Greatest of American diplomats, hero of the War of Independence, distinguished also as publisher and printer, editor and author, a notable philosopher, a scientist whose valuable discoveries are even today highly esteemed Benjamin Franklin was also a devoted Freemason occupying for many years places of official prominence within the Fraternity.
The genius of Franklin was so overwhelming, and manifested in so many different directions, that no short biography can begin to list his achievements; the American Philosophical Society requires twenty large book pages merely to catalog his inventions, discoveries, accomplishments and the events in which he was intimately concerned. Printer, author, editor, inventor, scientist, diplomat; founder of schools, postal systems, government; ambassador, wit, speaker; philosopher, politician and Freemason, he was not only the amazing intellect, the Voltaire of Colonial America, but one of the most complex and gifted men of all times.
Certain facts of his Masonic career stand out; particularly it is to be noted that Franklin was not merely a lodge member content with that and nothing more, but a Freemason intensely interested in his Craft, willing to give his enormous powers for its welfare, and leaving an indelible impress on its history in America.
Franklin was initiated into Masonry in 1731; probably at the February meeting of St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia. The esteem in which he was held is evidenced by the fact that he was elected Grand Master just a few short years later in 1735.
According to Old Masonic and family traditions, the cornerstone of the Statehouse in Philadelphia (Independence Hall), built while Franklin was Grand Master, was laid by him and the Brethren of St. John’s Lodge.
Franklin lived to be eighty-five years old. Sixty of those years as a Freemason; he lived and wrote and practiced the principles of the Order.
It is not for us to say what he would have been had there been no Freemasonry in his life; it is for us only to revere the Franklin who was among the very greatest of any other nation. Freemasons in America take great pride that this wise philosopher, this leader of men and of nations, had taken to his heart the immutable and eternal principles of the Ancient Craft.
Excerpted from Short Talk Bulletin – Oct. 1933