The 1820s looked as though they would be the best of times for the special relationship between the fraternal order of Freemasonry and the young American nation. It wasn’t just because so many prominent members of the founding generation–George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and indeed 13 of the 39 signers of the Constitution–had been members. It was also because the rapidly growing republic and the fraternal society still held so many ideals in common. American republican values looked like Masonic values writ large: honorable civic-mindedness, a high regard for learning and progress, and what might be called a broad and tolerant religiosity. Indeed, says Steven Bullock, a historian at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a leading scholar of the Masonic fraternity in America, Freemasons “helped to give the new nation a symbolic core.”
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