War, Freemasonry In
The question how Freemasons should conduct themselves in time of war, when their own country is one of the belligerents, is an important one. Of the political Course of a Freemason in his individual and private Capacity there is no doubt. The Charges declare that he must be "a peaceable subject to the civil powers, and never be concerned in plots and conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation" (Constitutions, 1723, page 50). But so anxious is the Order to be unembarrassed by all political influences, that treason, however discountenanced by the Craft, is not held as a crime which is amenable to Masonic punishment.
For the same Charge affirms that "if a Brother should be a rebel against the State, he is not to be countenanced in his rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy man; and if convicted of no other crime, though the loyal brotherhood must and ought to disown his rebellion and give no umbrage or ground of political jealousy to the government for the time being, they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his relation to it remains indefeasible."
The Freemason, then, like every other citizen, should be a patriot. He should love his country with all his heart; should serve it faithfully and cheerfully; obey its laws in peace; and in war should be ever ready to support its honor and defend it from the attacks of its enemies. But even then the benign principles of the Institution extend their influence, arid divest the contest of many of its horrors. The Freemason fights, of Course, like every other man, for victory; but when the victory is won, he will remember that the conquered foe is still his Brother.
On the occasion, of a Masonic banquet given immediately after the close of the Mexican War to General Quitman by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina that distinguished soldier and Freemason remarked that, although he had devoted much of his attention to the nature and character of the Masonic Institution, and had repeatedly held the highest offices in the gift of his brethren, he had never really known what Freemasonry was until he had seen its workings on the field of battle.
But as a collective and organized body--in its Lodges and its Grand Lodges--it must have nothing to do with war. It must be silent and neutral. The din of the battle, the cry for vengeance, the shout of victory, must never penetrate its portals. Its dogmas and doctrines all teach love and fraternity; its symbols are symbols of peace; and it has no place in any of its rituals consecrated to the inculcation of human contention.
Brother C. W. Moore, in his Biography of Thomas Smith Webb, the great American ritualist, mentions a Circumstance which occurred during the period in which Webb presided over the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, and to which Moore, in the opinion of Doctor Mackey, inconsiderately has given his hearty commendation. The United States was engaged at that time in a war with England. The people of Providence having commenced the erection of fortifications the Grand Lodge volunteered its Services; and the members, marching in procession as a Grand Lodge to the southern part of the town, erected a breastwork, to which was given the name of Fort Hiram (see Fort Masonic). Doctor Mackey doubted the propriety of the act. While, to repeat what has been just said, every individual member of the Grand Lodge as a Freemason, was bound by his obligation to be "true to his government " and to defend it from the attacks of its enemies, it was, says Doctor Mackey, unseemly, and contrary to the peaceful spirit of the Institution, for any organized body of Freemasons, organized as such to engage in a warlike enterprise. But the patriotism, if not the prudence of the Grand Lodge, Cannot be denied.
Since writing this paragraph, Doctor Mackey met in brother Murray Lyon's History of the Lodge of Edinburgh (page 83) with a record of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which in his judgment sustained the view that he has taken. In 1777, recruits were being enlisted in Scotland for the British army, which was to fight the Americans in the War of the Revolution, which had just begun. Many of the Scotch Lodges offered, through the newspapers, bounties to all who should enlist But on February 2, 1778, the Grand Lodge passed a resolution which was published on the 12th, through the Grand Secretary, in the following circular:
At a quarterly meeting of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, held here the Second instant, I received a charge to acquaint all the Lodges of Scotland holding of the Grand Lodge that the Grand Lodge has seen with concern advertisements in the public newspapers, from different Lodges in Scotland, not only offering a bounty to recruits who may enlist in the new levies, but with the addition that all such recruits shall be admitted to the freedom of Masonry.
The first of these they consider as an improper alienation of the funds of the Lodge from the support of their poor and distressed Brethren, and the second they regard as a prostitution of our Order, which demands the reprehension of the Grand Lodge What ever share the Brethren may take as individuals in aiding these levies, out of zeal to serve their private friends or to promote the public service, the Grand Lodge considered it to be repugnant to the spirit of our Craft that any Lodge should take a part in such a business as a collective Body.
For Masonry is an Order of Pease ant it looks on all mankind to be Brethren as Masons, whether they be at peace or at war with each other as subjects of contending countries The Grand Lodge therefore strongly enjoins that the practice may be forthwith discontinued. By order of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. W. Mason, Gr Sec.
Of all human institutions, Freemasonry is the greatest and purest Peace Society. And this is because its doctrine of universal peace is founded on the doctrine of a universal brotherhood
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