Summer intern Brenda shares her observation of Theodore Roosevelt's views on freemasonry and politicians.
It’s common knowledge that many of our founding fathers were freemasons and many presidents since America’s foundation have been members as well, Theodore Roosevelt included. Books, films, and television specials about secret symbols, ancient traditions and the power of the freemasons can easily be found. Roosevelt, however, makes it clear in some of his letters that freemasons are not to use their position as masons for political gain.
In a letter to E. E. Jackson, Roosevelt reminds Jackson of this.
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to E. E. Jackson, May 31, 1912. From the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division.
May 31, 1912
“My Dear Sir,
I thank you for your courteous letter and appreciate your support. But if you are a mason you will of course understand that it is expressly forbidden in masonry to attempt to use the order in any way for anyone’s political advantage, and it must not be done. I should emphatically object to any effort so to use it.”
Roosevelt is “emphatically” objecting to the use of masonry as a means of assistance in politics. Friendships and connections are sure to be made in any brotherly order and there is no doubt that conversations relating to politics must occur, but using the brotherhood itself for political gain is not allowed, according to Roosevelt.
In this period in Roosevelt’s life he is campaigning for a third term as president. Ever striving to maintain his integrity he urges others not to act improperly on his behalf. Just a few weeks later, Roosevelt hears of another man who may be trying to use his mason status to undermine Roosevelt’s political campaign. In a letter, Roosevelt writes to H. C. Holloway:
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to H. C. Holloway, June 3, 1912. From the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division.
June 3, 1912
“My Dear Brother Holloway,
Of course the conduct of that man, if he is really a mason, is an outrage. I did nothing but defend myself from attacks made against me. He is endeavoring to use masonry to my political disadvantage.”
Roosevelt is outraged over an unnamed person’s conduct and even questions his mason status because of it. One might go so far as to read that Roosevelt is questioning the man’s mason status by his actions being so reprehensible. Many men over centuries have been masons and have been in positions of political power but it seems that masonry is not supposed to have a part in the political arena. Perhaps masonry is where leaders find each other and is not where they are made.
Brenda has a Master of Arts in American Studies, and is currently studying Archival Studies at San Jose State University.