|Volume LIII||August 2006||Number 3|
Bestowing Masonic Honors on Bro. Benjamin Franklin
by Andrew A. Zellers-Frederick, Executive Director, The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania
On Saturday evening, April 17, 1790, the world and Freemasonry lost one of its greatest members, the illustrious Bro. and Dr. Benjamin Franklin, at the advanced age of 84. Known to some as simply the man who dared the lightning because of his renowned experiments with electricity (a French diplomat said, "He snatched the lighting from the skies and the scepter from the tyrants"), Bro. Franklin could also list among his many accomplishments and triumphs that he was a statesman (a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution), diplomat, government official, military leader, scientist, inventor, postmaster, author and a printer. Bro. Franklin was also a dedicated Freemason.
To venerate Bro. Franklin, his adopted home of Philadelphia rendered him one of the largest funerals in the city's history. The funeral procession numbered over 20,000 people from all walks of life, and many honors were offered to his memory. They included a commemorative resolution in the House of Representatives by James Madison, with a decision that the Congressmen would wear mourning for a month; public demonstrations and eulogies were also received from the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council and the American Philosophical Society both in which Bro. Franklin served; and in France the Assembly declared three days of public mourning. However, Bro. Franklin did not receive Masonic honors at his death due to Bro. Franklin being a "Modern" Mason and the Grand Lodge being "Ancient;" a slight that R.W. Grand Master Ronald A. Aungst, Sr., decided to correct this year during the Tercentenary Celebration of Bro. Franklin's birth.
This past April 17, nearly 300 Pennsylvania Freemasons, their family members and individuals associated with Franklinaffiliated organizations, led by the Grand Master, formed a procession from the American Philosophical Society, founded in 1743 by Bro. Franklin, who served as this scientific organization's president until his death, to historic Christ Church where Bro. Franklin attended worship. During the six-block procession, the bells of Independence Hall (formerly the State House of Pennsylvania) and more than a dozen churches tolled as they did 216 years ago. Within the historic 1729 church, the Grand Master and the Rev. William D. Hartman, Grand Chaplain, conducted a special service and bestowed the Masonic tributes Bro. Franklin did not receive in 1790. Following the event, a luncheon was held at the Masonic Temple with tours conducted of this very special building. We believe Bro. Franklin would have approved of this event, as he once said, "Life should have a dramatic ending like a stage piece."
Left: American Philosophical Society, Right: Christ Church
Photography by Dennis Buttleman, Curator,
The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania
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