September 11th, 1830 – A Crusade Against Secret Societies!


On September 11th, 1830, the United States saw its first political party convention. It was not the Republicans. It was not the Whigs. It was the emergence of the USA’s first “third party,” a group of citizens on a crusade against corruption, nepotism, and secret societies running the country . . . they were the Anti-Masonic Party.

Anti-Masonic Party

Formed in upstate New York in February 1828, the Anti-Masonic Party were opponents of Freemasonry, asserting that it was a corrupt and elitist secret society that were in opposition to the principles of a republic. During this time of the Industrial Revolution, social upheaval, migration to the west, weakened communities and weakened family relationships, caused many to become skeptical of government and other longstanding institutions.

Opposition to Masonry was taken up by some churches as a religious crusade, particularly in what became known as the Burned-over district. Many churches passed resolutions condemning ministers and lay leaders who were Masons, and several denominations condemned Freemasonry, including the Presbyterian, Congregational, Methodist, and Baptist churches, as well as several others.

Western New York saw the movement become a political issue in early 1827 with many mass meetings resolved to support no Mason for public office. At this time the supporters of President John Quincy Adams, called Adams men, or Anti-Jacksonians, or National Republicans, were a feeble organization. Shrewd Adams supporters determined to use the strong anti-Masonic feeling to create a new party in opposition to the rising Jacksonian Democracy nationally, and the Albany Regency political organization of Martin Van Buren in New York. In this effort they were aided by the fact that Andrew Jackson was a high-ranking Mason. In the elections of 1828 the new party proved unexpectedly strong. Though its candidate for Governor of New York, Solomon Southwick was defeated, the Anti-Masonic Party became the main opposition party in New York.


William Adams Palmer (September 12th, 1781 – December 3rd, 1860)

By 1830 the Anti-Masonic movement’s effort to broaden its appeal enabled it to spread to neighboring states, becoming especially strong in Pennsylvania and Vermont. In 1831, William A. Palmer was elected Governor of Vermont on an Anti-Masonic ticket, an office he held until 1835. Palmer’s brother-in-law, Augustine Clarke was an Anti-Masonic presidential elector in 1832, served as Vermont State Treasurer from 1833 to 1837, and was appointed to the Anti-Masonic National Committee in 1837. Other Vermont Anti-Masonic electors in 1832 included former Governor Ezra Butler and former United States Representative William Strong.

Although lasting only a decade, the Anti-Masonic Party introduced important innovations to American politics, such as nominating conventions and the adoption of party platforms.


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