Today, Freemasons pass unnoticed by the general public. But this wasn't always so. In 1827, the USA witnessed the birth of a third political party. This had never happened before. The new party offered America its first alternative to the two dominant political parties. Like so many third parties, this one had a rather narrowly-focused platform. It was dedicated to countering the malevolent and subversive influence of the international cabal known to the world as Freemasonry. It was named the Anti-Masonic Party, and the Anti-Masons were well aware that theirs was an uphill battle.
George Washington had been a Mason. So were many other U.S. Founding Fathers, including Ethan Allen, John Paul Jones, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Lafayette, and Benjamin Franklin. Eight of the 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence belonged to Masons, as well as nine on the Constitution. In 1832, the Anti-Masonic Party managed to elect Millard Fillmore to Congress, but their candidate for President received only seven votes in the Electoral College. He was crushed by Andrew Jackson who was a Mason.
Freemasons claim that their group dates back to the stonemason guilds of the Middle Ages, some even say it reaches back to the building of King Solomon's Temple in 850 BCE. It was probably founded in 1717 by a band of affluent Englishmen with too much time on their hands. The organization flourished and spread rapidly throughout the British empire; Masonic lodges appeared in the American colonies in the 1730s. A separate strain later emerged in France and swept across Europe.
Freemasonry was a fraternal order, attracting the community's best and brightest. They would gather together for strange and secret rituals, swearing oaths of allegiance to the brotherhood and each other. Naturally, it became a place for negotiating business deals and the exchange of gossip. The fraternity was soon a major power center in any metropolis, and the international network of lodges constituted an immense, wealthy, and well-connected quasi-governmental organization.
As such, it took almost no time at all for the backlash to begin. The Vatican was officially opposed to the group ever since 1738, when Pope Clement XII condemned Freemasonry and banned it from his faith. Freemasons suffered harshly in Nazi Germany. Hitler firmly believed that Freemasons had been completely subverted by the Jews, as described in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. As per Mein Kampf, the Masons had been subverted to provide a mask of legitimacy for the diabolical Jew: [I]n Freemasonry, which has succumbed to him completely, he has an excellent instrument with which to fight for his aims and put them across. The governing circles and the higher strata of the political and economic bourgeoisie are brought into his nets by the strings of Freemasonry, and never need to suspect what is happening.
The Nazis made it one of their top priorities to uproot the Freemason organization. Hitler's government seized Masonic temples, jailed their members, and otherwise made life very difficult for anybody attached to the Freemasons. In fact, it was Eichmann's first assignment in the SS to track the activities of suspected Masons. Dictators of recent decades have jumped on the Anti-Masonic bandwagon: Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet (Chile), Salazar (Portugal)... not to mention all the conspiracy kooks. There are many who claim that the Freemasons grew out of the medieval organization known as the Knights Templar. Today, the Knights Templar (and the Jacques de Molay society) exist as a branch of the interconnected organizations making up Freemasonry.
But why do the Masons have so many enemies? Reason #1: The Freemasons secretly rule the world. The usual claim is that the Freemasons are the visible arm of the Illuminati, who actually rule the world. The founder of the Bavarian Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt, was also a Mason. This fact prompted wide speculation that the two groups had been (or still are) working together for a broader objective – the establishment of a "New World Order." This notion is still widely believed.
Reason #2: The Freemasons are Satanic or anti-Christian. Jack Chick promotes this theory. Many fundamentalist Christians believe that Masons are required to pledge themselves to Freemasonry above and beyond their religious faiths. This would be strictly forbidden for the Jesus freaks, if it were true. Which it isn't. Some even believe that Freemasonry is itself a religion, whose deity is the pagan god Baphomet. The problem is, as any devout Christian in the Freemasons will tell you, there is nothing Satanic about the group's ideology, rituals, or symbols. But the lunatics have an answer for this: The Masons don't believe that their group is anti-Christian because only the innermost members know the truth. Meaning: inside the secret club is another, even more secret, club.
One longstanding sore point for the Masons has been the plagiarization of Masonic ceremonies and symbology by Joseph Smith for his religious cult known as the Mormon Church. Smith was inducted into the Freemasons in March 1842. In May he produced the Endowment ceremony, which borrowed sections of dialogue from the Masonic ritual. This upset many Freemasons. Like every Mason, Smith had been required to swear an oath never to reveal the secrets of Freemasonry to non-members. Evidently tired of hearing complaints from the Masons, the Mormons finally excised the offending elements from their ceremony in 1990.
One prominent 19th century Mason was Albert Pike. Pike was an officer in the Confederate army during the Civil War, who later went on to become a big deal in Freemasonry. Pike wrote books which are still read today by the Freemasons. He was also evidently a racist, writing editorials inveighing against the Negroes. It is widely-believed but poorly documented that Pike may have been one of the original founders of the Ku Klux Klan. The Masons vehemently deny this.
U.S. Presidents who were Masons include Gerald Ford, William McKinley, James Garfield, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft, Andrew Johnson, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk, James Buchanan, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan was an honorary Scottish Rite Mason, but not a Freemason. "The Soviet Union's recent inclusion in the League of Nations was engineered by 300 members of the Jewish race and conspirators of Freemasonry," said Nazi Joseph Goebbels in March 1935.