Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, Vol 5, No 1 (2014)

Freemasonry and slavery in the British Empire

Cecile Revauger
Issued Date: 29 Dec 2015


Several studies have explored the relationship between freemasonry and the British Empire, but few have focused specifically on the connection between freemasonry and questions of slavery and abolition in an imperial context. Did freemasonry condone or combat slavery? Simplifications and sweeping generalizations should be avoided as all statements concerning such a sensitive issue need to be qualified. While the current article mainly explores the British context, a few forays into French and American freemasonry will be provided for context.
First the different approaches to race and slavery during the Enlightenment will be examined. The so-called exclusions of those who are not “free-born,” as well as of“bondmen” by Anderson in the well-known third article of The Charges of a Freemason, in the 1723 Constitutions, will be studied in context. The introduction of lodges in plantation societies and their role within the Empire will be studied. Finally the focus will be on the involvement of some British masons including the Duke of Sussex in the abolitionist campaigns. How did the British masons embrace the new liberal approach which led to the abolition of slavery throughout the Empire in 1834?

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DOI: 10.1558/jrff.v5i1.26713


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