High Lights of the Mexican Revolution - J. L. McLeish

Epilogue: "Sit Lux"

EDITORIAL NOTE.—This article was specially written for "Light" by Prest. McLeish, of the Masonic Library Association of Cincinnati. Several years ago he wrote an article for Masonic Bibliophile, then under the able management of the late Bro. Scott Bonham. This has been widely copied by the Masonic Press, but does not contain as full an account of the various branches of Mexican Masonry as the present writing, bringing the story up to date.

The data for the original Bibliophile article, referring only to the Scottish Rite, was obtained by the author from General Agramonte, of Mexico City. The father of Doctor McLeish spent six years of mining activity in Sabinal, Chihuahua, which town he founded and where he died, in the days when Porfirio Diaz was President.

Through his Masonic connections the family were able to have the body brought through a practically unsettled district 120 miles coffinless, across the Chihuahua desert to Villa Ahumada, where a special train and undertaker were waiting. A special escort of Masons accompanied it to El Paso, Texas, where it was received by the Knights Templar in 1896.

The younger McLeish was not then a Mason, but naturally gathered much first hand information as his father came into close contact with such Masons as President Diaz, General Agramonte, Governor Ahumada, the Macmanus Brothers, Senior Horcasitas and Vice-President Pombo.

Since the days prior to 1896 Brother McLeish has become a Mason and continued his pursuit of information concerning other rites. The latest of these is the American York Grand Lodge, which claims to be the only legitimate successor to the Valle de Mexico, Grand. Brother Frederick E. Young, Past Grand Master, has given what may be regarded as the official statement, the American faction side, in an article originally published in the Ars Quattuor Coronati and republished by the Trestleboard together with the Bibliophile article as a preface.

In order that the Masonic press may get a "fresh start" as it were, therefore, Brother McLeish has carefully revised his data and brought it up to date by reference to all sources available to Americans at present.

Mexican Masonry and the Men Who Made It

A General Summary

No small part has been played by Mexican Freemasons in an historic drama as replete with action as any ever staged by humanity.

At the inchoation of the Nineteenth century Mexico seemed hopelessly enslaved under the harsh rule of Roman ecclesiasticism expressing itself through the puppet personalities of Spanish viceroys, representatives of a king and a Cortez utterly subservient to the Pope of Rome.

For three hundred years this sad condition had persisted in Mexico. In consequence the clergy were stupendously rich and seemingly fortified in an impregnable position. What was left of the natural resources of the country after supplying the priests and mother country went to the enrichment of the viceroy and the Spanish satellites making up his court. For the native-born was abject misery, slavery, dire poverty.

Terror of the Inquisition

Through the country the dread inquisition flourished and held sway. Its wretched 'victims filled to over-flowing the great military prisons like San Juan de Uloa with their disease-disseminating, vermin-infested, dark dungeons, veritable hell holes. So unutterably cruel were the penalties attached by the inquisitors to failure to pay the clerical tithes any utterance against the existing order, a breath of what they might consider heresy, that wonder is the SYSTEM held sway as long as it did. However much the native-born contributed to their taskmasters, it was never enough.

Overseas, decadent Spain was in dire straits; upon the viceroys it devolved to pay the upkeep of the Court of the Bourbons, to meet the endless demands of the Clerical OCTOPUS fattening upon both countries.

First Masonic Record 1806

Our first authentic Masonic record in Mexico may be traced back to a little house in Mexico City, Calle de las Ratas No. 4, where as early as 1806 the Masonic lodge, then known as "Arquitectura Moral," held its regular meetings to disseminate Masonic light and plan for the great day when the yoke of the Spaniards and the inquisition should be driven from the country forevermore. In the membership of this little pioneer lodge were some of the most intelligent of Mexico's citizens, Don Manuel Luyando, Don Enrique Muni, Don Manuel Verdad, Don Gregorio Martinez, Don Feliciano Vargas, Don Jose Maria Espinosa, Don Miguel Betancourt, Don Ignacio Moreno and Don Miguel Dominguez.

Hidalgo, the Priest-Mason

To the city, seeking Masonic light, there came dust-covered and weary from miles of mountain and desert travel two great men, a priest and a soldier, the one, Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, cure of the parish of Dolores, the other Don Ignacio Allende. They abode in No. 5 Calle de las Ratas, and, having been found worthy and well qualified, duly and truly prepared, were successively inducted into the mysteries of Aprendiz, Companero and Maestro, according to the Liturgias of "Verdadera Masoneria" or "Rito-Antiguo-Aceptado-Escoces."

A sufficient authority for this statement is the authenticated historian of the period, Richard E. Chism, corroborated at a later date by an equally reliable writer,. Senor de la Pena.

Not easy in those days of inquisitorial supremacy was it even for a Masonic lodge to meet, however great the precautions taken. Spanish spies infested every street corner; servitors in the houses were subsidized agents of the inquisition; the apparently respectable civilian living next one's door was an accredited agent of the system which terrorized the nation.

Cabo Franco the Spy

What wonder, then, that a house across the way from the lodge room of "The Moral Architect," the house at No. 12 Calle de las Ratas, should shelter a creature there domiciled for no other reason than to spy upon the patriots and in due time denounce them to his superiors?

So it happened. The fellow, Cabo Franco, spoke at an appropriate time, the black-garbed hirelings of the inquisition descended upon the house at No. 4, and a vigorous persecution of the brethren followed.

Hidalgo Excommunicated

Fortunately for the cause of Mexican independence, Brothers Hidalgo and Allende had left the city before the raid; in consequence the inquisition had to content itself with excommunicating these "devil-worshippers" and "members of an accursed sect," which not at all precluded them sounding "el grito" in September of 1810 and raising the standard of revolt against "the system."

His Death

Of the brief heroic efforts of Hidalgo, Allende, and their brother Masons to bring light to poor Mexico, history has told the tale. Of how, after a scintillating victory over the trained forces of the viceroy and the troops of the Spanish line, indecision, lack of proper equipment and dissension among the ignorant Indian chieftains who had flocked to their standard brought inevitable defeat; of how Hidalgo and his few remaining followers made a last brave stand at the River Calderon, only to find defeat and death, their heads displayed on pikes in Chihuahua City. With this sad sequel to the first act in the long struggle for Mexican independence you are doubtless familiar.

From the uprising of Hidalgo and his patriots, affairs moved rapidly in Mexico. Leader after Leader succeeded to the command of the revolutionary armies. From 1810 on, the Viceroyalty knew not peace. Some of the best forces of the Spanish line were sent across the water to quell the revolt.

In vain—in vain. Priestcraft can never conquer LIBERTY.

Always in Mexico arose again an Army of the NATIVE BORN.

In the capitol, varying successes, in the field, had loosened the tongues of men. Pamphleteers were legion. For the first time the public press presumed to openly criticize the August Representative of the King of Spain. That Fetish hitherto Supreme—THE INQUISITION,—you may well believe, came in for caustic, captious criticism. Its persecution, its incredible inhumanities were brought to light.

Perhaps the Inquisitors thought, when they raided the house at No. 4, Calle de las Ratas, dispersed the Brethren, took possession of the Book of Constitution and Records of the Lodge—that they were ending Mexican Masonry forevermore!

Poor, fatuous fools!

They labored under the same mistake in France, in 1780, when they laid their trap for Count Cagliostro, Grand Cophta of the Egyptian Rite of Masonry.

Out of the mystic East had come this mysterious personage bringing with him the wisdom of Isis and Osiris, and the Ritualism of one of the purest, most uplifting branches of Masonic Lore known to man.

From country to country traveled the Grand Cophta, forming his Lodges, making alliances with other established Masonic Bodies, working ever with one fixed purpose in view, the overthrow of Like Voltaire, and Rousseau, Franklin and Paul Jones, the Grand Cophta was the precursor of a general philosophic movement, symbolized by the slogans, ""LIBERTY, FRATERNITY, AND EQUALITY."

In every country of his sojourn, the Grand Cophta was the victim of a studied campaign of lying and slander and malice. Unterrified and confident, he pursued his course, achieving inconceivable success and came at last to France. From the provincial towns like Lyons, the ramifications of the Egyptian Rite Lodges extended their network in and about Paris, where at last came Count Cagliostro, to perform the finishing touches to his self-assigned task, prior to sounding the summons to a general revolution.

In Paris the Grand Cophta made his one vital mistake. He renewed his former friendship with a minion of Mother Church, the Cardinals de Rohan.

On the very eve of his success, when the Grand Orients of France, the Illuminati, and the Philaletae were ready and willing to form a pact of union with Cagliostro's Rite of Egypt, a union which would have hastened the French Revolution by many years, the Inquisitors struck. They struck hard. Rome never does things by halves.

To ruin a man of Cagliostro's immense fraternal influence called for something quite out of the ordinary. Rome was ready however. It cost the Inquisition a Cardinal of the Church: they hurried De Rohan off to the Bastille: with him went the man who had been a faithful friend. With these two into the gloomy French Prison went the serpent who had been the original temptress, Madam de St. Remy de Valois de la Motte, the beautiful but wicked Countess, also the poor little wife of the Grand Cophta.

In the subsequent imprisonment and torture of Count Cagliostro and his wife, in the persistent damning of his reputation by the lying paragraphers of the Inquisition, his unscrupulous enemies hoped and thought they were dealing a deathblow to the powerful SECRET BROTHERHOOD of which he had been but . They were mistaken.

When the time was come, the patriots struck hard and with no less telling effect.

The Inquisition had it is true, killed a single Grand Lodge and its known Grand Master, but MASONRY then as formerly, then as now, then as in time to come it will, went marching bravely on, undeterred, unafraid.

There were, and there are, other Rites than that of Egypt.

So in Mexico.

Although the System had crushed the Moral Architect Lodge which is also known to later writers as Valle de Mejico No. 1, although the inquisitors hounded the brave little band who had made up its charter membership, although they executed Hidalgo and Allende—not at all did they preclude the spread of Masonry.

In 1813 was established the first Grand Lodge under the Scottish Rite, having for its Grand Master, Don Felipe Martinez Aragon. A number of subordinate Lodges sprang up throughout the country.

Naturally there were factions. One might find Lodges composed of Spaniards only, and those of Mexicans. Aragon was the leader of the Spanish Masons. Of the Native Born, the patriot General, Don Nicolas Bravo was the head.

It was during this period that Don Augustin de Iturbide, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Guadalupe Victoria and the brave Guerrero received MASONIC LIGHT.

In 1816, and 1817, there were working under charter, from the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, these Lodges, "Friends United No. 8," at Vera Cruz, and "Reunion by Virtue No. 9," at Campeche.

In 1824, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania gave Charter to a Lodge in Alvarado working as "True Brothers of Papaloapam No. 191."

From its humble beginning in Calle de las Ratas, Mexican Masonry had its heritage of hate. Nolens volens, it must enter politics to fight for its very being, to combat the horrible OCTOPUS OF THE INQUISITION, whose tentacles were still far-reaching throughout the country.

By no possible manner of means, could the Light of Liberty come to this priest-ridden country, while the filthy dungeons of San Juan de Uloa, the gloomy cells of the Acordado and old Belem, were packed with the native sons, held in durance on charges of Heresy, and through sheer inability to meet the demands of the fat friars and tithe-takers of the existing government.

MEXICAN MASONRY had its mission clearly defined.

It was to be a duello al muerte between the Brotherhood of LIGHT and the Sons of Loyola.

Factional fights and internecine jealousies were but natural in an Order embracing men of the fervent, volatile, effervescent temperament of the native Mexicans.

The time seemed ripe for a schism.

It so happened that the American Minister to Mexico, Mr. Joel Poinsett, was one of the high authorities of York Rite Masonry in his native land. To him then, came certain of the disaffected leaders of the Mexican Scottish Rite, Don Jose Maria Alpuche y Infante, Don Miguel Ramos Arizpe, Don Ignacio Esteva, and Don Jose Antonio Mejia, representing as many symbolic lodges. They petitioned for a Charter under the York Rite of the United States, which Mr. Poinsett eventually procured for them, through the Grand Lodge of New York.

The Grand Master of the New Rite was Genera Vincente Guerrero destined soon to become President of the Republic, destined too, to share the same sad fate as his brother Mason, Iturbide,—at the hands of his compatriots.

From now on a merry strife commenced between the two dominant Masonic Bodies, interspersed with the inevitable conflicts with the Clerical Party.

An amusing anomaly of that early period of Masonry in Mexico, may be found in the fact that each Rite had among its membership, some friars and priests, in sufficient number to prevail upon the brethren to observe publicly certain Fiestas of the Ladies of Pilar and La Mercedes for the Scottish Rite, and Our Illustrious Lady of Guadalupe for the York Rite

All this while too, MOTHER CHURCH was anathematizing Masonry of every Rite from its pulpits.

Early York Rite Lodges working under the New Charter were:

"La Libertad No. 1," "La Federacion No. 2," "La Independencia No. 3."

In 1828 there were as many as 102 York Rite Lodges in Mexico. Of these, some were Military Lodges having no fixed habitat.

From the cradle of Mexican Masonry in Calle de Las Ratas o had come into being the two powerful bodies which, with the establishment of the First Republic of Mexico, following the collapse of Iturbide: short-lived Empire, were destined to offer as Leader; in the Civic and Dictatorial government of the country,—men thoroughly trained in the principles of LIBERTY, FRATERNITY, AND EQUALITY,—statesmen, diplomats, soldiers and writers, each in his own occupying an especial niche in the MASONIC ROLL OF HONOR.

The long struggle for Independence had furnished as Masonry's quota to the national leaders, Hidalgo, Allende, Mina, Iturbide, Santa Anna, Guerrero, Victoria,—nay, the roll is long, too long indeed, for individual mention here.

It was but natural that out of the jealousies existent between the Scottish and York Rites, should emerge still a third Masonic Rite, claiming its own individual Masonic Sovereignty and its own share in the partitioning of public offices and state control, while ever ready to battle with its Sister Rites against the common foe of Masonry—the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1825 there assembled in Mexico City representatives from both the Scottish and York Rite bodies, among them such prominent Masons as Don Jose Maria Mateos, Guillermo Lamott, Guillermo Gardett, Cayetano Rinaldi, Luis Luelmo, Juan Maria Matheus, Francisco Ocampo, and Mariano Rodriguez. Through their deliberations was evolved the NATIONAL RITE OF MEXICO under the following general rules.

The membership must be limited solely to regularly raised Masons of Recognized Rites. The afore-mentioned Rite was to be entirely free and independent of any other Rite as to sovereignty throughout the Mexican Nation, and its dependencies, its government, residing in a Supreme Grand Orient and A National Grand Lodge of Mexico. That the symbolic degrees shall be the same as those of other recognized Masonic Rites, Aprendiz, Companero and Maestro: the higher grades, thirty-three, among these Past Master, Knight of the Secret, Knight of the Mexican Eagle, Perfect Artificer, Grand Judge and Grand Inspector.

The Grand Lodge "La Luz" under the new Grand Master Guillermo Gardett, assembled in 1826 with these symbolic lodges subordinate:

Igualidad: Terror de los Tiranos: Meridiano Anahuassense: Luz Mejicana: and Desocupacion Indiana.

Perfect peace, harmony and recognition prevailed for a time between the three distinct ruling bodies. All mixed more or less in public affairs.

In 1828 through the ascendancy of the Clerical Party, a decree was issued forbidding all Secret Societies to assemble or have being, under the most severe penalties.

For the time, MASONIC ACTIVITIES were very quiescent in the Republic of Mexico.

Then came into power, President Bustamente of the York Rite, who abrogated this decree. In consequence, Masonry took on new life.

All of which evidences, that try as they will, the Sons of Loyola, with all the intricate machinery of the Inquisition behind them, as they had in those days, cannot hope to crush the soul out of Masonry. The germ may linger long quiescent, only to spring anew to life when time is ripe.

Although the York and Scottish Rites had taken some considerable part in the shaping of the Republic's welfare, it remained for the youngest of Masonry's Mexican daughters to openly formulate a definite platform upon the conduct of public affairs.

In 1833 the National Rite set forth its policy as follows:

"Absolute Freedom of Thought: Freedom of the Press.

"Abolishment of the Privileges of the Clergy, and of the Army.

"Suppression of Monastic Institutions: Destruction of Monopolies.

"Protection of Arts and Industries: Dissemination of Libraries, and Schools: Abolition of Capital Punishment: Colonial Expansion."

Most of these high principles were later embodied in the Laws of Reform enacted and put into the Mexican Constitution by the greatest of the Masons of the Mexican National Rite, Brother Benito Juarez, when President of Mexico.

In the Civil War inaugurated by Santa Anna and his brethren of the Scottish Rite, Mexican National Rite Masons were led by General Valentin Gomez Farias.

In 1845 a French Lodge began to work in Mexico under a Charter from the Grand Orient of France. This was called "Les Hospelalicedes deux mondes."

In 1868 was inaugurated a joint sovereignty under the title, "Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and the Mexican Rite."

In its long career, the Mexican National Rite interchanged and received recognition from and with many foreign Masonic Bodies.

It is especially interesting to us Masons of the United States because in its very considerable membership, may be found many of the leaders of Mexican Masonic fame, men who have passed into history. Need I mention Degollado, Farias, De Tejada, De la Pena y Barragan, Benito Juarez, Porfirio Diaz, Corona, Escobeda, and Iglesias?

It was due to the iron will and determination of Brother Benito Juarez, whose memory today is honored by Masons of all Mexican Rites, that needed restrictions were placed by his LAWS OF REFORM upon aggrandizement of the Catholic Clergy, limitations upon Monasteries and Convents, and the rendering impossible in Mexico of that horrible Bete Noir of all time,—the Holy Inquisition,—an institution which exacted grievous toll from Masonry, long before ever was made public, its horrible torture of Brother John Cuestos in Portugal.

In 1880 was founded the Gran Oriente of Mexico to work only in the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master.

On May 27, 1883 the Supreme Council of Mexico City issued a decree pronouncing upon the freedom and sovereignty of Symbolic Masonry in the Republic, and renouncing all jurisdiction over it.

In 1890 by invitation, all Symbolic Lodges sent representatives to the Grand Orient of Mexico. Together they formed with this body, La Gran Dieta Symbolica de los Estados Unidos Mejicanos, under a General Constitution prohibiting the working of other than the first three degrees of Masonry, and interference of any kind on the part of the degrees from the fourth to the thirty-third.

In other words, Symbolic Grand Lodge Sovereignty now became an independent working body, having subordinate to it, seventeen State Grand Lodges, and two subordinate Lodges.

It might be thought that this was a satisfactory adjudication of jurisdictional authority for Mexican Masonry.

Not so.

Another change was still to come, largely resultant upon the unsettled state of Mexico, incidental to the kaleidoscopic turn of events subsequent to 1910.

Very naturally, the English-speaking Lodges made up mostly of Americans, had no desire to become involved in the political affairs appertaining to the Mexican people only.

In consequence, they renounced their allegiance to the Grand Lodge of the Valley of Mexico to form yet another independent Masonic Sovereignty, THE YORK GRAND LODGE OF MEXICO.

This was in 1912.

In explanation, Brother Ernest Tudor Craig, one of the early Masters of the New Body, said:

"Our position in Masonry is somewhat unique. The York Grand Lodge of Mexico is a Grand Lodge composed of York Rite Lodges, and working in the English language with two exceptions, while the so-called Masonry of the indigenous inhabitants is so-called Scottish Rite, and their natural inclination is at least cooperation with, if not subordination to their Supreme Council, thus making the so-called Mexican Grand Lodges subordinate instead of sovereign bodies. IN AMERICAN PRACTICE, IT IS FUNDAMENTAL THAT A GRAND LODGE MUST BE SUPREME IN ITS GOVERNMENT."

When the National Mexican Rite flourished independently, before the merger, of all the Mexican Bodies, Porfirio Diaz received Masonic Light under its auspices. During his long rule of over thirty years, Masonry in Mexico flourished as never before. Eventually he took unto himself a second wife of Catholic persuasion. Supposedly through the influence wrought upon him by her family, he relaxed considerably the iron restrictions until then in force upon the Clericals, allowing them much greater rein than they had ever enjoyed under the Laws of Reform instituted by his great predecessor, BENITO JUAREZ.

As might have been anticipated, once politico-religious interference entered into the hitherto harmonious Mexican polity, trouble began.

Once again the CLERICAL OCTOPUS reared its slimy head in the until then prosperous Mexico.

There happened the inevitable Revolution led by Don Francisco Madero, Jr, 32 A. & A. S. R., ably advised by Brother Pino de Suarez, 33 A. & A. S. R.

Following the flight of Porfirio Diaz,—the very brief, idealistic administration of Mexico's Masonic Martyr, and then the short-lived saturnalia of HUERTA.

History has told us of the cold-blooded assassination of Madero and his Vice President Suarez, in the wee, small hours preceding dawn, while they waited in uncertainty in that place of dark deeds and darker secrets, the Palacio Nacional.

What all the world does not know, is how the Catholic Huerta celebrated the triumph of CLERICALISM by having a solemn Te Deum and the Presentation of the Arms to the Host in the old Cathedral of Mexico City, on the morning following the murder.

Unblushing effrontery you may say, but Huerta thrived through insolence.

Not so easily was foul murder to rear its ghastly and lugubrious head even in Mexico City of 1913, unchallenged.

Two women, the grief-stricken wife of Francisco Madero Jr., and the utterly crushed wife of poor Pino Suarez, addressed a pitiful plea for help, to the sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction A. & A. S. R., of this United States.

In letters short and convincing, they told the sordid tale of murder and rapine, and the true tale of the Black Tragedy was flashed to the civilized world through the New Age, the official journal of the southern Scottish Rite in this country.

In support of their charges against Victoriano Huerta, was the official statement of Brother Rojas, then supreme Representative of the Mexican Scottish Rite.

Could Huerta long remain after civilization knew the Truth?

For a long time, his very effrontery sustained him in power.

Presently came complete collapse.

Followed the inevitable flight of that hoary old champion of CLERICALISM.


Then the Unspeakable Villa.

More Chaos: then HOPE.

It may be that President Carranza will not prove strong enough to hold his coigne of advantage against the insuperable odds offered him by opponents whose motto is THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS—and should it happen so, even as the sun rises in the east to open and illumine the day, so will rise some other MASTER, an Hidalgo, a Guerrero, or yet another Madero, to leap into the bloody breach and fight Clericalism to the last ditch.

For it is written,

LIGHT MUST DAWN IN MEXICO. If the "Frailes" and the "Padres" would live in the land of Hidalgo, they must bow to the wise dictum first enunciated by another great Mason of the long ago,—Brother Napoleon Bonaparte, tersely set forth, "THE PRIEST HAS NO PLACE IN POLITICS."

On Sunday March 11, 1917, an Election was held throughout the Republic of Mexico. With little opposition, CARRANZA was regularly elected President the first constitutional executive to be chosen since the cruel assassination of Francisco I. Madero. A constitutional Convention sitting at Queretaro for the past few months has carefully considered, and revised the Masonic Constitution of 1857 to modernize it and render it a more effective working document compatible with new and untried conditions.

Much of the success of the Carranza administration now having so auspicious a beginning depends upon the continued moral and financial support of the United States of America.

Sensational reports transmitted to this country from various sources insinuate that Germany has been and is making strenuous efforts to enkindle Mexican hatred against the Gringo—that German Reservists are pouring into the southern Republic with the ultimate design of leading an armed invasion against us, on the instant War is declared between the United States and Germany—that the German Bank of Mexico City has practically financed all of Carranza's recent undertakings.

It is possible, even probable, that Germany has left no stone unturned to bring to a successful culmination her intrigues against the United States.

It is improbable that President Carranza could consistently betray the friendly Government whose moral support during his own darkest hours has made possible of realization the dream of the Liberals for a Free and Enlightened Mexico—and the reincarnation of Constitutionality, with its attendant blessings of Free Speech, Free Press, Civil and Religious Liberty.

If Carranza and the Masonic Liberals of Mexico run true to form, the United States can anticipate no danger from the German Menace across the Rio Grande. Instead, we have every reason to anticipate a reciprocity of that utilitarian policy which it has been the joy and pride of this splendid country of ours, to manifest towards Latin America—a policy founded upon the basic principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.