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Xenophobia is the fear of foreigners and strangers for no other reason than that they are foreigners and strangers. During the long period of the Middle Ages (in which the Fraternity of Freemasonry arose, developed and at the end of which it took its permanent form) xenophobia was a fixed and universal principle of social life, so much so that it must be included in any definition of feudalism. Feudal man had a status; this leas a permanent station or place, and it referred partly to the fact that each man belonged to some one class in the hierarchy of classes, partly to the fact that it was God's will that he should remain in his place and station, and partly to the fact that a man belonged to one farm or one village by birth and was expected to remain in it.
The result was that a community was an enclave, and remained as fixed and as inviolable as if it had walls about it; this, coupled with the lack of roads and the other ways of communication, meant that few men ventured ten miles from home during all their years. The consequence was that those who came from ten or twenty miles away were not only strangers but foreigners. Unless he keeps this intense localism and xenophobia at the front of his mind no man can read Medieval history understandingly.
Workrnen in the crafts, trades, and callings were organized in gilds, local masons (builders) among them. Such a gild had a fixed boundary (jurisdiction) around it, was forbidden by law to work outside of it, had a complete monopoly inside its jurisdiction, and tolerated no competition from outside. Members of a gild hated and opposed "strangers," a craftsman of their own calling from outside, far more than a modern labor union member hates a scab. The chronicles of Medieval gilds, companies, and cities are studded with references to street-fights, mobs, riots when too many strangers came in; in some instances these uprisings against the "stranger" were so virulent and on so large a scale that they affected the history of Britain —as when English merchants drove out the members of the Hanseatie League from the Steelyard at London. In the more than 150 histories of the City Companies in London not one is free from references to such mobs and riots, to complaints about "strangers," and to rules and regulations against them. The stillliving feeling of the British against "foreigners" is a testimony to the depths to which the centuries, old Medieval feeling had sent its roots.
But the English had this feeling no more deeply than men of other countries, except as their insularity has tended to exaggerate it; even today, and even in as large a land as the Continental United States, the old ghosts of xenophobia continue to haunt us, and Americans, like men in other countries, continue to thinkin the Medieval terms of natives, aliens, foreigners etc. This is at its worst in the barbaric practice of referring to peoples in distant lands, especially if of the Yellow and Black races, as "natives," where by "native" is meant somebody queer, or uncivilized—the custom is - singularly stupid because men afflicted with it forget that it works both ways; that, to give one instance only, if the Mexicans are "natives" to us, we are "natives" to them. Nothing is more antithetic to Freemasonry, to its Landmarks, or tenets, or purposes, or spirit, than this "nativism," or xenophobia.
It was said above that gild (or local) Masons were confined within their own boundaries, could not work outside them and permitted no outsiders to intrude, but this was not true of the Freemasons. They had not a gild but a fraternity. When they gathered to erect a building, some work of public architectures, they could come from any place in Britain, or from foreign countries, and more than one English cathedral was erected under the superintendency of a French or an Italian Master of Masons. They loved to travel; they were proud of being free; they looked down with some contempt upon the parochialism of local Masons; many of them took to the road after completing their apprenticeship and "traveled" to foreign countries, and they were at home w herever they went, because they were received as Brethren in any land to which they traveled; in Europe this was a general custom, and there were a number of fraternities of these fellows of the craft, or traveling Masons, out on "their wander year."
They had no fear or hatred of "foreigners," no prejudice against foreign countries, no trace of xenophobia; and had not any of it in theory only, or as an ideal, but in actuality, and in daily practice; and there can be no doubt that in the centuries during which the Fraternity was thus cosmopolitan it built into itself those principles of universality which now, after so many centuries, are synonymous with the word "Freemasonry," and enable it to establish its Lodges and to be at home in a hundred lands. No other society in the world can with so much sincerity utter the saying, "Every land is my Fatherland, because every land is my Father's."
During the second half of the Nineteenth Century a tidal wave of xenophobia swept over the United States, and brought with it in its train a proliferation of nativistic societies, movements, clubs, fraternities, secret societies, and cults, each of which was charged and motivated by xenophobia. It is easy at a century removed to regret this outburst as contradictory of Americanism, but it is still easier to understand it. From reports coming in from abroad, Europe was preparing itself for another revolution, and to be a larger _and bloodier one than the French Terror of 1789 A.D.
The same reports brought in accounts of many secret political societies at work underground in Europe, sapping away at the foundations of political governments. The Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels was issued in 1848 A.D. Thousands of Germans (the "Carl Schurz generation") poured into this country seeking refuge from the storm. Coincidentally, tens of thousands of Irish immigrants came in, bringing Roman Catholicism with them. Thousands of Polish, Russian, and Hungarian Jews came in, with their ringlets and their beards and their synagogues. The old, stable "native" Englishsspeaking population began to fear that Europe would move over here bodily. While this xenophobia gathered in size and in momentum, one after another of new end of-the-world religions sprang up, millions expected the world to go up in a final cataclysm at any moment; and while that was going on, the national government began to show the first cracking in its foundations which was to open into a catastrophe with the Civil War.
Freemasonry itself was the first victim of this national xenophobia. If a Mason asks how that could have been, after the Craft had been established here since 1730 A.D., and after the majority of the Revolutionary heroes had been Worshipful Masters (as was Washington) and Grand Masters (as was Franklin), he must recall that at about 1825 A.D. the Fraternity began so suddenly to expand in size that for the first time many men noted it, and the majority of men began to see in it a national organization and there fore a national power.
There were millions of such men and women; and when they looked at Freemasonry they saw in it something exotic, something too unfamiliar, and they began to fear that since it was (as they thought) a secret society, it was therefore such a secret society as were those, like the Carbonari, which were threatening Europe. The mystery of the disappearance of William Morgan at Batavia, New York, in 1826 A.D. would never of itself have caused the immense and disastrous explosion of the Anti Masonic Movement. The true and (as Aristotle would have said) first cause of it was not the unhappy "Morgan Affair," but the general xenophobia, the nativism, the nervous fear of the unusual, the foreign, or chat appeared to be foreign. We as a people had no help at that time from Europe, even from England;
we received no g udanee or leadership; we had little or no information about the so-called "Old World";
Europeans looked with disdain upon the small Republic, and if they thought of it at all, thought of it not as a sister nation but as a vast and empty land into which they could without a by-your-leave dump their surplus and unwanted population. Americans stewed in their own juice, and were beside themselves with fears and rumors, and they took it out on Freemasonry because, as they said, it was queer, and appeared to be of foreign origin.
The mania lasted until the Presidency of Brother Andrew Johnson, who was almost a martyr to it, and it was always and at bottom a xenophobia mania.
The Anti-Masons had set up a political party which they styled The American Party or the Christian Party in Politics, but it was soon aborted. One field, however, was not to be left vacant. Unfortunately for them the millions of German and Irish Catholic immigrants who came over in fleets between 1830 - 1850 A.D. did not scatter, and intermingle, and lose themselves in the land but settled in colonies of their own, usually in cities, and in an amazingly short time Philadelphia, New York, and Boston lost their character as "American" cities; the Catholics entered political parties at once; in some instances they foolishly derided "
American institutions" as blatantly as they could; the result was a long series of religious and political nativistic riots which curdled the national blood with fear. out of this came the Know-Nothing Party, so called, though American Party was its official title, because its members always replied to questions with, "I know nothing." A man can read the detailed histories of the Party and chapters about it in many general and political histories but without ever learning exactly what it was. It must have been patterned to an extent on Freemasonry, but if so it received no support from the Fraternity, and certainly did not accept Masonic principles. It is said that a Native-American Party was organized in Louisiana in 1841 A.D. That Party, or one like it, became powerful in New York City in 1844 A.D., and in Boston in 1845 A.D. In 1853 A.D. and 1855 A.D. there were many large, and some terrible, anti-Catholic riots in a number of larger cities.
The Know-Nothing Party, as a national party, may be said practically to have begun in 1852 A.D. Its members met in secret; nominated candidates in secret; they opposed the naturalization of foreigners; were not anti-Catholic theologically but opposed Romanism as a church in politics, and as one dominated by a foreign head; they tried hard to become a Third Party as against the Whigs and the Democrats, and in the end of the decade of the 1850's it looked as if they had succeeded. But the weaknesses of Know-Nothingness were fatal, and the times were against it; the slavery issue first inundated the nativistic issue, and the Civil War partially solved it. Americans desired no secret society in polities. They decided against three parties. The Know-Nothings had received no support from the Masonic Fraternity; if they had hopes of it, they z ere disappointed. In 1856 A.D. they elected the ill-starred Millard Fillmore to the Presidency (he had been elected to Congress as an Anti-NIason), but the movement split behind him, and the remnants were gathered up by the new and then crusading Republican Party. The year 1860 A.D. elosed its national existence.
The Ku Klux Klan began at the end of the Civil War as the general name for a constellation of secret societies and associations, the whole of them having as their aim the protection of whites during the anarchy of the Reconstruction Period. The Ku Klux Klan proper was constituted in 1867 A.D., with General A. B. Forrest as its first Grand Wizard—and tht power it began immediately to wield was remarkable, seeing that most of the societies, clubs, etc., which formed it had begun as amusement societies—a fact which explains the Hallowe'en character of its nomenclature. The original movement was on the whole a success in the sense that it carried out its purposes. It died out, and was then resurrected, its new purpose becoming once again almost wholly nativistic. Neither the old Klan nor the new ever received any sum port from the Masonic Fraternity, nor ever had any connection with it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE. On the American Protective Association see p. 1156. After the Masonic Fraternity itself was almost destroyed by nativistie and xenophobia movements, and in consequence has leaned over backward ever since in a firm determination to remain wholly aloof from any and every religious or political reform, party, movement, or crusade, it is a strikingly paradoxical fact that almost every nativistie movement since the Civil Viar has begun by announcing that "Freemasonry was behind it" and then has confidentially sought its support, only to be refused each time—a Fraternity which had been almost destroyed by a nativistic movement was seareely to be expected to turn immediately around and support a nativistie movement! See the Know Nothing Partly, by H. F. Desmond; Washington. D. C. Among the best sources are the Reports of the American historical Association. Each of the standard histories of political parties and of the Presideneies contain at least one chapter. The standard work on the Ku Klux Klan is the volume by that name by J. C. Lester and D. L. Wilson, New York; 1905. One of the keys to an understanding of that society is the often-overlooked fact that though man v of the oldest settlements were made in the South, very large areas of the South remained unpopulated and undeveloped until well toward the end of the century—and this is especially true if Oklahoma and Texas be included. The frontier in the sense of a line north and south moved into the Pacific and vanished; the frontier as a way of life remained over in many large sections long after that line had gone. Similar to the early Klan were the Vigilantes in Montana, the Posses in the Southwest, and other shifts and expediencies before a settled government could be established.
The question as to whether Freemasonry approves, or supports, or is connected with a movement. crusade, reform, ete., is a perennial one, not because the Fraternity itself ever makes announcements to that effect but beeause the champions of those movements make such claims, and do so without consulting Grand Lodges. Whenever such questions arise a Mason can find a eategorieal answer in black-and-white (or the lack of it), in Grand Lodge Proceedings, and the answer he there finds will be official. Non-Masonic writers have made hundreds of statements, presumably of fact, that Freemasonry originated, or has supported, or is connected with this, that, or the other: those statements almost atways are mistaken, For Freemasonry to support a movement would mean for Grand Lodges to take official action in favor of it in a Grand Communication; when Grand Lodges take action it is stated and recorded in Grand Lodge Proceedings. There is never any guesswork.
As a matter of fact, and to an extent that non-Masons may find it hard to believe, Grand Lodges have maintained complete silence about wars, political parties churches, theologies,—even the Civil War, and in Proceedings for four years, was seldom mentioned. In the few instances when the Fraternity has taken cognizance of any society or movement outside itself it has not taken the initiative but has been forced to act officially (as in the case of Mormonism). The larger number of the movements which non-Masons have averred to be of Masonle origin, or to have had Masonic support, have been such that their very narnes could not have been brought up on the Grand Lodge floor. In 3 number of Grand Jurisdietions Grand Masters and Grand Seere taries do not even reply (as Grand Lodge Officers) to letters emanating from non-Masonic movements. and this holds true even for movements or societies consisting of Masons, and for purposes which Freemasons approve.
A Grand Master cannot admit to discussion on a Grand Lodge floor any subject not strictly Masonic, or germane to the Grand Lodge's own affairs- more than once the whole nation has been filled with the clamor of a movement (as of Populism), and yet not one word has been spoken about it in any Grand Communication. When non-Masonic writers say that Freemasonry originated something, or supports it, it is fair to ask them to give the dates and names of the Proceedings when Grand Lodges did so: a man who has not read the Grand Lodge Proceedings of the 49 Grand Lodges is not competent to say what Meemasonry originates, or approves, or supports, or does not.
The word xenophobe was used by Homer, or at least by his contemporaries. It derives from one of the many forms of Zeus, as Zeus Lenios, the god of strangers. The arrival of a stranger at a house caned for elaborate eerie monies, partly for protection, partly for politeness, partly for opportunity to establish identity. If the stranger was invited to pass the door he became a guest, and as such came under ancient and complex rules of hospitality. Gifts at his departure were caned menus. (Ohio has a city by that name.) The Romans took hospitality even more seriously, and regulated it by civil law. There are similar laws in the Old Testament. What the Greeks called zenux the Romans called hospitium. The often puzzling way in which a word may turn into its opposite has an illustration and at the same time an explanation in z a. He who is a stranger at one moment, is a guest the next; extremes literally meet; and language will sometimes move the same word first to one extreme and then across the line to the other. A household held in the grip of Xenophobia, or stranger-fear, could have no hospitality in it.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014