I have been asked by the Master of our Lodge to enlighten all of you Brothers about a president of our United States of America who also was a Mason!!! My choice may seem a little odd, because the Master Mason I have chosen you all will say, “He was never a President!” But, alas, he was president even before the illustrious Master Mason, President George Washington.
Can you think of who this Mason was? No? Well, let me tell you a little more about him. He was born in Braintree, Massachusetts on January 23, 1737, where his father was a minister. Unfortunately, his father passed away when our bold American was just a boy and his Uncle Thomas, one of the wealthiest merchants in Boston, adopted him. After graduating from Harvard College in 1754, he joined the family business which he inherited after his Uncle’s death in 1764. Two years earlier, October 14, 1762, he was made a Mason, some say at St. Andrews Lodge in the Green Dragon Tavern of Boston, others say Merchants Lodge #277 in Quebec!!! The Jury is still out on this question.
Still don’t know who my mystery Mason was? He was known to the British as a revolutionary following the “Liberty affair” in 1768. One of his ships, the Liberty, was seized by the British in Boston Harbor along with its cargo of wine. He was falsely charged with disobeying regulations. This action outraged the citizens of Boston causing them to riot in the streets. British troops were then sent in to restore order to the city, but the “Liberty Affair” was just one of the smoldering events that soon ignited into the Revolutionary War.
As the tensions grew between the Colonies and the British Government our Mason in Question used his own capital as well as his political influence to aid the movement for American Independence. His activities made the British Government regard him as one of the MOST dangerous Revolutionist in the colonies. He and Samuel Adams, another Massachusetts leader of independence, were nearly captured by the British in 1775, and if was not for the famous ride by another American Patriot, Paul Revere, who gave both men warning, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”, enabling them to escape British capture.
How about now, do you know who this Rebel is??? He was greatly disappointed by the fact that the Continental Congress chose George Washington to command the Continental Army instead of him! But, he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, which he signed so large and said, “This way King George can read it without his spectacles!” He was also the First and only President of the Continental Congress, which makes him THE first President of our United States! Can you guess who he was??? (Drum roll, please.) Anyone??? When we are asked to sign important documents we are told to put our what, on the dotted line??? John Hancock is correct!!! (trumpet flourish) and he WAS the first president of our fledgling country.
Well, I do hope that this was refreshing, if not interesting to all of you! Maybe I lit some trinitrotoluene under some of you [TNT]??? I thank all of you my Brothers and W Adam for giving me this opportunity to stump some of you Brothers. Sorry for my absence, but, I hope to see all of you at our next meeting or at the Grand Lecturers Convention. Think about this my Brothers, “A Mason is not necessarily a member of a Lodge. In a broad sense, he is any person who daily tries to live a Masonic life, and to serve the needs of the Great Architect”, in other words, there are many Brothers out there in the world, unfortunately they are not all Masons!!! We are lucky, not everyone can afford the time nor the money to be a Mason!!!
I would like to thank VW Walter Hunt, Grand Historian and Librarian of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, for his help in compiling the information for this paper. Safe home, Brother!
W Nick Isabella
Queens District Historian