Thomas Paine (1737-1809) — who wrote and fought for American independence from England, encouraged the abolition of slavery,[i] helped shape Pennsylvania’s constitution,[ii] advocated a restructuring of English government,[iii] argued against the death penalty,[iv] participated in France’s legislature,[v] and “laid out the first design of a modern welfare state,”[vi] among other undertakings[vii] — has been described as “the first man to practice revolution as a sole reason for being.”[viii] While his life and texts have continued to offer encouragement in political struggles across the globe,[ix] questions remain about the nature of his affiliation with the influential and often intersecting movements of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Freemasonry and Deism.
What, then, was Thomas Paine’s connection with the Masonic Order? In Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom, Jack Fruchtman writes that there is insufficient evidence to answer this with certainty: “It has long been questioned whether Paine was a member of the Masons. There is no definitive proof either way. There is no specific date known on which he joined nor a specific lodge to which he was attached.”[x] Nonetheless, Masonic membership has frequently been ascribed to him. This is seen, for example, in the tendency of some American Grand Lodges, during the 1990’s, to publish brochures that placed Paine on the roster of famous Masons.[xi] “The Real Secret of Freemasonry,” one such informational brochure put out by the Grand Lodge of Oregon, states: “The pantheon of Masons holds George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, among others.”[xii] Various Masonic Web-sites continue to make similar claims about Paine and Freemasonry, as well.[xiii]
Paine biographer Bernard Vincent devotes a chapter of The Transatlantic Republican: Thomas Paine and the Age of Revolutions to “Thomas Paine, the Masonic Order, and the American Revolution,”[xiv] and offers several explanations for the inclination to consider him a Mason:
While working on my Tom Paine biography, I was intrigued from the outset by the fact that all of a sudden, within just a few weeks or months, and as if by magic, Paine leaped from his obscure humdrum existence in England—where he had worked as a corset-maker and Excise officer—onto the American literary and political stage, there to become, at the age of almost forty, one of the leading lights of the Revolutionary movement.
How was it that a man who was little short of a failure in his native country became acquainted so rapidly with the most prominent figures in the Colonies, even becoming a friend of theirs in many cases? How can one account for the quickness of his ascent and the suddenness of his glory?
One way of accounting for this, one hypothesis (which has several times been made), is to consider that Paine became a Freemason and that, as such, he enjoyed, first in America, then in England and France, the kindly assistance of certain lodges or of certain individual Masons.[xv]
Vincent himself rejects this hypothesis, however, due to a lack of corroborative evidence. While it is certain that Washington and Franklin, for example, were Masons, there is no equivalent support for such a claim about Paine. (Franklin, who provided Paine with a letter of introduction before the latter departed England for the American colonies, is discussed in greater detail below.)
Assertions of Paine’s Masonic membership also rest on the fact that between 1803 and 1805, after returning to America from England and France, he penned the essay “Origin of Free-Masonry.”[xvi] For some, Paine’s curiosity about Freemasonry and his decision to write about it have been, in and of themselves, sufficient proof that he was a Mason. However, Vincent rejects this line of reasoning as well:
Paine’s interest in Freemasonry was such that toward the end his life, in 1805, he wrote a lengthy piece entitled An Essay on the Origin of Freemasonry . . .
But this does not prove, any more than any other detail or fact that we know of, that Paine was a Mason. There is indeed no formal trace of his initiation or membership in England, none in America, and none in France. Questioned about Paine’s membership . . . the United Grand Lodge of England had only this to answer: “In the absence of any record of his initiation, it must, therefore, be assumed he was not a member of the order.”[xvii]
Apart from the question of his own membership in the fraternity, Paine certainly had several close friends who were members of the Order,[xviii] such as Nicolas de Bonneville. Paine biographer Samuel Edwards depicts Bonneville as an active Mason who “was convinced that the principles and aims of Masonry, if applied to the world’s ailments, would bring peace and prosperity to all nations.”[xix] While living in France, Paine resided at the home of Bonneville and his family, and Fruchtman suggests that Bonneville introduced Paine to the philosophies of Freemasonry and Theophilanthropism.[xx] The bond between the two men was quite strong, and Bonneville’s wife — Marguerite — and three sons (one of whom was named Thomas Paine Bonneville)[xxi] eventually followed Paine to America.[xxii]
William M. VanderWeyde, in The Life and Works of Thomas Paine, also mentions Paine’s Masonic acquaintances, while at the same time emphasizing that Paine’s friendships do not constitute evidence of his belonging to the fraternity: “Paine was the author of an interesting and highly instructive treatise on the Origin of Freemasonry . . . but, although many of his circle of friends were undoubtedly members of that order, no conclusive proof has ever been adduced that Paine was a Mason.”[xxiii] Likewise, Moncure Daniel Conway proposes that “Paine’s intimacy in Paris with Nicolas de Bonneville and Charles Francoise Dupuis, whose writings are replete with masonic speculations, sufficiently explains his interest in the subject” of Freemasonry, though he himself was not a Mason.[xxiv]
Marguerite de Bonneville published Paine’s “Origin of Free-Masonry” in 1810, after his death, but chose to omit certain passages from it that were critical of Christianity. (Despite his use of the Bible to support his arguments in such works as Common Sense and The Crisis, Paine was strongly opposed to Christianity, and indeed to organized religion in general, and sought to debunk the Bible in his later writings, including The Age of Reason.)[xxv] Most of these omissions were restored in a subsequent printing, in 1818.[xxvi]
Paine’s central premise in “Origin of Free-Masonry” is that the Order “is derived and is the remains of the religion of the ancient Druids; who, like the Magi of Persia and the Priests of Heliopolis in Egypt, were Priests of the Sun.”[xxvii] The idea that Freemasonry derived from the Druids did not begin with Paine and has been advanced by others after him.[xxviii] According to Paine, however, this Druidic origin is the deepest secret of Freemasonry, from which its unique concealments and rituals extend:
The natural source of secrecy is fear. When any new religion over-runs a former religion, the professors of the new become the persecutors of the old . . . [W]hen the Christian religion over-ran the religion of the Druids . . . the Druids became the subject of persecution. This would naturally and necessarily oblige such of them as remained attached to their original religion to meet in secret, and under the strongest injunctions of secrecy. Their safety depended upon it. A false brother might expose the lives of many of them to destruction; and from the remains of the religion of the Druids, thus preserved, arose the institution which, to avoid the name of Druid, took that of Mason, and practiced under this new name the rites and ceremonies of Druids. [xxix]
Masonic author Albert G. Mackey quips in his History of Freemasonry that Paine “knew, by the way, as little of Masonry as he did of the religion of the Druids.”[xxx] He calls the essay “frivolous” and Paine “a mere sciolist in the subject of what he presumptuously sought to treat.”[xxxi] He is only slightly more charitable toward Paine in An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences, allowing that “[f]or one so little acquainted with his subject, he has treated it with considerable ingenuity.”[xxxii] Echoing this verdict, Masonic historian Joseph Fort Newton writes: “The notion that [Paine] was a Mason is probably due to the fact that he wrote an essay on Freemasonry, but the essay, while ingenious in its argument, betrays a vast incomprehension of the Order.”[xxxiii]
Indeed, it is evident from “Origin of Free-Masonry” that Paine was not very knowledgeable of the Craft — though this does not in itself prove he was not a Mason when he wrote it. Paine’s general tone, however, shows him to be an outsider trying to assess what is in the Order, rather than a member of it, and that, more than anything else, indicates that he was not a Mason when he composed the essay. For example, after referring to certain statements about Freemasonry made by the Provincial Grand Master of Kent, Captain George Smith, in the latter’s The Use and Abuse of Free-Masonry (1783), Paine declares:
It sometimes happens, as well in writing as in conversation, that a person lets slip an expression that serves to unravel what he intends to conceal, and this is the case with Smith, for in the same chapter he says, “The Druids, when they committed any thing to writing, used the Greek alphabet, and I am bold to assert that the most perfect remains of the Druids’ rites and ceremonies are preserved in the customs and ceremonies of the Masons that are to be found existing among mankind.” “My brethren” says he, “may be able to trace them with greater exactness than I am at liberty to explain to the public.”
This is a confession from a Master Mason, without intending it to be so understood by the public, that Masonry is the remains of the religion of the Druids . . . [xxxiv]
These are not the words of a man who is himself a Master Mason, but rather of one who is guessing at what secrets a Master Mason knows and may be inadvertently revealing. Paine, as an outsider, mistakes Smith’s personal conjecture for an inadvertent confession.
If he was not a Master Mason when he wrote the essay, could Paine have been an Entered Apprentice or a Fellow-Craft? It is difficult to argue that Paine was curious enough about Freemasonry’s origin and philosophy to write seriously about the fraternity, and also to begin the Craft degrees, but that he did not wait until completing them before finishing his essay. In fact, Paine opens “Origin of Free-Masonry” by contending that Master Masons are privy to information about the fraternity’s origins of which other Masons are ignorant:
The Society of Masons are distinguished into three classes or degrees. 1st. The Entered Apprentice. 2d. The Fellow Craft. 3d. The Master Mason.
The Entered Apprentice knows but little more of Masonry than the use of signs and tokens, and certain steps and words by which Masons can recognize each other without being discovered by a person who is not a Mason. The Fellow Craft is not much better instructed in Masonry, than the Entered Apprentice. It is only in the Master Mason’s Lodge, that whatever knowledge remains of the origin of Masonry is preserved and concealed.[xxxv]
Had he begun the Masonic degrees, Paine would presumably have sought all the first-hand knowledge they offered, and would have waited until he had gained access to it before concluding his essay. It is likely that he was not at all a member of the fraternity during the essay’s composition, and was writing as an outsider, although one with close associates within the Order.
In a recent article on Paine and Freemasonry in the English quarterly Freemasonry Today, David Harrison speculates that “[i]f Paine did enter into Freemasonry, it would have been during the period of the American Revolution, his life being at the epicentre of the social elite at that time, his closeness to Franklin, Washington, Lafayette and Monroe suggesting that he was undoubtedly aware of their Masonic membership.”[xxxvi] Paine’s “Origin of Free-Masonry,” however, indicates that despite his closeness to these men, he did not, in fact, enter into Freemasonry then. Years after the revolution, he wrote about the fraternity as an uninitiated outsider.
Despite this, facets of Paine’s thought may be said to correspond to certain Masonic principles. In The Age of Reason — of which “Origin of Free-Masonry” may have originally been intended to be a part[xxxvii] — for example, Paine expounds his religious beliefs:
I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.[xxxviii]
Such statements, which Joseph Fort Newton felt had a Masonic ring to them, prompted him to write of Paine in The Builders: A Story and Study of Masonry:
[T]hough not a Mason, [he] has left us an essay on The Origin of Freemasonry. Few men have ever been more unjustly and cruelly maligned than this great patriot, who was the first to utter the name “United States,” and who, instead of being a sceptic, believed in “the religion in which all men agree” — that is, in God, Duty, and the immortality of the Soul.[xxxix]
Similarly, Vincent maintains in The Transatlantic Republican that while Paine “probably never belonged to any specific fraternity, he nevertheless actively sympathized with the Masonic movement and the philosophy it espoused.” In Vincent’s view, “Masonic thought had much in common with [Paine’s] own deistic outlook and his own cult of reason.”[xl] The movements of Deism and Freemasonry often intersected in revolutionary France — where Fruchtman believes Paine was introduced to the Craft’s philosophy — and in revolutionary America, where Herbert M. Morais contends that the “growth of deistic speculation was stimulated, not only by the spirit of the times, but also by the development of Freemasonry”[xli] and the infiltration of French culture.[xlii] Despite the fact that “the American Masonic movement was . . . distinctly Christian both in tone and deed . . . nevertheless, its prayers, addresses, and constitutions were written in such a manner that its members were unconsciously familiarized with deistic phraseology . . . [and] with deistic expressions.”[xliii]
Paine’s Deistic-sounding creed in The Age of Reason (and this creed as masonically paraphrased by Newton) is quite similar to one articulated by Franklin — a self-described Deist,[xliv] as well as a prominent Mason[xlv] — in his Autobiography: “That there is one God who made all things. That he governs the World by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped by Adoration, Prayer & Thanksgiving. But that the most acceptable Service of God is doing Good to Man. That the Soul is immortal.”[xlvi] Although, as Robert P. Falk notes in “Thomas Paine: Deist or Quaker?,” Paine “nowhere states outright, as Franklin does, that he was a Ôthorough Deist,’ Paine speaks of the religion always in terms of intimate sympathy,”[xlvii] and “it seems safe to conclude that Ôthe creed of Paine’ was . . . Ôthe purest deism.'”[xlviii]
Unlike Franklin, however, who was cautious about disparaging any religion, focusing instead on what he held to be the beliefs common to all faiths,[xlix] Paine was not aiming for a generic religious doctrine. Lacking what Vincent terms “the discreet Deism of leaders like Franklin or Jefferson,” he was vocal in his opposition to organized religion,[l] following his above-quoted creed in The Age of Reason with an attack:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
All national institutions of churches . . . appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.[li]
Such declarations bought Paine many enemies, including among those who were formerly his friends.[lii] The difference in Paine and Franklin’s approaches to writing about the sensitive topic of theology can be seen as an extension of the difference in their character. As Dixon Wecter describes it:
Paine was a man whose keen though superficial genius included a rare personal gift for irritating all save a minority of kindred souls. Franklin’s deeper and more stable character radiated a characteristic serenity; he was a master in the art of mollifying, with a pervasive charm as well as an essential common sense which Paine—despite his nom de plume—conspicuously lacked.”[liii]
Paine’s confrontational religious approach is evident in “Origin of Free-Masonry,” as well, where he writes that “the christian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the Sun.”[liv] Further on, he depicts Druidism as a “wise, elegant, philosophical religion . . . the faith opposite to the faith of the gloomy Christian church.”[lv] These sentiments, which had aroused so much anger while Paine lived, were what Madame Bonneville sought to remove from “Origin of Free-Masonry” when she published it after his death.
Although Voltaire, for example, became a Mason shortly before passing away,[lvi] there is nothing to suggest that Paine became a Mason in the interval between composing “Origin of Free-Masonry” and his death a few years later, in 1809. As he was certainly not a Master Mason when he wrote the essay — and as there is no evidence he joined the fraternity after then — one may conclude, as have Mackey, Newton, and others,[lvii] that Paine was not a Mason. Still, though the “pantheon of Masons” does not include Thomas Paine, he remains connected to Freemasonry, if only due to his close friendships with members of the fraternity, to an affinity between aspects of its philosophy and his own outlook, and to his having written a distinctive essay on its origin.
This article expands on two earlier ones: “Thomas Paine and Masonry,” Journal of Radical History 10:3 (2010); and “Thomas Paine’s Masonic Essay and the Question of his Membership in the Fraternity,” Philalethes 63:4 (Fall 2010).
[i] Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man: A Biography (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006), pp. 28-29 and 43-44; and Harry Harmer, Tom Paine: The Life of a Revolutionary (London: Haus Publishing, 2006), pp. 24-25.
[ii] Isaac Kramnick’s “Editor’s Introduction” to Paine’s Common Sense (London: Penguin, 1986), p. 31.
[iii] Kramnick, “Editor’s Introduction,” p. 33.
[iv] Hitchens, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, p. 60.
[v] Kramnick, “Editor’s Introduction,” pp. 34-36.
[vi] Hitchens, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, p. 109; see also p. 120. Bernard Vincent devotes a chapter to “Paine’s Agrarian Justice and the Birth of the Welfare State” in his The Transatlantic Republican: Thomas Paine and the Age of Revolutions (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005), pp. 125-135. Of the second part of Rights of Man, Harmer argues that Paine “described a scheme of universal social security financed through taxation, not perhaps a welfare state but one in which government took some action in the interest of all citizens.” (Tom Paine, p. 80).
[vii] For a further brief listing of Paine’s accomplishments, see Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, pp. 85-87 and 99-100; and Robert P. Falk, “Thomas Paine: Deist or Quaker?” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 62:1 (January 1938), p. 55. Kramnick (“Editor’s Introduction,” p. 28) believes Paine also supported women’s rights. Hitchens, however, disagrees: “he was not a notable advocate of the rights of women” (Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, p. 98). So does Vincent, who considers Paine’s attitude toward women’s suffrage to have been pedestrian: “unlike Mary Wollstonecraft, Paine never went so far as to advocate franchise for women . . . For once, Paine failed to be a prophet” (The Transatlantic Republican, p. 124). Harmer sums up the matter well: “Paine showed himself to be an advanced thinker on the relationship between the sexes . . . Despite this, Paine remained enough of a prisoner of his time never to call for women to be given the vote” (Tom Paine, p. 25; see also p. 4).
[viii] Jerome D. Wilson and William F. Ricketson, Thomas Paine (Boston: Twayne Publisher, 1978), p. 163.
[ix] Hitchens, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, pp. 141-142; and Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, p. 107.
[x] Jack Fruchtman, Jr., Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994), p. 491, note 28.
[xi] See “Famous Non-Masons” on the website Anti-Masonry: Points of View, <http://www.masonicinfo.com/famousnon.htm>.
[xii] “The Real Secret of Freemasonry,” published by authority of the Trustees of The Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of Oregon (U.S.A.: Still Associates, 1990).
[xiii] See for example: The Key West Masons website, <http://www.keywestmason.com>, which has a page of famous Freemasons, among whom Paine is listed; and the website of the Scottish Rite Valley of Albany, New York, <http://www.valleyofalbany.aasrmasonry.us/>, where a quote from the opening lines of The Crisis is attributed to “Bro. Thomas Paine.”
[xiv] Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, pp. 35-58, with a selected bibliography on pp. 59-64.
[xv] Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, p. 35.
[xvi] Jennifer N. Wunder, Keats, Hermeticism, and the Secret Societies (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), p. 37. Vincent (The Transatlantic Republican, p. 36) cites 1805 as the year “Origin of Free-Masonry” was written, as does Fruchtman (Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom, p. 49, note 29). In contrast, William Van der Weyde places its writing in 1803.
[xvii] Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, p. 36.
[xviii] Wunder describes how Diderot, Joseph Priestly, and Paine were “associated so closely and with so many Freemasons that they were grouped, de facto, with the Masons in publications of the period” (Keats, Hermeticism, and the Secret Societies, p. 35).
[xix] Samuel Edwards, Rebel! A Biography of Tom Paine (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974), p. 227.
[xx] Fruchtman, Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom, pp. 275 and 379-380. Paine was among the founders of the Society of Theophilanthropists (Friends of God and Man) in Paris. See Harmer, Tom Paine, p. 99.
[xxi] Harmer, Tom Paine, p. 99.
[xxii] Fruchtman, Thomas Paine, pp. 275 and 394-395.
[xxiii] William M. Van der Weyde, The Life and Works of Thomas Paine (New York: Thomas Paine National Historical Association, 1925), I, p. 171.
[xxiv] Thomas Paine, “Origin of Free-Masonry,” in The Writings of Thomas Paine (ed. Moncure Daniel Conway; New York: AMS Press, 1967 reprint), IV, p. 290, note 1.
[xxv] See Hitchens, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, pp. 124-125; and Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, pp. 10, 89, 99, and 145. Vincent notes (pp. 126 and 129) that Paine also based his later case for a welfare state on the Bible.
[xxvi] Paine, “Origin of Free-Masonry,” p. 290, note 1.
[xxvii] Paine, “Origin of Free-Masonry,” p. 293.
[xxviii] Albert Gallatin Mackey addresses these ideas in his chapter on “Druidism and Freemasonry” in The History of Freemasonry (New York: The Masonic History Company, 1898), vol. 1, pp. 199-216. See also Andrew Prescott’s lecture on “Druidic Myths and Freemasonry,” on the website of The Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, <http://freemasonry.dept.shef.ac.uk/index.php?lang=0&type=page&level0=243&level1=387&level2=392&op=381>; and Doug Pickford, “Temples of the Sons of May,” Freemasonry Today 18 (Autumn 2001), < http://www.freemasonrytoday.com/18/p14.php>. (Pickford mentions Paine, and writes that he was not a Mason.)
[xxix] Paine, “Origin of Free-Masonry,” p. 303.
[xxx] Mackey, The History of Freemasonry, I, p. 199.
[xxxi] Mackey, The History of Freemasonry, I, p. 216.
[xxxii] Mackey, An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences (Philadelphia: Moss and Company, 1874), p. 559.
[xxxiii] Joseph Fort Newton, “Who’s Who,” The Builder Magazine 1:11 (November 1915), p. 276.
[xxxiv] Paine, “Origin of Free-Masonry,” pp. 294-295.
[xxxv] Paine, “Origin of Free-Masonry,” pp. 290-291.
[xxxvi] David Harrison, “Thomas Paine, Freemason?,” Freemasonry Today 46 (Autumn 2008), <http://www.freemasonrytoday.com/46/p11.php>. Arguing the possibility that Paine became a Freemason during this time, Harrison continues: “Paine was certainly attracted to clubs and societies throughout his life, such as the White Hart Club which Paine attended when he was an exciseman in Lewes. He was a founding member of the first Anti-Slavery Society in America and he was involved in the society of Theophilanthropists and Philosophical Society . . . ”
In contrast, Vincent argues: “A rugged individualist, Paine neither liked collective ceremonies nor secret practices . . . Both his nature and the lessons of experience made him loathe the idea of regimentation. He never was a declared member of any party or sect or church, and it is highly probable that he never joined the Masonic Order” (The Transatlantic Republican, p. 39).
[xxxvii] Paine, “Origin of Free-Masonry,” p. 290, note 1.
[xxxviii] Paine, The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology (Boston: Josiah P. Mendum, 1852), Part 1, p. 6.
[xxxix] Newton, The Builders: A Story and Study of Masonry (Iowa: The Torch Press, 1916), pp. 225-226, note 3.
[xl] Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, p. 35.
[xli] Herbert M. Morais, “Deism in Revolutionary America (1763-89),” International Journal of Ethics 42:4 (July 1932), p. 437.
[xlii] Morais, “Deism in Revolutionary America (1763-89),” pp. 436, 437, 442, and 452.
[xliii] Morais, “Deism in Revolutionary America (1763-89),” pp. 438-440.
[xliv] In his Autobiography, Franklin writes: “I was scarce 15 when . . . Some Books against Deism fell into my Hands . . . It happened that they wrought an Effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; For the Arguments of the Deists which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much Stronger than the Refutations. In short I soon became a thorough Deist . . . but I began to suspect that this Doctrine, tho’ it might be true, was not very useful.” See Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography and Other Writings (ed. Kenneth Silverman; New York: Penguin Books, 1986), pp. 62-63.
David T. Morgan argues in “Benjamin Franklin: Champion of Generic Religion,” The Historian 62:4 (June 2000), p. 723, that “no one to this very day is quite sure of Franklin’s religious beliefs.” He maintains that while Franklin may be described as a Deist, his views included “personally tailored modifications of the Deist creed” (p. 728). See also Morais, “Deism in Revolutionary America (1763-89),” pp. 448-449; and Harold E. Taussig, “Deism in Philadelphia During the Age of Franklin,” Pennsylvania History, 37:3 (July 1970), pp. 217-218.
[xlv] For an outline of Franklin’s Masonic career, see Julius F. Sachse, “The Masonic Chronology of Benjamin Franklin,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 30:2 (1906), pp. 238-240.
[xlvi] Franklin, The Autobiography and Other Writings, p. 104.
[xlvii] Falk, “Thomas Paine: Deist or Quaker?” p. 55.
[xlviii] Falk, “Thomas Paine: Deist or Quaker?” p. 60.
[xlix] See David T. Morgan, “Benjamin Franklin: Champion of Generic Religion,” The Historian 62:4 (June 2000), pp. 723-729. See also Morais, “Deism in Revolutionary America (1763-89),” p. 449; and Taussig, “Deism in Philadelphia During the Age of Franklin,” 218, 224, and 230-231.
For an exception to Franklin’s general approach, see Bryan LeBeau’s “Franklin and the Presbyterians: Freedom of Conscience and the Need for Order,” Early American Review (Summer 1996), <http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/summer/franklin/>.
[l] Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, p. 15.
[li] Paine, The Age of Reason, Part 1, p. 6.
[lii] Harmer, Tom Paine, p. 92; and Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, pp. 16, 90, and 153.
[liii] Dixon Wecter, “Thomas Paine and the Franklins,” American Literature 12:3 (November 1940), p. 307.
[liv] Paine, “Origin of Free-Masonry,” p. 293.
[lv] Paine, “Origin of Free-Masonry,” p. 296.
[lvi] Vincent, The Transatlantic Republican, p. 38; and R. William Weisberger, “Benjamin Franklin: A Masonic Enlightener in Paris,” Pennsylvania History 53:3 (July 1986), pp. 168-169.
[lvii] For another example, see Augustus C. L. Arnold’s Philosophical History of Free-Masonry and Other Secret Societies (New York: Clark, Austen, and Smith, 1854), p. 204, first and second notes. Arnold concludes that Paine was not “a member of the brotherhood.” Hex reproduces Paine’s entire essay in his Philosophical History, adding his own notes to it with the aim of, among other things, correcting what he considers to be Paine’s mistaken assertions about the fraternity. He interprets Paine’s essay as an attack on both Masonry and Christianity.
See also the entry on Paine in William R. Denslow’s 10,000 Famous Freemasons (New Orleans: Cornerstone Book Publishers, 2007), p. 329: “Although Paine wrote An Essay on the Origin of Freemasonry, he was not a Freemason . . . Certain writers have made claims that he was a member of various lodges both in America and France.”