Adams and Paul Revere as members. Many masons signed the declaration of Independence on 4 July 1778 and among them William Hooper, Benjamin Franklin, Matthew Thorton, William Whipple, John Hancock, Philip Livingston and Thomas Nelson. The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington were also Freemasons. George Washington, initiated in the Fredericksburg Masonic Lodge on 4 November 1752, was sworn as President of the USA by a Grand Master on a Masonic Bible. George Washington laid the foundation stone of the White House on 13 October 1792, the anniversary of Jacques de Molay’s crucifixion, and on 18 September 1793 he laid the cornerstone of the Capitol Building dressed in full Masonic uniform. The same year the dollar was adopted as the unit of currency for the USA. On the notes there were, initially, two vertical bars representing the Nasorean pillars of “Mishpat” and “Tsedeq” or, in Masonic terms, “Boaz” and “Jachin”. (8)

The Craft has been present in Canada since 1749 with a lodge in Anapolis Royal, Nuova Scotia. There were military lodges in Quebec in the war of 1757-63 and a Provincial Grand Lodge was created in 1767. Most of them were under the English, Scottish, and Irish Grand Lodges, but also under the Grand Lodge of New York. Provincial Grand Lodges for Upper and Lower Canada were created in 1858 by the first Grand Lodge of Canada. Between 1866 and 1906 Grand lodges were founded in each of the nine Canadian Provinces. (9)