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Freemasonry played a vital role in the life of George Washington and the founding of the United States of America

It is hard to say exactly how much impact Freemasonry had on the Enlightenment and the founding of America, and vice versa, but it is undeniable, that Freemasonry, the Enlightenment movement, and the Founding of America are fore ever intertwined in History.

George Washington, a founding father and American’s First President, was influenced by Freemasonry in his views of the world, and the shaping of the American nation. Washington became a Freemason early in his life shortly before going off in the Virginia militia. 40 percent of all officers of the revolution were Freemasons, and often met in Lodges.

Many of Washington’s brothers in the Lodge later served within in the Continental Army or Virginia Militia. Washington’s “Mother Lodge” was renamed and numbered as Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 after the creation of the Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1778. It continues to meet today.

Beginning in 1778 and through the remainder of his life, Washington was a frequent participant in Masonic ceremonies. On June 24, 1779, for example, Washington attended American Union Lodge’s celebration of the Feast of St. John the Baptist. That lodge comprised officers and enlisted men within the Connecticut regiments. He also visited King Solomon’s Lodge in Poughkeepsie, New York, on December 27, 1783.

After the war, in 1784, Washington accepted the invitation of his friends and neighbors to attend a June banquet at Alexandria Lodge No. 39, where he was elected an honorary member. Four years later he agreed to be charter master of the lodge when it transferred its allegiance from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to the Grand Lodge of Virginia. In 1794, the lodge commissioned William Williams to paint Washington dressed in Masonic regalia. After Washington’s death the lodge changed its name to Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22.

William Joseph Williams - George Washington, Mason, 1794
William Joseph Williams – George Washington, Mason, 1794

As president, Washington exchanged letters with many Masonic local lodges and state grand lodges. He also met delegations of Freemasons during his visit to Rhode Island in 1790 and his 1791 tour of the southern states. His most significant Masonic activity, however, occurred on September 18, 1793. Acting as grand master pro tem, he presided at the Masonic ceremonial laying of the United States Capitol cornerstone.

george washington freemason
George Washington laying the cornerstone of the United States Capitol

At Washington’s 1799 funeral, brothers of Alexandria Lodge performed Masonic rites. After Martha Washington’s death the lodge acquired many valuable items from the estate, including a Masonic apron sent from France in 1793. With these items and many curiosities, the lodge opened a museum in 1812.

George Washington's Masonic Apron from France
George Washington’s Masonic Apron from France

At Washington’s 1799 funeral, brothers of Alexandria Lodge performed Masonic rites. After Martha Washington’s death the lodge acquired many valuable items from the estate, including a Masonic apron sent from France in 1793. With these items and many curiosities, the lodge opened a museum in 1812.

In 1910 the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association was formed. Then in 1932 the Association dedicated its great Masonic Memorial to Washington in Alexandria, Virginia. Today Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 displays many of its valuable Washington artifacts and continues to meet there. The George Washington Masonic National Memorial welcomes the public seven days a week to view its many exhibitions and enjoy the spectacular view for the top of its 333 foot tower.

George Washington Masonic Memorial

Washington himself best articulated his membership in, and relationship to, Freemasonry when he replied to the brethren of King David’s Lodge in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1790: “Being persuaded that a just application of the principles, on which the Masonic Fraternity is founded, must be promotive of private virtue and public prosperity, I shall always be happy to advance the interests of the Society, and to be considered by them as a deserving brother.”

Original Source for quoted content: George Washington’s Mount Vernon Library

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