As we celebrated our nation’s 244th birthday this past Saturday, this week we’re highlighting the amazing accomplishments of Bro. Ben Franklin, one of the most notable Freemasons in American history. Not only was he fervently dedicated to the craft as an active Mason for 60 years, but he made a lasting impact on American society with his inventions, discoveries, and accomplishments.
An intellect, author, editor, inventor, scientist, politician, and most importantly, Freemason, it’s no secret that Bro. Ben Franklin has left his mark on American history. Born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, MA as the fifteenth of seventeen children, Bro. Franklin grew up with the intent to pursue a career in journalism. He started his career as an apprentice printer for his brother, James Franklin, the creator of the first independent newspaper in the colonies. At age 24 he then continued on to work for the Pennsylvania Gazette, where prior to his initiation, he would make light of Freemasonry in writings. Some historians believe that this was his way to promote himself to his district’s lodge. He was initiated in either 1730 or 1731 at St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia. Once he was a member, his style of writing changed in the Gazette, where his tone shifted towards tremendous praise about Freemasonry in America, especially in Pennsylvania. We often refer to these writings when learning about the beginnings of Freemasonry in the United States.
It’s no surprise that Bro. Franklin made an impression on the Brothers of St. John’s Lodge quickly, due to his wit, public servitude, courageousness, and outgoing personality. Only a year after joining, he was a member of the committee drafting by-laws of St. John’s Lodge; on June 24, 1732, he was appointed as Junior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and then Grand Master in 1734, according to his personal records. In 1735, he was elected Secretary, an office which he held for three years. As we know, typically several years of service occur before a brother receives any recognition in Grand Lodge.
Bro. Franklin also published The Constitutions of the Freemasons, the first Masonic book printed in America. It was a reprint of Anderson’s Constitutions, first published in England and containing Masonic history, charges, regulations, and more. Copies of Franklin’s publication are cherished treasures in various Masonic libraries around the country.
He visited various lodges around the Northeast and Europe and was present at important meetings and ceremonies, including the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1754. In June of 1760, he was elected a Provincial Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England and was officially entered into the minutes at their November 1760 meeting in London. As he eventually was sent to France as an ambassador for the United States, his first actions were those affiliated with Masonic Lodges. In 1777 he was elected a member of “Loge des Neuf Soeurs” of Paris, and a year later he assisted in Voltaire’s initiation into this lodge. He went on to also become a member of Respectable Lodge de Saint Jean de Jerusalem in 1782, and the next year was elected Venerable d’Honneur of that body. In 1783 he was also elected an honorary member of Lodge des Bons Amis, Rouen. Seven short years later, after much more meaningful, Masonic work, Bro. Franklin passed away on April 17, 1790, at 84 years old.
He is remembered for his whole life of service and unmatchable genius. He was an excellent philosopher and ambassador that not only laid the foundation of Masonic history but the entire country as a whole with his diplomacy and political skills. It’s nearly impossible not to draw parallels between Masonic ideas and the way Bro. Franklin lived. He made tremendous improvements in the lives of people who needed it but never forced his way into the lives of others. He invented a new form of glasses, pondered daylight savings, and discovered the electrical currents of lightning. He improved the printing press, bolstered the American Army and Navy, provided light to the city of Philadelphia, and invented hundreds of everyday gadgets whose descendants we use to this day. We are honored that we may call this incredibly influential Founding Father “Brother.”
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