The Constitution and Bill of Rights and Freemasonry
Wilfred G. “Bill” Soutiea, Jr., Grand Master (1999-2000)
Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Missouri
Phillip G. “Phil” Elam, Grand Orator (1999-2000)
Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Missouri
(Undelivered Grand Oratory for the 179th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Missouri.)
Edited for Lodge by: W:. William Arnold, WM, Potunk Lodge #1071 (2021)
What is patriotism -– this almost universal instinct for which more men have given their lives than for any other cause, and which counts more martyrs among its ranks than religion itself? What is this potent sentiment that has produced so many great and splendid deeds of heroic bravery and unselfish devotion? What is this driving force that has fostered liberty, won independence, and advanced civilization?
The dictionary tells us that a patriot is “one whose ruling passion is the love of his country,” and that patriotism is “love and zeal for one’s country.”
John Paul Jones, a most worthy Freemason, and America’s first naval hero, called himself “a citizen of the world.” Though a Scotsman by birth, he fought for the Colonies because he believed they stood for a broader form of patriotism than had ever before been attained by any group of men. He stood for America because he regarded America as standing for “man as man.” Love of country is a most noble passion, but love of man, as directed by the Great Architect of the Universe, is even more noble.
True patriotism is, however, a thinking patriotism. It is a sacred entity. No noise, however great, no shouts, however thrilling, no hurrahs, however enthusiastic, no blare of brass bands, no flaming fireworks, or no strenuous stump speeches can begin to tell what true and genuine patriotism is really about. True patriotism is a great, calm, and altogether lovely and holy thing, that worships God and loves its fellow men. It is a consecration of high ideals, and it is the hallowing of a man’s entire soul in a most holy cause.
Americanism can easily be defined by the Declaration of Independence, which, basing its doctrine upon the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” asserts the rights of man in one immortal sentence.
“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 principals and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
Is there any doubt to any Freemason who reads those words, and those in our Bill of Rights and Constitution, would fail to recognize them as Masonically-inspired documents – not because of the great number of Freemasons who wrote or influenced them, but because they embody the living and time-honored tenets, precepts, and principles of our Ancient Craft.
We Americans are the freest people on the face of the earth. Our strength rests in our patriotism, and anarchy flees before its Shining Light. Peace, order, security and liberty are safe so long as love of country burns bright in the hearts of our people.
We could call the role of nations, asking of each what it had or has to give of Beauty and of Truth to mankind. Each country will have its own contribution, and the citizens of that country should be justly proud. Even so, our country has a genius that is truly unique. What is that service to mankind if it is not to show, not only “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the face of the earth,” but that it is the highest ideals in government, and that it makes for the greatest happiness of man, both in private nobility and public welfare?
Of that genius and service our flag is the emblem, and loyalty to that emblem is demonstrated in our devotion to it. As Freemasons, our field is the world, but our solicitude is to our own country – as it makes its unique and priceless contribution to universal good. With due reverence for other nations, and by loyalty to our own flag, we best serve the human race.
Every Freemason in these United States should understand that Freemasonry, as an institution, has always been an integral part of America’s history and destiny. An understanding of this will enable any Freemason to accurately state the relationship between Freemasonry and Americanism. His life and example should evince the fact that to be a good Freemason is to be a good American. For Americanism, we are most proud to proclaim, is the latter day effort to embody our age-old Masonic idealism into law and practice for the just governing of an entire nation.
It was Freemasonry in a pre-eminent degree that so tenderly, and yet so resolutely, cradled democracy in the first eventful years of America’s history. In confirmation of this fact, we need mention only a few of the many illustrious names written on the pages of both Masonic records and American history – names like Wor. Bro. George Washington, Most Wor. Bro. Ben Franklin, Most Wor. Bro. Joseph Warren, and Bro. Lafayette, the hero of two countries!
Some names I just mentioned most or all of you know, one may be unknown to you. Dr. Joseph Warren. Why would I single out Dr. Warren from the rest of these illustrious names?
Dr. Joseph Warren (June 11, 1741 – June 17, 1775 – 35 years old) was an American physician who played a leading role in American Patriot organizations in Boston in the early days of the American Revolution, eventually serving as President of the revolutionary Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Warren enlisted Paul Revere and William Dawes on April 18, 1775, to leave Boston and spread the alarm that the British garrison in Boston was setting out to raid the town of Concord and arrest rebel leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Warren participated in the next day’s Battles of Lexington and Concord, which are commonly considered to be the opening engagements of the American Revolutionary War.
Warren had been commissioned a Major General in the colony’s militia shortly before the June 17, 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. Rather than exercising his rank, Warren served in the battle as a private soldier, and was killed in combat when British troops stormed the redoubt atop Breed’s Hill. His death, immortalized in John Trumbull’s painting, The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775, galvanized the rebel forces. He has been memorialized in the naming of many towns, counties and other locations in the United States, by statues, and in numerous other ways.
We fail to grasp the full significance of the noble record of those selfless and illustrious Brethren of our Order who took such prominent roles in Revolutionary days if we see it only as a source of pride and gratification. It is all of this, of course, but it is much, much more – for every page of America’s early history imposes duty, obligation and responsibility.
If it is true, and records indicate it as such, American nationality was largely brought about by Freemasons, and that to this end, the energies of the entire Craft were devoted to this grand cause in the trying times of the Revolution. If our predecessors gave ‘their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to start our Republic on its glorious path, surely, we can best honor and prove true the traditions of American Freemasonry by continuing the work they began. Our advantages, if not our opportunities, are even greater than theirs. The small and isolated Fraternity of that day has become a powerful Order – and it can exercise a mighty leverage for civic progress and reform.
The most noble lesson taught us by the Freemasons of the American Revolution is this: To place patriotism above partisanship, to preserve and extend the free institutions of the Republic, to maintain the honor and dignity of the Nation at home and abroad, and to realize the lofty ideals of our Eighteenth Century Brethren, bequeathing them as a priceless national heritage for generations of Americans yet unborn.
Freemasons, who teach so much by symbols, point with pride to the part Freemasonry played in establishing the greatest symbol known among all free nations – the Stars and Stripes we so fondly call “Old Glory.”
The most sacred symbol of any people is their flag, and in an hour of crisis and destiny, the old emblem becomes instinct with all of its lofty and holy meanings. In that flag is the soul of each nation, the outward and visible sign of its invisible and invincible spirit. The very body and blood of a free people are in the folds of its flag, and when it is unfurled, the soul of the nation stands proudly erect.
On June 14th, 1777, Congress officially adopted this flag, changing the number of stars to thirteen and arranging them in a circle. The wording of this famous resolution is as follows:
“Resolved, that the Flag of the United States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white, and that the Union be thirteen stars white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
The colors blend in our Flag to make it the sanctifying symbol of Unity, Fraternity and Goodwill among men. It is the Flag of Freedom and Friendship woven of the mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, proclaiming the time-glorified principles wrought out by the tears, prayers and blood of our early American forefathers.
As Freemasons, we can fully appreciate the words of President Calvin Coolidge:
“We do honor to the stars and stripes as the emblem of our country and the symbol of all that our patriotism means. We identify the flag with almost everything we hold dear on earth. It represents our peace and security, our civil and political liberty, our freedom of religious worship, our family, our friends, our home. We see it in the great multitude of blessings, of rights and privileges that make up our country. But, when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all our rights, we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties. Every glory that we associate with it is the result of duty done.”
Freemasons preach and firmly believe in the right to think, the right to speak, the right to worship in freedom and as conscience alone shall dictate, but how many Freemasons truly know what these things mean – how many really believe in them? How many believe in them so firmly that they are willing to fight for them, live for them, and die to defend them if need be? These things, when mentioned, sound decidedly like those principles of Americanism the soldiers, sailors and airmen of our country so nobly protect. If our Masonic Fraternity stands for these principles, whole-heartedly and unafraid, then we should use our Beloved Order as the greatest force of all time for the continued up-building of America – individually, one Brother at a time.
The real challenge to us as Freemasons is to prove our worth and show cause why our Ancient Order should continue to exist in today’s society. The cry of the hour within Freemasonry is for leadership – leadership within both our Lodges and our communities. Committed and moral leaders who will do “the right thing,” and who are not afraid to show their patriotism and love of country. Leaders who are so filled with inspiration and consecration to the development of true citizenship – for the sake of America — that they will forget both self and self-interest to work for the further attainment of the very Masonic principles on which our country was founded.
As Freemasons, we need, as never before, a clear and commanding conception of what America really means. It would be a poor Freemason, and no patriot at all, who has not asked himself what plan, what purpose, what prophecy the Great Architect of the Universe is trying to work out through our national destiny. Surely, America exists to build in the new world a community based upon the God-given principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth – a community united, just and free, where men of every race and creed may live and live well because they freely choose moral fellowship under a sense of common interest and obligation.
Commitment to that ideal is true patriotism, and, perhaps, that is the greatest gift Freemasonry can give to the world as we step into the 21st century and a new millennium. The histories of America and of Freemasonry have always been inseparably intertwined for the betterment of mankind and to the glory of the Supreme Grand Master of the Universe – and may it ever be so.
Finally, we would like to share some words thought to have been written by an unidentified Revolutionary soldier and Brother Master Mason. It is a simple, yet profound, prayer written by the very type of man and Freemason that made this country great, and describes the purpose of Freemasonry better than the most eloquent orator could ever hope to do.
These are inspirational words that every Freemason working in the quarry of life can live by, and words that demonstrate the true patriotism of a simple soldier who looked beyond his own needs even in the hardest and most dangerous of times:
“Oh, Thou, who hast called us out of Darkness to be the bearers of Light; we beseech Thee to make us helpers in the world. Take away from us the love of ease, and fear of mortal men. Show us the simple things that we can do to help our neighbors, our families and our country. Brighten the daily round of tasks that we have undertaken and are tempted to neglect. Make us faithful to the trust that life has put upon us; hold us to the humblest duty.
“Prepare our hearts in sympathy to be partners in suffering with the weak; partners in eager service with the strong.
“Reveal to us the wavering ranks of those that are struggling upward that we may cheer and support our comrades unknown. Remove from us the love of glory and the thirst for praise. Give us, in weariness, refreshment, and in strength, peace; but when we are idle, send shame, and when we are false, send fear, to bring us back to Thee. By Thy Love restrain our censorious speech and teach us to commend. By Thy Divine Wisdom enlighten our plans, and direct our endeavors for the common wealth. And give to us the vision of that bright City of God, the New Jerusalem upon Earth, where all men may share the best they have, in thought and in deed, and where none shall harm or make afraid.
“And establish Thou the work of our hands; yes, the work of our hands establish Thou it.”
To these stirring words from the innermost desires of this early American patriot and Freemason for both his young country and for all of mankind, we can only most humbly add –
So Mote It Be.