The Subverted History of America’s First Third-Party

The bipartisan construction of America’s political system can be and often is chastised for being a false dichotomy. While Democrats and Republicans certainly find themselves at odds against each other, those conflicting positions aren’t representative of much more than the factional divergences that create internal strife within a uniparty. This dynamic is similar to that which existed in self-avowed single party totalitarian states like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, where the consolidation of power by Hitler over the Strasserists and Stalin over the Old Bolsheviks demonstrates how a unified party is still rife with conflict within its ranks.

Those parallels between two of the 20th century’s most oppressive political regimes and the current state of the America’s political system highlight more than just the latter’s contradictory existence as a supposed democracy. It also shows its reliance on the strategy to divide and conquer to preserve its balance of power, an approach instilled by the ruling classes of disparate civilizations over millennia but best put into words as the recognizable term during the reign of Phillip II of Macedon, father to and predecessor of Alexander The Great.

In pitting the huddled masses against each other, the general populous is discouraged from unifying against their actual enemy: the ruling elite. Beyond that, being engaged in that Pyrrhic battle does more than merely protect the ruling class, it veils their invisible hand as the driving force of history. That veneer cast over the inner machinations of what truly controls government conveys a divorce from reality. Many only examine what they’re presented with by accepting a narrative cultivated by their very rulers. Others dive much deeper into the forces beneath that surface level understanding and in doing so take an iconoclastic stance against the existing power apparatus in an effort to challenge its hegemony.

If we take bipartisanship as that status quo, than the best representation of the struggle to defeat its hegemony is the absence of at least an actual third-party into the American political arena to disrupt the balance of power that presently exists. While many third-parties have existed in US history, the first of its kind has been relegated into obscurity. When a third-party is mentioned in the context of US history, the first to come to mind is often the Progressive or “Bull Moose” Party led by Theodore Roosevelt after his two terms as President under the Republican banner. Roosevelt himself previously unified the Republican Party by assimilating the Silver Republicans who opposed President William McKinley’s singular gold standard in support of the free silver movement advocating a bimetallic monetary policy in the wake of the Panic of 1893 back into the GOP.

Despite its historic notoriety, the Bull Moose Party was preceded by the United State’s first third-party nearly a century earlier. It too was joined by a former US president. However, its impetus wasn’t rooted in opposition to a particular policy position. Instead, it was created to confront what it viewed as a subversive force that had infiltrated and corrupted the US government. That force was Freemasonry. In quite a literal sense, the first third-party in the history of the United States to have representatives elected to Congress to form a plurality was none other than the Anti-Masonic Party.

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To this day, suspicions over Freemasonry and its historical role influence over the ruling structure of nations throughout the world is a concept that has become part of everything from scholarly debate to memes that have become ingrained into popular culture. While the belief is caricatured as a delusional conspiracy theory, with repute for Freemasonry being relegated to that of a glorified drinking club, a historical examination of the origins of this sentiment in the American political sphere demonstrates that it is far more than the figment of anyone’s imagination.

The Driving Force of Masonic Influence Throughout the History of the United States

“The blind Force of the people is a Force that must be economized, and also managed, as the blind Force of steam, lifting the ponderous iron arms and turning the large wheels, is made to bore and rifle the cannon and to weave the most delicate lace. It must be regulated by Intellect. Intellect is to the people and the people’s Force, what the slender needle of the compass is to the ship–its soul, always counselling the huge mass of wood and iron, and always pointing to the north. To attack the citadels built up on all sides against the human race by superstitions, despotisms, and prejudices, the Force must have a brain and a law.”

The preceding quote is taken from the first chapter of Morals and Dogma, a seminal esoteric tome written by the most prominent Freemason in the history the United States: Albert Pike. Though not heralded in the annals of American history in the same regard as many of his contemporaries, his imprint and reverence are undeniable. Pike was the only Confederate General to have a statue in Washington DC before it was dismantled by members of Black Lives Matter in January of 2021. He was also the first attorney to argue before the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of Native American tribes in pursuit of returning their lands to them. Upon ascending the ranks of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Pike was named the Sovereign Grand Commander of its Southern Jurisdiction, having been bestowed the 33rd degree of the order by its Supreme Council.

Despite his achievements, Pike’s inextricable immersion in the enigmatic aura of Freemasonry, leaves him remembered as more of a legend than an actual historical figure. Perhaps this is by design, as the folklore that Pike is veiled beneath keeps those so quick to ardently vilify him from ascertaining the teachings that embody the surreptitious power structure critics of masonry ascribe to it and the stranglehold they purport it holds over our social order.

While Pike didn’t publish Morals and Dogma until 1871, the idea of Freemasonry was an institution tasked with the architecture of society avowed in his work was a belief held by the general public for quite some time. It is well-established that Freemasonry was at the core of the founding of the United States of America. After all, the personification of the foundation of the United States, George Washington, was a Freemason himself having been initiated into the Grand Lodge of Fredericksburg in Virginia at just 20 years of age in September of 1752. As Freemasonry’s imprint on America grew, Washington’s standing with in the fraternity did as well, seeing him ascend to the title of Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 which also was situated in his home state. To this day, the Alexandria Lodge maintains a monument commemorating Washington and his standing as a Freemason.

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While the life of George Washington serves to show the crucial role that Freemasonry played in the foundation of America’s new republic, the recognition of that impact comes with the benefits of centuries of hindsight. During the nascent years following the inception of the United States, Freemasonry certainly was more adept at shrouding itself in secrecy. It wasn’t until later in the 19th century that the veil became lifted and the fraternal order took on its reputation as being a haven for elitists who sought to control the democratic institutions governing the common man, a revelation which would usher the opposition of the Anti-Masonic Party into existence following an especially publicized controversy alleging the nefarious activities of Freemasons.

The Political Catalyst that was the Morgan Affair

Evidence of Freemasonry perversion of US institutions was a matter of concern preceding the Anti-Masonic Party for some time. The same year that the Declaration of Independence was drafted also marked the inception of another well-recognized secret society: the Illuminati. The term Illuminati certainly didn’t enter into the western lexicon in 1776, with references to the “illumbrios” made by the Spanish Inquisition being documented centuries earlier and the term being analogous to the concept of gnosticism.

However, in the context of the aforementioned secret society whose birth coincided with the formation of the United States of America, the term is specific to the Bavarian Illuminati founded by the German Philosopher Adam Weishaupt. In 1777, Weishaupt was initiated into the Freemasons at a lodge in Munich, using it as a forum to recruit members to the Illuminati. However, his brazen tactic exposed his society and its teachings which were viewed as seditious, prompting Elector of Bavaria Karl Theodor to exile Weishaupt by 1784.

Despite his exile, Weishaupt’s apparent infiltration of the order of Freemasonry brought the order into disrepute, bringing it considerable vitriol from an emergence of outspoken critics. One of these critics was the British Physicist John Robison who published his Anti-Masonic polemic Proofs of a Conspiracy in 1798. The work followed Augustin Barruel’s 1797 work Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism in which the author asserts the influence of the Illuminati was at the core of the French Revolution. Robison’s work promulgated the emergence of the Illuminati and its disruption of the order of Freemasonry. The claims made in Proofs of a Conspiracy were so incendiary that it was brought to the attention of George Washington by Reverend G.W. Snyder, a friend who the President kept in correspondence with who he replied to in turn, stating:

“It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am. The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of separation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a separation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.” (George Washington, shortly before he died, read John Robison’s book Proofs of a Conspiracy and immediately expressed his belief to the preacher who had sent it to him, that the designs of the Illuminati were infecting our country.”

This intrigue was shared by Thomas Jefferson, who remarked he had started to examine the claims made by Robison in a letter to Bishop James Mason written on January 31st, 1800. While Washington and Jefferson’s focus on the Illuminati’s campaign to co-opt Freemasonry centered around the claims made b Robison in Proofs of a Conspiracy it was another anti-masonic work which would instigate the formation of the Anti-Masonic Party decades later.

Illustrations of Masonry written by William Morgan, a man who had served as a Captain in the US Navy during the War of 1812 followed the works written by Barruel and Robison decades earlier in the same effort to expose the secret society. However, though Morgan’s work shared that initiative, his did not focus on any examination of the infiltration of the Illuminati. Instead, Morgan outlined the secret rituals and practices of the Freemasons which he had participated in upon being initiated as a Master Mason during his residency in Canada before being bestowed the degree of the Royal Arch within the York Rite in 1825. Following that distinction, Morgan attempted to charter new Masonic Lodges in Batavia, New York. However, his effort was to no avail having been rejected and ostracized by his Masonic peers in his new home. In protest, Morgan was engaged by fellow Mason and local newspaper owner David Cade Miller through a $500,000 penal bond to publish his expose, with the author being promised one-fourth of all its profits.

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