Freemasonry bears the imprint of the society in which it exists, and Freemasonry in North America is no exception. While keeping close ties to French lodges until 1913, American Freemasonry was also deeply influenced by the experiences of many early American political leaders, leading to distinctive differences from European lodges.
Offering an unobstructed view of the American system and its strengths and failings, Alain de Keghel, an elder of the Grand Orient de France and, since 1999, a lifetime member of the Scottish Rite Research Society (Southern U.S. jurisdiction), examines the history of Freemasonry in the United States from the colonial era to the Revolutionary War to the rise of the Scottish branch onward. He reveals the special relationship between the French Masonic hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the Founding Fathers, especially George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, including French Freemasonry’s role in the American Revolution. He also explores Franklin’s Masonic membership, including how he was Elder of the lodge of the Nine Sisters in Paris.
The author investigates the racial split in American Freemasonry between black lodges and white and how, unlike French lodges, women are ineligible to become Masons in the U.S. He examines how American Freemasonry has remained deeply religious across the centuries and forbids discussion of religious or social issues in its lodges, unlike some branches of French Freemasonry, which removed belief in God as a prerequisite for membership in 1877 and whose lodges operate in some respects as philosophical debating societies. Revealing the factors that have resulted in shrinking Masonic enrollment in America, the author explores the revitalization work done by the Grand Lodge of California and sounds the call to make Freemasonry and its principles relevant to America once again.
Alain de Keghel served as chair of the Supreme Council of the Grand Orient of France from 2002 to 2008. In 1994 he became a lifetime member of the Scottish Rite Research Society (Southern U.S. jurisdiction). The chair of an independent European Masonic Research Society, he has worked with the Philalethes Society in North America and with the research lodge Quatuor Coronati no. 8 in Germany. He is the former Consul General of France in Tokyo and Washington, D.C., and lives in Paris.
A common connection with Freemasonry is that it is a patriotic organization. While it suggests certain attributes of patriotism, the multi-national spread of the fraternity would suggest something other than a direct form of nationalistic adherence.
So then, is Freemasonry a patriotic body?
The answer is a challenging one. Simply put, it is and it isn’t.
The aims of Freemasonry are not specifically to embolden specific patriotism. It does, however, promote a strong affinity towards, and a passionate adherence to the nation in which the Freemason resides. It encourages more than a passive interest in the development of civil society and our roles as citizens in it.
The patriotism that is displayed is the result of that interest in the well-being of society itself. The fraternity does strongly encourage the adherence to and following of the principles and laws of the country in which the member resides.
Some thoughts on how to promote citizenship in America.
In the Masonic world, we recently observed “Citizenship Month” here in Florida. Because of this, I was asked to give a talk on the subject for a local Lodge. Drawing upon a couple of my past columns, I assembled the following short talk:
My biggest concern regarding citizenship pertains to how we teach history and civics in this country. In some High Schools, “American History” runs from World War II to the present. This means students are not learning such things as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Civil War, the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, Prohibition, the League of Nations, and much more. In other words, they only discuss the last 77 years, and not the events leading up to the founding of our country and the turmoils we had to endure. As an aside “World History” is now just World War I to the present. So much for the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Marco Polo, the Magna Carta, Ferdinand Magellan, Alexander the Great, et al. I presume they had no bearing on our civilization.
Such ignorance of our history caused famed historian David McCullough to observe, “We are raising a generation that is historically illiterate and have a very sketchy, thin knowledge of the system on which our entire civilization is based on. It is regrettable and dangerous.”
We are also not educating youth properly in terms of “Civics”; understanding our responsibilities as citizens, such as voting, serving on a jury, how legislation is enacted, or what is included in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. No wonder young people do not grasp the significance of such things as the Electoral College, the structure of our government, or what their rights are.
Naivety and ignorance leads to apathy at the ballot box. In the 2016 elections, only 57.9% of the citizens voted (over 90 million didn’t vote at all). This is a pitiful figure when you compare it to other democracies like Australia, India, and the Scandinavian countries. Surprisingly, this was the highest voting percentage in the United States since 1968 (60.8%). The highest in recent history was in 1960 (63.1%) for the Kennedy/Nixon election. Even though Millennials (ages 18-35) are now the largest potential voting block, they continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.
It is sad when legal immigrants understand the workings of the government and history more than native born Americans. Maybe all citizens should take the same oath naturalized citizens do. Since 1778, immigrants coming to this country have had to pass a test and take an oath swearing their allegiance to the United States. The current oath is as follows:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
Not surprisingly, immigrants coming through this program tend to appreciate this country and are more loyal than native born Americans. Another cause for this could be because there is less emphasis on teaching American government and history in the schools than in years past. In other words, the importance of being a citizen has not been impressed upon our youth.
So, as a proposal, how about administering a modified version of the immigration oath to all native born Americans, perhaps on July 4th? All that is necessary is to simply modify the first sentence of the Immigration Oath; to wit:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;”
Parents could give it to their children, thereby turning it into a family tradition; civic organizations and local governments could administer it in public group settings, or perhaps some other venue. Maybe even the media could get involved and administer it over the airwaves or Internet. It should be administered in some solemn way with a right hand raised and the left hand placed on either a copy of the U.S. Constitution or perhaps a holy book such as a Bible, Torah, or Koran.
The oath is certainly not the same as the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, this is instead a reaffirmation of our commitment to our country and would help promote citizenship and voting. Maybe this is something that should be given routinely as opposed to just one time; to remind people of their allegiance to this country. I cannot help but believe this simple gesture would have nothing but beneficial effects.
One last observation, during this past year, the talking heads on television recommended avoiding any talk of politics at the dinner table, particularly during Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. I disagree. We do not do enough talking at the table in a calm and reasonable manner. Instead of leaving citizenship to the school educators and MTV, parents should spend more time discussing it around the dinner table, not in a dictatorial manner, but in a frank and open discussion. I believe our youth would better understand the virtue of the Electoral College if it came from their parents as opposed to an entertainer or athlete.
Maybe then, youth will appreciate the need for “Citizenship.”
Thank you for the strength, bravery, and dedication to fight so that I may have the opportunities I have today. I hope that I may live up to a fraction of the standard you set before me. I am in awe of your courage and your forethought for our freedom.
Happy 4th of July.
Should you need a little something to talk about over the holiday BBQ’s and the Firework celebrations, I wanted to share with you the role of Freemasonry and our Freedoms today.
Freemasonry may not have created the Declaration of Independence, but its principals of equality, brotherly love, and democracy influenced its very essence.
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer! Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others. Thomas Paine – Common Sense, February, 1776
“Gentlemen, All though it is not possible to foresee the consequences of human actions, yet it is nevertheless a duty we owe ourselves and posterity in all our public councils to decide in the best manner we are able and to trust the event to That Being who governs both causes and events, so as to bring about his own determinations.
Impressed with this sentiment, and at the same time fully convinced that our affairs will take a more favorable turn, The Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve all connection between Great Britain and the American Colonies, and to declare them free and independent States as you will perceive by the enclosed Declaration, which I am directed to transmit to you.” John Hancock – Cover letter to the Declaration of Independence Philadelphia, July 6, 1776
In Masonic terms, only 9 of the 56 men who signed it were Freemasons.
William Ellery Rhode Island Oct. 12 and/or Oct. 25 of 1748 St. John’s Lodge of Boston -First Lodge of Boston, 1748
Benjamin Franklin Pennsylvania St. John’s Lodge of Philadelphia, 1731 – Grand Master of Pennsylvania, 1734
John Hancock Massachusetts July 4, 1776 & Aug 2, 1776 became a Mason in Merchants Lodge No. 277 in Quebec, affiliated with Saint Andrew’s Lodge in Boston, 1762
Joseph Hewes or Howes North Carolina Aug 2, 1776? Unanimity Lodge No. 7, visited in 1776, and buried with Masonic funeral honors
William Hooper North Carolina Aug 2, 1776? Member of Hanover Lodge in Masonborough, N.C.
Thomas McKean Delaware 1781 listed as visitor to Perseverance Lodge in Harrisburg, PA
And, 3 (of 13) Freemasons who were true patriots who risked everything for our nation’s freedom. They are less known than most, but they contributed greatly to the creation and preservation of our country.
Bro. Samuel Nicholas: Commissioned by Congress to organize and train five companies of marine forces, skilled in the use of small and large firearms, to protect America’s ships at sea. During the winter of 1776–77, his units provided for Washington’s small army, crossing the Delaware River at Trenton, fighting in the Battle of Princeton. He is considered the first Commandant of the Marine Corps, exemplifying the Marine motto Semper Fidelis.
Bro. John Glover: Head the Marblehead Regiment, he successfully engaged the British at sea and, later, triumphed over severe odds to evacuate the desperate remnants of Washington’s army from Long Island to Manhattan.
Bro. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenburg: The Episcopal priest and ardent patriot who is quoted as saying int he closing of a sermon “There is a time for all things—a time to preach and a time to pray; but there is also a time to fight, and that time has now come.” Then removing his clerical robes, revealing his Colonel’s uniform.
How we achieved our independence?
The final battle in the Revolutionary War was in 1781 at Yorktown, Virginia.
Washington learned that a French fleet was sailing toward North America and decided to plan a combined French and colonial attack against the British forces in Yorktown. The attack captured the British Army. The British could not get supplies by sea because of the French fleet and they could not retreat by land because of the French and colonial troops.
On October 17, 1781 the British Army surrendered. King George did not want it to be the last battle of the war, but Parliament decided that the loss was too costly. U.S. and British leaders signed the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783 which ended the war.
The full text reads:
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
— John Hancock
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
BRYCE ON THE MEANING OF THIS HOLIDAY It’s not about barbecues, auto racing, or the start of summer.
On Monday we will commemorate Memorial Day, a custom in this country resulting from our Civil War where we honored the dead soldiers of both the North and the South. Originally, it was called “Decoration Day,” an expression older people would occasionally use as I remember from my youth. The intent was to honor the soldiers by decorating their graves either with small flags, flowers, or some other small tribute. Actually the custom of honoring deceased soldiers is an old one, going back to the Romans.
Today, Memorial Day is celebrated more as the start of summer vacation and the Indianapolis 500 as opposed to remembering the millions of soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their country which is rather disappointing. Fortunately, there are still people who commemorate the day with a small town parade or observe a military service at a nearby cemetery. Two of the most impressive services is at the Tomb of the Unknowns at the Arlington National Cemetery, and Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania. You remember, the place where Lincoln delivered his famous address, “Four score and seven years ago…”
It’s the last paragraph of Lincoln’s address which defines the meaning of Memorial Day:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
One custom commonly overlooked on Memorial Day is the display of the American flag. The proper etiquette is to raise it briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lower it to the half-staff position, where it remains until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the rest of the day. Those of us with modest sized flags at home should simply display them proudly.
The one event I particularly enjoy is the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, DC and televised on PBS. They do an admirable job of remembering our troops.
Let us never forget, Memorial Day is not about barbecues, auto racing, the end of the school year or the beginning of summer, it’s about honoring our fallen heroes.
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.
I have been a Freemason for many years and I am still surprised by those people who believe the Masons have a secret agenda in terms of manipulating the country or stockpiling incredible amounts of wealth. Heck, we have trouble organizing a picnic. However, there is reasonable evidence to show Masons were involved with the founding of the country. For example, of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, 9 were Masons (16%), and of the 39 men who signed the U.S. Constitution 13 were Masons (33%). Of the 44 presidents we have had, 14 were Masons (32%) with the last one being Gerald Ford. Beyond this, few people outside of the fraternity truly understand the impact of Masonry in America.
I participate in a book club whereby we have been studying the history of the United States, from the Revolutionary War to today where we are studying the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. Throughout these books, there is mention of the various founding fathers who were Masons. Inevitably, I am asked about their Masonic heritage. For example, in the book, “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life,” by Walter Isaacson, the author mentions Franklin’s Masonic background, but it was obvious to me he didn’t comprehend the fraternity’s influence on Franklin. Our acclaimed inventor, author, printer, ambassador, and postmaster was raised a Master Mason at St. John’s Lodge of Philadelphia in 1731, and become the Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania three short years later in 1734. Franklin was considered to be America’s top scientist and intimate with American politics. He is the only founding father to sign the three most important documents of the time: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Treaty of Paris (thereby ending the Revolutionary War).
In 1771, Franklin visited Ireland and Scotland. During this time, his hosts were surprised by how well he was received by the people. What they didn’t realize, nor Isaacson, was Franklin was not just a respected scientist, but was also well known in the Masonic community who embraced “the age of enlightenment” which opened many doors for him.
In the late 1770’s, Franklin was appointed the first United States Ambassador to France. Again, he was warmly welcomed by “enlightened” Masons. So much so, he joined Loge des Neuf Soeurs in Paris, and became the Master of the Lodge in 1779. His influence was great and, as such, he helped initiate the great French philosopher Voltaire into the fraternity, among others. Freemasonry at this time was very much concerned with discussing philosophical and scientific subjects, and questioned everything. Theoretically, it is still supposed to be this way today but it has turned more into a social club as opposed to discussing “enlightenment.” Nonetheless, Franklin’s Masonic background proved useful in forging relationships with Europe and ending the war.
The “Father of our Country,” George Washington, was raised a Master Mason in Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 A.F.& A.M., VA, in 1752. It is said he had a high regard for the fraternity due to its sense of “enlightenment” and order. However, due to his commitments as General and President, Washington could not afford to spend much time attending Lodge.
In 1787 Washington was elected to preside over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia which devised the U.S. Constitution and thereby our government. Washington was elected primarily due to his prestige, but his Masonic heritage, with a keen sense or order and protocol, certainly helped. Keep in mind, the discussions and votes were kept secret until the conclusion of the convention which lasted approximately four months (May 25th – Sept 17th). This is a testament to Washington’s ability to run a meeting.
Just because Masons observe protocol, it doesn’t mean they always get along.
Nothing more vividly exemplifies this than the relationship between President Andrew Jackson and Senator Henry Clay (who had also served as Speaker of the House, and Secretary of State). Both men served as Grand Masters of their respective states, Clay in Kentucky in 1820, and Jackson in neighboring Tennessee in 1822. In government though, they were political opposites and detested each other. Jackson was a member of the Democratic Party and Clay’s roots began in the Whig party (which would eventually evolve into the Republican party). The two men seemed to disagree on just about everything. In the presidential contest of 1832, incumbent Jackson trounced Clay. When Jackson refused to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, Clay passed a resolution to censure Jackson, a tremendous embarrassment to the president. This caused Jackson to call Clay, “reckless and as full of fury as a drunken man in a brothel.” On his last day as President, Jackson is said to admit that one of his regrets was that he “had been unable to shoot Henry Clay…”
There may have been no love lost between Jackson and Clay, yet they respected each other as Masons, which may have ultimately been the reason why Jackson never acted on his regrets. As an aside, Clay was a member of Lexington Lodge No. 1 F.& A.M. in Kentucky and Jackson was raised at Harmony Lodge No. 1 F.& A.M. in Nashville, Tennessee.
Unlike Clay and Jackson, perhaps the strongest bond between political leaders was between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II. FDR was raised a Master Mason at Holland Lodge No. 8 F.& A.M. in New York in 1911. As a career politician he had limited time for Masonic activities but there is strong evidence he supported the fraternity, such as having his three sons initiated into it and becoming an honorary Grand Master of the Order of DeMolay, a Masonic youth organization. Churchill’s ancestry included many Masons and he became a Master Mason at Studholme Lodge No. 1591 in 1901. Like FDR, his political career kept him from actively participating in Masonic activities, but he maintained his affiliation.
As the war began, Great Britain was essentially alone and isolated. The country desperately needed the resources and assistance of the United States. On August 9th, 1941, prior to America entering the war, the two leaders met secretly in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. Churchill arrived on the HMS Prince of Wales and met Roosevelt aboard the USS Augusta. The two had met during World War I when FDR was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Churchill as Lord of the Admiralty, a loftier position. Churchill had forgotten the meeting, which slightly perturbed Roosevelt, but years later as Prime Minister he desperately needed to know the President. Freemasonry was an important connection as it established the values both men possessed. When meeting FDR aboard the USS Augusta, Churchill gave FDR what appears to be a Masonic handshake thereby denoting their relationship. With such common values, the men were able to speak “on the level,” and form a strong bond which was helpful in forging the Atlantic Charter.
I am certainly not suggesting Freemasonry was the principal influence motivating these men of history, but it certainly didn’t hurt. It taught them about building relationships based on common values, protocols, and the search for “enlightenment.” There are many other stories of how Freemasonry helped to shape America, such as my article on, “Montana 3-7-77 – How Freemasonry Tamed a Territory.” However, as I delve into the history books I am appalled by how Freemasonry is shrugged off as an irrelevant aspect of history. It may not have the significance as purported by anti-Masonic conspirators, but it did have an important role to play in forging relationships. I just wish historians would pay closer attention to how Masonry influences the lives of people.
BRYCE ON MORALITY – Have we really evolved as a species?
Of our 44 presidents, the most prolific writer was John Quincy Adams who maintained a detailed journal of his life, from boyhood until near the end of his life. Adams’ presidency was unsuccessful, but he served Congress afterwards as a dedicated public servant. He also had a keen eye for the world around him, be it social, political, economic, military, religious, or whatever. Being somewhat pious, Adams came to the conclusion, “man is born inherently evil.” This struck me like a thunderbolt.
As humans we are proud of our technology, marvel at our massive cities, consider the artfulness of our entertainment, and have conquered the land, sea, air and space. From this, we believe ourselves to be sophisticated and an advanced civilization, well beyond those of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Persians, Chinese, and Romans. But are we really? We still practice the obscenity of war, and we certainly do not observe the golden rule of “Doing unto others as we would have others do unto us.”
In other words, I see nothing in our history that would lead me to believe we have truly evolved as a species. Sure, we now have air conditioning, smart phones, and High Definition TV, but I fail to see how we are any more noble or moral than our predecessors.
In the Middle East we see genocide, where Christians are singled out for extermination by ISIS. In Gaza, Hamas terrorists have vowed the extermination of the Israeli Jews, as has other Muslim factions. They put human shields around their missile launchers and fortifications in order to gain martyrdom and draw world sympathy to their cause. Beheadings and mass executions are now commonplace in the Muslim world. Decapitated heads are hung in public for the world to see and photograph for social media. Such atrocities were practiced well before the birth of Christ. One can only conclude the Muslims are a primitive and barbaric race. It doesn’t take a genius to pull a trigger or blow yourself up. It takes more integrity not to do so.
Russia stands poised to flex its muscles and snatch the Ukraine in the same manner as Nazi Germany snapped up the Rhineland, Austria, and Poland under the ruse of “repatriation.” This gave them the momentum to conquer the rest of mainland Europe, north Africa, and invade Russia. No wonder Europeans tremble as they watch the Ukraine helplessly.
During World Wars I and II, atrocities were performed by just about every army. In both wars, the German soldiers brutally raped and murdered Russians, and the Russians did likewise to the Germans. These two countries were certainly not alone in terms of brutality and savagery. It has been going on for centuries. We saw it in our Civil War, we saw it when Japan invaded China, and we now see it in Afghanistan, Muslim Africa, and chemical attacks in the Middle East. Let us also not forget the work of the Serbs, the Khmer Rouge, Idi Amin, North Korea, Mao’s Great Leap Forward, and Stalin’s purges, to mention but a few. Such heinous crimes against humanity, and the total disregard for life in any form, is essentially no different than pre-Biblical times.
On a more local level, it has become commonplace to hear stories such as a man throwing a baby out of a moving vehicle simply because it was crying; mothers snuffing the life out of their children; sexual predators, people sadistically decimating innocent animals, not for food, but for sport or simple cruelty. We viciously attack each other for a variety of reasons, such as domination, intoxication, a word spoken out of turn, or even as a game. Are these acts of God or man? The answer should be rather obvious. In addition to the perpetrators, we encourage evil by saying or doing nothing.
Evil knows no boundaries. It doesn’t observe borders, politics, race or religion. It is universal. So much so, one has to wonder where have all the champions of peace gone? Where are our role models and leaders; our Gandhis? Even Sadat was assassinated for promoting peace. Certainly there must be some good in the world, but the media doesn’t promote it with the same gusto they do for the horrors of the world. And as the American military diminishes in size and scope, evil is emboldened.
Like Adams, I believe we are born evil, but have been given the rare ability to rise above it, our intellect. However, just like any animal, we have to be trained to be good and we have done a horrible job of doing so, be it by our parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or the media. Both good and evil reside within all of us and it is a matter of our conscience to determine which path to follow.
Education is perhaps the best deterrent to evil, as it tempers the conscious, as does age and experience. Unfortunately, many people take education for granted or fail to understand its value and prefer living by basic instinct alone, thereby allowing evil to fester.
As sophisticated of an animal we like to believe we are, Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain) was correct when he observed, “Man is really the most interesting jackass there is.”
Well for example I experimented with a cat and a dog. Taught them to be friends and put them in a cage. I introduced a rabbit and in an hour they were friends. Then I added a fox, a goose, a squirrel…some doves…a kangaroo, and finally a monkey. They lived together in peace. Well next I captured an Irish Catholic and put him in a cage and just as soon as he seemed tame I added a Presbyterian, then a Turk from Constantinople, a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas, a Buddhist from China, and finally a Salvation Army colonel. Why when I went back there wasn’t a single specimen alive.
Maybe God made a mistake when he picked man over the monkey.
We do not want to believe evil is as pervasive in our world as it is, but it is much closer to us than we think. It is not just restricted to the evening news. It is always waiting for us, be it in the Middle East or just around the corner.
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.
Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.
BRYCE ON HISTORY A tribute to our Normandy vets, and a history lesson for our youth.
On this anniversary of the D-Day invasion, we would be wise to remember the sacrifices and hardships our veterans endured to liberate a continent. Through their eyes, we see the true character of America and the price of freedom. The French certainly haven’t forgotten, nor should we.
Codenamed “Operation Overlord,” the Allied invasion of Europe via Normandy, France was conducted 70 years ago today. Most of the veterans of the largest amphibious invasion of all time have since passed, but we should be mindful of their achievement and the sacrifices they bore. It was their job to cross the English Channel and breach Hitler’s formidable Atlantic Wall, laced with a million land mines, booby traps, anti-tank traps, miles of barbed wire, battle hardened troops, and concealed fortifications with heavy armament. The Germans were commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the legendary “Desert Fox” from the North African campaign. As such, the Allies recognized this would be a daunting task.
The Supreme Allied Commander was General Dwight Eisenhower, better known as “Ike.” It was his job to plan, organize and implement this massive invasion. Devising a suitable strategy would prove difficult. The conventional wisdom at the time assumed the Allies would invade at Pas de Calais, representing the shortest distance between England and France. Not surprising, this area was heavily fortified by the Germans in anticipation of the crossing there. Realizing the considerable number of soldiers and equipment needed to make the invasion a success, Eisenhower needed to rely on the element of surprise. Consequently, Normandy was selected. In addition to the strategy, the job was made complicated by the number of Allied countries involved, the number of personnel and equipment required, the weather and lunar cycle, which dictated the tides, and some slight of hand to keep the Germans off balance. To this end, Eisenhower devised an entire phantom army around General George S. Patton, using decoys, props, and fake signals. The charade caused the Germans to believe Patton would lead the invasion at Pas de Calais.
The politics and logistics of assembling the invasion under tight secrecy was incredible, and a tribute to Eisenhower’s determination, organizational skills, and political finesse. Ike hinted at his approach by saying, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” In reality, Eisenhower had to walk a fine line not to offend any of the Allies involved with the invasion. This included not showing favoritism to the Americans and belittling the British. As a result, overall command of the ground forces was given to Britain’s Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
160,000 Allied soldiers would land on June 6th, a day after the original target date, delayed due to inclement weather. They were supported by nearly 5,000 ships of varying sizes and shapes, making it the largest armada ever assembled. The troops landed on the Normandy coast which was divided into five sectors codenamed:
Utah Beach – represented the right flank, the most western side of the attack. The US 4th Infantry Division met light resistance there.
Omaha Beach – was the most heavily defended and where Allies suffered the most casualties. Here, the untested US 29th Infantry Division was joined by the veteran 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One).
Gold Beach – was charged to the British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division.
Juno Beach – was charged to the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division and commandos of the Royal Marines.
Sword Beach – was located closest to the town of Caen. It was charged to the British 3rd Infantry Division who met armored resistance from the 21st Panzer Division.
Pointe du Hoc – was the highest point between Utah and Omaha Beaches and heavily fortified by the Germans. US Army Rangers scaled the cliffs and overcame the Germans.
Just prior to the invasion, thousands of Allied airborne troops invaded behind the lines at Normandy under the cover of darkness. Their mission was to secure bridges and strategic locations until relieved by troops coming from the beaches. At the town of Sainte-Mère-Église, American paratroopers suffered heavy casualties as they descended on the town, thanks in large part to a building on fire and illuminating the night sky, making the soldiers easy targets. Many other paratroopers fell into fields deliberately flooded by the Germans. Burdened by considerable equipment, many Allied soldiers drowned.
Eisenhower’s attack caught the Germans by surprise, including Hitler and Rommel, causing them to react slowly. Nonetheless, 12,000 Allied casualties were recorded on the first day, with 4,414 confirmed dead, and several others missing. The Germans would lose 1,000 men, small by comparison. Although the Germans were finally able to mount a counterattack, the Allies had secured Normandy and began to move inland. Two months later, they would liberate Paris. Eleven months later, the war in Europe would be over.
Those who survived the invasion were left with indelible impressions of their experience. In a letter to his wife Mabel, Army Chaplain and 2nd Lieutenant John G. Burkhalter described his experience on landing at Omaha Beach with the 1st Infantry Division:
“When my part of the Division landed, there were impressions made on my mind that will never leave it. Just before landing we could see heavy artillery shells bursting all up and down the beach at the water’s edge under well directed fire. As I stood in line waiting to get off the LCI to a smaller craft to go into shore, I was looking toward land and saw a large shell fall right on a landing craft full of men. I had been praying quite a bit through the night as we approached the French coast but now I began praying more earnestly than ever. Danger was everywhere; death was not far off. I knew that God alone is the maker and preserver of life, who loves to hear and answer prayer. We finally landed and our assault craft was miraculously spared, for we landed with no shells hitting our boat.
Nobody can love God better than when he is looking death square in the face and talks to God and then sees God come to the rescue. As I look back through hectic days just gone by to that hellish beach I agree with Ernie Pyle, that it was a pure miracle we even took the beach at all. Yes, there were a lot of miracles on the beach that day. God was on the beach D-Day; I know He was because I was talking with Him.”
Chaplain Burkhalter would go on to receive the Bronze Star for valor, the Silver Star for gallantry, and the Purple Heart for injuries sustained. His full letter was published in the Miami Daily News on Sunday, August 6, 1944.
Many memorials have been erected to commemorate World War II, but the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial has particular significance for D-Day veterans as it represents the final resting place of 9,387 Americans who perished at Normandy, and 307 graves are marked unknown. Another 1,557 names are inscribed on a wall there who lost their lives but could not be located or identified.
At the cemetery during the 40th anniversary of D-day, President Ronald Reagan asked, “Where do we find them? Where do we find such men? And the answer came almost as quickly as I had asked the question; where we have always found them in this country; on the farms, in the shops, the stores and the offices. They are just the product of the freest society the world has ever known.”
And that’s just the point, the lesson taught by the veterans of D-Day, and all the other veterans who fought for our country is simple, Freedom is not free. It has to be paid for by the sweat and blood of those willing to fight and protect it. We must be mindful of their sacrifice well after the last Normandy veteran has passed.
As Reagan said at the 40th, “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may be always free.”
Let us hope future generations will be able to rise to the occasion when called upon, just as the D-Day vets did. Congratulations veterans and Thank You.
BRYCE ON HISTORY – How technology changed the country and the world.
(Click for AUDIO VERSION) To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.
If you were to ask young people what they consider the most influential inventions that affected America, they would likely respond with the PC, Apple’s iPhone and iPad, or perhaps the new Google Glasses. This reflects the erosion of our sense of history. I would argue even though these inventions are interesting, their development was inevitable and the natural byproduct of earlier inventions. Understanding America requires more than just the memorization of important dates, such as 1776, but also the inventions we created along the way. Our inventions ultimately dictate who we are, for they were devised to solve particular problems and to remain competitive in the world community. They also reflect our resourcefulness and determination to get things done by rising above the status quo.
For historical purposes, I have assembled the following list of arguably the greatest American inventions. These ideas and devices not only impacted our country but the world at large. In addition to enhancing productivity and business, they also influenced our society.
There are far too many significant inventions to list here. Instead I was interested in identifying those which had a profound effect not just on business, but socially as well. For example, Franklin’s lightning rod was useful for curbing lightning strikes and ensuing fires, but it did not affect the social conscious of the nation. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin greatly enhanced the output of cotton in the South, but it also encouraged a dependency on slavery and contributed to the outbreak of the American Civil War. There were many others, but I wish to point out those which positively influenced the American character.
Steam Engine (1781) – True, the first steam engines were introduced in Spain and England in the 17th century, but it was James Watt’s engine that provided the first practical implementation which would be used in railroads, ships, and other manufacturing and agricultural applications thereby becoming an important cog in the Industrial Revolution. In addition to improving output, the steam engine improved transportation, thereby making us a more mobile society by connecting the country. Train service also improved communications by expediting mail service. These effects would later be emulated by the introduction of the internal combustion engine.
Morse Code (1836) – The electric telegraph was another invention derived from Europe and preceded by the optical telegraph (signalling). The first practical implementation though came in 1844 with the first long-range telegraph between Baltimore and Washington, DC where inventor Samuel F.B. Morse sent the famous expression, “What hath God wrought,” a phrase from the Bible’s Book of Numbers. This was all made possible through the use of Morse Code, a standard system of dots and dashes which transmitted text messages. In reality, Morse Code was invented by Morse, American physicist Joseph Henry, and machinist Alfred Vail. This system revolutionized communications. Messages and news could be easily disseminated in seconds as opposed to days. This kept the public informed of current events and allowed business decisions to be made more readily. The Trans-Atlantic Cable bridged North America with Europe, thanks to Morse’s standard language. The telegraph may be long gone, but Morse Code lives on through Ham Radio operators. Remarkably, the system is still faster than newer techniques, such as text messaging.
Baseball (1845) – although historians argue over the origin of the game, baseball’s roots were likely derived from “rounders” in England. Nevertheless, the rules and game of baseball are uniquely American. The beauty of it is just about anyone can play it, assuming you can run, catch, throw, and swing a bat. It is also a thinking game with subtle strategy and secret communications, thereby making it an ideal spectator sport. Unlike other games played on a rectangle and scoring by taking a ball or puck to an end zone or net, baseball is played on a “diamond” which is actually a field defined by a 90 degree angle. To the outsider who has never played the game, baseball seems confusing at first, but with a little patience, the quirks of the game can be quickly learned. Because of its popularity, baseball has been dubbed America’s “National Pastime,” and a welcome diversion from the tedium of life. Aside from the United States, it has become popular in Central and South Americas, Japan, China, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere.
Telephone (1876) – Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the first patent for the electric telephone in 1876. As with other technologies listed here, others were active in its development, but Bell was first. The telephone revolutionized communications not only in America but throughout the world. Whereas phones were originally placed in a key location in a town, it propagated to households and businesses, and eventually to just about every individual on the planet. A boon to communications, the telephone also affected the populace socially. For example, the phone has been an indispensable tool for teenagers for many years and was likely the driving force for developing the “smart phones” of today.
Phonograph (1877) – Thomas Edison’s “talking machine” provided a handy tool to entertain people who were not proficient in the use of a musical instrument. Interestingly, the cylinders of Edison’s machine ultimately became the hard drives of today’s computers and smart phones, all based on circular devices for storing and retrieving data.
Radio (1885) – Again, experiments were conducted earlier, but it was Edison who received the first radio patent. For a long time, radio was the principal means of communicating with the public. It revolutionized news reporting and entertained the public. More importantly, it introduced the technology which would ultimately be used for television, radar, and today’s cell phone towers.
Tabulating Machine (1890) – Herman Hollerith is credited with inventing the tabulator using punched cards. This was fostered by the 1890 census which was desperately in need of a better approach for counting. Hollerith’s invention not only proved useful for the US Bureau of the Census, but for business in general. It was the precursor of the modern day computer and was eventually used for accounting, inventory, and just about anything requiring counting. The machine also gave birth to a new company which would influence technology and business for years to come, IBM. Tabulating machines were used until the 1950’s when the computer finally replaced them.
Electric Power Distribution (1882) – although Edison did not create the light bulb, he invented the first power grid in New York City to use his electric lamps, thereby turning the darkness of night into light (Pearl Street in Manhattan). The effect was dazzling and changed our social life at night. Candle power was no match for Edison’s electric grid, something that is with us to this day.
Assembly Line (1901) – the concept of routine assembly using standard parts has been around for centuries, but it took Henry Ford to mechanize it to produce his line of automobiles, thereby revolutionizing the process of manufacturing. This is one of the most important concepts to emerge from the Industrial Revolution. It’s been used to produce everything from automobiles and airplanes to a multitude of electronic devices and just about every consumer related product imaginable, including the smart phone. By doing so, the assembly line made it possible to make products affordable for just about everyone, thereby creating a middle class.
Air Conditioning (1902) – Willis Carrier was the inventor of “electromechanical cooling” which was originally intended for companies with products requiring climate control, such as printing, photography, and chemicals. This technology was eventually used for general business comfort, as well as in automobiles and homes. The air conditioner had particularly affected the South where temperatures during the summer would prohibit work and sleep. The advent of the air conditioner was a major contributor to people migrating to the South, including yours truly.
Airplane (1903) – The Wright Brothers are credited for “the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight.” Like the Steam Engine, it had a profound effect on transportation and communications, although it devastated passenger rail service. By conquering the sky, we made the world a smaller place to live, accessible to just about anyone. It has helped forge business relationships overseas, thereby improving commerce, and made America more aware of the world around us.
Credit Card (1950) – the credit card traces its roots back to air travel cards which would allow you to “buy now, pay later.” The Diners Card became the first charge card, which was quickly followed by Carte Blanche and American Express in the 1950’s. BankAmericard, which would evolve into Visa, would follow, as would Master Card, and Discover Card much later. Prior to this, the concept of paying for merchandise with anything other than cash was unimaginable. Today it is just the opposite as most transactions are recorded by credit cards. Its only drawback is that it is probably the single most significant cause for people to go into debt by over spending.
Computer (1951) – I realize people will argue the ENIAC was the first computer as commissioned by the US Army in the closing days of World War II, but it was the UNIVAC I (UNIVersal Automatic Computer) which became the first computer to be used for commercial purposes. Both machines were invented by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, two pioneers who exhibited great foresight into the world of computing for many years. The product they produced set the stage for super computing and mini computing, ultimately leading to the smart phone, the PC, and the Mac. Without the likes of Eckert and Mauchly, there would not have been a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. The computer has touched our lives like no other machine before or since. It is probably impossible to think of an industry or person who remains unaffected by the computer.
Internet (1969) – This was developed as a project for the Department of Defense to communicate with universities and research institutions. Today, it is the lifeline we all use for e-mail and to traverse the world wide web. It is also used to purchase merchandise, send/receive phone calls, transmit live photographic images, secure our homes, search for a mate, social networking, and more. And, No, Al Gore most definitely did not invent the Internet (he was 21 at the time and still in school).
U.S. Constitution (adopted 1787, ratified 1789) – This is perhaps the most brilliant invention in our history. Some would argue it is not unique. True, many of the concepts were derived from earlier political philosophers (e.g., Sir Edward Coke, William Blackstone and France’s Montesquieu, not to mention the Magna Carta), but the Constitution was the first practical implementation of such ideas. Fortunately, the authors of the Constitution were well versed in history and political philosophy, including the ancient Greeks and Roman empire. What makes the Constitution unique is its three separate but equal branches of government, its checks and balances, its bicameral system of Congress (two chambers), to act as a Republic as opposed to pure Democracy, and the Bill of Rights which enumerates the rights of American citizens. They were also wise enough to make it modifiable, so revisions could be added.
James Madison was the principal author of the Constitution and would later serve as our country’s fourth president. Madison and his Virginia colleagues came to the Constitutional Convention prepared and introduced the “Virginia Plan” which served as a template for the Constitution.
The Constitution superseded the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union which was our first governing document produced shortly after the Declaration of Independence. Whereas the Articles of Confederation simply stipulated how the various states would work together, the Constitution was to be more definitive in terms of devising a federal government. It took two years for the Constitution to be ratified by the thirteen states, a miracle in itself. The “Federalist Papers” were written and distributed to explain the rationale for the various parts of the Constitution, thereby selling the idea to the country.
The fact the U.S. Constitution has stood the test of time (225 years) and survived a bloody Civil War is a testament to its merit. It has also been emulated by states in the union and other countries, including Mexico and the Philippines. So brilliant is the document, I cannot imagine today’s Congressmen as being able to devise anything remotely better. As an aside, it is the Constitution which includes the provision for protecting intellectual property such as the inventions listed here (Article One, Section 8). Without such protection, our volume of inventions would be much less.
All of these devices have had a deep-seated effect on the American character. It defines who we are, what our values are, how we conduct business, and how we socialize as a people. We must recognize for every new invention we can expect some sort of social adjustment or change in our perspective or thinking and, with rare exception, there will likely be legislation enacted to control and tax its use.
Make no mistake, we have been influenced by our technology since the founding of this country, and way before. As such, it is important to remember when these inventions were created, the people who invented them, but more importantly the rationale for their creation. Without a sense of history, we would likely not understand the direction of where our technology and world should be heading.
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.
– The written instruments used to govern and shape America.
NOTE: You may want to “bookmark” this column and pass the web address on to others, particularly young people.
I have many pamphlets describing the country’s governing documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, but I wanted something more comprehensive where I could quickly access the various documents by computer. What follows is a listing of the documents which shaped our nation. In addition to governing documents, the list includes treaties, acts, and landmark Supreme Court rulings. The Magna Carta and Mayflower Compact are included as they greatly influenced our need for government. I did not include presidential farewell addresses or speeches, except for the Gettysburg Address.
It is hoped this will become an important research repository for you. For each document, I am including background information as provided by Wikipedia as well as the actual text of the document itself. I hope you find it useful.