Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

XXV. Diffusion of the Order

485. Freemasonry in Spain and Portugal.—In 1726, the Grand Lodge of England granted a patent for the establishment of a lodge at Gibraltar; another was founded in the following year at Madrid, which, declaring itself independent of foreign supervision, established lodges at Cadiz, Barcelona, Valladolid, and other places. The Inquisition, seeing the danger that threatened the Church, persecuted the Order; hence some mystery surrounds the labours of the brotherhood in the Iberian peninsula. But in the troubles which distressed Spain during the Napoleonic wars, the masonic lodges were politically very active. They were suppressed again by Ferdinand VII., and up to the year 1868 were but few in number, and disguised under various names. Since that year they have rapidly increased, and there are now more than 360 lodges in Spain. The Spanish Grand Lodge has 154 lodges under its jurisdiction; the Grand Orient of Spain about 162; the Lusitanian Grand Orient about 40 lodges. There are, moreover, about 40 lodges subject to foreign Grand Lodges. The number of Spanish Masons may amount to 30,000.

In Portugal, the first lodges were founded, not under English, but under French auspices; but English influence soon made itself felt in the establishment of additional lodges, though in great secrecy; which, however, did not save many Freemasons from becoming the victims of the Inquisition.

486. Freemasonry in Russia.—In 1731, Freemasonry dared to oppose itself to Russian despotism, which not fearing, and probably despising it, did not molest it. The times were unpropitious. The sanguinary Biren ruled the Empress Anne, whom by means of the amorous fascination he exercised upon her, he easily persuaded to commit all kinds of folly and cruelty; and Masonry, though it knew itself to be tolerated, yet did not feel secure, and cautiously kept itself in the background. In 1740, England founded a lodge at St. Petersburg, and sent thither a Grand Master. The Order spread in the provinces, and in 1763 the lodge "Clio" was opened at Moscow. Catherine II. wished to know its statutes, perceiving the advantage or injury they might bring to her government as she either promoted or persecuted the association. In the end she determined to protect the Order; and in a country where the court leads opinion, lodges soon became the fashion. But Masonry thus becoming the amusement of a wealthy nobility, it soon lost sight of its primitive objects. In no other country probably did the brotherhood possess such gorgeous temples; but, deprived of the vivifying and invigorating air of liberty, its splendour could not save it from a death of inanition.

487. Freemasonry in Switzerland.—English proselytism, always the most active, established a lodge at Geneva in 1737, whose first Grand Master was George Hamilton. Two years afterwards, the foreigners dwelling at Lausanne united and founded the lodge called the "Perfect Union of Foreigners." Lodges were also opened at Berne; but the manoeuvres of the Grand Lodges of the States surrounding Switzerland introduced long and fierce dissensions. In 1765, the Strict Observance founded at Basle the lodge "Liberty," which became the mother-lodge of many others, and, calling itself the "German Helvetic Directory," chose for its chief the celebrated Lavater. Then followed suppressions; but the Order revived, and in 1844 the different territorial Grand Lodges united into one federal Grand Lodge, called "Alpina," which revised the ancient statutes. The Swiss Freemasons intend to erect a grand temple, which perhaps could nowhere find a more fitting site than in a country where four nations of diverse languages and races dwell in perfect liberty.

488. Freemasonry in Sweden and Poland.—In 1748, Sweden already had many and flourishing lodges. In 1754 was instituted the Grand Lodge of Sweden, under a patent from the Grand Lodge of Scotland; it afterwards declared its autonomy, which has been recognised by all the masonic bodies of Europe. In the most ancient Swedish ritual we meet for the first time in Europe with the cry and sign of distress of the sons of Adoniram (383): "To me, the sons of the widow!"

Freemasonry, at first suppressed in Poland, was revived under Stanislaus Augustus, and the auspices of the Grand Orient of France, who established lodges in various towns of that country. These united in 1784 to form a Grand Orient, having its seat at Warsaw.

489. Freemasonry in Holland and Germany. In Holland the Freemasons opened a lodge in 1731, under the warrant of the Grand Lodge of England; it was, however, only what is called a lodge of emergency, having been called to initiate the Duke of Tuscany, afterwards Francis I., Emperor of Germany (454). The first regular lodge was established at The Hague in 1734, which, five years after, took the name of " Mother-lodge." Numerous lodges were opened throughout the country, and also in the Dutch colonies; and the Freemasons founded many schools, with the avowed object of withdrawing instruction from clerical influence.

In Germany lodges were numerous as early as the middle of last century, so that in the present one we have witnessed the centenaries of many of them as, for instance, in 1837, of that of Hamburg; in 1840, of that of Berlin; in 1841, of those of Breslau, Baireuth, Leipzig, and many more.

490. Freemasonry in Turkey, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.—The Order also spread into Turkey, where, however, as may be supposed, for a long time it led but a harassed existence. Lodges were established at Constantinople, Smyrna, and Aleppo; and it may be mentioned, as a fact in favour of Freemasonry, that the Turkish Freemasons are in a more advanced state of civilisation than is usual among Orientals generally. They reject polygamy, and at the masonic banquets the women appear unveiled; so that whatever their western sisters may have to say against Masonry, the women of the East certainly are gainers by the introduction of the Order.

The most important masonic lodges of Asia are in India; they are under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodges of England and Scotland.

Freemasonry was introduced into Africa by the establishment of a lodge at Cape Coast Castle in 1735. There are now lodges at the Cape of Good Hope; in the islands of Mauritius, Madagascar, and St. Helena; and at Algiers, Tunis, Morocco, Cairo, and Alexandria. Lodges have existed since 1828 at Sydney, Melbourne, Parramatta, and other places; in all, about two hundred.

491. Freemasonry in America.—The first lodge established in Canada was at Cape Breton, in the year 1745. Lodges existed from as early a period in the West Indian Islands. On the establishment of the Brazilian empire, a Grand Lodge was initiated; and in 1825, Don Pedro I. was elected its Grand Master. In 1825, the Grand Lodge of Mexico was instituted, where the Liberals and Federalists joined the York Rite, whilst the Clerics, Monarchists, and Centralizers adopted the Scotch rite, the two parties carrying on a relentless war. Texas, Venezuela, and the turbulent republics of South America, all had their masonic lodges, which were in many cases political clubs in disguise. Thus the assassination of Garcia Moreno, the President of the Republic of Ecuador, in 1875, was the work of the masonic clubs. The murderer, one Rajo, on being promised his life if he would denounce his accomplices, coolly replied: "It would be useless to save my life; if you spared it, my companions would soon take it; I would rather be shot than stabbed."

The lodges in the territory now forming the United States date as far back as 1729. Until the close of the revolutionary war these were under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England; but almost every State of the Union now has its own Grand Lodge, independent of all foreign power.

In different parts of the globe there are about 90 Grand Lodges, nearly 12,000 lodges, numbering altogether about 12,500,000 members; of the active members, or such as regularly attend lodges and pay annual subscriptions, there may be half that number.