For a Kinder, Gentler Society
The Architects of America
How the Freemasons Designed the Republic
  • Russell Blackwell
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The Architects of America. How the Freemasons Designed the Republic
Sound Bite
Did the Freemasons consciously affect the geographical growth of the United States in order to invest the layout of the states with a deeper, symbolic meaning? The narrative concentrates on the development of Masonic ritual during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially their description of the 'ideal building' or Temple, the concurrent construction of America and the role Freemasons played in it, and the emergence of a simple but highly symbolic mathematical formula that recurs regularly throughout the history of the Republic. Maps and diagrams illustrate the surprising coherence of the theory.

About the Author

Russell Blackwell is a politics graduate of Liverpool John Moores University. He has had a lifelong interest in architecture and architectural styles, especially the kind traditional in Great Britain, and was chosen by a UK local authority to research the history of protected buildings within its jurisdiction. Combining this background with his knowledge as a former freemason fully conversant with the fraternity’s rituals and symbolism, Mr. Russell leads us through the thicket of hints and clues to see how much influence Freemasonry may have had on the development of that great experiment in the building of a Republic — the United States.

About the Book
The Freemasons were in on the ground floor during the construction of the American Republic.

This book is a study of the role played by Freemasons in designing the United States, and an analysis of possible symbolic meanings they may have...

The Freemasons were in on the ground floor during the construction of the American Republic.

This book is a study of the role played by Freemasons in designing the United States, and an analysis of possible symbolic meanings they may have built into the very shape of the nation. It is certainly well known that a theoretical basis for what was to become America existed from the time of Richard Hakluyt and Sir Francis Bacon; whilst the (potential) symbolism of Washington DC's street plan has become the stuff of popular legend. The author's thesis falls somewhere in between: that from 1733 onwards, right up to the statehood of Hawaii in 1959, the alignment, size, shape, and even elevation of the 50 states has been carefully constructed to a plan, a design that identifies America as an architectural phenomenon as well as a political and social unit.

The narrative concentrates on the development of Masonic ritual during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—especially their description of the ‘ideal building’ or Temple—and the emergence of a simple but highly symbolic mathematical formula that recurs regularly throughout the history of the Republic.


Introduction
“I was made a Freemason at the Salutation Tavern, Tavistock Street,” scribbled Doctor William Stukeley, “with Mr. Collins and Capt. Rowe, who made the famous Diving Engine…” In this rather terse and uncharacteristically bald sentence, William Stukeley committed his personal experiences of the evening of 6th January, 1721 to his diary. As someone...
“I was made a Freemason at the Salutation Tavern, Tavistock Street,” scribbled Doctor William Stukeley, “with Mr. Collins and Capt. Rowe, who made the famous Diving Engine…” In this rather terse and uncharacteristically bald sentence, William Stukeley committed his personal experiences of the evening of 6th January, 1721 to his diary. As someone well known across England for floridly chronicling anything that caught his eye, it might be expected that this particular physician, well versed in the importance of good observation and reporting, could have drawn back the curtain on the ceremony that actually took place within the walls of the Salutation for the benefit of the future. This necessarily didn’t mean the full works, just a whiff of detail, or a touch of drama perhaps; but this he failed to do, save for some supplementary commentary about the poor turnout at this particular Masonic assembly, for barely enough Masons had even bothered to turn out to induct the three newcomers, leading Stukeley to believe, quite wrongly, that he, Collins and Rowe were the first men in years to be “made a mason.”

Regardless of the shortcomings of the Doctor’s report, the above mixture of straightforward record and absurd conclusion does, however, illustrate something not only of the character of William Stukeley Esquire but also the life and times he lived in. Born on November 7th, 1687, in the town of Holbeach, close to England’s east coast, Stukeley came to consciousness in an era when the power of subjectivity and superstition still hadn’t buckled in the face of objectivity and science. Britain might be leading the World in terms of intellectual endeavor, but it was still a land of witch trials and religious persecution, a country of self proclaimed “freemen” toiling under an aristocratic and self-regarding polity. This particular mindset could affect anybody, even the Doctor’s fellow Lincolnshire man, the great Isaac Newton, who, whilst publishing his seminal work on mechanics, Principia, during the year of Stukeley’s birth, still found time to dabble in the occult, believing he, along with a few others, had been charged by God to decipher the Bible. Little wonder then that the intellectual chaos of the age was in turn to leave its mark on Stukeley himself, especially when the theories he expounded in his 1730s works Stonehenge, a Temple Restored to the British Druids and Abury, a Temple of the British Druids would eventually be viewed as ridiculous.

Battered as Stukeley was by competing belief systems, his eye for detail on the road to Stonehenge was at least sharpened by academic training considered conventional for the time. Whilst at grammar school, he started making topographical and architectural drawings, augmented with descriptions of historical artifacts and latterly plans of towns and buildings from across Britain, a collection that eventually saw the light of day as his 1724 book Itinerarium Curiosum. Going up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Stukeley initially studied medicine, and after graduation, he fine tuned his knowledge at Saint Thomas’s Hospital, London, experience he used to good effect when he returned to Lincolnshire to practice in 1710. Possibly finding country life a little dull after the excitements of Oxford and the Capital, he was back in London by 1717, the year he was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1719 he took his MD, and became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians twelve months later.

Tending to the physical needs of humanity wasn’t the end of Stukeley’s intellectual odyssey, for the Lincolnshire man now turned his attention to the spiritual, earning, within a decade of his Medical Degree, a doctorate in Theology, which in turn led to his ordination into the Anglican Church. This was clearly a mind hell-bent on engorging information, so why was it that this particular theologian, archaeologist, but pre-eminently scientist, heading off to the Salutation one freezing January night looking to be initiated into something expressing itself through the symbolism of physical labor? Whatever he may have thought lay ahead, it was unlikely the Freemasons were ever going to be of much use in his attempts to decipher Stonehenge, mapping the townscapes of England or analyzing some poor soul’s cadaver; though conversely, it must have also crossed his mind, as he strode through chilly London, and eventually turned into Tavistock street, what on earth he, with his already great knowledge of science and scripture, could ever hope to offer them.

Naturally, an alternative method of shedding light onto why someone like William Stukeley desired to be “made a Freemason” is, of course, by looking at the other two men initiated that night. Regarding Collins, any attempt at understanding his motivation is, however, well near impossible. Stukeley never committed any helpful references to Collins’s identity to his diary, and neither is the man’s background or achievements recognizable from existing records. This leaves the third man sitting outside the meeting at the Salutation to make up the shortfall, and this is Rowe, who thanks to his “Famous Diving Engine” has left behind an imprint on history, and like Stukeley, a scientific imprint to boot.

Rowe’s Engine was basically a watertight iron barrel, with holes cut for arms and legs and a small window in front of the face. The idea was the “Engine” enabled the wearer, up to a certain depth, to perform salvage and, in the Captain’s own words, “searching a ships bottom and stopping any leake at sea”. Apart from epitomizing the go-ahead ethos prevalent in the early eighteenth century, the Diving Engine, if it worked, was of course invaluable to an ocean going nation like Great Britain. Keen to impress everyone, especially the Admiralty, Rowe naturally seized the opportunity, organizing trials during 1720 to show his invention off in the best possible light.

At first, the omens looked good, for the inventor’s efforts resulted in a spectacular haul of thirty-three tons of silver being clawed from the hold of the East India Company wreck Vansittart. Such stunning success was, however, a false dawn. Despite further dives on shipwrecks, some dating back to the Armada, the “Diving Engine” failed to live up to its original promise, leaving a disillusioned Rowe no alternative but to publish a treatise called A Demonstration of the Diving Engine for the benefit and entertainment of a still thrilled and enthusiastic, but baffled, public. Although neither Stukeley or Rowe could ever hope to match the effect of the great Isaac Newton, today both are remembered, alongside the author of Principia, more for their contributions to the enlightenment, the movement towards rationality and scientific progress that occurred during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. At this time, Britain — and indeed Europe and parts of North America — started to buzz with a new attitude towards science, in all its guises. New discoveries and rediscoveries were changing the way intelligent people looked at the world, which in turn would lead to a transformation of the global human experience in the centuries that followed.

This was the environment that Stukeley and Rowe found themselves in, a world dragging itself out of darkness and into light; a world that indeed demanded their participation. So much needed to be done, in so many areas, without the hindrance of seemingly pointless distractions; so it is all the more perplexing and still a mystery as to why these men, pushing hard at the frontiers of knowledge, on Salisbury Plain and beneath the sea, should be attracted to, and involve themselves in, a fraternal society celebrated for using terminology and symbolism drawn from the solidly mundane world of the building site.

Contrary to Stukeley’s belief, however, he, Collins and Rowe weren’t the only “enlightened” men being initiated into the Freemasons around this time. Throughout the 1720s, the Order was growing so rapidly in terms of members and Lodges that, some respects, it began to resemble a scaled down version of the nation of which it was a part. This frenetic growth was, of course, a trend that brought together some very strange bedfellows indeed....


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Categories

Pages 312
Year: 2012
LC Classification: HS517.B53 2012
Dewey code: 366'.10973--dc23
BISAC: SOC038000
BISAC: ARC000000
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-906-3
Price: USD 22.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-907-0
Price: USD 32.95
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