Truman’s Entered Apprentice Reply

by Midnight Freemason Contributor

R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

One of the joys of reading history is discovering moments that illuminate something in the past, especially about a person’s character. Prominent men and women leave a trail of public and private papers, and historians comb through them, hoping to flesh out stories of great and important events. But it’s the little things, the mundane, that are often the most fruitful.

Harry Truman, as County Judge, Senator, Vice President, President, and Grand Master of Masons in Missouri, left behind a vast library of documents. His correspondence in particular is worth reading, and one letter he wrote on March 10, 1941, tells something of his attitude toward the caliber of men he called “Brother.” It seems that an Entered Apprentice was wearing the square and compasses about town, and the lodge secretary, concerned about this breach of Masonic practice, wrote the Grand Master to ask what he ought to do about it. Truman replied as follows:

“A fellow is misrepresenting the facts, of course, when he wears a Square and Compasses when he has not yet finished the first three degrees. Usually a little reasoning convinces these fellows that they are not helping themselves nor the Fraternity by being forehanded and over enthusiastic. I have had the same experiences at home, and I am sure that if you will tell these fellows just exactly what they are doing, they will stop it.”

It’s not often that so short a document can illustrate one man’s intelligence, easy authority, and basic decency, but this one does it. In three sentences, he affirmed that the secretary was right in his understanding of Masonic practice, informed him that correction was called for, and exemplified the gentle, respectful, and personal nature of the correction required. It’s a brilliant bit of writing, in a real voice that’s recognizably Truman’s, and thoroughly Masonic. It assigns no motives other than enthusiasm, and assumes the intelligent good will of all involved.

Harry Truman was not naïve: he knew evil existed, that there were bad men in the world, and that force was often necessary. But he preferred to start from a position that assumed decency and trust, for he knew if he did not then neither decency nor trust would be achieved. It’s a lesson of history, contained in one short and routine letter, from a too-busy Grand Master and Senator to a lodge secretary: Harry Truman was a Mason to his marrow.


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley is the Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M. He is the Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He’s also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He’s also a member of the newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.



I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.

With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and the sides fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled
And the kind you would hire, if you had to build?”

And he gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.

I can easily wreck in a day or two
What other builders have taken a year to do.”

And I thought to myself as I went my way,
“Which of these roles have I tried to play?”

Am I a builder that works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square.

Am I shaping my deeds to a well made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?

Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down.”



Tonight I have the pleasure
To all I must confess
To Give to you this toast
To Our Visitors and Our Guest

The fellowship that you bring tonight
Is something that can’t compare
You know we like to see you
And glad that your always there

The Harmony, the chat and jokes we have…
With our old and new found friends
We wish it could last for hours
And somehow never end.

But ……. all good things must come to an end
And we go our separate way
We hope you enjoyed yourself tonight
And return again someday

And now I ask the members
To raise a glass in cheer
To toast to all our visitors
Who Supported us this year.
By Mike Bauer

Thanks for visiting the page



The lodge with the highest meeting place on the globe is Roof of the World Lodge No. 1094, of Oroya, Peru. The elevation of the lodge room in the Andes Mountains is 14,167 above see level. The closet competitor in the United States is Corinthian Lodge No. 35 at Leadsville, Colorado elevation about 10,200 feet.

The character of a Freemason.

The character of a Freemason.

The real Freemason is distinguished from the rest of Mankind by the uniform unrestrained rectitude of his conduct. Other men are honest in fear of punishment which the law might inflect; they are religious in expectation of being rewarded, or in dread of the devil, in the next world. A Freemason would be just if there were no laws, human or divine except those written in his heart by the finger of his Creator. In every climate, under every system of religion, he is the same. He kneels before the Universal Throne of God in gratitude for the blessings he has received and humble solicitation for his future protection. He venerates the good men of all religions. He disturbs not the religion of others. He restrains his passions, because they cannot be indulged without injuring his neighbor or himself. He gives no offense, because he does not choose to be offended. He contracts no debts which he is certain he cannot discharge, because he is honest upon principle.”