This book explores the role of freemasonry in the Volunteer movement of the 1780s and in the struggles over Catholic emancipation, parliamentary reform, revolution and counter-revolution in the 1790s. Based on original research, the book addresses many common myths about the nature of early Irish freemasonry. It also explores the controversial relationship between masonry and Orangeism. The masonic lodge had many other roles besides secret rituals, convivial gatherings, and occasional political involvement. Lodges provided a measure of social security for the members, helped emigrants integrate, enforced a code of respectable behaviour and arbitrated in disputes. Their public parades on St John's Day displayed masonic ceremonial rituals to the wider community. By 1800, there may have been as many as 20,000 freemasons in Ulster alone, many of them Catholics.