Benjamin Franklin

Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution

“Venerated for benevolence; admired for talents;
esteemed for patriotism; beloved for philanthropy.”

– George Washington

 
 

1706 Born January 17th, in Boston, Massachusetts.
1718 Apprentice Printer.
1723 Removed to Philadelphia.
1729 Editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette.
1730 Appointed Public Printer.
1731 Founded the Library Company.
1736 Organized the first Philadelphia Fire Company.
1737 Appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia.
1738 Member of the Provincial Assembly.
1741 Established the first American Magazine.
1742 Invented the Franklin Open Stove.
1743 Founded the American Philosophical Society.
1749 Founded the College of Philadelphia and Charity School.
1751 Founded the Pennsylvania Hospital (with Dr. Kearsley.)
1752 First to utilize electricity.
1753 Deputy Postmaster-General for the Colonies
1756 Colonel of the Provincial Militia.
1757-70
 
Agent to Great Britain for Pennsylvania,
Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
1764 Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly.
1769 President of the American Philosophical Society.
1775
 
 
Delegate to the Continental Congress, Chairman
of the Committee of Safety. Proposed “Articles of
Confederation and Perpetual Union.”
1775 Founded the first Anti-Slavery Society.
1776
 
 
Signed the Declaration of Independence.
President of the Constitutional Convention of
Pennsylvania. Commissioner to the Court of France.
1783 Negotiated the Peace Treaty with Great Britain.
1787 Delegate to the Constitutional Convention.
1787 September 17th, signed the Constitution.
1790 Died April 17th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

During a recent visit to Carpenters’ Hall, Philadelphia, we were told by a docent that Benjamin Franklin was a Freemason. Is this factual?

Benjamin Franklin was not a Freemason, but an Episcopalian, and worshipper at Christ Church, Philadelphia, where his pew is designated with a bronze marker. The Archives of Christ Church leave for posterity this account of Franklin:

In speaking of the influence of the members of Christ Church congregation on public affairs, Provost Stille said: “I must not forget to claim for some of them the great honor of having been the founders and early guardians of the College and Academy of Philadelphia. Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who first conceived the plan of this establishment, was a pew-holder in this church. When he looked around for those who would appreciate and support his project, he took from this congregation, mainly, the men of education and influence who would aid him. His first choice for Headmaster of the Academy was the Rev. Richard Peters, D.D., for nearly ten years the Rector of Christ Church. Finding it impossible to induce Rev. Peters to accept the place, he made the final choice of Rev. William Smith, D.D., a member of this congregation. In a short time the College, thus founded by two members of this parish, was possibly unrivalled, and certainly not surpassed, by any seminary at that time existing in the Province. Of the trustees previous to the Revolution, nearly four-fifths were members here. And Rev. Peters was for many years the President of the Board.1

From the above evidence, it is clear that Benjamin Franklin was not only a member of the congregation and a regular attendant at Christ Church, but that he chose his first Headmaster and four-fifths of his trustees for his College of Philadelphia from fellow-worshippers at Christ Church.

Benjamin Franklin’s College of Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin’s College of Philadelphia trained and prepared two young students – Jacob Duché and William White – to become the first and second Rectors of Christ Church, Philadelphia, during the Revolutionary War; being also the first and second Chaplains appointed by the Continental Congress. Both these graduates preached powerful Scriptural sermons at Christ Church to Congress assembled; Rev. William White, D.D. (later, Bishop White), becoming pastor to George Washington and John Adams at Benjamin Franklin’s church, – “the nation’s church.”

Among the numerous distinguished founding fathers of the American Republic who were graduates and professors of the College of Philadelphia, were, Benjamin Rush, M.D. (Professor of Chemistry of the Medical Faculty in 1769; and Signer of the Declaration of Independence ); Francis Hopkinson, (author, artist, musician and Signer of the Declaration of Independence); James Wilson, L.L.D. (Classics Teacher of the College; Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution); Thomas Mifflin (Signer of the Constitution); and George Clymer (Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution).2

The Chief Masters were – Rev. William Smith, D.D., Provost of the Seminary and Professor of Natural Philosophy; Rev. Francis Alison, D.D., Vice-Provost and Professor of Moral Philosophy; Ebenezer Kinnersley, M.A., Professor of Oratory; John Beveridge, M.A., Professor of Languages; and Hugh Williamson, M.A., Professor of Mathematics.

The Trustees included – Rev. Richard Peters, D.D., President of the Board, by annual election; the Honorable James Hamilton, Esq., Lieutenant-Governor of the Province; the Honorable William Allen, Esq., Chief Justice; William Coleman, Esq., Third Judge of the Supreme Court; Alexander Stedman, Esq., First Judge of the Common Pleas; Edward Shippen, Esq., Judge of the Admiralty; Benjamin Chew, Esq., Attorney-General; Benjamin Franklin, Esq., LL.D.; Joseph Turner, William Plumsted, Abram Taylor, William Coxe, Thomas Willing, Esqrs.; Alderman of the city of Philadelphia; Drs. Thomas Cadwalader, Thomas Bond, Phineas Bond, William Shippen, Physicians; and the Reverend Jacob Duché, one of the ministers of Christ Church. 3

To learn more, click here.
___________________________

Bibliography:

1

Archives of Christ Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

2

College of Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania) Official Records.

3

Smith, Horace Wemyss. Life and Correspondence of the Rev. William Smith, D.D. Vol. I., pp. 61, 62. Library of Congress, Rare Book Collection.

Books and DVD
×