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Benjamin Franklin

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

11 January 2005

From the book “From Boyhood to Manhood – Life of Benjamin Franklin” by William M. Thayer, (William Makepeace)

In 1738 Brother Franklin’s parents had become concerned about him and his ideas, and wrote to him about it. The author of the book tells us the letter from his parents was not preserved, but the letter Brother Franklin wrote in response was preserved. His letter to them shows our Brother to be more reverent and thoughtful that they thought he was; which I am sure brought them great relief. The letters also show his high regard for his parents, which also is what one would expect from a Freemason. Here is his letter.

"PHILADELPHIA, April 13, 1738.

"Honored Father,

I have your favors of the 21st of March, in which you both seem concerned lest I have imbibed some erroneous opinions. Doubtless I have my share, and when the natural weakness and imperfection of human understanding is considered, the unavoidable influence of education, custom, books, and company, upon our ways of thinking, I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all the doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false. And, perhaps, the same may be justly said of every sect, church, and society of men, when they assume to themselves that infallibility which they deny to the pope and councils.

"I think opinions should be judged of by their influences and effects; and if man holds none that tend to make him less virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded he holds none that are dangerous, which, I hope, is the case with me.

"I am sorry you should have any uneasiness on my account, and, if it were a thing possible for one to alter his opinions in order to please another's, I know none whom I ought more willingly to oblige in that respect than yourselves. But, since it is no more in a man's power to think than to look like another, methinks all that should be expected from me is to keep my mind open to conviction; to hear patiently, and examine attentively, whatever is offered me for that end; and, if after all I continue in the same errors, I believe your usual charity will induce you rather to pity and excuse than blame me; in the mean time your care and concern for me is what I am very thankful for.

"My mother grieves that one of her sons is an Arian, another an Arminian; what an Arminian or an Arian is, I can not say that I very well know. The truth is, I make such distinctions very little my study. I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue; and the Scriptures assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined what we thought, but what we did; and our recommendation will not be that we said, Lord! Lord! but that we did good to our fellow-creatures. See Matt. xx.
"As to the free masons, I know no way of giving my mother a better account of them than she seems to have at present (since it is not allowed that women should be admitted into that secret society). She has, I must confess, on that account, some reason to be displeased with it; but, for any thing else, I must entreat her to suspend her judgment till she is better informed, unless she will believe me when I assure her that they are in general a very harmless sort of people, and have no principles or practices that are inconsistent with religion and good manners.


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