At the laying of the corner-stone of the new Capitol at Albany, last Saturday, an impropriety was committed which admits of no excuse but a want of perception of its nature and extent on the part of the persons concerned in it. A private organization, known as the Freemasons, were not merely permitted to be present as spectators, but were invited to perform and did perform their peculiar rites as a part of the public ceremonies of the occasion. We have nothing to suy against Masonry as an institution, nor against its symbolic observances; but that its votaries should be thus officially recognized by our State authorities, is a thing of which all the rest of the commuuity has a right to complain.
If the Masons were, as they profess to have originally been, bona fide workers in stone and mortar, it would undoubtedly be fitting for them to do something like what they did on Saturday. They, and all the other mechanics whose skill and labor will be employed in erecting the new Capitol, might properly participate in the formal commencement of the building. But it is notorious that they are not masons at all, and that the technical jargon they make use of has only an allegorical meaning. Grand Master Anthon is a lawyer, who never did a day's mason work in his life; and the other Worshipfuls and Most Worshipfuls, who assisted him, are as innocent as he is of practical experience in the trade. They went through the form of applying the square and the level to the stone, but they would probably be puzzled to tell whether it was really well laid or not, notwithstanding their glib declaration that it was all right. The whole concern is secret and quasi-religious in its nature, and it is a gross assumption for it, on account of its name, to claim a prominent part in a ceremony of such general interest as the laying of the corner stone of a State Capitol.
Besides, there is a strong feeling of opposition to Masonry among a large and influential class of our people. The Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches formally condemn it as inconsistent with true religion, and other denominations view it with distrust if not with enmity. It was an open affront to all these citizens to thus conspicuously honor the object of their dislike. It is an if an Orange Lodge should be invited to assist in laying the cornerstone of a corporation building in this city. The other faction might well say that this was an insult to them, and so may the anti-Masons say of the prominence just given to the Masons at Albany. The whole thing was a blunder, which we hope will never be repeated.
Monday, December 26, 2011
A Glaring Impropriety
The Sun., June 27, 1871, Page 2, Column 1, A Glaring Impropriety