At just what time in history masons began to dispute the membership of Thomas Jefferson in the Fraternity of our brotherhood is unknown. Yet in a search for the beginning we find men such as Dr. Joseph W. Eggleston; Julius F. Sachse and W.J. Paterson stating as fact that Jefferson was not a Mason.
Even Mackey the author of Mackey's Encyclopedia appears to be of negative opinion for he offers no affirmative rebuttal in favor of Tom Jefferson being a Mason, this proves that even Mackey was biased in his research, for there are many who are just as certain that Jefferson was a Mason, some of which were his contemporaries and knew Jefferson intimately. To show the inaccuracy of Mackey's research, I offer the following fact.
There is published in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Virginia for 1883, a record of the cornerstone ceremonies for Central College which was laid in 1817, telling of the ceremonies by the Widow's Son Lodge #60 and Charlottesville Lodge # 90, also in the minutes of Charlottesville lodge #90 under the date of Sept. 20, 1817, Thomas Jefferson is listed as one of those present at the ceremonies.
(Mackey writes in his encyclopedia that Jefferson did not attend this meeting. Mackey ignores the proceedings and minutes of a Grand Lodge and a Lodge. In spite of this error which was never corrected and should discredit Mackey, and which has clouded the minds of many Masons, there are still those who believe Jefferson was a mason and list him as such. Even the Government Printing Office has several publications in which are listed the Presidents of the United States in which Thomas Jefferson is listed as a Master Mason.
During the 1932 centennial celebration, most of the literature published for that event list Thomas Jefferson as being a Master Mason. Edward D. Barker, who was Anti-masonic, and went about making speeches against the Masons of that day, on March 12, 1829, at Middlebury, Vermont, quoted remarks made by Thomas Jefferson as a Master Mason, and referred to his membership in the fraternity while President of the United States.
Thomas Jefferson died, July 4, 1826. Even after death he was recorded as a Mason, for on June 4, 1828, at a celebration of St John the Baptist, a toast for the departed was given and the name of Thomas Jefferson was among those named, this ceremony was recorded by two publications, The Pittsburg Literary Gazette, Vol 1, Aug. 4,1828, and also in the Masonic Souvenir, July 1828.
At the dedication of the Boston Masonic Temple, May 30, 1832 Bernard Whitman stated that all the presidents of the United States up to that time had been Masons except two. The two he referred to must have been the Adams', for both Father and Son were anti- masonic. Today when many would disclaim Thomas Jefferson as being a Master Mason, The United States Government lists Thomas Jefferson as a Master Mason in all its publications.
It must be remembered that it was not healthy in the early 1800s to be known as a Mason, as the Anti-Masonic groups and many of the Churches were forcing the Masons of that era underground. As Jefferson was sandwiched between two strong anti-masonic presidents as the Adams' it is only natural to assume many of the lodges in that day did not list the names of all their members present. Jefferson was not the only mason of that era who was not listed among those attending the meetings for security reasons.
However as most of the argument has been taken on the stand that Jefferson never was recorded in a tiled meeting, and the hearsay evidence is not accepted, let us now look at the record of a meeting which was presided over by our First President, George Washington and was a tiled lodge, and in which Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, and seven other distinguished brethren of that day were present.
Therefore I offer the following evidence for your consideration. The key to the CHROMO entitled "Washington presiding over a meeting of the Lodge" The following was prepared by G.L.Reynolds "In the summer of 1869 I set about gathering the facts upon which to found a correct historic picture of George Washington as a mason. Various pictures have hitherto been published representing him in many different attitudes, having no reference to historical facts.
Considering, therefore, that matter of greatest importance had been overlooked, I determined, if possible, to find when, where and under what circumstances the honored "Father of our Country" did meet with, preside over, or in manner affiliate with his brothers." G.L.Reynolds, goes on to explain in detail his visit to Fredericksburg lodge and copied from the records, their masonic history and records of George Washington.
"On making known the object of my visit to the lodge at Fredericksburg and the Lodge at Alexandria, Va., I was most cordially received by the principal officers, and afforded free access to all records and relics in their possession, and had converse with the oldest members, some of whom had been associated in their day with those who knew all the circumstances of such a meeting as the CHROMO represented, and had met with Washington in the Lodge room."
"This was especially the case at Georgetown where they have the likenesses of Bros. MOUNTZ and THOMPSON, which I had photographed, as two of the contemporaries of Washington, and are represented in the CHROMO as officers of the lodge, which in accordance with their statements now in possession of Potomac Lodge, which I here subjoin. In answer to a letter of inquiry from the above lodge, Brother Mountz says;".......
"I was treasurer of Lodge No.9, now Potomac lodge No 5, in the year 1793, and am now in the 83rd year of my age, and have never had the occasion to regret my connection with our ancient and honorable Order. I was present and near our late Brother George Washington, First President of the United States, when he laid the corner stone of the Capitol of the United States, on the 18th of September, 1793 which he did masonicly with a marble gavel, which is the one now in possession of your lodge.
I am, Brethren, sincerely your Brother, John Mountz"" In answer to a similar Letter addressed to James Thompson, he responds: "Washington City, May 23d, 1854." ""Brethren: In responding to your inquiries I offer the following remarks: I am now in the 86th year of my age, and have belonged to our Honorable order upwards of sixty years. I was master of your lodge, then Columbia Lodge No. 19 in the year 1795, and Secretary in the year 1796: appointed delegate to represent the lodge at the Grand Communication, held in the City of Baltimore, in July 1796: elected Secretary for the year 1797:
I was one of the eight oarsmen and pulled the stroke oar of the barge that conveyed Brother George Washington across the Potomac, from a meeting over which he presided, at Alexandria, Va. and saw him when he laid the corner stone of the National Capitol, Masonicly, in the year 1798 I am, Brethren, Most sincerely yours, J. Thompson."
"Here now are two living honorable witnesses, leaving their testimony upon which to build the historic CHROMO now offered to the Fraternity. That this meeting of preparatory arrangements for laying the corner stone was held in Alexandria Lodge No. 22 ( of which George Washington was a member) just prior to the event, is not only consistent with the occasion. but supported by other evidences equal in reliability to the excellent authority already quoted.
We will introduce no verbal statements, since we have Brother Thompson's written declaration that he formed one of the party in the barge which conveyed George Washington direct (from the Preparatory meeting) across the Potomac from Alexandria to Washington City on the 18th of September 1793, the day on which the corner stone of the Capitol was laid."
"On visiting Alexandria, Va. I was first referred to Brother T.G.Loodkerman, to whom I would refer any one for evidence of the accuracy of the picture, or any statements made. Reynolds goes on in detail of the time he spent in Alexandria Lodge 22 and explains the many different relics of interest, more especially those items which are shown in the CHROMO picture and its details.
Reynolds here goes into details of the picture to authenticate the Meeting and items shown in the picture and those persons depicted in the picture, which I now list from right to left. Washington - is the central figure R.V. Lee Bishop White of Penn. Benjamin Franklin Robert Morris John Mountz Benjamin Harrison Roger Sherman THOMAS JEFFERSON George Wither James Thompson