Constitutional Observance

posted May 19, 2015, 5:13 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 20, 2015, 4:34 PM ]
Since the month of September is somewhat traditional for us as Masons to observe our country’s Constitution, I offer some remarks about the involvement or influence of Masons in the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent preparation of the Constitution of the United States.
After the first lodge was chartered in the Colonies, Masonry spread rapidly and such men as George Washington, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere became members and Masters of their Lodges.  In the tense times before the American Revolution, the privacy of Masonic Lodges offered the colonial patriots the opportunity to meet and plan their strategies.  The Masons listed and many others, were intimately involved in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. 
It is very interesting to note that:
  • Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 9 (16%) were Freemasons
  • Of the 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution, 13 (33%) were Freemasons
  • Of the 74 Generals in the Continental Army, 33 (46%) were Freemasons
Suffice it to say that there was a substantial Masonic influence in the creation of the governing documents of our great country.  In fact, if you were to examine the constitutions from the old Stonemason Guilds you would find some striking similarities to some of the verbiage of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
I think that nothing could more effectively illustrate the process of our Independence and the Constitutional Convention following it, better than a story called “We the People” which you no doubt recognize as the first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution.  You probably know that:
  • The Constitution was written by the Constitutional Convention, which first convened in Philadelphia in May of 1787.
  • A Constitution of a country is its supreme law, and in the United States, the Constitution is the basis of our National government.
  • Many experts consider the Constitution of the United States to be one of the most remarkable documents in all history.  
A detailed account of the statistics surrounding this great document, would occupy a tremendous amount of time. 
It is not so important that we know every detail of its history, so long as we remember that it is a covenant with Freedom.  It is a way of life.
(to be continued in next month’s Rite Word)

Constitutional Observance (continued from September)
Let’s talk about the people because the Constitution begins with “We the People”.  Let’s also compare our attitudes with those patriots who came before us and who fought so bravely to bring us the Liberty, which we too often take for granted.
Even though our country was formed on a religious foundation, our Forefathers fought not only for Freedom of Speech, but also for Freedom of Religion, so that every individual could speak freely and worship God in his own way.  The first amendment to our Constitution says to us that:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  We are told that this article guarantees the separation of church and state.  Have the people today forgotten how to read and understand the written word?  That guarantee of separation of church and state is not written in the First Amendment!
In these times, what is our role as “We the People”?  Are we patriots?  Where do we stand on important issues today?  Are we as involved in the process of government and as knowledgeable of our Freedoms as our founding Fathers were when they undertook a search for a firm foundation on which to build this nation?  They worked together and asked questions of each other.  Do we follow their lead?
If they could be here with us tonight, I believe that they would challenge us with such questions as:
My fellow Americans, what has happened?
What has happened to the self-reliance of the people of America who moved across a great wilderness to form this great country?
What has happened to the God given principle that every man is responsible for his own welfare  - his own station in life  - the acquisition of his own goods  - and indeed, for the welfare of his own family?
I wonder what our answers would be.
Even our Statue of Liberty has had its true purpose and meaning diluted over a span of years. It has been stated over and over again by prominent people (who should know better), that the statue is a memorial to all of the millions of immigrants who came by her to reach our shores.  That is a noble thought but it completely ignores the real meaning of the Lady herself.  The Statue was created by a French Freemason Brother Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who was encouraged to do so by another French Mason, Henri Martin, and by a descendent of Lafayette, the American and French Revolutionary soldier and Freemason.  Both French and American Masons contributed to the campaign that raised funds to pay for the Statue and the pedestal.
The first fact is that she was delivered to the United States in 1884, before more than eighty percent of the immigrants arrived, and eight years before the Ellis Island Immigration Center was opened.  It is also a fact that the great majority of the immigrant population of today came to us from the western and southern borders of our nation, and most have never even seen the statue.
Fact number three:  “The Statue of Liberty” is not even her true name.  Her real name, historically forgotten or intentionally ignored, is “Liberty Enlightening the World”.  So what are these principles of “Liberty Enlightening the World” supposed to mean to “We the People”?  The principles are the same as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.  They are the inalienable rights of the individual.  
One of America’s founders, Samuel Adams, enumerated them just prior to the American Revolution.  He said, “The natural rights of the Colonists are these:  First, a right to life; second, to Liberty; and third to property together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner he can.”
Today, each of us has been bestowed with those great principles that were generously granted and earned by the sacrifices of others.  But we also have a mandate of responsibility.  Our defense is assured, justice is established, domestic tranquility and general welfare promised, and even such priceless intangibles as the preamble’s “Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity” are bestowed but, we are not exempt from obligation.
To be concluded next month

The conclusion (almost) of “We the People”
A Patriot is defined in Webster’s as:  “One who loves his country and zealously supports its authority and interests.”  That is fairly descriptive but I prefer the words of Faye McKinney a Prince Hall Masonic Affiliate from Texas who said:
I am an American.  The Golden Rule is my rule.  I acknowledge my undying debt to the founding fathers who left me a priceless heritage, which is now my responsibility.  With steadfast loyalty, I will uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.
I will treasure my birthright of American ideals.  I will place moral integrity above worldly possessions.  The problems of my country shall be my problems.  I will count my right of voting as a sacred trust and will diligently strive to prove worthy of that trust.  I will give my support to upright public servants, but will oppose firmly those with unclean hands.  Each obligation that comes to me as a true American, I will discharge with honor.  My heart is in America  - America is my heart!
My friends is there anything in that statement that you can’t live with?  I hope not!
Patriotism as a way of life has surfaced in the most unusual places.  One such example can be found in the works of Manly Palmer Hall, who was a Mason also and in his story “We The People” the hero had faith in himself and in his fellow man, and he was in the right place at the right time, with the right message.  His words and inspired thinking were truly patriotic in character and his story is said to be true.
The scene is the State House in Philadelphia.  We are all familiar with the famous names present.  The doors were locked and a guard was posted.  A group of serious faced men stand around a table on which lies a parchment declaring the Independence of the American Colonies from the Mother Country.  Each man faces the death penalty for high treason if he signs that document.  They all hesitate.  There is a wavering among them and then a voice rings out.
“Sign that parchment!  Sign if the next moment the hangman’s rope is about your neck!  Sign if the next moment this hall rings with the clash of falling axes!
Sign by all your hopes in life or death!  As men, as Brothers, as Husbands, as Fathers, sign with your names to the parchment or be accursed forever!  Sign and not only for yourselves, but for all ages … for that parchment will be the textbook of Freedom … the Bible of the rights of men forever.
Nay, do not start with surprise and whisper among you.  It is the truth … your hearts witness it; God proclaims it.  Look at this strange bunch of exiles and outcasts … suddenly transformed into a people.  A handful of men, weak in arms … but mighty in God-like faith; nay, look at your recent achievements … your Bunker Hill …your Lexington, and tell me if you can that God has not given America to be Free!”
And the voice continued … “It is not given to our poor intellect to climb to the skies and to pierce the council of the Almighty One … but methinks I stand among the awful clouds which veil the brightness of Jehovah’s Throne.
The voice of God speaks out from that awful cloud:  “Let there be light again!  Go out from the Old World … from the oppression and the blood … and build my Altar in the New World.”
As I live and breathe, I believe that to be his voice!  Yes, if my soul trembling on the verge of eternity were this hand freezing in death … were this voice choking in the last struggle … I still … with the last impulse of my soul … with the last wave of that hand … with the last gasp of that voice … implore you to remember this truth … God has given America to be Free.
I beg you to sign that parchment for the sake of those millions whose very breath is hushed in expectation … as they look up to you for those eminent words … You are Free.”
The delegates, carried away, rushed forward and John Hancock scarcely had time to affix his bold signature before the quill was grasped by another, and another, and another.  It was done!
The American Patriots turned to express their gratitude to the unknown speaker.  He was not in the balcony and he was not to be found anywhere.  How he entered or left is not known.  Whoever he was, he kept faith with the future.  He believed in the importance of the work at hand and the work yet to come.  He helped to give us a Nation dedicated to the Principle of “Liberty Enlightening the World”.
My friends, this Liberty I have been speaking about has come to us without a great deal of effort on our part, but it still has a price and that price is eternal vigilance.  Many of our friends and family members have paid the ultimate price as guardians of this precious Liberty.  There were other times in the history of our country when Liberty itself was in a similar delicate balance and so fragile that, were it not for a spoken word, Liberty could have been nothing more than a passing dream.
Other nations may have more land and greater natural resources, but we have the highest standard of living and greater freedom because as old Sam Adams said it over two hundred years ago, we have the right to Life, to Liberty, to Property, and we have the will to defend them.
Perhaps a question to close the story “We the People” should be:  “Who among us would have signed that parchment?”  If we are to prepare ourselves to bring that vision to fruition, then we must be armed with the love of Truth, Morality, Responsibility, Commitment to high ethical standards, and a belief in God all of which are deep and abiding Masonic Principles.
We shall not fail because, among all other reasons we have the humility to give thanks to God that, by his Grace, we are “We the People!” and as such, we are Free.
The very final section of this story will be published in  the July 2011  Rite Word.  -  RR