Craig Shirley

It was a beautiful day as accounts noted. September 18, 1793, found President George Washington decked out in his ceremonial Masonic apron festooned with the universal Masonic square and compass symbols.

That day, in a Masonic ritual, the president laid the cornerstone to the U.S. Capitol along with a dedicatory silver plate.

In a mysterious turn of events sometime thereafter, the priceless plate and cornerstone disappeared. Eluded by investigators and searches and clouded by false claims of discovery throughout the decades, the issue remains a puzzlement. Further complicating the matter is bureaucratic incompetence and a cover-up by the office of the Architect of the Capitol.

The disappearance of the silver plate and cornerstone is but one of many mysteries surrounding Washington’s beloved Masonry. Perhaps long ago these artifacts were taken covertly by the Masons in order to protect them from people bent on destroying them and their legacy. 

Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown’s next book will delve into the secrets of Masonry in the nation’s capital. But it is almost certain he is unaware of a recent and crucial discovery: A piece of the long-missing cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol has been found.

Covered in a veil of secrecy and abstruseness, the Masonic order is known as The Craft, The Brotherhood, Freemasonry but, most commonly, Masonry. A philanthropic fraternity, the organization has been dogged by rumors of devil worship and occult practices. Some around-the-bend conspiracy theorists have charged that Masons orchestrated the assassination of JFK, but even Oliver Stone did not go there.

Masonry is an organization whose origins are shrouded in mystery and ancient secrets. Their rituals and meetings were and are furtive, which led to a long-forgotten national scandal and alleged murder of an out-of-favor Mason, William Morgan, which just might have a direct bearing on the missing cornerstone.

The “Morgan Affair” as it became know exploded across American in the early 1800’s and drove Masonry deep into the shadows of American society.

It is not known when the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol was discovered missing. In fact, its precise and initial location continues to be the subject of some dispute to this day.

In spite of developing extensive cornerstone laying rituals  the Masons had not in their earlier years included a regularization of precisely where to put a building’s cornerstone. In fact, it wasn’t until the 18th century that Masons would begin to perform their rituals in the northeast corner of a structure.     


Craig Shirley

Craig Shirley is the president of the President of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs and the author of two books on the 40th president, Reagan's Revolution and Rendezvous with Destiny.