Benjamin Franklin Is Born!
On This day in Masonic History Benjamin Franklin is born in 1706.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and a polymath, a person who is recognized as an expert in multiple fields.
Franklin was born on January 17th, 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. Franklin’s parents wanted him to join the clergy, although they only had enough money to send him to school for two years. He attended the Boston Latin School, although he never graduated. From the age of 10, Franklin was essentially self-educated. At the age of 12, he took an apprenticeship with his older brother who was a printer. Despite his lack of formal education, Franklin dedicated himself to his own education and for others.
In 1721, Franklin’s brother founded The New-England Courant newspaper. Franklin wanted to publish letters, opinion pieces he wrote, in the Courant. When his brother refused, Franklin sent the letters in under the name of Silence Dogood, a middle-aged widow. Franklin wrote several letters and caused a stir in town by the subject of some of the letters. When Franklin’s brother found out it was his younger brother he was furious.
In 1722, Franklin’s brother was arrested for printing unflattering information about the Governor. Franklin for a brief time ran the paper. In 1723, Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, technically he was a fugitive because he left his apprenticeship without the permission of his brother.
Once in Philadelphia, Franklin made connections with a variety of people as he worked in a print shop. Within a few months of arriving in Philadelphia, the Governor of Pennsylvania asked Franklin to go to London and see about purchasing equipment for a new newspaper in Philadelphia. The Governors support fell through and Franklin ended up taking a job in London. He did not return until 1726. The three years Franklin spent in London had an influence on him. The Enlightenment was in full swing in the coffeehouses around London and Franklin happily participated in the conversations of the day.
In 1727, after returning to Philadelphia, Franklin started the Junto a group of like-minded tradesmen and artisans who were hoping to better themselves and the people around them through open discussions and reading the books of the time. Since most of the members of Junto had little money, at Franklin’s suggestion, they formed the books they all owned into one library for their mutual education. Later he formed a subscription library, which became the Library Company of Philadelphia. The Library Company is now one of the great scholarly and research libraries.
Franklin also worked in the newspaper business. With the Philadelphia Gazette, Franklin formed a basic network of newspapers from various different colonies, the first such network of its kind. Franklin also used the Gazette for agitation for local reform as well.
Franklin had an illegitimate son named William Franklin. Most notably, William during the American Revolution was a staunch loyalist and Governor of New Jersey. This caused a great rift between father and son, which was never resolved. Although there is some indication Ben did reach out to William.
Although Franklin wrote a variety of things, his most famous is his Poor Richard’s Almanac. The almanac included witty gems such as “Fish and visitors stink in three days” and the often misquoted “A penny saved is twopence dear.” Daylight Savings Time is often attributed to Franklin, although this is something of a myth and is based on a satirical publication by Franklin.
Franklin was fascinated with the natural sciences and often was involved in experiments. His experiments with lightning led to the creation of the Lightning Rod, although in Europe it was banned for many years as the church declared it was not possible to control the elements of nature and it was sacrilege to try. Franklin also worked in the fields of Meteorology, he conducted experiments with cooling and evaporation, Oceanography, Music, and a variety of other disciplines.
Franklin also worked in the area of Civil Service. He formed one of the first volunteer fire departments in America and he was the Post Maser of Philadelphia. He helped form places of higher learning, as well as libraries around the American colonies.
Franklin entered the political arena as the American colonies drew closer to the Revolutionary War. He was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress and was on the Committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. He made “small but important” additions to the document Thomas Jefferson sent him. He famously said in response to John Hancock, who had said they must all hang together, “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Throughout Franklin’s life, he was a proponent of Freedom of Speech. He recognized the open exchange of ideas and philosophies was critical to any Free Society.
Franklin spent much of the Revolutionary War in Europe trying to gain support for the American cause.
Franklin passed away on April 17th, 1790.
Franklin was a member of St. Johns Lodge in Philadelphia. He was initiated in 1731. In 1734, he became the Grand Master of Masons in Pennsylvania.