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Monday, July 09, 2007

Even the Founding Fathers Had to Worry About Gay-Baiting

George Mason University's History News Network:
Even the Founding Fathers Had to Worry About Gay-Baiting

By Thomas A. Foster

Mr. Foster teaches history at DePaul University. He is the author of Sex and the Eighteenth Century Man: Massachusetts and the History of Sexuality in America and editor of Long Before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America.


... An unusual image from a Massachusetts colonial newspaper reveals that even the founding generations had to watch how they carried themselves. The satire implied that the Freemasons, that venerable, but disturbingly secretive, fraternity that so many of our Founding Fathers belonged to – the group that was made popular in the movie National Treasure -- were engaged in homoerotic intimacy. The satire included a graphic engraving that appeared on the front page of the Boston Evening Post in 1751.

It was one of the few times for an engraving to appear in a newspaper accompanying a poem. Together the image and poem mocked the Freemasons and their virtuous manhood – an early version of gay-baiting to be sure. The rarity of an engraving in itself would have captured readers’ attention. The image itself, however, was designed to shock. It depicted two smiling men, one bent over receiving a trunnel, or wooden spike, the other, with a hammer raised overhead, ready to strike.

The poem included several lines that implied the Freemasons enjoyed penetrating each other as the image depicted:

I’m sure our TRUNNELS look’d as clean
As if they ne’re up A—se had been;
For when we use ‘em, we take care
To wash ‘em well, and give ‘em Air,
Then lock ‘em up in our own Chamber,
Ready to TRUNNEL the next Member.

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  • At 10/7/07 8:38 AM, Blogger Steve said…

    As I'm sure many are aware, at the time of this writing, homoerotic behavior was often a capital crime, as what was not? There have always been allegations of homoerotic sex levelled at the Freemasons by the anti-Masonic movement. Secret organizations draw conspiracists like flies to sugar. By the 1820s, this had grown into the first third political party in the U.S., the Anti-Masonic Party, which actually fielded a Presidential candidate.

    The folks in the 18th Century were much more sexually active than we are taught. In an exhibit at the Smithsonian, about everyday life in the 17th and 18th century, it is pointed out that over 70% of the women getting married were already pregnant.


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