“What Virtue Unites, Death Cannot Separate”: The Trials of Early Freemasonry in Jamaica, 1739–1800
After the first Masonic lodge formed in Jamaica in 1739, Freemasonry rose to a brief period of success in the colony in the 1770s. Kingston saw a proliferation of Masonic lodges, allowing for complex social stratification along class and ethnic lines. Nonetheless, the organization was hampered by high rates of mortality, causing leadership crises and the collapse of most lodges by 1815. Whereas recent scholarship on eighteenth-century white Jamaicans tends to focus on the colonists’ cultivation of “Englishness”, the rise of Freemasonry illustrates the Euro-Jamaican colonists’ desire to form social networks and identities outside of national boundaries.