Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin


Benjamin Franklin

January 17, 1706: Writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher

Writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher,  Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. One of the most famous Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin was the fifteenth of seventeen children, his parents desired for him to join the clergy. Financial difficulties prevented his parents to support his education for only two years, Franklin self-educated from the age of 10. When he was 12 years old, he became an apprentice to his older brother James, the publisher of the first independent newspaper in the American colonies.

By the time he was 24 years old, Franklin started writing columns in the Pennsylvania Gazette, when in the December 3-8, 1730 edition, it was reported that several Lodges of Free-Masons were meeting in the province. This early account of Freemasonry in the Americas has some historians debating Franklin’s true intent on publishing articles about the fraternity prior to his initiation. It is likely the future Brother’s writings were to promote himself to nearby St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia, to familiarize the Masonic brothers with him and his writings. Other historians believe the witty articles were penned by an ignorant man, not familiar with the fraternity.

Franklin was raised a Master Mason a few months later in St. John’s Lodge in 1731 and was elected Secretary (1735-1738). 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.

Within a year after his raising, Brother Franklin was part of the by-laws committee of St. John’s Lodge. Active in the fraternity for over fifty years, serving as Grand Junior Warden in 1732 and Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1734 and Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1749. In 1734, Brother Franklin edited and published the first Masonic book in the Americas, The Constitutions of the Freemasons, a reprint of James Anderson’s Constitutions of the Free-Masons in England.


Benjamin Franklin

Brother Franklin was a traveling man in the true sense, visiting several lodges on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Elected a Provincial Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England in 1760, his Masonic passport was in full use during his time as ambassador to France. He was a conductor with Antoine Court de Gébelin in the initiation of French Enlightenment writer Voltaire into the “Loge des Neuf Soeurs” in Paris just one month before the philosopher’s death in 1778.  The “Loge des Neuf Soeurs” was a prominent Masonic Lodge of the Grand Orient de France chartered in 1776, its name references the nine Muses, the daughters of Mnemosyne/Memory, an important part of French culture representing the arts and sciences of Greek mythology. Franklin joined the lodge along with U.S. Naval Captain John Paul Jones in 1778 and was elected Venerable Master of The Lodge of Nine Sisters, serving from 1779 to 1781. He was succeeded in the East by the Marquis de La Salle.

The Lodge of the Nine Sisters were very influential in organizing French support for the American Revolution, counting among its members that included some of the world’s greatest minds. Franklin’s membership in this important lodge enabled him to promote the ideals behind American Revolution, increasing French support for the Revolution but inspired somewhat the French Revolution later. Brother Frankin was also a member and elected elected Venerable d’Honneur of Respectable Lodge de Saint Jean de Jerusalem and an honorary member of Lodge des Bons Amis, Rouen.

Franklin passed away on April 17th, 1790, at the age of 85; 60 of those years as a Freemason. He lived, wrote and practiced the principles of the Fraternity and was not merely an observant sideliner, but a Brother intensely interested in the Craft, practicing the principles of the Freemasonry.

“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. Masonic labor is purely a labor of love. He who seeks to draw Masonic wages in silver and gold will be disappointed. The wages of a Mason are earned and paid in their dealings with one another; sympathy begets sympathy, kindness begets kindness, helpfulness begets helpfulness, and these are the wages of a Mason.”
Brother Benjamin Franklin

Written by Wor. Bro. Ronald J. Seifried, DSA
Trustee Chairman and Historian, Jephtha Lodge No. 494 F. & A.M.
Area 1 Historian, Nassau and Suffolk Masonic Districts
Co-Editor, Craftsmen Online NY Masonic History column
32° Scottish Rite,  Valley of Rockville Centre
Companion of Asharokan Chapter No. 288, Royal Arch Masons
Member of Suffolk Council No. 76, Cryptic Masons
Author, “Long Island Freemasons,” Arcadia Publishing, 2020

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