Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe

By Margaret C. Jacob | Go to book overview

5
Freemasonry, Women, and the Paradox of the Enlightenment

Sheltered from the sight of the profane and in the home of Brother P. Chevalier, the 23 of July 1755 . . . the lodge having been opened, the resignation of [three brothers, named] was accepted, as no brother within masonry objected to this . . . nevertheless there was unanimous regret on the part of all the brothers. 1

Most masonic lodges did not meet in private homes. Yet the Amsterdam lodge Concordia vincit Animos did so on the occasion when it regretfully accepted the routine resignation of three brothers, out of the sight of the profane, in July 1755. What was important was that this gathering at the home of M. Chevalier not be "in the sight of the profane." We can only speculate as to where Mme. Chevalier may have been on the evening of 23 July. On another occasion when the lodge met in a private home it could not find "anywhere to retire"; consequently, the lodge was never formally opened. 2

Perhaps on the evening in question Mme. Chevalier was in attendance at the local Walloon church; Pierre Chevalier was an official there, its reader. The lodge that met in his home had in it many men of French origin. There was also, however, a fair sample of Dutch surnames. We know some of them through the records, where they are described as a wine merchant, a watchmaker, a manufacturer of glass, a schoolmaster, a doctor, or, simply, as merchants. 3 Neither they nor the Dutch brothers could be described in social rank as anything other than comfortably bourgeois, literate, and prosperous enough to afford the dues. Although the lodge was visited from time to time by titled gentlemen -- a Dutch baron, for instance -- this was not a particularly elite gathering.

In retrospect, its most important, and unexpected, member was the noted French

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