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James Buchanan Jr. is Born

Today in Masonic History James Buchanan Jr. is born in 1791.

James Buchanan Jr. was an American President.

Buchanan was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania on April 23rd, 1791. The area has been since renamed to Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park. Buchanan attended Old Stone Academy and later Dickinson College. He graduated with honors, at one point he was almost expelled though. His poor behavior was the reason given for the near dismissal. After his graduation in 1809 he traveled to Lancaster to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1812.

Buchanan was a staunch Federalist. He initially opposed the War of 1812 considering it unnecessary. Eventually he joined a volunteer light dragoon unit to defend Baltimore when the British invaded. He served as a private and he is, to date, the only American President with military service who did not serve as an officer.

Buchanan began his political career in 1814 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He served until 1816 under the Federalist Party.

In 1820, Buchanan was elected to the United States House of Representatives and served for four consecutive terms until from 1821 to 1831. In 1834, with the Federalist Party defunct he was elected to serve in the United States Senate. He served in the Senate until 1845 when he resigned to accept the nomination of President James Polk of Secretary of State. Shortly after Polk nominated him as Secretary of State he wanted to nominate Buchanan as a Supreme Court Justice. Buchanan declined wanting to continue working on the Oregon Treaty. Buchanan served as Secretary of State under Polk until 1849. It is of note, to date, Buchanan is the last Secretary of State to be elected President.

In 1853 Buchanan became the minister (ambassador) to the Court of St. James’s (Britain) he served in this capacity until 1856. He had also previously served as minister to Russia in 1832 and 1833.

In 1856, Buchanan was nominated by the Democratic Convention to the Presidential nominee of the party. It was a nomination he did not actively seek, neither did he discourage the nominations, he had several opportunities to do so. He took office in 1857. At the time he took office he was the oldest president in American history and the last president born in the 18th century. He served only one term as he promised in his inauguration address. Also in the address he stated he wanted to see the issue of slavery resolved in the Supreme Court.

It was just days into Buchanan’s Presidency when the Dred Scott decision was handed down from the Supreme Court. In the decision the Supreme Court declared the United States Congress had no constitutional authority to prohibit slavery.

It was at the end of Buchanan’s term as President when the secession of states had begun. By the time Buchanan left office all southern forts had been lost or abandoned except Fort Sumter which was where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Buchanan passed away on June 1st, 1868. He was a lifelong bachelor.

Buchanan was a member of Masonic Lodge No. 43 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He also served as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

This article provided by Today in Masonic History at

Today In Masonic History

Benjamin Franklin Is Born!
Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

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.

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Jupiter and Saturn Will Align to Create the First “Christmas Star” in Nearly 800 Years

As 2020 comes to a close, the solar system has decided to grace us with a cosmic Christmas miracle that hasn’t been witnessed in nearly 800 years. On Dec. 21 (aka the December solstice), Jupiter and Saturn will align so closely in the night sky that they’ll almost appear to collide from our vantage point here on Earth, creating a radiant point of light often referred to as the “Star of Bethlehem” or the “Christmas Star.”

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to be to one another,” said Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer at Rice University, according to Forbes. “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

The event, sometimes referred to as The Great Conjunction, occurs roughly every 19 to 20 years, but this is the closest the planets will line up in the night sky since the Middle Ages. Technically, Saturn will be 10 au (astronomical units) from Earth, and Jupiter will be 5 au away, but they will appear to be less than the diameter of a full moon apart.

To catch a glimpse of the phenomenon for yourself, make sure you have a clear view to the southwest about 45 minutes after sunset. The planets will be at their closest on Dec. 21, but the “Christmas Star” will be visible from anywhere on Earth for about one hour after sunset in the northern hemisphere for the entire fourth week of December. If you’re viewing with a telescope, you may also be able to see Jupiter and Saturn’s largest moons orbiting them that week. The next Great Conjunction this close won’t happen until March 15, 2080, so be sure to take a peek out your window later this month for a brilliant holiday treat.

Information from internet pages

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Passes Away in 1791

Antique portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an Austrian composer.

Mozart was born January 27th, 1756 in Salzburg. At the time Salzburg was part of the Holy Roman Empire and now is part of Austria. Mozart had an older sister who was nicknamed “Nannerl.” Nannerl and Mozart were taught from a young age by their father Leopold Mozart. Leopold was well known in the music community of Salzburg and had written a violin instruction manual in the year Mozart was born. Leopold also composed music, although stopped when he realized his son’s talent. Mozart and Nannerl were taught music, language and other things important to their upbringing by Leopold. Mozart sat and listened to her sisters lessons when he was just three years old. There is some debate whether Mozart’s first composition occurred when he was 4 or 5 years old. Regardless of the one years difference, it was when he composed his first piece, Leopold knew his son was talented.

In his youth, Mozart traveled with his family throughout Europe. He and Nannerl gave performances, while Leopold billed them as prodigies. There is some debate, whether Leopold was hoping to make his fame and fortune from his children. This is doubtful based on various actions Leopold took in regards to Mozart and Nannerl. On two occasions Leopold took Mozart to Italy. On both trips Nannerl and Mozart’s mother remained at home. In Milan, Mozart heard Miserere a 17th century composition which was owned by the Vatican. After hearing it twice, Mozart recreated it by memory, making it the fist unauthorized copy of the Vatican owned work. While in Milan Mozart also composed his first opera.

After retuning to Salzburg in 1773, Mozart received an appointment as a court musician for the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Mozart was not happy with his appointment in Salzburg. He stayed at the appointment until 1775, although he took several trips during the time trying to find a new appointment.

In 1775, Mozart went to Paris. His fortunes were no better there. He found himself struggling to make a living. There were hints of an appointment as an organist at Versailles, although this was not a posting Mozart was interested in. As he struggled to make a living he began pawning items to make money. In July of 1778, Mozart’s mother passed away. The same year, Mozart’s father secured him an appointment in the Salzburg Court once again. Mozart took his time returning to Salzburg. He did not arrive there until January of 1779, hoping to find another appointment.

From the beginning of his appointment, Mozart was in conflict with the archbishop. Still looking to have other work become available, Mozart was taking offers from other patrons. The conflict came to a head when, after the archbishop forbade him from taking a job paying more than his annual salary, Mozart tried to resign and was initially refused. Mozart was later dismissed, literally, “with a kick in the arse” which was delivered by one of the archbishops stewards.

After leaving the archbishop, Mozart moved to Vienna and embarked on an independent career. He composed several pieces while in Vienna and became known as one of the finest keyboard players in Vienna. It was also in Vienna in 1786 and 1787, Mozart composed some of his most famous Operas, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. It was also in 1787, Mozart attained a steady post with Emperor Joseph II as chamber composer.

At the end of the 1780’s Mozart health had begun to fail. Despite his successes, his family was in massive debt. This is in large part due to Mozart’s and his wife’s extravagant lifestyle. He often spent an entire years salary on one or two extravagant items. He often attempted to borrow money from one of his Masonic brothers, Michael Puchberg. Several of the letters still exist where Mozart had written to Puchberg asking for assistance.

In 1791, Mozart composed The Magic Flute. He was present at the premier in September of the same year, despite his failing health. By November he was bedridden. It is unclear what illness afflicted Mozart, there are more than 100 ailments modern doctors have speculated were the cause of his death, including Mercury poisoning.

Mozart passed away on December 5th, 1791 at the age of 35.

Mozart was a member of the Vienna lodge, Zur Wohltätigkeit (Beneficence), being initiated in 1784 and being raised in 1785. His original lodge went through several mergers during the Imperial Masonic Reform. His new lodge was Zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung (New Crowned Hope).

This article provided by Today in Masonic History at