Benjamin Franklin as a Freemason


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“Masonic labor is purely a labor of love. He who seeks to draw wages in gold and silver 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.”

—Benjamin Franklin

In the chessboard of history, where nations, revolutions, and ideas interplay, one finds a curious knight, often cloaked in the shadow of his own legend—Benjamin Franklin, the Freemason.

Beneath the surface of this Renaissance man’s well-known exploits—a key, a kite, and a bolt of lightning—lurk the more enigmatic tales, imprinted with the symbols and rituals of a secretive brotherhood.

This is an exploration into a side of Franklin less traveled by historians, where ancient rites and cryptic brotherly bonds illuminate a new perspective on one of America's beloved founding fathers.


Benjamin Franklin's Freemason initiation
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In the bustling city of Philadelphia in 1731, at the spry age of 25, Benjamin Franklin—then an ambitious printer, not yet the scientist-statesman we celebrate—crossed the unassuming threshold of the St. John's Freemasonry Lodge.

This was a world veiled in secrecy and shrouded in mystery, a fraternity whose whispers stirred the winds of both suspicion and intrigue in the newly emerging American society. But for Franklin, a man ceaselessly drawn to the flame of knowledge and human connection, the lodge's secret cipher was not a deterrent, but a beacon.

To grasp the significance of this initiation, it's necessary to take a step back from the well-worn narratives of Franklin's life—the printing press, the diplomatic triumphs, the scientific exploits.

Instead, imagine Franklin in this dimly lit world of secret handshakes and encoded rituals, untying the Masonic Gordian knot.

The masons were more than a brotherhood—they were a crucible, a stage where the ever-curious Franklin could explore, experiment, and engage with the broader philosophies of humanity.

His initiation into the St. John's Lodge marked Franklin not merely as an early member of the Freemasons in America, but as a trailblazer venturing into the nexus of secrecy and knowledge.

Freemasonry offered Franklin a fresh tableau upon which he could sketch his ideas about liberty, fraternity, and equality—principles that would come to shape the very foundations of a nascent nation.


Benjamin Franklin as Mason Grand Master
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Barely three years after his initiation into St. John's Lodge, Benjamin Franklin found himself donning the mantle of leadership.

In 1734, he was elected as the Grand Master of Pennsylvania, marking the establishment of the first Grand Lodge in North America.

To comprehend the rapidity of Franklin's rise, it's necessary to acknowledge his singular blend of traits: a voracious intellect, a magnetic charm, and an uncanny knack for navigating social dynamics.

For Franklin, Freemasonry wasn't merely a secretive club to dabble in during his spare hours—it was an arena for him to flex his leadership muscles, a stage to test his principles and ideas in practice.

It was a validation of his merit and a recognition of his potential as a natural leader.

On the checkerboard of life, Franklin had swiftly moved from a mere pawn to a commanding king, presiding over the earliest bastion of Freemasonry in the New World.

Yet, his grandmastership was not the endgame, but merely an opening gambit in his lifelong association with the brotherhood. It was here, amidst the coded rituals and richly-layered symbolism, that Franklin would mold and manifest the leadership acumen that would one day help to shape a nation.


Franklin writing a Masonic book
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In the same year that saw Franklin ascend to the leadership of the Pennsylvania Lodge, he brought his printer's eye and writer's hand to another Masonic first in the colonies.

With the publication of a reprint of the English text "The Constitutions of the Free-Masons", he added yet another feather to his ever-expanding cap—that of the pioneering Masonic publisher.

He was, in his distinct manner, importing an ideology, a coded language, a narrative thread into the tapestry of colonial life.

In a society where secrecy could be both a currency and a curse, Franklin's decision to publish this book was not a light one.

It was a delicate act of negotiation—maintaining the integrity and privacy of the Masons while offering a rare glimpse of this mysterious world to the uninitiated.


The Lodge of Nine Sisters
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As Franklin set foot in Paris, he found himself not as a stranger in a foreign land, but as a brother among brethren in the Lodge of Nine Sisters.

A man of insatiable curiosity, his Masonic journey had now led him to this Parisian lodge, renowned for its intellectual influence and illustrious members, including the firebrand philosopher Voltaire.

This was more than a mere continuation of Franklin's Masonic journey. As he engaged with the minds of the Enlightenment in the lodge's hallowed halls, he was crafting a unique intellectual synthesis—a marriage of the raw, pioneering spirit of America and the refined, philosophical ethos of Europe.

His tenure in the Lodge of Nine Sisters wasn't a sideline to his diplomatic duties—it was an integral part of his identity as a statesman.

Franklin wasn't merely a member of this lodge; he twice held the title of "Venerable", equivalent to a lodge's Master.


masonic ritual
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Amid the myriad facets of Franklin's involvement with Freemasonry, one that stirs both curiosity and controversy is the speculation that he may have employed Masonic rituals during his diplomatic missions.

Picture Franklin in the opulent courts of Europe, the theater of high-stakes diplomacy, subtly weaving the intricate patterns of Masonic rituals into the delicate dance of statesmanship.

This, however, is not a realm of well-documented history, but one of conjecture, a vast terrain riddled with gaps and silhouettes.

Critics and skeptics argue for caution, highlighting the thinness of historical evidence supporting these claims.

They present a compelling case—after all, the Masonic landscape is one fraught with secrecy and symbolism, leaving much room for interpretation, and, inevitably, misinterpretation.

Yet, despite the lack of definitive proof, the allure of these theories is undeniable.

The image of Franklin, the diplomat-scientist-philosopher, masterfully using the language of symbols and rituals to navigate the labyrinthine world of international politics is a tantalizing one.


one dollar
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Perhaps the most controversial, and certainly the most visually arresting, aspect of Franklin's alleged Masonic influence lies in the folds of the U.S. one-dollar bill.

There, on its reverse side, sits the Great Seal, bearing the enigmatic All-Seeing Eye atop a pyramid.

For some, this symbol echoes the Masonic iconography, a testament to Franklin's secret hand in shaping America's iconography.

It's an irresistible narrative for conspiracy theorists: Benjamin Franklin, the Freemason Grand Master, quietly imprinting the symbols of his brotherhood onto the currency of the newly-born nation. But, as with most tales that walk the line between history and myth, this narrative begs for scrutiny.

Critics of this theory are quick to point out the lack of substantial evidence.

After all, Franklin was but one of three members on the initial design committee for the seal, and his proposed design bore no resemblance to the final pyramid and eye.

It's a compelling counter-narrative, tempering the allure of conspiracy with the cold water of historical record.

Yet, the specter of Franklin, the Mason, lingers over the one-dollar bill, refusing to be wholly dismissed. Perhaps there is no explicit connection, no documented evidence of Franklin's Masonic influence on the dollar's design. But the very persistence of this theory underscores the fascination with Franklin's dual identities—a founding father of a nation and a brother in a secretive fraternity.

The debate itself illuminates our enduring quest to comprehend the man behind the myth, the Freemason behind the founding father.


washington monument
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Suspended in the landscape of America’s national iconography are the lingering whispers of Benjamin Franklin, the Freemason.

Some argue that Franklin’s Masonic roots were more than personal beliefs, asserting that they influenced the very architecture and symbols of the nascent nation. It's an idea both fascinating and contentious, painting a complex picture of how individual beliefs can echo in the shared symbols of a nation.

The very streets of Washington, D.C., with their precise geometry and curious layout, are often highlighted as a potential canvas for Franklin's Masonic influence.

Theories abound of hidden symbols, unseen patterns, and Masonic messages etched onto the nation's capital by its founding fathers.

Critics, however, argue that these are mere illusions—random patterns misinterpreted as intentional design, adding a layer of intrigue where none exists.

Nevertheless, the idea that Franklin's Freemasonry background could have left an imprint on the physical landscape of America remains captivating.

While hard evidence may be lacking, this narrative opens an exciting perspective, allowing us to view the birth of the United States through a different, less-explored lens.


the U.S. Constitution
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Among the myriad roles Benjamin Franklin assumed, one stands out in its influence on the very bedrock of America: Franklin the statesman, one of the architects of the U.S. Constitution.

The fascinating debate, however, lies in the potential shadow cast over this cornerstone document by Franklin's Masonic affiliation.

Did the Masonic values he held dear echo in the grand halls of the Constitutional Convention, subtly influencing the drafting of this seminal document?

The tantalizing hint of such an influence is found in the shared principles of Freemasonry and the U.S. Constitution.

Masonic tenets of equality and fraternity find their resonances in the Constitution's commitment to create "a more perfect Union" characterized by justice and the general welfare.

The mirroring of these concepts leads some to argue that the hand of the Freemason Franklin can be seen in the lines of the Constitution, subtly guiding its ethos.

Yet, this claim remains ensconced in the realm of the contentious.

Critics argue that these shared principles reflect the zeitgeist of the Enlightenment, rather than a direct Masonic influence.

They contend that attributing the Constitution's ideals of equality and fraternity solely to Masonic influence overlooks the broader intellectual currents of the time.


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Franklin was a Deist, subscribing to a belief system that championed reason and rejected traditional religious dogma.

In Freemasonry, with its non-sectarian stance, Franklin found a platform that mirrored his spiritual leanings, a brotherhood that did not erect walls between different faiths but instead celebrated a more universalist view of spirituality.

This alignment of values and beliefs offers a fresh lens through which to view Franklin's association with Freemasonry.

It was not just a secretive fraternity or a social club, but a reflection of his personal spiritual ethos. Through the rituals, symbols, and teachings of Freemasonry, Franklin found an echo of his Deist beliefs, reinforcing his worldview.

Now, remember to tread cautiously. As we pull back the curtain on Franklin's Freemasonry, we are delving into territories rich in speculation and light on solid evidence.

Whether discussing potential Masonic influences on the U.S. Constitution, U.S. symbols, or Franklin's diplomatic practices, we are venturing onto the shifting sands of conjecture. Our explorations, while tantalizing, must be tempered with a critical eye.

Yet, the absence of definitive proof doesn't diminish the allure of these speculations. Instead, it deepens the mystery surrounding Franklin's Freemasonry, inviting further exploration and thought.

So, while we tread with caution, let us not forget to marvel at the myriad dimensions of Benjamin Franklin, the statesman and Freemason, forever intertwined in the annals of American history.