The successful insurgency of American colonists against British rule between 1775 and 1782 has been cited far more rarely by historical conspiracy theorists as an example of secret society interference in politics than the French Revolution that broke out less than a decade later. This is ironic, because – while the role of secret societies in the French Revolution is ambiguous at best – the American Revolution was unquestionably planned and carried out by well-documented secret societies.

The origins of the American Revolution can be traced to British colonial policy under the Tory governments favoured by King George III. British attempts to restrict colonists’ westward expansion combined with unpopular tax policies to produce widespread resentment against British rule. The British responded with military repression, and the colonists countered with boycotts and the first outbreaks of violence.

In the midst of this rising spiral of confrontation, at least two significant secret societies took shape. The first of these organizations was the Committees of Correspondence. Largely drawn from the landowners and educated classes, the Committees coordinated political action across the 13 colonies and kept each colony abreast of radical activities and British government responses throughout America. Many members of the Committees ended up becoming delegates to the Continental Congresses of the war years and the Constitutional Convention that followed.

The second of these organizations was the Sons of Liberty, a radical organization centred in Boston, the hotbed of colonial radicalism. The Sons of Liberty drew most of its membership from the urban middle classes and pursued a radical line, favouring independence while most colonists still hoped for an improved relationship with Britain. Terrorist actions against British property were a Sons of Liberty hallmark, with the famous Boston Tea Party – the dumping of three shiploads of imported tea into Boston Harbor to protest a tax on tea – their most famous act. During the last months before the outbreak of war, the Sons of Liberty organized armed bands that became the nucleus of the colonial army.

Both these societies had connections to Freemasonry, but the role of the Craft in the American Revolution was an ambivalent one. Most of the upper-level leadership of American Masonry on the eve of the Revolution sided with Britain, but many ordinary Masons supported independence. George Washington was a Mason, as were 32 other generals in the Continental Army and 8 members of Washington’s personal staff. Benjamin Franklin, ambassador to France and architect of the Franco-American alliance that won independence, was not only a Freemason but a member of the prestigious Loge des Neuf Soeurs in Paris, as well as a member of the Friars of St Francis of Wycombe, better known as the Hell-Fire Club.

The war years saw the Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence absorbed completely into the Continental Army and the emerging government; once their purpose was fulfilled, these secret societies faded away. Freemasonry became popular during and after the Revolution, but its popularity did not prevent it from becoming the target of a New England witch-hunt in the late 1790s and a systematic attempt at extinction by the Antimasonic Party of the 1830s.



The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006