Thomas Jefferson was a Freemason

While continuing my research into the topic of President Thomas Jefferson’s Masonic membership, I discovered the fact that a Masonic Bible clearly stated that he was a member of Charlottesville Lodge #90, in Charlottesville, Virgina. Wait, I thought it was universally accepted that he was not a Mason. You see, history is not always what we are told; as this article will help articulate. Here is a picture from the video:

Thomas Jefferson

And here is the video of Masonic Presidents, which supports this claim:

Furthermore, another Masonic Edition Holy Bible from 1951 stated that Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States of America (1801-1809), was more than likely a member of Charlottesville Lodge No. 90, because his name appeared in the minutes from September 20, 1817; see below for a detailed first hand account – with George Washington as presiding Master, and Thomas Jefferson in attendance of a tiled meeting.  Furthermore, the bible said that Jefferson was often in the company of many prominent Freemasons. In fact, his son-in-law Thomas Randolph, at the time Governor of Virginia, as well as “his favorite grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and nephews Peter and Samuel Carr, were all members of Door to Virtue Lodge No. 44, Albemarle County, Virginia.” Moreover, “Freemasons, such as Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Lafayette, and Jean Houdon were some of his closest associates in Europe.” Likewise, other Freemasons he admired and knew “included George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Benjamin Rush, John Paul Jones, James Madison, James Monroe, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.” And again, it was reported by Dr. Joseph Guillotin that Jefferson “attended meetings of the Lodge of Nine Muses in Paris; that he had marched in a Masonic procession with Widow’s Son Lodge No. 60 and Charlottesville Lodge No. 90 on October 6, 1817, at the cornerstone laying of Central College (now the University of Virginia).” And perhaps most interestly, “that the Grand Lodges of South Carolina and Louisiana held funeral orations and processions for him following his death on July 4, 1826; and that a Blue Lodge at Surry Court House, Virginia, was named Jefferson Lodge No. 65 in 1801” in his honor. Which begs the question, why did every Mason during Jefferson’s life, and shortly after his death, believe he was a Freemason. The answer is clear; because he was one (Mastermason.com).

Nevertheless, there are other sources that state that Thomas Jefferson was not a Freemason; however, there are perhaps just as many prominent Masonic scholars that rebutt such a belief. I say belief, because those who state that he was never made a Freemason have no proof in their assertion; whereas, those who believe he was a Freemason have numerous anecdotal facts to support the position that he was. And honestly, if a person truly and honestly looked into the issue, he could not come away with any other view.  Now let’s take a look at Albert Mackey’s historical mistake.

Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry made the assertion that Jefferson was not a Freemason, but does not offer any facts to support this assertion; rather, it just states its own bias by saying there no empirical evidence that he was a Freemason; honestly though, no proof is not proof of something. Nevertheless, it did make a reference to Robert Gould’s History of Freemasonry, which stated that Jefferson’s pictures were included among Masonic Presidents, and added it’s personal belief afterwards – that there was no proof, Thomas Jefferson is included in the portrait gallery of Masonic Presidents; there is no known evidence of his having been a Mason,” which is clearly not true (Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, 1873, p. 843). 

Furthermore, Mackey also asserted, from a 1919 letter from the Grand Orient of France, that there is no proof that Jefferson ever attended Lodge in France, “While the assertion has frequently been made that Jefferson was a Freemason and that he attended the Lodge of the Nine Sisters (the Muses) at Paris, no further details are given, and a letter from the Grand Orient of France under date of September 9, 1919, assures us that there is no evidence in existence of any visit to that Lodge by Jefferson” (p. 1192). So on one hand, it admits the argument made by many Jefferson supporters that he attended Lodge of the Nine Sisters, but dismisses it due to a letter from 1919, some 140 years after he would have attended. Again, a lack of proof is not proof, not to mention that the French Revolution most certainly would have destroyed any such records. Yet, later on in the Encyclopedia, it does raise a most interesting dilemma, you see, Masonic Lodge names are normally aligned with the Craft; so why would Lodges throughout the United States be named after Jefferson? Mackey wrote,

No name of a Lodge should be adopted which is not, in some reputable way, connected with Freemasonry. Everybody will acknowledge that Morgan Lodge would be an anomaly, and that Cowan Lodge, would, if possible, be worse. But there are some names which, although not quite as bad as these, are on principle equally as objectionable. Why should any of our Lodges, for instance, assume, as many of them have, the names of Madison, Jefferson, or Taylor, since none of these distinguished men were Freemasons or Patrons of the Craft” (p. 1260).

Think about it for a moment, why would Freemasons during the era name their Lodge after a non-member. The answer is simple, they would not have done so. Even today, do we have any Masonic Lodges named after 20th century Presidents. I know it is a stupid question. No we don’t. We have no Lodges named Obama Masonic Lodge, Reagan Masonic Lodge or even Bush Masonic Lodge for a reason; we would not do it unless the Brethren felt comfortable about their membership in the Craft. The same holds true for the Brethren during the early 19th century in the United States. The Brethren used the Jefferson name because it was firmly believed during the era that he was a Freemason, and they were proud of it. It is clear that Mackey was biased in his research, for there are many who are just as certain that Jefferson was a Mason, some of which were his friends who knew him intimately (The Skirret, 2017).

To further show the error in Mackey’s research, history has demonstrated that the 1883 Grand Lodge of Virginia proceedings mentioned a cornerstone ceremony that was held where Thomas Jefferson was present; two Lodges were in attendance, Widow’s Son Lodge #60 and Charlottesville Lodge #90, in 1817, which was mentioned previously. Nevertheless, Mackey wrote that Jefferson did not attend this event. In fact, he ignored the minutes from both the Grand Lodge and Lodges themselves. Sadly, this error has never been corrected, and as a result, many Masons hold firm to the belief that Jefferson was not a Mason. Despite this mistake, history during the period of his prominence, and his death afterwards, records him as being a Mason. Case in point, the “Government Printing Office had several publications that listed the Presidents of the United States, in which Thomas Jefferson was shown as a Master Mason.” Moreover, during the centennial celebration of 1932, published literature listed “Thomas Jefferson as being a Master Mason.” Most interestingly, Edward Barker, a prominent Anti-Masonic party member, made countless speeches against Freemasonry, and was quoted on March 12, 1829 to say that Thomas Jefferson was a Master Mason, and “referred to his membership in the fraternity while President of the United States” (The Skirret, 2017).

Even after Thomas Jefferson’s death on July 4, 1826, his name was recorded again and again as being a Freemason. On July 4, 1828, a Masonic celebration of St. John the Baptist toasted Jefferson as a Freemason; this event was recorded in no less than two publications, “the Pittsburg Literary Gazette, Vol 1, August 4, 1828, and also the Masonic Souvenir, July, 1828.” Furthermore, at the Boston Masonic Temple dedication that was held on May 30, 1832, Bernard Whiteman said that “all the presidents of the United States up to that time had been Masons except two. The two he referred to must have been the Adams,’ for both Father and Son were anti-masonic.” To demonstrate further, as was mentioned previously, during the early 19th century “the United States Government listed Thomas Jefferson as a Master Mason in all its publications.” Keep in mind, because of Anti-Masonic activity, it was not healthy to be known as a Freemason; nevertheless, the Government recorded him accordingly. It is also important to realize that “Jefferson was sandwiched between two strong Anti-Masonic presidents,” both of whom were an Adams; John Adams (father), 2nd President of the United States and John Quincy Adams (son), 6th President of the United States. Equally important to note, we assume that today’s standards were applied during the Jefferson period, but that is not the case. In fact, countless Masons from the era were also not listed among those attending Lodge meetings. This point has also been overlooked by countless scholars. We also see from the following record that George Washington was at a tiled lodge in which “Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, and seven other distinguished brethren of that day were present” (The Skirret, 2017):

The key to the CHROMO entitled “Washington presiding over a meeting of the Lodge

The following was prepared by G. L. Reynolds

“In the summer of 1869 I set about gathering the facts upon which to found a correct historic picture of George Washington as a mason. Various pictures have hitherto been published representing him in many different attitudes, having no reference to historical facts. Considering, therefore, that matter of greatest importance had been overlooked, I determined, if possible, to find when, where and under what circumstances the honored “Father of our Country” did meet with, preside over, or in manner affiliate with his brothers.”

G. L. Reynolds goes on to explain in detail his visit to Fredericksburg lodge and copied from the records, their masonic history and records of George Washington.

“On making known the object of my visit to the lodge at Fredericksburg and the Lodge at Alexandria, Va., I was most cordially received by the principal officers, and afforded free access to all records and relics in their possession, and had converse with the oldest members, some of whom had been associated in their day with those who knew all the circumstances of such a meeting as the CHROMO represented, and had met with Washington in the Lodge room.”

“this was especially the case at Georgetown where they have the likenesses of Bros. MOUNTZ and THOMPSON, which I had photographed, as two of the contemporaries of Washington, and are represented in the CHROMO as officers of the lodge, which in accordance with their statements now in possession of Potomac Lodge, which I here subjoin. In answer to a letter of inquiry from the above lodge, Brother Mountz says;”

“”I was treasurer of Lodge No.9, now Potomac lodge No 5, in the year 1793, and am now in the 83rd year of my age, and have never had the occasion to regret my connection with our ancient and honorable Order. I was present and near our late Brother George Washington, First President of the United States, when he laid the corner stone of the Capitol of the United States, on the 18th of September, 1793 which he did masonicly with a marble gavel, which is the one now in possession of your lodge.

I am, Brethren, sincerely your Brother, John Mountz””

“In answer to a similar Letter addressed to James Thompson, he responds:

“Washington City, May 23d, 1854.”

“”Brethren: In responding to your inquiries I offer the following remarks: I am now in the 86th year of my age, and have belonged to our Honorable order upwards of sixty years. I was master of your lodge, then Columbia Lodge No. 19 in the year 1795, and Secretary in the year 1796: appointed delegate to represent the lodge at the Grand Communication, held in the City of Baltimore, in july 1796: elected Secretary for the year 1797: I was one of the eight oarsmen and pulled the stroke oar of the barge that conveyed Brother George Washington across the Potomac, from a meeting over which he presided, at Alexandria, Va. and saw him when he laid the corner stone of the National Capitol, Masonically, in the year 1798 I am, Brethren, Most sincerely yours, J. Thompson.””

“Here now are two living honorable witnesses, leaving their testimony upon which to build the historic CHROMO now offered to the Fraternity. That this meeting of preparatory arrangements for laying the corner stone was held in Alexandria Lodge No. 22 (of which George Washington was a member) just prior to the event, is not only consistent with the occasion. but supported by other evidences equal in reliability to the excellent authority already quoted. We will introduce no verbal statements, since we have Brother Thompson’s written declaration that he formed one of the party in the barge which conveyed George Washington direct (from the Preparatory meeting) across the potomac from Alexandria to Washington City on the 18th of September 1793, the day on which the corner stone of the Capitol was laid.”

“On visiting Alexandria, Va. I was first referred to Brother T.G. Loodkerman, to whom I would refer any one for evidence of the accuracy of the picture, or any statements made.”

Reynolds detailed his time spent in Alexandria Lodge #22, and explained the varying relics; most notably, a picture of Masons present during the 1793 meeting, which included “Washington – is the central figure R.H. Lee Bishop White of Penn. Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, John Mountz, Benjamin Harrison, Roger Sherman, THOMAS JEFFERSON, George Wythe, James Thompson” (The Skirret, 2017).

And finally, it seems clear by history that Thomas Jefferson was a Freemason; nevertheless, as his political aspirations grew, he went out of his way to not make it public knowledge – for good reason I might add – for he had to content with a growing Anti-Masonic movement.

So there you have it, just a little bit more information that supports the case that Thomas Jefferson was a Freemason. My research continues.

So Mote It Be!

Hank Kraychir

PS: if any reader of this article discovers further research that supports the position that Jefferson was a Freemason, please feel free to post it below in the comment section, and I will research it and possibly write about it in the future. Collectively, we can solve this historical riddle. Thank you!!!

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