Saturday, December 24, 2011

Is it Wise?

June 3, 1871, New-York Tribune, Page 4, Column 2, Link:
A dispatch, the, the other day, announced that the corner-stone of the new Capitol at Albany was to be laid with the ceremonial of the Masonic Order on their honored day, the anniversary of St. John the Baptist. There are some reasons why such a programme may seem at first view appropriate. The Freemasons are a large and powerful body, embracing a great many of our most trusted and honored citizens, having no political affiliations, and generally respected for their charitable deeds and useful purposes. Their gorgeous regalia and impressive ritual add a splendor to all public observances in which they take part, and under their auspices we may be sure that the beginning of the new State House will be honored with becoming parade. But is it wise to place the matter in their hands?
If it had been proposed that the Right Rev. Horatio Potter, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York, should lay the corner-stone, with a procession of his Clergy in surplices and stoles; or that Dr. Conroy, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Albany, should bless it with holy water and incense and the sign of the cross; or that the Presbyterian General Assembly should take it in charge, and appoint some of their leading divines to conduct the ceremonies, all parties and denominations would have objected. The Capitol is built for the whole people, without distinction of politics, creed, or opinion. The Freemasons, highly as they are esteemed, do not represent the whole people. To the majority their rites are incomprehensible. To a number not inconsiderable, especially among the Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, the order is, on general principles, offensive. Intrusting the ceremony to them seems to us scarcely less unwise than it would be to give it to a religious denomination, or the Sons of Temperance, or the Ancient Order of Hibernians, or the Anti-Slavery Society, or the Union League Club.
We say here no word against the Freemasons. The praise of their goods deeds is in the mouths of all men; if there are features of their organization to which some good citizens have objected, the time is long past since these were the topic of political dispute or any general bitterness. But we are sure that the most zealous Masons will agree with us in holding that this is an affair that can only be properly conducted by those fairly representing all the people of the State. It is not a work for any benevolent organization, howver holy, for any political party, however pure, for any private association whatsoever, however numerous and honored. It is the work of the people of the State, through the officers holding the certificate and seal of their elections.

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