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masonic matters

Freemasonry and Elections

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

“When you know a thing to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing to know that you do not, this is knowledge.” Confucius

“Experience indicates that knowledge cannot be imparted. It can only be acquired.” Norman G. Shidle

Ed’s Masonic Musings

A number of years ago I was at our Grand Lodge booth at the Minnesota State Fair; back in those days we didn’t have the Child’s I.D. program, so even though there were about 2 or 3 Masons in the booth at any one time the time did kind of drag, because most people at the state fair would rather just pass by the booth than talk with us. Now with the Kids I.D. it’s much different and much better. The Masons who are at the Grand Lodge Booth now have great times interacting with all the people who stop by; from the little tikes to the parents and grandparents.

Speaking of the Kids I.D; this was overheard in a bait shop in the Walleye Capitol of the World. A walleye fisherman bought some bait that is guaranteed to catch fish, or die trying, and as he presented his personal check for the sure fire fish getters the helpful clerk and fishing advisor behind the counter said; “you got an I.D.?” And the man answered “I dee bout whut?”

Back to what I wanted to tell you about: Back before we had the Kids I.D. Program some people did stop to ask questions and to visit from time to time. It was always a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet these people. One man I remember was a friendly sort of fellow, but he was not for the Masons; he told me that even though he wasn’t in favor of our fraternity there was one good thing about it, and that is that the Masons stick together. He went on to explain that any time there is a Mason running for office; whether local, state or national, and especially for President of the United States, the Masons always make sure that their Brother Mason gets elected. (This was long before Brother Bob Dole ran for President.)

Luckily for me I have always liked history, so I wasn’t going to be bamboozled by a statement like that. Also luckily this man was willing to talk, as I said he was a friendly guy. I asked him if he knew much about the election of 1824. There have been other times when Masons lost Presidential Elections but this election was particularly interesting in how the Freemason lost the election and how the president was chosen.

In that election there were two primary or serious candidates running who were Masons, both Past Grand Masters. And there was another primary candidate that could be called a devout anti-Mason by the name of John Quincy Adams, who was the one who was the one chosen for President. Three serious candidates in that election.

That was the election where no candidate received enough electoral votes to win in the general election, so the election was ‘thrown,’ (as they say,) into the House of Representatives to decide who would be the next president. The Candidates who had the larger number of electoral votes and thus the most support in the house were John Quincy Adams and Brother Andrew Jackson. Brother Henry Clay had the smaller number of votes and support in the house, but his support was as loyal as the others, and his supporters were enough to sway the choice in the house.

After much debate and horse trading in what my old history teacher called ‘smoke filled rooms,’ Brother Clay released his supporters to vote for John Quincy Adams. Brother Clay had wanted an appointment for his support and he got it from Adams; he was to be appointed Secretary of State in the Adams administration for his help in the election. He did get the appointment, and Brother Jackson lost the election due to another Mason swinging his support and votes to an anti-Mason.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with politics and political alliances, but it does show that it’s not always the Mason another Mason will support when it comes to politics. Being in the same fraternity doesn’t mean Masons throw everything else to the wind and go with a Brother Mason. Well, my new friend didn’t have time for other less historic examples of Masons losing elections, but he did know something more about Masons than when we first met.

“My hat’s in the ring. The fight is on, and I’m stripped to the buff.
Brother Theodore Roosevelt - 1912

I remember traveling through a small town many years ago and stopping at a local restaurant for some coffee and a snack. When I walked into the café I noticed a rack for the local paper so I bought one to learn a little about the town. To my surprise, the front page had a story about the local Masonic Lodge with a photo of one of the Past Masters and an interview with him, so I began to read and enjoy. But I stopped in disbelief when it quoted him in the article saying “all the Presidents of the United States up to John Kennedy were Masons.” I couldn’t believe it, and I wondered what President John Quincy Adams might have had to say about that.

What this pointed out to me is that not everything a Mason thinks he knows is accurate and I realized I needed to study more so that I wouldn’t say something in the future that couldn’t be backed up by research and fact.

“It ain’t the things you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s the things you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Herman Schimmelplatzer

“One cannot know everything.” Horace

An anonymous Brother wrote in the M.S.A. Short Talk Bulletin for August 1958 a piece on the myth that “Freemasons form a political pressure group.”

He said: “It is difficult to say of one false charge against the Ancient Craft that it is more ridiculous than another, but no accusation of wrong-doing by Masons is more unjust than this one.

“Freemasonry has existed in the United States since 1730. Enough years have passed since our earliest American brethren met in Pennsylvania to demonstrate the "political activities" of the Fraternity, if such existed.

“Politics — meaning partisan politics — are strictly forbidden to be discussed in lodges, and have been, since the publication of Anderson's Constitutions in 1723. If Masons were a "political pressure group", obviously they would need a cause, an idea, a program for which to exert their pressure. No one has as yet been able to name such an aim.

“Freemasons, as a general rule, elect a new leadership every year; a few Grand Lodges re-elect a Grand Master for a second term, one usually for a third term. Each year every one of the Grand Lodges of the forty-nine in the United States publishes its Proceedings, which contain the annual addresses of the Grand Masters. In none of these, for any year, at any time in the history of Freemasonry in the United States, is there to be found any political objective, any aim to be obtained by pressure, any indication of the Fraternity's taking any part in partisan politics.

“If Freemasonry is a ‘pressure group’, it must have something to ‘press’ for. It must have a political leader; he must apply that pressure. Since not the slightest scintilla of evidence for such activity exists, it is obvious that this charge is the nonsense of ignorance.”

“Times glory is to calm contending Kings, to unmask falsehood, and to bring truth to light.” Shakespeare (The rape of Lucrece, preface.)

From the Great light of Masonry = “For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” 2Peter 1: 5-7 NIV

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Last modified: March 22, 2014