Monday, September 28, 2009

Benjamin Franklin on Masonic Secrecy

Freemasonry, I admit, has its secrets. It has secrets peculiar to itself, but of what do these principally consist? They consist of signs and tokens which serve as testimonials of character and qualifications, which are conferred after due instruction and examination.

These are of no small value. They speak a universal language and are a passport to the support and attention of the world. They cannot be lost so long as memory retains its power. Let the possessor of them be expatriated, shipwrecked or imprisoned; let him be stripped of everything he has in the world, still their credentials remain, and are available for use as circumstances require.

The good effects which they have produced are established by the incontestable facts of history. They have stayed the uplifted hand of the destroyer; they have subdued the rancor of malevolence and broken down the barriers of political animosity and sectarian alienation.

On the battlefield, in the solitudes of the uncultivated forest or in the busy haunts of the crowded city, they have made men, of the most hostile feelings and the most diversified conditions, rush to the aid of each other with special joy and satisfaction that they have been able to afford relief to a Brother Mason.

Attributed to Worshipful Brother Benjamin Franklin, 1778

(This quote does not appear in any collected writings of Franklin that I am able to find. The first reference I can find to it is in the August 6, 1859 "Freemasons Magazine and Masonic Mirror." Subsequently, it is repeated in AQC 41 and MANY other Masonic books after 1859. If you know whence this quote originated, or have an earlier source—preferably non-Masonic source— than 1859, I would like to prove these are truly the words of Franklin's, and not fiction.)

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