Greatest of American diplomats, hero of the War of Independence, distinguished also as publisher and printer, editor and author, a notable philosopher whose instructive wisdom always charms and edifies, a scientist whose valuable discoveries are even today highly esteemed fundamental additions to practical knowledge he was a devoted Freemason occupying for many years places of official prominence and serving his Brethren with conspicuous Masonic zeal and aptitude.
Born at Boston, Massachusetts, he had only two years of school and at the age of ten left to work for his father in soap and candle making. At thirteen apprenticed to his brother James, a printer and publisher who started in 1721 a newspaper, the New England Courant, Franklin soon commenced to write both verse and prose, the latter quaint and vigorous of timely argument on public questions. Franklin went to rev York and in 1723 to Philadelphia, working as a printer. Encouraged to go into business for himself, he left for England, December, 1724, but the promised support failed and as a printer he was employed at London until October, 1796, when he again reached Philadelphia to resume his position there as a workman. In 1728 he formed a printing partnership.
Two years later he owned the business. From 1729-65 he published and edited the Pennsylvania Gazette. His enterprising career was industrious and capable in the extreme, a record not readily condensed in a brief article. He taught himself the use of several languages, made his influence multiplied by the printing press, his witty Almanacs brightly written for a quarter of a century averaged a sale of 10,000 copies annually. Postmaster in 1737, he also with twenty-three other citizens in 1749 founded an academy that became the University of Pennsylvania, a promoter of the American Philosophical Society, the organizer of the Junto a compact debating club somehow curiously resembling in its practices the same exchange of thought characterizing many past and present French Lodges to which Franklin may easily have contributed some influence if only by example.
Active in forming the first police force in the Colonies, starting the fire department, the militia, improving street paving, bettering the street lighting, introducing hospital service, and so forth, it has truly been said of him that he gave in his day the impulse to nearly every project for the welfare of his city. A member of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, for almost twenty years in joint charge of the mails in the Colonies, delegated to the Albany Convention where he submitted a plan for colonial union, he was later entrusted with the raising of troops and the building of forts in the wilderness against the Indians. Recalled from this western responsibility, he was sent eastward, to England, as the agent of the protesting Colonies.
Honored by the freedom of the city of Edinburgh, made a Doctor of Laws by the University of Saint Andrews, Doctor of Civil Law by Oxford, he was already a Master of Arts at Harvard, at Yale, and at the College of William and Mary. Returning to handle successfully public service at home, he was once more employed abroad to represent the Colonies at a Committee of the English Parliament, and was back in Philadelphia in 1775.
v delegate to the Continental Congress, Post-Master General, on the Commission to Canada, one of the five to prepare the Declaration of Independence, President of the Constitutional Convention of Pennsylvania, chosen by Congress one of three to discuss terms of peace with Admiral Howe in 1776, Commissioner to France where John Adams wrote of him "Franklin's reputation was more universal than that of Leibnitz or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire; and his character more esteemed and beloved than all of them." Of his shrewd forcefulness we may read the dramatic estimate of Thackeray in the Virginians (chapter 9).
A member appointed in 1781 of the Commission to make peace with England, he also made treaties with Sweden and Prussia. Going home he at once was elected on the Municipal Council of Philadelphia and its chairman, then President of the Supreme Executive Council, and twice reelected Delegate to the Convention of 1787 framing the Federal Constitution, President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery --signing a petition to Congress in 1790 and six weeks later in his old spirited style he defended with wit and literary art this plea. Last of his remarkable exploits for the public good these efforts just preceded his serene death in his home at Philadelphia on April 17, 1790.
Franklin's Masonic connections are discussed in Beginnings of Freemasonry in America by Brother Melvin M. Johnson, P. G. M.; Benjamin Franklin as a Freemason by Brother Julius F. Sachse; Une Loge Maconnique d'Avant 1789, by Brother Louis Amiable, the latter work being the history of the Lodge of the Nine Sisters, or Muses, at Paris. Other sources of information are mentioned in the text. A concise statement of Franklin's activities of leading interest to Freemasons is as follows:
1705 6, January 6, Old Style, born at Boston, Massachusetts (New Style, January 17, 1706). 1727, organized the Leathern Apron Club, a secret society, at Philadelphia (see Franklin as a Freemason pages 7-9, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania 1850, volume u, page 495). 1730-1, February, initiated in Saint John's Lodge, Philadelphia (see Liberal in Collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; also An Account of Saint John's 1732, June, drafted a set of By-laws for Saint John's Lodge (see Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1885, pages 37-39). 1732, June 24, elected Junior Grand Warden (see Pennsylvania Gazette, No 187, June 26, 1732). 1734, June 24, elected Grand Master of Pennsylvania (see Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 290, June 2" 1734). 1734, August, advertised his Mason Boolc, a reprint of Anderson's Constitutions of the Free- Masons, the first Masonic book printed in America (see Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 284, May 9 to May 16, 1734). 1734, November 28, wrote as Grand Master to Brother Henry Price at Boston two fraternal letters, one officially regarding Masonic affairs and the other less formal (see Price, Henry) 1734-5, the State House, Independence Hall, built during Franklin's administration as Grand Masters According to the old Masonic and family traditions the cornerstone was laid by him and the Brethren of Saint John's Lodge (set Votes of the Assembly; Etting's History of Independence Hall, also date on water spouts of the Hall) 1735-8, served as Secretary of Saint John's Lodge (see Liber B. 1731-8). 1738, April 13, Franklin, in a letter to his mother wrote, "Freemasons have no principles or practices that are inconsistent with religion and good manners." (See original draft in Franklin's handwriting in his Commonplace Book in Collection of Historical Society of Pennsylvania ) 1743, May 25, visited First Lodge (Saint John's) Boston (see Proceedings Grand Lodge of Massachusetts 1733-92) page 390). 1749, June 10, appointed Provincial Grand Master by Thomas Oxnard, of Boston (see Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1882, page 157). 1749, August 29, Tun Tavern Lodge petitioned Provincial Grand Master Franklin for a " Deputation under his sanction" (see manuscript, Minutes of the Tun Tavern Lodge)1750, March 13, deposed as Provincial Grand Master and immediately appointed Deputy Grand Master by William Allen, Provincial Grand Master (see Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1882, page 157). 1752, Marsh 12, appointed on Committee for buildings the "Freemason's Lodge" in Philadelphia (see original manuscript in Masonic Temple Library, Philadelphia). 1752. October 25, visited the Tun Tavern Lodge (see manuscript Minutes of the Tun Tavern Lodge). 1754, October 11, present at Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, held in Concert Hall, Boston (see Proceedings, Grand Lodge of Massachusetts 1733-92, page 34, and 1871, page 361). 1755, June 24 took a prominent part in the Grand Anniversary and Dedication of the "Freemason's Lodge" in Philadelphia, the first Masonic building in America (see Pennstilvania Gazette, No. 1384. July 3, 1755; also A Sermon preached in Christ Church. Philadelphia 1755, in Collection of Historical Society of Pennsylvania). 1759, October 10, visitor to Lodge Saint David, Edinburgh, Scotland (see Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, 1908 volume xxi, Part 3, page 270). 1760, Provincial Grand Master of Philadelphia (see Noorthouck's Constitutions, page 276 edition of 1784 London) 1760, November 17, present at Grand Lodge of England, held at Crown & Anchor, London. Entered upon the Minutes as "Provincial Grand Master" (see Minute Book of Grand Lodge of England). 1762, addressed as Grand Master of Pennsylvania (ses letters to Franklin from Brother Valentz in Collection of American Philosophical Society). 1776, affiliated with Masonic Lodges in France (see documents in Collection of American Philosophical Society) 1778, April 7, assisted at the initiation of Voltaire in the Lodge of the Nine Sisters, Loge des Neuf Soeurs meaning Nine Sisters or Muses a famous Lodge at Paris (see Amiable's Une Loge Magonnique d'Avant 1787, page 65); Lantoines Histoire de la Franc-Maonnerie Francaise; Kloss Historp of Freemasonry in France). 1778, affiliated with Loge des Neuf Soeurs at Paris Presumably the example of Franklin was not without influence on the resolution taken by the leader of philosophy to be accepted a Freemason; and on the other hand if is certain that the initiation of Voltaire determined the Illustrious American to become affiliated with the Nine Sisters (Lodge)-" " The name of Franklin comes a little after that of Voltaire on the printed list of 1779"(see Une Loge Maonnique d'Avant 1789, page 145). 1778,-November 28, officiated at the Lodge of Sorrou) or Maonic funeral services of Voltaire (see Manuseript in Collection of American Philosolyhical Society also Medal struck in honor of the occasion in Masonic Temple Library, Philadelphia. Brother Hnwkins states that another specimen of this rare medal is in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Mecklenburg. Germany). 1779, May 21, elected Worshipful Master of the Lodge of the Sine Sisters and the committee in notifying him at Passy, near Paris, spoke of the Important and many affairs in which he was engaged and that note withstanding that responsibility he could find time to "follow the sessions of the Freemasons as though a brother of utmost leisure." Franklin was Worshipful Master for two years his authority being renewed in 1780 (see Une Loge Maonnique d'Atant 1789, by Brother Louis Amiable 1897, pages 136, 145). 1782, elected Venerable, meaning Worshipful Master of Loge des Neuf Soeurs, Grand Orient de Paris (see documents in Collection of American Philosophical Society) 1782, July 7, member of the Respectable Lodge de Saint Jean de.Jerusalem (see docurnents in Collection of American Philosophical Society). 1785, April 24, elected Venerable d'Honneur of Respectable Lodge de Saint Jean de Jerusalem (see documents in Collection of American Philosophical Society). 1785, elected honorary member of Loge des Ron Amis, Good Friends, Rouen, France (see documents in Collection of University of Pennsylvania). 1786, December 27, in the dedication of a sermon delivered at the request of the R. W. Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, by Reverend Joseph Pilmore in Saint Paul's Church, Philadelphia, Franklin is referred to as " an Illustrious Brother whose distinguished merit among Masons entitled him to their highest veneration" (copy of the book is on Collection of Historical Society of Pennsylvania and. in Masonic Temple Library Philadelphia). 1790, April 17 Benjamin Franklin passed to the Grand Lodge above l906, April 19, memorial services at his grave in Christ Church yard, S- E corner Fifth and Arch Sts., Philadelphia, by the officers of the R. NV. Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania "the occasion being to observe the two hunderedth anniversary of the birth of Brother Benjamin Franklin.
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