The antimasonic movement found its most receptive audience and greatest political success in Vermont. This movement began after the disappearance and assumed murder in Canandaigua, New York, of a man who threatened to reveal in print the rituals of the Free Masons, a secret fraternal society. The affair provoked widespread anger and suspicion at the institution, which was seen as antidemocratic. This was especially true in Vermont. Many of the Masons were merchants and professionals who held influential political positions and seemed to be benefiting from changes in Vermont’s economy.
Citizens who felt frustrated by limited opportunities
and increasing social and economic inequalities lashed out at
the organization. Antimasonry grew into an insurgent political movement;
Antimasonic Party was America’s first major third party. Vermont gave its electoral votes for president to the Antimasonic candidate in 1832, and in four consecutive elections for governor beginning in 1831. The movement quickly declined after that, however, and most antimasons drifted into the Whig Party—but not before most Masonic chapters closed.
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