George Washington Becomes A Master Mason
On August 4, 1753, George Washington became a Master Mason, the highest rank in the Fraternity of Freemasonry, in his hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
The twenty-one-year-old young man would soon hold his first military commission.
Derived from the practices and rituals of the medieval guild system, freemasonry gained popularity in the eighteenth century, particularly in Great Britain. British Masons organized the first North American Chapter in 1731. Masons aroused considerable suspicion in the early American republic with their mysterious rites and closely held secrets. These fears mushroomed in response to the suspicious death in 1826 of William Morgan, who was said to have been murdered on account of his threat to reveal the secrets of freemasonry.
For George Washington, joining the Masons was a rite of passage and an expression of civic responsibility. Members were required to express their belief in a Supreme Being and in the immortality of the soul. Masons were also were expected to obey civil laws, hold a high moral standard, and practice acts of charity.
Washington embarked upon a career as a planter, which historians defined as those who held 20 or more slaves. In 1748 he was invited to help survey Lord Fairfax's lands west of the Blue Ridge. In 1749, he was appointed to his first public office, surveyor of newly created Culpeper County. Through his half-brother, Lawrence Washington, he became interested in the Ohio Company, which aimed to exploit Western lands. In 1751, George and his half-brother traveled to Barbados, staying at Bush Hill House, hoping for an improvement in Lawrence's tuberculosis. This was the only time George Washington traveled outside what is now the United States. After Lawrence's death in 1752, George inherited part of his estate and took over some of Lawrence's duties as adjutant of the colony.
Washington was appointed a district adjutant general in the Virginia militia in 1752, which appointed him Major Washington at the age of 20. He was charged with training the militia in the quarter assigned to him. At age 21, in Fredericksburg, Washington became a Master Mason in the organization of Freemasons, a fraternal organization that was a lifelong influence.