MORANS MASONS AND THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION

Masonry played a major part in the Mexican Revolution, particulary after the abdication of Iturbide and the struggle to found a federalist or centralist republic. Mexican leaders and politicians were divided on the subject. They belonged to two different organizations of Masonic Lodges which reflected the centralist or federalist view of its members. To understand this we will have to go back in time and bring you information from the 1730s until the beginnings of the Mexican Revolution in 1810 until its conclusion.In between you will learn of the Moran connection to Masonry in Mexico and to the Mexican Revolution.

In 1740, British Masons founded a lodge in Bordeaux, France. It is the oldest provincial lodge in Europe. This was the first of more than fifty lodges known as Loge L'Angaise in France. These lodges were the point of origin of a proliferation of degrees that resulted in the progenitors of the Scottish Rite. The name has little to do with Scotland and more to do with the Jacobites, followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie of the House of Stuart, who found themselves expatriates in France. The Jacobites took an active part in helping to create the rite and its addendant degrees. They saw in its symbolism their political aspirations of a return of Stuart kings to the thrones of England and Scotland. Because of its Catholic sympathies, it has been suggested that the Jesuits at the college of Clermont also had a hand in the formation of the rite. In fact at this time many of the members of the rite were Catholic priests. Others, as mentioned, were the Jacobites and a good many merchants. One of these merchants was Etienne (Stephen) Morin also seen as Moran. He was a wine merchant and a representative of the Sevres porcelain factories with interests in the New World.

The name of the lodge in Bordeaux was changed in 1740 to the Loge Francaise and later to the Loge Francaise Elue Ecossaise. "Ecossaise" refers to the Scottish. Morin joined the lodge and grew in its offices and degrees. He became Master of the Lodge Parfaite Harmonie in 1744. In 1861, the Mason Grand Council in Paris granted him a patent for life to promulgate the Rite in the New World. Etienne Morin spread the Rite to the West Indies and North America from his offices in St. Domingo. Morin was active in freemasonry on the island of Hispainola during the 1750s. During this time the whole island was under Spanish control until the French settled a colony that became Haiti and the island was divided between the two european powers, but for some reason, the French dominated the Masonic organizations in both sections until the French Revolution when both parts of the island became independent.

In 1762, Morin returning to St. Domingo had his ship captured by the British and he and the ship were taken to England. Morin was allowed to be free and while in England met with Lord Ferrers, Grand Master of the Modern Lodge of England. The British Grand Master endorsed his patent laying open to Morin the British West Indies for his mission. Morin was also able to visit Scotland and the Masons there. In 1763, Morin appointed a Dutch Jamaican official, who was a Mason, to be his Senior Deputy Inspector. His name was Henry Andrew Francken. Together the two spead the Scottish Rite Masonic Lodges throughtout the Caribbean and North America. The two are buried in the Anglican Parish Church Graveyard at Kingston, Jamaica. The plaque at the right in the cemetery commemorates their achievements.

Thus did Etienne Morin bring the Scottish Rite of Masonry to North America including Mexico.

The Scottish Rite is also known as the Continental Rite as most european courts endorsed it. It was/is a secret organization very political in its activities. While the British version, the York Rite, adopted by the Americans, were apolitical.

The first documented evidence of a Scottish Rite lodge in Mexico was June 24, 1791 when French retainers of the newly arrived Viceroy, Count Revillgigedo, organized a lodge. This was just a few years before the start of the Mexican Revolution. The British colonies to the north had enjoyed a significant degree of personal and political freedom after the American Revolution. It was only natural for political activity after independence to be channeled to the development of political parties and democratic procedures. In Mexico and the rest of Latin America, on the contrary, the autocratic nature of the Spanish Crown had prevented the development of any kind of political organization and experience. This vacuum drew Freemasonry irresistibly into the whirlwind of political passions and explains the revolution that followed.

Among the leaders of the Mexican Revolution was Father Miguel Hidalgo, who was a Mason. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla was made a Mason at a Scottish Rite Lodge located in Mexico City in 1806. He began his cry for independence in 1810, with his sermon, "El Grito de Dolores". Thus began the fight for the separation of Mexico from Spain. It may be said at the outset that in its beginning the Mexican Revolution was really a class war, having at its basis social jealousies and exclusion from entitlements that were kept by the ruling Spanish class. The Revolution having been begun by an ecclesiastic, had from its incipiency many members of the clergy, both secular and regular, among its leaders, and it may be said that at this time the war was kept up almost wholly by them. There was hardly a battle in which priests were not found as leading officers. Many of these priest were Master Masons. An important part of the revolution met its defeat at the Battle of Calderon Bridge where one of the Royalist leaders was Jose Moran. Father Hidalgo was defeated, excommunicated by the Mexican Church, tried by the authorities and beheaded.The revolt was attempted to be continued by another priest and Mason, Juan Morelos, but he was also captured, excommunicated, and shot. Jose Moran was made a Colonel of Dragoons for his efforts during the fight and thus began a military career that led to his being the ranking General in the Mexican Army.

The independence movement had reached its apex in the Spanish colonies. From 1813 until 1820, Spanish troops were sent to put down an increasing number of rebellions throughout Latin America. When the ultra-liberals gained control of Spain's political machinery, Spaniards loyal to the king concluded that only through revolution and independence for Mexico could they continue to protect their privileged position. They found an ardent follower in Augustin de Iturbide, an ambitious native Mexican who had obtained a commission in the Spanish Army that placed him in the aristocratic party. He was also a member of a Masonic lodge in Mexico City.

Iturbide was an opportunist, and when he saw that a new Viceroy, Juan Odonoju, was in an unsupportable position, he issued the Plan de Iguala on February 12, 1821. This plan, with its three guarantees recognized the Roman Catholic religion while denying toleration of any other, called for continued privileges for the clergy, independence of Spain, and equality of the Creoles and Europeans in the government. This plan calling for independence and recognition of the Creoles quickly gained the support of the masses. Recognition of the church and continued clerical privileges gained the support of the conservatives. Masons gave their support to the movement, and it was only a matter of months until the country was controlled by the insurgents. With the signing of a the Treaty of Cordoba on August 21, 1821, by Juan O'Donoju, Viceroy of New Spain, Mexico had gained its independence.

The first problem facing the new nation was the establishment of a government. The conservatives generally favored a monarchy which continued special privileges for the Church, the clergy, and large land-holders. The liberals favored a constitutional republic patterned after that of the United States. The monarchists were divided between those who favored a "Bourbon" king and those who favored Iturbide to be placed on the throne.


When Congress met in February, 1823, Iturbide received sixty-seven out of eighty-two votes and became Emperor Augustin I of Mexico.

Iturbide was the hero of the masses. He had led Mexico to independence. Because of the Plan of Iguala and its Three Guarantees, he had the support of the army and the clergy; however, opposition to him soon developed. Disappointed "Bourbonists" and republicans combined to weaken his reign. On October 30, 1822, Emperor Augustin I dissolved the elected Congress. On December 6, 1822, Santa Anna formally proclaimed the Plan of Vera Cruz calling for the Congress to meet under the established rules and agree upon a form of government suitable to the country based on the principals of religion, independence, and liberty. During the month of December, Santa Anna quickly acquired both allies and opponents. Having lined up with the Republicans against Iturbide, Santa Anna soon found himself with the support of Nicholas Bravo, Vincente Guerrero, and Guadalupe Vcitoria. All were active leaders in the Mexican political scene and all were Masons.

Guadalupe Victoria, who had formerly opposed Santa Anna, now had his support for the presidency under a federal republic. Within a short time, the liberals were in control of the Mexican government. Iturbide was forced to abdicate and went into exile in March, 1823.

As is so often the case in history, the victors began quarrelling among themselves. Having united to defeat Iturbide, they now found it impossible to agree on a government to rule the nation. They generally divided among the lines of Centralists and Federalists.

About this time entered the first American Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, for whom the Christmas Flower is named. In Mexico they don't refer to the Christmas Flower as a Poinsettia because, among other things, Poinsett is regarded as a meddler in Mexican affairs. It was he who brought York Rite Masonry to Mexico, and Mexican historians think this is because he saw the York Lodges as a way to extend American influence, which may be true. Poinsett was a Charleston aristocrat and inveterate traveler, he paid an initial visit to Mexico in the summer of 1822, when he met and formed an unfavorable opinion of the Emperor Iturbide and his Court. Poinsett received the Mexican appointment in 1825, one which had originally been offered to Andrew Jackson. This was at a time when the predominantly Protestant and democratic United States, was suspicious of a Catholic and aristocratic neighbor, wary of increasing British presence in Mexico, and alarmed about Mexican intentions in Cuba.

Poinsett was given a mandate: "to represent democracy" where the dominant element consisted of aristocrats and monarchists; to support the Monroe Doctrine of America for the Americans against the official tendency in Mexico to seek European affiliations; to vindicate the prestige of the United States, where Great Britain had established a virtual protectorate; to insist upon the 'most-favored nation' principle in commerce when the Mexican government favored mutual concessions among the Spanish-American states; to present the complaints of his fellow-citizens against bewildering commercial regulations; to oppose Mexico's cherished designs regarding Cuba; and to acquire territory when the mere suggestion of such a transaction confirmed Mexican suspicion, wounded Mexican pride, and intensified Mexican irritation." To accomplish such ambitious goals, Poinsett determined that he must change the attitudes of the Mexican government, challenging the Spanish-born who still looked towards Europe. Although Poinsett himself was a Freemason, many of those he opposed were Scottish Rite Masons. . Angered by the attitude of the clerical and monarchial-minded Mexican conservatives, he tried to promote Republican principals, as he called it. He had discovered that Freemasonry had an immense hold on the educated classes and actually formed the basis for a political club in Mexico.

The Scottish Rite, or Escoceses, formed a genuine vehicle for the ultra-conservative cause. The liberal-minded Republican Mexicans were also strongly attracted to Masonry, but could not break the conservative control of the order. Poinsett had what he felt was a brilliant inspiration. He introduced the York Rite (Masonry as practised in England, Scotland and the United States) into the capital, offering it to the liberals as their vehicle to compete with the Escoceses.

In 1824, he arranged for five Lodges to be chartered by the Grand Lodge of New York, working in the York or American Rite. The next year, they proceeded to form a York Rite Grand Lodge for Mexico under the name of "La Gran Logia Nacional Mexicana", which rapidly grew to more then 100 Lodges.

Masonry become a major factor in the politics of the republic. The Scottish Rite or Escoceses had been the organization to which most prominent Mexicans belonged. As the Escoceses became more and more involved in political activities, many liberals sought an alternative. They were determined to join the York Rite. The rapid increase of this group, the York Rite or Yorkinos, soon gave them a larger following than that of the Escoceses. One reason for this strength was that the Spaniards, as distinguished from the Creoles, were aligned to the Escoceses.

Then came an episode without precedent in Masonic history. Iturbide's short-lived Empire came to an end in 1823 to be substituted by a Republic. A civil war broke out over the question of a centralized and conservative Republic, or a federal and liberal one. The Scottish Masons favored the first, the Yorquinos the second, and they actually went to war against one another. Mexico was the only country to be divided by Masonic Wars in which the Scottish Rite and the York Rite entered into armed conflict to determine which faction of Masonry was to control the destiny of the nation. The two camps became competing political clubs or parties, sharply divided over the Spanish question. That question being what to do with the Spanish who remained in Mexico after Mexican Indpendence from Spain. These Spanish were merchants, soldiers, professionals, administrators and the like. The Scottish Rite Masons defended the resident Spaniards, seeing their cause as a test of individual rights and guarantees; the Yorkists attacked the gachupines (a derogatory term for the Spanish born ) in a manner reminiscent of the Jacobins in France criticizing everything English and as if to avenge Hidalgo and Morelos. The Scottish Rite was more hierarchical and it had supported the Emperor Agustin de Iturbide, first Emperor of Mexico. The Scottish Masons were not antagonistic towards the Spanish who remained in Mexico, while many Yorkists suspected that those who remained, might still want to welcome back the Viceregal government and wanted all Spanish to leave.

Since 1831, most of the presidents of the Republic of Mexico have been Masons; however, the downfall of Guerrero, in 1831, marked the end of Masonry as an outstanding political force in Mexico. The Escoceses had been scattered and the Yorkinos split. Poinsett returned to the United States. From the divided Fraternity, there arose the Rito Nacional Mexicano. It gained strength from its inception. Masonry ceased to be divided. The Masonic Wars came to an end.That then is the story of Morans, Masons and the Mexican Revolution.

References:

THE INFLUENCE OF FREEMASONRY ON TEXAS

Jack B. Pace

BROTHERS DIVIDED: MEXICO'S MASONIC WARS

Edward N. Thompson, P.M.

MEXICAN MASONRY- POLITICS & RELIGION
(Mexican Freemasonries-Encounters with Religion and Politics)
Oscar J. Salinas E., Senior Grand Warden-York/Mexico.

FRENCH PERSPECTIVES ON MEXICAN SECRET SOCIETIES

David Merchant
University of the Americas-Puebla
Paul Rich
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
University of the Americas-Puebla

Wilfrid Hardy Calcott, Church and State in Mexico (1822-1857), New York: Octagon Books, 1965, p. 37 2 Ibid.,p. 30

James David Carter, Masonry in Texas, Waco: Committee on Masonic Education and Service for the Grand
Lodge of Texas, A.F. and A.M., 1955, p. 185

Michael Baigent, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1982, p. 145

Jose Maria Mateos, Historia de la Masoneria en Mexico, 2 Volumes, Mexico City: Rita Nacional Mexicano,
1884, Volume I, p. 6

Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of the Pacific States of North America, 5 Volumes, San Francisco: n.p., 1883
Volume IV, pp. 423-424

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, The Eagle: The Autobrography of Santa Anna, edited by Ann Fears Crawford,
Austin: The Pemberton Press, 1957, p. 15

Oakah L. Jones, Jr., Santa Anna, New York: Twayne Publishers, 1968, p. 36

T.R. Fehrenbach, Lone Star: A History of Texas and Texans, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1968, p.

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