Joyce Appleby told me about a book that argued for a central role for the Masonic Order in the Industrial Revolution. I never found the book, but the idea makes a great deal of sense to me.
I have added a unique perspective to the history of the Industrial Revolution and modernity. Because a foundational element of both is meritocracy, one needs to explain how meritocratic people got out from under the oppressive rule of the hereditary elites.
I have supported the ‘great empire theory’ which helps explain how the meritocratic second and third siblings were able to leave their home country and be creative overseas; like Winston Churchill and many of America’s entrepreneurial geniuses.
My important contribution is to understand that the vast West of America played the same role for meritocratic dissidents to leave homes where the power restraining them was too oppressive.
One of the missing ingredients in my thinking is ‘how did these meritocrats’ find each other and get help in starting businesses?”.
The answer is found in the stories of John Paul Jones and Wallace Stegner’s grandfather.
Jones was a Scots outsider, but a good ship’s captain. It was when Ben Franklin brought him into the Masonic Order that he flourished and got good ships.
Stegner’s grandfather was a civil engineer in the unsettled wild west. Although a politically unskilled man without money he was still able to build bridges and dams because he was a Mason and his fellow Masons helped him everywhere he wandered.
The Masonic Order provided the social and network infrastructure that the meritocratic Americans needed to build the modern world.