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Montana Freemason  August 2013                           Volume 87 Number 3

    It should now be apparent that virtue was a subject  brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social
well known to men whose ideas shaped our country.        virtue cement us.”
But what does this have to do with Freemasonry?
Well, possibly quite a bit.                                  Of particular importance in the First Degree are
                                                         the Four Cardinal Virtues and Three Theological
    Some twenty-five years after independence was        Virtues. Temperence, Fortitude, and Prudence are
declared, Thomas Smith Webb received a system of         Private, or Domestic Virtues. Justice is a Social
Masonic rituals, which was then modified and taught      Virtue. The Three Great Tenets of Brotherly Love,
across the country. This system was adopted by           Relief, and Truth, may be referred to as Public
Grand Lodges across the country, with the exception      Virtues. When we refer to the duties that we owe to
of Pennsylvania, which adheres to a far simpler set      God, our countrymen and neighbors, and ourselves,
of Masonic lectures. Prior to Webb’s time, virtue was    we speak of a hierarchy of Supernatural/Theological
a part of Masonic ritual, especially the continental     virtues (pointing “upwards”), Public or Social Virtues
systems adapted by the French, where it was the          (directed outwards), and Domestic, or Private Virtues
centerpiece, as it is in “Webb” work.                    (aimed inwards): Theological, Social, Domestic. These
                                                         are the categories of virtue that we teach in the First
    It is conjecture as to what constituted much of      Degree.
the ritual content prior to about the year 1801, but
let us simply consider what we have received from            The Masonic emblem of office for the Master of
that. It is common practice (if not mandatory in most    every Lodge is a square. We call it the Square of Virtue
American Grand Lodges) to close meetings with this       (morality).
benediction, or closing admonition: “May the blessing
of heaven rest upon us and all regular Masons - may        Pulling Down the Statue of George III at Bowling Green in
                                                           Lower Manhattan, oil painting by William Walcutt, 1857 -
                                                           Lafayette College Art Collection

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